October 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law

Here are selected October 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on remedial law:

Action;  forum shopping. The essence of forum-shopping is the filing of multiple suits involving the same parties for the same cause of action, either simultaneously or successively, for the purpose of obtaining a favorable judgment. Forum-shopping has been defined as the act of a party against whom an adverse judgment has been rendered in one forum, seeking and possibly getting a favorable opinion in another forum, other than by appeal or the special civil action of certiorari, or the institution of two or more actions or proceedings grounded on the same cause on the supposition that one or the other court would make a favorable disposition.

Although the factual antecedents of the cases brought before this Court are the same, they involve different issues. The petition for Mandamus with Injunction and Damages, docketed as Civil Case No. 13013, and raised before this Court as G.R. No. 177795, challenged respondents’ refusal to recognize petitioners’ appointments and to pay petitioners’ salaries, salary adjustments, and other emoluments. The petition only entailed the applications for the issuance of a writ of mandamus and for the award of damages. The present case docketed as G.R. No. 181559, on the other hand, involves the merits of petitioners’ appeal from theinvalidation and revocation of their appointments by the CSC-Field Office, which was affirmed by the CSC-Regional Office, CSC en banc, and the Court of Appeals.  Leah M. Nazareno, et al. vs. City of Dumaguete, et al.,  G.R. No. 181559, October 2, 2009.

Action; forum shopping. The essence of forum shopping is the filing of multiple suits involving the same parties for the same cause of action, either simultaneously or successively, for the purpose of obtaining a favorable judgment. This is not the case with respect to the ejectment suit vis-à-vis the action for damages.  Manuel Luis S. Sanchez vs. Republic of the Philippines, Represented by the Department of Education, Culture and Sports,  G.R. No. 172885, October 9, 2009.

Action;  lis pendens. The filing of a notice of lis pendens has a two-fold effect: (1) to keep the subject matter of the litigation within the power of the court until the entry of the final judgment in order to prevent the final judgment from being defeated by successive alienations; and (2) to bind a purchaser, bona fide or not, of the land subject of the litigation to the judgment or decree that the court will promulgate subsequently.

While the trial court has an inherent power to cancel a notice of lis pendens, such power is to be exercised within the express confines of the law. As provided in Section 14, Rule 13 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, a notice of lis pendens may be cancelled on two grounds: (1) when the annotation was for the purpose of molesting the title of the adverse party, or (2) when the annotation is not necessary to protect the title of the party who caused it to be recorded.  Heirs of Jose Sy Bang, Heirs of Julian Sy and Oscar Sy vs. Rolando Sy, et al./Iluminada Tan, et al. vs. Bartolome Sy, et al,  G.R. No. 114217G.R. No. 150979. October 13, 2009

Action;  preliminary hearing.  It is inconsequential that petitioner had already filed an answer to the complaint prior to its filing of a motion to dismiss. The option of whether to set the case for preliminary hearing after the filing of an answer which raises affirmative defenses, or to file a motion to dismiss raising any of the grounds set forth in Section 1, Rule 16 of the Rules are procedural options which are not mutually exclusive of each other. Associated Bank vs. Spouses Justiniano S. Montano, Sr. and Ligaya Montano, et al., G.R. No. 166383, October 16, 2009.

Appeal; COMELEC. The appeal to the COMELEC was perfected when petitioner filed her Notice of Appeal and paid the appeal fee of P1,000.00 on May 13, 2008, which was two months before the COMELEC issued Resolution No. 8486, clarifying the rule on the payment of appeal fees. As stated in Aguilar, fairness and prudence dictate that the First Division of the COMELEC should have first directed petitioner to pay the additional appeal fee of P3,200.00 in accordance with the clarificatory resolution; and if petitioner refused to comply, only then should the appeal be dismissed. The First Division of the COMELEC should have been more cautious in dismissing petitioner’s appeal on the mere technicality of non-payment of the additional appeal fee of P3,200.00 given the public interest involved in election cases.

In view of the foregoing, the Court finds that the First Division of the COMELEC gravely abused its discretion in issuing the Order dated November 25, 2008, dismissing petitioner’s appeal. The case is remanded to the First Division of the COMELEC for disposition of the appeal in accordance with this decision, subject to the presentation by petitioner of the receipt evidencing payment of the appeal fee of P1,000.00 as required under Section 9, Rule 14 of A. M. No. 07-4-15-SC.

It must be stated, however, that for notices of appeal filed after the promulgation on July 27, 2009 of Divinagracia v. Commission on Elections, errors in the matter of non-payment or incomplete payment of the two appeal fees in election cases are no longer excusable. Carmelinda C. Barror vs. The Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. No. 186201, October 9, 2009.

Arbitration; doctrine of separability. Petitioner argues that it tendered an issue in its Answer as it disputed the legality of the pre-termination fee clause of the PSPA. Even assuming arguendo that the clause is illegal, it would not affect the agreement between petitioner and respondent to resolve their dispute by arbitration.

The doctrine of separability, or severability as other writers call it, enunciates that an arbitration agreement is independent of the main contract. The arbitration agreement is to be treated as a separate agreement and the arbitration agreement does not automatically terminate when the contract of which it is a part comes to an end.

The separability of the arbitration agreement is especially significant to the determination of whether the invalidity of the main contract also nullifies the arbitration clause. Indeed, the doctrine denotes that the invalidity of the main contract, also referred to as the “container” contract, does not affect the validity of the arbitration agreement. Irrespective of the fact that the main contract is invalid, the arbitration clause/agreement still remains valid and enforceable.  Philippine Economic Zone Authority vs. Edison (Bataan) CoGeneration Corporation, G.R. No. 179537, October 23, 2009

Bail;  grant. Section 13, Article III of the Constitution provides that “All persons, except those charged with offenses punishable by reclusion perpetua when evidence of guilt is strong, shall, before conviction, be bailable by sufficient sureties, or be released on recognizance as may be provided by law.”

Section 4 of Rule 114 of the Revised Rules of Court, as amended, thus provides that all persons in custody shall, before conviction by a regional trial court of an offense not punishable by death, reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment, be admitted to bail as a matter of right.

The exercise by the trial court of its discretionary power to grant bail to an accused charged with a capital offense thus depends on whether the evidence of guilt is strong.

Since Judge Tan concurred with the assessment by Judge Buyser of the prosecution evidence when he denied the Demurrer and the latter’s statement that the evidence was sufficient to convict respondent of Homicide, holding a summary hearing merely to determine whether respondent was entitled to bail would have been unnecessary as the evidence in chief was already presented by the prosecution.

The People’s recourse to Section 5, Rule 114 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure to support its contention that respondent should be denied bail is unavailing, for said Section clearly speaks of an application for bail filed by the accused after a judgment of conviction has already been handed down by the trial court. The People of the Philippines vs. Luis Plaza y Bucalon, G.R. No. 176933, October 2, 2009.

Complaint; cause of action. The issue before us calls for a discussion of a court’s basic appreciation of allegations in a complaint. The fundamental rule is that reliefs granted a litigant are limited to those specifically prayed for in the complaint; other reliefs prayed for may be granted only when related to the specific prayer(s) in the pleadings and supported by the evidence on record. Necessarily, any such relief may be granted only where a cause of action therefor exists, based on the complaint, the pleadings, and the evidence on record.  Philippine Charter Insurance Corporation vs. Philippine National Construction Corporation, G.R. No. 185066, October 2, 2009.

Complaint; withdrawal. Without going into the raison d’ etre why the plaintiff, respondent company herein, withdrew its complaint with the court a quo, its effect, nevertheless, is the restoration of the rights of the contending parties prior to the filing of the complaint. Quite simply, the withdrawal of the complaint results in placing them to their original position, as if no complaint was filed at all. This should be so, otherwise, a plaintiff can peremptorily withdraw his complaint after securing an order favorable to him.  Land Center Construction and Development Corporation vs. V.C. Ponce, Co., Inc. and Vicente C. Ponce, G.R. No. 160409, October 2, 2009.

Contempt of court. Contempt of court is defiance of court authority that tends to degrade the dignity of the court and bring the administration of the law into disrespect, or an act that interferes with or prejudices parties-litigants or their witnesses during litigation thereby impeding the administration of justice. It is also defined as the disobedience to the Court by acting in opposition to its authority, justice, and dignity, and signifies a willful disregard or disobedience of the court’s orders; it is conduct that tends to bring the authority of the court and the administration of law into disrepute or otherwise impedes the administration of justice.

The power of contempt is a very powerful weapon, as the court determines for itself whether its authority, dignity and effectiveness in the administration of justice have been prejudicially affected. Thus, the rule is to use this power sparingly and only in the defensive and preservative spirit. Yet, the Court will not hesitate and has never hesitated to wield its power where the contumacious conduct exhibited by a person or entity is patently and clearly derogatory to the authority of the courts in their sworn duties. It is with these thoughts that we decide the issue before us.

The records clearly show that the Resolutions of March 31, 2004 and June 23, 2004 of this Court in G.R. No. 161807, affirming the CA decision granting the petitioner permanent total disability benefits, have long become final and executory. Entry of judgment has in fact been made.

