October 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law (Part III)

Counterclaims; tests to determine if compulsory.  Going now to the first assigned error, petitioner submits that its counterclaim for the rentals collected by Fernando from the CMTC is in the nature of a compulsory counterclaim in the original action of Fernando against petitioner for annulment of bid award, deed of absolute sale and TCT No. 76183. Respondents, on the other hand, alleged that petitioner’s counterclaim is permissive and its failure to pay the prescribed docket fees results into the dismissal of its claim.

To determine whether a counterclaim is compulsory or not, the Court has devised the following tests: (a) Are the issues of fact and law raised by the claim and by the counterclaim largely the same? (b) Would res judicata bar a subsequent suit on defendant’s claims, absent the compulsory counterclaim rule? (c) Will substantially the same evidence support or refute plaintiff’s claim as well as the defendant’s counterclaim? and (d) Is there any logical relation between the claim and the counterclaim? A positive answer to all four questions would indicate that the counterclaim is compulsory.

Tested against the above-mentioned criteria, this Court agrees with the CA’s view that petitioner’s counterclaim for the recovery of the amount representing rentals collected by Fernando from the CMTC is permissive. The evidence needed by Fernando to cause the annulment of the bid award, deed of absolute sale and TCT is different from that required to establish petitioner’s claim for the recovery of rentals.  The issue in the main action, i.e., the nullity or validity of the bid award, deed of absolute sale and TCT in favor of CMTC, is entirely different from the issue in the counterclaim, i.e., whether petitioner is entitled to receive the CMTC’s rent payments over the subject property when petitioner became the owner of the subject property by virtue of the consolidation of ownership of the property in its favor.  Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) vs. Heirs of Fernando P. Caballero, et al., G.R. No. 158090, October 4, 2010

Docket fees; GSIS not exempt from payment.  Petitioner [GSIS] further argues that assuming that its counterclaim is permissive, the trial court has jurisdiction to try and decide the same, considering petitioner’s exemption from all kinds of fees.

In In Re: Petition for Recognition of the Exemption of the Government Service Insurance System from Payment of Legal Fees, the Court ruled that the provision in the Charter of the GSIS, i.e., Section 39 of Republic Act No. 8291, which exempts it from “all taxes, assessments, fees, charges or duties of all kinds,” cannot operate to exempt it from the payment of legal fees. This was because, unlike the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions, which empowered Congress to repeal, alter or supplement the rules of the Supreme Court concerning pleading, practice and procedure, the 1987 Constitution removed this power from Congress.  Hence, the Supreme Court now has the sole authority to promulgate rules concerning pleading, practice and procedure in all courts.

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October 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

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

Agency. The sale of the DMCI shares made by EIB is null and void for lack of authority to do so, for petitioners never gave their consent or permission to the sale. Moreover, Article 1881 of the Civil Code provides that “the agent must act within the scope of his authority.” Pursuant to the authority given by the principal, the agent is granted the right “to affect the legal relations of his principal by the performance of acts effectuated in accordance with the principal’s manifestation of consent.”  In the case at bar, the scope of authority of EIB as agent of petitioners is “to retain, apply, sell or dispose of all or any of the client’s [petitioners’] property,” if all or any indebtedness or other obligations of petitioners to EIB are not discharged in full by petitioners “when due or on demand in or towards the payment and discharge of such obligation or liability.” The right to sell or dispose of the properties of petitioners by EIB is unequivocally confined to payment of the obligations and liabilities of petitioners to EIB and none other. Thus, when EIB sold the DMCI shares to buy back the KKP shares, it paid the proceeds to the vendees of said shares, the act of which is clearly an obligation to a third party and, hence, is beyond the ambit of its authority as agent. Such act is surely illegal and does not bind petitioners as principals of EIB. Pacific Rehouse Corporation, et al. vs. EIB Securities, Inc.;G.R. No. 184036, October 13, 2010.

