January 2014 Philippine Supreme Court Rulings on Remedial Law

Here are select January 2014 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on remedial law:

Civil Procedure

Action to annul judgment or final order; jurisdiction. In 1981, the Legislature enacted Batas Pambansa Blg.129 (Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980). Among several innovations of this legislative enactment was the formal establishment of the annulment of a judgment or final order as an action independent from the generic classification of litigations in which the subject matter was not capable of pecuniary estimation, and expressly vested the exclusive original jurisdiction over such action in the CA. The action in which the subject of the litigation was incapable of pecuniary estimation continued to be under the exclusive original jurisdiction of the RTC, which replaced the CFI as the court of general jurisdiction. Since then, the RTC no longer had jurisdiction over an action to annul the judgment of the RTC, eliminating all concerns about judicial stability. To implement this change, the Court introduced a new  procedure to govern the action to annul the judgment of the RTC in the 1997 revision of the Rules of Court under Rule 47, directing in Section 2 thereof that “[t]he annulment may be based only on the grounds of extrinsic fraud and lack of jurisdiction.” Pinausukan Seafood House-Roxas Blvd., Inc. v. Far East Bank and Trust Cp., now Bank of the Philippine Islands, et al., G.R. No. 159926, January 20, 2014.

Action to annul judgment or final order; lack of jurisdiction; types. Lack of jurisdiction on the part of the trial court in rendering the judgment or final order is either lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter or nature of the action, or lack of jurisdiction over the person of the petitioner. The former is a matter of substantive law because statutory law defines the jurisdiction of the courts over the subject matter or nature of the action. The latter is a matter of procedural law, for it involves the service of summons or other process on the petitioner. A judgment or final order issued by the trial court without jurisdiction over the subject matter or nature of the action is always void, and, in the words of Justice Street in Banco Español-Filipino v. Palanca (37 Phil 949 [1918]), “in this sense it may be said to be a lawless thing, which can be treated as an outlaw and slain at sight, or ignored wherever and whenever it exhibits its head.” But the defect of lack of jurisdiction over the person, being a matter of procedural law, may be waived by the party concerned either expressly or impliedly. Pinausukan Seafood House-Roxas Blvd., Inc. v. Far East Bank and Trust Cp., now Bank of the Philippine Islands, et al., G.R. No. 159926, January 20, 2014.

Action to annul judgment or final order; nature. The Court has expounded on the nature of the remedy of annulment of judgment or final order in Dare Adventure Farm Corporation v. Court of Appeals (681 SCRA 580, 586-587 [2012]), viz:

“A petition for annulment of judgment is a remedy in equity so exceptional in nature that it may be availed of only when other remedies are wanting, and only if the judgment, final order or final resolution sought to be annulled was rendered by a court lacking jurisdiction or through extrinsic fraud. Yet, the remedy, being exceptional in character, is not allowed to be so easily and readily abused by parties aggrieved by the final judgments, orders or resolutions. The Court has thus instituted safeguards by limiting the grounds for the annulment to lack of jurisdiction and extrinsic fraud, and by prescribing in Section 1 of Rule 47 of the Rules of Court that the petitioner should show that the ordinary remedies of new trial, appeal, petition for relief or other appropriate remedies are no longer available through no fault of the petitioner. A petition for annulment that ignores or disregards any of the safeguards cannot prosper. x x x”

The objective of the remedy of annulment of judgment or final order is to undo or set aside the judgment or final order, and thereby grant to the petitioner an opportunity to prosecute his cause or to ventilate his defense. If the ground relied upon is lack of jurisdiction, the entire proceedings are set aside without prejudice to the original action being refiled in the proper court. If the judgment or final order or resolution is set aside on the ground of extrinsic fraud, the CA may on motion order the trial court to try the case as if a timely motion for new trial had been granted therein. The remedy is by no means an appeal whereby the correctness of the assailed judgment or final order is in issue; hence, the CA is not called upon to address each error allegedly committed by the trial court. Pinausukan Seafood House-Roxas Blvd., Inc. v. Far East Bank and Trust Cp., now Bank of the Philippine Islands, et al., G.R. No. 159926, January 20, 2014.

Action to annul judgment or final order; prescriptive period. The third requirement sets the time for the filing of the action. The action, if based on extrinsic fraud, must be filed within four years from the discovery of the extrinsic fraud; and if based on lack of jurisdiction, must be brought before it is barred by laches or estoppel. Pinausukan Seafood House-Roxas Blvd., Inc. v. Far East Bank and Trust Cp., now Bank of the Philippine Islands, et al., G.R. No. 159926, January 20, 2014.

Action to annul judgment or final order; requisites. The first requirement prescribes that the remedy is available only when the petitioner can no longer resort to the ordinary remedies of new trial, appeal, petition for relief or other appropriate remedies through no fault of the petitioner. This means that the remedy, although seen as “a last remedy,” is not an alternative to the ordinary remedies of new trial, appeal and petition for relief. The petition must aver, therefore, that the petitioner failed to move for a new trial, or to appeal, or to file a petition for relief without fault on his part. But this requirement to aver is not imposed when the ground for the petition is lack of jurisdiction (whether alleged singly or in combination with extrinsic fraud), simply because the judgment or final order, being void, may be assailed at any time either collaterally or by direct action or by resisting such judgment or final order in any action or proceeding whenever it is invoked, unless the ground of lack of jurisdiction is meanwhile barred by laches.

The second requirement limits the ground for the action of annulment of judgment to either extrinsic fraud or lack of jurisdiction.

