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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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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March 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

Here are selected March 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on labor law and procedure:

Labor law

Cancellation of union registration. Art. 234(c) of the Labor Code requires the mandatory minimum 20% membership of rank-and-file employees in the employees’ union. Twenty percent (20%) of 112 rank-and-file employees in Eagle Ridge would require a union membership of at least 22 employees (112 x 205 = 22.4).  When the EREU filed its application for registration on December 19, 2005, there were clearly 30 union members.  Thus, when the certificate of registration was granted, there is no dispute that the Union complied with the mandatory 20% membership requirement. Accordingly, the retraction of six union members who later severed and withdrew their union membership cannot cause the cancellation of the union’s registration.

Besides, it cannot be argued that the affidavits of retraction retroacted to the time of the application for union registration or even way back to the organizational meeting. Before their withdrawal, the six employees in question were bona fide union members. They never disputed affixing their signatures beside their handwritten names during the organizational meetings.  While they alleged that they did not know what they were signing, their affidavits of retraction were not re-affirmed during the hearings of the instant case rendering them of little, if any, evidentiary value. In any case, even with the withdrawal of six union members, the union would still be compliant with the mandatory membership requirement under Art. 234(c) since the remaining 24 union members constitute more than the 20% membership requirement of 22 employees.  Eagle Ridge Gold & Country Club vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 178989, March 18, 2010.

Cessation of operations; financial assistance.  Based on Article 283, in case of cessation of operations, the employer is only required to pay his employees a separation pay of one month pay or at least one-half month pay for every year of service, whichever is higher. That is all that the law requires.

In the case at bar, petitioner paid respondents the following: (a) separation pay computed at 150% of their gross monthly pay per year of service; and (b) cash equivalent of earned and accrued vacation and sick leaves. Clearly, petitioner had gone over and above the requirements of the law. Despite this, however, the Labor Arbiter ordered petitioner to pay respondents an additional amount, equivalent to one month’s salary, as a form of financial assistance.

The award of financial assistance is bereft of legal basis and serves to penalize petitioner who had complied with the requirements of the law. The Court also point out that petitioner may, as it has done, grant on a voluntary and ex gratia basis, any amount more than what is required by the law, but to insist that more financial assistance be given is certainly something that the Court cannot countenance. Moreover, any award of additional financial assistance to respondents would put them at an advantage and in a better position than the rest of their co-employees who similarly lost their employment because of petitioner’s decision to cease its operations. SolidBank Corporation vs. National Labor Relations Commission, et al., G.R. No. 165951, March 30, 2010.

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February 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law

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

Civil Procedure

Actions; prescription/laches. Petitioners contend that it is error on the part of the CA to rule that their cause of action has been barred by prescription and laches. According to them, since the OCT from which ALI derived its title is void for want of a duly approved survey plan, their cause of action did not prescribe. However, as discussed above, the conclusion of the trial court that OCT No. 242 is void was not sufficiently borne out by the evidence on record. Verily, the premise upon which petitioners build their theory of imprescriptibility of their action did not exist.

In sum, we find no reason to disturb the CA’s finding that:  “As previously emphasized, OCT No. 242 of ALI’s predecessor-in-interest was issued on May 7, 1950, or forty-five (45) years before plaintiffs-appellees filed their complaint on March 10, 1995.  As such, it is the Court’s firmly held view that plaintiffs-appellees’ claim is barred not only by prescription, but also by laches.

Aside from the fact that OCT No. 242 had become incontrovertible after the lapse of one (1) year from the time a decree of registration was issued, any action for reconveyance that plaintiffs-appellees could have availed of is also barred.  Although plaintiffs-appellees’ complaint was for quieting of title, it is in essence an action for reconveyance based on an implied or constructive trust, considering that plaintiffs-appellees were alleging in said complaint that there was a serious mistake, if not fraud, in the issuance of OCT No. 242 in favor of ALI’s predecessor-in-interest.  It is now well-settled that an action for reconveyance, which is a legal remedy granted to a landowner whose property has been wrongfully or erroneously registered in another’s name, must be filed within ten years from the issuance of the title, since such issuance operates as a constructive notice.  Since ALI’s title is traced to an OCT issued in 1950, the ten-year prescriptive period expired in 1960.

By laches is meant the negligence or omission to assert a right within a reasonable time, warranting a presumption that the party entitled to assert it either has abandoned it or declined to assert it.  It does not involve mere lapse or passage of time, but is principally an impediment to the assertion or enforcement of a right, which has become under the circumstances inequitable or unfair to permit.  In the instant case, plaintiffs-appellees, as well as their predecessor-in-interest, have not shown that they have taken judicial steps to nullify OCT No. 242, from which ALI’s title was derived, for forty-five (45) years.  To allow them to do so now, and if successful, would be clearly unjust and inequitable to those who relied on the validity of said OCT, the innocent purchasers for value, who are protected by the precise provisions of P.D. 1529”. Spouses Morris Carpo and Socorro Carpo vs. Ayala Land, Incorporated, G.R. No. 166577, February 3, 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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November 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law

Here are selected November 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on remedial law:

Action;  forum shopping. Petitioners Espiritu, et al. point out that the certificate of non-forum shopping that respondents KPE and Petron attached to the petition they filed with the Court of Appeals was inadequate, having been signed only by Petron, through Atty. Cruz.

