February 2013 Philippines Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law

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

Civil Procedure

Actions; cause of action; elements; failure to state a cause of action is ground for dismissal. A complaint states a cause of action if it avers the existence of the three essential elements of a cause of action, namely:

(a)         The legal right of the plaintiff;

(b)         The correlative obligation of the defendant and

(c)         The act or omission of the defendant in violation of said legal right.

If the allegations in the complaint do not aver the concurrence of these elements, the complaint becomes vulnerable to a motion to dismiss on the ground of failure to state a cause of. A perusal of the Amended Complaint in the present case would show that there is, indeed, no allegation of any act or omission on the part of respondents which supposedly violated the legal rights of petitioners. Thus, the CA is correct in dismissing the complaint on the ground of failure to state a cause of action. Padilla Mercado, Zulueta Mercado, et al. v. Spouses Aguedo Espina and Lourdes Espina; G.R. No. 173987. February 25, 2013

Actions; moot and academic principle. Verily, in Gancho-on v. Secreatry of Labor and Employment, the Court emphatically stated that:

It is a rule of universal application, almost, that courts of justice constituted to pass upon substantial rights will not consider questions in which no actual interests are involved; they decline jurisdiction of moot cases. And where the issue has become moot and academic, there is no justiciable controversy, so that a declaration thereon would be of no practical use or value. There is no actual substantial relief to which petitioners would be entitled and which would be negated by the dismissal of the petition.

Applying the above pronouncement, there was no justiciable controversy anymore in the instant petition in view of the expiration of the Compromise Agreement sought to be enforced. There was no longer any purpose in determining whether the Court of Appeals erred in affirming the RTC Orders dated October 31, 2001 and April 10, 2002 since any declaration thereon would be of no practical use or value. By the very admission of PLDT, it can no longer be compelled to undo its act of blocking the telecommunication calls and data from the Philippines to Hong Kong passing through the REACH-ETPI circuits since, effectively, there were no more circuits to speak of.

Clearly, any decision of this Court on the present petition, whether it be an affirmance or a reversal of the Amended Decision of the Court of Appeals, would be equivalent in effect to an affirmance or an invalidation of the challenged Orders of the RTC. But as can be gleaned from the above discussion, and as succinctly put by PLDT in its Memorandum, there is nothing more for the RTC to enforce and/or act upon. As such, any discussion on the matter would be a mere surplusage. Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company, Inc. v. Eastern Telecom Philippines; G.R. No. 163037. February 6, 2013

Actions; moot and academic principle; nature and exceptions. A moot and academic case is one that ceases to present a justiciable controversy by virtue of supervening events, so that a declaration thereon would be of no practical use or value. Although the controversy could have ceased due to the intervening appointment of and assumption by Cadiz as the Solicitor General during the pendency of this suit, and such cessation of the controversy seemingly rendered moot and academic the resolution of the issue of the constitutionality of the concurrent holding of the two positions by Agra, the Court should still go forwards and resolve the issue and not abstain from exercising its power of judicial review because this case comes under several of the well-recognized exceptions obtained, namely: (1) there was a grave violation of the Constitution; (2) the case involved a situation of exceptional character and was of paramount public interest; (3) the constitutional issue raised required the formulation of controlling principles to guide the Bench, the Bar and the public; (4) the case was capable of repetition, yet evading review.

It is the same here. The constitutionality of the concurrent holding by Agra of the two positions in the Cabinet, albeit in acting capacities, was as issue that comes under all the recognized exceptions. The issue involves a probable violation of the Constitution, and relates to a situation of exceptional character and of paramount public interest by reason of its transcendental importance to the people. The resolution of the issue will also be of the greatest value to the Bench and the Bar in view of the broad powers wielded through said positions. The situation further calls for the review because the situation is capable of repetition, yet evading review. In other words, many important and practical benefits are still to be gained were the Court to proceed the ultimate resolution of the constitutional issue posed. Dennis A.B. Funa v. Acting Secretary of Justice Alberto C. Agra, etc., et al.; G.R. No. 191644. February 19, 2013

Actions; separate trials; exception to the general rule; rationale. The rule on separate trials in civil actions is found in Section 2, Rule 31 of the Rules of Court, which reads:

Section 2. Separate trials. – The court, in furtherance of convenience or to avoid prejudice, may order a separate trial of any claim, cross-claim, counterclaim, or third-party complaint, or of any separate issue or of any number of claims, cross-claims, counterclaims, third-party complaints or issues.

The text of the rule grants to the trial court the discretion to determine if a separate trial of any claim, cross-claim, counterclaim, or third-party complaint, or of any separate issue or of any number of claims, cross-claims, counterclaims, third-party complaints or issues should be held, provided that the exercise of such discretion is in furtherance of convenience or to avoid prejudice to any party.

The rule is almost identical with Rule 42(b) of the United States Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Federal Rules), a provision that governs separate trials in the United States Federal Courts (US Federal Courts), x x x.

