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G.R. No.

81006 May 12, 1989

MEMORANDUM DECISION

VICTORINO
C.
FRANCISCO, petitioner,
vs.
WINAI PERMSKUL and THE HON. COURT OF APPEALS, respondents.

After a careful and thorough perusal, evaluation and study of the


records of this case, this Court hereby adopts by reference the
findings of fact and conclusions of law contained in the decision of
the Metropolitan Trial Court of Makati, Metro Manila, Branch 63
and finds that there is no cogent reason to disturb the same.

CRUZ, J.:

WHEREFORE, judgment appealed from is hereby affirmed in


toto. 3

An important constitutional question has been injected in this case which started out
as an ordinary complaint for a sum of money. The question squarely presented to the
Court is the validity of the memorandum decision authorized under Section 40 of
B.P. Blg. 129 in the light of Article VIII, Section 14 of the Constitution.
On May 21, 1984, the petitioner leased his apartment in Makati to the private
respondent for a period of one year for the stipulated rental of P3,000.00 a month.
Pursuant to the lease contract, the private respondent deposited with the petitioner
the amount of P9,000.00 to answer for unpaid rentals or any damage to the leased
premises except when caused by reasonable wear and tear. On May 31, 1985, the
private respondent vacated the property. He thereafter requested the refund of his
deposit minus the sum of P1,000.00, representing the rental for the additional ten
days of his occupancy after the expiration of the lease. The petitioner rejected this
request. He said the lessee still owed him for other charges, including the electricity
and water bills and the sum of P2,500.00 for repainting of the leased premises to
restore them to their original condition. 1

When the defendant went to the Court of Appeals, his petition for review was denied
on September 29, 1987, as so too was his motion for reconsideration, on December
1, 1987. 4 He is now before us to fault the respondent court, principally for sustaining
the memorandum decision of the regional trial court. His contention is that it violates
Article VIII, Section 14 of the Constitution.
This provision reads as follows:
Sec. 14. No decision shall be rendered by any court without
expressing therein clearly and distinctly the facts and the law on
which it is based.
No petition for review or motion for reconsideration of a decision
of the court shall be refused due course or denied without stating
the legal basis therefor.

The private respondent sued in the Metropolitan Trial Court of Makati. After the
submission of position papers by the parties, a summary judgment was rendered on
October 11, 1985, sustaining the complainant and holding that the repainting was not
chargeable to him. The defendant was ordered to pay the plaintiff the amount of
P7,750.00, representing the balance of the deposit after deducting the water and
electricity charges. The plaintiff was also awarded the sum of P1,250.00 as attorney's
fees, plus the Costs. 2

Except for the second paragraph, which was introduced only in the present charter,
Section 14 has been in force since the Constitution of 1935. The provision was recast
in affirmative terms in the 1973 Constitution but has been virtually restored to its
original form in the Constitution of 1987, to apply to all courts, including the
municipal courts. The purpose has always been the same, viz., to inform the person
reading the decision, and especially the parties, of how it was reached by the court
after consideration of the pertinent facts and examination of the applicable laws.

This decision was appealed to the Regional Trial Court of Makati and was affirmed
by Judge Jose C. de la Rama on January 14, 1987. This was done in a memorandum
decision reading in full as follows:

The parties are entitled to no less than this explanation if only to assure them that the
court rendering the decision actually studied the case before pronouncing its
judgment. But there are more substantial reasons. For one thing, the losing party
must be given an opportunity to analyze the decision so that, if permitted, he may

elevate what he may consider its errors for review by a higher tribunal. For another,
the decision, if well-presented and reasoned, may convince the losing party of its
merits and persuade it to accept the verdict in good grace instead of prolonging the
litigation with a useless appeal. A third reason is that decisions with a full exposition
of the facts and the law on which they are based, especially those coming from the
Supreme Court, will constitute a valuable body of case law that can serve as useful
references and even as precedents in the resolution of future controversies. As the
Court said in Rosales v. Court of First Instance. 5
Precedents are helpful in deciding cases when they are on all fours
or
at
least
substantially
Identical
with
previous
litigations. Argumentum a simili valet in lege. Earlier decisions are
guideposts that can lead us in the right direction as we tread the
highways and byways of the law in the search for truth and justice.
These pronouncements represent the wisdom of the past. They are
the voice of vanished judges talking to the future. Except where
there is a need to reverse them because of an emergent viewpoint
or an altered situation, they urge us strongly that, indeed, the
trodden path is best.
According to the petitioner, the memorandum decision rendered by the regional trial
court should be revoked for non-compliance with the above-quoted constitutional
mandate. He asks that the case be remanded to the regional trial court for a full
blown hearing on the merits, to be followed by a decision stating therein clearly and
distinctly the facts and the law on which it is based. For his part, the private
respondent demurs. He justifies the memorandum decision as authorized by B.P. Blg.
129 and invokes the ruling of this Court in Romero v. Court of Appeals, 6 Which
sustained the said law.
Section 40 of B.P. Blg. 129 reads as follows:
Sec. 40. Form of decision in appealed cases. Every decision or
final resolution of a court in appealed cases shall clearly and
distinctly state the findings of fact and the conclusions of law on
which it is based which may be contained in the decision or final
resolution itself, or adopted by reference from those set forth in the
decision, order or resolution appealed from.
The above section was applied in the Romero case, together with a similar rule
embodied in Section 18 of P.D. No. 946, providing that:

All cases of the Court of Agrarian Relations now pending before


the Court of Appeals shall remain in the Division to which they
have been assigned, and shall be decided within sixty (60) days
from the effectivity of this Decree; Provided, however, That if the
decision or order be an affirmance in toto of the dispositive
conclusion of the judgment appealed from, then the Court of
Appeals may, instead of rendering an extended opinion, indicate
clearly the trial court's findings of fact and pronouncements of law
which have been adopted as basis for the affirmance.
In the said case, Justice Jose Y. Feria, speaking for a unanimous Court, declared:
As previously stated, the decision of the Court of Agrarian
Relations consisted of thirteen pages, single space. The abovequoted decision of the respondent Court of Appeals consists of four
pages, three of which contains verbatim the dispositive portion of
the decision appealed from. The remaining page is devoted to an
explanation of why "for judicial convenience and expediency,
therefore, We hereby adopt, by way of reference, the findings of
facts and conclusions of the court a quo spread in its decision, as
integral part of this Our decision." The said decision may be
considered as substantial compliance with the above-quoted
provisions in Section 18 of P.D. No. 946 and Section 40 of B.P.
Blg. 129.
Nevertheless, he was quick to add a tenable misgiving and to express the following
reservation:
The authority given the appellate court to adopt by reference the
findings of fact and conclusions of law from those set forth in the
appealed decisions should be exercised with caution and prudence,
because the tendency would be to follow the line of least resistance
by just adopting the findings and conclusions of the lower court
without thoroughly studying the appealed case.
This caveat was necessary because, as he correctly observed:
It cannot be too strongly emphasized that just as important as the
intrinsic validity of a decision is the perception by the partieslitigants that they have been accorded a fair opportunity to be

heard by a fair and responsible magistrate before judgment is


rendered. It is this perception, coupled with a clear conscience,
which enables the members of the judiciary to discharge the
awesome responsibility of sitting in judgment on their fellowmen.
There is no question that the purpose of the law in authorizing the memorandum
decision is to expedite the termination of litigations for the benefit of the parties as
well as the courts themselves.
Concerned with the mounting problem of delay in the administration of justice, the
Constitution now contains a number of provisions aimed at correcting this serious
difficulty that has caused much disaffection among the people. Thus, Section 16 of
the Bill of Rights reiterates the original provision in the 1973 Constitution
guaranteeing to all persons "the right to a speedy disposition of their cases before all
judicial, quasi-judicial or administrative bodies." Section 14(2) of the same Article
III retains the rule that the accused shall be entitled to a trial that shall not only be
public and impartial but also speedy. In Article VIII, Section 5(3), the Supreme Court
is expressly permitted to temporarily assign a judge from one station to another when
the public interest so requires, as when there is a necessity for less occupied judge to
help a busier colleague dispose of his cases. In paragraph 5 of the same section, it is
stressed that the rules of court to be promulgated by the Supreme Court "shall
provide a simplified and inexpensive procedure for the speedy disposition of cases."
In Section 15, of the same article, maximum periods are prescribed for the decision
or resolution of cases, to wit, twenty-four months in the case of Supreme Court and,
unless reduced by the Supreme Court, twelve months for all lower collegiate courts
and three months for all other lower courts.
The courts of justice are really hard put at coping with the tremendous number of
cases in their dockets which, to make matters worse, continues to grow by the day
despite the efforts being taken to reduce it. In the Supreme Court alone, an average
of 400 cases is received every month as against the average of 300 cases disposed of
during the same month, leaving a difference of 100 cases monthly that is added to
some 5,000 still unresolved cases that have accumulated during the last two decades
or so. At this rate, the backlog will increase by 1,200 cases every year on top of the
earlier balance, much of which, despite its age, is still viable and have still to be
resolved. Considering that the Court spends four days of the week for studying and
deliberating on these cases in its en banc and division sessions, one can appreciate
the limited time allowed its members for the actual writing of its decisions. (This
particular decision, while extended, happens fortunately to be less complicated than

many of the other cases submitted to it, which require more time to write, not to
mention the antecedent research that may have to be made.)
Viewed in the light of these practical considerations, the memorandum decision can
be welcomed indeed as an acceptable method of dealing expeditiously with the case
load of the courts of justice, But expediency alone, no matter how compelling,
cannot excuse non-compliance with the Constitution; or to put it more familiarly, the
end does not justify the means. It is plain that if Section 40 of B.P. Blg. 129 is
unconstitutional, it must be struck down.
In the case at bar, we find that a judgment was made by the metropolitan trial court
in compliance with the rule on summary procedure. The decision consisted of three
typewritten pages, single space, and stated clearly and distinctly the facts and the law
on which it was based. It was a concise and well-written decision, and a correct one
to boot, for which Judge Paciano B. Balita is to be commended.
The problem, though, as the petitioner sees it, is that in affirming this judgment, the
regional trial court of Makati rendered a mere memorandum decision that simply
adopted by reference the findings of fact and law made by Judge Balita and then
concluded, without saying more, that "there was no cogent reason to disturb the
same." It is claimed that as Judge de la Rama did not make his own statement of the
facts and the law as required by the Constitution, his memorandum decision was a
total nullity. Worse, when the appeal was taken to the respondent court, what it
reviewed was not the memorandum decision of the regional trial court but the
decision rendered by the metropolitan trial court which, legally speaking, was not
before the appellate court.
It is not really correct to say that the Court of Appeals did not review the
memorandum decision of the regional trial court which was the subject of the
petition for review. A reading of its own decision will show that it dealt extensively
with the memorandum decision and discussed it at some length in the light of the
observations and reservations of this Court in the Romero case. Moreover, in
reviewing the decision of the metropolitan trial court, the Court of Appeals was
actually reviewing the decision of the regional trial court, which had incorporated by
reference the earlier decision rendered by Judge Balita.
The question, of course, is whether such incorporation by reference was a valid act
that effectively elevated the decision of the metropolitan trial court for examination
by the Court of Appeals.

To be fair, let it be said that when Judge dela Rama availed himself of the
convenience offered by Section 40 of B.P. Blg. 129, he was only acting in
accordance with the ruling announced in Romero permitting the use of the
memorandum decision. It must also be observed that even if the respondent court
appeared to be partial to the reservation rather than the rule in the said case, it
nevertheless had the duty which it discharged to abide by the doctrine
announced therein by the highest tribunal of the land. The respondent court could not
have acted otherwise.
This Court is not hampered by such inhibitions. As we may re-examine our own
rulings and modify or reverse them whenever warranted, we take a second look at
the memorandum decision and the Romero case and test them on the touchstone of
the Constitution.
The law does not define the memorandum decision and simply suggests that the
court may adopt by reference the findings of fact and the conclusions of law stated in
the decision, order or resolution on appeal before it. No particular form is prescribed;
the conditions for its use are not indicated. In fact, B.P. Blg. 129 does not even
employ the term "memorandum decision" in Section 40 or elsewhere in the rest of
the statute. This phrase appears to have been introduced in this jurisdiction not by
that law but by Section 24 of the Interim Rules and Guidelines, reading as follows:
Sec. 24. Memorandum decisions. -The judgment or final
resolution of a court in appealed cases may adopt by reference the
findings of fact and conclusions of law contained in the decision or
final order appealed from.
It is clear that where the decision of the appellate court actually reproduces the
findings of fact or the conclusions of law of the court below, it is not a memorandum
decision as envisioned in the above provision. The distinctive features of the
memorandum decision are, first, it is rendered by an appellate court, and second, it
incorporates by reference the findings of fact or the conclusions of law contained in
the decision, order or ruling under review. Most likely, the purpose is to affirm the
decision, although it is not impossible that the approval of the findings of fact by the
lower court may lead to a different conclusion of law by the higher court. At any
rate, the reason for allowing the incorporation by reference is evidently to avoid the
cumbersome reproduction of the decision of the lower court, or portions thereof, in
the decision of the higher court. The Idea is to avoid having to repeat in the body of
the latter decision the findings or conclusions of the lower court since they are being
approved or adopted anyway.

Parenthetically, the memorandum decision is also allowed in the United States, but
its form (at least) differs from the one under consideration in this case. Such a
decision is rendered in that country upon a previous' determination by the judge that
there is no need for a published opinion and that it will have no precedential effect.
The judgment is usually limited to the dispositive portion but a memorandum is
attached containing a brief statement of the facts and the law involved, mainly for the
information of the parties to the case.
When a law is questioned before the Court, we employ the presumption in favor of
its constitutionality. As we said in Peralta v. Commission of Elections, "to justify the
nullification of a law, there must be a clear and unequivocal breach of the
Constitution, not a doubtful and argumentative implication." 7 Courts will bend over
backward to sustain that presumption. In case of doubt, it is the duty of the judiciary
to exert every effort to prevent the invalidation of the law and the nullification of the
will of the legislature that enacted it and the executive that approved it. This norm is
based on a becoming respect that the judiciary is expected to accord the political
departments of the government which, it must be assumed in fairness, thoroughly
studied the measure under challenge and assured themselves of its constitutionality
before agreeing to enact it.
The Court has deliberated extensively on the challenge posed against the
memorandum decision as now authorized by law. Taking into account the salutary
purpose for which it is allowed, and bearing in mind the above-discussed restraint we
must observe when a law is challenged before us, we have come to the conclusion
that Section 40 of B.P. Blg. 129, as we shall interpret it here, is not unconstitutional.
What is questioned about the law is the permission it gives for the appellate court to
merely adopt by reference in its own decision the judgment of the lower court on
appeal. It is easy to understand that this device may feed the suspicion feared by
Justice Feria that the court has not given the appeal the attention it deserved and thus
deprived the parties of due process. True or not, this impression is likely to
undermine popular faith in the judiciary as an impartial forum which hears before it
decides and bases its decision on the established facts and the applicable law.
No less objectionable is the inconvenience involved in having to search for the
decision referred to, which, having been incorporated by reference only, does not
have to be attached to the memorandum decision. The Court had occasion earlier to
complain about this difficulty in the case of Gindoy v. Tapucar, 8 where we said:

. . . True it is that the Court of First Instance may adopt in


toto either expressly or impliedly the findings and conclusions of
the inferior court, and as a rule, such adoption would amount to a
substantial compliance with the constitutional mandate discussed
herein, but where, as in this case, the specific arguments presented
against the decision of the inferior court are of such nature that a
blanket affirmance of said decision does not in fact adequately
dispose of the strictures against it, it is but proper, if only to
facilitate the action to be taken by the appellate court on the
petition for review, that the concrete bases of the impugned
decision should appear on its face, instead of the appellate court
having to dig into the records to find out how the inferior court
resolved the issues of the case.
As to this problem, the Solicitor General correctly points out that it does not exist in
the case at bar because the decision of the Court of Appeals extensively quoted from
the decision of the metropolitan trial court. Although only incorporated by reference
in the memorandum decision of the regional trial court, Judge Balita's decision was
nevertheless available to the Court of Appeals. It is this circumstance, or even
happenstance, if you will, that has validated the memorandum decision challenged in
this case and spared it from constitutional infirmity.
That same circumstance is what will move us now to lay down the following
requirement, as a condition for the proper application of Section 40 of B.P. Blg. 129.
The memorandum decision, to be valid, cannot incorporate the findings of fact and
the conclusions of law of the lower court only by remote reference, which is to say
that the challenged decision is not easily and immediately available to the person
reading the memorandum decision. For the incorporation by reference to be allowed,
it must provide for direct access to the facts and the law being adopted, which must
be contained in a statement attached to the said decision. In other words, the
memorandum decision authorized under Section 40 of B.P. Blg. 129 should actually
embody the findings of fact and conclusions of law of the lower court in an annex
attached to and made an indispensable part of the decision.
It is expected that this requirement will allay the suspicion that no study was made of
the decision of the lower court and that its decision was merely affirmed without a
proper examination of the facts and the law on which it was based. The proximity at
least of the annexed statement should suggest that such an examination has been
undertaken. It is, of course, also understood that the decision being adopted should,

to begin with, comply with Article VIII, Section 14 as no amount of incorporation or


adoption will rectify its violation.
The Court finds it necessary to emphasize that the memorandum decision should be
sparingly used lest it become an addictive excuse for judicial sloth. It is an additional
condition for its validity that this kind of decision may be resorted to only in cases
where the facts are in the main accepted by both parties or easily determinable by the
judge and there are no doctrinal complications involved that will require an extended
discussion of the laws involved. The memorandum decision may be employed in
simple litigations only, such as ordinary collection cases, where the appeal is
obviously groundless and deserves no more than the time needed to dismiss it.
Despite the convenience afforded by the memorandum decision, it is still desirable
that the appellate judge exert some effort in restating in his own words the findings
of fact of the lower court and presenting his own interpretation of the law instead of
merely parroting the language of the court a quo as if he cannot do any better. There
must be less intellectual indolence and more pride of authorship in the writing of a
decision, especially if it comes from an appellate court.
It ill becomes an appellate judge to write his rulings with a pair of scissors and a pot
of paste as if he were a mere researcher. He is an innovator, not an echo. The case
usually becomes progressively simpler as it passes through the various levels of
appeal and many issues become unimportant or moot and drop along the way. The
appellate judge should prune the cluttered record to make the issues clearer. He
cannot usually do this by simply mimicking the lower court. He must use his own
perceptiveness in unraveling the rollo and his own discernment in discovering the
law. No less importantly, he must use his own language in laying down his judgment.
And in doing so, he should also guard against torpidity lest his pronouncements
excite no more fascination than a technical tract on the values of horse manure as a
fertilizer. A little style will help liven the opinion trapped in the tortuous lexicon of
the law with all its whereases and wherefores. A judicial decision does not have to be
a bore.
The interpretation we make today will not apply retroactively to the memorandum
decision rendered by the regional trial court in the case at bar, or to the decision of
the respondent court such decision on the strength ofRomero v. Court of Appeals. As
earlier observed, there was substancial compliance with Section 40 because of the
direct availability and actual review of the decision of Judge Balita incorporated by
reference in the memorandum decision of Judge de la Rama. The memorandum
decision as then understood under the Romero decision was a valid act at the time it

was rendered by Judge de la Rama and produced binding legal effect. We also affirm
the finding of the respondent court that the summary judgment without a formal trial
was in accord with the Rule on Summary Procedure and that the award of attorney's
fees is not improper.
Henceforth, all memorandum decisions shall comply with the requirements herein
set forth both as to the form prescribed and the occasions when they may be
rendered. Any deviation will summon the strict enforcement of Article VIII, Section
14 of the Constitution and strike down the flawed judgment as a lawless
disobedience.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED, with costs against the petitioner. This
decision is immediately executory. It is so ordered.
Fernan, C.J., Narvasa, Melencio-Herrera, Gutierrez, Jr., Paras, Gancayco, Padilla,
Bidin, Sarmiento, Cortes, Grio-Aquino, Medialdea and Regalado, JJ., concur.

G.R. No. 101041 November 13, 1991


HON.
JUDGE
ADRIANO
R.
VILLAMOR, petitioner,
vs.
HON. JUDGE BERNARDO LL. SALAS and GEORGE CARLOS, respondents.

contested land in Civil Case No. B-398, Judge Villamor dismissed the criminal cases
against her and her co-accused.
Judge Villamor likewise granted execution pending appeal of his decision in Civil
Case No. B-398. This order was challenged by Carlos in the Court of Appeals and in
this Court, both without success.

G.R. No. 101296 November 13, 1991


HON.
JUDGE
ADRIANO
R.
VILLAMOR, petitioner,
vs.
ANTONIO T. GUERRERO and HON. PEARY G. ALEONAR, Presiding Judge
of RTC, Branch 21, Region VII, Cebu City, respondents.
Ramon Ve Salazar for petitioner.
Antonio T. Guerrero for private respondent.
Henry R. Savellon for respondent.