Not every kind of fraud justifies the action of annulment of judgment. Only extrinsic fraud does. Fraud is extrinsic, according to Cosmic Lumber Corporation v. Court of Appeals (265 SCRA 168, 180 [1996]), “where the unsuccessful party has been  prevented from exhibiting fully his case, by fraud or deception practiced on him by his opponent, as by keeping him away from court, a false promise of a compromise; or where the defendant never had knowledge of the suit,  being kept in ignorance by the acts of the plaintiff; or where an attorney fraudulently or without authority connives at his defeat; these and similar cases which show that there has never been a real contest in the trial or hearing of the case are reasons for which a new suit may be sustained to set aside and annul the former judgment and open the case for a new and fair hearing.”

The third requirement sets the time for the filing of the action. The action, if based on extrinsic fraud, must be filed within four years from the discovery of the extrinsic fraud; and if based on lack of jurisdiction, must be brought before it is barred by laches or estoppel.

The fourth requirement demands that the petition should be verified, and should allege with particularity the facts and the law relied upon for annulment, as well as those supporting the petitioner’s good and substantial cause of action or defense, as the case may be. The need for particularity cannot be dispensed with because averring the circumstances constituting either fraud or mistake with particularity is a universal requirement in the rules of pleading. The petition is to be filed in seven clearly legible copies, together with sufficient copies corresponding to the number of respondents, and shall contain essential submissions, specifically: (a) the certified true copy of the judgment or final order or resolution, to be attached to the original copy of the petition intended for the court and indicated as such by the petitioner;

(b) the affidavits of witnesses or documents supporting the cause of action or defense; and (c) the sworn certification that the petitioner has not theretofore commenced any other action involving the same issues in the Supreme Court, the CA or the different divisions thereof, or any other tribunal or agency; if there is such other action or proceeding, he must state the status of the same, and if he should thereafter learn that a similar action or proceeding has been filed or is pending before the Supreme Court, the CA, or different divisions thereof, or any other tribunal or agency, he undertakes to promptly inform the said courts and other tribunal or agency thereof within five days therefrom. Pinausukan Seafood House-Roxas Blvd., Inc. v. Far East Bank and Trust Cp., now Bank of the Philippine Islands, et al., G.R. No. 159926, January 20, 2014.

Appeal; trial court’s factual findings as affirmed by CA are binding on appeal. To start with, considering that the Court of Appeals (CA) thereby affirmed the factual findings of the RTC, the Court is bound to uphold such findings, for it is axiomatic that the trial court’s factual findings as affirmed by the CA are binding on appeal due to the Court not being a trier of facts. Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) v. Guariña Agricultural and Realty Development Corporation,G.R. No. 160758. January 15, 2014.

Appeal by certiorari under Rule 45; covers questions of law only; exceptions. The Court has consistently held that as a general rule, a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court covers questions of law only. The rule, however, admits of exceptions, subject to the following exceptions, to wit: (1) when the findings are grounded entirely on speculations, surmises, or conjectures; (2) when the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd, or impossible; (3) when there is a grave abuse of discretion; (4) when the  judgment is based on misappreciation of facts; (5) when the findings of fact are conflicting; (6) when in making its findings, the same are contrary to the admissions of both appellant and appellee; (7) when the findings are contrary to those of the trial court; (8) when the findings are conclusions without citation of specific evidence on which they are based; (9) 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; and (10) when the findings of fact are premised on the supposed absence of evidence and contradicted by the evidence on record. Rodolfo Laborte, et al. v. Pagsanjan Tourism Consumers’ Cooperative, et al.,G.R. No. 183860, January 15, 2014

Appeal by certiorari under Rule 45; effect of failure to file motion for reconsideration within 15-day reglementary period. The Court emphasized that the 15-day period for filing a motion for new trial or reconsideration is non-extendible. Hence, the filing of a motion for extension of time to file a motion for reconsideration did not toll the 15-day period before a judgment becomes final and executory. Rivelisa Realty, Inc., represented by Ricardo P. Venturina v. First Sta. Clara Builders Corporation, represented by Ramon A. Pangilinan, as President,G.R. No. 189618. January 15, 2014.

Appeal by certiorari under Rule 45; factual questions may not be raised. Well entrenched in this jurisdiction is the rule that factual questions may not be raised before this Court in a petition for review on certiorari as this Court is not a trier of facts.

Thus, it is settled that in petitions for review on certiorari, only questions of law may be put in issue. Questions of fact cannot be entertained.

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 issue does not call for an examination of the probative value of the 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.Eastern Shipping Lines, Inc. v. BPI/MS Insurance Corp., and Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Co., Ltd.,G.R. No. 193986, January 15, 2014.

Appeal by certiorari under Rule 45; factual findings of trial court, when affirmed by CA, are binding on Supreme Court. Considering that the factual findings of the trial court, when affirmed by the CA, are binding on the Court, the Court affirms the judgment of the CA upholding Eduardo’s exercise of the right of repurchase. Roberto could no longer assail the factual findings because his petition for review on certiorari was limited to the review and determination of questions of law only. A question of law exists when the doubt centers on what the law is on a certain set of undisputed facts, while a question of fact exists when the doubt centers on the truth or falsity of the alleged facts. Whether the conditions for the right to repurchase were complied with, or whether there was a tender of payment is a question of fact.Roberto R. David, represented by his Attorney-in-Fact Atty. Proceso M. Nacino v. Eduardo C. David, acting through his Attorney-in-Fact Edwin C. David,G.R. No. 162365. January 15, 2014.