At this point, the doctrine of immutability of judgment became fully operational. Under this doctrine, a decision that has acquired finality becomes immutable and unalterable, and may no longer be modified in any respect, even if the modification is meant to correct erroneous conclusions of fact and law, and whether it be made by the court that rendered it or by the Highest Court of the land. Any act which violates this principle must immediately be struck down. The only exceptions to this rule are: (1) the correction of clerical errors; (2) the so-called nunc pro tunc entries which cause no prejudice to any party; (3) void judgments; and (4) whenever circumstances transpire after the finality of the decision rendering its execution unjust and inequitable. In the absence of any effective invocation of these exceptions – and none has so been made in this case – the judgment of the court must be implemented according to its terms.  Dominador C. Villa vs. Government Service Insurance System, (GSIS), represented by Angelina A. Patino, Field Office Manager, GSIS, Dinalupihan, Bataan Branch, and/or Winston F. Garcia, President and General Manager, GSIS, G.R. No. 174642, October 30, 2009.

Criminal cases;  due process for State.  The authority to represent the State in appeals of criminal cases before the CA and the Supreme Court is solely vested in the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG). The State, like the accused, is entitled to due process in criminal cases, that is, it must be given the opportunity to present its evidence in support of the charge. The doctrine consistently adhered to by this Court is that a decision rendered without due process is void ab initio and may be attacked directly or collaterally. A decision is void for lack of due process if, as a result, a party is deprived of the opportunity to be heard.

The assailed decision of the CA acquitting the respondent without giving the Solicitor General the chance to file his comment on the petition for review clearly deprived the State of its right to refute the material allegations of the said petition filed before the CA. The said decision is, therefore, a nullity.  People of the Philippines vs. Arturo F. Duca, G.R. No. 171175, October 9, 2009.

Demurrer to evidence. This Court held in Enojas, Jr. v. Commission on Elections that, to determine whether the pleading filed is a demurer to evidence or a motion to dismiss, the Court must consider (1) the allegations in it made in good faith; (2) the stage of the proceeding at which it is filed; and (3) the primary objective of the party filing it.
In sum, tested against the criteria laid down in Enojas, the Court finds that petitioner Cabador filed a motion to dismiss on the ground of violation of his right to speedy trial, not a demurrer to evidence. He cannot be declared to have waived his right to present evidence in his defense.

On a final note, a demurrer to evidence shortens the proceedings in criminal cases. Caution must, however, be exercised in view of its pernicious consequence on the right of the accused to present evidence in his defense, the seriousness of the crime charged, and the gravity of the penalty involved.  Antonio Cabador vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 186001, October 2, 2009.

Eminent domain proceedings;  just compensation. It is well-settled in jurisprudence that the determination of just compensation is a judicial prerogative. City of Cebu vs. Spouses Ciriaco and Arminda Ortega/City of Cebu vs. Spouses Ciriaco and Arminda Ortega, G.R. Nos. 181562-63/G.R. Nos. 181583-84, October 2, 2009.

Eminent domain proceedings;  just compensation. The prevailing doctrine on judicial determination of just compensation is that set forth in Forfom. Therein, the Court ruled that even if there are no expropriation proceedings instituted to determine just compensation, the trial court is still mandated to act in accordance with the procedure provided for in Section 5, Rule 67 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, requiring the appointment of not more than three competent and disinterested commissioners to ascertain and report to the court the just compensation for the subject property. The Court reiterated its ruling in National Power Corporation v. Dela Cruz that “trial with the aid of commissioners is a substantial right that may not be done away with capriciously or for no reason at all.” It was also emphasized therein that although ascertainment of just compensation is a judicial prerogative, the commissioners’ findings may only be disregarded or substituted with the trial court’s own estimation of the property’s value only if the commissioners have applied illegal principles to the evidence submitted to them, where they have disregarded a clear preponderance of evidence, or where the amount allowed is either grossly inadequate or excessive. Hon. Vicente P. Eusebio, et al. vs. Jovito M. Luis, et al., G.R. No. 162474, October 13, 2009.

Evidence; burden of proof. The CA, however, made a mistake with regard to the assignment of the burden of proof. No rule requires a party, who relies on a notarized deed of sale for establishing his ownership, to present further evidence of such deed’s genuineness lest the presumption of its due execution be for naught. Under the rules of evidence, “Every instrument duly acknowledged or proved and certified as provided by law, may be presented in evidence without further proof, the certificate of acknowledgment being prima facie evidence of the execution of the instrument or document involved.”

Here, Atty. Crispulo Ducusin notarized the deed of sale that Riñoza acknowledged as his free act and deed on June 17, 1989. By signing and affixing his notarial seal on the deed, Atty. Ducusin converted it from a private document to a public document. As such, the deed of sale is entitled to full faith and credit upon its face. And since Riñoza, the executor of the deed, is already dead, the notarized deed of absolute sale is the best evidence of his consent to the sale of the Utod sugarland to the Destreza spouses. Parenthetically, it is not disputed that the Destrezas immediately and openly occupied the land right after the sale and continuously cultivated it from then on.

The burden of proof is the duty of a party to present such amount of evidence on the facts in issue as the law deems necessary for the establishment of his claim. Here, since respondents Plazo and Alaras claim, despite the Destrezas’ evidence of title over the property and open possession of it, that grave and serious doubts plague TCT 55396, the burden is on them to prove such claim. Only when they are successful in doing so will the court be justified in nullifying the notarized deed of sale that their father Riñoza executed in favor of the Destrezas. Gregorio Destreza vs. Atty. Ma. Garcia Riñoza-Plazo, et al., G.R. No. 176863, October 30, 2009.

Forcible entry;  burden of proof. It is a basic rule in civil cases, including an action for forcible entry, that the party having the burden of proof must establish his case by a preponderance of evidence, which simply means “evidence which is of greater weight, or more convincing than that which is offered in opposition to it.” Hence, parties who have the burden of proof must produce such quantum of evidence, with plaintiffs having to rely on the strength of their own evidence, not on the weakness of the defendant’s.

After an exhaustive review of the evidence on record, the Court finds that respondent was not able to satisfactorily prove her prior physical possession, nor her being deprived thereof by petitioner through force, intimidation, threat, strategy, and stealth. It is noteworthy that absence alone of prior physical possession by the plaintiff in a forcible entry case already warrants the dismissal of the complaint.

In the present case, respondent, to establish her supposed prior physical possession of the 143,417-square meter property, which included the two parcels of land now being occupied by petitioner, relied on (1) the DENR Region IV Resolution dated 30 October 2000 in DENR 4 Case No. 5723; (2) the notarized Transfer of Rights dated 29 October 1990 executed by Danga in respondent’s favor; and (3) the Tax Declaration in respondent’s name, covering the 143,417-square-meter property, on file with the Antipolo City Assessor’s Office, together with the real property tax clearance for the year 2001 from the Antipolo City Treasurer’s Office. Charlie T. Lee vs. Rosita Dela Paz, G.R. No. 183606, October 27, 2009.

Information; amendment. Assuming that the facts charged in the Information do not constitute an offense, we find it erroneous for the RTC to immediately order the dismissal of the Information, without giving the prosecution a chance to amend it.

Although an Information may be defective because the facts charged do not constitute an offense, the dismissal of the case will not necessarily follow. The Rules specifically require that the prosecution should be given a chance to correct the defect; the court can order the dismissal only upon the prosecution’s failure to do so. The RTC’s failure to provide the prosecution this opportunity twice constitutes an arbitrary exercise of power that was correctly addressed by the CA through the certiorari petition. This defect in the RTC’s action on the case, while not central to the issue before us, strengthens our conclusion that this criminal case should be resolved through full-blown trial on the merits. Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co. vs. Nikko Sources International Corp. and Supermax Philippines, Inc., G.R. No. 178479, October 23, 2009.

Information; probable cause. Probable cause has been defined as the existence of such facts and circumstances as would lead a person of ordinary caution and prudence to entertain an honest and strong suspicion that the person charged is guilty of the crime subject of the investigation. Being based merely on opinion and reasonable belief, it does not import absolute certainty. Probable cause need not be based on clear and convincing evidence of guilt, as the investigating officer acts upon reasonable belief. Probable cause implies probability of guilt and requires more than bare suspicion but less than evidence to justify a conviction.

To determine the existence of probable cause, there is a need to conduct a preliminary investigation. A preliminary investigation constitutes a realistic judicial appraisal of the merits of a case. Its purpose is to

determine whether (a) a crime has been committed; and (b) there is probable cause to believe that the accused is guilty thereof. It is a means of discovering which person or persons may be reasonably charged with a crime.

The conduct of a preliminary investigation is executive in nature. As we have said, the Court may not be compelled to pass upon the correctness of the exercise of the public prosecutor’s function, unless there is a showing of grave abuse of discretion or manifest error in his findings. Grave abuse of discretion implies a capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment tantamount to lack or excess of jurisdiction. The exercise of power must have been done in an arbitrary or a despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility. It must have been so patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of positive duty or a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined or to act at all in contemplation of law. Nieva M. Manebo Vs. SPO1 Roel D. Acosta, et al., G.R. No. 169554, October 28, 2009.

Injunction; BSP Monetary Board. The issuance by the RTC of writs of preliminary injunction is an unwarranted interference with the powers of the MB. Secs. 29 and 30 of RA 7653 refer to the appointment of a conservator or a receiver for a bank, which is a power of the MB for which they need the ROEs done by the supervising or examining department. The writs of preliminary injunction issued by the trial court hinder the MB from fulfilling its function under the law. The actions of the MB under Secs. 29 and 30 of RA 7653 “may not be restrained or set aside by the court except on 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.” The writs of preliminary injunction order are precisely what cannot be done under the law by preventing the MB from taking action under either Sec. 29 or Sec. 30 of RA 7653. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Monetary Board and Chuci Fonancier vs. Hon. Nina G. Antonio-Valenzuela, etc., et al., G.R. No. 184778. October 2, 2009.

