January 2013 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law

Here are select January 2013 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on remedial law:

Civil Procedure

Annulment of Judgment; exception to final judgment rule; lack of due process as additional ground. A petition for Annulment of Judgment under Rule 47 of the Rules of Court is a remedy granted only under exceptional circumstances where a party, without fault on his part, has failed to avail of the ordinary remedies of new trial, appeal, petition for relief or other appropriate remedies. Said rule explicitly provides that it is not available as a substitute for a remedy which was lost due to the party’s own neglect in promptly availing of the same. “The underlying reason is traceable to the notion that annulling final judgments goes against the grain of finality of judgment, litigation must end and terminate sometime and somewhere, and it is essential to an affective administration of justice that once a judgment has become final, the issue or cause involved therein should be laid to rest.”

While under Section 2, Rule 47 of the Rules of Court a Petition for Annulment of Judgment may be based only on the grounds of extrinsic fraud and lack of jurisdiction, jurisprudence recognizes lack of due process as additional ground to annul a judgment. In Arcelona v. Court of Appeals, this Court declared that a final and executory judgment may still be set aside if, upon mere inspection thereof, its patent nullity can be shown for having been issued without jurisdiction or for lack of due process of law. Leticia Diona, represented by her Attorney-in-fact, Marcelina Diona v. Romeo Balangue, Sonny Balangue, Reynaldo Balangue, and Esteban Balangue, Jr.; G.R. No. 173559. January 7, 2013

Appeal; filing of motion for extension of time to file motion for reconsideration in CA does not toll fifteen-day period to appeal; rule suspended in exceptional cases to serve substantial justice. The assailed CA resolution upheld the general rule that the filing of a motion for reconsideration in the CA does not toll the fifteen-day period to appeal, citing Habaluyas Enterprises, Inc. v. Japson. However, in previous cases we suspended this rule in order to serve substantial justice.

In Barnes v. Padilla, we exempted from the operation of the general rule the petitioner whose motion for extension of time to file a motion for reconsideration was denied by the CA. In the Resolution denying the motion for reconsideration of our Decision dated September 30, 2004, we held that:

A suspension of the Rules is warranted in this case since the procedural infirmity was not entirely attributable to the fault or negligence of the petitioner. Petitioner’s counsel was understandably confused with the absence of an explicit prohibition in the 2002 Internal Rules of the Court of Appeals (IRCA) that the period of filing a motion for reconsideration is non-extendible, which was expressly stated in the Revised Internal Rules of the Court of Appeals that was in effect prior to the IRCA. The lawyer’s negligence without any participatory negligence on the part of the petitioner is a sufficient reason to set aside the resolution of the CA.

More significantly, a careful study of the merits of the case and the lack of any showing that the review sought is merely frivolous and dilatory, dictated the setting aside of the resolutions of the CA in CA-G.R. SP No. 69573 and Branch 215 in Civil Case NO. Q-99-37219, as both are patently erroneous. x x x

Furthermore, the private respondents will not be unjustly prejudiced by the suspension of the rules. What is subject of the appeal is only a question of law, involving the issue of forum shopping, and not a factual matter involving the merits of each party’s respective claims and defenses relating to the enforcement of the MOA, wherein petitioner was given an option to purchase the subject property. Litigations should, as much as possible, be decided on their merits and not on mere technicalities. Every party-litigant should be afforded the amplest opportunity for the proper and just disposition of his cause, freed from the constraint of technicalities.

After a conscientious view, we hold that a suspension of the Rules is warranted in this case since the delay of one week and two days in the filing of the motion for reconsideration was not occasioned by negligence on the part of petitioner’s lawyer in charge of the case, the latter having a valid excuse to immediately take leave of absence in view of her father’s sudden demise. There is likewise no showing that the review sought is merely frivolous and dilatory. Winston F. Garcia, in his capacity as President and General Manager of the GSIS v. Court of Appeals and Rudy C. Tesoro; G.R. No. 169005. January 28, 2013

Certification against forum shopping; SPA designating counsel to sign must be executed if party-pleader cannot sign. The need to abide by the Rules of Court and the procedural requirements it imposes has been constantly underscored by this Court. One of these procedural requirements is the certificate of non-forum shopping which, time and again, has been declared as basic, necessary and mandatory for procedural orderliness.

In Vda. De Formoso v. Philippine National Bank, the Court reiterated the guidelines respecting non-compliance with or submission of a defective certificate of non-forum shopping, the relevant portions of which are as follows:

4) As to certification against forum shopping, non-compliance therewith or a defect therein, xxx, is generally not curable by its subsequent submission or correction thereof, unless there is a need to relax the Rule on the ground of ‘substantial compliance or presence of ‘special circumstances or compelling reasons’.

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6) Finally, the certification against forum shopping must be executed by the party pleader, not by his counsel. If, however, for reasonable or justifiable reasons, the party-pleader is unable to sign, he must execute a Special Power of Attorney designating his counsel of record to sign on his behalf.

The requirement that it is the petitioner, not her counsel, who should sign the certificate of non-forum shopping is due to the fact that a “certification is a peculiar personal representation on the part of the principal party, an assurance given to the court or other tribunal that there are no pending cases involving basically the same parties, issues and causes of action. Obviously, it is the petitioner, and not always the counsel whose professional services have been retained for a particular case, who is in the best position to know whether [she] actually filed or caused the filing of a petition in that case.” Per the above guidelines, however, if a petitioner is unable to sign a certification for reasonable or justifiable reasons, she must execute an SPA designating her counsel of record to sign on her behalf. A certification which had been signed by counsel without the proper authorization is defective and constitutes a valid cause for dismissal of the petition. Mary Louise Anderson v. Enrique Ho, G.R. No. 172590. January 7, 2013

Certification against forum shopping; non-compliance is not curable by subsequent submission unless there is substantial compliance or special circumstance. In this light, the Court finds that the CA correctly dismissed Anderson’s Petition for Review on the ground that the certificate of non-forum shopping attached thereto was signed by Atty. Oliva on her behalf sans any authority to do so. While the Court notes that Anderson tried to correct this error by later submitting an SPA and by explaining her failure to execute one prior to the filing of the petition, this does not automatically denote substantial compliance. It must be remembered that a defective certification is generally not curable by its subsequent correction, and while it is true that in some cases the Court considered such a belated submission as substantial compliance, it did so only on sufficient and justifiable grounds that compelled a liberal approach while avoiding the effective negation of the intent of the rule on non-forum shopping. Mary Louise Anderson v. Enrique Ho, G.R. No. 172590. January 7, 2013

Certification against forum shopping and Verification; ratification by the Board of Directors. A closer look into the SPA and the Corporate Secretary’s Certificate submitted by BPI reveals that, at the time the subject complaint was filed on January 26, 1999, Ramos did not have the express authority to file and sign the verification and certification against forum shopping attached to BPI’s complaint. The SPA, which appointed Ramos and/or Atty. Mateo G. Delegencia as BPI’s attorneys-in-fact in the case against the petitioners, was executed only on July 8, 2008. Even the Corporate Secretary’s Certificate that named the officers authorized by the BPI’s Executive Committee to grant and extend a SPA to other officers of the bank was executed only on February 21, 2007. The Executive Committee is part of the bank’s permanent organization and, in between meetings of BPI’s Board of Directors, possesses and exercises all the powers of the board in the management and direction of the bank’s affairs.

BPI’s subsequent execution of the SPA, however, constituted a ratification of Ramos’ unauthorized representation in the collection case filed against the petitioners. A corporation can act only through natural persons duly authorized for the purpose or by a specific act of its board of directors, and can also ratify the unauthorized acts of its corporate officers. The act of ratification is confirmation of what its agent or delegate has done without or with insufficient authority.

