Here are select March 2014 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on civil law:
Action for quieting of title; trial court had no jurisdiction to determine who among the parties have better right over the disputed property which is admittedly still part of the public domain. Having established that the disputed property is public land, the trial court was therefore correct in dismissing the complaint to quiet title for lack of jurisdiction. The trial court had no jurisdiction to determine who among the parties have better right over the disputed property which is admittedly still part of the public domain. As held in Dajunos v. Tandayag (G.R. Nos. L-32651-52, 31 August 1971, 40 SCRA 449):
x x x The Tarucs’ action was for “quieting of title” and necessitated determination of the respective rights of the litigants, both claimants to a free patent title, over a piece of property, admittedly public land. The law, administration, disposition and alienation of public lands with the Director of Lands subject, of course, to the control of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
In sum, the decision rendered in Civil Case No. 1218 on October 28, 1968 is a patent nullity. The lower court did not have power to determine who (the Firmalos or the Tarucs) were entitled to an award of free patent title over that piece of property that yet belonged to the public domain. Neither did it have power to adjudge the Tarucs as entitled to the “true equitable ownership” thereof, the latter’s effect being the same: the exclusion of the Firmalos in favor of the Tarucs. Heirs of Pacifico Pocido, et al. v. Arsenia Avila and Emelinda Chua, G.R. No. 199146, March 19, 2014.
Action for quieting of title. In an action for quieting of title, the complainant is seeking for “an adjudication that a claim of title or interest in property adverse to the claimant is invalid, to free him from the danger of hostile claim, and to remove a cloud upon or quiet title to land where stale or unenforceable claims or demands exist.” Heirs of Pacifico Pocido, et al. v. Arsenia Avila and Emelinda Chua, G.R. No. 199146, March 19, 2014.
Action for quieting of title; two indispensable requisites. Under Articles 476 and 477 of the Civil Code, the two indispensable requisites in an action to quiet title are: (1) that the plaintiff has a legal or equitable title to or interest in the real property subject of the action; and (2) that there is a cloud on his title by reason of any instrument, record, deed, claim, encumbrance or proceeding, which must be shown to be in fact invalid or inoperative despite its prima facie appearance of validity. Heirs of Pacifico Pocido, et al. v. Arsenia Avila and Emelinda Chua, G.R. No. 199146, March 19, 2014.
Co-ownership; Article 493 of the Civil Code; rights of a co-owner of a certain property; each one of the co-owners with full ownership of their parts can sell their fully owned part. Article 493 of the Code defines the ownership of the co-owner, clearly establishing that each co-owner shall have full ownership of his part and of its fruits and benefits. Pertinent to this case, Article 493 dictates that each one of the parties herein as co-owners with full ownership of their parts can sell their fully owned part. The sale by the petitioners of their parts shall not affect the full ownership by the respondents of the part that belongs to them. Their part which petitioners will sell shall be that which may be apportioned to them in the division upon the termination of the co-ownership. With the full ownership of the respondents remaining unaffected by petitioners’ sale of their parts, the nature of the property, as co-owned, likewise stays. In lieu of the petitioners, their vendees shall be co-owners with the respondents. The text of Article 493 says so. Raul V. Arambulo and Teresita Dela Cruz v. Genaro Nolasco and Jeremy Spencer Nolasco, G.R. No. 189420, March 26, 2014.
Co-ownership; Article 494 of the Civil Code; partition. Article 494 of the Civil Code provides that no co-owner shall be obliged to remain in the co-ownership, and that each co-owner may demand at any time partition of the thing owned in common insofar as his share is concerned. Raul V. Arambulo and Teresita Dela Cruz v. Genaro Nolasco and Jeremy Spencer Nolasco, G.R. No. 189420, March 26, 2014.
Co-ownership; Article 498 of the Civil Code; when this may be resorted to. Article 498 of the Civil Code states that whenever the thing is essentially indivisible and the co-owners cannot agree that it be allotted to one of them who shall indemnify the others, it shall be sold and its proceeds accordingly distributed. This is resorted to (a) when the right to partition the property is invoked by any of the co-owners but because of the nature of the property, it cannot be subdivided or its subdivision would prejudice the interests of the co-owners, and (b) the co-owners are not in agreement as to who among them shall be allotted or assigned the entire property upon proper reimbursement of the co-owners. Raul V. Arambulo and Teresita Dela Cruz v. Genaro Nolasco and Jeremy Spencer Nolasco, G.R. No. 189420, March 26, 2014.
Damages; actual or compensatory damages. Article 2199 of the Civil Code states that “[e]xcept as provided by law or by stipulation, one is entitled to an adequate compensation only for such pecuniary loss suffered by him a he has duly proved. Such compensation is referred to as actual or compensatory damages.” “Actual damages are compensation for an injury that will put the injured party in the position where it was before the injury. They pertain to such injuries or losses that are actually sustained and susceptible of measurement. Except as provided by law or by stipulation, a party is entitled to adequate compensation only for such pecuniary loss as is duly proven. Basic is the rule that to recover actual damages, not only must the amount of loss be capable of proof; it must also be actually proven with a reasonable degree of certainty, premised upon competent proof or the best evidence obtainable.” International Container Terminal Services, Inc. v. Celeste M. Chua, G.R. No. 195031, March 26, 2014.
Damages; Attorney’s fees; when allowed. Article 2208 of the Civil Code does not prohibit recovery of attorney’s fees if there is a stipulation in the contract for payment of the same. Thus, in Asian Construction and Development Corporation v. Cathay Pacific SteelCorporation (CAPASCO), the Court, citing Titan ConstructionCorporation v. Uni-Field Enterprises, Inc., noted that the law allows a party to recover attorney’s fees under a written agreement. In Barons Marketing Corporation v. Court of Appeals, the Court ruled that attorney’s fees are in the nature of liquidated damages and the stipulation therefor is aptly called a penal clause. It has been said that so long as such stipulation does not contravene law, morals, or public order, it is strictly binding upon defendant. The attorney’s fees so provided areawarded in favor of the litigant, not his counsel.On the other hand, the law also allows parties to a contract tostipulate on liquidated damages to be paid in case of breach. A stipulationon liquidated damages is a penalty clause where the obligor assumes agreater liability in case of breach of an obligation. The obligor is bound topay the stipulated amount without need for proof on the existence and onthe measure of damages caused by the breach. However, even if such attorney’s fees are allowed by law, the courts still have the power to reduce the same if it is unreasonable. Mariano Lim v. Security Bank Corporation,G.R. No. 188539, March 12, 2014.
