November 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law

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

Civil Procedure

Appeal; argument raised for first time on appeal. As a last ditch effort, petitioner asserts that the property is a road right of way; thus, it cannot be subject of a writ of execution.  The argument must be rejected because it was raised for the first time in this petition.  In the trial court and the CA, petitioner’s arguments zeroed in on the alleged conjugal nature of the property.  It is well settled that issues raised for the first time on appeal and not raised in the proceedings in the lower court are barred by estoppel. Points of law, theories, issues, and arguments not brought to the attention of the trial court ought not to be considered by a reviewing court, as these cannot be raised for the first time on appeal.  To consider the alleged facts and arguments raised belatedly would amount to trampling on the basic principles of fair play, justice, and due process.  Evangeline D. Imani vs. Metroplitan Bank and Trust Company, G.R. No. 187023, November 17, 2010.

Appeal; argument raised for first time on appeal. The petitioners now claim that the Motion for Reconsideration, filed by the respondent on May 18, 1993 from the September 18, 1992 Order of the RTC, was filed out of time.  The petitioners make this claim to justify their contention that the subsequent rulings of the RTC, including the June 2, 1993 and October 1, 1993 Orders, are barred by res judicata.

We reject this belated claim as the petitioners raised this only for the first time on appeal, particularly, in their Memorandum.  In fact, the petitioners never raised this issue in the proceedings before the court a quo or in the present petition for review.

As a rule, a party who deliberately adopts a certain theory upon which the case is tried and decided by the lower court will not be permitted to change the theory on appeal.  Points of law, theories, issues and arguments not brought to the attention of the lower court need not be, and ordinarily will not be, considered by a reviewing court, as these cannot be raised for the first time at such late stage. It would be unfair to the adverse party who would have no opportunity to present further evidence material to the new theory, which it could have done had it been aware of it at the time of the hearing before the trial court.  Thus, to permit the petitioners in this case to change their theory on appeal would thus be unfair to the respondent and offend the basic rules of fair play, justice and due process.  Spouses Ernesto and Vicenta Topacio vs. Banco Filipino Savings and Mortgage Bank, G.R. No. 157644, November 17, 2010.

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November 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Tax Law

Here are selected November 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on tax law:

Court of Tax Appeals; jurisdiction; other matters. The jurisdiction of the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) over “other matters” is found in number 1 of Section 7 of Republic Act No. 1125, as amended. Under this provision, the CTA exercises exclusive appellate jurisdiction to review by appeal decisions of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue (CIR) in cases involving disputed assessments, refunds of internal revenue taxes, fees or other charges, penalties imposed in relation thereto, or other matters arising under the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC) or other law as part of law administered by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR). The term “other matters” is limited only by the qualifying phrase that follows it. The appellate jurisdiction of the CTA is not limited to cases which involve decisions of the CIR on matters relating to assessments or refunds. It covers other cases that arise out of the NIRC or related laws administered by the BIR. The issue of whether or not the BIR’s right to collect taxes had already prescribed is a subject matter falling under the NIRC. In connection therewith, the NIRC also states that the collection of taxes is one of the duties of the BIR. Thus, from the foregoing, the issue of prescription of the BIR’s right to collect taxes may be considered as covered by the term “other matters” over which the CTA has appellate jurisdiction. Commissioner of Internal Revenue vs Hambrecht & Quist Philippines, Inc., G.R. No. 169225, November 17, 2010.

Court of Tax Appeals; petition for review with Court of Tax Appeals en banc; motion for reconsideration mandatory.   Rule 8, Section 1 of the Revised Rules of Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) requiring that “the petition for review of a decision or resolution of the Court in Division must be preceded by the filing of a timely motion for reconsideration or new trial with the Decision” is mandatory. The word “must” clearly indicate the mandatory- not merely directory- nature of a requirement. The rules are clear. Before the CTA En Banc could take cognizance of the petition for review concerning a case falling under its exclusive appellate jurisdiction, the litigant must sufficiently show that it sought prior reconsideration or moved for a new trial with the concerned CTA division. Procedural rules are not to be trifled with or be excused simply because their non-compliance may have resulted in prejudicing a party’s substantive rights. Rules are meant to be followed. They may be relaxed only for very exigent and persuasive reasons to relieve a litigant of an injustice not commensurate to his careless non-observance of the prescribed rules. Commissioner of Customs vs. Marina Sales, Inc., G.R. No. 183868, November 22, 2010.