In PNCC Skyway Traffic Management and Security Division Workers Organization (PSTMSDWO) v. PNCC Skyway Corporation, we considered the subsequent execution of a board resolution authorizing the Union President to represent the union in a petition filed against PNCC Skyway Corporation as an act of ratification by the union that cured the defect in the petition’s verification and certification against forum shopping. We held that “assuming that Mr. Soriano (PSTMSDWO’s President) has no authority to file the petition on February 27, 2006, the passing on June 30, 2006 of a Board Resolution authorizing him to represent the union is deemed a ratification of his prior execution, on February 27, 2006, of the verification and certificate of non-forum shopping, thus curing any defects thereof.” Sps. Eugene L. Lim and Constancia Lim v. The Court of Appeals-Mindanao Station, et al.; G.R. No. 192615, January 30, 2013

Certification against forum shopping and Verification; requirements not jurisdictional. In any case, it is settled that the requirements of verification and certification against forum shopping are not jurisdictional. Verification is required to secure an assurance that the allegations in the petition have been made in good faith or are true and correct, and not merely speculative. Non-compliance with the verification requirement does not necessarily render the pleading fatally defective, and is substantially complied with when signed by one who has ample knowledge of the truth of the allegations in the complaint or petition, and when matters alleged in the petition have been made in good faith or are true ad correct. On the other hand, the certification against forum shopping us required based on the principle that a party litigant should not be allowed to pursue simultaneous remedies in different fora. While the certification requirement is obligatory, non-compliance or a defect in the certificate could be cured by its subsequent correction or submission under special circumstances or compelling reasons or on the ground of “substantial compliance.” Sps. Eugene L. Lim and Constancia Lim v. The Court of Appeals-Mindanao Station, et al.; G.R. No. 192615, January 30, 2013

Contempt of Court; definition. Contempt of court is defined as a disobedience to the court by acting in opposition to its authority, justice and dignity, and signifies not only a willful disregard of the court’s order, but such conduct which tends to bring the authority of the court and the administration of law into disrepute or, in some manner, to impede the due administration of justice. To be considered contemptuous, an act must be clearly contrary to or prohibited by the order of the court. Thus, a person cannot be punished for contempt for disobedience of an order of the Court, unless the act which is forbidden or required to be done is clearly and exactly defined, so that there can be no reasonable doubt or uncertainty as to what specific act or thing is forbidden or required. Rivulet Agro-Industrial Corporation v. Anthony Parungao, Narciso B. Nieto, in their capacity as Undersecretaries of Legal Affairs and Field Operations of the Department of Agrarian Reform, et al., G.R. No. 197507. January 14, 2013

Ejectment; possession de facto; distinction between forcible entry and unlawful detainer cases. At the outset, it bears to reiterate the settled rule that the only question that the courts resolve in ejectment proceedings is: who is entitled to the physical possession of the premises, that is, to the possession de facto and not to the possession de jure. It does not even matter if a party’s title to the property is questionable. In an unlawful detainer case, the sole issue for resolution is the physical or material possession of the property involved, independent of any claim of ownership by any of the party litigants. Where the issue of ownership is raised by any of the parties, the courts may pass upon the same in order to determine who has the right to possess the property. The adjudication is, however, merely provisional and would not bar or prejudice an action between the same parties involving title to the property. Juanita Ermitaño, represented by her Attorney-in-fact, Isabelo Ermitaño v. Lailanie M. Paglas; G.R. No. 174436. January 23, 2013

Execution; issuance of writ is trial court’s ministerial duty once decision is final; writ of execution must conform to dispositive portion of judgment; order of execution which varies tenor of judgment is void. In the present case, the Court finds meritorious grounds to admit the petition and absolve the petitioners from their procedural lapse.

It is undisputed that the CA Decision dated September 29, 2006 is already final and executory. As a rule, once a judgment becomes final and executory, all that remains is the execution of the decision which is a matter of right. The prevailing party is entitled to a writ of execution, the issuance of which is the trial court’s ministerial duty. The writ of execution, however, must conform substantially to every essential particular of the judgment promulgated. It must conform, more particularly, to that ordained or decreed in the dispositive portion of the decision.

Clearly, the RTC exceeded its authority when it insisted on applying its own construal of the dispositive portion of the CA Decision when its terms are explicit and need no further interpretation. It would also be inequitable for the petitioners to pay and for the respondents, who did not appeal the CA decision or questioned the deletion of the 12% per annum interest, to receive more than what was awarded by the CA. The assailed RTC order of execution dated December 21, 2009 and the alias writ of execution dated May 17, 2010 are, therefore, void. Time and again, it has been ruled that an order of execution which varies the tenor of the judgment, or for that matter, exceeds the terms thereof is a nullity. Spouses Ricardo and Elena Golez v. Spouses Carlos and Amelita Navarro; G.R. No. 192532. January 30, 2013

Forcible entry; when proper; when issue of ownership can be material and relevant in resolving the issue of possession. Section 1, Rule 70 of the Rules of Court provides when an action for forcible entry, and unlawful detainer, is proper:

SECTION 1. Who may institute proceedings, and when. — Subject to the provisions of the next succeeding section, a person deprived of the possession of any land or building by force, intimidation, threat, strategy, or stealth, or a lessor, vendor, vendee, or other person against whom the possession of any land or building is unlawfully withheld after the expiration or termination of the right to hold possession, by virtue of any contract, express or implied, or the legal representatives or assigns of any such lessor, vendor, vendee, or other person may at any time within one (1) year after such unlawful deprivation or withholding of possession, bring an action in the proper Municipal Trial Court against the person or persons unlawfully withholding or depriving of possession, or any person or persons claiming under them, for the restitution of such possession, together with damages and costs. [emphasis ours; italics supplied]

Under this provision, for a forcible entry suit to prosper, the plaintiff must allege and prove: (1) prior physical possession of the property; and (2) unlawful deprivation of it by the defendant through force, intimidation, strategy, threat or stealth. As in any civil case, the burden of proof lies with the complainants (the respondents in this case) who must establish their case by preponderance of evidence. In the present case, the respondents sufficiently alleged and proved the required elements.

We agree, too, as we have indicated in passing above, that the issue of ownership can be material and relevant in resolving the issue of possession.

The Rules in fact expressly allow this: Section 16, Rule 70 of the Rules of Court provides that the issue of ownership shall be resolved in deciding the issue of possession if the question of possession is intertwined with the issue of ownership. But this provision is only an exception and is allowed only in this limited instance– to determine the issue of possession and only if the question of possession cannot be resolved without deciding the issue of ownership. Save for this instance, evidence of ownership is not at all material, as in the present case. Nenita Quality Foods Corporation v. Crisostomo Galabo, et al.; G.R. No. 174191, January 30, 2013

Forum Shopping; definition and nature. “Forum shopping is defined as an act of a party, against whom an adverse judgment or order has been rendered in one forum, of seeking and possibly getting a favorable opinion in another forum, other than by appeal or special civil action for certiorari. It may also be 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 decision. x x x It is expressly prohibited xxx because it trifles with and abuses court processes, degrades the administration of justice, and congest our court dockets. A willful and deliberate violation of the rule against forum shopping is a ground for summary dismissal of the case, and may also constitute direct contempt.” Estrellla Aduan Orpiano v. Spouses Antonio C. Tomas and Myrna U. Tomas; G.R. No. 178611. January 14, 2013

Grave abuse of discretion; proper ground in a petition for certiorari but not in a petition for review on certiorari. It is to be noted that the above issues raised by petitioner alleged grave abuse of discretion committed by the CA, which is proper in a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, but not in the present petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45. Heirs of Faustino C. Ignacio v. Home Bankers Savings and Trust Company, et al., G.R. No. 177783. January 23, 2013

Hierarchy of courts; concurrence of jurisdiction; non-observance results in dismissal. We emphasize that the concurrence of jurisdiction among the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and the Regional Trial Courts to issue the writs of certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, habeas corpus and injunction did not give petitioners the unrestricted freedom of choice of court forum. An undue disregard of this policy against direct resort to the Court will cause the dismissal of the recourse. In Banez, Jr. v. Concepcion, we explained why, to wit:

The court must enjoin the observance of the policy on the hierarchy of courts, and now affirms that the policy is not to be ignored without serious consequences, the strictness of the policy is designed to shield the Court from having to deal with causes that are also well within the competence of the lower courts, and thus leave time to the Court to deal with the more fundamental and more essential tasks that the Constitution has assigned to it, the Court may act on petitions for the extraordinary writs of certiorari, prohibition, and mandamus only when absolutely necessary or when serious and important reasons justify an exception to the policy. xxx

Accordingly, every litigant must remember that the Court is not the only judicial forum from which to seek and obtain effective redress of his or her grievances. As a rule, the Court is a court of last resort, not a court of first instance. Hence, every litigant who brings petitions for the extraordinary writs of certiorari, prohibition and mandamus should ever be mindful of the policy on the hierarchy of courts, the observance of which is explicitly defined and enjoined in Section 4 of Rule 65. Spouses Augusto Dacudao and Ofelia Dacudao v. Secretary of Justice Raul Gonzales of the Department of Justice, G.R. No. 188056. January 8, 2013