Attorney’s fees. It is settled that the award of attorney’s fees is the exception rather than the general rule; counsel’s fees are not awarded every time a party prevails in a suit because of the policy that no premium should be placed on the right to litigate. Attorney’s fees, as part of damages, are not necessarily equated to the amount paid by a litigant to a lawyer. In the ordinary sense, attorney’s fees represent the reasonable compensation paid to a lawyer by his client for the legal services he has rendered to the latter; while in its extraordinary concept, they may be awarded by the court as indemnity for damages to be paid by the losing party to the prevailing party. Attorney’s fees as part of damages are awarded only in the instances specified in Article 2208 of the Civil Code. As such, it is necessary for the court to make findings of fact and law that would bring the case within the ambit of these enumerated instances to justify the grant of such award, and in all cases it must be reasonable. Filomena R. Benedicto vs. Antonio Villaflores; G.R. No. 185020. October 6, 2010.

Attorney’s fees. We have stressed that the award of attorney’s fees is the exception rather than the rule, as they are not always awarded every time a party prevails in a suit because of the policy that no premium should be placed on the right to litigate.  Attorney’s fees as part of damages is awarded only in the instances specified in Article 2208 of the Civil Code. Financial Building Corporation vs. Rudlin International Corporation, et al./Rudlin International Corporation, et al.  vs. Financial Building Corporation; G.R. No. 164186/G.R. No. 164347. October 4, 2010.

Attorney’s fees. An award of attorney’s fees is the exception rather than the rule.  The right to litigate is so precious that a penalty should not be charged on those who may exercise it erroneously.  It is not given merely because the defendant prevails and the action is later declared to be unfounded unless there was a deliberate intent to cause prejudice to the other party. Spouses Ramy and Zenaida Pudadera vs. Ireneo Magallanes and the late Daisy Teresa cortel Magallanes, substituted by her children, Nelly M. Marquez, et al.;G.R. No. 170073, October 18, 2010.

Compensation; partial set-off. Under the circumstances, fairness and reason dictate that we simply order the set-off of the petitioners’ contractual liabilities totaling P575,922.13 against the repair cost for the defective gutter, pegged at P717,524.00, leaving the amount of P141,601.87 still due from the respondent. Support in law for this ruling for partial legal compensation proceeds from Articles 1278, 1279, 1281, and 1283 of the Civil Code. In short, both parties are creditors and debtors of each other, although in different amounts that are already due and demandable. Spouses Victoriano chung and Debbie Chung vs. Ulanday Construction, Inc.;G.R. No. 156038, October 11, 2010.

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May 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law

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

Civil Procedure

Appeal; direct appeal to Supreme Court from trial court decision improper.  Records show that on December 13, 2004, the trial court rendered a Decision finding that petitioner can execute judgment on the additional attorney’s fees but only up to the extent of P1,000,000.00, not the entire amount of P20,000,000.00 as prayed for in his petition.  Petitioner received a copy of the assailed decision on December 22, 2004.  Petitioner moved for reconsideration on December 29, 2004, but the same was denied in the trial court’s Order dated March 1, 2005.  Petitioner received a copy of the challenged order on March 7, 2005.  On March 17, 2005, instead of appealing the assailed decision and order of the trial court to the Court of Appeals via a notice of appeal under Section 2(a) of Rule 41 of the Rules, petitioner filed a petition for review on certiorari directly with this Court, stating that the trial court acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to an excess of jurisdiction, and that there is no appeal, or any plain, speedy and adequate remedy available in the ordinary course of law.  This is a procedural misstep.  Although denominated as petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45, petitioner, in questioning the decision and order of the trial court which were rendered in the exercise of its original jurisdiction, should have taken the appeal to the Court of Appeals within fifteen (15) days from notice of the trial court’s March 1, 2005 Order, i.e., within 15 days counted from March 7, 2005 (date of receipt of the appealed order), or until March 22, 2005, by filing a notice of appeal with the trial court which rendered the decision and order appealed from and serving copies thereof upon the adverse party pursuant to Sections 2(a) and 3 of Rule 41.  Clearly, when petitioner sought to assail the decision and order of the trial court, an appeal to the Court of Appeals was the adequate remedy which he should have availed of, instead of filing a petition directly with this Court.  Hicoblo M. Catly (deceased), subtituted by his wife, Lourdes A. Catly vs. William Navarro, et al., G.R. No. 167239, May 5, 2010