Court of Tax Appeals; petition for certiorari; requisites. In order for a petition for certiorari to succeed, the following requisites must concur: (a) the writ is directed against a tribunal, a board, or any officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions, (b) such tribunal, board or officer has acted without or in excess of jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, and (c) there is no appeal, or any plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. “Without jurisdiction” denotes that the tribunal, board or officer acted with absolute lack of authority. There is “excess of jurisdiction” when the public respondent exceeds its power or acts without any statutory authority. “Grave abuse of discretion” connotes such capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment as to be equivalent to lack or excess of jurisdiction; otherwise stated, power is exercised in an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion, prejudice, or personal hostility; and such exercise is so patent or so gross as to amount to an evasion of a positive duty or to a virtual refusal either to perform the duty enjoined or to act at all in contemplation of law. The grant or denial of a motion for postponement is addressed to the sound discretion of the court which should always be predicated on the consideration that more than the mere convenience of the courts or of the parties, the ends of justice and fairness should be served thereby. Furthermore, this discretion must be exercised intelligently. In this case, the taxpayer was given more than ample time to collate and gather its evidence. Accordingly, its right to due process was not transgressed.  Milwaukee Industries Corporation vs. Court of Tax Appeals and Commissioner of Internal Revenue, G.R. No. 173815, November 24, 2010.

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November 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Legal and Judicial Ethics

Here are selected November 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on legal and judicial ethics:

Attorney; gross misconduct. Deliberate failure to pay just debts constitute gross misconduct, for which a lawyer may be sanctioned with suspension from the practice of law. Lawyers are instruments for the administration of justice and vanguards of our legal system. They must, at all times, faithfully perform their duties to society, to the bar, the courts and to their clients, which include prompt payment of financial obligations. Manuel C. Yuhico vs. Atty. Fred L. Gutierrez, A.C. No. 8391, November 23, 2010.

Attorney; gross misconduct. There is nothing ethically remiss in a lawyer who files numerous cases in different fora, as long as he does so in good faith, in accordance with the Rules, and without any ill-motive or purpose other than to achieve justice and fairness.  In the present case, however, we find that the barrage of cases filed by the respondent against his former client and others close to her was meant to overwhelm said client and to show her that the respondent does not fold easily after he was meted a penalty of one year suspension from the practice of law. Atty. Carmen Leonor M. Alcantara, et al. vs. Atty. Eduardo C. de Vera, A.C. No. 5859, November 23, 2010.

Court personnel; gross dishonesty.  Saddi’s failure to turn over up to this time the full amount of his collections and to adequately explain and present evidence thereon constitute gross dishonesty, grave misconduct, and even malversation of public funds.  The delayed remittance of his cash collections and failure to submit monthly reports of court funds he received constitute gross neglect of duty.  Dishonesty alone, being in the nature of a grave offense, carries the extreme penalty of dismissal from the service with forfeiture of retirement benefits, except accrued leave credits, and perpetual disqualification for reemployment in the government service.  Office of the Court Administrator vs. Gregorio B. Saddi, A.M. No. P-10-2818, November 15, 2010.

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November 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

Here are selected November 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on civil law:

Civil Code

Damages; attorney’s fees.  On the award of attorney’s fees, attorney’s fees and expenses of litigation were awarded because Alfredo was compelled to litigate due to the unjust refusal of Land Bank to refund the amount he paid. There are instances when it is just and equitable to award attorney’s fees and expenses of litigation.  Art. 2208 of the Civil Code pertinently states:

In the absence of stipulation, attorney’s fees and expenses of litigation, other than judicial costs, cannot be recovered, except:

x x x x

(2) When the defendant’s act or omission has compelled the plaintiff to litigate with third persons or to incur expenses to protect his interest.