Injunction; judicial discretion. The grant or denial of a writ of preliminary injunction in a pending case rests on the sound discretion of the court taking cognizance of the case, since the assessment and evaluation of evidence towards that end involves findings of facts left to the said court for its conclusive determination. Hence, the exercise of judicial discretion by a court in injunctive matters must not be interfered with, except when there is grave abuse of discretion.

Grave abuse of discretion means such capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction. Mere abuse of discretion is not enough. It must be grave abuse of discretion, as when the power is exercised in an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility, and must be so patent and so gross as to amount to an evasion of a positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined or to act at all in contemplation of law. The Court of Appeals did not gravely abuse its discretion in refusing to issue a TRO and/or writ of preliminary injunction to enjoin the enforcement of Lt. Gen. Yano’s Order of Arrest against Maj. Gen. Barbieto.  Jose T. Barbieto Vs. Hon. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 184645, October 30, 2009.

Injunction; proof. A writ of injunction will lie upon proof that the applicant is entitled to the relief. For the writ to issue here, forever barring PDCP from collecting on the loan security, petitioners must prove the nullity of the mortgage contract. As an accessory contract, the mortgage agreement derives its validity from the principal contract of loan. Petitioners assail the validity of the loan agreement on the sole ground that PDCP delayed the release of the loan proceeds. This argument is analytically weak, factually baseless, and legally indefensible.

The claim of delay in the release of the loan proceeds concerns the implementation of the loan contract, and not its intrinsic validity. Spouses Santiago E. Ibasco and Milagros D. Ibasco, et al. vs. Private Development Corporation of the Philippines, et al., G.R. No. 162473, October 12, 2009.

Judgment; compromise. A compromise agreement is a contract whereby the parties, by making reciprocal concessions, avoid a litigation or put an end to one already commenced. It contemplates mutual concessions and mutual gains to avoid the expenses of litigation; or when litigation has already begun, to end it because of the uncertainty of the result.
The validity of a compromise agreement is dependent upon its fulfillment of the requisites and principles of contracts dictated by law; and its terms and conditions must not be contrary to law, morals, good customs, public policy and public order.

After a review of the terms of the Compromise Agreement between the parties herein, we find that it has been validly executed in accordance with the foregoing requirements. Gov. Antonio P. Calingin vs. Civil Service Commission and Grace L. Anayron, G.R. No. 183322, October 30, 2009.

Judgment; finality. Petitioner’s Motion for Reconsideration of the above-quoted Decision was denied with finality on March 3, 2009. Petitioner filed another Motion for Reconsideration, which the Court treated as a Second Motion for Reconsideration and, consequently, denied in a Resolution dated June 2, 2009. Of late, petitioner has filed a “Manifestation” that raises yet again the issues already resolved in the petition and which the Court has, accordingly, merely noted without action. Thus, our ruling therein has now attained finality.

Consequently, the issue of petitioner’s compliance with the one-year residency requirement is now settled. We are bound by this Court’s ruling in the earlierLimbona case where the issue was squarely raised and categorically resolved. We cannot now rule anew on the merits of this case, especially since the present Petition merely restates issues already passed upon by the Comelec and affirmed by this Court. Norlainie Mitmug Limbona vs. Commssion on Elections and Malik “Bobby” T. Alingan, G.R. No. 186006. October 16, 2009

Judgment; finality. It is settled that when a final judgment is executory, it becomes immutable and unalterable. The judgment may no longer be modified in any respect, even if the modification is meant to correct what is perceived to be an erroneous conclusion of fact or law, and regardless of whether the modification is attempted to be made by the court rendering it or by the highest Court of the land. The doctrine is founded on considerations of public policy and sound practice that, at the risk of occasional errors, judgments must become final at some definite point in time.

The only recognized exceptions are the correction of clerical errors or the making of so-called nunc pro tunc entries in which case there is no prejudice to any party, and where the judgment is void. None of these has been shown to be present to justify the “modification” of the judgment. Parenthetically, the modification was made not by the same court (CFI of Pasig) that rendered the judgment. Spouses Tomas F. Gomez, et al. vs. Gregorio Correa, et al.  G.R. No. 153923, October 2, 2009.

Judgment;  finality. The decisions, awards or orders of the Labor Arbiter are final and executory unless appealed to the NLRC by any parties within ten (10) calendar days from receipt thereof, with proof of payment of the required appeal fee accompanied by a memorandum of appeal. And where, as here, the judgment involves monetaryaward, an appeal therefrom by the employer may be “perfected only upon the posting of a cash or surety bond.” A mere notice of appeal without complying with the other requisites mentioned does not stop the running of the period for perfecting an appeal as in fact no motion for extension of said period is allowed.

The perfection of appeals in the manner and within the period permitted by law is not only mandatory but jurisdictional and must, therefore, be strictly observed.

Petitioners’ re-filing on the next working day, November 17, 2003, of the Notice of Appeal with Appeal Memorandum, which was accompanied, this time, by the appeal bond, did not cure the fatal defect of their appeal since said bond was filed after the ten-day reglementary period had expired – at which time the Labor Arbiter’s judgment had already become final and executory and, therefore, immutable. Wallem Maritime Services, Inc. and Scandic Shipmanagement Limited vs. Eriberto S. Bultron, G.R. No. 185261, October 2, 2009.

Judgment;  finality. In the instant case, instead of appealing his conviction to the Sandiganbayan, Estarija erroneously filed an appeal with the Court of Appeals, in utter disregard of paragraph 3, Section 4(c) of Republic Act No. 8249. The Court of Appeals did not notice this conspicuous misstep, since it entertained the appeal. This fatal flaw committed by Estarija did not toll the running of the period for him to perfect his appeal to the Sandiganbayan. Because of Estarija’s failure to perfect his appeal to the Sandiganbayan within the period granted therefor, the Decision of the RTC convicting him of violating Section 3(a) of Republic Act No. 3019 has thus become final and executory.

Inasmuch as the decision of the RTC has long been final and executory, it can no longer be altered or modified. Nothing is more settled in law than that when a judgment becomes final and executory, it becomes immutable and unalterable. The same may no longer be modified in any respect, even if the modification is meant to correct what is perceived to be an erroneous conclusion of fact or law, and whether or not made by the highest court of the land. The reason is grounded on the fundamental considerations of public policy and sound practice that, at the risk of occasional error, the judgments or orders of courts must be final at some definite date fixed by law.  Edgardo V. Estarija vs. People of the Philippines, represented by Solicitor General and Edwin Ranada, G.R. No. 173990, October 27, 2009.

Judgment;  findings regarding non-parties. With respect to the second and third assignment of errors, petitioner argues that the CA erred in sustaining the RTC when it passed upon the merits of petitioner’s cause of action against PNB notwithstanding the fact that the complaint against the latter was already dismissed. Petitioner contends that a person who was not impleaded in a case could not be bound by the decision rendered therein. Petitioner then proceeds to conclude that the CA erred in sustaining the trial court’s finding that PNB was a mortgagee, buyer and seller in good faith.

It is true that the judgment of the trial and appellate courts in the present case could not bind the PNB for the latter is not a party to the case. However, this does not mean that the trial and appellate courts are precluded from making findings which are necessary for a just, complete and proper resolution of the issues raised in the present case. The Court finds no error in the determination by the trial and appellate courts of the question of whether or not PNB was a mortgagee, buyer and, later on, seller in good faith as this would bear upon the ultimate issue of whether petitioner is entitled to reconveyance.  Eufemia vda. De Agatep vs. Roberta L. Rodriguez, et al., G.R. No. 170540, October 28, 2009.

Judgment;  res judicata. Res judicata has two concepts: (1) bar by prior judgment as enunciated in Rule 39, Section 47 (b) of the Rules of Civil Procedure; and (2) conclusiveness of judgment in Rule 39, Section 47 (c).

There is bar by prior judgment when, as between the first case where the judgment was rendered, and the second case that is sought to be barred, there is identity of parties, subject matter, and causes of action. Where there is identity of parties and subject matter in the first and second cases, but no identity of causes of action, there is conclusiveness of judgment.  The first judgment is conclusive only as to those matters actually and directly controverted and determined, not as to matters merely involved therein.

The Court of Appeals, in CA G.R. SP No. 31125, resolved only the interlocutory issue of whether the trial court’s Order of April 12, 1993 denying petitioner’s motion to dismiss respondent’s petition for annulment was attended by grave abuse of discretion. The appellate court did not rule on the merits of the petition as to establish a controlling legal rule which has to be subsequently followed by the parties in the same case. It merely held that respondent’s petition in the trial court stated a sufficient cause of action. Its determination of respondent’s entitlement to notice of the public auction sale was at best prima facie.

An order denying a motion to dismiss is merely interlocutory and cannot give rise to res judicata, hence, it is subject to amendments until the rendition of the final judgment. Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation vs. Royal Cargo Corporation, G.R. No. 179756, October 2, 2009.

Judgment; several judgment. A several judgment is proper when the liability of each party is clearly separable and distinct from that of his co-parties, such that the claims against each of them could have been the subject of separate suits, and judgment for or against one of them will not necessarily affect the other.

Petitioners, although sued collectively, each held a separate and separable interest in the properties of the Sy Bang estate.