Appeal; failure to properly indicate appealing party; ground for dismissal.  With respect to the first case against Marcelina, we resolve to dismiss the appeal of Felisa.  Section 5 of Rule 45 provides that the failure of the petitioner to comply, among others, with the contents of the petition for review on certiorari shall be sufficient ground for the dismissal thereof.  Section 4 of the same rule mandates, among others, that the petition should state the full name of the appealing party as the petitioner.  In this case, Felisa indicated in the caption as well as in the parties portion of the petition that she is the landowner.  Even in the verification and certification of non-forum shopping, Felisa attested that she is the petitioner in the instant case.  However, it appears in the PARAD records that the owners of the subject 14,000-square meter agricultural land are Rosa R. Pajarito (Pajarito), Elvira A. Madolora (Madolora) and Anastacia F. Lagado (Lagado).  Felisa is only the representative of the said landowners with respect to the first case against Marcelina.  Thus, for failure of Felisa to indicate the appealing party with respect to the said case, the appeal must perforce be dismissed.  However, such failure does not affect the appeal on the other three cases as Felisa is the owner/co-owner of the landholdings subject of said three cases.  Felisa Ferrer vs. Domingo Carganillo, et al., G.R. No. 170956, May 12, 2010

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April 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law

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

Civil Procedure

Actions; action for injunction.  As a rule, actions for injunction and damages lie within the jurisdiction of the RTC pursuant to Section 19 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129 (BP 129), otherwise known as the “Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980,” as amended by Republic Act (RA) No. 7691.  An action for injunction is a suit which has for its purpose the enjoinment of the defendant, perpetually or for a particular time, from the commission or continuance of a specific act, or his compulsion to continue performance of a particular act.  It has an independent existence, and is distinct from the ancillary remedy of preliminary injunction which cannot exist except only as a part or an incident of an independent action or proceeding.  In an action for injunction, the auxiliary remedy of preliminary injunction, prohibitory or mandatory, may issue.  Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority vs. Merlino E.  Rodriguez, et al., G.R. No.  160270, April 23, 2010.

Appeal; argument raised for first time on appeal.  Petitioner had, of course, endeavored to establish that respondent’s predecessors-in-interest had served him a demand to vacate the subject parcel as early as 31 July 1996.  Correctly brushed aside by the Court of Appeals on the ground, among others, that respondent had no participation in its preparation, we find said demand letter of little or no use to petitioner’s cause in view of its non-presentation before the MeTC.  However, much as it may now be expedient for petitioner to anchor his cause thereon, said demand letter was first introduced in the record only as an attachment to his reply to respondent’s comment to the motion for reconsideration of the 14 July 2005 order issued by the RTC.  The rule is settled, however, that points of law, theories, issues and arguments not brought to the attention of the trial court will not be and ought not to be considered by a reviewing court, as these cannot be raised for the first time on appeal.  Basic consideration of due process impels this rule.  Hubert Nuñez vs. SLTEAS Phoenix Solutions, Inc., G.R. No. 180542, April 12, 2010.

Appeal; computation of period where last day is Sunday or legal holiday.  Petitioner’s petition for review (under Rule 42) and motion for reconsideration before the appellate court were filed well within the reglementary period for the filing thereof.  It must be noted that petitioner received her copy of the RTC decision on April 13, 2007. Following the Rules of Court, she had 15 days or until April 28, 2007 to file her petition for review before the CA. Section 1 of Rule 42 provides:

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March 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

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

Civil Code

Conjugal partnership; effects of legal separation; forfeiture of share in profits. Among the effects of the decree of legal separation is that the conjugal partnership is dissolved and liquidated and the offending spouse would have no right to any share of the net profits earned by the conjugal partnership. Thus it is only the offending spouse’s share in the net profits, and not the share in the property, which is forfeited. Article 102(4) of the Family Code provides that “[f]or purposes of computing the net profits subject to forfeiture in accordance with Article 43, No. (2) and 63, No. (2), the said profits shall be the increase in value between the market value of the community property at the time of the celebration of the marriage and the market value at the time of its dissolution.” Mario Siochi vs. Alfredo Gozon, et al./Inter-Dimensional Realty, Inc. Vs. Mario Siochi, et al., G.R. No. 169900/G.R. No. 169977, March 18, 2010