GRIO-AQUINO, J.:p
In 1977, Civil Case No. B-398 (Gloria Naval vs. George Carlos) for recovery of
ownership of a parcel of coconut land was filed and subsequently raffled to the sala
of the petitioner, Judge Adriano Villamor. While the civil case was pending there,
respondent Carlos filed Criminal Cases Nos. N-989, N-990, N-991, N-992 and N993 for qualified theft against Gloria Naval and her helpers. The criminal cases were
also assigned to the sala of Judge Villamor.
Due to the pendency of Civil Case No. B-398, the criminal cases were temporarily
archived.
After trial in Civil Case No. B-398, a decision was rendered in favor of Naval who
was declared the lawful owner and possessor of the disputed land. Carlos was
ordered to vacate the land.
Thereafter, respondent Carlos, through counsel, moved to activate the archived
criminal cases. Having declared Naval the lawful owner and possessor of the

Afterwards, Carlos filed an administrative case, A.M. No. RTJ-87-105, against Judge
Villamor, charging him with having issued illegal orders and an unjust decision in
Civil Case No. B-398. On November 21, 1988, this Court, in an En Banc resolution,
summarily dismissed the administrative case.
Dissatisfied with the outcome of the administrative case, respondent Carlos filed a
civil action for damages (Civil Case No. CEB-6478) against Judge Villamor for
knowingly rendering an unjust judgment when he dismissed the five (5) criminal
cases against Naval, et al.
The summons in Civil Case No. CEB-6478 was served upon Judge Villamor on
December 10, 1987. The next day (December 11, 1987), instead of answering the
complaint, Judge Villamor issued in Criminal Cases Nos. N-0989 to 0993 an order of
direct contempt against Carlos and his lawyer. Attorney Antonio T. Guerrero, "for
degrading the respect and dignity of the court through the use of derogatory and
contemptous language before the court," and sentenced each of them to suffer the
penalty of imprisonment for five (5) days and to pay a fine of P500.
Carlos immediately filed in this Court a petition for certiorari with a prayer for the
issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction against the Judge (G.R. Nos. 82238-42).
We promptly restrained Judge Villamor from enforcing his Order of Contempt
against Carlos and Attorney Guerrero. On November 13, 1989, we annulled the
contempt order. (See pp. 26-34, Rollo of G.R. No. 101041.)
Back to Civil Case No. CEB-6478; Judge Villamor filed a motion to dismiss the
complaint for lack of jurisdiction. The trial court granted the motion. The order of
dismissal was affirmed by the Court of Appeals (CA-G.R. CV No. 20657, June 26,
1990). Carlos appealed to this Court which also denied the petition. (p. 125, Rollo of
G.R. No. 101296.)

Unfazed by these setbacks, Carlos and his counsel, Attorney Antonio Guerrero, filed
separate complaints for damages against Judge Villamor for knowingly rendering an
unjust order of contempt.
Attorney Guerrero's complaint for damages (Civil Case No. CEB-8802) was raffled
to Branch 21, Regional Trial Court, Cebu City, presided over by Judge Peary G.
Aleonar. Carlos' complaint for damages was docketed as Civil Case No. CEB-8823
and raffled to Branch 8, Regional Trial Court of Cebu City presided over by Judge
Bernardo LL. Salas.
On March 30, 1990, Judge Villamor filed a motion to dismiss Civil Case No. CEB8802 but it was denied by Judge Aleonar (p. 33, Rollo of G.R. No. 101296).
Hence, this petition for certiorari and prohibition with restraining order docketed as
G.R. No. 101296.
On September 19, 1991, this Court issued a temporary restraining order against
Judge Aleonar to stop him from proceeding in Civil Case No. CEB-8802 (pp. 4546, Rollo of G.R. No. 101296).
On May 20, 1991, a Manifestation was filed by Judge Villamor praying Judge Salas
to dismiss Civil Case No. CEB-8823 but the motion was denied by respondent Judge
on July 2, 1991 (pp. 13-16, Rollo of G.R. No. 101041).
Hence, this second petition for certiorari and prohibition with restraining order (G.R.
No. 101041).
On August 21, 1991, a Resolution was issued by this Court: 1) temporarily
restraining Judge Salas from further proceeding in Civil Case No. CEB-8823; and 2)
granting the petitioner's prayer that this case be consolidated with G.R. No. 101296
(pp. 37-39, Rollo of G.R. No. 101041).
The sole issue here is: whether or not Judges Aleonar and Salas may take cognizance
of the actions for damages against Judge Villamor for allegedly having rendered an
unjust order of direct contempt against Carlos and Attorney Guerrero which this
Court subsequently annulled.
The answer is no.

As very aptly held by this Court in a Resolution it issued in connection with a


previous case filed by respondent Carlos against Judge Villamor, over a similar
action for "Damages and Attorney's Fees Arising From Rendering an Unjust
Judgment," in dismissing the five (5) criminal cases for qualified theft which he
(respondent Carlos) had filed against Gloria P. Naval and others
Indeed, no Regional Trial Court can pass upon and scrutinize, and
much less declare as unjust a judgment of another Regional Trial
Court and sentence the judge thereof liable for damages without
running afoul with the principle that only the higher appellate
courts, namely, the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court, are
vested with authority to review and correct errors of the trial
courts. (George D. Carlos vs. CA, G.R. No. 95560, November 5,
1990; p. 125, Rollo of G.R No. 101296.)
To allow respondent Judges Aleonar and Salas to proceed with the trial of the actions
for damages against the petitioner, a co-equal judge of a co-equal court, would in
effect permit a court to review and interfere with the judgment of a co-equal court
over which it has no appellate jurisdiction or power of review. The various branches
of a Court of First Instance (now the Regional Trial Court) being co-equal, may not
interfere with each other's cases, judgments and orders (Parco vs. Court of Appeals,
111 SCRA 262).
This Court has already ruled that only after the Appellate Court, in a final judgment,
has found that a trial judge's errors were committed deliberately and in bad faith may
a charge of knowingly rendering an unjust decision be levelled against the latter
(Garcia vs. Alconcel, 111 SCRA 178; Sta. Maria vs. Ubay, 87 SCRA 179; Gahol vs.
Riodique, 64 SCRA 494).
Nowhere in this Court's decision annulling Judge Villamor's order of direct contempt
(G.R. Nos. 82238-42, November 13, 1989) can there be found a declaration that the
erroneous order was rendered maliciously or with conscious and deliberate intent to
commit an injustice. In fact, a previous order of direct contempt issued by Judge
Villamor against Carlos' former counsel was sustained by this Court (Jaynes C.
Abarrientos, et al. vs. Judge Villamor, G.R. No. 82237, June 1, 1988).
At most, the order of direct contempt which we nullified may only be considered an
error of judgment for which Judge Villamor may not be held criminally or civilly
liable to the respondents.

A judge is not liable for an erroneous decision in the absence of malice or wrongful
conduct in rendering it (Barroso vs. Arche, 67 SCRA 161).
WHEREFORE, the consolidated petitions for certiorari are GRANTED, Civil Cases
Nos. CEB-8802 and CEB-8823, respectively, pending in the salas of respondents
Judge Peary G. Aleonar and Judge Bernardo LL. Salas, are hereby dismissed. The
temporary restraining orders issued by this Court in these cases are hereby made
permanent. No costs.
SO ORDERED.

[G.R. No. 118830. February 24, 2003]


SPOUSES ALFREDO AND ENCARNACION CHING, petitioners, vs. COURT
OF APPEALS, FAMILY SAVINGS BANK, and FERDINAND J.
GUERRERO, SENIOR DEPUTY SHERIFF, MANILA, respondents.
DECISION
AZCUNA, J.:
This petition for review on certiorari, under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court,
seeks to set aside the decision [1] of the Court of Appeals in CA G.R. CV No. 31795,
dated October 27, 1994, as well as its resolution, [2] dated January 27, 1995, denying
petitioners motion for reconsideration.
The facts, gathered from the records of the petition, involve three different
cases filed in separate jurisdictions.
On August 6, 1981, respondent Family Savings Bank (Bank) filed a
complaint[3] with the Court of First Instance (CFI) of Manila, for the collection of a
sum of money against its debtor Cheng Ban Yek & Co., Inc. and petitioner Alfredo
Ching, who acted as a surety for Cheng Ban Yek & Co., Inc. [4] A day after the
complaint was filed, the Bank was able to obtain a writ of preliminary attachment
against the defendants.[5] Armed with a writ of preliminary attachment, the deputy
sheriff of the CFI of Manila, herein respondent Ferdinand J. Guerrero, proceeded to
levy upon a conjugal property[6] belonging to petitioners, spouses Alfredo and
Encarnacion Ching.[7]
On July 26, 1982, petitioners filed a petition [8] with the CFI of Rizal,[9] seeking
to declare illegal the levy on attachment upon their conjugal property. [10] Petitioners
claimed that the branch sheriff had no authority to levy upon a property belonging to
the conjugal partnership. The trial court, however, dismissed the case on August 8,
1983 for lack of jurisdiction because the subject property was already under custodia
legis of the CFI of Manila.[11]
Meanwhile, summary judgment was rendered in the collection case in favor of
the Bank on August 12, 1982. [12] The defendants therein, including petitioner Alfredo
Ching, appealed the summary judgment to the Court of Appeals. [13] While the case
was on appeal,[14] the trial court granted the Banks motion for execution pending

appeal.[15] As a consequence, the attached conjugal property was levied upon and
sold through public auction by the deputy sheriff to the Bank on October 10, 1983.[16]
On September 5, 1984, in an effort to prevent the deputy sheriff from
consolidating the sale, petitioners filed a second annulment case [17] with the Regional
Trial Court (RTC) of Makati.[18] Petitioners sought to declare void the levy and sale
on execution of their conjugal property by reiterating the same argument raised in the
first annulment case, i.e., that the branch sheriff had no authority to levy upon a
property belonging to the conjugal partnership.[19]
On November 15, 1985, while the second annulment case was pending, the
Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal filed in the collection case and affirmed in
toto the summary judgment rendered by the CFI of Manila. [20] The matter was
elevated to us on a petition for review,[21] but was eventually dismissed for having
been filed out of time and for lack of merit. [22]Hence, the decision in the collection
case became final.
On November 13, 1990, the RTC of Makati rendered judgment in the second
annulment case in favor of petitioners and declared null and void the levy and sale on
execution upon the conjugal property.[23] Respondents elevated the decision to the
Court of Appeals in CA G.R. CV No. 31795. On October 27, 1994, the Court of
Appeals issued the assailed decision, reversing and setting aside the decision of the
RTC of Makati.[24] The Court of Appeals declared that the Makati annulment case is
barred
by res
judicata because
of
the
prior Rizalannulment
case
and Manila collection case. Hence, this appeal.
Petitioners pray for the reversal of the decision of the Court of Appeals on the
following grounds:[25]
I
The Court of Appeals erred in holding that the decisions rendered in
the Manila collection case and Rizal annulment case, taken together, constitute res
judicata or bar by prior judgment to the annulment case filed with the RTC of
Makati. Assuming there is res judicata or bar by prior judgment, the Court of
Appeals erred in not holding that respondents have waived this defense.
II

The Court of Appeals erred in holding that petitioner Encarnacion Ching waived or
abandoned her right or claim on her conjugal property when she did not intervene in
the Manila collection case.

and said filing cannot be considered as an encroachment upon the jurisdiction of a


co-equal and coordinate court.[36]
We do not agree.

III
In any event, the Court of Appeals erred in not deciding the Makati annulment case
on its merits on equitable considerations.
We deny the petition.
The Makati annulment case should have been dismissed from the start for lack
of jurisdiction. The RTC of Makati does not have the authority to nullify the levy and
sale on execution that was ordered by the CFI of Manila, a co-equal court. The
determination of whether or not the levy and sale of a property in execution of a
judgment was valid, properly falls within the jurisdiction of the court that rendered
the judgment and issued the writ of execution.[26]
Beginning with the case of Orais v. Escao,[27] down to the subsequent cases
of Nuez v. Low,[28] Cabigao v. del Rosario,[29] Hubahib v. Insular Drug Co., Inc.,
[30]
National Power Corp. v. De Veyra,[31] Luciano v. Provincial Governor,[32] De Leon
v. Hon. Judge Salvador,[33] Cojuangco v. Villegas,[34] Darwin v. Tokonaga,[35] we laid
down the long standing doctrine that no court has the power to interfere by
injunction with the judgments or decrees of a court of concurrent or coordinate
jurisdiction. The various trial courts of a province or city, having the same or equal
authority, should not, cannot, and are not permitted to interfere with their respective
cases, much less with their orders or judgments. A contrary rule would obviously
lead to confusion and seriously hamper the administration of justice.
There is no dispute that the subject conjugal property was under custodia
legis of the CFI of Manila. It was initially attached under a writ of preliminary
attachment issued by the CFI of Manila. Said property was later on levied upon and
sold under a writ of execution issued by the same court. Since the attachment, levy
and sale have been carried out upon orders of the CFI of Manila, any and all
questions concerning the validity and regularity thereof necessarily had to be
addressed to the CFI of Manila.
Petitioners, however, contend that one of the owners of the property, petitioner
Encarnacion Ching, was not a party to the collection case. Not being a party thereto,
Encarnacion Ching should be allowed to file a separate case as a third-party claimant

Section 16 of Rule 39 of the Rules of Court authorizes a third person, who is


not the judgment debtor or his agent, to vindicate his claim to a property levied
through an entirely separate and distinct action. Said rule reads as follows:[37]
SECTION 16.
Proceedings where property claimed by third person. If the
property levied on is claimed by any person other than the judgment obligor or his
agent, and such person makes an affidavit of his title thereto or right to the
possession thereof, stating the grounds of such right or title, and serves the same
upon the officer making the levy and a copy thereof upon the judgment obligee, the
officer shall not be bound to keep the property, unless such judgment obligee, on
demand of the officer, files a bond approved by the court to indemnify the third-party
claimant in a sum not less than the value of the property levied on. In case of
disagreement as to such value, the same shall be determined by the court issuing the
writ of execution. No claim for damages for the taking or keeping of the property
may be enforced against the bond unless the action therefor is filed within one
hundred twenty (120) days from the date of the filing of the bond.
The officer shall not be liable for damages for the taking or keeping of the property,
to any third-party claimant if such bond is filed. Nothing herein contained shall
prevent such claimant or any third person from vindicating his claim to the property
in a separate action, or prevent the judgment obligee from claiming damages in the
same or separate action against a third-party claimant who filed a frivolous or plainly
spurious claim.
x
x

xxx

In Ong v. Tating,[38] we elucidated on the applicability of Section 16 of Rule 39


of the Rules of Court. We held therein that a separate and distinct case from that in
which the execution has issued is proper if instituted by a stranger to the latter suit.
Upon the other hand, if the claim of impropriety on the part of the sheriff in the
execution proceedings is made by a party to the action, not a stranger thereto, any
relief therefrom may only be applied with, and obtained from, the executing court.
This is true even if a new party has been impleaded in the suit.

Is a spouse, who was not a party to the suit but whose conjugal
property is being executed on account of the other spouse being the judgment
obligor, considered a stranger? InMariano v. Court of Appeals,[39] we answered
this question in the negative. In that case, the CFI of Caloocan City declared the wife
to be the judgment obligor and, consequently, a writ of execution was issued against
her. Thereupon, the sheriff proceeded to levy upon the conjugal properties of the
wife and her husband. The wife initially filed a petition for certiorari with the Court
of Appeals praying for the annulment of the writ of execution. However, the petition
was adjudged to be without merit and was accordingly dismissed. The husband then
filed a complaint with the CFI of Quezon City for the annulment of the writ of
execution, alleging therein that the conjugal properties cannot be made to answer for
obligations exclusively contracted by the wife. The executing party moved to dismiss
the annulment case, but the motion was denied. On appeal, the Court of Appeals,
in Mariano, ruled that the CFI of Quezon City, in continuing to hear the annulment
case, had not interfered with the executing court. We reversed the Court of Appeals
ruling and held that there was interference by the CFI of Quezon City with the
execution of the CFI of Caloocan City. We ruled that the husband of the judgment
debtor cannot be deemed a stranger to the case prosecuted and adjudged against
his wife, which would allow the filing of a separate and independent action.
The facts of the Mariano case are similar to this case. Clearly, it was
inappropriate for petitioners to institute a separate case for annulment when they
could have easily questioned the execution of their conjugal property in the
collection case. We note in fact that the trial court in the Rizal annulment case
specifically informed petitioners that Encarnacion Chings rights could be ventilated
in the Manila collection case by the mere expedient of intervening therein.
[40]
Apparently, petitioners ignored the trial courts advice, as Encarnacion Ching did
not intervene therein and petitioners instituted another annulment case after their
conjugal property was levied upon and sold on execution.
There have been instances where we ruled that a spouse may file a separate
case against a wrongful execution.[41] However, in those cases, we allowed the
institution of a separate and independent action because what were executed upon
were the paraphernal or exclusive property of a spouse who was not a party to the
case. In those instances, said spouse can truly be deemed a stranger. In the present
case, the levy and sale on execution was made upon the conjugal property.
In any case, even without the intervention of Encarnacion Ching in the
collection case, it appears that Alfredo Ching was able to raise the conjugal nature of
the property in both the trial court and appellate court. A perusal of the records

reveals that petitioner Alfredo Ching filed a Motion for Reconsideration and to
Quash Writ of Execution before the CFI of Manila. In the motion, he specifically
argued that the execution was invalid for having been enforced upon their conjugal
property.[42] Alfredo Ching raised this argument again on appeal in CA G.R. CV No.
02421.[43] Evidently, due process has been afforded to petitioners as regards the
execution on their conjugal property.
Considering that that the RTC of Makati did not have jurisdiction to hear Civil
Case No. 8389, it becomes unnecessary to resolve the other issues raised by
petitioners.
WHEREFORE, the petition for review is DENIED. The assailed decision and
resolution of the Court of Appeals are hereby AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioners.
SO ORDERED.
Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman), Vitug and Carpio, JJ., concur.
Ynares-Santiago, J., on leave.

ARMAND NOCUM and THE PHILIPPINE


DAILY INQUIRER, INC.,
P e t i t i o n e r s,

- versus -

LUCIO TAN,
R e s p o n d e n t.

G.R. No. 145022


Present:
PUNO,
Chairman,
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
CALLEJO, SR.
TINGA, and
CHICO-NAZARIO, JJ

Promulgated:

September 23, 2005


X--------------------------------------------------X

DECISION

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

Assailed in a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the 1997


Rules of Civil Procedure are the decision [1] of the Court of Appeals dated 19 April
2000 that affirmed the order of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Makati City,
Branch 56, in Civil Case No. 98-2288, dated 19 April 1999, admitting respondent
Lucio Tans Amended Complaint for Damages for the alleged malicious and
defamatory imputations against him in two (2) articles of the Philippine Daily
Inquirer, and its Resolution[2] dated 15 September 2000 denying petitioners Armand
Nocum and The Philippine Daily Inquirer, Inc.s motion for reconsideration.
The antecedents are summarized by the Court of Appeals.
On September 27, 1998, Lucio Tan filed a complaint
against reporter Armand Nocum, Capt. Florendo Umali, ALPAP
and Inquirer with the Regional Trial Court of Makati, docketed
as Civil Case No. 98-2288, seeking moral and exemplary damages

for the alleged malicious and defamatory imputations contained in


a news article.
INQUIRER and NOCUM filed their joint answer, dated
October 27, 1998, wherein they alleged that: (1) the complaint
failed to state a cause of action; (2) the defamatory statements
alleged in the complaint were general conclusions without factual
premises; (3) the questioned news report constituted fair and true
report on the matters of public interest concerning a public figure
and therefore, was privileged in nature; and (4) malice on their
part was negated by the publication in the same article of
plaintiffs or PALs side of the dispute with the pilots union.
ALPAP and UMALI likewise filed their joint answer,
dated October 31, 1998, and alleged therein that: (1) the complaint
stated no cause of action; (2) venue was improperly laid; and (3)
plaintiff Lucio Tan was not a real party in interest. It appeared that
the complaint failed to state the residence of the complainant at the
time of the alleged commission of the offense and the place where
the libelous article was printed and first published.
Thus, the Regional Trial Court of Makati issued an Order
dated February 10, 1999, dismissing the complaint without
prejudice on the ground of improper venue.
Aggrieved by the dismissal of the complaint, respondent
Lucio Tan filed an Omnibus Motion dated February 24, 1999,
seeking reconsideration of the dismissal and admission of the
amended complaint. In par. 2.01.1 of the amended complaint, it is
alleged that This article was printed and first published in the
City of Makati (p. 53, Rollo,CA-G.R. SP No. 55192), and in par.
2.04.1, that This caricature was printed and first published in the
City of Makati (p. 55, id.).
The lower court, after having the case dismissed for
improper venue, admitted the amended complaint and deemed set
aside the previous order of dismissal, supra, stating,inter alia, that:
The mistake or deficiency in the
original complaint appears now to have been
cured in the Amended Complaint which can still
be properly admitted, pursuant to Rule 10 of the

1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, inasmuch as the


Order of dismissal is not yet final. Besides, there
is no substantial amendment in the Amended
Complaint which would affect the defendants
defenses and their Answers. The Amendment is
merely formal, contrary to the contention of the
defendants that it is substantial.

On 20 August 2003, the Court resolved to give due course to the petition
and required the parties to submit their respective memoranda within thirty (30) days
from notice.[8] Both petitioners and respondent complied.[9]
Petitioners assigned the following as errors:
A.

THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN RULING (1)


THAT THE LOWER COURT HAD JURISDICTION OVER
THE CASE (ON THE BASIS OF THE ORIGINAL
COMPLAINT) NOTWITHSTANDING THE FACT THAT
THE LOWER COURT HAD EARLIER DISMISSED THE
ORIGINAL COMPLAINT FOR ITS FAILURE TO
CONFER JURISDICTION UPON THJE COURT; AND (2)
THAT THE AMENDED COMPLAINT WAS PROPERLY
ALLOWED OR ADMITTED BECAUSE THELOWER
COURT WAS NEVER DIVESTED OF JURISDICTION
OVER THE CASE;

B.

THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN NOT RULING


THAT THE ORIGINAL COMPLAINT OF RESPONDENT
WAS AMENDED PURPOSELY TO CONFER UPON
THE LOWER COURT JURISDICTION OVER THE CASE.

Dissatisfied, petitioners, together with defendants Capt. Florendo Umali and


the Airline Pilots Association of the Philippines, Inc. (ALPAP), appealed the RTC
decision to the Court of Appeals. Two petitions for certiorari were filed, one filed
by petitioners which was docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 55192, and the other by
defendants Umali and ALPAP which was docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 54894. The
two petitions were consolidated.
On 19 April 2000, the Court of Appeals rendered its decision the dispositive
portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is
hereby DENIED DUE COURSE and DISMISSED for lack of
merit. The Order of the court a quo is hereby AFFIRMED.