Given that Alfredo was indeed compelled to litigate against Land Bank and incur expenses to protect his interest, we find that the award falls under the exception above and is, thus, proper given the circumstances. Land Bank of the Philippines vs. Alfredo Ong, G.R. No. 190755, November 24, 2010.

Damages; attorney’s fees.  Regarding the grant of attorney’s fees, the Court agrees with the RTC that said award is justified. Losin refused to pay Vitarich despite the latter’s repeated demands.  It was left with no recourse but to litigate and protect its interest. We, however, opt to reduce the same to P10,000.00 from P20,000.00. Vitarich Corporation vs. Chona Locsin, G.R. No. 181560, November 15, 2010.

Damages; for loss of earning capacity.  The award of damages for loss of earning capacity is concerned with the determination of losses or damages sustained by respondents, as dependents and intestate heirs of the deceased. This consists not of the full amount of his earnings, but of the support which they received or would have received from him had he not died as a consequence of the negligent act. Thus, the amount recoverable is not the loss of the victim’s entire earnings, but rather the loss of that portion of the earnings which the beneficiary would have received.

Indemnity for loss of earning capacity is determined by computing the net earning capacity of the victim as follows:

Net Earning Capacity = life expectancy x (gross annual income -reasonable and necessary living expenses).

Life expectancy shall be computed by applying the formula (2/3 x [80 – age at death]) adopted from the American Expectancy Table of Mortality or the Actuarial of Combined Experience Table of Mortality. On the other hand, gross annual income requires the presentation of documentary evidence for the purpose of proving the victim’s annual income. The victim’s heirs presented in evidence Señora’s pay slip from the PNP, showing him to have had a gross monthly salary of P12,754.00. Meanwhile, the victim’s net income was correctly pegged at 50% of his gross income in the absence of proof as regards the victim’s living expenses. Constancia G. Tamayo, et al. vs. Rosalia Abad Señora, et al., G.R. No. 176946, November 15, 2010.

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November 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

Here are selected November 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and procedure:

1. CRIMINAL LAW

Conspiracy. When a homicide takes place by reason of or on the occasion of the robbery, all those who took part shall be guilty of the special complex crime of robbery with homicide, whether or not they actually participated in the killing, unless there is proof that there was an endeavor to prevent the killing. In this case, the records are bereft of any evidence to prove, or even remotely suggest, that appellant attempted to prevent the killing.  Therefore, the basic principle in conspiracy that the “act of one is the act of all” applies in this case.  People of the Philippines vs. Nonoy Ebet, G.R. No. 181635, November 15, 2010

Conspiracy. To be a conspirator, one need not participate in every detail of the execution; he need not even take part in every act or need not even know the exact part to be performed by the others in the execution of the conspiracy.  Each conspirator may be assigned separate and different tasks which may appear unrelated to one another but, in fact, constitute a whole collective effort to achieve their common criminal objective. Once conspiracy is shown, the act of one is the act of all the conspirators.  The precise extent or modality of participation of each of them becomes secondary, since all the conspirators are principals.  To exempt himself from criminal liability, a conspirator must have performed an overt act to dissociate or detach himself from the conspiracy to commit the felony and prevent the commission thereof. People of the Philippines vs. Nonoy Ebet, G.R. No. 181635, November 15, 2010

Qualified theft.  The Supreme Court upheld the appellant’s conviction for qualified theft. The position held by the appellant in St. John Memorial Park and Garden, as well as the special assignment given to her (appellant) by the land owners, were vested with trust and confidence. The appellant had custody of two bankbooks in which deposits of what she received were to be reflected.  Appellant’s failure to account for the subject funds which she was under obligation to deposit constitutes asportation with intent of gain, committed with grave abuse of the confidence reposed on her.  People of the Philippines vs. Rosalie Colilap Bañaga, G.R. No. 183699. November 24, 2010