Damages; Attorney’s fees; when proper. An award of attorney’s fees has always been the exception rather than the rule and there must be some compelling legal reason to bring the case within the exception and justify the award. In this case, none of the exceptions applies. “Attorney’s fees are not awarded every time a party prevails in a suit. The policy of the Court is that no premium should be placed on the right to litigate.” “Even when a claimant is compelled to litigate with third persons or to incur expenses to protect his rights, still, attorney’s fees may not be awarded where no sufficient showing of bad faith could be reflected in a party’s persistence in a case other than an erroneous conviction of the righteousness of his cause.” International Container Terminal Services, Inc. v. Celeste M. Chua, G.R. No. 195031, March 26, 2014.
Damages; moral damages. Certainly, an award of moral damages must be anchored on a clear showing that the party claiming the same actually experienced mental anguish, besmirched reputation, sleepless nights, wounded feelings, or similar injury. In the case herein under consideration, the records are bereft of any proof that respondent in fact suffered moral damages as contemplated in the afore-quoted provision of the Civil Code. The ruling of the trial court provides simply that: “[Petitioner’s] outright denial and unjust refusal to heed [respondent’s] claim for payment of the value of her lost/damaged shipment caus[ed] the latter to suffer serious anxiety, mental anguish and wounded feelings warranting the award of moral damages x x x.” The testimony of respondent, on the other hand, merely states that when she failed to recover damages from petitioner, she “was saddened, had sleepless nights and anxiety” without providing specific details of the suffering she allegedly went through. “Since an award of moral damages is predicated on a categorical showing by the claimant that she actually experienced emotional and mental sufferings, it must be disallowed absent any evidence thereon.” International Container Terminal Services, Inc. v. Celeste M. Chua, G.R. No. 195031, March 26, 2014.
Damages; Nominal damages; when awarded; Network Bank did not violate any of Baric’s rights.Nominal damages are recoverable where a legal right is technically violated and must be vindicated against an invasion that has produced no actual present loss of any kind or where there has been a breach of contract and no substantial injury or actual damages whatsoever have been or can be shown.
Under Article 2221 of the Civil Code, nominal damages may be awarded to a plaintiff whose right has been violated or invaded by the defendant, for the purpose of vindicating or recognizing that right, not for indemnifying the plaintiff for any loss suffered. Nominal damages are not for indemnification of loss suffered but for the vindication or recognition of a right violated or invaded.
Network Bank did not violate any of Baric’s rights; it was merely a purchaser or transferee of the property. Surely, it is not prohibited from acquiring the property even while the forcible entry case was pending, because as the registered owner of the subject property, Palado may transfer his title at any time and the lease merely follows the property as a lien or encumbrance. Any invasion or violation of Baric’s rights as lessee was committed solely by Palado, and Network Bank may not be implicated or found guilty unless it actually took part in the commission of illegal acts, which does not appear to be so from the evidence on record. On the contrary, it appears that Barie was ousted through Palado’s acts even before Network Bank acquired the subject property or came into the picture. Thus, it was error to hold the bank liable for nominal damages. One Network Rural Bank, Inc. v. Danilo G. Baric,G.R. No. 193684, March 5, 2014.
Damages; Temperate damages. In the absence of competent proof on the amount of actual damages suffered, a party is entitled to receive temperate damages. Article 2224 of the New Civil Code provides that: “Temperate or moderate damages, which are more than nominal but less than compensatory damages, may be recovered when the court finds that some pecuniary loss has been suffered but its amount cannot, from the nature of the case, be proved with certainty.” The amount thereof is usually left to the sound discretion of the courts but the same should be reasonable, bearing in mind that temperate damages should be “more than nominal but less than compensatory.” International Container Terminal Services, Inc. v. Celeste M. Chua, G.R. No. 195031, March 26, 2014.
Fraud; concept of; Article 1338 of the Civil Code. According to Article 1338 of the Civil Code, there is fraud when one of the contracting parties, through insidious words or machinations, induces the other to enter into the contract that, without the inducement, he would not have agreed to. Yet, fraud, to vitiate consent, must be the causal (dolo causante), not merely the incidental (dolo incidente), inducement to the making of the contract. In Samson v. Court of Appeals (G.R. No. 108245, November 25, 1994, 238 SCRA 397), causal fraud is defined as “a deception employed by one party prior to or simultaneous to the contract in order to secure the consent of the other.”
Fraud cannot be presumed but must be proved by clear and convincing evidence. Whoever alleges fraud affecting a transaction must substantiate his allegation, because a person is always presumed to take ordinary care of his concerns, and private transactions are similarly presumed to have been fair and regular. To be remembered is that mere allegation is definitely not evidence; hence, it must be proved by sufficient evidence. Metropolitan Fabrics, Inc., et al. v. Prosperity Credit Resources, Inc. et al., G.R. No. 154390, March 17, 2014.
Fraud; Article 1390, in relation to Article 1391 of the Civil Code; consent obtained through fraud; action for annulment; prescriptive period. Article 1390, in relation to Article 1391 of the Civil Code, provides that if the consent of the contracting parties was obtained through fraud, the contract is considered voidable and may be annulled within four years from the time of the discovery of the fraud. Metropolitan Fabrics, Inc., et al. v. Prosperity Credit Resources, Inc. et al., G.R. No. 154390, March 17, 2014.
Mortgage; a higher degree of prudence must be exercised by the mortgagee in cases where he does not directly deal with the registered owner of real property. In Bank of Commerce v. Spouses San Pablo, Jr. (550 Phil. 805, 821 (2007)), the court declared that a mortgagee has a right to rely in good faith on the certificate of title of the mortgagor of the property offered as security, and in the absence of any sign that might arouse suspicion, the mortgagee has no obligation to undertake further investigation.