Conjugal partnership; presumption of conjugal nature; need for marital consent. The Civil Code of the Philippines, the law in force at the time of the celebration of the marriage between Martha and Manuel in 1957, provides all property of the marriage is presumed to belong to the conjugal partnership, unless it be proved that it pertains exclusively to the husband or to the wife. This includes property which is acquired by onerous title during the marriage at the expense of the common fund, whether the acquisition be for the partnership, or for only one of the spouses. The court is not persuaded by Titan’s arguments that the property was Martha’s exclusive property because Manuel failed to present before the RTC any proof of his income in 1970, hence he could not have had the financial capacity to contribute to the purchase of the property in 1970; and that Manuel admitted that it was Martha who concluded the original purchase of the property.  In consonance with its ruling in Spouses Castro v. Miat, Manuel was not required to prove that the property was acquired with funds of the partnership. Rather, the presumption applies even when the manner in which the property was acquired does not appear.  Here, we find that Titan failed to overturn the presumption that the property, purchased during the spouses’ marriage, was part of the conjugal partnership. Since the property was undoubtedly part of the conjugal partnership, the sale to Titan required the consent of both spouses.  Article 165 of the Civil Code expressly provides that “the husband is the administrator of the conjugal partnership”.  Likewise, Article 172 of the Civil Code ordains that “(t)he wife cannot bind the conjugal partnership without the husband’s consent, except in cases provided by law”. Titan Construction Corporation Vs. Manuel A. David, Sr. and Martha S. David, G.R. No. 169548, March 15, 2010.

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January 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law

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

Civil Procedure

Appeal; factual findings of administrative agencies. We stress the settled rule that the findings of fact of administrative bodies, such as the SEC, will not be interfered with by the courts in the absence of grave abuse of discretion on the part of said agencies, or unless the aforementioned findings are not supported by substantial evidence.  These factual findings carry even more weight when affirmed by the CA.  They are accorded not only great respect but even finality, and are binding upon this Court, unless it is shown that the administrative body had arbitrarily disregarded or misapprehended evidence before it to such an extent as to compel a contrary conclusion had such evidence been properly appreciated.  By reason of the special knowledge and expertise of administrative agencies over matters falling under their jurisdiction, they are in a better position to pass judgment thereon. A review of the petition does not show any reversible error committed by the appellate court; hence, the petition must be denied.  Petitioner failed to present any argument that would convince the Court that the SEC and the CA made any misappreciation of the facts and the applicable laws such that their decisions should be overturned. Catmon Sales International Corporation vs. Atty. Manuel D. Yngson, Jr. as Liquidator of Catmon Sales International Corporation, G.R. No. 179761, January 15, 2010.

Appeal; factual findings of administrative agencies. No matter how hard it tries to learn the technical intricacies of certain highly regulated human activities, the Supreme Court will always be inadequately equipped to identify the facts that matter when resolving issues involving such activities.  Invariably, the Court must respect the factual findings of administrative agencies which have expertise on matters that fall within their jurisdiction.  Here, since the HLURB has the expertise in applying zonal classifications on specific properties and since petitioner GEA fails to make out a clear case that it has erred, the Court must rely on its finding that respondent EGI’s land site does not, for the purpose of applying height restrictions, adjoin an R-1 zone. Greenhills East Association, Inc. vs. E. Ganzon, Inc., G.R. No. 169741, January 22, 2010.

Appeal; factual findings of lower courts. In the case at bench, the issues raised by the petitioners are essentially factual matters, the determination of which are best left to the courts below.  Well-settled is the rule that the Supreme Court is not a trier of facts.  Factual findings of the lower courts are entitled to great weight and respect on appeal, and in fact accorded finality when supported by substantial evidence on the record. Substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla of evidence.  It is that amount of relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, even if other minds, equally reasonable, might conceivably opine otherwise.  But to erase any doubt on the correctness of the assailed ruling, we have carefully perused the records and, nonetheless, arrived at the same conclusion.  We find that there is substantial evidence on record to support the Court of Appeals and trial court’s conclusion that the signatures of Julian and Guillerma in the Deed of Absolute Sale were forged. Spouses Patricio and Myrna Bernales vs. Heirs of Julian Sambaan, et al., G.R. No. 163271, January 15, 2010.