The US Federal Courts have applied Rule 42(b) by using several principles and parameters whose application in this jurisdiction may be warranted because our rule on separate trials has been patterned after the original version of Rule 42(b). There is no obstacle to adopting such principles and parameters as guides in the application of our own rule on separate trials. This is because, generally speaking, the Court has randomly accepted the practices in the US Courts in the elucidation and application of our own rules of procedure that have themselves originated form or been inspired by the practice and procedure in the Federal Courts and the various US State Courts.

x x x

Bearing in mind the foregoing principles and parameters defined by the relevant US case law, we conclude that the Sandiganbayan committed grave abuse of its discretion in ordering a separate trial as to Asian Bank (Metrobank) on the ground that the issue against Asian Bank was distinct and separate from that against the original defendants. Thereby, the Sandiganbayan veered away from the general rule of having all the issues in every case tried at one time, unreasonably shunting aside the dictum in Corrigan, supra, that a “single trial will generally lessen the delay, expense, and inconvenience to the parties and the courts.”

Exceptions to the general rule are permitted only when there are extraordinary grounds for conducting separate trials on different issues raised in the same case, or when separate trials of the issues will avoid prejudice, or when separate trials of the issues will further convenience, or when separate trials of the issues will promote justice, or when separate trials of the issues will give a fair trial to all parties. Otherwise, the general rule must apply. Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company, as successor-in-interest of Asian Bank Corporation v. Hon. Edilberto G. Sandoval, et al.; G.R. No. 169677. February 18, 2013

Appeals; issues raised for first time on appeal and not raised in proceedings in lower court are barred by estoppel. As to the first issue, there is no dispute that the issue of timeliness of respondents’ Motion to Dismiss petitioners’ Amended Complaint was not raised by petitioners before the RTC. Neither was this issue raised in their Comment to respondents’ petition for certiorari filed with the CA. It was only in their Motion for Reconsideration of the CA Decision that this matter was raised. It is well established 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. Basic considerations of due process impel the adoption of this rule. Padilla Mercado, Zulueta Mercado, et al. v. Spouses Aguedo Espina and Lourdes Espina; G.R. No. 173987. February 25, 2013

Contempt; distinction between criminal and civil contempt. In People v. Godoy, this Court made a distinction between criminal and civil contempt. The Court declared:

A criminal contempt is conduct that is directed against the dignity and authority of the court or judge acting judicially; it is an act obstructing the administration of justice which tends to bring the court into disrepute or disrespect. On the other hand, civil contempt consists in failing to do something ordered to be done by a court in a civil action for the benefit of the opposing party therein and is, therefore, an offense against the party in whose behalf the violated order is made.

A criminal contempt, being directed against the dignity and authority of the court, is an offense against organized society and, in addition, is also held to be an offense against public justice which raises an issue between the public and the accused, and the proceedings to punish it are punitive. On the other hand, the proceedings to punish a civil contempt are remedial and for the purpose of the preservation of the right of private persons. It has been held that civil contempt is neither a felony nor a misdemeanor, but a power of the court.

It has further been stated that intent is a necessary element in criminal contempt, and that no one can be punished for a criminal contempt unless the evidence makes it cleat that he intended to commit it. On the contrary, there is authority indicating that since the purpose of civil contempt proceedings is remedial, the defendant’s intent in committing the contempt is immaterial. Hence, good faith or the absence of intent to violate the court’s order is not a defense in civil contempt. Philip Sigrid A. Fortun v. Prima Jesusa B. Quinsayas, et al.; G.R. No. 194578. February 13, 2013

Contempt; contempt akin to libel and principle of privileged communication may be invoked in contempt proceeding. In People v. Castelo, the Court ruled that contempt is akin to libel and that the principle of privileged communication may be invoked in a contempt proceeding. The Court ruled:

While the present case involves an incident of contempt the same is akin to a case of libel for both constitute limitations upon freedom of the press or freedom of expression guaranteed by our Constitution. So what is considered a privilege in one may likewise be considered in the other. The same safeguard should be extended to one whether anchored in freedom of the press or freedom of expression. Therefore, this principle regarding privileged communications can also be invoked in favor of the appellant.

Philip Sigrid A. Fortun v. Prima Jesusa B. Quinsayas, et al.; G.R. No. 194578. February 13, 2013

Execution; execution pending appeal; not a bar the continuance of the appeal on the merits. First of all, as held in Legaspi v. Ong, “[e]xecution pending appeal does not bar the continuance of the appeal on the merits, for the Rules of Court precisely provides for restitution according to equity in case the executed judgment is reversed on appeal. O. Ventanilla Enterprises Corporation v. Adelina S. Tan and Sheriff Reynante G. Velasquez, Presiding Judge; G.R. No. 180325. February 20, 2013

Execution; execution of RTC judgment does not automatically mean that issues on appeal have become moot and academic; Moot and academic principle. Moreover, even assuming that the writ of execution in the instant case were not void, the execution of the RTC judgment cannot be considered as a supervening event that would automatically moot the issues in the appealed case for accion publiciana, which is pending before the CA. otherwise, there would be no use appealing a judgment, once a writ of execution is issued and satisfied. That situation would be absurd. On the contrary, the Rules of Court in fact provides for cases of reversal or annulment of an executed judgment. Section 5 of Rule 39 provides that in those cases, there should be restitution or reparation as warranted by justice and equity. Therefore, barring any supervening event, there is still the possibility of the appellate court’s reversal of the appealed decision – even if already executed – and, consequently, of a restitution or a reparation.