The pronouncement as to the obligation of one or some petitioners did not affect the determination of the obligations of the others. That the properties in the names of petitioners were found to be part of the Sy Bang estate did not preclude any further findings or judgment on the status or nature of the properties in the names of the other heirs.  Heirs of Jose Sy Bang, Heirs of Julian Sy and Oscar Sy vs. Rolando Sy, et al./Iluminada Tan, et al. vs. Bartolome Sy, et al,  G.R. No. 114217G.R. No. 150979. October 13, 2009

Judicial notice;  requisites. Generally speaking, matters of judicial notice have three material requisites: (1) the matter must be one of common and general knowledge; (2) it must be well and authoritatively settled and not doubtful or uncertain; and (3) it must be known to be within the limits of the jurisdiction of the court. The principal guide in determining what facts may be assumed to be judicially known is that of notoriety. Hence, it can be said that judicial notice is limited to facts evidenced by public records and facts of general notoriety. Moreover, a judicially noticed fact must be one not subject to a reasonable dispute in that it is either: (1) generally known within the territorial jurisdiction of the trial court; or (2) capable of accurate and ready determination by resorting to sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questionable.

Things of “common knowledge,” of which courts take judicial notice, may be matters coming to the knowledge of men generally in the course of the ordinary experiences of life, or they may be matters which are generally accepted by mankind as true and are capable of ready and unquestioned demonstration. Thus, facts which are universally known, and which may be found in encyclopedias, dictionaries or other publications, are judicially noticed, provided, they are such of universal notoriety and so generally understood that they may be regarded as forming part of the common knowledge of every person. As the common knowledge of man ranges far and wide, a wide variety of particular facts have been judicially noticed as being matters of common knowledge. But a court cannot take judicial notice of any fact which, in part, is dependent on the existence or non-existence of a fact of which the court has no constructive knowledge. Spouses Omar and Moshiera Latip vs. Rosalie Palaña Chua, G.R. No. 177809, October 16, 2009.

Judicial notice; decision.   Judicial notice must be taken by this Court of its Decision in Maricalum Mining Corporation v. Hon. Arturo D. Brion and NAMAWU, in which we upheld the right of herein private respondent, NAMAWU, to its labor claims. Upon the same principle of judicial notice, we acknowledge our Decision in Republic of thePhilippines, through its trustee, the Asset Privatization Trust v. “G” Holdings, Inc., in which GHI was recognized as the rightful purchaser of the shares of stocks of MMC, and thus, entitled to the delivery of the company notes accompanying the said purchase.

In Juaban v. Espina, we held that “in some instances, courts have also taken judicial notice of proceedings in other cases that are closely connected to the matter in controversy. These cases may be so closely interwoven, or so clearly interdependent, as to invoke a rule of judicial notice.” The two cases that we have taken judicial notice of are of such character, and our review of the instant case cannot stray from the findings and conclusions therein.  “G” Holdings, Inc. vs. National Mines and Allied Workers Union Locan 103 (NAMAWU), Sheriffs Richard H. Aprosta and Alberto Munoz, all acting sheriffs, Department of Labor and Employment, Region VI, Bacolod District Office, Bacolod City, G.R. No. 160236, October 16, 2009.

Jurisdiction; COMELEC. The COMELEC Second Division acted with grave abuse of discretion in denying petitioner’s motions for reconsideration and dismissing his appeal.

Indeed, the February 4 and March 9, 2009 Orders are null and void as they were issued by a division of the COMELEC, instead of the COMELEC en banc, pursuant to Article IX-C, Section 3, of the 1987 Constitution and to Rule 19, Sections 5 and 6, of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure. This rule should apply whether the motion fee has been paid or not. It is the COMELEC en banc, not the division, which has the discretion either to refuse to take action until the motion fee is paid, or to dismiss the action or proceeding.

Considering the urgent need to resolve election cases and since the issue was raised in this petition, we likewise rule that the dismissal of Revilla’s appeal was improper. His payment of the appeal fee of P1,000.00 before the MCTC on March 31, 2008 already perfected his appeal pursuant to A.M. No. 07-4-15-SC (Rules of Procedure in Election Contests Before the Courts Involving Elective Municipal and Barangay Officials). The non-payment or the insufficient payment of the additional appeal fee of P3,200.00 to the COMELEC Cash Division does not affect the perfection of the appeal and does not result in the outright or ipso facto dismissal of the appeal. Under Rule 22, Section 9(a), of the COMELEC Rules, the appeal may be dismissed. And under 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. Considering that the payment of the appeal fee was made three and a half months before the issuance of the clarificatory COMELEC Resolution No. 8486 and after the perfection of the appeal, we find the dismissal of the appeal by the COMELEC Second Division as grave abuse of its discretion. Eugenio T. Revilla, Sr. vs. The Commission on Elections and Gerardo L. Lanoy G.R. No. 187428, October 16, 2009.

Jurisdiction;  criminal cases. Once a case is filed with the court, any disposition of it rests on the sound discretion of the court. The trial court is not bound to adopt the resolution of the Secretary of Justice, since it is mandated to independently evaluate or assess the merits of the case. Reliance on the resolution of the Secretary of Justice alone would be an abdication of its duty and jurisdiction to determine a prima facie case. The trial court may make an independent assessment of the merits of the case based on the affidavits and counter-affidavits, documents, or evidence appended to the Information; the records of the public prosecutor, which the court may order the latter to produce before the court; or any evidence already adduced before the court by the accused at the time the motion is filed by the public prosecutor. Liezl Co vs. Harold Lim y Go and Avelino uy Go, G.R. Nos. 164669-70, October 30, 2009.

Jurisdiction; exhaustion of administrative remedies. There is no need for petitioners to exhaust administrative remedies before resorting to the courts.

It is true that the general rule is that before a party is allowed to seek the intervention of the court, he or she should have availed himself or herself of all the means of administrative processes afforded him or her. Hence, if resort to a remedy within the administrative machinery can still be made by giving the administrative officer concerned every opportunity to decide on a matter that comes within his or her jurisdiction, then such remedy should be exhausted first before the court’s judicial power can be sought. The premature invocation of the intervention of the court is fatal to one’s cause of action. The doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies is based on practical and legal reasons. The availment of administrative remedy entails lesser expenses and provides for a speedier disposition of controversies. Furthermore, the courts of justice, for reasons of comity and convenience, will shy away from a dispute until the system of administrative redress has been completed and complied with, so as to give the administrative agency concerned every opportunity to correct its error and dispose of the case. However, there are several exceptions to this rule.

The rule on the exhaustion of administrative remedies is intended to preclude a court from arrogating unto itself the authority to resolve a controversy, the jurisdiction over which is initially lodged with an administrative body of special competence. Thus, a case where the issue raised is a purely legal question, well within the competence; and the jurisdiction of the court and not the administrative agency, would clearly constitute an exception. Resolving questions of law, which involve the interpretation and application of laws, constitutes essentially an exercise of judicial power that is exclusively allocated to the Supreme Court and such lower courts the Legislature may establish.

In this case, the parties are not disputing any factual matter on which they still need to present evidence. The sole issue petitioners raised before the RTC in Civil Case No. 25843 was whether Municipal Ordinance No. 98-01 was valid and enforceable despite the absence, prior to its enactment, of a public hearing held in accordance with Article 276 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Local Government Code. This is undoubtedly a pure question of law, within the competence and jurisdiction of the RTC to resolve.

Paragraph 2(a) of Section 5, Article VIII of the Constitution, expressly establishes the appellate jurisdiction of this Court, and impliedly recognizes the original jurisdiction of lower courts over cases involving the constitutionality or validity of an ordinance.  Evelyn Ongsuco and Antonia Salaya vs. hon. Mariano M. Malones, etc., G.R. No. 182065, October 27, 2009.

Jurisdiction;  guardianship. The court hearing the petition for guardianship had limited jurisdiction. It had no jurisdiction to enforce payment of the widow’s allowance ordered by this Court.  Heirs of Jose Sy Bang, Heirs of Julian Sy and Oscar Sy vs. Rolando Sy, et al./Iluminada Tan, et al. vs. Bartolome Sy, et al,  G.R. No. 114217G.R. No. 150979. October 13, 2009

Jurisdiction; RTC. The power of the RTC under Section 19 of Batas Pambansa 129, as amended, to hear actions involving title to, or possession of, real property or any interest in it now covers only real properties with assessed value in excess of P20,000.00. But the RTC retained the exclusive power to hear actions the subject matter of which is not capable of pecuniary estimation.

Based on the pleadings, the ultimate issue is whether or not defendant Sevilla defrauded the Sebes of their property by making them sign documents of conveyance rather than just a deed of real mortgage to secure their debt to him. The action is, therefore, about ascertaining which of these parties is the lawful owner of the subject lots, jurisdiction over which is determined by the assessed value of such lots.

Here, the total assessed value of the two lots subject of the suit is P9,910.00. Clearly, this amount does not exceed the jurisdictional threshold value ofP20,000.00 fixed by law. The other damages that the Sebes claim are merely incidental to their main action and, therefore, are excluded in the computation of the jurisdictional amount. Heirs of Generoso Sebe, et al. vs. Heirs of Veronico Sevilla, et al., G.R. No. 174497, October 12, 2009.

Jurisdiction; labor related claims. Not every controversy or money claim by an employee against the employer or vice-versa is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the labor arbiter. Actions between employees and employer where the employer-employee relationship is merely incidental and the cause of action precedes from a different source of obligation is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the regular court. Here, the employer-employee relationship between the parties is merely incidental and the cause of action ultimately arose from different sources of obligation, i.e., the Constitution and CEDAW.