Rape; penalty and damages. Under the second part of Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, the death penalty shall be imposed when the victim is under eighteen (18) years of age and the offender is a parent, ascendant, step-parent, guardian, relative by consanguinity or affinity within the third civil degree, or the common-law spouse of the parent of the victim. As shown by her Certificate of Live Birth, AAA was born on June 1, 1986; AAA also testified to this fact. Clearly, AAA was only eleven years old when the three rapes happened in September 1997. Nonetheless, the Court of Appeals was correct in reducing the death penalty to reclusion perpetua because the circumstance of relationship was not alleged in the complaints. None of the complaints alleged that the appellant was the stepfather of AAA. People of the Philippines vs. Arnel Macafe y Nabong, G.R. No. 185616, November 24, 2010

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November 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

Here are selected November 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on political law:

Constitutional Law

Bill of Rights; Right to Speedy Trial. The right to speedy trial is considered violated only when the proceeding is attended by vexatious, capricious and oppressive delays.  In this case, far from being vexatious, capricious and oppressive, the delays entailed by the postponements of the hearings were, to a great extent, attributable to petitioner Francisco’s extraordinary remedies against the interlocutory orders issued by the lower court and the assignment of at least three public prosecutors to the case.  Although the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure mandate commencement of trial within 30 days from receipt of the pre-trial order, and the continuous conduct thereof for a period not exceeding 180 days, Section 3(a)(1) of Rule 119 provides that delays resulting from extraordinary remedies against interlocutory orders shall be excluded in computing the time within which trial must commence.  In determining the right of an accused to speedy trial, courts are required to do more than a mathematical computation of the number of postponements of the scheduled hearings of the case and to give particular regard to the facts and circumstances peculiar to each case. Based on the foregoing, the Court rejected petitioner Francisco’s claim that the postponements of the pre-trial conferences before the lower court violated his right to a speedy trial. Nelson Imperial, et al. vs. Maricel M. Joson, et al./Santos O. Francisco vs. Spouses Gerard and Maricel Joson Nelson/Imperial, et al. vs.. Hilarion C. Felix, et al., G.R. No. 160067/G.R. Mo. 170410/G.R. No. 171622, November 17, 2010.

Bill of Rights; Right to Speedy Trial.  In determining whether the right of the accused to a speedy trial was violated, any delay should be considered in relation to the entirety of the proceedings. Here, there had been an undue and inordinate delay in the reinvestigation of the cases by the Office of the Ombudsman, which failed to submit its reinvestigation report despite the lapse of the 60-day period set by the Sandiganbayan, and did so only after more than a year thereafter.  However, while such reinvestigation delayed the proceedings, the Court held that said process could not have been dispensed with as it was undertaken for the protection of the rights of petitioners and their co-accused.  These rights should not be compromised at the expense of expediency. Thus, even though the Court acknowledged the delay in the criminal proceedings, as well as the prejudice suffered by petitioners and their co-accused by reason thereof, the Court held that petitioners’ right to speedy trial and disposition of the cases involving them do not justify the dismissal of the criminal cases. The Court further held that the State should not be prejudiced and deprived of its right to prosecute the criminal cases simply because of the ineptitude or nonchalance of the Office of the Ombudsman. Monico V. Jacob, et al. vs. Sandiganbayan, et al., G.R. No. 162206, November 17, 2010.