However, in Bank of Commerce v. Spouses San Pablo, Jr. (550 Phil. 805, 821 (2007)), the court also ruled that “[i]n cases where the mortgagee does not directly deal with the registered owner of real property, the law requires that a higher degree of prudence be exercised by the mortgagee.” Specifically, the court cited Abad v. Sps. Guimba (503 Phil. 321, 331-332 (2005)), where it held,
“x x x While one who buys from the registered owner does not need to look behind the certificate of title, one who buys from one who is not the registered owner is expected to examine not only the certificate of title but all factual circumstances necessary for [one] to determine if there are any flaws in the title of the transferor, or in [the] capacity to transfer the land.”
Although the instant case does not involve a sale but only a mortgage, the same rule applies inasmuch as the law itself includes a mortgagee in the term “purchaser.”
Thus, where the mortgagor is not the registered owner of the property but is merely an attorney-in-fact of the same, it is incumbent upon the mortgagee to exercise greater care and a higher degree of prudence in dealing with such mortgagor. Macaria Arguelles and the Heirs of the Deceased Petronio Arguelles v. Malarayat Rural Bank, Inc., G.R. No. 200468, March 19, 2014.
Mortgage; banks are enjoined to exert a higher degree of diligence, care, and prudence than individuals in handling real estate transactions; it cannot rely merely on the certificate of title. In Ursal v. Court of Appeals (509 Phil. 628, 642 (2005)), the court held that where the mortgagee is a bank, it cannot rely merely on the certificate of title offered by the mortgagor in ascertaining the status of mortgaged properties. Since its business is impressed with public interest, the mortgagee-bank is duty-bound to be more cautious even in dealing with registered lands. Indeed, the rule that person dealing with registered lands can rely solely on the certificate of title does not apply to banks. Thus, before approving a loan application, it is a standard operating practice for these institutions to conduct an ocular inspection of the property offered for mortgage and to verify the genuineness of the title to determine the real owners thereof. The apparent purpose of an ocular inspection is to protect the “true owner” of the property as well as innocent third parties with a right, interest or claim thereon from a usurper who may have acquired a fraudulent certificate of title thereto. Macaria Arguelles and the Heirs of the Deceased Petronio Arguelles v. Malarayat Rural Bank, Inc., G.R. No. 200468, March 19, 2014.
- Negligence, the Court said in Layugan v. Intermediate Appellate Court (G.R. No. L-73998, November 14, 1988), is “the omission to do something which a reasonable man, guided by those considerations which ordinarily regulate the conduct of human affairs, would do, or the doing of something which a prudent and reasonable man would not do, or as Judge Cooley defines it, ‘(t)he failure to observe for the protection of the interests of another person, that degree of care, precaution, and vigilance which the circumstances justly demand, whereby such other person suffers injury.’” In order that a party may be held liable for damages for any injury brought about by the negligence of another, the claimant must prove that the negligence was the immediate and proximate cause of the injury. BJDC Construction, represented by its Manager/Proprieto Janet S. Dela Cruz v. Nena E. Lanuzo, et al., G.R. No. 161151, March 24, 2014.
Negligence; Medical negligence; four elements the plaintiff must prove by competent evidence. An action upon medical negligence – whether criminal, civil or administrative – calls for the plaintiff to prove by competent evidence each of the following four elements, namely: (a) the duty owed by the physician to the patient, as created by the physician-patient relationship, to act in accordance with the specific norms or standards established by his profession; (b) the breach of the duty by the physician’s failing to act in accordance with the applicable standard of care; (3) the causation, i.e., there must be a reasonably close and causal connection between the negligent act or omission and the resulting injury; and (4) the damages suffered by thepatient. Dr. Fernando P. Solidum v. People of the Philippines,G.R. No. 192123, March 10, 2014.
Negligence; Medical Negligence; standard of care of the medical profession; standard of care observed by other members of the profession in good standing under similar circumstances. Negligence is defined as the failure to observe for the protection of the interests of another person that degree of care, precaution, and vigilance that the circumstances justly demand, whereby such other person suffers injury. Reckless imprudence, on the other hand, consists of voluntarily doing or failing to do, without malice, an act from which material damage results by reason of an inexcusable lack of precaution on the part of the person performing or failing to perform such act.
The Court aptly explained in Cruz v. Court of Appeals that: Whether or not a physician has committed an “inexcusable lack of precaution” in the treatment of his patient is to be determined according to the standard of care observed by other members of the profession in good standing under similar circumstances bearing in mind the advanced state of the profession at the time of treatment or the present state of medical science. In the recent case of Leonila Garcia-Rueda v. Wilfred L. Pacasio,et. al., this Court stated that in accepting a case, a doctor in effect represents that, having the needed training and skill possessed by physicians and surgeons practicing in the same field, he will employ such training, care and skill in the treatment of his patients. He therefore has a duty to use at least the same level of care that any other reasonably competent doctor would use to treat a condition under the same circumstances. It is in this aspect of medical malpractice that expert testimony is essential to establish not only the standard of care of the profession but also that the physician’s conduct in the treatment and care falls below such standard. Further, inasmuch as the causes of the injuries involved in malpractice actions are determinable only in the light of scientific knowledge, it has been recognized that expert testimony is usually necessary to support the conclusion as to causation. Dr. Fernando P. Solidum v. People of the Philippines,G.R. No. 192123, March 10, 2014.
Negligence; Medical negligence; standard of care; an objective standard by which the conduct of a physician sued for negligence or malpractice may be measured.In the medical profession, specific norms or standards to protect the patient against unreasonable risk, commonly referred to as standards of care, set the duty of the physician to act in respect of the patient. Unfortunately, no clear definition of the duty of a particular physician in a particular case exists. Because most medical malpractice cases are highly technical, witnesses with special medical qualifications must provide guidance by giving the knowledge necessary to render a fair and just verdict. As a result, the standard of medical care of a prudent physician must be determined from expert testimony in most cases; and in the case of a specialist (like an anesthesiologist), the standard of care by which the specialist is judged is the care and skill commonly possessed and exercised by similar specialists under similar circumstances. The specialty standard ofcare may be higher than that required of the general practitioner. Dr. Fernando P. Solidum v. People of the Philippines,G.R. No. 192123, March 10, 2014.