Thus, where the principal relief sought is to be resolved not by reference to the Labor Code or other labor relations statute or a collective bargaining agreement but by the general civil law, the jurisdiction over the dispute belongs to the regular courts of justice and not to the labor arbiter and the NLRC. In such situations, resolution of the dispute requires expertise, not in labor management relations nor in wage structures and other terms and conditions of employment, but rather in the application of the general civil law. Clearly, such claims fall outside the area of competence or expertise ordinarily ascribed to labor arbiters and the NLRC and the rationale for granting jurisdiction over such claims to these agencies disappears.  Patricia Halagueña, et al. vs. Philippine Airlines, Inc., G.R. No. 172013, October 2, 2009.

Jurisdiction;  summons.  We find that substituted service of summons was validly made upon respondent through his brother.

We do not intend this ruling to overturn jurisprudence to the effect that statutory requirements of substituted service must be followed strictly, faithfully, and fully, and that any substituted service other than that authorized by the Rules is considered ineffective. However, an overly strict application of the Rules is not warranted in this case, as it would clearly frustrate the spirit of the law as well as do injustice to the parties, who have been waiting for almost 15 years for a resolution of this case. We are not heedless of the widespread and flagrant practice whereby defendants actively attempt to frustrate the proper service of summons by refusing to give their names, rebuffing requests to sign for or receive documents, or eluding officers of the court. Of course it is to be expected that defendants try to avoid service of summons, prompting this Court to declare that, “the sheriff must be resourceful, persevering, canny, and diligent in serving the process on the defendant.” However, sheriffs are not expected to be sleuths, and cannot be faulted where the defendants themselves engage in deception to thwart the orderly administration of justice.

The purpose of summons is two-fold: to acquire jurisdiction over the person of the defendant and to notify the defendant that an action has been commenced so that he may be given an opportunity to be heard on the claim against him. Under the circumstances of this case, we find that respondent was duly apprised of the action against him and had every opportunity to answer the charges made by the petitioner. However, since respondent refused to disclose his true address, it was impossible to personally serve summons upon him. Considering that respondent could not have received summons because of his own pretenses, and has failed to provide an explanation of his purported “new” residence, he must now bear the consequences.  Arnel Sagana vs.Richard A. Francisco, G.R. No. 161952, October 2, 2009.

Jurisdiction; supervening legislation. In Latchme Motoomull v. Dela Paz, the Court had dealt with a situation where jurisdiction over certain cases was transferred by a supervening legislation to another tribunal. Latchme involved a perfected appeal from the decision of the SEC and pending with the Court of Appeals at the time P.D. No. 902-A was enacted which transferred appellate jurisdiction over the decisions of the SEC from the Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court. On the question of whether the tribunal with which the cases were pending had lost jurisdiction over the appeal upon the effectivity of the new law, the Court ruled in the negative. Philippine National Bank Vs. Cayetano A. Tejano, Jr., G.R. No. 173615, October 16, 2009.

Mandamus;  nature. A writ of mandamus is a command issuing from a court of law of competent jurisdiction, in the name of the state or sovereign, directed to an inferior court, tribunal, or board, or to some corporation or person, requiring the performance of a particular duty therein specified, which duty results from the official station of the party to whom the writ is directed, or from operation of law. It is employed to compel the performance, when refused, of a ministerial duty which, as opposed to a discretionary one, is that which an officer or tribunal performs in a given state of facts, in a prescribed manner, in obedience to the mandate of legal authority, without regard to or the exercise of his or its own judgment upon the propriety or impropriety of the act done.

A favorable judgment rendered in a special civil action for mandamus is in the nature of a special judgment. As such, it requires the performance of any other act than the payment of money or the sale or delivery of real or personal property the execution of which is governed by Section 11, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court. National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation vs. Mario Abayari, et al., G.R. No. 166508. October 2, 2009

Mortgage; right of redemption. Right of redemption is the prerogative to reacquire a mortgaged property after registration of the foreclosure sale. It exists only in the case of the extrajudicial foreclosure of the mortgage. No such right is recognized in a judicial foreclosure unless the mortgagee is a bank. An attaching creditor acquires the right to redeem the debtor’s attached property subsequently foreclosed extra-judicially by a third party.
The “successor-in-interest” of a judgment debtor includes one to whom the debtor has transferred his statutory right of redemption; one to whom the debtor has conveyed his interest in the property for the purpose of redemption; one who succeeds to the interest of the debtor by operation of law; one or more joint debtors who were joint owners of the property sold; or his spouse or heirs.

A “redemptioner,” on the other hand, is a creditor with a lien subsequent to the judgment which was the basis of the execution sale. If the lien of the creditor is prior to the judgment under which the property was sold, he is not a redemptioner and, therefore, cannot redeem because his interests in his lien are fully protected, since any purchase at public auction of said property takes the same subject to such prior lien which he has to satisfy. Unlike the judgment debtor, a redemptioner must prove his right to redeem by producing the documents called for by Section 30, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court.  German Cayton, et al. vs. Zeonnix Trading Corporation, et al.,  G.R. No. 169541, October 9, 2009.

Mortgage; valid redemption. To constitute valid redemption, the amount tendered must comply with the following requirements: (1) it should constitute the full amount paid by the purchaser; (2) with one percent per month interest on the purchase price in addition, up to the time of redemption; (3) together with the amount of any assessments or taxes which the purchaser may have paid thereon after purchase; (4) interest on the taxes paid by the purchaser at the rate of one percent per month, up to the time of the redemption; and (5) if the purchaser be also a creditor having a prior lien to that of the redemptioner, other than the judgment under which such purchase was made, the amount of such other lien, with interest.

In exercising the right of redemption, the tender of payment must be for the full amount of the purchase price. Otherwise, to allow payment by installments would be to allow the indefinite extension of the redemption period.

The amount tendered by Zeonnix may be considered sufficient for purposes of redemption, although it failed to include the amount of taxes paid by the Caytons. The payment of the full amount of the purchase price and interest thereon should be deemed as substantial compliance, considering that Zeonnix immediately paid the amount of taxes when apprised of the deficiency.  German Cayton, et al. vs. Zeonnix Trading Corporation, et al.,  G.R. No. 169541, October 9, 2009.

Motion to dismiss;  hypothetical admission. In filing a motion to dismiss, the movant hypothetically admits the truth of the material and relevant facts alleged and pleaded in the complaint.  The court, in resolving the motion to dismiss, must consider such hypothetical admission, the documentary evidence presented during the hearing thereof, and the relevant laws and jurisprudence bearing on the issues or subject matter of the complaint. Aqualab Philippines, Inc. vs. Heirs of Marcelino Pagobo, et al., G.R. No. 182673, October 12, 2009.

Motion to dismiss; lack of cause of action. To sustain a motion to dismiss for lack of cause of action, the complaint must show that the claim for relief does not exist rather than that a claim has been defectively stated or is ambiguous, indefinite, or uncertain. However, a perusal of respondents’ Complaint before the RTC, in light of Aqualab’s motion to dismiss which hypothetically admitted the truth of the allegations in the complaint, shows that respondents’ action before the RTC has sufficiently stated a cause of action. Hypothetically admitting fraud in the transfers of subject lots, which indisputably were first transferred in apparent violation of pertinent provisions in CA 141 prohibiting alienation of homesteads within five years from the grant of the homestead patent, and the continuing possession of respondents until 1991 of the subject lots, the action for reconveyance and nullification filed in 1994 not only sufficiently stated a cause of action but also has not yet prescribed.  Aqualab Philippines, Inc. vs. Heirs of Marcelino Pagobo, et al., G.R. No. 182673, October 12, 2009.

Motion to dismiss; litis pendentia. Litis pendentia, a Latin term meaning “a pending suit,” is also referred to as lis pendens and auter action pendant. While it is normally connected with the control which the court has over a property involved in a suit during the continuance proceedings, it is interposed more as a ground for the dismissal of a civil action pending in court.

Litis pendentia as a ground for the dismissal of a civil action contemplates a situation wherein another action is pending between the same parties for the same cause of action, such that the second action becomes unnecessary and vexatious. In fact, it is one of the grounds that authorizes a court to dismiss a case motu proprio.

Litis pendentia is predicated on the principle that a party should not be allowed to vex another more than once regarding the same subject matter and for the same cause of action.[32] This principle in turn is founded on the public policy that the same subject matter should not be the subject of controversy in courts more than once, in order that possible conflicting judgments may be avoided for the sake of the stability of the rights and status of persons, and also to avoid the costs and expenses incident to numerous suits.

For litis pendentia to exist, the following requisites or elements must concur: (a) identity of parties, or at least such parties who represent the same interests in both actions; (b) identity of rights asserted and relief prayed for, the relief being founded on the same facts; and (c) identity with respect to the two (2) preceding particulars in the two (2) cases is such that any judgment that may be rendered in the pending case, regardless of which party is successful, would amount to res judicata in the other case.  Subic Telecommunications Company, Inc. vs. Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority and Innove Communications, Inc.,  G.R. No. 185159. October 12, 2009

Motion to dismiss; litis pendentia. Litis pendentia is a Latin term, which literally means “a pending suit” and is variously referred to in some decisions as lis pendens and auter action pendant. As a ground for the dismissal of a civil action, it refers to the situation where two actions are pending between the same parties for the same cause of action, so that one of them becomes unnecessary and vexatious. It is based on the policy against multiplicity of suits.

To constitute litis pendentia, not only must the parties in the two actions be the same; there must as well be substantial identity in the causes of action and in the reliefs sought. Further, the identity should be such that any judgment that may be rendered in one case, regardless of which party is successful, would amount to res judicata in the other.

