January 2013 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law

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

Civil Procedure

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

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

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

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February 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

Here are select February 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and procedure:

1.         REVISED PENAL CODE

Conspiracy. The inconsistencies pointed out are inconsequential given the presence of conspiracy between the appellant and Olaso in killing the victim. Conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a felony and decide to commit it. The presence of conspiracy may be inferred from the circumstances where all the accused acted in concert at the time of the commission of the offense. Conspiracy is sufficiently established when the concerted acts show the same purpose or common design and are united in its execution.  Moreover, when there is conspiracy, it is not important who delivered the fatal blow since the act of one is considered the act of all. The overt acts of the appellant and Olaso showing their conspiracy to kill the victim are: (1) the appellant and Olaso flagged down the tricycle being driven by the victim; (2) the appellant seated himself at the back of the driver’s seat while Olaso went inside the tricycle; (3) the appellant and Olaso simultaneously assaulted the victim – the appellant embracing the victim while Olaso stabbed him; and (4) both men immediately fled the scene after the stabbing.  The above circumstances plainly show the common design and the unity of purpose between the appellant and Olaso in executing their plan to kill the victim.  People of the Philippines v. Rolly Angelio, G.R. No. 197540, February 27, 2012.

Estafa; elements. The offense of estafa, in general, is committed either by (a) abuse of confidence or (b) means of deceit. The acts constituting estafa committed with abuse of confidence are enumerated in item (1) of Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended; item (2) of Article 315 enumerates estafa committed by means of deceit. Deceit is not an essential requisite of estafa by abuse of confidence; the breach of confidence takes the place of fraud or deceit, which is a usual element in the other estafa. In this case, the charge against the petitioner and her subsequent conviction was for estafa committed by abuse of confidence. Thus, it was not necessary for the prosecution to prove deceit as this was not an element of the estafa that the petitioner was charged with. Carmina G. Brokmann v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 199150, February 6, 2012.

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January 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

Here are selected January 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and procedure:

1.         REVISED PENAL CODE

Estafa; probable cause. East Asia acted as dealer of commercial papers and custodian of the same on Zamora’s behalf.  This is clear from the terms of its sale invoice and custodian receipt.  East Asia acquired the commercial papers in trust and was obliged to deliver them and their proceeds to Zamora, failing which, its responsible officers could be prosecuted for estafa.  However, there was no probable cause to charge the respondents with estafa.  Zamora failed to identify the particular officers of East Asia who were responsible for the misappropriation or conversion of her funds. She simply assumed that since she had been communicating with them in connection with her investments, they all had a part in misappropriating her money or converting them to their use.  Many of them were evidently mere employees doing work for East Asia.  She did not submit proof of their specific criminal role in the transactions she assailed.  It is settled that only corporate officers who actually had part in the crime may be held liable for it. Virginia A. Zamora v. Jose Armado L. Eduque, et al, G.R. No. 174005, January 25, 2012.

Estafa through falsification; presumption of authorship. Metrobank urges the application of the presumption of authorship against Tobias based on his having offered the duplicate copy of the spurious title to secure the loan, and posits that there is no requirement that the presumption shall apply only when there is absence of a valid explanation from the person found to have possessed, used and benefited from the forged document. Metrobank’s theory was not sustained here. First, a presumption affects the burden of proof that is normally lodged in the State. The effect is to create the need of presenting evidence to overcome the prima facie case that shall prevail in the absence of proof to the contrary. As such, a presumption of law is material during the actual trial of the criminal case where in the establishment thereof the party against whom the inference is made should adduce evidence to rebut the presumption and demolish the prima facie case. This is not so in a preliminary investigation, where the investigating prosecutor only determines the existence of a prima facie case that warrants the prosecution of a criminal case in court. Second, the presumption of authorship, being disputable, may be accepted and acted upon where no evidence upholds the contention for which it stands. It is not correct to say, consequently, that the investigating prosecutor will try to determine the existence of the presumption during preliminary investigation, and then to disregard the evidence offered by the respondent. Moreover, the presumption that whoever possesses or uses a spurious document is its forger applies only in the absence of a satisfactory explanation.  Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co. (Metrobank), represented by Rosella A. Santiago v. Antonio O. Tobias III, G.R. No. 177780, January 25, 2012.

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November 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law

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

Civil Procedure

Appeal; argument raised for first time on appeal. As a last ditch effort, petitioner asserts that the property is a road right of way; thus, it cannot be subject of a writ of execution.  The argument must be rejected because it was raised for the first time in this petition.  In the trial court and the CA, petitioner’s arguments zeroed in on the alleged conjugal nature of the property.  It is well settled that issues raised for the first time on appeal and not raised in the proceedings in the lower court are barred by estoppel. Points of law, theories, issues, and arguments not brought to the attention of the trial court ought not to be considered by a reviewing court, as these cannot be raised for the first time on appeal.  To consider the alleged facts and arguments raised belatedly would amount to trampling on the basic principles of fair play, justice, and due process.  Evangeline D. Imani vs. Metroplitan Bank and Trust Company, G.R. No. 187023, November 17, 2010.