Negligence, test to determine its existence. The test by which the existence of negligence in a particular case is determined is aptly stated in the leading case of Picart v. Smith (G.R. No. 12219, March 15, 1918).
According to this case, the test by which to determine the existence of negligence in a particular case may be stated as follows:
“Did the defendant in doing the alleged negligent act use that reasonable care and caution which an ordinarily prudent person would have used in the same situation? If not, then he is guilty of negligence. The law here in effect adopts the standard supposed to be supplied by the imaginary conduct of the discreet paterfamilias of the Roman law. The existence of negligence in a given case is not determined by reference to the personal judgment of the actor in the situation before him. The law considers what would be reckless, blameworthy, or negligent in the man of ordinary intelligence and prudence and determines liability by that.
The question as to what would constitute the conduct of a prudent man in a given situation must of course be always determined in the light of human experience and in view of the facts involved in the particular case. Abstract speculation cannot here be of much value but this much can be profitably said: Reasonable men govern their conduct by the circumstances which are before them or known to them. They are not, and are not supposed to be, omniscient of the future. Hence they can be expected to take care only when there is something before them to suggest or warn of danger. Could a prudent man, in the case under consideration, foresee harm as a result of the course actually pursued? If so, it was the duty of the actor to take precautions to guard against that harm. Reasonable foresight of harm, followed by the ignoring of the suggestion born of this prevision, is always necessary before negligence can be held to exist. Stated in these terms, the proper criterion for determining the existence of negligence in a given case is this: Conduct is said to be negligent when a prudent man in the position of the tortfeasor would have foreseen that an effect harmful to another was sufficiently probable to warrant his foregoing the conduct or guarding against its consequences.” BJDC Construction, represented by its Manager/Proprieto Janet S. Dela Cruz v. Nena E. Lanuzo, et al.,G.R. No. 161151, March 24, 2014.
Property; Recovery of possession of real property; three kinds of actions available. In Sps. Bonifacio R. Valdez, Jr. et al. vs. Hon. Court of Appeals, et al. (523 Phil. 39 (2006)), the Court is instructive anent the three kinds of actions available to recover possession of real property, viz: (a) accion interdictal; (b) accion publiciana; and (c) accion reivindicatoria.
Accion interdictal comprises two distinct causes of action, namely, forcible entry (detentacion) and unlawful detainer (desahuico) [sic]. In forcible entry, one is deprived of physical possession of real property by means of force, intimidation, strategy, threats, or stealth whereas in unlawful detainer, one illegally withholds possession after the expiration or termination of his right to hold possession under any contract, express or implied. The two are distinguished from each other in that in forcible entry, the possession of the defendant is illegal from the beginning, and that the issue is which party has prior de facto possession while in unlawful detainer, possession of the defendant is originally legal but became illegal due to the expiration or termination of the right to possess.
The jurisdiction of these two actions, which are summary in nature, lies in the proper municipal trial court or metropolitan trial court. Both actions must be brought within one year from the date of actual entry on the land, in case of forcible entry, and from the date of last demand, in case of unlawful detainer. The issue in said cases is the right to physical possession.
Accion publiciana is the plenary action to recover the right of possession which should be brought in the proper regional trial court when dispossession has lasted for more than one year. It is an ordinary civil proceeding to determine the better right of possession of realty independently of title. In other words, if at the time of the filing of the complaint more than one year had elapsed since defendant had turned plaintiff out of possession or defendant’s possession had become illegal, the action will be, not one of the forcible entry or illegal detainer, but an accion publiciana. On the other hand, accion reivindicatoria is an action to recover ownership also brought in the proper regional trial court in an ordinary civil proceeding. Carmencita Suarez v. Mr. and Mrs. Felix E. Emboy, Jr. and Marilou P. Emboy-Delantar, G.R. No. 187944, March 12, 2014.
Res ipsa loquitor; a mode of proof or a mere procedural convenience.In Jarcia, Jr. v. People, the court has underscored that the doctrine is not a rule of substantive law, but merely a mode of proof or a mere procedural convenience. The doctrine, when applicable to the facts and circumstances of a given case, is not meant to and does not dispense with the requirement of proof of culpable negligence against the party charged. It merely determines and regulates what shall be prima facie evidence thereof, and helps the plaintiff in proving a breach of the duty. The doctrine can be invoked when and only when, under the circumstances involved, direct evidence is absent and not readily available. Dr. Fernando P. Solidum v. People of the Philippines,G.R. No. 192123, March 10, 2014.
Res ipsa loquitor; applicability in medical negligence cases. The applicability of the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur in medical negligence cases was significantly and exhaustively explained in Ramos v. Court of Appeals, where the Court said–Medical malpractice cases do not escape the application of this doctrine. Thus, res ipsa loquitur has been applied when the circumstances attendant upon the harm are themselves of such a character as to justify an inference of negligence as the cause of that harm. The application of resipsa loquitur in medical negligence cases presents a question of law since it is a judicial function to determine whether a certain set of circumstances does, as a matter of law, permit a given inference. Although generally, expert medical testimony is relied upon in malpractice suits to prove that a physician has done a negligent act or that he has deviated from the standard medical procedure, when the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur is availed by the plaintiff, the need for expert medical testimony is dispensed with because the injury itself provides the proof of negligence. The reason is that the general rule on the necessity of expert testimony applies only to such matters clearly within the domain of medical science, and not to matters that are within the common knowledge of mankind which may be testified to by anyone familiar with the facts. Ordinarily, only physicians and surgeons of skill and experience are competent to testify as to whether a patient has been treated or operated upon with a reasonable degree of skill and care. However, testimony as to the statements and acts of physicians and surgeons, external appearances, and manifest conditions which are observable by any one may be given by non-expert witnesses. Hence, in cases where the res ipsa loquitur is applicable, the court is permitted to find a physician negligent upon proper proof of injury to the patient, without the aid of expert testimony, where the court from its fund of common knowledge can determine the proper standard of care. Where common knowledge and experience teach that a resulting injury would not have occurred to the patient if due care had been exercised, an inference of negligence may be drawn giving rise to an application of the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur without medical evidence, which is ordinarily required to show not only what occurred but how and why it occurred. When the doctrine is appropriate, all that the patient must do is prove a nexus between the particular act or omission complained of and the injury sustained while under the custody and management of the defendant without need to produce expert medical testimony to establish the standard of care. Resort to res ipsa loquitur is allowed because there is no other way, under usual and ordinary conditions, by which the patient can obtain redress for injury suffered by him. Dr. Fernando P. Solidum v. People of the Philippines,G.R. No. 192123, March 10, 2014.