[10]

The motions for reconsideration filed by petitioners and by defendants Umali


and ALPAP were likewise denied in a resolution dated 15 September 2000.
Both petitioners and defendants Umali and ALPAP appealed to this Court.
Under consideration is the petition for review filed by petitioners.
On 11 December 2000, the Court required respondent Tan to comment on
the petition filed by petitioners.[3]
Respondent filed his comment on 22 January 2001[4] to which petitioners
filed a reply on 26 April 2001.[5]
In a Manifestation filed on 19 February 2001, respondent stated that the
[6]
petition filed by defendants Umali and ALPAP has already been denied by the
Court in a resolution dated 17 January 2001.[7]

Petitioners state that Article 360 of the Revised Penal Code vests
jurisdiction over all civil and criminal complaints for libel on the RTC of the place:
(1) where the libelous article was printed and first published; or (2) where the
complainant, if a private person, resides; or (3) where the complainant, if a public
official, holds office. They argue that since the original complaint only contained the
office address of respondent and not the latters actual residence or the place where
the allegedly offending news reports were printed and first published, the original
complaint, by reason of the deficiencies in its allegations, failed to confer jurisdiction
on the lower court.
The question to be resolved is: Did the lower court acquire jurisdiction over
the civil case upon the filing of the original complaint for damages?
We rule in the affirmative.

It is settled that jurisdiction is conferred by law based on the facts alleged in


the complaint since the latter comprises a concise statement of the ultimate facts
constituting the plaintiff's causes of action.[11] In the case at bar, after examining the
original complaint, we find that the RTC acquired jurisdiction over the case when the
case was filed before it. From the allegations thereof, respondents cause of action is
for damages arising from libel, the jurisdiction of which is vested with the RTC.
Article 360 of the Revised Penal Code provides that it is a Court of First
Instance[12] that is specifically designated to try a libel case.[13]
Petitioners are confusing jurisdiction with venue. A former colleague, the
Hon. Florenz D. Regalado,[14] differentiated jurisdiction and venue as follows: (a)
Jurisdiction is the authority to hear and determine a case; venue is the place where
the case is to be heard or tried; (b) Jurisdiction is a matter of substantive law; venue,
of procedural law; (c) Jurisdiction establishes a relation between the court and the
subject matter; venue, a relation between plaintiff and defendant, or petitioner and
respondent; and, (d) Jurisdiction is fixed by law and cannot be conferred by the
parties; venue may be conferred by the act or agreement of the parties.
In the case at bar, the additional allegations in the Amended Complaint that the
article and the caricature were printed and first published in the City
of Makati referred only to the question of venue and not jurisdiction. These
additional allegations would neither confer jurisdiction on the RTC nor would
respondents failure to include the same in the original complaint divest the lower
court of its jurisdiction over the case. Respondents failure to allege these allegations
gave the lower court the power, upon motion by a party, to dismiss the complaint on
the ground that venue was not properly laid.
In Laquian v. Baltazar,[15] this Court construed the term jurisdiction in
Article 360 of the Revised Penal Code as referring to the place where actions for
libel shall be filed or venue.
In Escribano v. Avila,[16] pursuant to Republic Act No. 4363, [17] we laid
down the following rules on the venue of the criminal and civil actions in written
defamations.
1.
General rule: The action may be filed in the Court
of First Instance of the province or city where the libelous article is
printed and first published or where any of the offended parties
actually resides at the time of the commission of the offense.

2.
If the offended party is a public officer with office
in Manila at the time the offense was committed, the venue
is Manila or the city or province where the libelous article is
printed and first published.
3.
Where an offended party is a public official with
office outside of Manila, the venue is the province or the city
where he held office at the time of the commission of the offense
or where the libelous article is printed and first published.
4.
If an offended party is a private person, the venue is
his place of residence at the time of the commission of the offense
or where the libelous article is printed and first published.
The common feature of the foregoing rules is that whether
the offended party is a public officer or a private person, he has
always the option to file the action in the Court of First Instance of
the province or city where the libelous article is printed or first
published.

We further restated[18] the rules on venue in Article 360 as follows:


1.
Whether the offended party is a public official or a
private person, the criminal action may be filed in the Court of
First Instance of the province or city where the libelous article is
printed and first published.
2.
If the offended party is a private individual, the
criminal action may also be filed in the Court of First Instance of
the province where he actually resided at the time of the
commission of the offense.
3.
If the offended party is a public officer whose
office is in Manila at the time of the commission of the offense, the
action may be filed in the Court of First Instance of Manila.
4.
If the offended party is a public officer holding
office outside of Manila, the action may be filed in the Court of

First Instance of the province or city where he held office at the


time of the commission of the offense.

We fully agree with the Court of Appeals when it ruled:


We note that the amended complaint or amendment to the
complaint was not intended to vest jurisdiction to the lower court,
where originally it had none. The amendment was merely to
establish the proper venue for the action. It is a well-established
rule that venue has nothing to do with jurisdiction, except in
criminal actions. Assuming that venue were properly laid in the
court where the action was instituted, that would be procedural, not
a jurisdictional impediment. In fact, in civil cases, venue may be
waived.
Consequently, by dismissing the case on the ground of
improper venue, the lower court had jurisdiction over the case.
Apparently, the herein petitioners recognized this jurisdiction by
filing their answers to the complaint, albeit, questioning the
propriety of venue, instead of a motion to dismiss.
...
We so hold that dismissal of the complaint by the lower
court was proper considering that the complaint, indeed, on its
face, failed to allege neither the residence of the complainant nor
the place where the libelous article was printed and first published.
Nevertheless, before the finality of the dismissal, the same may
still be amended as in fact the amended complaint was admitted, in
view of the court a quos jurisdiction, of which it was never
divested. In so doing, the court acted properly and without any
grave abuse of discretion.[19]

It is elementary that objections to venue in CIVIL ACTIONS arising from


libel may be waived since they do not involve a question of jurisdiction. The laying
of venue is procedural rather than substantive, relating as it does to jurisdiction of the
court over the person rather than the subject matter. Venue relates to trial and not to

jurisdiction.[20] It is a procedural, not a jurisdictional, matter. It relates to the place of


trial or geographical location in which an action or proceeding should be brought and
not to the jurisdiction of the court. [21] It is meant to provide convenience to the
parties, rather than restrict their access to the courts as it relates to the place of trial.
[22]
In contrast, in CRIMINAL ACTIONS, it is fundamental that venue is
jurisdictional it being an essential element of jurisdiction.[23]
Petitioners argument that the lower court has no jurisdiction over the case
because respondent failed to allege the place where the libelous articles were printed
and first published would have been tenable if the case filed were a criminal case.
The failure of the original complaint to contain such information would be fatal
because this fact involves the issue of venue which goes into the territorial
jurisdiction of the court. This is not to be because the case before us is a civil action
where venue is not jurisdictional.
The cases[24] cited by petitioners are not applicable here. These cases
involve amendments on complaints that confer jurisdiction on courts over which they
originally had none. This is not true in the case at bar. As discussed above, the RTC
acquired jurisdiction over the subject matter upon the filing of the original
complaint. It did not lose jurisdiction over the same when it dismissed it on the
ground of improper venue. The amendment merely laid down the proper venue of
the case.
WHEREFORE, the foregoing considered, the decision of the Court of
Appeals dated 19 April 2000 is AFFIRMED in toto. No costs.

G.R. No. 170478


May 22, 2008
SPS.
TERESITO
Y.
VILLACASTIN
and
LOURDES
FUA
VILLACASTIN, petitioners,
vs.
PAUL PELAEZ, respondent.
DECISION
TINGA, J.:
A conflict of jurisdiction between the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication
Board (DARAB) and the regular trial courts is at the core of the present case.
Petitioners question the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals dated February 7, 2005, in
CA-G.R. SP. No. 83873, which upheld the primary and exclusive jurisdiction of the
DARAB in cases involving the use or possession of lands covered by agrarian laws.
The facts, as culled from the record, are as follows:
On June 29, 1976, respondent Paul Pelaez and his wife mortgaged their agricultural
lands bearing Original Certificates of Title Nos. 0-10343, 0-10344 and 0-10345,
situated in Barrio Kodia, Madridejos, Cebu, to the Development Bank of the
Philippines (DBP) Bogo Branch, Cebu. For failure of the Pelaez spouses to pay their
mortgage obligation, the properties were foreclosed and subsequently sold at public
auction.
The purported tenants of the property, Anastacio Alob, Francisco Alob, Jesus
Cordova, Manuel Sanchez, Elia Giltendez, Flora dela Pea, Eliseo Rayco, Benjamin
Santillan, Pascual Gilbuena, Jesus Alob, Renaldo Grande, and Julieto Manzueto,
filed an action to annul the mortgage, foreclosure and sale of the properties, claiming
that they are the owners thereof under Presidential Decree No. 27. the case was
docketed as Reg. Case No. VII-76-C-90.
In the meantime, on May 10, 1988, petitioners filed a Complaint for Forcible Entry
with Prayer for a Writ of Preliminary Mandatory Injunction, 2 docketed as Civil Case
No. 79, with the First Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) of Bantayan, Cebu,
against respondent and a certain Elesio Monteseven. The complaint averred that
plaintiffs (petitioners herein) are the owners and actual possessors of the subject
landholding and that defendants, having entered the property through stealth and
strategy, unlawfully deprived plaintiffs of possession thereof.
Respondent countered that he is the owner of the subject property, which was
foreclosed by the DBP and later purchased by petitioners at an auction sale.
Petitioners, however, were allegedly never in possession of the subject property as
they failed to apply for a writ of possession therefor. Respondent further claimed that
he had redeemed the property on March 3, 1988 and accordingly reacquired
possession thereof.3
Meanwhile, the Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator in Cebu rendered a decision
in Reg. Case No. VII-76-C-90 dated February 15, 1993, in favor of the tenants, the
dispositive portion of which states:

WHEREFORE, in the light of the foregoing view, DECISION is hereby


rendered as follows:
1. Declaring complainants herein with the exception of Silbino Arranquez[,]
Jr. and Claro Gilbuela who earlier withdraw from this case as bonafide
tenant farmers of the parcels in question covered by P.D. [No.] 27;
2. Declaring the mortgage executed by Sps. Paul and Elnora Pelaez to
respondent DBP and the subsequent foreclosure and eventual sale thereof to
Sps. Teresito and Lourdes Villacastin as null and void ab initio as it is
contrary to law, public order and public policy;
3. Declaring complainants herein to properly account their deposited
shares/lease rentals before the DAR office of Bantayan[,] Cebu and deliver
the said deposited [share/lease] rentals including the forthcoming harvest
thereon to respondent landowners Sps. Paul and Elnora Pelaez with the
assistance of the MARO of Bantayan, Madridejos, Cebu.
4. No pronouncement as to cost.4
This decision was affirmed by the DARAB in a Decision5 dated February 22, 2000.
On January 6, 2000, the MCTC rendered judgment in Civil Case No. 79 in favor of
petitioners and disposed as follows:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, defendant is hereby ordered:
a) To return to plaintiffs possession of the parcel of land above-described
and vacate the premises;
b) To pay the costs of litigation;
c) Moral and exemplary damages not recoverable in ejectment suit is
denied;
d) Expenses claimed not duly proven are disallowed;
e) To release in favor of the plaintiffs the cash bond the sum of P5,000.00
deposited pursuant to the issuance of a Writ of Preliminary Mandatory
Injunction.6
In a Decision7 dated March 10, 2004, the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Dakit, Bogo,
Cebu, Branch 61, affirmed the MCTC decision.
The Court of Appeals, however, ruled that regular courts should respect the primary
jurisdiction vested upon the DARAB in cases involving agricultural lands such as the
property subject of this case. Accordingly, it set aside the decision rendered by the
RTC and the MCTC, and dismissed the complaint for forcible entry filed by
petitioners in this case.
The appellate court denied reconsideration in its Resolution 8 dated November 11,
2005.
Petitioners contend that Civil Case No. 79 did not involve any agrarian matter and
thus, the MCTC correctly exercised jurisdiction over the case.
In his Comment9 dated March 21, 2006, respondent underscores the fact that the
parcels of land subject of this case are tenanted agricultural lands. Before judgment

was rendered in the forcible entry case, the tenants of the property already filed a suit
with the DARAB for the annulment of the real estate mortgage executed by
respondent over the same in favor of DBP and the subsequent foreclosure and
auction sale in favor of petitioners. The DARAB's decision declaring the mortgage,
foreclosure and auction sale null and void became final as regards petitioners who
did not appeal from the decision. Respondent asserts that the complaint for forcible
entry filed by petitioners had lost its legal basis after the DARAB declared that the
foreclosure and auction sale of the subject property were null and void.
Petitioners filed a Reply10 dated July 28, 2006, insisting that the tenant-farmers
involved in the DARAB case were not parties to the forcible entry case, the only
defendant therein being respondent in this case. Respondent, in turn, raised the
defense of ownership, thereby joining the issues regarding possession and
ownership.
Petitioners further note their argument in their Motion for Reconsideration 11 of the
Decision of the Court of Appeals that the subject property had been declared as
wilderness area and the same had been classified as alienable and disposable on
December 22, 1987. In support of this contention, they submitted a Department of
Agrarian Reform Order12 dated September 12, 1997 to the effect that the subject
property falls within the administrative authority or competence of the Department of
Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). The order directed the PARO of Cebu
and the MARO of Bantayan, Cebu to cease and desist from further activities
affecting the subject property under Operation Land Transfer, and to refer the matter
to the DENR.
Jurisdiction over the subject matter is determined by the allegations of the
complaint.13 In ascertaining, for instance, whether an action is one for forcible entry
falling within the exclusive jurisdiction of the inferior courts, the averments of the
complaint and the character of the relief sought are to be examined.14
A review of the complaint reveals that the pertinent allegations thereof sufficiently
vest jurisdiction over the action on the MCTC. The complaint alleges as follows:
III
That the plaintiffs are the owners and legal as well as actual possessors of a
parcel of agricultural land more particularly described as follows:
xxx
IV
That the defendant, sometime in the second week of March 1988, by
strategy and through stealth entered the above-described land of the
plaintiffs and took possession thereof; thus, depriving said plaintiffs of the
possession thereof;
V
That several demands were made the plaintiffs upon the defendants to
restore to them the possession of the above-described parcel of land; but,

defendants refused and still refuse to restore possession of said property to


the plaintiffs;15
It has not escaped our notice that no landowner-tenant vinculum juris or juridical tie
was alleged between petitioners and respondent, let alone that which would
characterize the relationship as an agrarian dispute. 16 Rule II of the DARAB
Rules17 provides that the DARAB "shall have primary jurisdiction, both original and
appellate, to determine and adjudicate all agrarian disputes, cases, controversies, and
matters or incidents involving the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian
Reform Program under Republic Act No. 6657, Executive Order Nos. 229, 228 and
129-A, Republic Act No, 3844 as amended by Republic Act No. 6389, Presidential
Decree No. 27 and other agrarian laws and their implementing rules and
regulations."
Petitioners' action is clearly for the recovery of physical or material possession of the
subject property only, a question which both the MCTC and the RTC ruled
petitioners are entitled to. It does not involve the adjudication of an agrarian reform
matter, nor an agrarian dispute falling within the jurisdiction of the DARAB.
Courts have jurisdiction over possessory actions involving public or private
agricultural lands to determine the issue of physical possession as this issue is
independent of the question of disposition and alienation of such lands which should
be threshed out in the DAR.18 Thus, jurisdiction was rightfully exercised by the
MCTC and the RTC.
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals in
CA-G.R. SP. No. 83873 dated February 7, 2005, and its Resolution dated November
11, 2005, are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Decision of the Regional Trial
Court of Dakit, Bogo, Cebu, Branch 61, dated March 10, 2004, affirming the
decision of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Bantayan, Cebu, dated June 6, 2000,
is REINSTATED. No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.
Quisumbing,Chairperson, Velasco, Jr., Leonardo-de Castro, Brion,
JJ., concur.

[G.R. No. 92625 : December 26, 1990.] 192 SCRA 768


JOSE ORDA and IMELDA LOZADA, Petitioners, vs. THE HONORABLE
COURT OF APPEALS and GIL GALANG Respondents.
DECISION
GANCAYCO, J.:
The question presented in this case is whether or not the Court of Appeals may refer
a petition for habeas corpus originally filed with it to the Regional Trial Court for a
full-blown trial due to conflicting facts presented by the parties.
Originally, private respondent filed a petition for habeas corpus with the Regional
Trial Court of San Pablo City to regain custody of his minor daughter, Joyce, who
continued staying with her maternal grandparents, petitioners herein, her mother
being already deceased at the initiation of the action. The case was eventually
dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because petitioners, as defendants therein, had
moved to Bataan and any writ of habeas corpus to be issued by the trial court may
not be enforced against them.
Subsequently, private respondent, on the basis of his being the sole surviving parent
of his daughter, filed a petition for habeas corpus with the respondent Court of
Appeals docketed as CA-G.R. No. 13912-SP, an original action to compel petitioners
to produce the body of minor Joyce Orda Galang and explain the basis of their
custody. Petitioners herein filed their Opposition/Answer 1 alleging that private
respondent abandoned his wife and child, had no source of livelihood and therefore
could not support his daughter, they prayed that care and custody of the child be
awarded them.: rd
On 13 April 1988, respondent court issued its assailed decision, as follows:
The conflicting thesis (sic), however, of petitioner [private respondent
herein] and respondents [petitioners herein] require a full-blown trial of the
facts alleged by the parties. This could be shown by the initial discussions
aforestated.
The records show that [private respondent] had already filed a similar
petition before the Regional Trial Court, Fourth Judicial Region, Branch 31,
San Pablo City, on November 23, 1987, in Special Proceedings No. SP-719
(87). However, the writ was returned unserved as [petitioners] ostensibly
transferred their domicile at the Philippine Refugee Processing Center at
Barrio Sabang, Morong, Bataan.
Inasmuch as [petitioners] have submitted to the jurisdiction of the Court by
producing the body of the child, Joyce Orda Galang, and submitted their
comments to the petition, the trial on the merits could now proceed to
determine who of the parties are entitled to the custody of the child.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, this Court hereby decides to


REMAND this case to the Regional Trial Court, Branch 31, San Pablo City,
for trial on the merits as to which of the parties are legally entitled to the
custody of the child, Joyce Orda Galang.
SO ORDERED. 2
In conformity with the foregoing decision the Regional Trial Court of San Pablo
City, the Hon. Napoleon R. Flojo presiding, before which private respondent filed his
first action, ordered the reinstatement of Special Proceedings No. SP-719 (87) and
scheduled the case for trial on the merits. 3 Upon examination of the records of said
case, petitioners noted that only the order of dismissal of the same was in the
expediente of the case. They brought this matter to the attention of the trial court
which then issued an order dated 27 January 1989 directing the Chief, Archives
Section of the Court of Appeals "to transmit to this Court the original record of case
AC-G.R. No. SP-13912 (sic) immediately upon receipt of this Order." 4
In reply, the respondent Court of Appeals advised the trial court that no records can
be remanded because no expediente from the lower court was ever elevated. For this
reason, petitioners filed with respondent court on 21 April 1989 a Motion for
Clarification of its earlier decision alleging that CA-G.R. No. SP-13912 was an
original action, not an appeal emanating from, or a special civil action to assail, a
case filed with the trial court, hence no record of the case can be remanded because
no expediente from the lower court was ever elevated to the Court of Appeals; that
Special Proceedings No. SP-719 (87) was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction and the
order of dismissal has long become final and, moreover, herein petitioners were
never brought to the jurisdiction of the trial court in said special proceedings, so
much so that they have not even presented an answer or opposition in said special
proceedings; and that a reinstatement of Special Proceedings No. SP-719 (87), over
which the trial court had lost jurisdiction, may not be justified by virtue of the order
of the Court of Appeals to remand CA-G.R. No. 13912 for trial on the merits. 5
The Court of Appeals 6 resolved this motion on 6 June 1989 as follows:
At the outset, it is necessary to point out that this Court entertained this petition for
Habeas Corpus in the exercise of its original jurisdiction over such case. Said
petition is in no way connected with the one dismissed by the lower court in SP-719
(87).
In their Motion for Clarification, [petitioners] appear to be confused by this Court's
directive remanding the case to the lower court.
It should be noted that when this Court ordered the same, it did not mean the
remanding of the records, but (the) referring (of) the case to the court a quo for
appropriate action, it enjoying original and concurrent jurisdiction with this Court
over habeas corpus cases (B.P. 129).:-cralaw
Judge Napoleon Flojo also appears to be mixed up as he issued an Order dated
January 27, 1989, which inter alia require the Chief, Archives Section of this Court

"to transmit" to the Regional Trial Court "the original record of case AC-G.R. No.
13912 immediately upon receipt of this order." (p. 106, Rollo) (sic) But no records
can be transmitted back to the lower court simply because no records were elevated
in that, as aforesaid, the case was filed here as an original action.
The [petitioners] have manifested in their motion that they were not given an
opportunity to answer or at least comment on the petition. Now the same is in the
lower court as directed in the decision sought to be clarified. Indeed, issues cannot be
joined if the lower court will deprive the [petitioners] (of) their right to respond to
the petition.
WHEREFORE, for the sake of clarity the dispositive portion of the decision
dated April 13, 1988 is hereby MODIFIED to read as follows:
"WHEREFORE, premises considered, this Court hereby decides to
REFER this case to the Regional Trial Court, Branch 31, San Pablo
City, for trial on the merits as to which of the parties are legally
entitled to the custody of the child, Joyce Orda Galang. FOR
ISSUES TO BE JOINED, THE LOWER COURT IS HEREBY
ORDERED TO REQUIRE THE [petitioners] TO ANSWER THE
PETITION."
SO ORDERED." 7
Both parties filed separate motions for reconsideration of the foregoing resolution.
Petitioners contended that respondent Court of Appeals had no authority to refer the
case to the lower court for trial on the merits because said court, in the original
habeas corpus case filed by private respondent, had never acquired jurisdiction over
their persons. Further, that respondent court had no power to order a case docketed
with the lower court without private respondent having paid the docketing fee and
filing an appropriate pleading therein. Private respondent, on the other hand, also set
forth similar contentions and prayed that trial on the merits be resumed by
respondent Court.
The Court of Appeals 8 resolved both motions for reconsideration on 13 March 1990
as follows:
We entertain no doubt that [petitioners] had never been brought to the
jurisdiction of the lower court in SP: PROC. No. SP-719 (87)and agree with
the claim that the Order of dismissal issued in said case had already become
final and executory. But then, it must be pointed out again that with the
filing of another petition for habeas corpus before this Court (docketed as
AC [sic] G.R. SP No. 13912), an entirely new proceeding was commenced.
Unlike the lower court in the previous habeas corpus case, this Court
acquired jurisdiction over the persons of [petitioners] upon their filing of an
Opposition/Answer on April 4, 1988 (p. 14, Rollo).
Section 9[1] in relation to Section 21 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129 confers upon the
Court of Appeals authority to try and decide habeas corpus cases concurrent with the

Regional Trial Courts. Concurrent or coordinate jurisdiction has been defined as that
which is possessed by a court together with another or others over the same subject
matter. Clearly, therefore, Batas Pambansa Blg. 129 provides the basis for Us to refer
AC (sic) G.R. SP No. 13912 to the lower court for trial on the merits. With the
referral of AC (sic) G.R. SP No. 13912, the jurisdiction which this Court acquired
over the persons of [petitioners] was transferred to and conferred upon the Regional
Trial Court, which necessarily must treat said case as a separate and distinct
proceeding from the one it earlier dismissed. This means that the Regional Trial
Court must assign the referred case a new number, but need not require the [private
respondent] to remit the prescribed docketing fee inasmuch as the same had already
been paid with this Court. What the parties need to do though is to reproduce the
pleadings they filed in AC (sic) G.R. SP No. 13912 before the Regional Trial Court
in order for issues to be joined therein.- nad
Accordingly, the dispositive portion of the Decision dated April 13, 1988 is hereby
further clarified to read thus:
"WHEREFORE, premises considered, this Court hereby decides to REFER
this case to the regional Trial Court, Branch 31, San Pablo City, for trial on
the merits as to which of the parties are legally entitled to the custody of the
child, Joyce Orda Galang. FOR THIS PURPOSE, THE PARTIES ARE
DIRECTED TO REPRODUCE ALL THE PLEADINGS THEY FILED IN
AC (sic) G.R. SP NO. 13912 BEFORE THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT,
UPON THE RECEIPT OF WHICH, SHALL ASSIGN THE CASE A NEW
NUMBER WITHOUT REQUIRING [private respondent] TO PAY THE
DOCKETING FEE."
SO ORDERED. 9
In this special civil action for Certiorari petitioners assign the following as errors
committed by the Court of Appeals:
1. Respondent Court of Appeals erred, as it is without authority [to do so],
in referring the original action for habeas corpus filed before it to the
Regional Trial Court, Branch 31, San Pablo City, for trial on the merits
to determine the issue as to which of the parties are legally entitled to
the custody of the child, its reliance on Section 9[1] in relation to
Section 21 of B.P. Blg. 21 being specious.
2. Respondent Court of Appeals erred in ordering the parties to the original
action for habeas corpus filed before it to reproduce before the
Regional Trial Court all the pleadings they filed in AC-G.R. SP No.
13912 (sic).
3. Respondent Court of Appeals erred, as it is without authority [to do so],
in directing the Regional Trial Court, Branch 31, San Pablo City, to
assign the case a new case number without requiring herein private
respondent (as petitioner therein) to pay the docket fee therefor. 10

There is merit in the contentions of petitioners.