Appeal by certiorari under Rule 45; scope of review limited. Anent the correct amount of surety bond, it is well to emphasize that our task in an appeal by petition for review on certiorari is limited, as a jurisdictional matter, to reviewing errors of law that might have been committed by the CA. The allegations of incorrect computation of the surety bond involve factual matters within the competence of the trial court. LZK Holdings and Development Corporation v. Planters Development Bank,G.R. No. 187973, January 20, 2014.

Appeal by certiorari under Rule 45; scope of review. At the outset, it must be pointed out that the petitioners’ assignment of errors calls for the Court to again evaluate the evidence to determine whether there was a partition of the property and whether the 1/3 portion of the southern half was sold to the respondent spouses. These clearly entail questions of fact which are beyond the Court’s ambit of review under Rule. Theresita, Juan, Asuncion, Patrocinia, Ricardo, and Gloria, all surnamed Dimaguila v. Jose and Sonia A. Monteiro,G.R. No. 201011, January 27, 2014.

Ejectment; immediate execution of judgment; requisites for stay. The ruling in Chua v. Court of Appeals (286 SCRA 437, 444-445 [1998]) is instructive on the means of staying the immediate execution of a judgment in an ejectment case, to wit:

 As a general rule, a judgment in favor of the plaintiff in an ejectment suit is immediately executory, in order to prevent further damage to him arising from the loss of possession of the property in question. To stay the immediate execution of the said judgment while the appeal is pending the foregoing provision requires that the following requisites must concur: (1) the defendant perfects his appeal; (2) he files a supersedeas bond; and (3) he periodically deposits the rentals which become due during the pendency of the appeal. The failure of the defendant to comply with any of these conditions is a ground for the outright execution of the judgment, the duty of the court in this respect being “ministerial and imperative.” Hence, if the defendant-appellant perfected the appeal but failed to file a supersedeas bond, the immediate execution of the judgment would automatically follow. Conversely, the filing of a supersedeas bond will not stay the execution of the judgment if the appeal is not perfected. Necessarily then, the supersedeas bond should be filed within the period for the perfection of the appeal.

In short, a judgment in favor of the plaintiff in an ejectment suit is immediately executory, but the defendant, to stay its immediate execution, must: (1) perfect an appeal; (2) file a supersedeas bond; and (3) periodically deposit the rentals becoming due during the pendency of the appeal. Herminia Acbang v. Hon. Jimmy Luczon, Jr., et al.,G.R. No. 164246, January 15, 2014.

Execution; Terceria; when proper. The right of a third-party claimant to file a terceria is founded on his title or right of possession. Corollary thereto, before the court can exercise its supervisory power to direct the release of the property mistakenly levied and the restoration thereof to its rightful owner, the claimant must first unmistakably establish his ownership or right of possession thereon. In Spouses Sy v. Hon. Discaya (260 Phil. 401 [1990]) we declared that for a third-party claim or a terceria to prosper, the claimant must first sufficiently establish his right on the property:

 “[A] third person whose property was seized by a sheriff to answer for the obligation of the judgment debtor may invoke the supervisory power of he court which authorized such execution. Upon due application by the third person and after summary hearing, the court may command that the  property be released from the mistaken levy and restored to the rightful owner or possessor. What said court can do in these instances, however, is limited to a determination of whether the sheriff has acted rightly or wrongly in the performance of his duties in the execution of judgment, more specifically, if he has indeed taken hold of property not belonging to the judgment debtor. The court does not and cannot pass upon the question of title to the property, with any character of finality. It can treat of the matter only insofar as may be necessary to decide if the sheriff has acted correctly or not. It can require the sheriff to restore the property to the claimant’s possession if warranted by the evidence. However, if the claimant’s proofs do not persuade the court of the validity of his title or right of possession thereto, the claim will be denied.”

Magdalena T. Villasi v. Filomena Garcia, substituted by his heirs, namely, Ermelinda H. Garcia, et al.,G.R. No. 190106, January 15, 2014.

Execution of judgments; Immediate execution in Small Claims cases. Section 23 of the Rule of Procedure for Small Claims Cases states that the decision shall immediately be entered by the Clerk of Court in the court docket for civil cases and a copy thereof forthwith served on the parties. A.L. Ang Network, Inc. v. Emma Mondejar, accompanied by her husband, Efren Mondejar,G.R. No. 200804. January 22, 2014.

Execution of judgments; rationale. It is almost trite to say that execution is the fruit and end of the suit. Hailing it as the “life of the law,” ratio legis est anima, this Court has zealously guarded against any attempt to thwart the rigid rule and deny the prevailing litigant his right to savour the fruit of his victory. A judgment, if left unexecuted, would be nothing but an empty triumph for the prevailing party. Magdalena T. Villasi v. Filomena Garcia, substituted by his heirs, namely, Ermelinda H. Garcia, et al.,G.R. No. 190106, January 15, 2014.

Grave abuse of discretion; concept. To be sure, grave abuse of discretion arises when a lower court or tribunal patently violates the Constitution, the law or existing jurisprudence. Here, while the RTC had initially issued a writ of possession in favor of Sps. Marquez, it defied existing jurisprudence when it effectively rescinded the said writ by subsequently granting Sps. Alindog’s prayer for injunctive relief. Spouses Nicasio C. Marquez and Anita J. Marquez v. Spouses Carlito Alindog and Carmen Alindog,G.R. No. 184045. January 22, 2014.