Res ipsa loquitur; applied in conjunction with the doctrine of common knowledge.It is simply “a recognition of the postulate that, as a matter of common knowledge and experience, the very nature of certain types of occurrences may justify an inference of negligence on the part of the person who controls the instrumentality causing the injury in the absence of some explanation by the defendant who is charged with negligence. It is grounded in the superior logic of ordinary human experience and on the basis of such experience or common knowledge, negligence may be deduced from the mere occurrence of the accident itself. Hence, res ipsa loquitur is applied in conjunction with the doctrine ofcommon knowledge.” Dr. Fernando P. Solidum v. People of the Philippines,G.R. No. 192123, March 10, 2014.
Res ipsa loquitor. Res ipsa loquitur is literally translated as “the thing or the transaction speaks for itself.” The doctrine res ipsa loquitur means that “where the thing which causes injury is shown to be under the management of the defendant, and the accident is such as in the ordinary course of things does not happen if those who have the management use proper care, it affords reasonable evidence, in the absence of an explanation by the defendant, thatthe accident arose from want of care.” Dr. Fernando P. Solidum v. People of the Philippines,G.R. No. 192123, March 10, 2014.
Res ipsa loquitur. The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur is “based on the theory that the defendant either knows the cause of the accident or has the best opportunity of ascertaining it and the plaintiff, having no knowledge thereof, is compelled to allege negligence in general terms. In such instance, the plaintiff relies on proof of the happening of the accident alone to establish negligence.” The principle, furthermore, provides a means by which a plaintiff can hold liable a defendant who, if innocent, should be able to prove that he exercised due care to prevent the accident complained of from happening. It is, consequently, the defendant’s responsibility to show that there was no negligence on his part. International Container Terminal Services, Inc. v. Celeste M. Chua, G.R. No. 195031, March 26, 2014.
Res ipsa loquitur; concept of; requirements for the doctrine to apply. In Tan v. JAM Transit, Inc. (G.R. No. 183198, November 25, 2009), the Court noted that res ipsa loquitur is a Latin phrase that literally means “the thing or the transaction speaks for itself.” It is a maxim for the rule that the fact of the occurrence of an injury, taken with the surrounding circumstances, may permit an inference or raise a presumption of negligence, or make out a plaintiff’s prima facie case, and present a question of fact for defendant to meet with an explanation. Where the thing that caused the injury complained of is shown to be under the management of the defendant or his servants; and the accident, in the ordinary course of things, would not happen if those who had management or control used proper care, it affords reasonable evidence—in the absence of a sufficient, reasonable and logical explanation by defendant—that the accident arose from or was caused by the defendant’s want of care. This rule is grounded on the superior logic of ordinary human experience, and it is on the basis of such experience or common knowledge that negligence may be deduced from the mere occurrence of the accident itself. Hence, the rule is applied in conjunction with the doctrine of common knowledge.”
For the doctrine to apply, the following requirements must be shown to exist, namely: (a) the accident is of a kind that ordinarily does not occur in the absence of someone’s negligence; (b) it is caused by an instrumentality within the exclusive control of the defendant or defendants; and (c) the possibility of contributing conduct that would make the plaintiff responsible is eliminated. BJDC Construction, represented by its Manager/Proprieto Janet S. Dela Cruz v. Nena E. Lanuzo, et al., G.R. No. 161151, March 24, 2014.
Res ipsa loquitor; doctrine does not automatically apply to all cases of medical negligence as to mechanically shift the burden of proof to the defendant.Despite the fact that the scope of res ipsa loquitur has been measurably enlarged, it does not automatically apply to all cases of medical negligence as to mechanically shift the burden of proof to the defendant to show that he is not guilty of the ascribed negligence. Res ipsa loquitur is not a rigid or ordinary doctrine to be perfunctorily used but a rule to be cautiously applied, depending upon the circumstances of each case. It is generally restricted to situations in malpractice cases where a layman is able to say, as a matter of common knowledge and observation, that the consequences of professional care were not as such as would ordinarily have followed if due care had been exercised. A distinction must be made between the failure to secure results, and the occurrence of something more unusual and not ordinarily found if the service or treatment rendered followed the usual procedure of those skilled in that particular practice. It must be conceded that the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur can have no application in a suit against a physician or surgeon which involves the merits of a diagnosis or of a scientific treatment. The physician or surgeon is not required at his peril to explain why any particular diagnosis was not correct, or why any particular scientific treatment did not produce the desired result. Thus, res ipsa loquitur is not available in a malpractice suit if the only showing is that the desired result of an operation or treatment was not accomplished. The real question, therefore, is whether or not in the process of the operation any extraordinary incident or unusual event outside of the routine performance occurred which is beyond the regular scope of customary professional activity in such operations, which, if unexplained would themselves reasonably speak to the average man as the negligent cause or causes of the untoward consequence. If there was such extraneous intervention, the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur may be utilized and the defendant is calledupon to explain the matter, by evidence of exculpation, if he could. Dr. Fernando P. Solidum v. People of the Philippines,G.R. No. 192123, March 10, 2014.