Essentially, petitioners argue that the Court of Appeals has no power to issue the
decision remanding the proceedings to the trial court and the two subsequent
resolutions clarifying the same.
The assailed decision and the two resolutions of the Court of Appeals are not
supported by law and the Rules of Court. The provisions of the Judiciary
Reorganization Act (B.P. Blg. 129) cited by the respondent Court of Appeals in its
resolution dated 13 March 1990 are not in point. Sections 9(1) and 21 thereof merely
provide that the Court of Appeals and Regional Trial Courts, respectively, exercise
original jurisdiction to issue writs of habeas corpus, among others. While
recognizing the concurrent original jurisdiction of both courts over habeas corpus
cases as special proceedings, these provisions are not authority for remanding or
referring to the latter original actions filed with the former.
On the contrary, the Court of Appeals is specifically given the power to receive
evidence and perform any and all acts necessary to resolve factual issues raised in
cases falling within its original jurisdiction. 11 Furthermore, under the Supreme
Court Resolution dated 11 February 1983 implementing B.P. Blg. 129 pending the
corresponding thorough revision of the Rules of Court, the Court of Appeals is
authorized to conduct a trial or hearing to receive evidence and for the purpose shall
observe the procedure prescribed for the trial courts. 12 Clearly, the Court of Appeals
should not have remanded or referred the petition for a writ of habeas corpus to the
trial court.: nad
Finally, the questioned decision and resolutions go against the Revised Internal Rules
of the Court of Appeals. 13 Under Rule 6, Section 2(c) (5) thereof, the proper
procedure is as follows:
RULE 6
PROCEDURE IN SPECIAL CASES
xxx
SEC. 2. Special Civil Action. Original verified petitions for Certiorari,
prohibition, mandamus, habeas corpus, quo warranto and other writs may
be filed in the Court of Appeals . . .
xxx
c. Judicial Action. The Court may either deny due course or dismiss the
petition outright, or require the private respondent or respondents to
comment on the petition, or give due course thereto.
xxx
(5) If it appears that there is need for reception of evidence, the Division to
which the Justice to whom the case is assigned for study and report belongs
shall conduct the hearing. The Division shall have the power to perform any
acts to resolve the factual issues raised in the case (Emphasis supplied.)

Attention is also directed to the fact that the foregoing provision is silent as to
whether or not the hearing may be delegated, unlike that of the provision on
annulment of judgments, Section 1(c)(3) of the same Rule, where, on motion of the
parties, referral of any of the issues to a Commissioner is allowed in accordance with
Rule 33 of the Rules of Court.
Under the foregoing disquisition, the Court of Appeals was in error in ordering the
remand and later on the referral of the original petition for habeas corpus filed with it
to the Regional Trial Court. What respondent court should have done was to conduct
the reception of evidence and pass upon the merits of the conflicting allegations of
the parties insofar as the petition for a writ of habeas corpus is concerned.
While We agree with the conclusion reached by respondent court that the case
requires a full-blown trial of the facts, the same should be done in the context of the
special proceedings for custody of minors under Rule 99 of the Rules of Court, and
not a remand or referral of the original action for a writ of habeas corpus filed with
the respondent court. Parenthetically, the proper venue in this action is the place
where the petitioner therein resides. 14 Petitioners' third assigned error is disposed of
accordingly.
WHEREFORE, the petition for Certiorari is hereby GRANTED. The assailed
decision and resolutions of the respondent Court of Appeals are SET ASIDE and a
new one is rendered DISMISSING the petition for habeas corpus WITHOUT
PREJUDICE to the filing by private respondent of the appropriate special
proceedings to gain custody of his minor child. Let copies of this decision be
furnished all Members of the respondent Court of Appeals. No costs.
SO ORDERED.
Narvasa (Chairman), Cruz, Grio-Aquino and Medialdea, JJ., concur.

[G.R. No. 129132. July 8, 1998]


ISABELITA VITAL-GOZON, petitioner, vs. HONORABLE COURT
APPEALS and ALEJANDRO DE LA FUENTE, respondents.

OF

DECISION
DAVIDE, JR., J.:*
This is a sequel to our decision [1] of 5 August 1992 in G.R. No. 101428,
entitled Isabelita Vital-Gozon v. The Honorable Court of Appeals, et al., which held
that the Court of Appeals had jurisdiction, in a special civil action
for mandamus against a public officer (docketed therein as CA-G.R. SP No. 16438
and entitled Dr. Alejandro S. de la Fuente v. Dr. Isabelita Vital-Gozon, et al.), to take
cognizance of the claim for damages against respondent public officer.
Specifically, the instant petition seeks to reverse the Resolution of 7 May
1997[2] of respondent Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 16438 awarding to
petitioner below, now private respondent, moral and exemplary damages and
attorneys fees after hearing the evidence thereon sometime after this Courts
decision in G.R. No. 101428 became final.
The factual antecedents then, as found by us in G.R. No. 101428, must be
restated, thus:
In the early months of 1987 -- and pursuant to Executive Order No. 119
issued on January 30, 1987 by President Corazon C. Aquino
-- reorganization of the various offices of the Ministry of Health
commenced; existing offices were abolished, transfers of personnel
effected.
At the time of the reorganization, Dr. Alejandro S. de la Fuente was the
Chief of Clinics of the National Children's Hospital, having been
appointed to that position on December 20, 1978. Prior thereto, he
occupied the post of Medical Specialist II, a position to which he was
promoted in 1977 after serving as Medical Specialist I of the same
hospital for six (6) years (since 1971).

On February 4, 1988 Dr. de la Fuente received notice from the


Department of Health that he would be re-appointed Medical Specialist
II. Considering this to be a demotion by no less than two ranks from his
post as Chief of Clinics, Dr. de la Fuente filed a protest with the DOH
Reorganization Board. When his protest was ignored, he brought his case
to the Civil Service Commission where it was docketed as CSC Case No.
4. In the meantime the duties and responsibilities pertaining to the
position of Chief of Clinics were turned over to and were allowed to be
exercised by Dr. Jose D. Merencilla, Jr.
Dr. de la Fuentes case was decided by the Civil Service Commission in a
Resolution dated August 9, 1988. In that Resolution, the Commission
made the following conclusion and disposition, to wit:
xxx (The Commission) declares the demotion/transfer of
appellant dela Fuente, Jr. from Chief of Clinics to Medical
Specialist II as null and void: hence, illegal. Considering
further that since the National Children's Hospital was not
abolished and the positions therein remained intact although the
title or the position of Chief of Clinics was changed to 'Chief of
Medical Professional Staff' with substantially the same
functions and responsibilities, the Commission hereby orders
that:
1.

Appellant dela Fuente, Jr. be retained or considered as


never having relinquished his position of Chief of Clinics
(now Chief of Medical Professional Staff) without loss of
seniority rights; and

2.

He be paid back salaries, transportation, representation and


housing allowances and such other benefits withheld from
him from the date of his illegal demotion/transfer.

No motion for reconsideration of this Resolution was ever submitted nor


appeal therefrom essayed to the Supreme Court, within the thirty-day
period prescribed therefor by the Constitution. Consequently, the
resolution became final, on September 21, 1988.

De la Fuente thereupon sent two (2) letters to Dr. Vital-Gozon, the


Medical Center Chief of the National Childrens Hospital, demanding
implementation of the Commission's decision. Dr. Vital-Gozon referred
de la Fuentes claims to the Department of Health Assistant Secretary
for Legal Affairs for appropriate advice and/or action xxx (She did this
allegedly because, according to the Solicitor General, she was) unaware
when and how a CSC Resolution becomes final and executory, whether
such Resolution had in fact become final and executory and whether the
DOH Legal Department would officially assail the mentioned
Resolution. But she did not answer Dr. de la Fuentes letters, not even
to inform him of the referral thereof to the Assistant Secretary. She chose
simply to await legal guidance from the DOH Legal Department. On
the other hand, no one in the DOH Legal Department bothered to reply to
Dr. de la Fuente, or to take steps to comply or otherwise advise
compliance, with the final and executory Resolution of the Civil Service
Commission. In fact, de la Fuente claims that Vital-Gozon had actually
threatened to stop paying xxx (his) salary and allowances on the pretext
that he has as yet no 'approved' appointment even as Medical Specialist
II x x x.

petitioner, Dr. Alejandro S. de la Fuente, Jr., and to pay such sums


which have accrued and due and payable as of the date of said
order;
(2)

After hearing on the prayer for preliminary injunction, that the


restraining order be converted to a writ of preliminary injunction;
and that a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction be issued
ordering principal respondent and the other respondents to
implement in full the said final resolution; and

(3)

That, after hearing on the merits of the petition, that judgment be


rendered seeking (sic) permanent writs issued and that principal
respondent be ordered and commanded to comply with and
implement the said final resolution without further delay; and,
furthermore, that the principal respondent be ordered to pay to the
petitioner the sums ofP100,000.00 and P20,000.00 as moral and
exemplary damages, and P10,000.00 for litigation expenses and
attorney's fees.

xxx
Three months having elapsed without any word from Vital-Gozon or
anyone in her behalf, or any indication whatever that the CSC Resolution
of August 9, 1988 would be obeyed, and apprehensive that the funds to
cover the salaries and allowances otherwise due him would revert to the
General Fund, Dr. de la Fuente repaired to the Civil Service Commission
and asked it to enforce its judgment. He was however told to file in court
a petition for mandamus because of the belief that the Commission
had no coercive powers -- unlike a court -- to enforce its final
decisions/resolutions.
So he instituted in the Court of Appeals on December 28, 1988 an action
of mandamus and damages with preliminary injunction to compel
Vital-Gozon, and the Administrative Officer, Budget Officer and Cashier
of the NCH to comply with the final and executory resolution of the Civil
Service Commission. He prayed for the following specific reliefs:
(1) (That) xxx a temporary restraining order be issued immediately,
ordering the principal and other respondents to revert the funds of
the NCH corresponding to the amounts necessary to implement the
final resolution of the CSC in CSC Case No. 4 in favor of herein

The Court of Appeals required the respondents to answer. It also issued a


temporary restraining order as prayed for, and required the respondents to
show cause why it should not be converted to a writ of preliminary
injunction. The record shows that the respondents prayed for and were
granted an extension of fifteen (15) days to file their answer through
counsel, who, as the Court of Appeals was later to point out, did not
bother to indicate his address, thus notice was sent to him through the
individual respondents xxx (However, no) answer was filed; neither was
there any show cause [sic] against a writ of preliminary injunction. It
was a certain Atty. Jose Fabia who appeared in Vital-Gozon's behalf.
About a month afterwards, de la Fuente filed with the same Court a
Supplemental/Amended Petition dated February 2, 1989. The second
petition described as one for quo warranto aside from mandamus,
added three respondents including Dr. Jose Merencilla, Jr.; and
alleged inter alia that he (de la Fuente) had clear title to the position in
question [by] virtue of the final and executory judgment of the Civil
Service Commission; that even after the Commission's judgment had
become final and executory and been communicated to Vital-Gozon, the

latter allowed Dr. Merencilla, Jr. as OIC Professional Service to further


usurp, intrude into and unlawfully hold and exercise the public
office/position of petitioner (under a duly approved permanent
appointment as Chief of Clinics since 1978). De la Fuente thus prayed,
additionally, for judgment:
(a)
Declaring that principal respondent Dr. Jose D.
Merencilla, Jr. is not legally entitled to the office of Chief of
Clinics (now retitled/known as Chief of Medical Professional
Staff, NCH), ousting him therefrom and ordering said
respondent to immediately cease and desist from further
performing as OIC Professional Service any and all duties and
responsibilities of the said office; (and)
(b)
Declaring that the petitioner, Dr. Alejandro S. de la
Fuente, Jr., is the lawful or de jure Chief of Clinics (now
known as Chief of the Medical Professional Staff and placing
him in the possession of said office/position, without the need
of reappointment or new appointment as held by the Civil
Service Commission in its resolution of August 9, 1988, in
CSC Case No. 4.
xxx."
Copy of the Supplemental/Amended Petition was sent to Atty. Jose A.
Favia, Counsel for Respondents c/o Dr. Ma. Isabelita Vital-Gozon, etc.,
National Children's Hospital, E. Rodriguez Ave., Quezon City (Atty.
Fabia's address not being indicated or mentioned in his motion for
Extension of Time).
Again the Court of Appeals required answer of the respondents. Again,
none was filed. The petitions were consequently resolved on the basis of
their allegations and the annexes. The Appellate Court promulgated its
judgment on June 9, 1989. It held that -The question of whether petitioner may be divested of his
position as Chief of Clinics by the expedient of having him
appointed to another, lower position is no longer an issue. It
ceased to be such when the resolution in CSC Case No. 4
became final. The said resolution is explicit in its mandate;

petitioner was declared the lawful and de jure Chief of Clinics


(Chief of the Medical Professional Staff) of the National
Childrens Hospital, and by this token, respondent Dr. Jose D.
Merencilla, Jr. is not legally entitled to the
office. Respondents, particularly Dr. Isabelita Vital-Gozon, had
no discretion or choice on the matter; the resolution had to be
complied with. It was ill-advised of principal respondent, and
violative of the rule of law, that the resolution has not been
obeyed or implemented.
and accordingly ordered
xxx respondents, particularly Dr. Isabelita Vital-Gozon, xxx to
forthwith comply with, obey and implement the resolution in
CSC Case No. 4 (and) xxx Dr. Jose D. Merencilla, Jr., who is
not entitled to the office, xx to immediately cease and desist
from further performing and acting as OIC Professional
Service.
But de la Fuente's prayer for damages -- founded essentially on the
refusal of Gozon, et al. to obey the final and executory judgment of the
Civil Service Commission, which thus compelled him to litigate anew in
a different forum -- was denied by the Court of Appeals on the ground
that the petitions (for mandamus) are not the vehicle nor is the Court the
forum for xxx (said) claim of damages.
Gozon acknowledged in writing that she received a copy of the Appellate
Tribunal's Decision of June 9, 1989 on June 15, 1989. Respondent de la
Fuente acknowledged receipt of his own copy on June 15, 1989. Neither
Vital-Gozon nor her co-party, Dr. Merencilla, Jr., moved for
reconsideration of, or attempted to appeal the decision.
It was de la Fuente who sought reconsideration of the judgment, by
motion filed through new counsel, Atty. Ceferino Gaddi. He insisted that
the Appellate Court had competence to award damages in
a mandamus action. He argued that while such a claim for damages
might not have been proper in a mandamus proceeding in the Appellate
Court before the enactment of B.P. Blg. 129 because the Court of
Appeals had authority to issue such writs only in aid of its appellate
jurisdiction, the situation was changed by said BP 129 in virtue of

which three levels of courts -- the Supreme Court, the Regional Trial
Court, and the Court of Appeals -- were conferred concurrent original
jurisdiction to issue said writs, and the Court of Appeals was given power
to conduct hearings and receive evidence to resolve factual issues. To
require him to separately litigate the matter of damages, he continued,
would lead to that multiplicity of suits which is abhorred by the law.
While his motion for reconsideration was pending, de la Fuente sought to
enforce the judgment of the Court of Appeals of June 9, 1989 -- directing
his reinstatement pursuant to the Civil Service Commissions Resolution
of August 9, 1988, supra. He filed on July 4, 1989 a Motion for
Execution, alleging that the judgment of June 9, 1989 had become final
and executory for failure of Gozon, et al. -- served with notice thereof on
June 16, 1989 -- to move for its reconsideration or elevate the same to the
Supreme Court. His motion was granted by the Court of Appeals in a
Resolution dated July 7, 1989, reading as follows:
The decision of June 9, 1989 having become final and
executory, as prayed for, let the writ of execution issue
forthwith.
The corresponding writ of execution issued on July 13, 1989, on the
invoked authority of Section 9, Rule 39. The writ quoted the dispositive
portion of the judgment of June 9, 1989, including, as the Solicitor
Generals Office points out, the second paragraph to the effect that the
petitions are not the vehicle nor is the Court the forum for the claim of
damages; (hence,) the prayer therefor is denied.
The writ of execution notwithstanding, compliance with the June 9, 1989
judgment was not effected. Consequently, de la Fuente filed, on July 20,
1989, an Urgent Ex ParteManifestation with Prayer to Cite Respondents
for Contempt, complaining that although Gozon and her co-parties had
been served with the writ of execution on July 14, they had not complied
therewith. By Resolution dated July 26, 1989, the Court required Gozon
and Merencilla to appear before it on August 3, 1989 to answer the
charge and show cause why they should not be adjudged in contempt for
disobeying and/or resisting the judgment.
At the hearing Gozon and Merencilla duly presented themselves,
accompanied by their individual private lawyers -- one for Gozon (Felipe

Hidalgo, Jr.), two for Merencilla (Bernardo S. Nera and Moises S.