Grave abuse of discretion; concept. It is settled doctrine that there is grave abuse of discretion when there is a capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction, such as where the power is exercised in an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility, and it must be so patent and gross so as to amount to an evasion of positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined or to act at all in contemplation of law. Ralph P. Tua v. Hon. Cesar A. Mangrobang, Presiding Judge, Branch 22, RTC, Imus, Cavite; and Rossan Honrado-Tua,G.R. No. 170701. January 22, 2014.

Judicial power; issuance of protection orders. Section 2 of Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution provides that “the Congress shall have the power to define, prescribe, and apportion the  jurisdiction of the various courts but may not deprive the Supreme Court of its jurisdiction over cases enumerated in Section 5 hereof.” Hence, the primary judge of the necessity, adequacy, wisdom, reasonableness and expediency of any law is primarily the function of the legislature. The act of Congress entrusting us with the issuance of protection orders is in pursuance of our authority to settle justiciable controversies or disputes involving rights that are enforceable and demandable before the courts of justice or the redress of wrongs for violations of such rights. Ralph P. Tua v. Hon. Cesar A. Mangrobang, Presiding Judge, Branch 22, RTC, Imus, Cavite; and Rossan Honrado-Tua, G.R. No. 170701. January 22, 2014.

Judgments; enforceability of money judgments. It is a basic principle of law that money judgments are enforceable only against the property incontrovertibly belonging to the judgment debtor, and if the property belonging to any third person is mistakenly levied upon to answer for another man’s indebtedness, such person has all the right to challenge the levy through any of the remedies provided for under the Rules of Court. Magdalena T. Villasi v. Filomena Garcia, substituted by his heirs, namely, Ermelinda H. Garcia, et al.,G.R. No. 190106, January 15, 2014.

Judgments; Law of the case; concept. Law of the case has been defined as the opinion delivered on a former appeal, and means, more specifically, that whatever is once irrevocably established as the controlling legal rule of decision between the same parties in the same case continues to be the law of the case, whether correct on general principles or not, so long as the facts on which such decision was predicated continue to be the facts of the case before the court.

The doctrine of law of the case simply means, therefore, that when an appellate court has once declared the law in a case, its declaration continues to be the law of that case even on a subsequent appeal, notwithstanding that the rule thus laid down may have been reversed in other cases. For practical considerations, indeed, once the appellate court has issued a pronouncement on a point that was presented to it with full opportunity to be heard having been accorded to the parties, the pronouncement should be regarded as the law of the case and should not be reopened on remand of the case to determine other issues of the case, like damages. But the law of the case, as the name implies, concerns only legal questions or issues thereby adjudicated in the former appeal. Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) v. Guariña Agricultural and Realty Development Corporation,G.R. No. 160758. January 15, 2014.

Judgments; remedies of third person claiming property taken by sheriff. Section 16, Rule 39 specifically provides that a third person may avail himself of the remedies of either terceria, to determine whether the sheriff has rightly or wrongly taken hold of the property not belonging to the  judgment debtor or obligor, or an independent “separate action” to vindicate his claim of ownership and/or possession over the foreclosed property. However, the person other than the judgment debtor who claims ownership or right over levied properties is not precluded from taking other legal remedies to prosecute his claim. Magdalena T. Villasi v. Filomena Garcia, substituted by his heirs, namely, Ermelinda H. Garcia, et al.,G.R. No. 190106, January 15, 2014.

Jurisdiction; concurrence of jurisdiction and hierarchy of courts. To be sure, the Court, the Court of Appeals and the Regional Trial Courts have concurrent jurisdiction to issue a writ of certiorari. Such concurrence of jurisdiction, however, does not give a party unbridled freedom to choose the venue of his action lest he run afoul of the doctrine of hierarchy of courts. Instead, a becoming regard for judicial hierarchy dictates that petitions for the issuance of writs of certiorari against first level courts should be filed with the Regional Trial Court, and those against the latter, with the Court of Appeals, before resort may be had before the Supreme Court. A.L. Ang Network, Inc. v. Emma Mondejar, accompanied by her husband, Efren Mondejar,G.R. No. 200804. January 22, 2014.

Jurisdiction; Justiciable question; definition. The Court clarified, too, that the issue of whether a Deputy Ombudsman may be subjected to the administrative disciplinary jurisdiction of the President (concurrently with that of the Ombudsman) is a justiciable – not a political – question. A justiciable question is one which is inherently susceptible of being decided on grounds recognized by law, as where the court finds that there are constitutionally-imposed limits on the exercise of the powers conferred on a political branch of the government. Emilio A. Gonzales III v. Office of the President, etc., et al./Wendell Bareras-Sulit v. Atty. Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr., et al.,G.R. No. 196231/G.R. No. 196232, January 28, 2014.

Jurisdiction; Small Claims cases. Hence, considering that small claims cases are exclusively within the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts in Cities, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts, certiorari petitions assailing its dispositions should be filed before their corresponding Regional Trial Courts. This petitioner complied with when it instituted its petition for certiorari before the RTC which, as previously mentioned, has jurisdiction over the same. A.L. Ang Network, Inc. v. Emma Mondejar, accompanied by her husband, Efren Mondejar,G.R. No. 200804. January 22, 2014.

Motions; motion to extend time to file motion for reconsideration prohibited in all courts except in the Supreme Court. While a motion for additional time is expressly permitted in the filing of a petition for review before the Court under Section 2, Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, a similar motion seeking to extend the period for filing a motion for reconsideration is prohibited in all other courts. This rule was first laid down in the case of Habaluyas Enterprises v. Japzon (226 Phil. 144 [1986]) wherein it was held that:

 Beginning one month after the promulgation of this Resolution, the rule shall be strictly enforced that no motion for extension of time to file a motion for new trial or reconsideration may be filed with the Metropolitan or Municipal Trial Courts, the Regional Trial Courts, and the Intermediate Appellate Court. Such a motion may be filed only in cases pending with the Supreme Court as the court of last resort, which may in its sound discretion either grant or deny the extension requested.