But, while procedural requirements such as that of submittal of a certificate of non-forum shopping cannot be totally disregarded, they may be deemed substantially complied with under justifiable circumstances. One of these circumstances is where the petitioners filed a collective action in which they share a common interest in its subject matter or raise a common cause of action. In such a case, the certification by one of the petitioners may be deemed sufficient.

Here, KPE and Petron shared a common cause of action against petitioners Espiritu, et al., namely, the violation of their proprietary rights with respect to the use of Gasul tanks and trademark. Furthermore, Atty. Cruz said in his certification that he was executing it “for and on behalf of the Corporation, and co-petitioner Carmen J. Doloiras.” Thus, the object of the requirement – to ensure that a party takes no recourse to multiple forums – was substantially achieved. Besides, the failure of KPE to sign the certificate of non-forum shopping does not render the petition defective with respect to Petron which signed it through Atty. Cruz. The Court of Appeals, therefore, acted correctly in giving due course to the petition before it.  Manuel C. Espiritu, Jr., et al. vs. Petron Corporation, et al., G.R. No. 170891, November 24, 2009.

Action;  real party in interest. As the successor-in-interest of the late Arsenio E. Concepcion and co-owner of the subject property, respondent Nenita S. Concepcion is entitled to prosecute the ejectment case not only in a representative capacity, but as a real party-in-interest. Article 487 of the Civil Code states, “Any one of the co-owners may bring an action in ejectment.” Hence, assuming that respondent failed to submit the proper documents showing her capacity to sue in a representative capacity for the estate of her deceased husband, the Court, in the interest of speedy disposition of cases, may deem her capacitated to prosecute the ejectment case as a real party-in-interest being a co-owner of the subject property considering that the trial court has jurisdiction over the subject matter and has also acquired jurisdiction over the parties, including respondent Nenita S. Concepcion.  Angelina S. Soriente, et al. vs. The Estate of the late Arsenio E. Concepcion, etc., G.R. No. 160239, November 25, 2009.

Appeal; locus standi. Petitioners correctly argue that the Credit Cooperative has no locus standi on appeal, since it failed to file a notice of appeal to the RTC’s September 14, 1999 Decision granting the motion for summary judgment. It was only the Union which appealed the case through a notice of appeal filed by its counsel, Atty. Luciano R. Caraang (Atty. Caraang). There is also no showing that Atty. Caraang represented both the Union and the Credit Cooperative in filing such notice of appeal. In fact, the Credit Cooperative did not deny its failure to file an appeal; however, it argued that it filed with the Court of Appeals an appellant’s brief in compliance with the appellate court’s directive to submit one. Suffice it to state that the Court of Appeals’ directive for the Credit Cooperative to file its brief did not clothe the Credit Cooperative with locus standi on appeal. The purpose of the filing of the brief is merely to present, in coherent and concise form, the points and questions in controversy, and by fair argument on the facts and law of the case, to assist the court in arriving at a just and proper conclusion. The Court of Appeals may have ordered the Credit Cooperative to submit its brief to enable it to properly dispose of the case on appeal. However, in the Credit Cooperative’s brief, not only did it ask for the reversal of the Summary Judgment but also prayed for the return of its garnished funds. This cannot be allowed. It would be grave error to grant the relief prayed for without violating the well-settled rule that a party who does not appeal from the decision may not obtain any affirmative relief from the appellate court other than what he has obtained from the lower court, if any, whose decision is brought up on appeal.

The rule is clear that no modification of judgment could be granted to a party who did not appeal.   Jose Feliciano Loy, et al. vs. San Miguel Corporation Employees Union-Philippine Transport and General Workers Organization (SMCEU-PTGWO), et al., G.R. No. 164886, November 24, 2009.

Arbitration;  third parties. We agree with the CA ruling that the BPPA arbitration clause does not apply to the present case since third parties are involved. Any judgment or ruling to be rendered by the panel of arbitrators will be useless if third parties are included in the case, since the arbitral ruling will not bind them; they are not parties to the arbitration agreement. In the present case, DOLE included as parties the spouses Abujos and Oribanex since they are necessary parties, i.e., they were directly involved in the BPPA violation DOLE alleged, and their participation are indispensable for a complete resolution of the dispute. To require the spouses Abujos and Oribanex to submit themselves to arbitration and to abide by whatever judgment or ruling the panel of arbitrators shall make is legally untenable; no law and no agreement made with their participation can compel them to submit to arbitration.  Stanfilco Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Multi-Purpose Cooperative vs. DOLE Philippines, Inc. (Stanfilco Division), Oribanex Services, Inc., Spouses Elly and Myrna Abujos, G.R. No. 154048, November 27, 2009.

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