Constitutionality; Legal Standing. Petitioner questioned the constitutionality of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET). The Court held that he has no legal standing.  The issue of legal standing is derived from the following requisites of a judicial inquiry:  (1) There must be an actual case or controversy; (2) The question of constitutionality must be raised by the proper party; (3) The constitutional question must be raised at the earliest possible opportunity; and (4) The decision of the constitutional question must be necessary to the determination of the case itself.  The Court said that even if the petitioner’s claim that he is a proper party on the basis that the creation and operation of the PET involves the use of public funds and the issue he raised is of transcendental importance, his standing was still imperiled by his appearance as counsel to then presidential candidate Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the 2004 election protest filed by her opponent before the PET.  A constitutional question must be raised at the earliest possible opportunity.  That appearance would have been the first opportunity to challenge the constitutionality of the PET’s constitution. Instead, petitioner ubiquitously entered his appearance before the PET and acknowledged its jurisdiction.  His failure to raise a seasonable constitutional challenge at that time, coupled with his unconditional acceptance of the PET’s authority, meant that he did not meet the third condition and therefore has no standing to file the petition. Atty. Romulo B. Macalintal vs. Presidential Electoral Tribunal, G.R. No. 191618, November 23, 2010.

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November 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

Here are selected November 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on labor law and procedure:

Appeal; determination of date of filing. Under Section 3, Rule 13 of the Rules of Court, where the filing of pleadings, appearances, motions, notices, orders, judgments, and all other papers with the court/tribunal is made by registered mail, the date of mailing, as shown by the post office stamp on the envelope or the registry receipt, shall be considered as the date of filing. Thus, the date of filing is determinable from two sources:  from the post office stamp on the envelope or from the registry receipt, either of which may suffice to prove the timeliness of the filing of the pleadings. If the date stamped on one is earlier than the other, the former may be accepted as the date of filing. In this case, to prove that it mailed the notice of appeal and appeal memorandum on October 27, 1997, instead of October 28, 1997, as shown by the stamped date on the envelope, petitioner presented Registry Receipt No. 34581 bearing the earlier date. Government Service Insurance System vs. National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), Dionisio Banlasan, et al., G.R. No. 180045, November 17, 2010.

Appeal; filed out of time; exceptional cases. An appeal must be perfected within the statutory or reglementary period.  This is not only mandatory, but also jurisdictional.  Failure to perfect the appeal on time renders the assailed decision final and executory and deprives the appellate court or body of the legal authority to alter the final judgment, much less entertain the appeal. However, in exceptional cases, a belated appeal may be given due course if greater injustice will be visited upon the party should the appeal be denied. This is to serve the greater principles of substantial justice and equity. Technical rules are not binding in labor cases and are not to be applied strictly if the result would be detrimental to the working man. In the instant case, even if the appeal was filed one day late, the same should have been entertained by the NLRC. Government Service Insurance System vs. National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), Dionisio Banlasan, et al., G.R. No. 180045, November 17, 2010.

Compensable illness; work-relatedness.  Granting arguendo that petitioner’s illness was not pre-existing, he still had to show that his illness not only occurred during the term of his contract but also that it resulted from a work-related injury or illness, or at the very least aggravated by the conditions of the work for which he was contracted for.  Petitioner failed to discharge this burden, however. That the exact and definite cause of petitioner’s illness is unknown cannot be used to justify grant of disability benefits, absent proof that there is any reasonable connection between work actually performed by petitioner and his illness.  Jerry M. Francisco, vs. Bahia Shipping Services, Inc. and/or Cynthia C. Mendoza, and Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, Ltd., G.R. No. 190545,  November 22, 2010.

Dismissal; illegal strike; distinction between union officers and mere members. The liabilities of individuals who participate in an illegal strike must be determined under Article 264 (a) of the Labor Code which makes a distinction between union officers and mere members.  The law grants the employer the option of declaring a union officer who knowingly participated in an illegal strike as having lost his employment. However, a worker merely participating in an illegal strike may not be terminated from employment if he does not commit illegal acts during a strike. Hence, with respect to respondents who are union officers, their termination by petitioners is valid.  Being fully aware that the proceedings before the Secretary of Labor were still pending as in fact they filed a motion for reconsideration, they cannot invoke good faith as a defense. For the rest of the individual respondents who are union members, they cannot be terminated for mere participation in the illegal strike.  Solid Bank Corp. Ernesto U. Gamier, et al. and Solid Bank Corp., et al. vs. Solid Bank Union and its Dismissed Officers and Members, et al. G.R. No. 159460 and G.R. No. 159461, November 15, 2010.

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