Interlocutory and Final orders; distinction. This Court has laid down the distinction between interlocutory and final orders, as follows:

xxx A “final” judgment or order is one that finally disposes of a case, leaving nothing more to be done by the Court in respect thereto, e.g., an adjudication on the merits which, on the basis of the evidence presented at the trial, declares categorically what the rights and obligations of the parties are and which party is in the right; or a judgment or order that dismisses an action on the ground, for instance, of res judicata or prescription. Once rendered, the task of the court is ended, as far as deciding the controversy or determining the rights and liabilities of the litigants is concerned. Nothing more remains to be done by the court except to await the parties’ next move (which among others, may consist of the filing of a motion for new trial or reconsideration, or the taking of an appeal) and ultimately, of course, to cause the execution of the judgment once it becomes “final” or, to use the established and more distinctive term, “final and executory.”

xxxx

Conversely, an order that does not finally dispose of the case, and does not end the Court’s task of adjudicating the parties’ contentions and determining their rights and liabilities as regards each other, but obviously indicates that other things remain to be done by the court is “interlocutory” e.g., an order denying a motion to dismiss under Rule 16 of the Rules, or granting a motion for extension of time to file a pleading, or authorizing amendment thereof, or granting or denying applications for postponement, or production or inspection of documents or things, etc. unlike a “final” judgment or order, which is appealable. As above pointed out, an “interlocutory” order may not be questioned on appeal except only as part of an appeal that may eventually be taken from the final judgment rendered in the case. Ma. Carmina Calderon represented by her Attorney-in-fact, Marycris V. Baldevia v. Jose Antonio Roxas and Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 185595. January 9, 2013

Interlocutory and Final orders; application to provisional remedies especially to support pendente lite.  The assailed orders relative to the incident of support pendent lite and support in arrears, as the term suggests, were issued pending the rendition of the decision on the main action for declaration of nullity of marriage and are therefore interlocutory. They did not finally dispose of the case nor did they consist of a final adjudication of the merits of petitioner’s claims as to the ground of psychological incapacity and other incidents as child custody, support, and conjugal assets. Ma. Carmina Calderon represented by her Attorney-in-fact, Marycris V. Baldevia v. Jose Antonio Roxas and Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 185595. January 9, 2013

Interlocutory and Final orders; remedy against interlocutory order is not appeal. The remedy against an interlocutory order not subject of an appeal is an appropriate special civil action under Rule 65 provided that the interlocutory order is rendered without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion. Having chosen the wrong remedy in questioning the subject interlocutory orders of the RTC, petitioner’s appeal was correctly dismissed by the CA. Ma. Carmina Calderon represented by her Attorney-in-fact, Marycris V. Baldevia v. Jose Antonio Roxas and Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 185595. January 9, 2013

Judgment; compromise agreement. There is no question that the foregoing Agreement was a compromise that the parties freely and voluntarily entered into for the purpose of finally settling their dispute in this case. Under Article 2028 of the Civil Code, a compromise is a contract whereby the parties, by making reciprocal concessions, avoid a litigation or put an end to one already commenced. Accordingly, a compromise is either judicial, if the objective is to put an end to a pending litigation, or extrajudicial, if the objective is to avoid a litigation. As a contract, a compromise is perfected by mutual consent. However, a judicial compromise, while immediately binding between the parties upon its execution, is not executory until it is approved by the court and reduced to a judgment. The validity of a compromise is dependent upon its compliance with the requisites and principles of contracts dictated by law. Also, the terms and conditions of a compromise must not be contrary to law, morals, good customs, public policy and public order. Land Bank of the Philippines v. Heirs of Spouses Jorja Rigor Soriano and Magin SorianoG.R. No. 178312. January 30, 2013

Jurisdiction; personal jurisdiction in civil cases; voluntary appearance. In civil cases, jurisdiction over the person of the defendant may be acquired either by service of summons or by the defendant’s voluntary appearance in court and submission to its authority.

In this case, the MeTC acquired jurisdiction over the person of respondent Hertz by reason of the latter’s voluntary appearance in court. In Philippine Commercial International Bank v. Spouses Dy, we had occasion to state:

Preliminarily, jurisdiction over the defendant in a civil case is acquired either by the coercive power of legal processes exerted over his person, or his voluntary appearance in court. As a general proposition, one who seeks an affirmative relief is deemed to have submitted to the jurisdiction of the court. It is by reason of this rule that we have had occasion to declare that the filing of motions to admit answer, for additional time to file answer, for reconsideration of a default judgment, and to lift order of default with motion for reconsideration, is considered voluntary submission to the court’s jurisdiction. This, however, is tempered by the concept of conditional appearance, such that a party who makes a special appearance to challenge, among others, the court’s jurisdiction over his person cannot be considered to have submitted to its authority.

Prescinding from the foregoing, it is thus clear that: (1) special appearance operates as an exception to the general rule on voluntary appearance; (2) Accordingly, objections to the jurisdiction of the court over the person of the defendant must be explicitly made, i.e., set forth in an unequivocal manner; (3) Failure to do so constitutes voluntary submission to the jurisdiction of the court, especially in instances where a pleading or motion seeking affirmative relief is filed and submitted to the court for resolution. Optima Realty Corporation v. Hertz Phil. Exclusive Cars, Inc., G.R. No. 183035. January 9, 2013

Litis pendentia; elements. Litis pendentia requires the concurrence of the following elements: (1) identity of parties, or at least their representation of the same interests in both actions; (2) identity of rights asserted and reliefs prayed for, the relief being founded on the same facts; and (3) identity with respect to the two preceding particulars in the two cases, 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. Optima Realty Corporation v. Hertz Phil. Exclusive Cars, Inc., G.R. No. 183035. January 9, 2013

Motion to dismiss; remedy against denial is not appeal; denial may be assailed through a petition for certiorari. The denial of a motion to dismiss, as an interlocutory order, cannot be the subject of an appeal until a final judgment or order is rendered in the main case. An aggrieved party, however, may assail an interlocutory order through a petition for certiorari but only when it is shown that the court acted without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion. Sps. Eugene L. Lim and Constancia Lim v. The Court of Appeals-Mindanao Station, et al.; G.R. No. 192615. January 30, 2013

Parties; authority of private counsel to represent local officials in suit. The present case stemmed from Special Civil Action 2002-0019 for mandamus and damages. The damages sought therein could have resulted in personal liability, hence petitioner cannot be deemed to have been improperly represented by private counsel. In Alinsug v. RTC Br. 58, San Carlos City, Negros Occidental, the Court ruled that in instances like the present case where personal liability on the part of local government officials is sought, they may properly secure the services of private counsel, explaining:

it can happen that a government official, ostensibly acting in his official capacity, is later held to have exceeded his authority. On the one hand, his defense would have then been underwritten by the people’s money which ordinarily should have been his personal expense. On the other hand, personal liability can attach to him without, however, his having had the benefit of assistance of a counsel of his own choice. In Correa v. CFI, the Court held that in the discharge of governmental functions, municipal corporations are responsible for the acts of its officers, except if and when, and only to the extent that, they have acted by authority of the law, and in conformity with the requirements thereof.

In such instance, this Court has sanctioned the representation by private counsel. In one case, We held that where rigid acceptance to the law on representation of local affairs in court actions could deprive a party of his right to redress for a valid grievance, the hiring of a private counsel would be proper. And in Alburra v. Torres, this Court also said that a provincial governor sued in his official capacity may engage the services of private counsel when the complaint contains other allegations and a prayer for moral damages, which, if due from the defendants, must be satisfied by them in their private capacity. Romeo Gontang, in his official capacity as Mayor of Gainza, Camarines Sur v. Engr. Cecilia Alayan; G.R. No. 191691. January 16, 2013

Parties; dropping of parties; remedies for joinder or misjoinder. Under the Rules, parties may be dropped or added by order of the court on motion of any party or on its own initiative at any stage of the action and on such terms as are just. Indeed, it would have been just for the collection court to have allowed Estrella to prosecute her annulment case by dropping her as a party plaintiff in the collection case, not only so that she could protect her conjugal share, but also to prevent the interests of her co-plaintiffs from being adversely affected by their conflicting actions in the same case. By seeking to be dropped from the collection case, Estrella was foregoing collection of her share in the amount that may be due and owing from the sale. It does not imply a waiver in any manner that affects the rights of the other heirs.