Rimando). One other lawyer appeared in their behalf, from the Health
Department, Artemio Manalo, who stated that he was there in behalf of
Jose A. Fabia. They explained that they had no intention to defy the
Court, they had simply referred the matter to their superiors in good faith;
and they were perfectly willing to comply with the judgment, undertaking
to do so even in the afternoon of that same day. The Court
consequently ordered them "to comply with their undertaking xxx
without any further delay, and report the action taken towards this end,
within five (5) days.
On August 9, 1989, Gozon, as Medical Center Chief, sent a letter to
Associate Justice Pedro A. Ramirez, advising that under Hospital Special
Order No. 31 dated August 3, 1989, de la Fuente had been directed to
assume the position of Chief of the Medical Professional Staff, and that a
voucher for the payment of his allowances had been prepared and was
being processed.
More than a month later, or more precisely on September 27, 1989, the
Court of Appeals promulgated another Resolution, this time resolving de
la Fuente's motion for reconsideration of June 29, 1989. It modified the
Decision of June 9, 1989 by (a) deleting its last paragraph (disallowing
the claim of damages, supra), (b) consequently describing and treating it
as a PARTIAL DECISION, and (c) scheduling further proceedings for
the purpose of receiving evidence (of damages), since said question
cannot be resolved by mere reference to the pleadings. This was done
in reliance on Section 3, Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, invoked by de la
Fuente, which reads as follows:
SEC. 3. Mandamus. -- When any tribunal, corporation, board,
or person unlawfully neglects the performance of an act which
the law specifically enjoins as a duty resulting from an office,
trust, or station, or unlawfully excludes another from the use
and enjoyment of a right or office to which such other is
entitled, and there is no other plain, speedy and adequate
remedy in the ordinary course of law, the person aggrieved
thereby may file a verified petition in the proper court alleging
the facts with certainty and praying that judgment be rendered
commanding the defendant, immediately or at some other
specified time, to do the act required to be done to protect the

rights of the petitioner, and to pay the damages sustained by


the petitioner by reason of the wrongful acts of the defendant.
At about this time, yet another lawyer, Atty. Pedro F. Martinez entered his
appearance for Isabelita Gozon. At his instance, the Court gave him an
opportunity to xxx file a motion for reconsideration of the Resolution
of September 27, 1989. That motion he filed by registered mail on
November 10, 1989. His basic contentions were (a) that the decision of
June 9, 1989 could no longer be altered, having become final and
executory and having in fact been executed, and (b) that under BP 129,
the Appellate Court had no jurisdiction over the question of damages in
a mandamus action.
The Office of the Solicitor General also put in an appearance in Gozon's
behalf at this juncture, saying that the case had been referred to it only on
November 14, 1989. It, too, sought reconsideration of the Resolution of
September 27, 1989. It filed on November 16, 1989 an Omnibus
Motion: I. For Reconsideration of Resolution dated September 27, 1989;
and II. To defer hearing on petitioner's claims for damages.
Both motions were denied by the Court of Appeals in a Resolution dated
January 11, 1991. In that Resolution, the Court
1)
declared that the amended decision had already
become final and could no longer be re-opened because,
although a copy of the amendatory resolution was received by
counsel who was representing Gozon on October 3, 1989, the
first motion for reconsideration was not mailed until November
10, 1989 and the Solicitor Generals Omnibus Motion was
not filed until November 16, 1989; and
2)
prohibited the Solicitor General from representing
Gozon in connection with xx (de la Fuentes) claim for
damages, on the authority of this Courts ruling promulgated
on March 19, 1990 in G.R. No. 87977 (Urbano, et al. v.
Chavez, et al.) and G.R. No. 88578 (Co v. Regional Trial Court
of Pasig).
Notice of this Resolution of January 11, 1991 was served on the Solicitor
Generals Office on January 18, 1991. Again the Solicitor General

sought reconsideration, by motion dated January 25, 1991 and filed on


January 30, 1991. Again it was rebuffed. In a Resolution rendered on
August 7, 1991, served on the Solicitor Generals Office on August 20,
1991, the Court of Appeals denied the motion. It ruled that the question
of the authority of the Solicitor General to appear as counsel for
respondent Gozon xxx (had already) been extensively discussed, and
that its jurisdiction xxx to hear and determine issues on damages
proceeds from Sec. 9, Batas Pambansa 129 as amended.
In an attempt to nullify the adverse dispositions of the Court of
Appeals -- and obtain the ultimate and corollary relief of dismissing
respondent de la Fuentes claim for damages - the Solicitor Generals
Office has instituted the special civil action of certiorari at bar. It
contends that the Court of Appeals is not legally competent to take
cognizance of and decide the question of damages in a mandamus suit.
xxx[3]
On 5 May 1993, the Court of Appeals issued a Resolution [4] which noted that
our decision in G.R. No. 101428 had become final and left the option to reopen the
case to de la Fuente.
In its resolution of 26 October 1995, [5] the Court of Appeals, inter alia, set the
hearing for reception of evidence on the matter of damages on 7 December 1995.
After de la Fuente presented his evidence, the Court of Appeals set reception of
Vital-Gozons evidence on 16 and 17 January 1996.[6]
At the scheduled hearing on 16 January 1996, Conrado M. Dela Fuente sought
to block the presentation of Vital-Gozons evidence on the ground that the former
had not filed an answer, which the latter refuted. The hearing was then reset to other
dates for the parties to prove their respective claims. Vital-Gozon submitted, on 18
January 1996, copies of a Manifestation and Motion dated 10 September 1992 to
which was attached an Answer likewise dated 10 September 1992. It was claimed in
the Manifestation that the answer to the claim for damages could not have been filed
earlier as the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals over de la Fuentes claim for
damages had been questioned before the Supreme Court. Vital-Gozon likewise
claimed that copies of the Manifestation and Motion were received by the Court of
Appeals on 18 September 1992 at 3:40 p.m. and sent by registered mail to counsel
for dela Fuente.[7] The filing of the Manifestation and Motion with the Court of
Appeals was confirmed by Remigio M. Escalada, Jr., Division Clerk of Court of the

Fifth Division of the Court of Appeals in an undated Report. [8] He further disclosed
that the pleading was transmitted to the Archives Section on 19 September 1992.
The Court of Appeals then ordered the parties to submit their respective
memoranda,[9] after which, the Court of Appeals promulgated, on 20 March 1997, a
resolution denying petitioners motion to admit her Answer to the petition and
supplemental/amended petition for mandamus with damages, on the ground that the
period to file the answer had long prescribed, thus:
It was too late that the answer was filed in this Court on September 18,
1992, after promulgation on August 5, 1992, of the decision of the
Supreme Court in G.R. No. 101428. The prescribed period to file such
answer as well as the extended period had long expired on January 24,
1989 (pp. 35, 37, 55, Rollo) by the time respondents answer was filed in
this Court on September 18, 1992. She had another opportunity to
answer when petitioner filed a supplemental/amended petition. (pp. 57,
72, Rollo). Still, she filed none. It is evident respondent just ignored the
case filed against her or gave no importance to the petitions and the
notices sent to her by this Court. The delay in filing her answer is
inexcusable.
After promulgation and upon finality of this Courts decision granting the
principal relief sought by the petitioner, the instant case
for mandamus was virtually disposed of with theexception of the
incidental damages that petitioner has claimed. It was uncontested in
view of respondents failure to answer the petition setting up her
defenses. Consequently, the allegations in the petition and supplemental
petition were deemed admitted; unpleaded defenses were deemed waived
and any counterclaim not set up, barred (Sections 1, 2 and 4, Rule 9,
Revised Rules of Court). Such procedural rules would become
meaningless unless strictly complied with by litigants. As clearly
indicated in the proposed answer, respondents purpose is to set up a
counterclaim already barred and to plead defenses already waived.
Besides, the parties as well as this Court are bound by the comprehensive
findings and conclusions of the Supreme Court in its final decision in
G.R. No. 101428, based on the uncontroverted allegations of the verified
petitions. So are they bound thereby in this proceeding which deals with
the lone issue of incidental damages claimed by petitioner. What remains
to be done by this Court is but the determination of whether respondents

wrongful act or refusal/failure to perform an official duty caused injury to


the claimant and the amount of the damages that may be awarded in his
favor.[10]
Respondent court then set the hearing of the case on 22-23 April 1997 for the
presentation of [Vital-Gozons] evidence to controvert or rebut that of [de la Fuente]
which he has adduced in support of his claim for damages.
In its resolution[11] of 21 April 1997, the Court of Appeals denied petitioners
motion to reconsider[12] the 20 March 1997 resolution.
Petitioner then opted not to present her evidence, as she intended to file a
petition with the Supreme Court questioning the validity of the 20 March 1997
resolution and 21 April 1997 order of the Court of Appeals.[13]
On 7 May 1997, the Court of Appeals promulgated a Resolution [14] finding
petitioner liable for damages and ordered her to pay private respondent P50,000.00
as moral damages,P20,000.00 as exemplary damages and P10,000.00 as attorneys
fees. In support thereof, respondent court quoted our finding in G.R. No. 101428,
[15]
to wit:
The record demonstrates that Vital-Gozon was fully aware of the following acts and
events:
1)

the proceeding commenced by de la Fuente in the Civil Service


Commission in protest against his demotion;

2)

the Commissions Resolution of August 9, 1988 as well, particularly,


as the direction therein that de la Fuente be reinstated and paid all
his back salaries and other monetary benefits otherwise due him,
this being couched in fairly simple language obviously
understandable to persons of ordinary or normal intelligence;

3)

no less than two (2) written demands of de la Fuente for


implementation of the CSCs aforesaid Resolution of August 9,
1988;

4)

the petition filed by de la Fuente in the Court of Appeals for


enforcement of the CSC Resolution of August 9, 1988;

5)

the extension granted by said Court of Appeals within which to file


answer, notice thereof having been sent directly to her and her corespondents since the attorney who sought the extension in their
behalf (Atty. Fabia) did not set out his address in his motion for
extension;

expenses for litigation which he could hardly afford; and that he had to
spend no less than P5,000 for court fees and incidental expenses and to
pay his counsel P10,000 at the end of the litigation (pp. 6, 7, 12, 13, t.s.n.,
Dec. 7, 1995). All these respondent has not successfully rebutted by her
evidence since she adduced none in her behalf.

6)

the supplemental/amended petition subsequently presented by de


la Fuente, copy of which was sent to Atty. Fabia, c/o Dr. VitalGozon; and

7)

the Decision and Amendatory Decision sent to her counsel on


October 3, 1989.

Petitioner, therefore, is entitled to recover moral damages from respondent


for her refusal and neglect without just cause to perform her official duty
to reinstate petitioner to the position he was entitled, as ordered by the
Civil Service Commission in its decision. While he was reinstated to his
position, petitioner had to seek the aid of the courts for that purpose. In
point is the case of San Luis vs. Court of Appeals, decided by the Supreme
Court on June 26, 1989 (174 SCRA 258, 276), which involves the
unlawful suspension and dismissal by a Provincial Governor of a quarry
superintendent and the Governors obstinate refusal to comply with the
final decisions of the Civil Service Commission and the Office of the
President which declared said suspension and dismissal unlawful or
without just cause. The Supreme Court held that the Governor (who was
sued both in his official and private capacities) was personally liable for
the damages claimed and awarded in favor of the offended party P50,000
as moral damages and P20,000 for attorneys fees and litigation
expenses. Tan Kapoe vs. Masa, decided January 21, 1985 (134 SCRA
231), is also pertinent. There the Supreme Court upheld the award of
moral damages although it was made on the basis of documentary
evidence x x x without supporting oral testimonies. And the award of
exemplary damages, in addition to moral damages, was also deemed
proper even if not expressly pleaded in the complaint nor proved. Such
award of exemplary damages is by way of example or correction for the
public good, in addition to moral damages (Article 2229, Civil
Code). Inasmuch as petitioner is entitled to exemplary damages, he
should be awarded attorneys fees. The award in favor of petitioner of
moral and exemplary damages are attorneys fees in the amounts
of P50,000, P20,000 and P10,000, respectively, is but fair and just and not
excessive.[16]

To all these, her reaction, and that of the officials of the Department of Health
concerned, was a regrettably cavalier one, to say the least. Neither she nor the
Health officials concerned accorded said acts and events any importance. She never
bothered to find out what was being done to contest or negate de la Fuentes petitions
and actions, notwithstanding that as time went by, de la Fuentes efforts were being
met with success.
Nothing in the record even remotely suggests that Vital-Gozon merits relief from the
final and executory Resolution of the Civil Service Commission. This Court will not
disturb that Resolution. It is satisfied that no procedural or substantive errors taint
that Resolution, or its becoming final and executory.
The Court of Appeals then considered the evidence for private respondent and
the applicable law, thus:
Upon respondents continued refusal without justifiable cause to
implement the final resolution of the Civil Service Commission
upholding petitioners right to the position he has been claiming with
back salaries, transportation, representation and housing allowances and
other benefits withheld from him, petitioner is entitled to the damages he
claims. Testifying in his own behalf petitioner declared that he was
greatly disturbed, shocked and frustrated during the three months
preceding the filing of his petition; that he had sleepless nights and
suffered from mental anxiety, mental anguish, worry, tension and
humiliation when respondent ignored and disregarded the final resolution
of the Civil Service Commission; that he felt harassed by her refusal
because he had to go to court to obtain relief and had to incur additional

Unsatisfied, petitioner forthwith filed the instant petition for review


on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. She prays that we reverse and set
aside the challenged Resolution on the following grounds:

1. There is absolutely no ground for the award of moral and exemplary


damages, as well as attorneys fees.
2. Petitioners right to due process was violated.
Anent the first ground, petitioner asserts there is no factual basis for the award
of moral damages for, concretely, private respondent was unable to show any causal
connection between his supposed injury and petitioners alleged actionable
wrong. Petitioner argues that while testifying, private respondent simply made
generalized statements that he had sleepless nights and suffered mental anxiety,
mental anguish, worry, tension and humiliation. Petitioner next reiterates her stand
that she had nothing to do with the Civil Service case relative to respondents
original position, as she was not yet connected with the NCH when said case was
filed. Moreover, the failure to immediately reinstate private respondent was caused
by the directive of the Legal Department of the Department of Health, to which
office she forwarded the decision of the Civil Service Commission for guidance,
pursuant to standard procedure. Petitioner, therefore, acted in good faith. She
likewise faults the Court of Appeals for considering our observations in G.R. No.
101428 as factual findings which bound respondent court.
As to exemplary damages, petitioner asserts that she did not act with
vindictiveness nor wantonness, hence the award of said damages was unwarranted,
[17]
as such, there could likewise be no basis for the award of attorneys fees.[18]
Anent the second ground, petitioner contends that she was sued in her official
capacity, hence could not be held liable for damages, and to hold otherwise would
violate her right to due process as a private individual, citing Cario v. Agricultural
Credit and Cooperative Financing Administration[19] and Animos v. Philippine
Veterans Affairs Office.[20]
Petitioner further argues that the Court of Appeals denied her due process by
refusing to admit her answer, considering that: (a) she personally attended each and
every hearing of themandamus case; (b) in its decision of 9 June 1989, the Court of
Appeals explicitly declared that it was not the proper forum for the claim for
damages, at which point then the necessity of an answer had become moot; (c) it was
only on 27 September 1989 that the Court of Appeals reconsidered its decision of 9
June 1989 thereby upholding its jurisdiction to hear the claims for damages; (d) but
then, consistent with her stand that the Court of Appeals had no jurisdiction over the
claims for damages, she assailed such ruling before this Court, hence she could not
have been expected to file an answer; (e) nonetheless, upon receipt of the adverse

decision of this Court of 4 August 1992 in G.R. No. 101428, she immediately filed
her answer with a corresponding motion for its admission; and (f) while her motion
for admission of the answer had been pending since 18 October 1992, the Court of
Appeals did not act on it until it was already her turn to present her evidence on the
claim for damages.
In his comment on the petition submitted in compliance with the Resolution of
21 July 1997, private respondent contends that: (a) petitioners incomplete and
slanted version of the facts of the case cannot be relied upon; (b) the factual findings
of this Court in G.R. No. 101428 are conclusive and binding, hence the Court of
Appeals did not err nor abuse its discretion in relying on said findings; (c)
petitioners invocation of state immunity is untenable as she was sued not in her
official capacity, and assuming otherwise, petitioner could nevertheless be held liable
for damages under Articles 20, 27 and 2176 of the Civil Code and Section 3, Rule 65
of the Rules of Court; (d) the Court of Appeals did not err in denying petitioners
motion to admit her answer; and (e) the Court of Appeals awards of moral and
exemplary damages and attorneys fees were proper, fair, reasonable, justified and in
accord with the law and precedent.
Two principal issues thus confront us, viz: (a) whether petitioner was denied
due process when her answer to the petition was not admitted; and (b) whether the
awards of moral and exemplary damages and attorneys fees were proper. These will
be resolved in seriatim.
I
We do not hesitate to rule that petitioner was not denied due process. The
record of CA-G.R. SP No. 16438 shows that in the resolution of 29 December 1998,
the Court of Appeals gave due course to private respondents petition and required
herein petitioner and the other respondents to answer the petition within 10 days
from notice of the resolution.[21] On 9 January 1988, petitioner and the other
respondents, represented by Atty. Jose Fabia, filed a motion for an extension of 15
days from said date within which to file their answer, which respondent court granted
in its resolution of 17 January 1989. [22] Likewise, on 17 January 1989, private
respondent, as petitioner below, was granted leave to file a supplemental/amended
petition.[23]
The Supplemental/Amended Petition was filed on 3 February 1989, [24] and in
the resolution of 9 February 1989,[25] the Court of Appeals required petitioner herein
and her co-respondents in CA-G.R. SP No. 16438 to file their answer thereto within

10 days from notice. However, no such answer was filed, and on 9 June 1989, the
Court of Appeals rendered its decision. [26] De la Fuente seasonably filed a motion for
reconsideration,[27] principally as regards the holding that the petitions are not the
vehicle nor is the Court the forum for the claim of damages. A copy of this motion
was furnished counsel for respondents. Respondents therein were then required, in
the resolution of 5 July 1989,[28] to comment within 10 days from notice. However,
respondents below once more failed to comply. Thus, on 27 September 1989, the
Court of Appeals promulgated a resolution[29] granting the motion for reconsideration
by deleting therefrom the challenged portion of its decision of 9 June
1989. Respondent court then set reception of evidence on the claims for damages on
9 and 11 of October 1989.
Respondents below, represented by new counsel, Atty. Pedro Martinez, and the
rest by the Office of the Solicitor General, filed motions to reconsider the resolution
of 27 September 1989, primarily on the ground that the Court of Appeals had no
jurisdiction over the claim for damages in the petition for mandamus. The incidental
issue of the authority of the Solicitor General to appear for herein petitioner in
respect of the claim for damages against her in her personal capacity was also
raised. These matters became the subject of various pleadings.
Eventually, on 11 January 1991, the Court of Appeals promulgated a
resolution[30] which gave rise to G.R. No. 101428, after the Court of Appeals denied
herein petitioners motion for reconsideration.

filing the answer or the reply in special civil actions, a case is deemed submitted for
resolution. Thus, after the expiration of the 10-day period granted to herein
petitioner to file her Answer to the Supplemental/Amended Petition, and in light of
her failure to file her answer to the original petition despite the grant of her motion
for extension of time to file it, then the case was automatically deemed submitted for
decision. After the decision was rendered, she could then no longer be heard to raise
a defense which, by her inaction, she indubitably expressed no desire to raise.
It cannot then be successfully maintained that the Court of Appeals committed
reversible error, much less, grave abuse of discretion, when it denied admission to
an answer that was filed only after this Courts decision in G.R. No. 101428 had long
become final and immutable.
What further militates against petitioners advocacy is that the Court of
Appeals, aside from affording petitioner an opportunity to be heard through the filing
of pleadings, likewise sustained petitioners right to due process at the hearing. What
petitioner neglects to mention is that respondent court did not deprive her the right to
cross-examine private respondent when the latter testified as to the matter of
damages. Through the exercise of the right, petitioner could have negated private
respondents claims by showing the absence of legal or factual basis
therefor. Moreover, the Court of Appeals explicitly allowed petitioner to present her
evidence against the claim for damages. However, petitioner again failed to take the
opportunity to have herself heard.

Clearly, therefore, petitioners failure to file the answer to the petition was due
to her fault or negligence. She was, by formal resolutions of the Court of Appeals,
required to file answers to both the original petition and the Supplemental/Amended
Petition; yet, she failed to heed both resolutions. As regards the resolution to answer
the Supplemental/Amended Petition, herein petitioner totally disregarded the
same. And if only to further evince that herein petitioner had no one to blame but
herself for her plight, as regards the resolution to answer the original petition, this
she spurned despite the fact that she asked for and was granted an extension of 15
days within which to do so. That she questioned the jurisdiction of the Court of
Appeals over the claims for damages is entirely irrelevant, considering that she did
so only after the Court of Appeals promulgated its Resolution of 27 September
1989. Up to that time, petitioner had absolutely no responsive pleading setting forth
her defense.

It may be pointed out that in her Answer,[31] she interposed the following
defenses against the claim for moral and exemplary damages and attorneys fees,
namely: (1) the claim was effectively and exclusively a suit against the State, but
without its consent; (2) she had not committed any actionable wrong as she acted in
good faith and without malice or negligence; and (3) whatever injury private
respondent may have suffered were mere consequences of his indiscretion,
negligence and/or ignorance of the law which, at best, constituted damnum absque
injuria. From the nature of these defenses, they could very well have been taken up,
even indirectly, on cross-examination of private respondent or in the course of
petitioners testimony had she chosen to present her evidence. All told, the above
discussion should readily refute petitioners claim of a denial of due process.