In any case, the issues in the appealed case for accion publiciana cannot, in any way, be characterized as moot and academic. In Osmena III v. Social Security System of the Philippines, we defined a moot and academic case or issue as follows:

A case or issue is considered not and academic when it ceases to present a justiciable controversy by virtue of supervening events, so that an adjudication of the case or a declaration on the issue would be of no practical value or use. In such instance, there is no actual substantial relief which a petitioner would be entitled to, and which would be negated by the dismissal of the petition. Courts generally decline jurisdiction over such case or dismiss it on the ground of mootness – save when, among others, a compelling constitutional issue raised requires the formulation of controlling principles to guide the bench, the bar, and the public; or when the case is capable of repetition yet evading judicial review.

Applying the above definition to the instant case, it is obvious that there remains an unresolved justiciable controversy in the appealed case for accion publiciana. In particular, did respondent-spouses Oria really encroach on the land of the petitioner? If they did, does he have the right to recover possession of the property? Furthermore, without preempting the disposition of the case for accion publiciana pending before the CA, we note that if the respondents built structures on the subject land, and if they were builders in good faith they would be entitled to appropriate rights under the Civil Code. This Court merely points out that there are still issues that the CA needs to resolve in the appealed case before it. Macario Diaz Carpio v. Court of Appeals, spouses Gelacio G. Gloria and Marcelina Pre Oria; G.R. No. 183102. February 27, 2013

Execution; effects of void writ of execution; requirement of good reason in execution pending appeal. In any case, proceed to rule that because the writ of execution was void, all actions and proceedings conducted pursuant to it were also void and of no legal effect. To recall, this Court affirmed the Decision of the CA in CA-G.R. SP No. 84632, annulling the RTC’s Omnibus Order granting the Motion for Immediate Execution pending appeal. We affirmed the CA Decision because of the RTC’s failure to state any reason, much less good reason, for the issuance thereof as required under Section 2, Rule 39. In the exercise by the trial court of its discretionary power to issue a writ of execution pending appeal, we emphasize the need for strict compliance with the requirement for the statement of good reason, because execution pending appeal is the exception rather than the rule.

Since the writ of execution was manifestly void for having been issued without compliance with the rules, it is without any legal effect. In other words, it is as if no writ was issued at all. Consequently, all actions taken pursuant to the void writ of execution must be deemed to have not been taken and to have had no effect. Otherwise, the Court would be sanctioning a violation of the right of due process of the judgment debtors – respondent-spouses herein. Macario Diaz Carpio v. Court of Appeals, spouses Gelacio G. Gloria and Marcelina Pre Oria; G.R. No. 183102. February 27, 2013

Hierarchy of courts; exceptions. Second, while the principle of hierarchy of courts does indeed require that recourse  should be made to the lower courts before they are made to the higher courts, this principle is not an absolute rule and admits of certain exceptions under well-defined circumstances. In several cases, we have allowed direct invocation of this Court’s original jurisdiction to issue writs of certiorari on the ground of special and important reasons clearly stated in the petition; when dictated by public welfare and the advancement of public policy; when demanded by the broader interest of justice; when the challenged orders were patent nullities; or when analogous exceptional and compelling circumstances called for and justified our immediate and direct handling of the case. Republic of the Philippines v. Hon. Ramon S. Caguioa, etc., et al.; G.R. No. 174385. February 20, 2013

Judgments; immutability of judgments. The issue on the nullity of Maniego’s title had already been foreclosed when this Court denied Maniego’s petition for review in the Resolution dated 13 July 2011, which became final and executory on 19 January 2012. It is settled that a decision that has acquired finality becomes immutable and unalterable and may no longer be modified in any respect, even if the modification is meant to correct erroneous conclusions of fact or law and whether it will be made by the court that rendered it or by the highest court of the land. This is without prejudice, however, to the right of Maniego to recover from Poblete what he paid to Kapantay for the account of Poblete, otherwise there will be unjust enrichment by Poblete. Land Bank of the Philippines v. Barbara Sampaga Poblete; G.R. No. 196577. February 25, 2013

Judgments; pro hac vice; nature. Petitioners point out that this Court has had occasion to grant a motion for new trial after the judgment of conviction had become final and executory. In People v. Licayan, all the accused were convicted of the crime of kidnapping for ransom and sentenced to death by the trial court. More than two years after their conviction became final and executory, the accused Lara and Licayan filed an Urgent Motion to Re-Open the Case with Leave of Court. They attached thereto the Sinumpaang Salaysay executed by two of their co-accused in the case, to the effect that Lara and Licayan had not participated in the commission of the crime. Since the OSG also recommended the opening of the case, this Court remanded the case to the trial court for the reception of newly discovered evidence.