Rivelisa Realty, Inc., represented by Ricardo P. Venturina v. First Sta. Clara Builders Corporation, represented by Ramon A. Pangilinan, as President,G.R. No. 189618. January 15, 2014.

Motion for reconsideration; effect of non-filing. At the outset, the Court noted that Gonzales and Sulit did not file a motion for reconsideration of the Supreme Court’s September 4, 2012 Decision; only the Office of the President, through the OSG, moved for the reconsideration of our ruling reinstating Gonzales.

This omission, however, poses no obstacle for the Court’s review of its ruling on the whole case since a serious constitutional question has been raised and is one of the underlying bases for the validity or invalidity of the presidential action.

If the President does not have any constitutional authority to discipline a Deputy Ombudsman and/or a Special Prosecutor in the first place, then any ruling on the legal correctness of the OP’s decision on the merits will be an empty one. In other words, since the validity of the OP’s decision on the merits of the dismissal is inextricably anchored on the final and correct ruling on the constitutional issue, the whole case – including the constitutional issue – remains alive for the Court’s consideration on motion for reconsideration. Emilio A. Gonzales III v. Office of the President, etc., et al./Wendell Bareras-Sulit v. Atty. Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr., et al.,G.R. No. 196231/G.R. No. 196232, January 28, 2014.

Pleadings; Defense and objections not pleaded either in motion to dismiss or in answer are deemed waived; exceptions. Significantly, the Rule requires that such a motion should be filed “within the time for but before filing the answer to the complaint or pleading asserting a claim.” The time frame indicates that thereafter, the motion to dismiss based on the absence of the condition precedent is barred. It is so inferable from the opening sentence of Section 1 of Rule 9 stating that defense and objections not pleaded either in a motion to dismiss or in the answer are deemed waived. There are, as just noted, only four exceptions to this Rule, namely, lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter; litis pendentia; res judicata; and prescription of action. Failure to allege in the complaint that earnest efforts at a compromise has been made but had failed is not one of the exceptions.Heirs of Dr. Mariano Favis, Sr., represented by their co-heirs and attorneys-in-fact, Mercedes A. Favis and Nelly Favis-Villafuente v. Juana Gonzales, her son Mariano Favis, all minors represented herein by their parents, Sps. Mariano Favis and Larcelita D. Favis,G.R. No. 185922, January 15, 2014.

Pleadings; Failure to allege compromise efforts in complaint not jurisdictional defect. Why the objection of failure to allege a failed attempt at a compromise in a suit among members of the same family is waivable was earlier explained in the case of Versoza v. Versoza (135 Phil. 84, 94 [1968]), a case for future support which was dismissed by the trial court upon the ground that there was no such allegation of infringement of Article 222 of the Civil Code, the origin of Article 151 of the Family Code. While the Court ruled that a complaint for future support cannot be the subject of a compromise and as such the absence of the required allegation in the complaint cannot be a ground for objection against the suit, the decision went on to state thus:

 The alleged defect is that the present complaint does not state a cause of action. The proposed amendment seeks to complete it. An amendment to the effect that the requirements of Article 222 have been complied with does not confer jurisdiction upon the lower court. With or without this amendment, the subject-matter of the action remains as one for support, custody of children, and damages, cognizable by the court below.

To illustrate, Tamayo v. San Miguel Brewery, Inc., allowed an amendment which “merely corrected a defect in the allegation of plaintiff-appellant’s cause of action, because as it then stood, the original complaint stated no cause of action.” We there ruled out as inapplicable the holding in Campos Rueda Corporation v. Bautista, that an amendment cannot be made so as to confer jurisdiction on the court x x x

Therefore, the rule on deemed waiver of the non-jurisdictional defense or objection is wholly applicable to respondent. If the respondents as parties-defendants could not, and did not, after filing their answer to petitioner’s complaint, invoke the objection of absence of the required allegation on earnest efforts at a compromise, the appellate court unquestionably did not have any authority or basis to muto proprio order the dismissal of petitioner’s complaint. Heirs of Dr. Mariano Favis, Sr., represented by their co-heirs and attorneys-in-fact, Mercedes A. Favis and Nelly Favis-Villafuente v. Juana Gonzales, her son Mariano Favis, all minors represented herein by their parents, Sps. Mariano Favis and Larcelita D. Favis,G.R. No. 185922, January 15, 2014.

 Pleadings; motu proprio dismissal. Section 1, Rule 9 provides for only four instances when the court may motu proprio dismiss the claim, namely: (a) lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter; (b) litis pendentia; (c) res judicata; and (d) prescription of action.

Specifically in Gumabon v. Larin (422 Phil. 222, 230 [2001]), cited in Katon v. Palanca,  Jr. (481 Phil. 168, 180 [2004]), the Court held:

 “x x x [T]he muto proprio dismissal of a case was traditionally limited to instances when the court clearly had no jurisdiction over the subject matter and when the plaintiff did not appear during trial, failed to prosecute his action for an unreasonable length of time or neglected to comply with the rules or with any order of the court. Outside of these instances, any motu proprio [sic] dismissal would amount to a violation of the right of the plaintiff to  be heard. Except for qualifying and expanding Section 2, Rule 9, and Section 3, Rule 17, of the Revised Rules of Court, the amendatory 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure brought about no radical change. Under the new rules, a court may muto proprio dismiss a claim when it appears from the pleadings or evidence on record that it has no jurisdiction over the subject matter; when there is another cause of action pending between the same parties for the same cause, or where the action is barred by a prior judgment or by statute of limitations. x x x.”