Appeal; factual findings of lower courts. Conclusions and findings of fact by the trial court are entitled to great weight on appeal and should not be disturbed unless for strong and cogent reasons because the trial court is in a better position to examine real evidence, as well as to observe the demeanor of the witnesses while testifying in the case.  The fact that the CA adopted the findings of fact of the trial court makes the same binding upon this court.  In Philippine Airlines, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, we held that factual findings of the CA which are supported by substantial evidence are binding, final and conclusive upon the Supreme Court.  A departure from this rule may be warranted where the findings of fact of the CA are contrary to the findings and conclusions of the trial court, or when the same is unsupported by the evidence on record.  There is no ground to apply the exception in the instant case, however, because the findings and conclusions of the CA are in full accord with those of the trial court. Spouses Patricio and Myrna Bernales v. Heirs of Julian Sambaan, et al., G.R. No. 163271, January 15, 2010.

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December 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law

Here are selected December 2009 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on remedial law:

Civil Procedure

Appeal;  certiorari. The proper remedy of a party aggrieved by a decision of the Court of Appeals is a petition for review under Rule 45, which is not similar to a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. As provided in Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, decisions, final orders or resolutions of the Court of Appeals in any case, i.e., regardless of the nature of the action or proceedings involved, may be appealed to this Court by filing a petition for review, which would be but a continuation of the appellate process over the original case. On the other hand, a special civil action under Rule 65 is an independent action based on the specific grounds therein provided and, as a general rule, cannot be availed of as a substitute for the lost remedy of an ordinary appeal, including that under Rule 45.  Santiago Cua, Jr., et al. vs. Miguel Ocampo Tan, et al./Santiago Cua,  Sr., et al. vs. Court of Appeals, et  al.G.R. No. 181455-56/G.R. No. 182008, December 4, 2009.

Appeal; decision of RTC acting in exercise of its appellate jurisdiction. In the case at bar, it is clear that when the case was appealed to the RTC, the latter took cognizance of the case in the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction, not its original jurisdiction. Hence, any further appeal from the RTC Decision must conform to the provisions of the Rules of Court dealing with said matter. It is apparent that petitioner has availed itself of the wrong remedy. Since the RTC tried the case in the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction, petitioner should have filed a petition for review under Rule 42 of the Rules of Court, instead of an ordinary appeal under Rule 41. The law is clear in this respect. Barangay Sangalang, represented by its Chairman Dante C.  Marcellana vs. Barangay Maguihan, represented by its Chairman Arnulfo VillarezG.R. No. 159792, December 23, 2009.

Appeal;  failure to pay docket fees. The Order denying petitioner’s motion for reconsideration was silent as to the issue of the non-payment of docket fees; however, this Court deems that the RTC must have accepted the explanation given by respondent, otherwise, said court would have dismissed the appeal and reconsidered its decision. The failure to pay docket fees does not automatically result in the dismissal of an appeal, it being discretionary on the part of the appellate court to give it due course or not. This Court will then not interfere with matters addressed to the sound discretion of the RTC in the absence of proof that the exercise of such discretion was tainted with bias or prejudice, or made without due circumspection of the attendant circumstances of the case. Barangay Sangalang, represented by its Chairman Dante C.  Marcellana vs. Barangay Maguihan, represented by its Chairman Arnulfo VillarezG.R. No. 159792, December 23, 2009.

Appeal; findings of fact. As a rule, the findings of fact of the trial court when affirmed by the CA are final and conclusive on, and cannot be reviewed on appeal by, this Court as long as they are borne out by the records or are based on substantial evidence. The Court is not a trier of facts, its jurisdiction being limited to reviewing only errors of law that may have been committed by the lower courts. Republic of the Philippines vs. Ignacio Leonor and Catalino RazonG.R. No. 161424, December 23, 2009.

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