Appeal; argument raised for first time on appeal. The petitioners now claim that the Motion for Reconsideration, filed by the respondent on May 18, 1993 from the September 18, 1992 Order of the RTC, was filed out of time.  The petitioners make this claim to justify their contention that the subsequent rulings of the RTC, including the June 2, 1993 and October 1, 1993 Orders, are barred by res judicata.

We reject this belated claim as the petitioners raised this only for the first time on appeal, particularly, in their Memorandum.  In fact, the petitioners never raised this issue in the proceedings before the court a quo or in the present petition for review.

As a rule, a party who deliberately adopts a certain theory upon which the case is tried and decided by the lower court will not be permitted to change the theory on appeal.  Points of law, theories, issues and arguments not brought to the attention of the lower court need not be, and ordinarily will not be, considered by a reviewing court, as these cannot be raised for the first time at such late stage. It would be unfair to the adverse party who would have no opportunity to present further evidence material to the new theory, which it could have done had it been aware of it at the time of the hearing before the trial court.  Thus, to permit the petitioners in this case to change their theory on appeal would thus be unfair to the respondent and offend the basic rules of fair play, justice and due process.  Spouses Ernesto and Vicenta Topacio vs. Banco Filipino Savings and Mortgage Bank, G.R. No. 157644, November 17, 2010.

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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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Dissension in the Court: October 2010

The following are decisions promulgated by the High Court in October 2010 where at least one Justice felt compelled to express his or her dissent from the decision penned by the ponente.

When is a case really final?  When can the High Court review a lower tribunal’s findings of fact? To some extent, each of the cases cited below deal with a long-standing rule and its’ exceptions that are, at the end of the day, really very broad.  The wide expanse of these exceptions is a fertile ground upon which Justices may disagree.  So with this background, and in the wake of the forthcoming Pacquiao-Margarito bout, it is timely to once again declare, “Let’s get ready to rumble!

1.            Interest and Immutability (Brion v. Bersamin)

The decision and dissent in the case of Apo Fruits Corporation and Hijo Plantation, Inc. vs. Land Bank of the Philippines promulgated on October 12, 2010 essentially involved a divergence of positions on: (a) the conditions in which a 12% legal interest may be imposed in the payment of just compensation, and (b) the principle of immutability of judgments.

A.   Legal Interest

In the main decision, Justice Arturo D. Brion ruled that the obligation of the State to make just compensation payments effectively constitutes a forbearance on the part of Government upon which interest should become due.

According to the ponente, “[a]part from the requirement that compensation for expropriated land must be fair and reasonable, compensation, to be ‘just,’ must also be made without delay. Without prompt payment, compensation cannot be considered ‘just’ if the property is immediately taken as the property owner suffers the immediate deprivation of both his land and its fruits or income.”

Justice Brion added: “[t]his is the principle at the core of the present case where the petitioners were made to wait for more than a decade after the taking of their property before they actually received the full amount of the principal of the just compensation due them. What they have not received to date is the income of their landholdings corresponding to what they would have received had no uncompensated taking of these lands been immediately made. This income, in terms of the interest on the unpaid principal, is the subject of the current litigation.”

Accordingly, Justice Brion finds that in the instant case, when the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) took the petitioners’ lands without the corresponding full payment, LBP became liable for the income the landholdings would have earned had they not immediately been taken from Apo Fruits Corporation and Hijo Plantation, Inc. (the “Petitioners”).

For the majority then, in just compensation cases, the unpaid amount of just compensation should earn interest at the legal rate of 12% per annum from the date the properties are taken up to the time of full payment.

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June 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law

Here are selected June 2010 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on remedial law:

Civil Procedure

Annulment of judgment; direct recourse to this remedy not allowed if other appropriate remedies are available.  Sections 1 and 2 of Rule 47 of the Rules of Court impose the conditions for the availment of the remedy of annulment of judgment, viz.:

Section 1. Coverage.- This Rule shall govern the annulment by the Court of Appeals of judgments or final orders and resolutions in civil actions of Regional Trial Courts for which the ordinary remedies of new trial, appeal, petition for relief or other appropriate remedies are no longer available through no fault of the petitioner.

Section 2. Groundsfor annulment. – The annulment may be based only on the grounds of extrinsic fraud and lack of jurisdiction.

Extrinsic fraud shall not be a valid ground if it was availed of, or could have been availed of, in a motion for new trial or petition for relief.

Section 1, Rule 47 provides that it does not allow a direct recourse to a petition for annulment of judgment if other appropriate remedies are available, such as a petition for new trial, appeal or a petition for relief.  If petitioner fails to avail of these remedies without sufficient justification, she cannot resort to the action for annulment of judgment under Rule 47, for otherwise, she would benefit from her inaction or negligence.

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