While Estrella correctly made use of the remedies available to her – amending the complaint and filing a motion to drop her as a party – she committed a mistake in proceeding to file the annulment case directly after these remedies were denied her by the collection court without first questioning or addressing the propriety of these denials. While she may have been frustrated by the collection court’s repeated rejection of her motions and its apparent inability to appreciate her plight, her proper recourse nevertheless should have been to file a petition for certiorari or otherwise question the trial courts denial of her motion to be dropped as plaintiff, citing just reasons which call for a ruling to the contrary. Issues arising from joinder or misjoinder of parties are the proper subject of certiorari. Estrella Aduan Orpiano v. Spouses Antonio C. Tomas and Myrna U. Tomas, G.R. No. 178611. January 14, 2013

Petition for review on certiorari (Rule 45); contents; not an absolute rule that will lead to dismissal; liberal construction. The court significantly pointed out in F.A.T Kee Computer Systems, Inc. v. Online Networks International, Inc. that the requirement in Section 4, Rule 45 of the Rules of Court is not meant to be an absolute rule whose violation would automatically lead to the petition’s dismissal. The Rules of Court has not been intended to be totally rigid. In fact, the Rules of Court provides that the Supreme Court “may require or allow the filing of the such pleadings, briefs, memoranda, or documents, as it may deem necessary within such periods and under such conditions as it may consider appropriate”; and “[i]f the petition is given due course, the Supreme Court may require the elevation of the complete record of the case or specified parts thereof within fifteen (15) days from notice.” These provisions are in keeping with the overriding standard that procedural rules should be liberally construed to promote their objective and to assist the parties in obtaining a just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action or proceeding. Metropolitan Bank & Trust Company v. Absolute Management Corporation, G.R. No. 170498. January 9, 2013

Petition for review on certiorari (Rule 45); only questions of law may be raised; exceptions. It is a settled rule, indeed, that in the exercise of our power of review, the Court is not a trier of facts and does not normally undertake the re-examination of the evidence presented by the contending parties during the trial of the case. The Court relies on the findings of fact of the Court of Appeals or of the trial court, and accepts such findings as conclusively and binding unless any of the following exceptions, obtains, namely: (a) when the findings are grounded entirely on speculation, surmises, or conjectures; (b) when the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible; (c) when there is grave abuse of discretion; (d) when the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts; (e) when the findings of fact are conflicting; (f) when in making its findings the Court of Appeals or the trial court went beyond the issues of the case, or its findings are contrary to the admissions of both the appellant and the appellee; (g) when the findings are contrary to the trial court; (h) when the findings are conclusions without citation of specific evidence on which they are based; (i) when the facts set forth in the petition as well as in the petitioner’s main and reply briefs are not disputed by the respondent; (j) when the findings of fact are premised on the supposed absence of evidence and contradicted by the evidence on record; and (k) when the Court of Appeals or the trial court manifestly overlooked certain relevant facts not disputed by the parties, which, if properly considered, would justify a different conclusion. However, none of the aforementioned exception applies herein. Special People, Inc. Foundation, represented by its Chairman, Roberto P. Cericos v. Nestor M. Canda, et al., G.R. No. 160932. January 14, 2013

Petition for review on certiorari (Rule 45); only questions of law may be raised; exceptions. It is well settled that in a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, only questions of law may be raised. This Court, in numerous instances, has had the occasion to explain that it is not its function to analyze or weigh evidence all over again. As a rule, the Court respects the factual findings of the CA and of quasi-judicial agencies like the DAR, giving them a certain measure of finality. There are, however, recognized exceptions to this rule, one of which is when the findings of fact are conflicting. Heirs of Luis A. Luna and Remegio A. Luna, et al. v. Ruben S. Afable, et al., G.R. No. 188299. January 23, 2013

Petition for review on certiorari (Rule 45); only questions of law may be raised; exceptions. We first address the procedural issue raised. Resolving the contentions raised necessarily requires us to delve into factual issues, a course not proper in a petition for review on certiorari, for a Rule 45 petition resolves only questions of law, not questions of fact. This rule is read with the equally settled dictum that factual findings of the CA are generally conclusive on the parties and are therefore not reviewable by this Court. By way of exception, we resolve factual issues when, as here, conflict attended the findings of the MTCC and of the RTC, on one hand, and of the CA, on the other. Of minor note, but which we deem important to point, the petition needlessly impleaded the CA, in breach of Section 4, Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. Nenita Quality Foods Corporation v. Crisostomo Galabo, et al.; G.R. No. 174191. January 30, 2013

Petition for review on certiorari (Rule 45); only questions of law may be raised; applicable to expropriation cases. This Court is not a trier of facts. Questions of fact may not be raised in a petition brought under Rule 45, as such petition may only raise questions of law. This rule applies in expropriation cases. Moreover, factual findings of the trial court, when affirmed by the CA, are generally binding on this Court. An evaluation of the case and the issues presented leads the Court to the conclusion that it is unnecessary to deviate from the findings of fact of the trial and appellate courts.

Under Section 8 of Rule 67 of the Rules of Court, the trial court sitting as an expropriation court may, after hearing, accept the commissioners’ report and render judgment in accordance therewith. This is what the trial court did in this case. The CA affirmed the trial court’s pronouncement in toto. Given these facts, the trial court and the CA’s identical findings of fact concerning the issue of just compensation should be accorded the greatest respect, and are binding on the Court absent proof that they committed error in establishing the facts and in drawing conclusions from them. There being no showing that the trial court and the CA committed any error, we thus accord due respect to their findings. Republic of the Philippines, represented by the Department of Public Works and Highways v. Heirs of Spouses Pedro Bautista and Valentina Malabanan, G.R. No. 181218. January 28, 2013

Petition for review on certiorari (Rule 45); review errors of judgment; orders granting execution are interlocutory and should be subject of petition for certiorari under Rule 65; exceptions. The petition filed in this case is one for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. Petitions filed under this rule bring up for review errors of judgment. It is an ordinary appeal and the petition must only raise questions of law which must be distinctly set forth and discussed. The present petition, however, assails the RTC Order of execution dated December 21, 2009 and alias writ of execution dated May 27, 2010. It is a settled rule that orders granting execution are interlocutory orders; hence the petitioners should have filed a petition for certiorari under Rule 65. This is categorically provided in Rule 41, viz:

Section 1. Subject of appeal. – An appeal may be taken from a judgment or final order that completely disposes of the case, or of a particular matter therein when declared by these Rules to be applicable.

No appeal may be taken from:

x x x x

(f) An order of execution;

x x x x

In all the above instances where the judgment or final order is not appealable, the aggrieved party may file an appropriate special civil action under Rule 65.

Nevertheless, there are exceptions to this rule, one of which is when the writ of execution varies the judgment. Thus, in Shugo Noda & Co., Ltd. V. Court of Appeals the Court acknowledged that, in the past, it considered an appeal to be a proper remedy when it is perceived that the order varies, or may not be in consonance with, the essence of the judgment. Other exceptions include: (1) There has been a change in the situation of the parties making execution inequitable or unjust; (2) Execution is sought to be enforced against property exempt from execution; (3) It appears that the controversy has been submitted to the judgment of the court; (4) The terms of the judgment are not clear enough and there remains room for interpretation thereof; or (5) It appears that the writ of execution has been improvidently issued, or that it is defective in substance, or issued against the wrong party, or that the judgment debt has been paid or otherwise satisfied, or the writ issued without authority.

In such case, considerations of justice and equity dictate that there be some remedy available to the aggrieved party. Likewise, the Court, in the interest of equity or when justice demands, may interchangeably treat an appeal as a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Revised Rules of Court, and vice versa.

In the present case, the Court finds meritorious grounds to admit the petition and absolve the petitioners from their procedural lapse. Spouses Ricardo and Elena Golez v. Spouses Carlos and Amelita Navarro, G.R. No. 192532. January 30, 2013

Pleadings; relief. It is settled that courts cannot grant a relief not prayed for in the pleadings or in excess of what is being sought by the party. They cannot also grant a relief without first ascertaining the evidence presented in court. In Development Bank of the Philippines v. Tecson, this Court expounded that:

Due process considerations justify this requirement, it is improper to enter an order which exceeds the scope of relief sought by the pleadings, absent notice, which affords the opposing party an opportunity to be heard with respect to the proposed relief. The fundamental purpose of the requirement that allegations of the complaint must provide the measure of recovery is to prevent surprise to the defendant.