Heirs of Dr. Mariano Favis, Sr., represented by their co-heirs and attorneys-in-fact, Mercedes A. Favis and Nelly Favis-Villafuente v. Juana Gonzales, her son Mariano Favis, all minors represented herein by their parents, Sps. Mariano Favis and Larcelita D. Favis,G.R. No. 185922, January 15, 2014.

Preliminary injunction; improper where act sought to be enjoined is already consummated. Case law instructs that injunction would not lie where the acts sought to be enjoined had already become fait accompli (meaning, an accomplished or consummated act). Hence, since the consummation of the act sought to be restrained had rendered Sps. Alindogs injunction petition moot, the issuance of the said injunctive writ was altogether improper. Spouses Nicasio C. Marquez and Anita J. Marquez v. Spouses Carlito Alindog and Carmen Alindog,G.R. No. 184045. January 22, 2014.

Res judicata; conclusiveness of judgment. Under the principle of conclusiveness of judgment, the right of Planters Bank to a writ of possession as adjudged in G.R. No. 167998 is binding and conclusive on the parties.

The doctrine of res judicata by conclusiveness of judgment postulates that 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.

All the elements of the doctrine are present in this case. The final judgment in G.R. No. 167998 was rendered by the Court pursuant to its jurisdiction over the review of decisions and rulings of the CA. It was a judgment on the merits of Planters Bank’s right to apply for and be issued a writ of possession. Lastly, the parties in G.R. No. 167998 are the same parties involved in the present case. LZK Holdings and Development Corporation v. Planters Development Bank,G.R. No. 187973, January 20, 2014.

Writ of possession; nature. No hearing is required prior to the issuance of a writ of possession. This is clear from the following disquisitions in Espinoza v United Overseas Bank Phils. (616 SCRA 353) which reiterates the settled rules on writs of possession, to wit:

The proceeding in a petition for a writ of possession is ex parte and summary in nature. It is a judicial proceeding brought for the benefit of one party only and without notice by the court to any person adverse of interest. It is a proceeding wherein relief is granted without giving the person against whom the relief is sought an opportunity to be heard. By its very nature, an ex parte petition for issuance of a writ of possession is a non-litigious proceeding. It is a judicial proceeding for the enforcement of one’s right of possession as purchaser in a foreclosure sale. It is not an ordinary suit filed in court, by which one party sues another for the enforcement of a wrong or protection of a right, or the prevention or redress of a wrong. LZK Holdings and Development Corporation v. Planters Development Bank,G.R. No. 187973, January 20, 2014

Other Proceedings

Barangay Protection Order (BPO); Function of Punong Barangay purely executive in nature. The issuance of a BPO by the Punong Barangay or, in his unavailability, by any available Barangay Kagawad, merely orders the perpetrator to desist from (a) causing physical harm to the woman or her child; and (2) threatening to cause the woman or her child physical harm. Such function of the Punong Barangay is, thus, purely executive in nature, in pursuance of his duty under the Local Government Code to “enforce all laws and ordinances,” and to “maintain public order in the barangay.” Ralph P. Tua v. Hon. Cesar A. Mangrobang, Presiding Judge, Branch 22, RTC, Imus, Cavite; and Rossan Honrado-Tua, G.R. No. 170701. January 22, 2014.

Extra-judicial foreclosure; ministerial duty to issue writ of possession to purchaser; exception. It is an established rule that the purchaser in an extra-judicial foreclosure sale is entitled to the possession of the property and can demand that he be placed in possession of the same either during (with bond) or after the expiration (without bond) of the redemption period therefor. To this end, the Court, in China Banking Corp. v. Sps. Lozada (579 Phil 454 [2008]), citing several cases on the matter, explained that a writ of possession duly applied for by said purchaser should issue as a matter of course, and thus, merely constitutes a ministerial duty on the part of the court.

The ministerial issuance of a writ of possession in favor of the purchaser in an extra-judicial foreclosure sale, however, admits of an exception. Section 33, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court (Rules) pertinently provides that the possession of the mortgaged property may be awarded to a purchaser in an extra-judicial foreclosure unless a third party is actually holding the property by adverse title or right. In the recent case of Rural  Bank of Sta. Barbara (Iloilo), Inc. v. Centeno (693 SCRA 110 [2013]), citing the case of China  Banking Corp., the Court illumined that “the phrase ‘a third party who is actually holding the property adversely to the judgment obligor’ contemplates a situation in which a third party holds the property by adverse title or right, such as that of a co-owner, tenant or usufructuary. The co-owner, agricultural tenant, and usufructuary possess the property in their own right, and they are not merely the successor or transferee of the right of possession of another co-owner or the owner of the property. Notably, the property should not only be possessed by a third party, but also held by the third party adversely to the judgment obligor.” In other words, as mentioned in Villanueva v. Cherdan Lending Investors Corporation (633 SCRA 173 [2010]), the third person must therefore claim a right superior to that of the original mortgagor. Spouses Nicasio C. Marquez and Anita J. Marquez v. Spouses Carlito Alindog and Carmen Alindog, G.R. No. 184045. January 22, 2014.