Res ipsa loquitor; essential requisites.In order to allow resort to the doctrine, therefore, the following essential requisites must first be satisfied, to wit: (1) the accident was of a kind that does not ordinarily occur unless someone is negligent; (2) the instrumentality or agency that caused the injury was under the exclusive control of the person charged; and (3) the injury suffered must not have been due to any voluntary action or contribution of the person injured. Dr. Fernando P. Solidum v. People of the Philippines,G.R. No. 192123, March 10, 2014.
Res ipsa loquitur; when may be invoked. The doctrine “can be invoked when and only when, under the circumstances involved, direct evidence is absent and not readily available.” Here, there was no evidence as to how or why the fire in the container yard of petitioner started; hence, it was up to petitioner to satisfactorily prove that it exercised the diligence required to prevent the fire from happening. International Container Terminal Services, Inc. v. Celeste M. Chua, G.R. No. 195031, March 26, 2014.
Suretyship; Continuing suretyship; nature of; example of.A Continuing Suretyship, which the Court described in Saludo, Jr. v. Security Bank Corporation as follows:
The essence of a continuing surety has been highlighted in the case of Totanes v. China Banking Corporation in this wise: Comprehensive or continuing surety agreements are, in fact, quite commonplace in present day financial and commercial practice. A bank or financing companywhich anticipates entering into a series of credit transactions with a particular company, normallyrequires the projected principal debtor to execute acontinuing surety agreement along with its sureties. Byexecuting such an agreement, the principal places itselfin a position to enter into the projected series oftransactions with its creditor; with such suretyshipagreement, there would be no need to execute a separatesurety contract or bond for each financing or creditaccommodation extended to the principal debtor.
The terms of the Continuing Suretyship executed by petitioner are very clear. It states that petitioner, as surety, shall, without need for any notice, demand or any other act or deed, immediately become liable and shall pay “all credit accommodations extended by the Bank to the Debtor, including increases, renewals, roll-overs, extensions, restructurings, amendments or novations thereof, as well as (i) all obligations of theDebtor presently or hereafter owing to the Bank, as appears in the accounts, books and records of the Bank, whether direct or indirect, and (ii) any and all expenses which the Bank may incur in enforcing any of its rights, powers and remedies under the Credit Instruments as defined hereinbelow.” Mariano Lim v. Security Bank Corporation,G.R. No. 188539, March 12, 2014.
Suretyship. A contract of suretyship is an agreement whereby a party, called the surety, guarantees the performance by another party, called the principal or obligor, of an obligation or undertaking in favor of another party, called the obligee. Although the contract of a surety is secondary only to a valid principal obligation, the surety becomes liable for the debt or duty of another although it possesses no direct or personal interest over the obligations nor does it receive any benefit therefrom. This was explained in the case of Stronghold Insurance Company, Inc. v. Republic-Asahi Glass Corporation, where it was written: The surety’s obligation is not an original and direct one for the performance of his own act, but merely accessory or collateral to the obligation contracted by the principal. Nevertheless, although the contract of a suretyis in essence secondary only to a valid principalobligation, his liability to the creditor or promisee of theprincipal is said to be direct, primary and absolute; inother words, he is directly and equally bound with theprincipal.
Thus, suretyship arises upon the solidary binding of a person deemed the surety with the principal debtor for the purpose of fulfilling an obligation. A surety is considered in law as being the same party asthe debtor in relation to whatever is adjudged touching the obligationof the latter, and their liabilities are interwoven as to be inseparable. Mariano Lim v. Security Bank Corporation,G.R. No. 188539, March 12, 2014.
Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL); Section 65 of R.A. 6657; DAR is empowered to authorize, under certain conditions, the reclassification or conversion of agricultural lands. Under Section 65 of R.A. No. 6657, the DAR is empowered to authorize, under certain conditions, the reclassification or conversion of agricultural lands. Pursuant to this authority and in the exercise of its rulemaking power under Section 49 of R.A. No. 6657, the DAR issued Administrative Order No. 12, series of 1994 (DAR A.O. 12-94) (the then prevailing administrative order), providing the rules and procedure governing agricultural land conversion. Item VII of DAR A.O. 12-94 enumerates the documentary requirements for approval of an application for land conversion.35 Notably, Item VI-E provides that no application for conversion shall be given due course if: (1) the DAR has issued a Notice of Acquisition under the compulsory acquisition process; (2) a Voluntary Offer to Sell covering the subject property has been received by the DAR; or (3) there is already a perfected agreement between the landowner and the beneficiaries under Voluntary Land Transfer. Heirs of Teresita Montoya, et al. v. National Housing Authority, et al., G.R. No. 181055, March 19, 2014.
Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL); Section 6 of R.A. 6657; retention limits. Section 6 of R.A. No. 6657 specifically governs retention limits. Under its last paragraph, “any sale, disposition, lease, management, contract or transfer of possession of private lands executed by the original landowner in violation of [R.A. No. 6657]” is considered null and void. A plain reading of the last paragraph appears to imply that the CARL absolutely prohibits sales or dispositions of private agricultural lands. The interpretation or construction of this prohibitory clause, however, should be made within the context of Section 6, following the basic rule in statutory construction that every part of the statute be “interpreted with reference to the context, i.e., that every part of the statute must be considered together with the other parts, and kept subservient to the general intent of the whole enactment.” Notably, nothing in this paragraph, when read with the entire section, discloses any legislative intention to absolutely prohibit the sale or other transfer agreements of private agricultural lands after the effectivity of the Act.
In other words, therefore, the sale, disposition, etc. of private lands that Section 6 of R.A. No. 6657 contextually prohibits and considers as null and void are those which the original owner executes in violation of this provision, i.e., sales or dispositions executed with the intention of circumventing the retention limits set by R.A. No. 6657. Consistent with this interpretation, the proscription in Section 6 on sales or dispositions of private agricultural lands does not apply to those that do not violate or were not intended to circumvent the CARL’s retention limits. Heirs of Teresita Montoya, et al. v. National Housing Authority, et al., G.R. No. 181055, March 19, 2014.