Notably, the Rules is even more strict in safeguarding the right to due process of a defendant who was declared in default than of a defendant who participated in trial. For instance, amendment to conform to the evidence presented during trial is allowed the parties under the Rules. But the same is not feasible when the defendant is declared in default because Section 3(d), Rule 9 of the Rules of Court comes into play and limits the relief that may be granted by the courts to what has been prayed for in the complaint. xxx The raison d’etre in limiting the extent of relief that may be granted is that it cannot be presumed that the defendant would not file an Answer and allow himself to be declared in default had he know that the plaintiff will be accorded a relief greater than or different in kind from that sought in the Complaint. No doubt, the reason behind Section 3(d), Rule 9 of the Rules of Court is to safeguard defendant’s right to due process against unforeseen and arbitrarily issued judgment. This, to the mind of the Court, is akin to the very essence of due process. It embodies “the sporting idea of fair play” and forbids the grant of relief on matters where the defendant was not given the opportunity to be heard thereon. Leticia Diona, represented by her Attorney-in-fact, Marcelina Diona v. Romeo Balangue, Sonny Balangue, Reynaldo Balangue, and Esteban Balangue, Jr.; G.R. No. 173559. January 7, 2013

Preliminary injunction; abuse of discretion if writ issued despite absence of clear legal right. The issuance of a preliminary injunction rests entirely within the discretion if the court taking cognizance of the case and is generally not interfered with except in cases of manifest abuse. For the issuance of the writ of preliminary injunction to be proper, it must be shown that the invasion of the right sought to be protected is material and substantial, that the right of complainant is clear and unmistakable, and that there is an urgent and paramount necessity for the writ to prevent serious damage. In the absence of a clear legal right, the issuance of a writ of injunction constitutes grave abuse of discretion. TML Gasket Industries, Inc. v. BPI Family Savings Bank, Inc., G.R. No. 188768. January 7, 2013

Preliminary injunction; injunctive relief not issued for self-inflicted losses which are damnum absque injuria. In arriving at a contrary conclusion, the Court of Appeals dwelt on the “grave and irremediable” financial losses respondent was poised to sustain as a result of EO 156’s enforcement, finding such prejudice “inequitable.” No doubt, by importing used vehicles in contravention of the ban under EO 156, respondent risked sustaining losses. Such risk, however, was self- imposed. Having miscalculated its chances, respondent cannot look to courts for an injunctive relief against self-inflicted losses which are in the nature of damnum absque injuria. Injunction will not issue on the mere possibility that a litigant will sustain damage, without proof of a clear legal right entitling the litigant to protection. Executive Secretary, Secretary of Finance, Commissioner of Customs, District Collector of Customs, Port of Aparri, Cagayan, District Collector of Customs, Port of San Fernando La Union, and Head of the Land Transportation Office v. Forerunner Multi Resources, Inc., G.R. No. 199324. January 7, 2013

Preliminary injunction; requirement of actual and existing right. Petitioners’ argument fails to impress. The CA did not nullify the October 15, 2004 Order merely because of the interchanged pages. Instead, the CA determined that the applicant, Vitaliano, was not able to show that he had an actual and existing right that had to be protected by a preliminary injunction. The most that Vitaliano was able to prove was a future right based on his victory in the suit. Contrasting this future right of Vitaliano with respondents’ existing right under the GIS, the CA determined that the trial court should not have disturbed the status quo. Vitaliano Aguirre II and Fidel Aguirre v. FQB+7, Inc., Nathaniel Bocobo, Priscila Bocobo, and Antonio De Villa, G.R. No. 170770. January 9, 2013

Preliminary injunction; requirement of clear legal right. It is a deeply ingrained doctrine in Philippine remedial law that a preliminary injunctive relief under Rule 58 issues only upon a showing of the applicant’s “clear legal right” being violated or under threat of violation by the defendant. “Clear legal right,” within the meaning of Rule 58, contemplates a right clearly founded in or granted by law. Any hint of doubt or dispute on the asserted legal right precludes the grant of preliminary injunctive relief. For suits attacking the validity of laws or issuances with the force and effect of law, as here, the applicant for preliminary injunctive relief bears the added burden of overcoming the presumption of validity inhering in such laws or issuances. These procedural barriers to the issuance of a preliminary injunctive writ are rooted on the equitable nature of such relief, preserving the status quo while, at the same time, restricting the course of action of the defendants even before adverse judgment is rendered against them. Executive Secretary, Secretary of Finance, Commissioner of Customs, District collector of customs, Port of Aparri, Cagayan, District Collector of Customs, Port of San Fernando La Union, and Head of the Land Transportation Office v. Forerunner Multi Resources, Inc., G.R. No. 199324. January 7, 2013

Preliminary injunction; requisites. Section 3, Rule 58 of the Rules of Court lists the grounds for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction:

Sec.3. Grounds for the issuance of preliminary injunction. – A preliminary injunction may be granted when it is established:

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

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

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

As such, a writ of preliminary injunction may be issued only upon clear showing of an existing legal right to be protected during the pendency of the principal action. The requisites of a valid injunction are the existence of a right and its actual or threatened violations. Thus, to be entitled to an injunctive writ, the right to be protected and the violation against that right must be shown. TML Gasket Industries, Inc. v. BPI Family Savings Bank, Inc., G.R. No. 188768. January 7, 2013

Res judicata; conclusiveness of judgment. A perusal of the allegations in the present case evidently shows that the petitioner broaches the issues similarly raised and already resolved in G.R. No. 172942.

Under the principle of conclusiveness of judgment, when a right or fact has been judicially tried and determined by a court of competent jurisdiction, or when an opportunity for such trial has been given, the judgment of the court, as long as it remains unreversed, should be conclusive upon the parties and those in privity with them. Stated differently, conclusiveness of judgment bars the re-litigation in a second case of a fact or question already settled in a previous case.

The adjudication in G.R. No. 172942 has become binding and conclusive on the petitioner who can no longer question the respondent’s entitlement to the 12% legal interest awarded by the CA. The Court’s determination in G.R. No. 172942 on the reckoning point of the 12% legal interest is likewise binding on the petitioner who cannot re-litigate the said matter anew through the present recourse.

Thus, the judgment in G.R. No. 172942 bars the present case as the relief sought in the latter is inextricably related to the ruling in the former. City of Cebu v. Apolonio M. Dedamo, Jr.; G.R. No. 172852. January 30, 2013

Res judicata; elements. In Heirs of Maximino Derla v. Heirs of Catalina Derla Vda. de Hipolito, we enumerated the following as the elements of res judicata:

a)  The former judgment or order must be final;

b)  It must be a judgment or order on the merits, that is, it was rendered after a consideration of the evidence or stipulations submitted by the parties at the trial of the case;

c)  It must have been rendered by a court having jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties; and

d)  There must be, between the first and second actions, identity of parties, of subject matter and of cause of action. This requisite is satisfied if the two (2) actions are substantially between the same parties.

In the case at bar, the validity of the subject mortgage between PALI and PNB was the primary issue raised by the parties and resolved by the RTC after the conclusion of a full-blown trial. On September 10, 2004, the issue was finally laid to rest. A final and executory judgment, no matter how erroneous, cannot be changed even by this Court. Inevitably, res judicata operates to bar PALI and PNB from raising the same issue lest there will be no end to litigation. Philippine National Bank, substituted by Tranche 1 (SPV-AMC), Inc. v. Rina Parayno Lim and Puerto Azul Land, Inc., G.R. No. 171677. January 30, 2013

Res judicata; effect of minute resolutions. In Alonso, we declared that a “minute resolution may amount to a final action on the case but it is not a precedent.” However, we continued to state that “it can not bind non-parties to the action.” Corollary thereto, we can conclude that a minute resolution, while not a precedent relative to strangers to an action, nonetheless binds the parties therein, and calls for res judicata’s application.