It is worth pointing that the motion in Licayan was granted pro hac vice, which is a Latin term used by courts to refer to rulings rendered “for this one particular occasion.” A ruling expressly qualified as such cannot be relied upon as a precedent to govern other cases. Reynante Tadeja, et al. v. People of the Philippines; G.R. No. 145336. February 20, 2013

Judgments; void judgment; nature and effect; may be resisted in any action or proceeding. A void judgment or order has no legal and binding effect, force or efficacy for any purpose. In contemplation of law, it is non-existent. Such judgment or order may be resisted in any action or proceeding whenever it is involved. It is not even necessary to take any steps to vacate or avoid a void judgment or final order; it may simply be ignored.

x x x

Accordingly, a void judgment is no judgment at all. It cannot be the source of any right nor of any obligation. All acts performed pursuant to it and all claims emanating from it have no legal effect. Hence, it can never become final, and any writ of execution based on it is void: “x x x it may be said to be a lawless thing which can be treated as an outlaw and slain at sight, or ignored wherever it exhibits its head.” Land Bank of the Philippines v. Spouses Placido and Clara Dy Orilla; G.R. No. 194168. February 13, 2013

Liberal construction of the rules. In many instances, the Court adopted a policy of liberally construing its rules in order to promote a just, speedy, and inexpensive disposition of every action and proceeding. The rules can be suspended on the following grounds: (1) matters of life, liberty, honor or property, (2) the existence of special or compelling circumstances, (3) the merits of the case, (4) a cause not entirely attributable to the fault or negligence of the party favored by the suspension of the rules, (5) a lack of any showing that the review sought is merely frivolous and dilatory, and (6) the other party will not be unjustly prejudiced thereby. Secretary Leila M. De Lima, Director Nonnatus R. Rojas and Deputy Director Reynaldo O. Esmeralda v. Magtanggol B. Gatdula; G.R. No. 204528. February 19, 2013

Motions; notice and hearing requirements; effect of non-compliance; notice requirement in the issuance of preliminary injunction. A motion for intervention, like any other motion, has to comply with the mandatory requirements of notice and hearing, as well as proof of its service, save only for those that the courts can act upon without prejudice to the rights of the other parties. A motion which fails to comply with these requirements is a worthless piece of paper that cannot and should not be acted upon.

x x x

The notice requirement is even more mandatory when the movant asks for the issuance of a preliminary injunction and/or a TRO. Under Section 5, Rule 58 of the Rules of Court, no preliminary injunction shall be granted without a hearing and without prior notice to the party sought to be enjoined, the prior notice under this requirement is as important as the hearing, as no hearing can meaningfully take place, with both parties present or represented, unless a prior notice of the hearing is given. Republic of the Philippines v. Hon. Ramon S. Caguioa, etc., et al.; G.R. No. 174385. February 20, 2013

Motions; motion to dismiss; defenses and objections not pleaded either in a motion to dismiss or in the answer are deemed waived; exceptions. Under Section 1, Rule 9 of the Rules of Court, defenses and objections not pleaded in the answer are deemed waived, with the following exceptions: (1) lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter; (2) litis pendentia; (3) res judicata; and (4) prescription of the action. Clearly, petitioner cannot change its defense after the termination of the period of testimony and after the exhibits of both parties have already been admitted by the court. The non-inclusion of this belated defense in the pre-trial order barred its consideration during the trial. To rule otherwise would put the adverse party at a disadvantage since he could no longer offer evidence to rebut the new theory. Indeed, parties are bound by the delimitation of issues during the pre-trial. Licomcen, Inc. v. Engr. Salvador Abainza, etc.; G.R. No. 199781. February 18, 2013

New trial; newly-discovered evidence; requisites. Petitioners premise their motion for a new trial on the ground of newly-discovered evidence, i.e. Plaridel’s extrajudicial confession, executed with the assistance of Atty. Cirilo Tejoso, Jr., and the spot report of the police on Plaridel’s apprehension.

Newly discovered evidence refers to that which (a) is discovered after trial; (b) could not have been discovered and produced at the trial even with the exercise of reasonable diligence; (c) is material, not merely cumulative, corroborative or impeaching; and (d) is of such weight that it would probably change the judgment if admitted.