Emancipation of Tenants; P.D. 27; CLT; legal effects of issuance; tenant-farmer does not acquire full ownership of the covered landholding simply by the issuance of a CLT. A CLT is a document that the government issues to a tenant-farmer of an agricultural land primarily devoted to rice and corn production placed under the coverage of the government’s OLT program pursuant to P.D. No. 27. It serves as the tenant-farmer’s (grantee of the certificate) proof of inchoate right over the land covered thereby.
A CLT does not automatically grant a tenant-farmer absolute ownership of the covered landholding. Under PD No. 27, land transfer is effected in two stages: (1) issuance of the CLT to the tenant-farmer in recognition that said person is a “deemed owner”; and (2) issuance of an Emancipation Patent (EP) as proof of full ownership upon the tenant-farmer’s full payment of the annual amortizations or lease rentals.
As a preliminary step, therefore, the issuance of a CLT merely evinces that the grantee thereof is qualified to avail of the statutory mechanism for the acquisition of ownership of the land tilled by him, as provided under P.D. No. 27. The CLT is not a muniment of title that vests in the tenant-farmer absolute ownership of his tillage. It is only after compliance with the conditions which entitle the tenant-farmer to an EP that the tenant-farmer acquires the vested right of absolute ownership in the landholding. Stated otherwise, the tenant-farmer does not acquire full ownership of the covered landholding simply by the issuance of a CLT. The tenant-farmer must first comply with the prescribed conditions and procedures for acquiring full ownership but until then, the title remains with the landowner. Heirs of Teresita Montoya, et al. v. National Housing Authority, et al., G.R. No. 181055, March 19, 2014.
Land registration; Classification of land; evidence of a positive act from the government reclassifying the lot as alienable and disposable agricultural land of the public domain. Accordingly, jurisprudence has required that an applicant for registration of title acquired through a public land grant must present incontrovertible evidence that the land subject of the application is alienable or disposable by establishing the existence of a positive act of the government, such as a presidential proclamation or an executive order; an administrative action; investigation reports of Bureau of Lands investigators; and a legislative act or a statute. Sps. Antonio Fortuna and Erlinda Fortuna v. Republic of the Philippines,G.R. No. 173423, March 5, 2014.
Land registration; Classification of land; Executive prerogative.Under Section 6 of the Public Land Act, the classification and the reclassification of public lands are the prerogative of the Executive Department. The President, through a presidential proclamation or executive order, can classify or reclassify a land to be included or excluded from the public domain. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary is likewise empowered by law to approve a land classification and declare such land as alienable and disposable. Sps. Antonio Fortuna and Erlinda Fortuna v. Republic of the Philippines,G.R. No. 173423, March 5, 2014.
Land registration; it is essential for any applicant for registration of title to land derived through a public grant to establish foremost the alienable and disposable nature of the land. The Constitution declares that all lands of the public domain are owned by the State. Of the four classes of public land, i.e., agricultural lands, forest or timber lands, mineral lands, and national parks, only agricultural lands may be alienated. Public land that has not been classified as alienable agricultural land remains part of the inalienable public domain. Thus, it is essential for any applicant for registration of title toland derived through a public grant to establish foremost the alienableand disposable nature of the land. The Public Land Act provisions on the grant and disposition of alienable public lands, specifically, Sections 11 and 48(b), will find application only from the time that a public land has been classified as agricultural and declared as alienable and disposable. Sps. Antonio Fortuna and Erlinda Fortuna v. Republic of the Philippines,G.R. No. 173423, March 5, 2014.
Land registration; Judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title; cut-off date for applications. As mentioned, the Public Land Act is the law that governs the grant and disposition of alienable agricultural lands. Under Section 11 of the PLA, alienable lands of the public domain may be disposed of, among others, by judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title. This mode of acquisition of title is governed by Section 48(b) of the PLA, the original version of which states:
Sec. 48. The following-described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit:
x x x x
(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition or ownership, except as against the Government, since July twenty-sixth, eighteen hundred and ninety-four, except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter. [emphasis supplied]
On June 22, 1957, the cut-off date of July 26, 1894 was replaced by a 30-year period of possession under RA No. 1942. Section 48(b) of the PLA, as amended by RA No. 1942, read:
(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors in interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, for at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title, except when prevented by war or force majeure.
On January 25, 1977, PD No. 1073 replaced the 30-year period of possession by requiring possession since June 12, 1945. Section 4 of PD No. 1073 reads:
SEC. 4. The provisions of Section 48(b) and Section 48(c), Chapter VIII of the Public Land Act are hereby amended in the sense that these provisions shall apply only to alienable and disposable lands of the public domain which have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation by the applicant himself or thru his predecessor-in-interest, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945.
Under the P.D. No. 1073 amendment, possession of at least 32 years – from 1945 up to its enactment in 1977 – is required. This effectively impairs the vested rights of applicants who had complied with the 30-year possession required under the RA No. 1942 amendment, but whose possession commenced only after the cut-off date of June 12, 1945 was established by the PD No. 1073 amendment. To remedy this, the Court ruled in Abejaron v. Nabasa that “Filipino citizens who by themselves or their predecessors-in-interest have been, prior to the effectivity of P.D. 1073on January 25, 1977, in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, for at least 30 years, or atleast since January 24, 1947 may apply for judicial confirmation of their imperfect or incomplete title under Sec. 48(b) of the [PLA].” January 24,1947 was considered as the cut off date as this was exactly 30 yearscounted backward from January 25, 1977 – the effectivity date of PDNo. 1073.