Nationwide Security and Allied Services, Inc. v. Valderama is instructive anent the effects of the issuance of a minute resolution, viz:

It is true that, although contained in a minute resolution, our dismissal of the petition was a disposition of the merits of the case. When we dismissed the petition, we effectively affirmed the CA ruling being questioned. As a result, our ruling in that case has already become final. x x x

With respect to the same subject matter and the same issues concerning the same parties, it constitutes res judicata. However, if other parties or another subject matter (even with the same parties and issues) is involved, the minute resolution is not binding precedent. x x x (Underlining ours)

It is therefore clear from the above that for purposes of the application of res judicata, minute resolutions issued by this Court are as much precedents as promulgated decisions, hence, binding upon the parties to the action Philippine National Bank, substituted by Tranche 1 (SPV-AMC), Inc. v. Rina Parayno Lim and Puerto Azul Land, Inc., G.R. No. 171677. January 30, 2013

Special Civil Action for Certiorari (Rule 65); nature; distinction between excess of jurisdiction, acts without jurisdiction and grave abuse of discretion. A certiorari proceeding is limited in scope and narrow in character. The special civil action for certiorari lies only to correct acts rendered without jurisdiction, in excess of jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion. Certiorari will issue only to correct errors of jurisdiction, not errors of procedure or mistakes in the findings or conclusions of the lower court. As long as the court acts within its jurisdiction, any alleged errors committed in the exercise of its discretion will amount to nothing more than mere errors of judgment, correctible by an appeal or a petition for review under Rule 43 of the Rules of Court, and not a petition for certiorari.

In a petition for certiorari, the public respondent acts without jurisdiction if it does not have the legal power to determine the case; there is excess of jurisdiction where the respondent, being clothed with the power to determine the case, oversteps its authority as determined by law. There is grave abuse of discretion where the public respondent acts in a capricious, whimsical, arbitrary or despotic manner in the exercise of its judgment as to be said to be equivalent to lack of jurisdiction. Mere abuse of discretion is not enough.

Excess of jurisdiction, as distinguished from absence of jurisdiction means that an act, though within the general power of a tribunal, board or officer is not authorized, and invalid with respect to the particular proceeding, because the conditions which alone authorize the exercise of the general power in respect of it are wanting. The supervisory jurisdiction of the court to issue a certiorari writ cannot be exercised in order to review the judgment of the lower court as to intrinsic correctness, either upon the law or the facts of the case. In the absence of a showing that there is a reason for the court to annul the decision of the concerned tribunal or to substitute its own judgment, it is not the office of the Court in a petition for certiorari to inquire into the correctness of the assailed decision or resolution. Winston F. Garcia, in his capacity as President and General Manager of the GSIS v. Court of Appeals and Rudy C. TesoroG.R. No. 169005. January 28, 2013

Special Civil Action for Certiorari (Rule 65); nature; an extraordinary remedy; judicial and quasi-judicial functions. The decision on whether or not to accept a petition for certiorari as well as to grant due course thereto, is addressed to the sound discretion of the court. A petition for certiorari being an extraordinary remedy, the party seeking to avail of the same must strictly observe the procedural rules laid down by law, and non-observance thereof may not be brushed aside as mere technicality.

As provided in Section 1, Rule 65, a writ of certiorari is directed against a tribunal exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions. Judicial functions are exercised by a body or officer clothed with authority to determine what the law is and what the legal rights of the parties are with respect to the matter in controversy. Quasi-judicial function is a term that applies to the action or discretion of public administrative officers or bodies given the authority to investigate facts or ascertain the existence of facts, hold hearings, and draw conclusions from them as a basis for their official action using discretion of a judicial nature.

The Central Bank Monetary Board (now BSP-MB) was created to perform executive functions with respect to the establishment, operation or liquidation of banking and credit institutions, and branches and agencies thereof. It does not perform judicial or quasi-judicial functions. Certainly, the issuance of CB Circular No. 905 was done in the exercise of an executive function. Certiorari will not lie in the instant case. Advocates for Truth in Lending, Inc. & Eduardo B. Olaguer v. Bangko Sentral Monetary Board, Represented by its Chairman, Governor Armando M. Tetangco, Jr., etc., G.R. No. 192986. January 15, 2013

Special Civil Action for Certiorari (Rule 65); requisites; burden of proof For a special civil action of certiorari to prosper, therefore, the following requisites must concur, namely: (a) it must be directed against a tribunal, board or officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions; (b) the tribunal, board or officer, must have 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 nor any plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. The burden of proof lies on petitioners to demonstrate that the assailed order was issued without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. Spouses Augusto Dacudao and Ofelia Dacudao v. Secretary of Justice Raul Gonzales of the Department of Justice, G.R. No. 188056. January 8, 2013

Special Civil Action for Certiorari (Rule 65); when available. The writ of certiorari is available only when any tribunal, board or officer, exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions has acted without or in excess of its or his jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, and there is no appeal, nor any plain speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. “The sole office of the writ of certiorari,” according to Delos Santos v. Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company:

xxx is the correction of errors of jurisdiction, which includes the commission of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction. In this regard, mere abuse of discretion is not enough to warrant the issuance of the writ. The abuse of discretion must be grave which means either that the judicial or quasi-judicial power was exercised in an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility, or that the respondent judge, tribunal or board evaded a positive duty, or virtually refused to perform the duty enjoined or to act in contemplation of law, such as when such judge, tribunal or board exercising judicial or quasi-judicial powers acted in a capricious or whimsical manner as to be equivalent to lack of jurisdiction.

Spouses Augusto Dacudao and Ofelia Dacudao v. Secretary of Justice Raul Gonzales of the Department of Justice, G.R. No. 188056. January 8, 2013

Special Civil Action for Certiorari under Rule 64; proper mode of review of COMELEC en banc Resolutions not relating to pre-proclamation controversies. Section 7, Article IX of the 1987 Constitution in part substantially provides that any decision, order or ruling of any of the Constitutional Commissions may be brought for review to the Supreme Court on certiorari within 30 days from receipt of a copy thereof. The orders, ruling and decisions rendered or issued by the COMELEC en banc must be final and made in the exercise of its adjudicatory or quasi-judicial power. Further, Section 1, Rule 64 of the Rules of Court states that it shall govern the review of final judgments and orders or resolutions of the COMELEC and the Commission on Audit.

In the case at bar, the now assailed Resolutions dated December 22, 2009 and May 6, 2010 were issued with finality by the COMELEC en banc. Under the Constitution and the Rules of Court, the said Resolutions can be reviewed by way of filing before us a petition for certiorari. Besides, the issues raised do not at all relate to alleged irregularities in the preparation, transmission, receipt, custody and appreciation of the election returns or to the composition and the proceedings of the board of canvassers. What the instant petition challenges is the authority of the MBOC to suspend Ibrahim’s proclamation and of the COMELEC en banc to issue the assailed resolutions. The crux of the instant Petition does not qualify as one which can be raised as a pre-proclamation controversy. Kamarudin K. Ibrahim v. Commission on Elections and Rolan G. Buagas, G.R. No.192289. January 8, 2013

Special Civil Action for Mandamus; exhaustion of administrative remedies. It is axiomatic, to begin with, that a party who seeks the intervention of a court of law upon an administrative concern should first avail himself of all the remedies afforded by administrative processes. The issues that an administrative agency is authorized to decide should not be summarily taken away from it and submitted to a court of law without first giving the agency the opportunity to dispose of the issues upon due deliberation. The court of law must allow the administrative agency to carry out its functions and discharge its responsibilities within the specialized areas of its competence. This rests on the theory that the administrative authority is in a better position to resolve questions addressed to its particular expertise, and that errors committed by subordinates in their resolution may be rectified by their superiors if given a chance to do so. Special People, Inc. Foundation, represented by its Chairman, Roberto P. Cericos v. Nestor M. Canda, et al., G.R. No. 160932. January 14, 2013

Special Civil Action for Mandamus; nature; when available. Similarly, the petition could not be one for mandamus, which is a remedy available only when “any tribunal, corporation, board, officer or person unlawfully neglects the performance of an act which the law specifically enjoins as a duty resulting from an office, trust, or station, or unlawfully excludes another from the use and enjoyment of a right or office to which such other is entitled, and there is no other plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law, the person aggrieved thereby may file a verified petition in the proper court.” The main objective of mandamus is to compel the performance of a ministerial duty on the part of the respondent. Plainly enough, the writ of mandamus does not issue to control or review the exercise of discretion or to compel a course of conduct, which, it quickly seems to us, was what petitioners would have the Secretary of Justice do in their favor. Consequently, their petition has not indicated how and where the Secretary of Justice’s assailed issuances excluded them from the use and enjoyment of a right or office to which they were unquestionably entitled. Spouses Augusto Dacudao and Ofelia Dacudao v. Secretary of Justice Raul Gonzales of the Department of Justice, G.R. No. 188056. January 8, 2013