The most important requisite is that the evidence could not have been discovered and produced at the trial even with reasonable diligence; hence, the term “newly-discovered.” The confession of Plaridel does not meet this requisite. He participated in the trial before the RTC and even gave testimony as to his defense. It was only after he and petitioners had been convicted by the trial court that he absconded. Thus, the contention that his confession could not have been obtained during trial does not hold water. Reynante Tadeja, et al. v. People of the Philippines; G.R. No. 145336. February 20, 2013]

Parties; duty of party to inform court of counsel’s death. The Court strikes down the argument that the CA Decision in CA-G.R. CV No. 58817 did not attain finality because petitioner’s counsel, who died while the case was pending before the CA, was unable to receive a copy thereof. The CA was correct in ruling that there is no extraordinary circumstance in this case that would merit a recall of the entry of judgment to reopen the case. The reason given by petitioner, that its former counsel had died before the CA Decision was promulgated, hence, it was not properly notified of the judgment, is too tenuous to be given serious consideration. In Mojar, et al. v. Agro Commercial Security Service Agency, Inc., the Court explained that it is the party’s duty to inform the court of its counsel’s demise, and failure to apprise the court of such fact shall be considered negligence on the part of said party. Expounding further, the Court stated:

x x x It is not the duty of the courts to inquire, during the progress of a case, whether the law firm or partnership representing one of the litigants continues to exist lawfully, whether the partners are still alive, or whether its associates are still connected with the firm.

x x x They cannot pass the blame to the court, which is not tasked to monitor the changes in the circumstances of the parties and their counsel. x x x x

In Ampo v. Court of Appeals, this Court explained the vigilance that must be exercise by a party:

 x x x x

Litigants who are represented by counsel should not expect that all they need to do is sit back, relax and await the outcome of their cases. Relief will not be granted to a party who seeks avoidance from the effects of the judgment when the loss of the remedy at law was due to his own negligence. The circumstances of this case plainly show that petitioner only has himself to blame. Neither can he invoke due process. The essence of due process is simply an opportunity to be heard. Due process is satisfied when the parties are afforded a fair and reasonable opportunity to explain their respective sides of the controversy. Where a party, such as petitioner, was afforded this opportunity to participate but failed to do so, he cannot complain of deprivation of due process. If said opportunity is not availed of, it is deemed waived or forfeited without violating the constitutional guarantee.

Thus, for failure of petitioner to notify the CA if the death of its counsel of record and have said counsel substituted, then service of the CA Decision at the places or law office designated by its counsel of record as his address, is sufficient notice. The case then became final and executory when no motion for reconsideration was filed within the reglementary period therefor. O. Ventanilla Enterprises Corporation v. Adelina S. Tan and Sheriff Reynante G. Velasquez, Presiding Judge; G.R. No. 180325. February 20, 2013

Partition; stages; requisites. The first stage in an action for partition is the settlement of the issue of ownership. Such an addition will not lie if the claimant has no rightful interest in the subject property. In fact, the parties filing the action are required by the Rules of Court to set forth in their complaint the nature and the extent of their title to the property. It would be premature to effect a partition until and unless the question of ownership is first definitely resolved. Carolina (Carlina) Vda. De Figuracion, et al. v. Emilia Figuracion-Gerilla; G.R. No. 151334. February 13, 2013]

Petition for review on certiorari (Rule 45); issues not raised before the courts a quo cannot be raised for the first time on appeal; rationale for the rule; exceptions. The inconsistent postures taken by the petitioners breach the basic procedural tenet that a party cannot change his theory on appeal as expressly adopted in Rule 44, Section 15 of the Rules of Court, which reads:

Sec 15. Questions that may be raised on appeal. – whether or not the appellant has filed a motion for new trial in the court below, he may include in his assignment of errors any question of law or fact that has been raised in the court below and which is within the issues framed by the parties.

Fortifying the rule, the Court had repeatedly emphasized that defenses not pleaded in the answer may not be raised for the first time on appeal. When a party deliberately adopts a certain theory and the case is decided upon that theory in the court below, he will not be permitted to change the same on appeal, because to permit to do so would be unfair to the adverse party. The Court had likewise, in numerous times, affirmed that 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. Basic considerations of due process underlie this rule. 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.

While a party may change his theory on appeal when the factual bases thereof would not require presentation of any further evidence by the adverse party in order to enable it to properly meet the issue raised in the new theory, this exception does not, however, obtain in the case at hand. Carolina (Carlina) Vda. De Figuracion, et al. v. Emilia Figuracion-Gerilla; G.R. No. 151334. February 13, 2013

Petition for review on certiorari (Rule 45); questions of fact generally not reviewable; exceptions; difference between question of fact and question of law. We note that the matters raised by petitioner ATI involve questions of fact which are generally not reviewable in a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, as the Court is not a trier of facts. Section 1 thereof provides that “[t]he petition x x x shall raise only questions of law, which must be distinctly set forth.”