It may likewise be stressed that under Section 2.c.(4) of the Revised Internal
Rules of the Court of Appeals then in force, after the expiration of the period for

Moral damages include physical suffering, mental anguish, fright, serious


anxiety, besmirched reputation, wounded feelings, moral shock, social humiliation,

II

and similar injury. They may be recovered if they are the proximate result of the
defendants wrongful act or omission.[32] The instances when moral damages may be
recovered are, inter alia, acts and actions referred to in Articles 21, 26, 27, 28, 29,
30, 32, 34 and 35 of the Civil Code,[33] which, in turn, are found in the Chapter on
Human Relations of the Preliminary Title of the Civil Code. Relevant to the instant
case, which involves public officers, is Article 27,[34] which provides:
ART. 27. Any person suffering material or moral loss because a public servant or
employee refuses or neglects, without just cause, to perform his official duty may file
an action for damages and other relief against the latter, without prejudice to any
disciplinary administrative action that may be taken.
Article 27 must then be read in conjunction with Section 1 of Article XI
(Accountability of Public Officers) of the Constitution,[35] which provides:
Section 1. Public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must at all
times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity,
loyalty, and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives.
It is thus evident that under Article 27, in relation to Articles 2219 and 2217 of
the Civil Code, a public officer, like petitioner herein, may be liable for moral
damages for as long as the moral damages suffered by private respondent were the
proximate result of petitioners wrongful act or omission, i.e., refusal to perform an
official duty or neglect in the performance thereof. In fact, if only to underscore the
vulnerability of public officials and employees to suits for damages to answer for any
form or degree of misfeasance, malfeasance or nonfeasance, this Court has had
occasion to rule that under Articles 19 and 27 of the Civil Code, a public official may
be made to pay damages for performing a perfectly legal act, albeit with bad faith or
in violation of the abuse of right doctrine embodied in the preliminary articles of
the Civil Code concerning Human Relations.[36]

deems it just and equitable that attorneys fees and expenses of litigation should be
recovered.[38]
There can be no question that private respondent was entitled to be restored to
his position as Chief of Clinics by virtue of the final and executory decision of the
Civil Service Commission. Petitioner, as head or chief of the National Childrens
Hospital, then had the duty to see to it that the decision be obeyed and
implemented. This she failed to do and private respondents two official demands
for compliance with the Civil Service Commissions decision were merely referred
by petitioner to the Legal Department of the Department of Health; and as further
noted by this Court in its decision in G.R. No. 101428, she did not answer [private
respondents] letters not even to inform him of the referral thereof to the Assistant
Secretary [for Legal Affairs]. She chose simply to await legal guidance from the
DOH Legal Department. This Court further noted:
To all these, [petitioners] reaction, and that of the officials of the Department of
Health concerned, was a regrettably cavalier one, to say the least. Neither she nor
the Health Department officials concerned accorded said acts and events any
importance. She never bothered to find out what was being done to contest or negate
[private respondents] petitions and actions, notwithstanding that as time went by,
[private respondents] efforts were being met with success.
That petitioner then committed an actionable wrong for unjustifiably refusing
or neglecting to perform an official duty is undeniable. Private respondent testified
on the moral damages which he suffered by reason of such misfeasance or
malfeasance of petitioner, and the attorneys fees and litigation expenses he incurred
to vindicate his rights and protect his interests. The Court of Appeals which heard
him gave full faith and credit to his testimony. Private respondent declared that by
reason of the unjust action or refusal of petitioner when she did not recognize,
ignored and disregarded the final and executory Civil Service Resolution, he:

Exemplary damages may be imposed by way of example or correction for the


public good, in addition to the moral, temperate, liquidated or compensatory
damages.[37]

[W]as actually greatly disturbed, shocked and frustrated during those


three ... months. [He] had sleepless nights and ... suffered from mental
anxiety, worry, tension and humiliation...[39]

Attorneys fees and other expenses of litigation may be recovered as actual or


compensatory damages when, inter alia, exemplary damages are awarded; when the
defendant acted in gross and evident bad faith in refusing to satisfy the plaintiff's
plainly valid, just and demandable claim, and in any other case where the court

Private respondents anguish even continued during the 5-month period while the
case was pending with the Court of Appeals, thus:
During this period my sleepless nights and my moral sufferings continued. As a
matter of fact, even worsened. I just could not understand, actually I could not

understand the action here of Dr. Gozon for having not followed the decision of the
Court of Appeals. And that is why I felt very much aggrieved during this period. I
could not sleep at all and this has weakened me.[40]
Private respondent further testified that he spent not less than P5,000.00 for court
fees and as incidental expenses and had committed himself to pay P10,000.00 to
his counsel at the end of the case.[41]
While private respondent did not quantify the extent of his moral damages, the
Court of Appeals fixed the same at P50,000.00. Since moral damages are, in the
language of Article 2217 of the Civil Code, incapable of pecuniary estimation,
courts have the discretion to fix the corresponding amount, not being bound by any
self-serving assessment by the claimants. On the other hand, a claimants failure to
state the monetary value of moral damages suffered presents no legal obstacle to a
courts determination thereof, as long as there is factual basis for the award such as
the claimants testimony as to his sufferings. As a matter of fact, it is not unusual for
claimants to leave the determination of the amount of the award to the discretion of
the court.
Under Article 2233 of the Civil Code, exemplary damages cannot be recovered
as a matter of right; the court will decide whether or not they should be
adjudicated. In the instant case, the Court of Appeals awarded exemplary damages
in the amount of P20,000.00. Considering that a public official is the culprit here,
the propriety of such an award cannot be questioned. It serve as an example or
deterrent so that other public officials be always reminded that they are public
servants bound to adhere faithfully to the constitutional injunction that a public office
is a public trust. That the aggrieved party happened to be another public official will
not serve to mitigate the effects of petitioners having failed to observe the required
degree of accountability and responsibility.
As to attorneys fees as actual damages, the Court of Appeals determination of
its propriety in this case and the extent thereof were well within its discretion. The
agreement between private respondent and his counsel as to the amount does not
control.
Petitioners contention that she cannot be liable for damages since she was sued
in her official capacity is without merit. Whether petitioner was impleaded as
respondent in an official capacity, i.e., solely in her capacity as Chief of the National
Childrens Hospital, is best determined from the Petition as well as the
Supplemental/Amended Petition. For one, in the captions in both, she is named as

one of the respondents without any express mention that she was so sued in her
capacity, as Chief of the National Childrens Hospital. For another, the allegations
in the body of the Petition clearly show that she was sued in both her official and
private capacities. As to the former, paragraphs 1 and 7 respectively allege
petitioners position as a public official, and specifically as Head of the Childrens
Hospital; her duty to restore private respondent to his position by virtue of the final
decision of the Civil Service Commission; and her refusal to allow private
respondent to perform and discharge his duties and responsibilities as Chief of
Clinics. As to the latter, paragraph 16 of the Petition explicitly speaks of
petitioners personal liability, thus:
16. For causing such mental suffering and anguish, etc., [42] principal respondent
[herein petitioner] ought to and must be, in accordance with the Civil Code, held
personally answerable and liable to the petitioner in the sum of not less
than P100,000.00 as moral damages, and another sum of P20,000.00 as exemplary
damages, by way of example or correction for the public good. [43] (emphasis
supplied)
In maintaining then that she was sued merely in her official capacity, petitioner has
either overlooked paragraph 16 or sought to deliberately mislead this Court.
WHEREFORE, for utter failure to show that respondent Court of Appeals
committed reversible error in the challenged resolutions, the instant petition is
denied.
Costs against petitioner.

G.R. No. 130866 September 16, 1998


ST.
MARTIN
FUNERAL
HOME, petitioner,
vs.
NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION and BIENVENIDO
ARICAYOS, respondents.

relationship existed between the parties and, therefore, his office had no jurisdiction
over the case. 3
Not satisfied with the said decision, private respondent appealed to the NLRC
contending that the labor arbiter erred (1) in not giving credence to the evidence
submitted by him; (2) in holding that he worked as a "volunteer" and not as an
employee of St. Martin Funeral Home from February 6, 1995 to January 23, 1996, or
a period of about one year; and (3) in ruling that there was no employer-employee
relationship between him and petitioner. 4

REGALADO, J.:
The present petition for certiorari stemmed from a complaint for illegal dismissal
filed by herein private respondent before the National Labor Relations Commission
(NLRC), Regional Arbitration Branch No. III, in San Fernando, Pampanga. Private
respondent alleges that he started working as Operations Manager of petitioner St.
Martin Funeral Home on February 6, 1995. However, there was no contract of
employment executed between him and petitioner nor was his name included in the
semi-monthly payroll. On January 22, 1996, he was dismissed from his employment
for allegedly misappropriating P38,000.00 which was intended for payment by
petitioner of its value added tax (VAT) to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR). 1
Petitioner on the other hand claims that private respondent was not its employee but
only the uncle of Amelita Malabed, the owner of petitioner St. Martin's Funeral
Home. Sometime in 1995, private respondent, who was formerly working as an
overseas contract worker, asked for financial assistance from the mother of Amelita.
Since then, as an indication of gratitude, private respondent voluntarily helped the
mother of Amelita in overseeing the business.
In January 1996, the mother of Amelita passed away, so the latter then took over the
management of the business. She then discovered that there were arrears in the
payment of taxes and other government fees, although the records purported to show
that the same were already paid. Amelita then made some changes in the business
operation and private respondent and his wife were no longer allowed to participate
in the management thereof. As a consequence, the latter filed a complaint charging
that petitioner had illegally terminated his employment. 2
Based on the position papers of the parties, the labor arbiter rendered a decision in
favor of petitioner on October 25, 1996 declaring that no employer-employee

On June 13, 1997, the NLRC rendered a resolution setting aside the questioned
decision and remanding the case to the labor arbiter for immediate appropriate
proceedings. 5 Petitioner then filed a motion for reconsideration which was denied by
the NLRC in its resolution dated August 18, 1997 for lack of merit, 6 hence the
present petition alleging that the NLRC committed grave abuse of discretion. 7
Before proceeding further into the merits of the case at bar, the Court feels that it is
now exigent and opportune to reexamine the functional validity and systemic
practicability of the mode of judicial review it has long adopted and still follows with
respect to decisions of the NLRC. The increasing number of labor disputes that find
their way to this Court and the legislative changes introduced over the years into the
provisions of Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 442 (The Labor Code of the Philippines
and Batas Pambansa Blg. (B.P. No.) 129 (The Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980)
now stridently call for and warrant a reassessment of that procedural aspect.
We prefatorily delve into the legal history of the NLRC. It was first established in the
Department of Labor by P.D. No. 21 on October 14, 1972, and its decisions were
expressly declared to be appealable to the Secretary of Labor and, ultimately, to the
President of the Philippines.
On May 1, 1974, P.D. No. 442 enacted the Labor Code of the Philippines, the same
to take effect six months after its promulgation. 8 Created and regulated therein is the
present NLRC which was attached to the Department of Labor and Employment for
program and policy coordination only. 9 Initially, Article 302 (now, Article 223)
thereof also granted an aggrieved party the remedy of appeal from the decision of the
NLRC to the Secretary of Labor, but P.D. No. 1391 subsequently amended said
provision and abolished such appeals. No appellate review has since then been
provided for.

Thus, to repeat, under the present state of the law, there is no provision for appeals
from the decision of the NLRC. 10 The present Section 223, as last amended by
Section 12 of R.A. No. 6715, instead merely provides that the Commission shall
decide all cases within twenty days from receipt of the answer of the appellee, and
that such decision shall be final and executory after ten calendar days from receipt
thereof by the parties.
When the issue was raised in an early case on the argument that this Court has no
jurisdiction to review the decisions of the NLRC, and formerly of the Secretary of
Labor, since there is no legal provision for appellate review thereof, the Court
nevertheless rejected that thesis. It held that there is an underlying power of the
courts to scrutinize the acts of such agencies on questions of law and jurisdiction
even though no right of review is given by statute; that the purpose of judicial review
is to keep the administrative agency within its jurisdiction and protect the substantial
rights of the parties; and that it is that part of the checks and balances which restricts
the separation of powers and forestalls arbitrary and unjust adjudications. 11
Pursuant to such ruling, and as sanctioned by subsequent decisions of this Court, the
remedy of the aggrieved party is to timely file a motion for reconsideration as a
precondition for any further or subsequent remedy, 12 and then seasonably avail of
the special civil action of certiorari under Rule 65, 13 for which said Rule has now
fixed the reglementary period of sixty days from notice of the decision. Curiously,
although the 10-day period for finality of the decision of the NLRC may already
have lapsed as contemplated in Section 223 of the Labor Code, it has been held that
this Court may still take cognizance of the petition for certiorari on jurisdictional
and due process considerations if filed within the reglementary period under Rule
65. 14
Turning now to the matter of judicial review of NLRC decisions, B.P. No. 129
originally provided as follows:
Sec. 9. Jurisdiction. The Intermediate Appellate Court shall
exercise:
(1) Original jurisdiction to issue writs of mandamus,
prohibition, certiorari, habeas corpus, and quo warranto, and
auxiliary writs or processes, whether or not in aid of its appellate
jurisdiction;

(2) Exclusive original jurisdiction over actions for annulment of


judgments of Regional Trial Courts; and
(3) Exclusive appellate jurisdiction over all final judgments,
decisions, resolutions, orders, or awards of Regional Trial Courts
and quasi-judicial agencies, instrumentalities, boards, or
commissions, except those falling within the appellate jurisdiction
of the Supreme Court in accordance with the Constitution, the
provisions of this Act, and of subparagraph (1) of the third
paragraph and subparagraph (4) of the fourth paragraph of Section
17 of the Judiciary Act of 1948.
The Intermediate Appellate Court shall have the power to try cases
and conduct hearings, receive evidence and perform any and all
acts necessary to resolve factual issues raised in cases falling
within its original and appellate jurisdiction, including the power to
grant and conduct new trials or further proceedings.
These provisions shall not apply to decisions and interlocutory
orders issued under the Labor Code of the Philippines and by the
Central Board of Assessment Appeals. 15
Subsequently, and as it presently reads, this provision was amended by R.A. No.
7902 effective March 18, 1995, to wit:
Sec. 9. Jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals shall exercise:
(1) Original jurisdiction to issue writs of mandamus,
prohibition, certiorari, habeas corpus, and quo warranto, and
auxiliary writs or processes, whether or not in aid of its appellate
jurisdiction;
(2) Exclusive original jurisdiction over actions for annulment of
judgments of Regional Trial Courts; and
(3) Exclusive appellate jurisdiction over all final judgments,
decisions, resolutions, orders or awards of Regional Trial Courts
and quasi-judicial agencies, instrumentalities, boards or
commissions, including the Securities and Exchange Commission,
the Social Security Commission, the Employees Compensation

Commission and the Civil Service Commission, except those


falling within the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in
accordance with the Constitution, the Labor Code of the
Philippines under Presidential Decree No. 442, as amended, the
provisions of this Act, and of subparagraph (1) of the third
paragraph and subparagraph (4) of the fourth paragraph of Section
17 of the Judiciary Act of 1948.
The Court of Appeals shall have the power to try cases and conduct
hearings, receive evidence and perform any and all acts necessary
to resolve factual issues raised in cases falling within its original
and appellate jurisdiction, including the power to grant and
conduct new trials or further proceedings. Trials or hearings in the
Court of Appeals must be continuous and must be completed
within, three (3) months, unless extended by the Chief Justice.
It will readily be observed that, aside from the change in the name of the lower
appellate court, 16 the following amendments of the original provisions of Section 9
of B.P. No. 129 were effected by R.A. No. 7902, viz.:
1. The last paragraph which excluded its application to the Labor Code of the
Philippines and the Central Board of Assessment Appeals was deleted and replaced
by a new paragraph granting the Court of Appeals limited powers to conduct trials
and hearings in cases within its jurisdiction.
2. The reference to the Labor Code in that last paragraph was transposed to
paragraph (3) of the section, such that the original exclusionary clause therein now
provides "except those falling within the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court
in accordance with the Constitution, the Labor Code of the Philippines under
Presidential Decree No. 442, as amended, the provisions of this Act, and of
subparagraph (1) of the third paragraph and subparagraph (4) of the fourth paragraph
of Section 17 of the Judiciary Act of 1948." (Emphasis supplied).
3. Contrarily, however, specifically added to and included among the quasi-judicial
agencies over which the Court of Appeals shall have exclusive appellate jurisdiction
are the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Social Security Commission, the
Employees Compensation Commission and the Civil Service Commission.
This, then, brings us to a somewhat perplexing impass, both in point of purpose and
terminology. As earlier explained, our mode of judicial review over decisions of the

NLRC has for some time now been understood to be by a petition


for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. This is, of course, a special
original action limited to the resolution of jurisdictional issues, that is, lack or excess
of jurisdiction and, in almost all cases that have been brought to us, grave abuse of
discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction.
It will, however, be noted that paragraph (3), Section 9 of B.P. No. 129 now grants
exclusive appellate jurisdiction to the Court of Appeals over all final adjudications of
the Regional Trial Courts and the quasi-judicial agencies generally or specifically
referred to therein except, among others, "those falling within
the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in accordance with . . . the Labor
Code of the Philippines under Presidential Decree No. 442, as amended, . . . ." This
would necessarily contradict what has been ruled and said all along that appeal does
not lie from decisions of the NLRC. 17 Yet, under such excepting clause literally
construed, the appeal from the NLRC cannot be brought to the Court of Appeals, but
to this Court by necessary implication.
The same exceptive clause further confuses the situation by declaring that the Court
of Appeals has no appellate jurisdiction over decisions falling within the appellate
jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in accordance with the Constitution, the provisions
of B.P. No. 129, and those specified cases in Section 17 of the Judiciary Act of 1948.
These cases can, of course, be properly excluded from the exclusive appellate
jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals. However, because of the aforementioned
amendment by transposition, also supposedly excluded are cases falling within the
appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in accordance with the Labor Code. This
is illogical and impracticable, and Congress could not have intended that procedural
gaffe, since there are no cases in the Labor Code the decisions, resolutions, orders or
awards wherein are within the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court or of any
other court for that matter.
A review of the legislative records on the antecedents of R.A. No. 7902 persuades us
that there may have been an oversight in the course of the deliberations on the said
Act or an imprecision in the terminology used therein. In fine, Congress did intend to
provide for judicial review of the adjudications of the NLRC in labor cases by the
Supreme Court, but there was an inaccuracy in the term used for the intended mode
of review. This conclusion which we have reluctantly but prudently arrived at has
been drawn from the considerations extant in the records of Congress, more
particularly on Senate Bill No. 1495 and the Reference Committee Report on S. No.
1495/H. No. 10452. 18

In sponsoring Senate Bill No. 1495, Senator Raul S. Roco delivered his sponsorship
speech 19 from which we reproduce the following excerpts:

In closing, allow me to quote the observations of former Chief


Justice Teehankee in 1986 in the Annual Report of the Supreme
Court:

The Judiciary Reorganization Act, Mr. President, Batas Pambansa


Blg. 129, reorganized the Court of Appeals and at the same time
expanded its jurisdiction and powers. Among others, its appellate
jurisdiction was expanded to cover not only final judgment of
Regional Trial Courts, but also all final judgment(s), decisions,
resolutions, orders or awards of quasi-judicial agencies,
instrumentalities, boards and commissions, except those falling
within the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in
accordance with the Constitution, the provisions of BP Blg. 129
and of subparagraph 1 of the third paragraph and subparagraph 4
of Section 17 of the Judiciary Act of 1948.
Mr. President, the purpose of the law is to ease the workload of the
Supreme Court by the transfer of some of its burden of review of
factual issues to the Court of Appeals. However, whatever benefits
that can be derived from the expansion of the appellate jurisdiction
of the Court of Appeals was cut short by the last paragraph of
Section 9 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129 which excludes from its
coverage the "decisions and interlocutory orders issued under the
Labor Code of the Philippines and by the Central Board of
Assessment Appeals.
Among the highest number of cases that are brought up to the
Supreme Court are labor cases. Hence, Senate Bill No. 1495
seeks to eliminate the exceptions enumerated in Section 9 and,
additionally, extends the coverage of appellate review of the Court
of Appeals in the decision(s) of the Securities and Exchange
Commission, the Social Security Commission, and the Employees
Compensation Commission to reduce the number of cases elevated
to the Supreme Court. (Emphases and corrections ours)

. . . Amendatory legislation is suggested so as to


relieve the Supreme Court of the burden of
reviewing these cases which present no
important issues involved beyond the particular
fact and the parties involved, so that the Supreme
Court may wholly devote its time to cases of
public interest in the discharge of its mandated
task as the guardian of the Constitution and the
guarantor of the people's basic rights and
additional task expressly vested on it now "to
determine whether or not there has been a grave
abuse of discretion amounting to lack of
jurisdiction on the part of any branch or
instrumentality of the Government.
We used to have 500,000 cases pending all over the land, Mr.
President. It has been cut down to 300,000 cases some five years
ago. I understand we are now back to 400,000 cases. Unless we
distribute the work of the appellate courts, we shall continue to
mount and add to the number of cases pending.
In view of the foregoing, Mr. President, and by virtue of all the
reasons we have submitted, the Committee on Justice and Human
Rights requests the support and collegial approval of our Chamber.
xxx xxx xxx
Surprisingly, however, in a subsequent session, the following Committee
Amendment was introduced by the said sponsor and the following proceedings
transpired: 20

xxx xxx xxx


Senate Bill No. 1495 authored by our distinguished Colleague
from Laguna provides the ideal situation of drastically reducing the
workload of the Supreme Court without depriving the litigants of
the privilege of review by an appellate tribunal.

Senator Roco. On page 2, line 5, after the line "Supreme Court in


accordance with the Constitution," add the phrase "THE LABOR
CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES UNDER P.D. 442, AS
AMENDED." So that it becomes clear, Mr. President, that issues

arising from the Labor Code will still be appealable to the Supreme
Court.
The President. Is there any objection? (Silence) Hearing none, the
amendment is approved.
Senator Roco. On the same page, we move that lines 25 to 30 be
deleted. This was also discussed with our Colleagues in the House
of Representatives and as we understand it, as approved in the
House, this was also deleted, Mr. President.
The President. Is there any objection? (Silence) Hearing none, the
amendment is approved.
Senator Roco. There are no further Committee amendments, Mr.
President.
Senator Romulo. Mr. President, I move that we close the period of
Committee amendments.
The President. Is there any objection? (Silence) Hearing none, the
amendment is approved. (Emphasis supplied).
xxx xxx xxx
Thereafter, since there were no individual amendments, Senate Bill No. 1495 was
passed on second reading and being a certified bill, its unanimous approval on third
reading followed. 21 The Conference Committee Report on Senate Bill No. 1495 and
House Bill No. 10452, having theretofore been approved by the House of
Representatives, the same was likewise approved by the Senate on February 20,
1995, 22 inclusive of the dubious formulation on appeals to the Supreme Court earlier
discussed.
The Court is, therefore, of the considered opinion that ever since appeals from the
NLRC to the Supreme Court were eliminated, the legislative intendment was that the
special civil action of certiorari was and still is the proper vehicle for judicial review
of decisions of the NLRC. The use of the word "appeal" in relation thereto and in the
instances we have noted could have been a lapsus plumae because appeals
by certiorari and the original action for certiorari are both modes of judicial review
addressed to the appellate courts. The important distinction between them, however,

and with which the Court is particularly concerned here is that the special civil action
ofcertiorari is within the concurrent original jurisdiction of this Court and the Court
of Appeals; 23 whereas to indulge in the assumption that appeals by certiorari to the
Supreme Court are allowed would not subserve, but would subvert, the intention of
Congress as expressed in the sponsorship speech on Senate Bill No. 1495.
Incidentally, it was noted by the sponsor therein that some quarters were of the
opinion that recourse from the NLRC to the Court of Appeals as an initial step in the
process of judicial review would be circuitous and would prolong the proceedings.
On the contrary, as he commendably and realistically emphasized, that procedure
would be advantageous to the aggrieved party on this reasoning:
On the other hand, Mr. President, to allow these cases to be
appealed to the Court of Appeals would give litigants the
advantage to have all the evidence on record be reexamined and
reweighed after which the findings of facts and conclusions of said
bodies are correspondingly affirmed, modified or reversed.
Under such guarantee, the Supreme Court can then apply strictly
the axiom that factual findings of the Court of Appeals are final
and may not be reversed on appeal to the Supreme Court. A perusal
of the records will reveal appeals which are factual in nature and
may, therefore, be dismissed outright by minute resolutions. 24
While we do not wish to intrude into the Congressional sphere on the matter of the
wisdom of a law, on this score we add the further observations that there is a growing
number of labor cases being elevated to this Court which, not being a trier of fact,
has at times been constrained to remand the case to the NLRC for resolution of
unclear or ambiguous factual findings; that the Court of Appeals is procedurally
equipped for that purpose, aside from the increased number of its component
divisions; and that there is undeniably an imperative need for expeditious action on
labor cases as a major aspect of constitutional protection to labor.
Therefore, all references in the amended Section 9 of B.P. No. 129 to supposed
appeals from the NLRC to the Supreme Court are interpreted and hereby declared to
mean and refer to petitions for certiorari under Rule 65. Consequently, all such
petitions should hence forth be initially filed in the Court of Appeals in strict
observance of the doctrine on the hierarchy of courts as the appropriate forum for the
relief desired.