Protection Order under Section 15 of RA 9262; concept. In Garcia v. Drilon (699 SCRA 352, 401 [2013]), wherein petitioner therein argued that Section 15 of RA 9262 is a violation of the due process clause of the Constitution, we struck down the challenge and held:

A protection order is an order issued to prevent further acts of violence against women and their children, their family or household members, and to grant other necessary reliefs. Its purpose is to safeguard the offended parties from further harm, minimize any disruption in their daily life and facilitate the opportunity and ability to regain control of their life. The scope of reliefs in protection orders is broadened to ensure that the victim or offended party is afforded all the remedies necessary to curtail access by a perpetrator to the victim. This serves to safeguard the victim from greater risk of violence; to accord the victim and any designated family or household member safety in the family residence, and to prevent the perpetrator from committing acts that jeopardize the employment and support of the victim. It also enables the court to award temporary custody of minor children to protect the children from violence, to prevent their abduction by the perpetrator and to ensure their financial support. The rules require that petitions for protection order be in writing, signed and verified by the petitioner thereby undertaking full responsibility, criminal or civil, for every allegation therein. Since “time is of the essence in cases of VAWC if further violence is to be prevented,” the court is authorized to issue ex parte a TPO after raffle but before notice and hearing when the life, limb or property of the victim is in  jeopardy and there is reasonable ground to believe that the order is necessary to protect the victim from the immediate and imminent danger of VAWC or to prevent such violence, which is about to recur. There need not be any fear that the judge may have no rational  basis to issue an ex parte order. The victim is required not only to verify the allegations in the petition, but also to attach her witnesses’ affidavits to the petition. The grant of a TPO ex parte cannot, therefore, be challenged as violative of the right to due process. Just like a writ of preliminary attachment which is issued without notice and hearing because the time in which the hearing will take could be enough to enable the defendant to abscond or dispose of his property, in the same way, the victim of VAWC may already have suffered harrowing experiences in the hands of her tormentor, and possibly even death, if notice and hearing were required  before such acts could be prevented. It is a constitutional commonplace that the ordinary requirements of procedural due process must yield to the necessities of protecting vital public interests, among which is protection of women and children from violence and threats to their personal safety and security. x x x

Ralph P. Tua v. Hon. Cesar A. Mangrobang, Presiding Judge, Branch 22, RTC, Imus, Cavite; and Rossan Honrado-Tua,G.R. No. 170701. January 22, 2014.

Temporary Protection Order (TPO) under Section 15 of RA 9262; court’s authority to issue ex parte. Clearly, the court, under Section 15 of RA 9262, is authorized to issue a TPO on the date of the filing of the application after ex parte determination that there is basis for the issuance thereof. Ex parte means that the respondent need not be notified or be present in the hearing for the issuance of the TPO. Thus, it is within the court’s discretion, based on the petition and the affidavit attached thereto, to determine that the violent acts against women and their children for the issuance of a TPO have been committed. Ralph P. Tua v. Hon. Cesar A. Mangrobang, Presiding Judge, Branch 22, RTC, Imus, Cavite; and Rossan Honrado-Tua,G.R. No. 170701. January 22, 2014.

Evidence

Admissions; contradiction. Section 4 of Rule 129 of the Rules of Court provides that an admission made by a party in the course of the proceedings in the same case does not require proof, and may be contradicted only by showing that it was made through palpable mistake. The petitioners argue that such admission was the palpable mistake of their former counsel in his rush to file the answer, a copy of which was not provided to them. This contention is unacceptable. It is a purely self-serving claim unsupported by any iota of evidence. Bare allegations, unsubstantiated by evidence, are not equivalent to proof. Theresita, Juan, Asuncion, Patrocinia, Ricardo, and Gloria, all surnamed Dimaguila v. Jose and Sonia A. Monteiro,G.R. No. 201011, January 27, 2014.

Admissions; rendered conclusive through estoppel. Article 1431 of the Civil Code provides that through estoppel, an admission is rendered conclusive upon the person making it, and cannot be denied or disproved as against the person relying thereon. The respondent spouses had clearly relied on the petitioners’ admission and so amended their original complaint for partition to one for recovery of possession of a portion of the subject property. Thus, the petitioners are now estopped from denying or attempting to prove that there was no partition of the property. Theresita, Juan, Asuncion, Patrocinia, Ricardo, and Gloria, all surnamed Dimaguila v. Jose and Sonia A. Monteiro,G.R. No. 201011, January 27, 2014.

Best evidence rule; concept and exception. Section 3(d) of Rule 130 of the Rules of Court provides that when the subject of inquiry is the contents of a document, no evidence shall be admissible other than the original document itself, except when the original is a public record in the custody of a public officer or is recorded in a public office. Section 7 of the same Rule provides that when the original of a document is in the custody of a public officer or is recorded in a public office, its contents may be proved by a certified copy issued by the public officer in custody thereof. Section 24 of Rule 132 provides that the record of public documents may be evidenced by a copy attested by the officer having the legal custody or the record.

Certified true copies of the cadastral map of Liliw and the corresponding list of claimants of the area covered by the map were presented by two public officers. x x x The cadastral maps and the list of claimants, as certified true copies of original public records, fall under the exception to the best evidence rule. Theresita, Juan, Asuncion, Patrocinia, Ricardo, and Gloria, all surnamed Dimaguila v. Jose and Sonia A. Monteiro, G.R. No. 201011, January 27, 2014.