A question of law exists when the doubt or controversy concerns the correct application of law or jurisprudence to a certain set of facts; or when the issued does not call for an examination of the probative value of evidence presented, the truth or falsehood of facts being admitted. A question of fact exists when the doubt or difference arises as to the truth or falsehood of facts or when the query invites calibration of the whole evidence considering mainly the credibility of the witnesses, the existence and relevancy of specific surrounding circumstances as well as their relation to each other and to the whole, and the probability of the situation.

The well-entrenched rule in our jurisdiction is that only questions of law may be entertained by this Court in a petition for review on certiorari. This rule, however, is not ironclad and admits certain exceptions, such as when (1) the conclusion is grounded on speculations, surmises, or conjectures; (2) the inference is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible; (3) there is grave abuse of discretion; (4) the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts; (5) the findings of fact are conflicting; (6) there is no citation of specific evidence on which the factual findings are based; 7) the findings of absence of facts are contradicted by the presence of evidence on record; (8) the findings of the Court of Appeals are contrary to those of the trial court; (9) the findings of the Court of Appeals manifestly overlooked certain relevant and undisputed facts that, if properly considered, would justify a different conclusion; (10) the findings of the Court of Appeals are beyond the issues of the case; and (11) such findings are contrary to the admissions of both parties. Asian Terminals, Inc. v. Simon Enterprises, Inc.; G.R. No. 177116. February 27, 2013

Petition for review on certiorari (Rule 45); only questions of law may be raised. A petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court specifically provides that only questions of law may be raised, subject to exceptional circumstances which are not present in this case. Hence, factual findings of the trial court, especially if affirmed by the CA, are binding on us. In this case, both the RTC and the CA found that the signatures of Poblete and her deceased husband in the Deed dated 11 August 2000 were forged by Maniego. In addition, the evidence is preponderant that Maniego did not pay the consideration for the sale. Since the issue on the genuineness of the Deed dated 11 August 2000 is essentially a question of fact, we are not duty-bound to analyze and weigh the evidence again. Land Bank of the Philippines v. Barbara Sampaga Poblete; G.R. No. 196577. February 25, 2013

Petition for review on certiorari (Rule 45); resolves only questions of law, not questions of fact. We stress the settled rule that a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court resolves only questions of law, not questions of fact. A question, to be one of law, must not examine the probative value of the evidence presented by the parties; otherwise, the question is one of fact. Whether an express trust exists in this case is a question of fact whose resolution is not proper in a petition under Rule 45. Joseph Goyanko, Jr., as administrator of the Estate of Joseph Goyanko, Sr. v. United Coconut Planters Bank, Mango Avenue Branch; G.R. No. 179096. February 6, 2013

Petition for review on certiorari (Rule 45); change of theory on appeal generally not allowed. Second, we find that the petitioner changed the theory of his case. The petitioner argued before the lower courts that an express trust exists between PALII as the trustee and the HEIRS as the trustor-beneficiary. The petitioner now asserts that the express trust exists between PALII as the trustor and UCPB as the trustee, with the HEIRS as the beneficiaries. At this stage of the case, such change of theory is simply not allowed as it violates basic rules of fair play, justice and due process. Our rulings are clear – “a party who deliberately adopts a certain theory upon which the case was decided by the lower court will not be permitted to change [it] on appeal”, otherwise, the lower courts will effectively be deprived of the opportunity to decide on the merits of the case fairly. Besides, courts of justice are devoid of jurisdiction to resolve a question not in issue. Joseph Goyanko, Jr., as administrator of the Estate of Joseph Goyanko, Sr. v. United Coconut Planters Bank, Mango Avenue Branch; G.R. No. 179096. February 6, 2013

Pleadings; amended complaint; nature. Moreover, respondent’s filing of their Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint may not be considered as a circumvention of the rules of procedure. Under Section 8, Rule 10 of the Rules of Court, an amended complaint supersedes an original one. As a consequence, the original complaint is deemed withdrawn and no longer considered part of the record. In the present case, the Amended Complaint is, thus, treated as an entirely new complaint. As such, respondents had every right to move for the dismissal of the said Amended Complaint. Were it not for the filing of the said Motion, respondents would not have been able to file a petition for certiorari before the CA which, in turn, rendered the presently assailed judgment in their favor. Padilla Mercado, Zulueta Mercado, et al. v. Spouses Aguedo Espina and Lourdes Espina; G.R. No. 173987. February 25, 2013

Service of Pleadings; petition should be served on counsel of party; effect of service on party represented by counsel of record; exceptions. Lastly, under our rules of procedure, service of the petition on a party, when the party is represented by a counsel of record, is a patent nullity and is not binding upon the party wrongfully served. This rule, however, is a procedural standard that may admit of exceptions when faced with compelling reasons of substantive justice manifest in the petition and in the surrounding circumstances of the case. Procedural rules can bow to substantive considerations through a liberal construction aimed at promoting their objective of securing a just, speedy, and inexpensive disposition of every action and proceeding. Republic of the Philippines v. Hon. Ramon S. Caguioa, etc., et al.; G.R. No. 174385. February 20, 2013