Special Civil Action for Mandamus; nature; compels performance of ministerial duties. A key principle to be observed in dealing with petitions for mandamus is that such extraordinary remedy lies to compel the performance of duties that are purely ministerial in nature, not those that are discretionary. A purely ministerial act or duty is one that an officer or tribunal performs in a given state of facts, in a prescribed manner, in obedience to the mandate of a legal authority, without regard to or the exercise of its own judgment upon the propriety or impropriety of the act done. The duty is ministerial only when its discharge requires neither the exercise of official discretion or judgment. Special People, Inc. Foundation, represented by its Chairman, Roberti P. Cericos v. Nestor M. Canda, et al., G.R. No. 160932. January 14, 2013

Unlawful detainer; nature. Going to the main issue in the instant petition, it is settled that in unlawful detainer, one unlawfully withholds possession thereof after the expiration or termination of his right to hold possession under any contract, express or implied. In such case, the possession was originally lawful but became unlawful by the expiration or termination of the right to possess; hence the issue of rightful possession is decisive for, in such action, the defendant is in actual possession and the plaintiff’s cause of action is the termination of the defendant’s right to continue in possession. Juanita Ermitaño, represented by her Attorney-in-fact, Isabelo Ermitaño v. Lailanie M. Paglas, G.R. No. 174436. January 23, 2013

Unlawful detainer; failure to pay rentals and expiration of lease as grounds. We find that the RTC’s ruling upholding the ejectment of Hertz from the building premises was proper. First, respondent failed to pay rental arrearages and utility bills to Optima; and second, the Contract of lease expired without any request from Hertz for a renegotiation thereof at least 90 days prior to its expiration. Optima Realty Corporation v. Hertz Phil. Exclusive Cars, Inc., G.R. No. 183035. January 9, 2013

Unlawful detainer; award of monthly compensation and attorney’s fees. As to the award of monthly compensation, we find that Hertz should pay adequate compensation to Optima, since the former continued to occupy the leased premises even after the expiration of the lease contract.

Finally we uphold the award of attorney’s fees in the amount of P30, 000 and judicial costs in the light of Hertz unjustifiable and unlawful retention of the leased premises, thus forcing Optima to file the instant case in order to protect its rights and interest. Optima Realty Corporation v. Hertz Phil. Exclusive Cars, Inc., G.R. No. 183035. January 9, 2013

Special Proceedings

Settlement of Estate; claims include quasi-contract and contingent claims; In Maclan v. Garcia, Maclan filed a civil case to recover from Ruben Garcia the necessary expenses he spent as possessor of a piece of land. Garcia acquired the land as an heir of its previous owner, he set up the defense that this claim should have been filed in the special proceedings to settle the estate of his predecessor. Maclan, on the other hand, contended that his claim arises from law and not from contract, express or implied. Thus, it need not be filed in the settlement of the estate of Garcia’s predecessor, as mandated by Section 5, Rule 87 of the Rules of Court (now Section 5, Rule 86).

The court held under these facts that a claim for necessary expenses spent as previous possessor of the land is a kind of quasi-contract. Citing Leung Ben v O’Brien, it explained that the term “implied contracts,” as used in our remedial law, originated from the common law where obligations derived from quasi-contracts and from law are both considered as implied contracts. Thus, the term quasi-contract is included in the concept “implied contracts” as used in the Rules of Court. Accordingly, the liabilities of the deceased arising from quasi-contracts should be filed as claims in the settlement of his estate, as provided in Section 5, Rule 86 of the Rules of Court.

A distinctive character of Metrobank’s fourth-party complaint is its contingent nature – the claim depends on the possibility that Metrobank would be adjudged liable to AMC, a future event that may or may not happen. This characteristic unmistakably marks the complaint as a contingent one that must be included in the claims falling under the terms of Section 5, Rule 86 of the Rules of Court. Metropolitan Bank & Trust Company v. Absolute Management Corporation, G.R. No. 170498. January 9, 2013

Settlement of Estate; specific rules on settlement prevail over general rules. We read with approval the CA’s use of statutory construction principle of lex specialis derogate generali, leading to the conclusion that the specific provisions of Section 5, Rule 86 of the Rules of Court should prevail over the general provisions of Section 11, Rule 6 of the Rules of Court; the settlement of the estate of deceased persons (where claims against the deceased should be filed) is primarily governed by the rules on special proceedings, while the rules provided for ordinary claims, including Section 11, Rule 6 of the Rules of Court, merely apply suppletorily. Metropolitan Bank & Trust Company v. Absolute Management Corporation, G.R. No. 170498. January 9, 2013

Other Proceedings

Construction Industry Arbitration Commission (CIAC) jurisdiction; requisites. Based on Section 4 of E.O. No. 1008, in order for the CIAC to acquire jurisdiction, two requisites must concur: “first, the dispute must somehow be related to a construction contract; and second, the parties must have agreed to submit the dispute to arbitration proceedings.” The Manila Insurance Company, Inc. v. Spouses Roberto and Aida Amurao, G.R. No. 179628. January 16, 2013

Construction Industry Arbitration Commission (CIAC) jurisdiction; monetary claims under a construction contract. In William Golangco Construction Corporation v. Ray Burton Development Corporation, we declared that monetary claims under a construction contract are disputes arising from “differences in interpretation of the contract” because the “matter of ascertaining the duties and obligations of the parties under their contract all involve interpretation of the provisions of the contract. Following our reasoning in that case, we find that the issue of whether respondent-spouses are entitled to collect on the performance bond issued by petitioner is a “dispute arising in the course of the execution and performance of [the CCA] by reason of difference in the interpretation of the contract documents.” The Manila Insurance Company, Inc. v. Spouses Roberto and Aida Amurao, G.R. No. 179628. January 16, 2013

Construction Industry Arbitration Commission (CIAC) jurisdiction; performance bond. A careful reading of the Performance Bond reveals that the “bond is coterminous with the final acceptance of the project.” Thus, the fact that it was issued prior to the execution of the Construction Contract Agreement does not affect its validity or effectivity.

In fact, in Prudential Guarantee and Assurance, Inc. v. Anscor Land, Inc., we rejected the argument that the jurisdiction of CIAC is limited to the construction industry, and thus cannot be extended to surety contracts. In that case, we declared that “although not the construction contract itself, the performance bond is deemed as an associate of the main construction contract that it cannot be separated or severed from its principal. The Performance Bond is significantly and substantially connected to the construction contract that there can be no doubt it is the CIAC which has jurisdiction over any dispute arising from or connected with it.” The Manila Insurance Company, Inc. v. Spouses Roberto and Aida Amurao, G.R. No. 179628. January 16, 2013

Election Cases; review extends only to final decisions or resolutions of COMELEC en banc and not to interlocutory orders issued by a division. The petitioners’ resort to the extraordinary remedy of certiorari to assail and interlocutory order issued by the COMELEC First Division is amiss. “A party aggrieved by an interlocutory order issued by a Division of the COMELEC in an election protest may not directly assail the ordr in this Court through a special civil action for certiorari. The remedy is to seek the review of the interlocutory order during the appeal of the decision of the Division in due course.

x x x

Thus, exceptionally, this Court may take cognizance of a certiorari action directed against an interlocutory order issued by a Division of the COMELEC when the following circumstances are present: first, the order was issued without jurisdiction or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion tantamount to lack or excess of jurisdiction; and second, under the COMELEC Rules of Procedure, the subject of the controversy is a matter which (1) the COMELEC en banc may not sit and consider or (2) a Division is not authorized to act or (3) the members of the Division unanimously vote to refer to the COMELEC en banc. Governor Sadikul A. Sahali and Vice-Governor Ruby M. Sahali v. Commission on Elections (First Division), Rashidin H. Matba and Jilkasi J. Usman, G.R. No. 201796. January 15, 2013

Financial Rehabilitation and Insolvency Act; prospective application of the law. Sec. 146 of the FRIA, which makes it applicable to “all further proceedings in insolvency, suspension of payments and rehabilitation cases xxx except to the extent that in the opinion of the court, their application would not be feasible or would work injustice,” still presupposes a prospective application. The wording of the law clearly shows that it is applicable to all further proceedings. In no way could it be made retrospectively applicable to the Stay Order issued by the rehabilitation court back in 2002. Situs Dev. Corporation, et al., v. Asiatrust Bank, et al., G.R. No. 180036. January 16, 2013

HLURB; jurisdiction; annulment of mortgage; ruling of HLURB affects only the lot subject of the buyer’s complaint. The jurisdiction of the HLURB to regulate the real estate trade is broad enough to include jurisdiction over complaints for annulment of mortgage. This is pursuant to the intent of P.D. No. 957 to protect hapless buyers from the unjust practices of unscrupulous developers which may constitute mortgages over condominium projects sans the knowledge of the former and the consent of the HLURB.