The rule on litis pendentia does not require that the case later in time should yield to the earlier case; what is required merely is that there be another pending action, not a prior pending action. Neither is it required that the party be served with summons before lis pendens can apply; it is the filing of the action, not the receipt of summons, which determines priority in date.

Under this established jurisprudence on litis pendentia, the following considerations predominate in the ascending order of importance in determining which action should prevail: (1) the date of filing, with preference generally given to the first action filed to be retained; (2) whether the action sought to be dismissed was filed merely to preempt the later action or to anticipate its filing and lay the basis for its dismissal; and (3) whether the action is the appropriate vehicle for litigating the issues between the parties.  Dotmatrix Trading as represented by its proprietos, namely Romy Yap Chua. Renato Rollan and Rolando D. Cadiz, G.R. No. 155622, October 26, 2009.

Motion to dismiss; prescription. Prescription, as a ground for a motion to dismiss, is adequate when the complaint, on its face, shows that the action has already prescribed. Such is not the case in this instance. Respondents have duly averred continuous possession until 1991 when such was allegedly disturbed by Aqualab. Being in possession of the subject lots—hypothetically admitted by Aqualab—respondents’ right to reconveyance or annulment of title has not prescribed or is not time-barred.

Verily, an action for annulment of title or reconveyance based on fraud is imprescriptible where the plaintiff is in possession of the property subject of the acts. And the prescriptive period for the reconveyance of fraudulently registered real property is 10 years, reckoned from the date of the issuance of the certificate of title, if the plaintiff is not in possession. Thus, one who is in actual possession of a piece of land on a claim of ownership thereof may wait until his possession is disturbed or his title is attacked before taking steps to vindicate his right.

In the instant case, as hypothetically admitted, respondents were in possession until 1991, and until such possession is disturbed, the prescriptive period does not run. Since respondents filed their complaint in 1994, or three years after their possession was allegedly disturbed, it is clear that prescription has not set in, either due to fraud or constructive trust.  Aqualab Philippines, Inc. vs. Heirs of Marcelino Pagobo, et al., G.R. No. 182673, October 12, 2009.
Pre-trial;  amendment of complaint. Petitioner posits that even if an amended complaint is filed for the purpose of impleading another party as defendant, where no additional cause of action was alleged and the amount of prayer for damages in the original complaint was the same, another pre-trial is not required and a second pre-trial brief need not be filed.

It must be pointed out, however, that in the cases cited by petitioner to support her argument, the Court found no need for a second pre-trial precisely because there are no additional causes of action alleged and the impleaded defendants merely adopted and repleaded all the pleadings of the original defendants. Petitioner’s reliance on the above-cited cases is misplaced because, in the present case, the RTC correctly found that petitioner had a separate cause of action against PNB. A separate cause of action necessarily means additional cause of action. Moreover, the defenses adopted by PNB are completely different from the defenses of Lim and Rodriguez, necessitating a separate determination of the matters enumerated under Section 6, Rule 18 of the Rules of Court insofar as PNB and petitioner are concerned. On these bases, we find no error in the ruling of the CA which sustained the trial court’s dismissal of the amended complaint against PNB for failure of petitioner to file her pre-trial brief.  Eufemia vda. De Agatep  vs. Roberta L. Rodriguez, et al.,  G.R. No. 170540, October 28, 2009.

Rule 38;  relief from judgment.  Relief from judgment under Rule 38 of the Rules of Court is a remedy provided by law to any person against whom a decision or order is entered into through fraud, accident, mistake or excusable negligence. The relief provided for is of equitable character, allowed only in exceptional cases as where there is no other available or adequate remedy. When a party has another remedy available to him, which may either be a motion for new trial or appeal from an adverse decision of the lower court, and he was not prevented by fraud, accident, mistake or excusable negligence from filing such motion or taking the appeal, he cannot avail himself of the relief provided in Rule 38. The rule is that relief will not be granted to a party who seeks avoidance from the effects of the judgment when the loss of the remedy at law was due to his own negligence or a mistaken mode of procedure, otherwise the petition for relief will be tantamount to reviving the right of appeal which has already been lost either because of inexcusable negligence or due to a mistake in the mode of procedure by counsel.

The mistake contemplated by Rule 38 of the Rules of Court pertains generally to mistake of fact, not of law, which relates to the case. The word “mistake” which grants relief from judgment, does not apply and was never intended to apply to a judicial error which the court might have committed in the trial. Such error may be corrected by means of an appeal. Romeo Samonte vs. S.F. Naguiat, Inc., G.R. No. 165544, October 2, 2009.

Rule 42.  Gabatin v. Land Bank of the Philippines reiterated the settled rule that a petition for review under Rule 42 of the Revised Rules of Court, and not an ordinary appeal under Rule 41, is the appropriate mode of appeal from decisions of RTCs acting as SACs. In Gabatin, the Court sustained the appellate court’s assumption of jurisdiction over an appeal from the SAC even if its dismissal had been sought on the ground that the issues presented before the appellate court were purely legal in nature.

Clearly, jurisdiction over appeals from decisions of the SAC resides in the Court of Appeals via a Rule 42 petition for review, which may raise either questions of fact, or of law, or mixed questions of fact and law. Land Bank of the Philippines vs. J. L. Jocson and Sons, G.R. No. 180803, October 23, 2009.

Rule 45; question of fact. Questions of fact are not proper in a Petition brought under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. Time and time again, we have stated that the Supreme Court is not a trier of facts, and this Court will decline to sift through the evidence submitted by the parties, particularly here, where such evidence was not presented before the trial court. It would be ludicrous indeed if we were to determine, in the first instance, where respondent actually resides, his true income, or his current mental state. Such issues are best threshed out before the trial court; we have neither the inclination or interest to resolve these factual matters here.  Republic of the Philippines vs. Yang Chi Hao, G.R. No. 165332, October 2, 2009.

Rule 45;  question of fact. It is settled that the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court over decisions and final orders of the Sandiganbayan is limited only to questions of law; it does not review the factual findings of the Sandiganbayan which, as a rule, are conclusive upon the Court.

A question of law exists when there is doubt or controversy as to what the law is on a certain state of facts. On the other hand, a question of fact exists when the doubt or controversy arises as to the truth or falsity of the alleged facts. The resolution of a question of fact necessarily involves a calibration of the evidence, the credibility of the witnesses, the existence and the relevance of surrounding circumstances, and the probability of specific situations.

Simple as it may seem, determining the true nature and extent of the distinction is not always easy. In a case involving a question of law, the resolution of the issue must rest solely on what the law provides for a given set of facts drawn from the evidence presented. Once it is clear that the issue invites a review of theprobative value of the evidence presented, the question posed is one of fact. If the query requires a re-evaluation of the credibility of witnesses, or the existence or relevance of surrounding circumstances and their relation to each other, the issue in that query is factual.

In the present case, the petitioners seek a review by this Court of the factual findings of the Sandiganbayan, which essentially involve the credibility of the witnesses and the probative weight of their testimonies. The question regarding the credibility of witnesses is obviously one of fact on which the Sandiganbayan had already passed upon in its decision and resolution dated October 15, 2002 and January 23, 2003, respectively. Arturo C. Cabaron and Brigida Cabaron vs. People of the Philippines, et al., G.R. No. 156981, October 5, 2009.

Rule 45; question of fact. Petitioner endeavors to convince us to determine, yet again, the weight, credence, and probative value of the evidence presented. This cannot be done in this petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court where only questions of law may be raised by the parties and passed upon by us.

It has already been held that the determination of the existence of a breach of contract is a factual matter not usually reviewable in a petition filed under Rule 45.[ We will not review, much less reverse, the factual findings of the Court of Appeals especially where, as in this case, such findings coincide with those of the trial court, since we are not a trier of facts. The established rule is that the factual findings of the Court of Appeals affirming those of the RTC are conclusive and binding on us. We are not wont to review them, save under exceptional circumstances as: (1) when the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible; (2) when there is grave abuse of discretion; (3) when the findings are grounded entirely on speculations, surmises or conjectures; (4) when the judgment of the Court of Appeals is based on misapprehension of facts; (5) when the Court of Appeals, in making its findings, went beyond the issues of the case and the same is contrary to the admissions of both appellant and appellee; (6) when the findings of fact are conclusions without citation of specific evidence on which they are based; (7) when the Court of Appeals manifestly overlooked certain relevant facts not disputed by the parties and which, if properly considered, would justify a different conclusion; and (8) when the findings of fact of the Court of Appeals are premised on the absence of evidence and are contradicted by the evidence on record.  Engr. Apolinario Dueñas vs. Alice Guce-Africa,  G.R. No. 165679, October 5, 2009.

Rule 45; question of fact. A petition for review under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Court should cover only questions of law. A question of law exists when the doubt or difference centers on what the law is on a certain state of facts. A question of fact exists if the doubt centers on the truth or falsity of the alleged facts. We note that matters pertaining to the takeover, completion and delivery of the project are factual issues which had been exhaustively discussed and ruled upon by the CIAC.

It is settled that findings of fact of quasi-judicial bodies, which have acquired expertise because their jurisdiction is confined to specific matters, are generally accorded not only respect, but also finality, especially when affirmed by the Court of Appeals. In particular, factual findings of construction arbitrators are final and conclusive and not reviewable by this Court on appeal.