Special civil action for certiorari (Rule 65); reglementary period. First, we find that the present petition was filed within the reglementary period. Contrary to the private respondents’ position, the 60-day period within which to file the petition for certiorari is counted from the Republic’s receipt of the July 5, 2006 order denying the latter’s motion for reconsideration. Section 4, Rule 65 of the Rules of Court is clear on this point – “In case a motion for reconsideration or new trial is timely filed, whether such motion is required or not, the sixty (60) day period shall be counted from notice of the denial of said motion.Republic of the Philippines v. Hon. Ramon S. Caguioa, etc., et al.; G.R. No. 174385. February 20, 2013

Special civil action for certiorari (Rule 65); requisites. The following requisites must concur for a Petition for Certiorari to prosper, namely:

“(a) The writ is directed against a tribunal, board, or 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.” Salvacion Villanueva, et al. v. Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, etc., et al.; G.R. No. 178347. February 25, 2013

Special Proceedings

Writ of amparo; nature; special proceeding. The remedy of the Writ of Amparo is an equitable and extraordinary remedy to safeguard the right of the people to life, liberty and security as enshrined in the 1987 Constitution. The Rule on the Writ of Amparo was issued as an exercise of the Supreme Court’s power to promulgate rules concerning the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights. It aims to address concerns such as, among others, extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.

x x x

It is clear from this rule that this type of summary procedure only applies to MTC/MTCC/MCTCs. It is mind-boggling how this rule could possibly apply to proceedings in an RTC. Aside from that, this Court limited the application of summary procedure to certain civil and criminal cases. A writ of Amparo is a special proceeding. It is a remedy by which a party seeks to establish a status, a right or particular fact. It is not a civil nor a criminal action, hence, the application of the Revised Rule on Summary Procedure is seriously misplaced. Secretary Leila M. De Lima, Director Nonnatus R. Rojas and Deputy Director Reynaldo O. Esmeralda v. Magtanggol B. Gatdula; G.R. No. 204528. February 19, 2013

Writ of amparo; procedure. Due to the delicate and urgent nature of these controversies, the procedure was devised to afford swift but decisive relief. It is initiated through a petition to be filed in a Regional Trial Court, Sandiganbayan, the Court of Appeals, or the Supreme Court. The judge or justice then makes an “immediate” evaluation of the facts as alleged in the petition and the affidavits submitted “with the attendant circumstances detailed”. After evaluation, the judge has the option to issue the Writ of Amparo or immediately dismiss the case. Dismissal is proper if the petition and the supporting affidavits do not show that the petitioner’s right to lie liberty or security is under threat or the acts complained of are not unlawful. On the other hand, the issuance of the writ itself sets in motion presumptive judicial protection for the petitioner. The court compels the respondents to appear before a court of law to show whether the grounds for more permanent protection and interim relies are necessary.

The respondents are required to file a Return after the issuance of the writ through the clerk of court. The Return serves as the responsive pleading to the petition. Unlike an Answer, the Return has other purposes aside form identifying the issues in the case, Respondents are also required to detail the actions they had taken to determine the fate or whereabouts of the aggrieved party.

If the respondents are public officials or employees, they are also required to state the actions they had taken to: (i) verify the identity of the aggrieved party; (ii) recover and preserve evidence related to the death or disappearance of the person identified in the petition; (iii) identify witnesses and obtain statements concerning the death or disappearance; (iv) determine the cause, manner, location, and time of death or disappearance as well as any patter or practice that may have brought about the death or disappearance; and (v) bring the suspected offenders before a competent court. Clearly these matters are important to the judge so that s/he can calibrate the means and methods that will be required to further the protections, if any, that will be due to the petitioner.

There will be a summary hearing only after the Return is filed to determine the merits of the petition and whether interim reliefs are warranted. If the Return is not filed, the hearing will be done ex parte. After the hearing, the court will render the judgment within ten (10) days from the time the petition is submitted for decision.

If the allegations are proven with substantial evidence, the court shall grant the privilege of the writ and such reliefs as may be proper ans appropriate. The judgment should contain measures which the judge views as essential for the continued protection of the petitioner in the Amparo case. These measures must be detailed enough o that the judge may be able to verify and monitor the actions taken by the respondents. It is this judgment that could be subject to appeal to the Supreme Court via Rule 45. After the measures have served their purpose, the judgment will be satisfied. In Amparo cases, this is when the threats to the petitioner’s life, liberty and security cease to exist as evaluated by the court that renders the judgment. Parenthetically, the case may also be terminated through consolidation should a subsequent case be filed – either criminal or civil. Until the full satisfaction of the judgment, the extraordinary remedy of Amparo allows vigilant judicial monitoring to ensure the protection of constitutional rights. Secretary Leila M. De Lima, Director Nonnatus R. Rojas and Deputy Director Reynaldo O. Esmeralda v. Magtanggol B. Gatdula; G.R. No. 204528. February 19, 2013