Burden of proof in civil cases; quantum of evidence. Land Bank failed to prove that the amount allegedly “miscredited” to Oñate’s account came from the proceeds of the pre-terminated loans of its clients. It is worth emphasizing that in civil cases, the party making the allegations has the burden of proving them by preponderance of evidence. Mere allegation is not sufficient. Land Bank of the Philippines v. Emmanuel C. Oñate,G.R. No. 192371, January 15, 2014.

Hearsay rule; entries in official records as exception. As to the hearsay rule, Section 44 of Rule 130 of the Rules of Court similarly provides that entries in official records are an exception to the rule. The rule provides that entries in official records made in the performance of the duty of a public officer of the Philippines, or by a person in the performance of a duty specially enjoined by law, are prima facie evidence of the facts therein stated. The necessity of this rule consists in the inconvenience and difficulty of requiring the official’s attendance as a witness to testify to the innumerable transactions in the course of his duty. The document’s trustworthiness consists in the presumption of regularity of performance of official duty.

Cadastral maps are the output of cadastral surveys. The DENR is the department tasked to execute, supervise and manage the conduct of cadastral surveys. It is, therefore, clear that the cadastral map and the corresponding list of claimants qualify as entries in official records as they were prepared by the DENR, as mandated by law. As such, they are exceptions to the hearsay rule and are prima facie evidence of the facts stated therein. Theresita, Juan, Asuncion, Patrocinia, Ricardo, and Gloria, all surnamed Dimaguila v. Jose and Sonia A. Monteiro,G.R. No. 201011, January 27, 2014.

Judicial notice; discretionary notice of records of other cases. The taking of judicial notice is a matter of expediency and convenience for it fulfills the purpose that the evidence is intended to achieve, and in this sense, it is equivalent to proof. Generally, courts are not authorized to “take judicial notice of the contents of the records of other cases even when said cases have been tried or are pending in the same court or before the same judge.” They may, however, take judicial notice of a decision or the facts prevailing in another case sitting in the same court if: (1) the parties present them in evidence, absent any opposition from the other party; or (2) the court, in its discretion, resolves to do so. In either case, the courts must observe the clear boundary provided by Section 3, Rule 129 of the Rules of Court. Land Bank of the Philippines v. Yatco Agricultural Enterprises,G.R. No. 172551, January 15, 2014.

 Offer of evidence; court considers evidence only when formally offered; exceptions. Section 34, Rule 132 of the Revised Rules on Evidence provides the general rule, to wit:

 Section 34. The Court shall consider no evidence which has not been formally offered. The purpose for which the evidence is offered must be specified.

From the above provision, it is clear that the court considers the evidence only when it is formally offered. The offer of evidence is necessary because it is the duty of the trial court to base its findings of fact and its judgment only and strictly on the evidence offered by the parties. A piece of document will remain a scrap of paper without probative value unless and until admitted by the court in evidence for the purpose or purposes for which it is offered. The formal offer of evidence allows the parties the chance to object to the presentation of an evidence which may not  be admissible for the purpose it is being offered.

However, there are instances when the Court relaxed the foregoing rule and allowed evidence not formally offered to be admitted. Citing People v. Napat-a and People. v. Mate the Court in Heirs of Romana Saves, et al., v. Heirs of Escolastico Saves, et al. (632 SCRA 236 [2010]), enumerated the requirements for the evidence to be considered despite failure to formally offer it, namely: “first, the same must have been duly identified by testimony duly recorded and, second, the same must have been incorporated in the records of the case.” In People v. Vivencio De Roxas et al. (116 Phil 977 [1962]), the Court also considered exhibits which were not formally offered by the prosecution but were repeatedly referred to in the course of the trial by the counsel of the accused.

In the instant case, the Court finds that the above requisites are attendant to warrant the relaxation of the rule and admit the evidence of the petitioners not formally offered. As can be seen in the records of the case, the petitioners were able to present evidence that have been duly identified by testimony duly recorded. To identify is to prove the identity of a person or a thing. Identification means proof of identity; the proving that a person, subject or article before the court is the very same that he or it is alleged, charged or reputed to be. Rodolfo Laborte, et al. v. Pagsanjan Tourism Consumers’ Cooperative, et al.,G.R. No. 183860, January 15, 2014.

Preponderance of evidence; definition. Spouses Monteiro, as plaintiffs in the original case, had the burden of proof to establish their case by a preponderance of evidence, which is the weight, credit, and value of the aggregate evidence on either side, synonymous with the term “greater weight of the evidence.” Preponderance of evidence is evidence which is more convincing to the court as worthy of belief than that which is offered in opposition thereto. Theresita, Juan, Asuncion, Patrocinia, Ricardo, and Gloria, all surnamed Dimaguila v. Jose and Sonia A. Monteiro,G.R. No. 201011, January 27, 2014.

Question of law distinguished from question of fact. 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 issue does not call for an examination of the probative value of the 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.Eastern Shipping Lines, Inc. v. BPI/MS Insurance Corp., and Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Co., Ltd.,G.R. No. 193986, January 15, 2014.

Question of law distinguished from question of fact.  A question of law exists when the doubt centers on what the law is on a certain set of undisputed facts, while a question of fact exists when the doubt centers on the truth or falsity of the alleged facts. Whether the conditions for the right to repurchase were complied with, or whether there was a tender of payment is a question of fact.Roberto R. David, represented by his Attorney-in-Fact Atty. Proceso M. Nacino v. Eduardo C. David, acting through his Attorney-in-Fact Edwin C. David,G.R. No. 162365. January 15, 2014.

The invaluable help of Mark Xavier D. Oyales in the preparation of this post is gratefully acknowledged.

 

 

 

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