This rule, however, admits of certain exceptions. In this case, IBEX failed to show that any of these exceptions apply.  Ibex International, Inc. vs.. Government Service Insurance System, et al.,  G.R. No. 162095. October 12, 2009

Rule 45;  question of fact. Preliminarily, on the issue pertaining to whether or not respondent was entitled to damages and attorney’s fees, the same entails a resort to the parties’ respective evidence. Thus, AF is clearly asking us to consider a question of fact.

Time and again, we have held that the jurisdiction of this Court in a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 is limited only to questions of law, save for certain exceptions, none of which are present in this case.

Both the RTC and the CA have competently ruled on the issue of respondent’s entitlement to damages and attorney’s fees as they properly laid down both the factual and legal bases for their respective decisions. We see no reason to disturb their findings. Air France Philippines/KLM Air France vs. John Anthony De Camilis, G.R. No. 188961, October 13, 2009.

Rule 45;  question of fact. It is settled that questions of fact cannot be the subject of a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. The rule finds more stringent application where the Court of Appeals upholds the findings of fact of the trial court. In such instance, as in this case, this Court is generally bound to adopt the facts as determined by the lower courts. This Court has held also that when supported by substantial evidence, the findings of fact of the Court of Appeals are conclusive and binding on the parties and are not reviewable by this Court. Needless to stress, under Section 1, Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, the petition shall raise only questions of law.[ The reason is that this Court is not a trier of facts, and is not to review and calibrate the evidence on record.

Here, we find no exception to the general rule. The trial court and the Court of Appeals are one in finding that petitioner bought paddle wheels from respondent, that the same were delivered to petitioner through his representative, and that petitioner failed to fully pay the price as he made partial payments only. This finding is amply supported by the evidence on record. Raul Chua, respondent’s general manager, testified on petitioner’s credit purchase. Respondent also presented the delivery receipts, charge invoice, official receipts of partial payment, and petitioner’s reply to the demand letter.  Angelito Colmenares vs. Hand Tractor Parts and Agro-Industrial Corp., G.R. No. 170790, October 23, 2009.

Rule 65;  availability of other remedy.  Clearly, since the present case involves a final order of dismissal issued by the CA, the proper course of action would have been to file a petition for review oncertiorari under Rule 45. Although there are exceptions to the general rule, petitioner utterly failed to allege and prove that the extraordinary remedy of the writ ofcertiorari should be granted, because an appeal, although available, would be inadequate, insufficient and not speedy enough to address the urgency of the matter. There is nothing in the petition to show that this case qualifies as an exception to the general rule. The circumstances prevailing in this case reveal that whatever grievance petitioner may be suffering from the dismissal of its petition with the CA could be properly addressed through a petition for review on certiorari.  San Miguel Bukid Homeowners Association, Inc., etc. vs. City of Mandaluyong, etc., et al., G.R. No. 153653, October 2, 2009.

Rule 65; availability of other remedy. On a procedural matter, the Court notes that petitioner filed the instant petition for certiorari under Rule 65 without filing a motion for reconsideration with the CA. It is settled that the writ of certiorari lies only when petitioner has no other plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. Thus, a motion for reconsideration, as a general rule, must be filed before the tribunal, board, or officer against whom the writ of certiorari is sought. Ordinarily, certiorari as a special civil action will not lie unless a motion for reconsideration is first filed before the respondent tribunal, to allow it an opportunity to correct its assigned errors. This rule, however, is not without exceptions.

The CA decision being void for lack of due process, the filing of the instant petition for certiorari without a motion for reconsideration is justified.   People of the Philippines vs. Arturo F. Duca, G.R. No. 171175, October 9, 2009.
Rule 65; availability of other remedy. A basic requisite of the special civil action of certiorari, which is governed by Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, is that there is no appeal or any plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. Where appeal is available, certiorari generally does not lie. Certiorari cannot be used as a substitute for a lost or lapsed remedy of appeal.

In this case, an appeal was not only available, but also mandated by Sections 11 and 12 of Commonwealth Act No. 473 (1939), or the Revised Naturalization Law, as amended. Notably, in Keswani v. Republic, we declared that the remedy from a decision by the trial court admitting an individual as a Filipino citizen is through an appeal to the Court of Appeals.  Republic of the Philippines vs. Yang Chi Hao, G.R. No. 165332, October 2, 2009.

Rule 65;  COMELEC. We review the present petition on the basis of the combined application of Rules 64 and 65 of the Rules of Court. While COMELEC jurisdiction over the Bulacan election contest is not disputed, the legality of subsequent COMELEC action is assailed for having been undertaken with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. Thus, our standard of review is “grave abuse of discretion,” a term that defies exact definition, but generally refers to “capricious or whimsical exercise of judgment as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction. The abuse of discretion must be patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of positive duty or a virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law, or to act at all in contemplation of law, as where the power is exercised in an arbitrary and despotic manner by reason of passion and hostility.” Mere abuse of discretion is not enough; the abuse must be grave to merit our positive action.

On the basis of the standards set by Section 4 of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure, and of the Constitution itself in the handling of election cases, we rule that the COMELEC action is a valid exercise of discretion as it is a suitable and reasonable process within the exercise of its jurisdiction over provincial election contests, aimed at expediting the disposition of this case, and with no adverse, prejudicial or discriminatory effects on the parties to the contest that would render the rule unreasonable. Joselito R. Mendoza vs. Commission on Elections and Roberto M. Pagdanganan, G.R. No. 188308, October 15, 2009.

Rule 65;  corporate authorization.  Certiorari, as a special civil action, is an original action invoking the original jurisdiction of a court to annul or modify the proceedings of a tribunal, board or officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions. It is an original and independent action that is not part of the trial or the proceedings on the complaint filed before the trial court. The petition for certiorari before the CA is, therefore, a separate and distinct action from the action for specific performance instituted before the RTC, as the writ of certiorari being prayed for is directed against the judicial or quasi-judicial body, not against the private parties in the original action for specific performance. Such being the case, the November 7 1999 Resolution of the Board of Directors of petitioner association is not and cannot be considered as an authorization for its President, Evelio Barata, to initiate, sign, file and prosecute another case for the special civil action of certiorari. The CA was, thus, correct in dismissing the petition for lack of authority of Evelio Barata to sign the Certification of Non-Forum Shopping in representation of petitioner.

The submission of a Secretary’s Certificate with the Motion for Reconsideration is also insufficient to cure the initial defect. Said Certificate stated that petitioner’s Board of Trustees approved a Resolution at a meeting held on April 7, 2002, confirming and ratifying the authority of Mr. Barata to sign all necessary papers for the petition for certiorari. Note that the petition was filed on March 26, 2002, or before the date of said Resolution. There is no certification as to when petitioner’s Board of Trustees originally granted Mr. Barata authority to show that as of the date of the filing of the petition for certiorari, Mr. Barata had been authorized to perform such acts.  San Miguel Bukid Homeowners Association, Inc., etc. vs. City of Mandaluyong, etc., et al., G.R. No. 153653, October 2, 2009.

Rule 65; grave abuse of discretion. By grave abuse of discretion is meant such capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment which is equivalent to an excess or lack of jurisdiction. The abuse of discretion must be so patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of a positive duty or a virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law or to act at all in contemplation of law, as where the power is exercised in an arbitrary and despotic manner by reason of passion or hostility. It also bears stressing that the true function of the writ of certiorari is to keep an inferior court within the bounds of its jurisdiction, or to relieve parties from the arbitrary acts of courts.

Viewed against these standards, we find the trial court’s reversal of its decision after the filing of a Motion for Reconsideration not tainted with grave abuse of discretion. Republic of the Philippines vs. Yang Chi Hao, G.R. No. 165332, October 2, 2009.

Rule 65; grave abuse. Grave abuse of discretion has been defined as “such capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment tantamount to lack of jurisdiction.” The abuse of discretion must be “so patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of a positive duty or a virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law, or to act at all in contemplation of law, as where the power is exercised in an arbitrary and despotic manner by reason of passion or hostility.” We do not find this situation to be present in the instant case so as to merit a reversal of the questioned Resolution and Order issued by respondent Office of the Ombudsman.  Ernesto Francisco, Jr. vs. Ombudsman Aniano A. Desierto, et al. G.R. No. 154117. October 2, 2009

Rule 65; Ombudsman decision. Although we agree with private respondents Velarde that a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 is not the proper remedy for parties seeking relief from final judgments, orders, or resolutions of quasi-judicial bodies or agencies like the Office of the Ombudsman, as has been repeatedly held by this Court, we find that the remedy of appeal under Rule 43 posited by private respondents Velarde is not proper either. This Court subsequently held that under the ruling in Fabian, “all appeals from decisions of the Ombudsman in administrative disciplinary cases may be taken to the Court of Appeals under Rule 43 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.” Said remedy, therefore, is not applicable to cases involving criminal or non-administrative charges filed before the Office of the Ombudsman, which is the situation in the case before us now.

Thus, due to the nature of this case and the allegations involving grave abuse of discretion committed by the Office of the Ombudsman, it should have been filed under Rule 65, and not Rule 45, of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.

This case involves a significant amount of money that was already released by the government to a private institution, AMVEL, as purchase price for the road right-of-way in a major infrastructure project that was undertaken by the former and that naturally affected the general public. Therefore, even if this case was erroneously filed as shown above, and may be dismissed outright under the rules, the Court deems it appropriate to brush aside technicalities of procedure, as this involves matters of transcendental importance to the public; and to consider the petition as one for certiorari filed under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court.  Ernesto Francisco, Jr. vs. Ombudsman Aniano A. Desierto, et al. G.R. No. 154117. October 2, 2009

Rule 65;  prohibition. In a petition for prohibition against any tribunal, corporation, board, or person — whether exercising judicial, quasi-judicial, or ministerial functions — who has acted without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion, the petitioner prays that judgment be rendered, commanding the respondent to desist from further proceeding in the action or matter specified in the petition. On the other hand, the remedy of mandamus lies to compel performance of a ministerial duty. The petitioner for such a writ should have a well-defined, clear and certain legal right to the performance of the act, and it must be the clear and imperative duty of respondent to do the act required to be done.