Writ of Amparo; writ is an interlocutory order. The “Decision” dated 20 March 2012 assailed by the petitioners could not be the judgment or final order that is appealable under Section 19 of the Rule on the Writ of Amparo. x x x

This “Decision” pertained to the issuance of the writ under Section 6 of the Rule on the Writ of Amparo, not the judgment under Section 18. The “Decision” is thus an interlocutory order, as suggested by the fact that temporary protection, production and inspection orders were given together with the decision. The temporary protection, production and inspection orders are interim reliefs that may be granted by the court upon filing of the petition but before final judgment is rendered. Secretary Leila M. De Lima, Director Nonnatus R. Rojas and Deputy Director Reynaldo O. Esmeralda v. Magtanggol B. Gatdula; G.R. No. 204528. February 19, 2013

Writ of Amparo; the Return is the proper responsive pleading; memorandum is a prohibited pleading. First the insistence on filing an Answer was inappropriate. It is the Return that serves as the responsive pleading for petitions for the issuance of Writs of Amparo. The requirement to file an Answer is contrary to the intention of the Court to provide a speedy remedy to those whose right to life, liberty and security are violated or are threatened to be violated. In utter disregard of the Rule on the Writ of Amparo, Judge Pampilo insisted on issuing summons and requiring an Answer.

x x x

The Return in Amparo cases allows the respondents to frame the issues subject to a hearing. Hence, it should be done prior to the hearing, not after. A memorandum, on the other hand, is a synthesis of the claims of the party litigants and is a final pleading usually required before the case is submitted for decision. One cannot substitute for the other since these submissions have different functions in facilitating the suit.

More importantly, a memorandum is a prohibited pleading under the Rule on the writ of Amparo. Secretary Leila M. De Lima, Director Nonnatus R. Rojas and Deputy Director Reynaldo O. Esmeralda v. Magtanggol B. Gatdula; G.R. No. 204528. February 19, 2013

Writ of Amparo; difference between the privilege of the Writ of Amparo and the actual order called the Writ of Amparo.  The privilege of the Writ of Amparo should be distinguished from the actual order called the Writ of Amparo. The privilege includes the availment of the entire procedure outlined in A.M. No. 07-9-12-SC, the rule on the Writ of Amparo. After examining the petition and its attached affidavits, the Return and the evidence presented in the summary hearing, the judgment should detail the required acts from the respondent that will mitigate, if not totally eradicate, the violation of or threat to the petitioner’s life, liberty or security.

A judgment which simply grants “the privilege of the writ” cannot be executed. It is tantamount to a failure of the judge to intervene and grant judicial succor to the petitioner. Petitions filed to avail of the privilege of the Writ of Amparo arise out of very real and concrete circumstances. Judicial responses cannot be as tragically symbolic or ritualistic as “granting the privilege of the Writ of Amparo.Secretary Leila M. De Lima, Director Nonnatus R. Rojas and Deputy Director Reynaldo O. Esmeralda v. Magtanggol B. Gatdula; G.R. No. 204528. February 19, 2013

Evidence

Administrative proceedings; quantum of proof; substantial evidence. It is well-entrenched that in an administrative proceeding, the quantum of proof required for a finding of guilt is only substantial evidence or such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion and not proof beyond reasonable doubt which requires moral certainty to justify affirmative findings. Office of the Ombudsman v. Rodrigo v. Mapoy and Don Emmanuel R. Regalario; G.R. No. 197299. February 13, 2013]

Civil cases; quantum of proof; preponderance of evidence; evidence of fraud. In civil cases, basic is the rule that the party making allegations has the burden of proving them by a preponderance of evidence. Moreover, parties must rely on the strength of their own evidence, not upon the weakness of the defense offered by their proponent. This principle equally holds true, even if the defendant had not been given the opportunity to present evidence because of a default order. The extent of the relief that may be granted can only be as much as has been alleged and proved with preponderant evidence required under Section 1 of Rule 133 of the Revised Rules of Evidence.

Preponderance of evidence is the weight, credit and value of the aggregate evidence on either side and is usually considered to be synonymous with the term “greater weight of the evidence” or “greater weight of the credible evidence.” Preponderance of evidence is a phrase which, in the last analysis, means probability of the truth. It is evidence which is more convincing to the court as worthier of belief than that which is offered in opposition thereto.

As to fraud, the rule is that he who alleges fraud or mistake affecting a transaction must substantiate his allegation, since it is presumed that a person takes ordinary care of his concerns and that private transactions have been fair and regular. The Court has stressed time and again that allegations must be proven by sufficient evidence because mere allegation is definitely not evidence. Moreover, fraud is not presumed – it must be proved by clear and convincing evidence. Spouses Nilo Ramos and Eliadora Ramos v. Raul Obispo and Far East Bank and Trust Co.; G.R. No. 193804. February 27, 2013

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

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