In Far East Bank, we held that:

Acts executed against the provisions of mandatory or prohibitory laws shall be void. Hence, the mortgage over the lot is null and void insofar as private respondent is concerned.

The remedy granted by the HLURB and sustained by the Office of the President is proper only insofar as it refers to the lot of respondent. In short, the mortgage contract is void as against him. Since there is no law stating the specifics of what should be done under the circumstances, that which is in accord with equity should be ordered. The remedy granted by the HLURB in the first and the second paragraphs of the dispositive portion of its Decision insofar as it referred to respondent’s lot is in accord with equity.

The HLURB, however, went overboard in its disposition in paragraphs 3 and 4, which pertained not only to the lot but to the entire parcel of land mortgaged. Such ruling was improper. The subject of this litigation is limited only to the lot that respondent is buying, not to the entire parcel of land. He has no personality or standing to bring suit on the whole property, as he has actionable interest over the subject lot only. (Citations omitted and underlining ours)

In Far East Bank, we sustained the HLURB when it declared the mortgage entered into between the subdivision developer and the bank as unenforceable against the lot buyer. However, we were categorical that the HLURB acted beyond bounds when it nullified the mortgage covering the entire parcel of land, of which the lot subject of the buyer’s complaint is merely a part.

In the case now before us, while it is within Lim’s right to file a complaint before the HLURB to protect her right as a condominium unit buyer, she has no standing to seek for the complete nullification of the subject mortgage. She has an actionable interest only over Unit 48C of Cluster Dominiko of Vista de Loro, no more and no less. Philippine National Bank, substituted by Tranche 1 (SPV-AMC), Inc. v. Rina Parayno Lim and Puerto Azul Land, Inc., G.R. No. 171677. January 30, 2013

HLURB; jurisdiction; annulment of mortgages of condominium or subdivision units. Section 1 of PD No. 957 limits the HLURB’s jurisdiction to three kinds of cases: (a) unsound real estate business practices; (b) claims involving refund and any other claims filed by subdivision lot or condominium unit buyers against the project owner, developer, dealer, broker or salesman; and (c) cases involving specific performance of contractual and statutory obligations filed by buyers of subdivision lots or condominium units against the owner, developer, dealer, broker or salesman. While paragraphs (b) and (c) limit the HLURB cases to those between the buyer and the subdivision or condominium owner, developer, dealer, broker, or salesman, (a) is broad enough to include third parties to the sales contract.

Jurisprudence consistently recognizes the rationale behind the enactment of PD No. 957 – to protect innocent lot buyers from scheming developers. For this reason, the Court has broadly construed the jurisdiction of the HLURB to include complaints for annulment of mortgages of condominium or subdivision units. Indeed, in Manila Banking Corporation v. Spouses Rabina, even if the mortgagee bank was under receivership/liquidation, the Court declared that the HLURB retains jurisdiction over an action for the annulment of the mortgage:

The jurisdiction of the HLURB to regulate the real estate trade is broad enough to include jurisdiction over complaints for annulment of mortgage. To disassociate the issue of nullity of mortgage and lodge it separately with the liquidation court would only cause inconvenience to the parties and would not serve the ends of speedy and inexpensive administration of justice as mandated by the laws vesting quasi-judicial powers in the agency. Philippine Bank of Communications v. Pridisons Realty Corporation, Antonio Gonzales, Bormacheco, Inc., Nazario Santos, Teresita Chua Tek, Charito Ong Lee, and Ernesto Sibal, G.R. No. 155113. January 9, 2013

Intra-corporate disputes; elements. Thus, to be considered as an intra-corporate dispute, the case: (a) must arise out of intra-corporate or partnership relations; and (b) the nature of the question subject of the controversy must be such that it is intrinsically connected with the regulation of the corporation or the enforcement of the parties’ rights and obligations under the Corporation Code and the internal rules of the corporation. So long as these two criteria are satisfied, the dispute is intra-corporate and the RTC, acting as a special commercial court, has jurisdiction over it. Vitaliano Aguirre II and Fidel Aguirre v. FQB+7, Inc., Nathaniel Bocobo, Priscila Bocobo, and Antonio De Villa, G.R. No. 170770. January 9, 2013

Intra-corporate disputes; application to dissolved corporations. It bears reiterating that Section 145 of the Corporation Code protects, among others, the rights and remedies of corporate actors against other corporate actors. The statutory provision assures an aggrieved party that the corporation’s dissolution will not impair, much less remove, his/her rights or remedies against the corporation, its stockholders, directors and officers. It also states that corporate dissolution will not extinguish any liability already incurred by the corporation, its stockholders, directors or officers. In short, Section 145 preserves a corporate actor’s cause of action and remedy against another corporate actor. In so doing, Section 145 also preserves the nature of the controversy between the parties as an intra-corporate dispute.

The dissolution of the corporation simply prohibits it from continuing its business. However, despite such dissolution, the parties involved in the litigation are still corporate actors. The dissolution does not automatically convert the parties into total strangers or change their intra-corporate relationships. Neither does it change or terminate existing causes of action, which arose because of the corporate ties between the parties. Thus, a cause of action involving an intra-corporate controversy remains and must be filed as an intra-corporate dispute despite the subsequent dissolution of the corporation. Vitaliano Aguirre II and Fidel Aguirre v. FQB+7, Inc., Nathaniel Bocobo, Priscila Bocobo, and Antonio De Villa, G.R. No. 170770. January 9, 2013

Just compensation; compromise agreement. There is no question that the foregoing Agreement was a compromise that the parties freely and voluntarily entered into for the purpose of finally settling their dispute in this case. Under Article 2028 of the Civil Code, a compromise is a contract whereby the parties, by making reciprocal concessions, avoid a litigation or put an end to one already commenced. Accordingly, a compromise is either judicial, if the objective is to put an end to a pending litigation, or extrajudicial, if the objective is to avoid a litigation. As a contract, a compromise is perfected by mutual consent. However, a judicial compromise, while immediately binding between the parties upon its execution, is not executory until it is approved by the court and reduced to a judgment. The validity of a compromise is dependent upon its compliance with the requisites and principles of contracts dictated by law. Also, the terms and conditions of a compromise must not be contrary to law, morals, good customs, public policy and public order. Land Bank of the Philippines v. Heirs of Spouses Jorja Rigor Soriano and Magin SorianoG.R. No. 178312. January 30, 2013

Evidence

Evidence; conclusive presumptions; estoppel against tenants. The conclusive presumption found in Section 2 (b), Rule 131 of the Rules of Court, known as estoppel against tenants, provides as follows:

Sec. 2.Conclusive presumptions. – The following are instances of conclusive presumptions:

x x x x

(b) the tenant is not permitted to deny the title of his landlord at the time of the commencement of the relation of landlord and tenant between them. (Emphasis supplied)

It is clear from the above-quoted provision that what a tenant is estopped from denying is the title of his landlord at the time of the commencement of the landlord-tenant relation. If the title asserted is one that is alleged to have been acquired subsequent to the commencement of that relation, the presumption will not apply. Hence, the tenant may show that the landlord’s title has expired or been conveyed to another or himself; and he is not estopped to deny a claim for rent, if he has been ousted or evicted by title paramount. In the present case, what respondent is claiming is her supposed title to the subject property which she acquired subsequent to the commencement of the landlord-tenant relation between her and petitioner. Hence, the presumption under Section 2 (b), Rule 131 of the Rules of Court does not apply. Juanita Ermitaño, represented by her Attorney-in-fact, Isabelo Ermitaño vs. Lailanie M. Paglas; G.R. No. 174436. January 23, 2013

Evidence; disputable presumptions; presumption of regularity. The court is inclined to give more evidentiary weight to the certification of the zoning administrator being the officer having jurisdiction over the area where the land in question is situated and is, therefore, more familiar with the property in issue. Besides, this certification carried the presumption of regularity in its issuance and respondents have the burden of overcoming this presumption. Respondents, however, failed to present any evidence to rebut that presumption. Heirs of Luis A. Luna, et al. v. Ruben S. Afable, et al.; G.R. No. 188299. January 23, 2013.

 The invaluable help of Ms. Frances Yani P. Domingo in the preparation of this post is gratefully acknowledged.

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