In this case, petitioners’ primary intention is to prevent respondent from implementing Municipal Ordinance No. 98-01, i.e., by collecting the goodwill fees from petitioners and barring them from occupying the stalls at the municipal public market. Obviously, the writ petitioners seek is more in the nature of prohibition (commanding desistance), rather than mandamus (compelling performance).

For a writ of prohibition, the requisites are: (1) the impugned act must be that of a “tribunal, corporation, board, officer, or person, whether exercising judicial, quasi-judicial or ministerial functions”; and (2) there is no plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.”

The exercise of judicial function consists of the power to determine what the law is and what the legal rights of the parties are, and then to adjudicate upon the rights of the parties. The term quasi-judicial function applies to the action and discretion of public administrative officers or bodies that are required to investigate facts or ascertain the existence of facts, hold hearings, and draw conclusions from them as a basis for their official action and to exercise discretion of a judicial nature. In implementing Municipal Ordinance No. 98-01, respondent is not called upon to adjudicate the rights of contending parties or to exercise, in any manner, discretion of a judicial nature.

A ministerial function is one that an officer or tribunal performs in the context of a given set of facts, in a prescribed manner and without regard for the exercise of his or its own judgment, upon the propriety or impropriety of the act done.

The Court holds that respondent herein is performing a ministerial function.   Evelyn Ongsuco and Antonia Salaya vs. hon. Mariano M. Malones, etc., G.R. No. 182065, October 27, 2009.

Rules of procedure; relaxation. It must be borne in mind that the rules of procedure are intended to promote, rather than frustrate, the ends of justice, and while the swift unclogging of court dockets is a laudable objective, it, nevertheless, must not be met at the expense of substantial justice. Technical and procedural rules are intended to help secure, not suppress, the cause of justice; and a deviation from the rigid enforcement of the rules may be allowed to attain that prime objective for, after all, the dispensation of justice is the core reason for the existence of courts.

Hence, technicalities must be avoided. The law abhors technicalities that impede the cause of justice. The court’s primary duty is to render or dispense justice. A litigation is not a game of technicalities. Lawsuits, unlike duels, are not to be won by a rapier’s thrust. Technicality, when it deserts its proper office as an aid to justice and becomes its great hindrance and chief enemy, deserves scant consideration from courts. Litigations must be decided on their merits and not on technicality. Every party-litigant must be afforded the amplest opportunity for the proper and just determination of his cause, free from the unacceptable plea of technicalities. Thus, dismissal of appeals purely on technical grounds is frowned upon where the policy of the court is to encourage hearings of appeals on their merits and the rules of procedure ought not to be applied in a very rigid, technical sense; rules of procedure are used only to help secure, not override, substantial justice. It is a far better and more prudent course of action for the court to excuse a technical lapse and afford the parties a review of the case on appeal to attain the ends of justice rather than dispose of the case on technicality and cause a grave injustice to the parties, giving a false impression of speedy disposal of cases while actually resulting in more delay, if not a miscarriage, of justice.  Ophelia L. Tuatis vs. Spouses Eliseo Escol and Visminda Escol, et al.,  G.R. No. 175399. October 27, 2009

Settlement of estate. An Section 4, Rule 74 annotation is placed on new certificates of title issued pursuant to the distribution and partition of a decedent’s real properties to warn third persons on the possible interests of excluded heirs or unpaid creditors in these properties. The annotation, therefore, creates a legal encumbrance or lien on the real property in favor of the excluded heirs or creditors. Where a buyer purchases the real property despite the annotation, he must be ready for the possibility that the title could be subject to the rights of excluded parties. The cancellation of the sale would be the logical consequence where: (a) the annotation clearly appears on the title, warning all would-be buyers; (b) the sale unlawfully interferes with the rights of heirs; and (c) the rightful heirs bring an action to question the transfer within the two-year period provided by law.  Delfin Tan vs. Erlinda C. Benolirao, Andrew C. Benolirao, Romano C. Benolirao, Dion C. Benolirao, Sps. Reynaldo Taningco and Norma D. Benolirao, Evelyn T. Monreal and Ann Karina Taningco,  G.R. No. 153820. October 16, 2009

Settlement of estate; partition. The Sy Bang estate cannot be partitioned or distributed until the final determination of the extent of the estate and only until it is shown that the obligations under Rule 90, Section 1, have been settled.

In the settlement of estate proceedings, the distribution of the estate properties can only be made: (1) after all the debts, funeral charges, expenses of administration, allowance to the widow, and estate tax have been paid; or (2) before payment of said obligations only if the distributees or any of them gives a bond in a sum fixed by the court conditioned upon the payment of said obligations within such time as the court directs, or when provision is made to meet those obligations.   Heirs of Jose Sy Bang, Heirs of Julian Sy and Oscar Sy vs. Rolando Sy, et al./Iluminada Tan, et al. vs. Bartolome Sy, et al,  G.R. No. 114217G.R. No. 150979. October 13, 2009

Venue; libel. Settled is the rule that jurisdiction of a court over a criminal case is determined by the allegations of the complaint or information, and the offense must have been committed or any one of its essential ingredients took place within the territorial jurisdiction of the court. Considering that the Information failed to allege the venue requirements for a libel case under Article 360, the Court finds that the RTC of Iloilo City had no jurisdiction to hear this case. Thus, its decision convicting petitioners of the crime of libel should be set aside for want of jurisdiction without prejudice to its filing with the court of competent jurisdiction. Vicente,Jr. and Danny G. Fajardo vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 167764, October 9, 2009.

Writ of possession. A writ of possession is generally understood to be an order whereby the sheriff is commanded to place a person in possession of a real or personal property. A writ of possession may be issued under the following instances: (1) land registration proceedings under Section 17 of Act 496; (2) judicial foreclosure, provided the debtor is in possession of the mortgaged realty and no third person, not a party to the foreclosure suit, had intervened; and (3) extrajudicial foreclosure of a real estate mortgage under Section 7 of Act 3135, as amended by Act 4118 (Act 3135). This case involves the third instance. Under Section 7 of Act 3135, a writ of possession may be issued either (1) within the one year redemption period, upon the filing of a bond, or (2) after the lapse of the redemption period, without need of a bond or of a separate and independent action. This is founded on the purchaser’s right of ownership over the property which he bought at the auction sale and his consequent right to be placed in possession thereof. However, this rule admits of an exception, that is, Section 33 (former Section 35) of Rule 39 of the Revised Rules of Court, which provides that the possession of the mortgaged property shall be given to the purchaser “unless a third party is actually holding the property adversely to the judgment obligor.” Bank of the Philippine Islands vs. Teofilo Icot, et al., G.R. No. 168061, October 12, 2009.

Warrants;  search warrant.  A.M. No. 99-10-09-SC provides that the guidelines on the enforceability of search warrants provided therein shall continue until further orders from this Court. In fact, the guidelines in A.M. No. 99-10-09-SC are reiterated in A.M. No. 03-8-02-SC entitled Guidelines On The Selection And Designation Of Executive Judges And Defining Their Powers, Prerogatives And Duties, which explicitly stated that the guidelines in the issuance of search warrants in special criminal cases by the RTCs of Manila and Quezon City shall be an exception to Section 2 of Rule 126 of the Rules of Court.  Spouses Joel and Marietta Marimla vs. People of the Philippines, et al.,  G.R. No. 158467, October 16, 2009.

Writ of possession; third parties. The right of possession by a purchaser in an extrajudicial foreclosure of real property is recognized only as against the judgment debtor and his successor-in-interest, but not as against persons whose right of possession is adverse to the latter. In this case, respondents are third parties in possession of the subject real property, holding the same under a title adverse to that of the mortgagor/judgment obligor, Velasco. Respondents are claiming title by virtue of an extrajudicial settlement of their father’s estate executed in 1964. Upon learning of the mortgage of the real property by Velasco to petitioner, respondents filed a case for quieting of title against Velasco. The latter later acknowledged or “recognized” respondents’ ownership of the real property in the Compromise Agreement executed by the parties in the quieting of title case. Velasco even agreed to undertake restitution of the subject property by contracting anew with and repurchasing the foreclosed property from petitioner.

Moreover, respondents are not parties to the mortgage contract between the spouses Velasco and petitioner. As correctly ruled by the appellate court, the mere mention of the mortgage of the real property in the Compromise Agreement did not make respondents privies to the mortgage contract between the spouses Velasco and petitioner. Moreover, respondents’ offer to repurchase the foreclosed property from petitioner is not tantamount to stepping into the shoes of Velasco, nor would such offer qualify respondents as Velasco’s successors-in-interest. Rather, the offer may be considered as respondents’ last ditch effort to avoid being deprived of the property they claim to have possessed since time immemorial.

Petitioner’s right to issuance of a writ of possession cannot be invoked against respondents. Respondents’ possession of the subject real property is legally presumed to be pursuant to a just title which petitioner may endeavor to overcome in a judicial proceeding for recovery of property.  Bank of the Philippine Islands vs. Teofilo Icot, et al., G.R. No. 168061, October 12, 2009.