Apropos to this directive that resort to the higher courts should be made in
accordance with their hierarchical order, this pronouncement in Santiago vs.
Vasquez, et al. 25 should be taken into account:
One final observation. We discern in the proceedings in this case a
propensity on the part of petitioner, and, for that matter, the same
may be said of a number of litigants who initiate recourses before
us, to disregard the hierarchy of courts in our judicial system by
seeking relief directly from this Court despite the fact that the same
is available in the lower courts in the exercise of their original or
concurrent jurisdiction, or is even mandated by law to be sought
therein. This practice must be stopped, not only because of the
imposition upon the precious time of this Court but also because of
the inevitable and resultant delay, intended or otherwise, in the
adjudication of the case which often has to be remanded or referred
to the lower court as the proper forum under the rules of procedure,
or as better equipped to resolve the issues since this Court is not a
trier of facts. We, therefore, reiterate the judicial policy that this
Court will not entertain direct resort to it unless the redress desired
cannot be obtained in the appropriate courts or where exceptional
and compelling circumstances justify availment of a remedy within
and calling for the exercise of our primary jurisdiction.
WHEREFORE, under the foregoing premises, the instant petition for certiorari is
hereby REMANDED, and all pertinent records thereof ordered to be FORWARDED,
to the Court of Appeals for appropriate action and disposition consistent with the
views and ruling herein set forth, without pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.

NATIONAL
(NWRB),

WATER

RESOURCES

Petitioner,

- versus -

BOARD

G.R. No. 186450


Present:
PUNO, C.J.,
CARPIO MORALES,
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,
BERSAMIN, and
VILLARAMA, JR., JJ.

Promulgated:
A. L. ANG NETWORK, INC.,
Respondent.
April 8, 2010
x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

DECISION

CARPIO MORALES, J.:


In issue is whether Regional Trial Courts have jurisdiction over appeals
from decisions, resolutions or orders of the National Water Resources Board
(petitioner).
A.L. Ang Network (respondent) filed on January 23, 2003 an application for
a Certificate of Public Convenience (CPC) with petitioner to operate and maintain a
water service system in Alijis, Bacolod City.
Bacolod City Water District (BACIWA) opposed respondents application
on the ground that it is the only government agency authorized to operate a water
service system within the city.[1]
By Decision of August 20, 2003, petitioner granted respondents CPC
application. BACIWA moved to have the decision reconsidered, contending that its
right to due process was violated when it was not allowed to present evidence in
support of its opposition.[2]
Petitioner reconsidered its Decision and allowed BACIWA to present
evidence,[3] drawing respondent to file a petition for certiorari with the Regional

Trial Court (RTC) of Bacolod City against petitioner and BACIWA. Petitioner
moved to dismiss the petition, arguing that the proper recourse of respondent was to
the Court of Appeals, citing Rule 43 of the Rules of Court.
The RTC, by Order of April 15, 2005, [4] dismissed respondents petition for
lack of jurisdiction, holding that it is the Court of Appeals which has exclusive
appellate jurisdiction over all final judgments, decisions, resolutions, order[s] or
awards of . . . quasi-judicial agencies, instrumentalities, boards or commission[s] . . .
except those within the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court . . . . Thus the
RTC explained:
Art. 89 of P.D. 1067 having been long repealed by BP 129, as
amended, which has effectively and explicitly removed the
Regional Trial Courts appellate jurisdiction over the decisions,
resolutions, order[s] or awards of quasi-judicial agencies such as
[petitioner] NWRB, and vested with the Court of Appeals, very
clearly now, this Court has no jurisdiction over this instant
petition.
Its motion for reconsideration having been denied, respondent filed a
petition for certiorari at the Court of Appeals, which, by Decision of January 25,
2008,[5] annulledand set aside the RTC April 15, 2005, holding that it is the RTC
which has jurisdiction over appeals from petitioners decisions. Thus the appellate
court discoursed.
In the analogous case of BF Northwest Homeowners
Association, Inc. vs. Intermediate Appellate Court[,] the
Supreme Court . . . categorically pronounced the RTCs
jurisdiction over appeals from the decisions of the NWRB
consistent with Article 89 of P.D. No. 1067 and ratiocinated in this
wise:
x x x x.
The logical conclusion, therefore, is that
jurisdiction over actions for annulment of NWRC
decisions lies with the Regional Trial Courts, particularly,
when we take note of the fact that the appellate
jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court over NWRC
decisions covers such broad and all embracing grounds as
grave abuse of discretion, questions of law, and questions

of fact and law (Art. 89, P.D. No. 1067). This conclusion
is also in keeping with the Judiciary Reorganization Act
of 1980, which vests Regional Trial Courts with original
jurisdiction to issue writs of certiorari, prohibition,
mandamus, etc. (Sec. 21 [1], B.P. Blg. 129) relating to
acts or omissions of an inferior court (Sec. 4, Rule 65,
Rules of Court).
x x x x.
Similarly, in Tanjay Water District vs. Pedro Gabaton,
the Supreme Court conformably ruled, viz:
Inasmuch as Civil Case No. 8144 involves the
appropriation, utilization and control of water, We hold
that the jurisdiction to hear and decide the dispute in the
first instance, pertains to the Water Resources Council as
provided in PD No. 1067 which is the special law on the
subject. The Court of First Instance (now Regional Trial
Court) has only appellate jurisdiction over the case.
Based on the foregoing jurisprudence, there is no doubt
that [petitioner] NWRB is mistaken in its assertion. As no repeal
is expressly made, Article 89 of P.D. No. 1067 is certainly meant
to be an exception to the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals
over appeals or petitions for certiorari of the decisions of quasijudicial bodies. This finds harmony with Paragraph 2, Section 4,
Rule 65 of the Rules of Court wherein it is stated that, If it
involves the acts of a quasi-judicial agency, unless otherwise
provided by law or these rules, the petition shall be filed in and
cognizable only by the Court of Appeals. Evidently, not all
petitions for certiorari under Rule 65 involving the decisions of
quasi-judicial agencies must be filed with the Court of
Appeals. The rule admits of some exceptions as plainly provided
by the phrase unless otherwise provided by law or these
rules and Article 89 of P.D. No. 1067 is verily an example of
these exceptions. (italics and emphasis partly in the original;
underscoring supplied)

Petitioners motion for reconsideration having been denied by the appellate


court by Resolution of February 9, 2009, [6] petitioner filed the present petition for
review, contending that:
THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT HAS NO CERTIORARI
JURISDICTION OVER THE [PETITIONER] SINCE SECTION
89, PD NO. 1067, REGARDING APPEALS, HAS BEEN
SUPERSEDED AND REPEALED BY [ BATAS PAMBANSA
BILANG]
129
AND
THE
RULES
OF
COURT. FURTHERMORE, PD 1067 ITSELF DOES NOT
CONTEMPLATE THAT THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT
SHOULD HAVE CERTIORARI JURISDICTION OVER THE
[PETITIONER].[7] (underscoring supplied)

Petitioner maintains that the RTC does not have jurisdiction over a petition
for certiorari and prohibition to annul or modify its acts or omissions as a quasijudicial agency. Citing Section 4 of Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, petitioner
contends that there is no law or rule which requires the filing of a petition for
certiorari over its acts or omissions in any other court or tribunal other than the Court
of Appeals.[8]
Petitioner goes on to fault the appellate court in holding that Batas
Pambansa Bilang 129 (BP 129) or the Judiciary Reorganization Act did not expressly
repeal Article 89 of Presidential Decree No. 1067 (PD 1067) otherwise known as
the Water Code of the Philippines.[9]

Respondent, on the other hand, maintains the correctness of the assailed


decision of the appellate court.
The petition is impressed with merit.
Section 9 (1) of BP 129 granted the Court of Appeals (then known as the
Intermediate Appellate Court) original jurisdiction to issue writs
of mandamus, prohibition,certiorari, habeas corpus and quo warranto, and auxiliary
writs or processes, whether or not in aid of its appellate jurisdiction.[10]
Since the appellate court has exclusive appellate jurisdiction over quasijudicial agencies under Rule 43[11] of the Rules of Court, petitions for writs of
certiorari, prohibition or mandamus against the acts and omissions of quasi-judicial

agencies, like petitioner, should be filed with it. This is what Rule 65 of the Rules
imposes for procedural uniformity. The only exception to this instruction is when
the law or the Rules itself directs otherwise, as cited in Section 4, Rule 65. [12] The
appellate courts construction that Article 89 of PD 1067, which reads:

reading of said Article 89 shows, however, that it only made grave abuse of
discretion as another ground to invoke in an ordinary appeal to the RTC. Indeed,
the provision was unique to the Water Codeat the time of its application in
1976.

ART. 89.
The decisions of the [NWRB] on water rights
controversies may be appealed to the [RTC] of the province
where the subject matter of the controversy is situated within
fifteen (15) days from the date the party appealing receives a copy
of the decision, on any of the following grounds: (1) grave abuse
of discretion; (2) question of law; and (3) questions of fact and
law (emphasis and underscoring supplied),

The issuance of BP 129, specifically Section 9 (Jurisdiction of the Court of


Appeals, then known as Intermediate Appellate Court), and the subsequent
formulation of the Rules, clarified and delineated the appellate
and certiorari jurisdictions of the Court of Appeals over adjudications of quasijudicial bodies. Grave abuse of discretion may be invoked before the appellate court
as a ground for an error of jurisdiction.

is such an exception, is erroneous.


Article 89 of PD 1067 had long been rendered inoperative by the
passage of BP 129. Aside from delineating the jurisdictions of the Court of Appeals
and the RTCs, Section 47 of BP 129 repealed or modified:
x x x. [t]he provisions of Republic Act No. 296, otherwise
known as the Judiciary Act of 1948, as amended, of Republic Act
No. 5179, as amended, of the Rules of Court, and of all other
statutes, letters of instructions and general orders or parts
thereof, inconsistent with the provisions of this Act x x x.
(emphasis and underscoring supplied)

It bears noting that, in the present case, respondent assailed petitioners


order via certiorari before the RTC, invoking grave abuse of discretion amounting to
lack or excess of jurisdiction as ground-basis thereof. In other words, it invoked
such ground not for an error of judgment.
While Section 9 (3) of BP 129 [15] and Section 1 of Rule 43 of the Rules of
Court does not list petitioner as among the quasi-judicial agencies whose final
judgments, orders, resolutions or awards are appealable to the appellate court, it
is non sequitur to hold that the Court of Appeals has no appellate jurisdiction over
petitioners judgments, orders, resolutions or awards. It is settled that the list of
quasi-judicial agencies specifically mentioned in Rule 43 is not meant to be
exclusive.[17] The employment of the word among clearly instructs so.
[16]

BF Northwest Homeowners Association v. Intermediate Appellate Court,


a 1987 case cited by the appellate court to support its ruling that RTCs have
jurisdiction over judgments, orders, resolutions or awards of petitioner, is no longer
controlling in light of the definitive instruction of Rule 43 of the Revised Rules of
Court.
[18]

The general repealing clause under Section 47 predicates the intended repeal under
the condition that a substantial conflict must be found in existing and prior acts. [13]
In enacting BP 129, the Batasang Pambansa was presumed to have
knowledge of the provision of Article 89 of P.D. No. 1067 and to have intended to
change it.[14] The legislative intent to repeal Article 89 is clear and manifest given the
scope and purpose of BP 129, one of which is to provide a homogeneous procedure
for the review of adjudications of quasi-judicial entities to the Court of Appeals.
More importantly, what Article 89 of PD 1067 conferred to the RTC was the
power of review on appeal the decisions of petitioner. It appears that the appellate
court gave significant consideration to the ground of grave abuse of discretion to
thus hold that the RTC has certiorari jurisdiction over petitioners decisions. A

Tanjay Water District v. Gabaton[19] is not in point either as the issue raised
therein was which between the RTC and the then National Water Resources Council
had jurisdiction over disputes in the appropriation, utilization and control of water.
IN FINE, certiorari and appellate jurisdiction over adjudications of
petitioner properly belongs to the Court of Appeals.
WHEREFORE, the challenged Decision and Resolution of the Court of
Appeals are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The April 15, 2005 Order of the

Regional Trial Court of Bacolod City dismissing petitioners petition for lack of
jurisdiction is UPHELD.
No costs.

G.R. No. 155014


CRESCENT
PETROLEUM,
LTD.,
Petitioner,
Present:

- versus -

Puno, J.,
Chairman,
Austria-Martinez,
Callejo, Sr.,
Tinga, and
*
Chico-Nazario, JJ.

M/V LOK MAHESHWARI,


THE SHIPPING CORPORATION
OF INDIA, and PORTSERV LIMITED Promulgated:
and/or TRANSMAR SHIPPING, INC.,
Respondents.
November 11, 2005
x--------------------------------------------------x
DECISION
PUNO, J.:
This petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 seeks the (a) reversal of
the November 28, 2001 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. No. CV-54920,
[1]
which dismissed for want of jurisdiction the instant case, and the September 3,
2002 Resolution of the same appellate court, [2] which denied petitioners motion for
reconsideration, and (b) reinstatement of the July 25, 1996 Decision [3] of the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Civil Case No. CEB-18679, which held that
respondents were solidarily liable to pay petitioner the sum prayed for in the
complaint.
The facts are as follows: Respondent M/V Lok Maheshwari (Vessel) is an
oceangoing vessel of Indian registry that is owned by respondent Shipping
Corporation of India (SCI), a corporation organized and existing under the laws of
India and principally owned by the Government of India. It was time-chartered by
respondent SCI to Halla Merchant Marine Co. Ltd. (Halla), a South Korean
company. Halla, in turn, sub-chartered the Vessel through a time charter to Transmar

Shipping, Inc. (Transmar). Transmar further sub-chartered the Vessel to Portserv


Limited (Portserv). Both Transmar and Portserv are corporations organized and
existing under the laws of Canada.
On or about November 1, 1995, Portserv requested petitioner Crescent
Petroleum, Ltd. (Crescent), a corporation organized and existing under the laws of
Canada that is engaged in the business of selling petroleum and oil products for the
use and operation of oceangoing vessels, to deliver marine fuel oils (bunker fuels) to
the Vessel. Petitioner Crescent granted and confirmed the request through an advice
via facsimile dated November 2, 1995. As security for the payment of the bunker
fuels and related services, petitioner Crescent received two (2) checks in the amounts
of US$100,000.00 and US$200,000.00. Thus, petitioner Crescent contracted with its
supplier, Marine Petrobulk Limited (Marine Petrobulk), another Canadian
corporation, for the physical delivery of the bunker fuels to the Vessel.
On or about November 4, 1995, Marine Petrobulk delivered the bunker
fuels amounting to US$103,544 inclusive of barging and demurrage charges to the
Vessel at the port of Pioneer Grain, Vancouver, Canada. The Chief Engineer Officer
of the Vessel duly acknowledged and received the delivery receipt. Marine
Petrobulk issued an invoice to petitioner Crescent for the US$101,400.00 worth of
the bunker fuels. Petitioner Crescent issued a check for the same amount in favor of
Marine Petrobulk, which check was duly encashed.
Having paid Marine Petrobulk, petitioner Crescent issued a revised invoice
dated November 21, 1995 to Portserv Limited, and/or the Master, and/or Owners,
and/or Operators, and/or Charterers of M/V Lok Maheshwari in the amount of
US$103,544.00 with instruction to remit the amount on or before December 1, 1995.
The period lapsed and several demands were made but no payment was received.
Also, the checks issued to petitioner Crescent as security for the payment of the
bunker fuels were dishonored for insufficiency of funds. As a consequence,
petitioner Crescent incurred additional expenses of US$8,572.61 for interest,
tracking fees, and legal fees.
On May 2, 1996, while the Vessel was docked at the port of Cebu City,
petitioner Crescent instituted before the RTC of Cebu City an action for a sum of
money with prayer for temporary restraining order and writ of preliminary
attachment against respondents Vessel and SCI, Portserv and/or Transmar. The case
was raffled to Branch 10 and docketed as Civil Case No. CEB-18679.
On May 3, 1996, the trial court issued a writ of attachment against the
Vessel with bond at P2,710,000.00. Petitioner Crescent withdrew its prayer for a
temporary restraining order and posted the required bond.
On May 18, 1996, summonses were served to respondents Vessel and SCI, and
Portserv and/or Transmar through the Master of the Vessel. On May 28, 1996,

respondents Vessel and SCI, through Pioneer Insurance and Surety Corporation
(Pioneer), filed an urgent ex-parte motion to approve Pioneers letter of undertaking,
to consider it as counter-bond and to discharge the attachment. On May 29, 1996,
the trial court granted the motion; thus, the letter of undertaking was approved as
counter-bond to discharge the attachment.
For failing to file their respective answers and upon motion of petitioner
Crescent, the trial court declared respondents Vessel and SCI, Portserv and/or
Transmar in default. Petitioner Crescent was allowed to present its evidence exparte.
On July 25, 1996, the trial court rendered its decision in favor of petitioner
Crescent, thus:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby
rendered in favor of plaintiff [Crescent] and against the
defendants [Vessel, SCI, Portserv and/or Transmar].
Consequently, the latter are hereby ordered to pay plaintiff
jointly and solidarily, the following:
(a) the sum of US$103,544.00, representing the
outstanding obligation;
(b) interest of US$10,978.50 as of July 3, 1996,
plus additional interest at 18% per annum for
the period thereafter, until the principal
account is fully paid;
(c) attorneys fees of P300,000.00; and
(d) P200,000.00 as litigation expenses.

On November 28, 2001, the Court of Appeals issued its assailed Decision,
which reversed that of the trial court, viz:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Decision dated
July 25, 1996, issued by the Regional Trial Court of Cebu City,
Branch 10, is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE, and a new
one is entered DISMISSING the instant case for want of
jurisdiction.
The appellate court denied petitioner Crescents motion for reconsideration
explaining that it dismissed the instant action primarily on the ground of forum non
conveniens considering that the parties are foreign corporations which are not doing
business in the Philippines.
Hence, this petition submitting the following issues for resolution, viz:
1.
Philippine courts have jurisdiction over a foreign
vessel found inside Philippine waters for the
enforcement of a maritime lien against said vessel
and/or its owners and operators;
2.

The principle of forum non


inapplicable to the instant case;

3.

The trial court acquired jurisdiction over the subject


matter of the instant case, as well as over the res and
over the persons of the parties;

4.

The enforcement of a maritime lien on the subject


vessel is expressly granted by law. The Ship Mortgage
Acts as well as the Code of Commerce provides for
relief to petitioner for its unpaid claim;

5.

The arbitration clause in the contract was not rigid or


inflexible but expressly allowed petitioner to enforce its
maritime lien in Philippine courts provided the vessel
was in the Philippines;

6.

The law of the state of New York is inapplicable to


the present controversy as the same has not been
properly pleaded and proved;

SO ORDERED.
On August 19, 1996, respondents Vessel and SCI appealed to the Court of
Appeals. They attached copies of the charter parties between respondent SCI and
Halla, between Halla and Transmar, and between Transmar and Portserv. They
pointed out that Portserv was a time charterer and that there is a clause in the time
charters between respondent SCI and Halla, and between Halla and Transmar, which
states that the Charterers shall provide and pay for all the fuel except as otherwise
agreed. They submitted a copy of Part II of the Bunker Fuel Agreement between
petitioner Crescent and Portserv containing a stipulation that New York law governs
the construction, validity and performance of the contract. They likewise
submitted certified copies of the Commercial Instruments and Maritime Lien Act of
the United States (U.S.), some U.S. cases, and some Canadian cases to support their
defense.

conveniens is

7.

Petitioner has legal capacity to sue before Philippine


courts as it is suing upon an isolated business
transaction;

8.

Respondents were duly served summons although


service of summons upon respondents is not a
jurisdictional requirement, the action being a suit quasi
in rem;

9.

The trial courts decision has factual and legal bases;


and,

10.

The respondents should be held jointly and solidarily


liable.

In a nutshell, this case is for the satisfaction of unpaid supplies furnished


by a foreign supplier in a foreign port to a vessel of foreign registry that is owned,
chartered and sub-chartered by foreign entities.
Under Batas Pambansa Bilang 129, as amended by Republic Act No. 7691,
RTCs exercise exclusive original jurisdiction (i)n all actions in admiralty and
maritime where the demand or claim exceeds two hundred thousand pesos
(P200,000) or in Metro Manila, where such demand or claim exceeds four hundred
thousand pesos (P400,000). Two (2) tests have been used to determine whether a
case involving a contract comes within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of a
court - the locational test and the subject matter test. The English rule follows the
locational test wherein maritime and admiralty jurisdiction, with a few exceptions, is
exercised only on contracts made upon the sea and to be executed thereon. This is
totally rejected under the American rule where the criterion in determining whether a
contract is maritime depends on the nature and subject matter of the contract, having
reference to maritime service and transactions.[4] In International Harvester
Company of the Philippines v. Aragon,[5] we adopted the American rule and held
that (w)hether or not a contract is maritime depends not on the place where the
contract is made and is to be executed, making the locality the test, but on the subject
matter of the contract, making the true criterion a maritime service or a maritime
transaction.
A contract for furnishing supplies like the one involved in this case is
maritime and within the jurisdiction of admiralty.[6] It may be invoked before our
courts through an action in rem or quasi in rem or an action in personam. Thus: [7]
xxx
Articles 579 and 584 [of the Code of Commerce]
provide a method of collecting or enforcing not only the liens

created under Section 580 but also for the collection of any kind
of lien whatsoever.[8] In the Philippines, we have a complete
legislation, both substantive and adjective, under which to bring
an action in rem against a vessel for the purpose of enforcing
liens. The substantive law is found in Article 580 of the Code of
Commerce. The procedural law is to be found in Article 584 of
the same Code. The result is, therefore, that in the Philippines any
vessel even though it be a foreign vessel found in any port of
this Archipelago may be attached and sold under the substantive
law which defines the right, and the procedural law contained in
the Code of Commerce by which this right is to be enforced. [9] x x
x. But where neither the law nor the contract between the parties
creates any lien or charge upon the vessel, the only way in which
it can be seized before judgment is by pursuing the remedy
relating to attachment under Rule 59 [now Rule 57] of the Rules
of Court.[10]
But, is petitioner Crescent entitled to a maritime lien under our laws?
Petitioner Crescent bases its claim of a maritime lien on Sections
21, 22 and 23 of Presidential Decree No. 1521 (P.D. No. 1521), also known as
the Ship Mortgage Decree of 1978, viz:
Sec. 21. Maritime Lien for Necessaries; persons entitled
to such lien. - Any person furnishing repairs, supplies, towage,
use of dry dock or maritime railway, or other necessaries, to any
vessel, whether foreign or domestic, upon the order of the owner
of such vessel, or of a person authorized by the owner, shall have
a maritime lien on the vessel, which may be enforced by suit in
rem, and it shall be necessary to allege or prove that credit was
given to the vessel.
Sec. 22. Persons Authorized to Procure Repairs,
Supplies and Necessaries. - The following persons shall be
presumed to have authority from the owner to procure repairs,
supplies, towage, use of dry dock or marine railway, and other
necessaries for the vessel: The managing owner, ships husband,
master or any person to whom the management of the vessel at
the port of supply is entrusted. No person tortuously or
unlawfully in possession or charge of a vessel shall have authority
to bind the vessel.