It appears, however, that January 25, 1977 was the date PD No. 1073 was enacted; based on the certification from the National PrintingOffice, PD No. 1073 was published in Vol. 73, No. 19 of the Official Gazette, months later than its enactment or on May 9, 1977. Thisuncontroverted fact materially affects the cut-off date for applications forjudicial confirmation of incomplete title under Section 48(b) of the PLA.Although Section 6 of PD No. 1073 states that “[the] Decree shalltake effect upon its promulgation,” the Court has declared in Tañada, et al.v. Hon. Tuvera, etc., et al. that the publication of laws is an indispensablerequirement for its effectivity. “[A]ll statutes, including those of localapplication and private laws, shall be published as a condition for theireffectivity, which shall begin fifteen days after publication unless a differenteffectivity date is fixed by the legislature.” Accordingly, Section 6 of PDNo. 1073 should be understood to mean that the decree took effect onlyupon its publication, or on May 9, 1977. This, therefore, moves the cut-off date for applications for judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title under Section 48(b) of the PLA to May 8, 1947. In otherwords, applicants must prove that they have been in open, continuous,exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands ofthe public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership,for at least 30 years, or at least since May 8, 1947. Sps. Antonio Fortuna and Erlinda Fortuna v. Republic of the Philippines,G.R. No. 173423, March 5, 2014.
Land registration; Possession; as a requirement for the application for registration of title.Notably, Section 48(b) of the PLA speaks of possession and occupation. “Since these words are separated by the conjunction and, the clear intention of the law is not to make one synonymous with the other. Possession is broader than occupation because it includes constructive possession. When, therefore, the law adds the word occupation, it seeks to delimit the all-encompassing effect of constructive possession. Taken together with the words open, continuous, exclusive and notorious, the word occupation serves to highlight the fact that for an applicant to qualify, his possession must not be a mere fiction.” Nothing in Tax Declaration No. 8366 shows that Pastora exercised acts of possession and occupation such as cultivation of or fencing off the land. Indeed, the lot was described as “cogonal.” Sps. Antonio Fortuna and Erlinda Fortuna v. Republic of the Philippines,G.R. No. 173423, March 5, 2014.
Public Land Act; Sec 48(b), as amended by P.D. 1073; requirements for judicial confirmation of title. The requirements for judicial confirmation of imperfect title are found in Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as amended by Presidential Decree No. 1073, as follows:
“Sec. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit:
x x x x
(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors in interest have been in the open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition or ownership, since June 12, 1945, or earlier, immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter.”
Republic of the Philippines represented by Aklan National Colleges of Fisheries (ANCF) and Dr. Elenita R. Adrade, in her capacity as ANCF Superintendent v. Heirs of Maxima Lachica Sin, namely: Salvacion L. Sin, Rosario S. Enriquez, Francisco L. Sin, Maria S. Yuchintat, Manuel L. Sin, Jaime Cardinal Sin, Ramon L. Sin, and Ceferina S. Vita,G.R. No. 157485, March 26, 2014.
Regalian Doctrine; all lands of the public domain belong to the State and that lands not appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong to the State. As this Court held in the fairly recent case of Valiao v. Republic (G.R. No. 170757, November 28, 2011,): “Under the Regalian doctrine, which is embodied in our Constitution, all lands of the public domain belong to the State, which is the source of any asserted right to any ownership of land. All lands not appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong to the State. Accordingly, public lands not shown to have been reclassified or released as alienable agricultural land or alienated to a private person by the State remain part of the inalienable public domain. Unless public land is shown to have been reclassified as alienable or disposable to a private person by the State, it remains part of the inalienable public domain. Property of the public domain is beyond the commerce of man and not susceptible of private appropriation and acquisitive prescription. Occupation thereof in the concept of owner no matter how long cannot ripen into ownership and be registered as a title. The burden of proof in overcoming the presumption of State ownership of the lands of the public domain is on the person applying for registration (or claiming ownership), who must prove that the land subject of the application is alienable or disposable. To overcome this presumption, incontrovertible evidence must be established that the land subject of the application (or claim) is alienable or disposable.” Republic of the Philippines represented by Aklan National Colleges of Fisheries (ANCF) and Dr. Elenita R. Adrade, in her capacity as ANCF Superintendent v. Heirs of Maxima Lachica Sin, namely: Salvacion L. Sin, Rosario S. Enriquez, Francisco L. Sin, Maria S. Yuchintat, Manuel L. Sin, Jaime Cardinal Sin, Ramon L. Sin, and Ceferina S. Vita, G.R. No. 157485, March 26, 2014.
Public Land Act; two requisites for judicial confirmation of title. The two requisites for judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title under CA No. 141, namely: (1) open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of the subject land by himself or through his predecessors-in-interest under a bona fide claim of ownership since time immemorial or from June 12, 1945; and (2) the classification of the land as alienable and disposable land of the public domain. Republic of the Philippines represented by Aklan National Colleges of Fisheries (ANCF) and Dr. Elenita R. Adrade, in her capacity as ANCF Superintendent v. Heirs of Maxima Lachica Sin, namely: Salvacion L. Sin, Rosario S. Enriquez, Francisco L. Sin, Maria S. Yuchintat, Manuel L. Sin, Jaime Cardinal Sin, Ramon L. Sin, and Ceferina S. Vita, G.R. No. 157485, March 26, 2014.
Regalian Doctrine; failure of Republic to show competent evidence that the subject land was declared a timberland before its formal classification as such in 1960 does not lead to the presumption that said land was alienable and disposable prior to said date. Accordingly, in the case at bar, the failure of petitioner Republic to show competent evidence that the subject land was declared a timberland before its formal classification as such in 1960 does not lead to the presumption that said land was alienable and disposable prior to said date. On the contrary, the presumption is that unclassified lands are inalienable public lands. It is therefore the respondents which have the burden to identify a positive act of the government, such as an official proclamation, declassifying inalienable public land into disposable land for agricultural or other purposes. Since respondents failed to do so, the alleged possession by them and by their predecessors-in-interest is inconsequential and could never ripen into ownership. Republic of the Philippines represented by Aklan National Colleges of Fisheries (ANCF) and Dr. Elenita R. Adrade, in her capacity as ANCF Superintendent v. Heirs of Maxima Lachica Sin, namely: Salvacion L. Sin, Rosario S. Enriquez, Francisco L. Sin, Maria S. Yuchintat, Manuel L. Sin, Jaime Cardinal Sin, Ramon L. Sin, and Ceferina S. Vita, G.R. No. 157485, March 26, 2014.
(Rose thanks Anna Katerina Rodriguez for assisting in the preparation of this post.)