Sec. 23. Notice to Person Furnishing Repairs, Supplies


and Necessaries. - The officers and agents of a vessel specified in
Section 22 of this Decree shall be taken to include such officers
and agents when appointed by a charterer, by an owner pro hac
vice, or by an agreed purchaser in possession of the vessel; but
nothing in this Decree shall be construed to confer a lien when the
furnisher knew, or by exercise of reasonable diligence could have
ascertained, that because of the terms of a charter party,
agreement for sale of the vessel, or for any other reason, the
person ordering the repairs, supplies, or other necessaries was
without authority to bind the vessel therefor.
Petitioner Crescent submits that these provisions apply to both domestic and
foreign vessels, as well as domestic and foreign suppliers of necessaries. It contends
that the use of the term any person in Section 21 implies that the law is not
restricted to domestic suppliers but also includes all persons who supply provisions
and necessaries to a vessel, whether foreign or domestic. It points out further that the
law does not indicate that the supplies or necessaries must be furnished in the
Philippines in order to give petitioner the right to seek enforcement of the lien with a
Philippine court.[11]
Respondents Vessel and SCI, on the other hand, maintain that Section 21 of
the P.D. No. 1521 or the Ship Mortgage Decree of 1978 does not apply to a foreign
supplier like petitioner Crescent as the provision refers only to a situation where the
person furnishing the supplies is situated inside the territory of the Philippines and
not where the necessaries were furnished in a foreign jurisdiction like Canada.[12]
We find against petitioner Crescent.
I.
P.D. No. 1521 or the Ship Mortgage Decree of 1978 was enacted to
accelerate the growth and development of the shipping industry and to extend the
benefits accorded to overseas shipping under Presidential Decree No. 214 to
domestic shipping.[13] It is patterned closely from the U.S. Ship Mortgage Act of
1920 and the Liberian Maritime Law relating to preferred mortgages. [14] Notably,
Sections 21, 22 and 23 of P.D. No. 1521 or the Ship Mortgage Decree of 1978 are
identical to Subsections P, Q, and R, respectively, of the U.S. Ship Mortgage Act of
1920, which is part of the Federal Maritime Lien Act. Hence, U.S. jurisprudence
finds relevance to determining whether P.D. No. 1521 or the Ship Mortgage Decree
of 1978 applies in the present case.
The various tests used in the U.S. to determine whether a maritime lien
exists are the following:
One. In a suit to establish and enforce a maritime lien for supplies
furnished to a vessel in a foreign port, whether such lien exists, or whether the court

has or will exercise jurisdiction, depends on the law of the country where the
supplies were furnished, which must be pleaded and proved.[15] This principle was
laid down in the 1888 case of The Scotia,[16] reiterated in The Kaiser Wilhelm
II[17] (1916), in The Woudrichem[18] (1921) and in The City of Atlanta[19] (1924).
Two. The Lauritzen-Romero-Rhoditis trilogy of cases, which replaced
such single-factor methodologies as the law of the place of supply.[20]
In Lauritzen v. Larsen,[21] a Danish seaman, while temporarily in New
York, joined the crew of a ship of Danish flag and registry that is owned by a Danish
citizen. He signed the ships articles providing that the rights of the crew members
would be governed by Danish law and by the employers contract with the Danish
Seamens Union, of which he was a member. While in Havana and in the course of
his employment, he was negligently injured. He sued the shipowner in a federal
district court in New York for damages under the Jones Act. In holding that Danish
law and not the Jones Act was applicable, the Supreme Court adopted a multiplecontact test to determine, in the absence of a specific Congressional directive as to
the statutes reach, which jurisdictions law should be applied. The following factors
were considered: (1) place of the wrongful act; (2) law of the flag; (3) allegiance
or domicile of the injured; (4) allegiance of the defendant shipowner; (5) place
of contract; (6) inaccessibility of foreign forum; and (7) law of the forum.
Several years after Lauritzen, the U.S. Supreme Court in the case
of Romero v. International Terminal Operating Co. [22] again considered a foreign
seamans personal injury claim under both the Jones Act and the general maritime
law. The Court held that the factors first announced in the case of Lauritzen
were applicable not only to personal injury claims arising under the Jones Act
but to all matters arising under maritime law in general.[23]
Hellenic Lines, Ltd. v. Rhoditis[24] was also a suit under the Jones Act by a
Greek seaman injured aboard a ship of Greek registry while in American waters.
The ship was operated by a Greek corporation which has its largest office in New
York and another office in New Orleans and whose stock is more than 95% owned
by a U.S. domiciliary who is also a Greek citizen. The ship was engaged in regularly
scheduled runs between various ports of the U.S. and the Middle East, Pakistan, and
India, with its entire income coming from either originating or terminating in the
U.S. The contract of employment provided that Greek law and a Greek collective
bargaining agreement would apply between the employer and the seaman and that all
claims arising out of the employment contract were to be adjudicated by a Greek
court. The U.S. Supreme Court observed thatof the seven factors listed in the
Lauritzen test, four were in favor of the shipowner and against jurisdiction. In
arriving at the conclusion that the Jones Act applies, it ruled that the application of
the Lauritzen test is not a mechanical one. It stated thus: [t]he significance of one
or more factors must be considered in light of the national interest served by the
assertion of Jones Act jurisdiction. (footnote omitted) Moreover, the list of seven

factors in Lauritzen was not intended to be exhaustive. x x x [T]he shipowners


base of operations is another factor of importance in determining whether the Jones
Act is applicable; and there well may be others.

The principles enunciated in these maritime tort cases have been extended
to cases involving unpaid supplies and necessaries such as the cases of Forsythe
International U.K., Ltd. v. M/V Ruth Venture,[25] and Comoco Marine Services v.
M/V El Centroamericano.[26]
Three. The factors provided in Restatement (Second) of Conflicts of
Law have also been applied, especially in resolving cases brought under the Federal
Maritime Lien Act. Their application suggests that in the absence of an effective
choice of law by the parties, the forum contacts to be considered include: (a) the
place of contracting; (b) the place of negotiation of the contract; (c) the place of
performance; (d) the location of the subject matter of the contract; and (e) the
domicile, residence, nationality, place of incorporation and place of business of the
parties.[27]
In Gulf Trading and Transportation Co. v. The Vessel Hoegh Shield,
[28]
an admiralty action in rem was brought by an American supplier against a vessel
of Norwegian flag owned by a Norwegian Company and chartered by a London time
charterer for unpaid fuel oil and marine diesel oil delivered while the vessel was in
U.S. territory. The contract was executed in London. It was held that because the
bunker fuel was delivered to a foreign flag vessel within the jurisdiction of the U.S.,
and because the invoice specified payment in the U.S., the admiralty and maritime
law of the U.S. applied. The U.S. Court of Appeals recognized the modern approach
to maritime conflict of law problems introduced in the Lauritzen case. However, it
observed that Lauritzen involved a torts claim under the Jones Act while the present
claim involves an alleged maritime lien arising from unpaid supplies. It made a
disclaimer that its conclusion is limited to the unique circumstances surrounding a
maritime lien as well as the statutory directives found in the Maritime Lien Statute
and that the initial choice of law determination is significantly affected by the
statutory policies surrounding a maritime lien. It ruled that the facts in the case
call for the application of the Restatement (Second) of Conflicts of Law. The U.S.
Court gave much significance to the congressional intent in enacting the Maritime
Lien Statute to protect the interests of American supplier of goods, services or
necessaries by making maritime liens available where traditional services are
routinely rendered. It concluded that the Maritime Lien Statute represents a relevant
policy of the forum that serves the needs of the international legal system as well as
the basic policies underlying maritime law. The court also gave equal importance to
the predictability of result and protection of justified expectations in a particular field
of law. In the maritime realm, it is expected that when necessaries are furnished to a
vessel in an American port by an American supplier, the American Lien Statute will
apply to protect that supplier regardless of the place where the contract was formed
or the nationality of the vessel.
The same principle was applied in the case of Swedish Telecom Radio v.
M/V Discovery I[29] where the American court refused to apply the Federal Maritime

Lien Act to create a maritime lien for goods and services supplied by foreign
companies in foreign ports. In this case, a Swedish company supplied radio
equipment in a Spanish port to refurbish a Panamanian vessel damaged by fire.
Some of the contract negotiations occurred in Spain and the agreement for supplies
between the parties indicated Swedish companys willingness to submit to Swedish
law. The ship was later sold under a contract of purchase providing for the
application of New York law and was arrested in the U.S. The U.S. Court of Appeals
also held that while the contacts-based framework set forth in Lauritzen was useful
in the analysis of all maritime choice of law situations, the factors were geared
towards a seamans injury claim. As in Gulf Trading, the lien arose by operation of
law because the ships owner was not a party to the contract under which the goods
were supplied. As a result, the court found it more appropriate to consider the factors
contained in Section 6 of the Restatement (Second) of Conflicts of Law. The U.S.
Court held that the primary concern of the Federal Maritime Lien Act is the
protection of American suppliers of goods and services.
The same factors were applied in the case of Ocean Ship Supply, Ltd. v.
M/V Leah.[30]
II.
Finding guidance from the foregoing decisions, the Court cannot sustain
petitioner Crescents insistence on the application of P.D. No. 1521 or the Ship
Mortgage Decree of 1978 and hold that a maritime lien exists.
First. Out of the seven basic factors listed in the case of Lauritzen,
Philippine law only falls under one the law of the forum. All other elements are
foreign Canada is the place of the wrongful act, of the allegiance or domicile of the
injured and the place of contract; India is the law of the flag and the allegiance of the
defendant shipowner. Balancing these basic interests, it is inconceivable that the
Philippine court has any interest in the case that outweighs the interests of Canada or
India for that matter.
Second. P.D. No. 1521 or the Ship Mortgage Decree of 1978 is
inapplicable following the factors under Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws.
Like the Federal Maritime Lien Act of the U.S., P.D. No. 1521 or the Ship Mortgage
Decree of 1978 was enacted primarily to protect Filipino suppliers and was not
intended to create a lien from a contract for supplies between foreign entities
delivered in a foreign port.
Third. Applying P.D. No. 1521 or the Ship Mortgage Decree of 1978 and
rule that a maritime lien exists would not promote the public policy behind the
enactment of the law to develop the domestic shipping industry. Opening up our
courts to foreign suppliers by granting them a maritime lien under our laws even if
they are not entitled to a maritime lien under their laws will encourage forum
shopping.

Finally. The submission of petitioner is not in keeping with the reasonable


expectation of the parties to the contract. Indeed, when the parties entered into a
contract for supplies in Canada, they could not have intended the laws of a remote
country like the Philippines to determine the creation of a lien by the mere accident
of the Vessels being in Philippine territory.
III.
But under which law should petitioner Crescent prove the existence of its
maritime lien?
In light of the interests of the various foreign elements involved, it is clear that
Canada has the most significant interest in this dispute. The injured party is a
Canadian corporation, the sub-charterer which placed the orders for the supplies is
also Canadian, the entity which physically delivered the bunker fuels is in Canada,
the place of contracting and negotiation is in Canada, and the supplies were delivered
in Canada.
The arbitration clause contained in the Bunker Fuel Agreement which states
that New York law governs the construction, validity and performance of the
contract is only a factor that may be considered in the choice-of-law analysis but is
not conclusive. As in the cases of Gulf Trading and Swedish Telecom, the lien that
is the subject matter of this case arose by operation of law and not by contract
because the shipowner was not a party to the contract under which the goods were
supplied.
It is worthy to note that petitioner Crescent never alleged and proved
Canadian law as basis for the existence of a maritime lien. To the end, it insisted on
its theory that Philippine law applies. Petitioner contends that even if foreign law
applies, since the same was not properly pleaded and proved, such foreign law must
be presumed to be the same as Philippine law pursuant to the doctrine of processual
presumption.
Thus, we are left with two choices: (1) dismiss the case for petitioners
failure to establish a cause of action [31] or (2) presume that Canadian law is the same
as Philippine law. In either case, the case has to be dismissed.
It is well-settled that a party whose cause of action or defense depends upon
a foreign law has the burden of proving the foreign law. Such foreign law is treated
as a question of fact to be properly pleaded and proved. [32] Petitioner Crescents
insistence on enforcing a maritime lien before our courts depended on the existence
of a maritime lien under the proper law. By erroneously claiming a maritime lien
under Philippine law instead of proving that a maritime lien exists under Canadian
law, petitioner Crescent failed to establish a cause of action.[33]
Even if we apply the doctrine of processual presumption, the result will still
be the same. Under P.D. No. 1521 or the Ship Mortgage Decree of 1978, the
following are the requisites for maritime liens on necessaries to exist: (1) the
necessaries must have been furnished to and for the benefit of the vessel; (2) the

necessaries must have been necessary for the continuation of the voyage of the
vessel; (3) the credit must have been extended to the vessel; (4) there must be
necessity for the extension of the credit; and (5) the necessaries must be ordered by
persons authorized to contract on behalf of the vessel. [34] These do not avail in the
instant case.
First. It was not established that benefit was extended to the vessel. While
this is presumed when the master of the ship is the one who placed the order, it is not
disputed that in this case it was the sub-charterer Portserv which placed the orders to
petitioner Crescent.[35] Hence, the presumption does not arise and it is incumbent
upon petitioner Crescent to prove that benefit was extended to the vessel. Petitioner
did not.
Second. Petitioner Crescent did not show any proof that the marine
products were necessary for the continuation of the vessel.
Third. It was not established that credit was extended to the vessel. It is
presumed that in the absence of fraud or collusion, where advances are made to a
captain in a foreign port, upon his request, to pay for necessary repairs or supplies to
enable his vessel to prosecute her voyage, or to pay harbor dues, or for pilotage,
towage and like services rendered to the vessel, that they are made upon the credit of
the vessel as well as upon that of her owners. [36] In this case, it was the subcharterer Portserv which requested for the delivery of the bunker fuels. The
issuance of two checks amounting to US$300,000 in favor of petitioner Crescent
prior to the delivery of the bunkers as security for the payment of the obligation
weakens petitioner Crescents contention that credit was extended to the Vessel.
We also note that when copies of the charter parties were submitted by
respondents in the Court of Appeals, the time charters between respondent SCI and
Halla and between Halla and Transmar were shown to contain a clause which states
that the Charterers shall provide and pay for all the fuel except as otherwise
agreed. This militates against petitioner Crescents position that Portserv is
authorized by the shipowner to contract for supplies upon the credit of the vessel.
Fourth. There was no proof of necessity of credit. A necessity of credit
will be presumed where it appears that the repairs and supplies were necessary for
the ship and that they were ordered by the master. This presumption does not arise
in this case since the fuels were not ordered by the master and there was no proof of
necessity for the supplies.
Finally. The necessaries were not ordered by persons authorized to
contract in behalf of the vessel as provided under Section 22 of P.D. No. 1521 or the
Ship Mortgage Decree of 1978 - the managing owner, the ships husband, master or
any person with whom the management of the vessel at the port of supply is
entrusted. Clearly, Portserv, a sub-charterer under a time charter, is not someone to
whom the management of the vessel has been entrusted. A time charter is a contract
for the use of a vessel for a specified period of time or for the duration of one or

more specified voyages wherein the owner of the time-chartered vessel retains
possession and control through the master and crew who remain his employees. [37]
Not enjoying the presumption of authority, petitioner Crescent should have proved
that Portserv was authorized by the shipowner to contract for supplies. Petitioner
failed.
A discussion on the principle of forum non conveniens is unnecessary.
IN VIEW WHEREOF, the Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R.
No. CV 54920, dated November 28, 2001, and its subsequent Resolution of
September 3, 2002 are AFFIRMED. The instant petition for review on certiorari is
DENIED for lack of merit. Cost against petitioner.
SO ORDERED.

[G.R.

No.

97805.

September

2,

1992.]

NILO H. RAYMUNDO, Petitioner, v. HON. COURT OF APPEALS, Sixteenth


Division, Hon. Judge, RTC, Br. 133, Makati, Metro Manila and GALLERIA DE
MAGALLANES
ASSOCIATION,
INC.,Respondents.
The

Barristers

Law

Office

for Petitioner.

WHEN AVAILABLE. A writ for mandatory injunction is a provisional remedy. It


is provisional because it constitutes a temporary measure availed of during the
pendency of the main action and it is ancillary because it is a mere incident in and is
dependent upon the result of the main action.

DECISION

Leo M. Caubang for Respondents.


NOCON, J.:
SYLLABUS

1. REMEDIAL LAW; REGIONAL TRIAL COURT; JURISDICTION IN CIVIL


CASES NOT CAPABLE OF PECUNIARY ESTIMATION. Private respondents
complaint is an action to compel the petitioner to remove the illegal and
unauthorized installation of glasses at Unit AB-122 of the condominium which is not
capable of pecuniary estimation and falls under the exclusive jurisdiction of the
Regional Trial Court Section 33 of Batas Pambansa Bilang 129 is not applicable in
the instant case, but paragraph (1), Section 19 and paragraph (1), Section 21.
2. ID; ID.; ID.; CRITERION IN DETERMINING WHETHER AN ACTION IS
ONE THE SUBJECT MATTER OF WHICH IS NOT CAPABLE OF PECUNIARY
ESTIMATION. A civil action in which the subject of the litigation is incapable of
pecuniary estimation has invariably been held to be within the exclusive original
jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Courts. "In determining whether an action is one
the subject matter of which is not capable of pecuniary estimation this Court has
adopted the criterion of first ascertaining the nature of the principal action or remedy
sought. If it is primarily for the recovery of a sum of money, the claim is considered
capable of pecuniary estimation, and whether jurisdiction is in the municipal courts
[now municipal trial courts] or in the courts of first instance [now regional trial
courts] would depend on the amount of the claim. However, where the basic issue is
something other than the right to recover a sum of money, or where the money claim
is purely incidental to, or a consequence of, the principal relief sought, this Court has
considered such actions as cases where the subject of the litigation may not be
estimated in terms of money, and are cognizable exclusively by courts of first
instance
[now
regional
trial
courts]."cralaw
virtua1aw
library
3. ID.; PROVISIONAL REMEDIES; WRIT OF MANDATORY INJUNCTION;

This is a petition for certiorari and prohibition with restraining order and preliminary
injunction to annul and set aside the decision of the Court of Appeals dated March
11, 1991 1 dismissing petitioners petition for certiorari and prohibition which
assailed the Orders 2 dated June 1, 1990 3 and June 29, 1990 4 of the trial
court.chanrobles
lawlibrary
:
rednad
It appears on record that on July 5, 1989, the administrator of the Galleria de
Magallanes Condominium discovered that petitioner Nilo Raymundo, who was an
owner/occupant of Unit AB-122 of said condominium, made an unauthorized
installation of glasses at the balcony of his unit in violation of Article IV, Section 3
paragraph (d) of the Master Deed and Declaration of Restrictions of the Association,
which
states
that:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"d. Nothing shall be done or placed in any unit or in the common areas which is
beyond or will impair the structural strength of the buildings or alter the original
architecture, appearance and specifications of the building, including the external
facade
thereof."
5
Thereafter, the administrator of said condominium reported said violation to the
Board of Directors of the private respondent Galleria de Magallanes Association, Inc.
in a special meeting held on July 8, 1989 and the former sent a letter dated July 12,
1989 6 to the petitioner demanding the latter to remove the illegal and unauthorized
installation
of
glasses
at
his
unit.
Petitioner refused, consequently, private respondent filed a complaint for mandatory
injunction against petitioner on February 21, 1990 with the Regional Trial Court of
Makati,
Branch
133
in
Civil
Case
No.
90-490.

On March 12, 1990, petitioner filed a Motion for extension of time to file an Answer
7 as well as a Motion for production of document 8 which were granted in an Order
dated
March
16,
1990.
9
However, on March 23, 1990, instead of an Answer, petitioner filed a Motion to
Dismiss with the trial court on the ground that said court has no jurisdiction over the
present case since a complaint for mandatory injunction is within the exclusive
original jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Trial Court.chanrobles virtual lawlibrary
The Motion to Dismiss was denied in the Order of June 1, 1990, the pertinent portion
of
which
reads:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"This is a suit for mandatory injunction. Under Sec. 21 of BP 129, as amended, it is
the Regional Trial Court which has the legal competence to issue the same.
Corollarily, the second ground must be denied. The action is essentially one which
falls
within
the
jurisdiction
of
the
Regional
Trial
Court.

We

do

not

agree.

The contention of the petitioner is devoid of merit because private respondents


complaint is an action to compel the petitioner to remove the illegal and
unauthorized installation of glasses at Unit AB-122 of the condominium which is not
capable of pecuniary estimation and falls under the exclusive jurisdiction of the
Regional Trial Court Section 33 of Batas Pambansa Bilang 129 is not applicable in
the instant case, but paragraph (1), Section 19 and paragraph (1), Section 21 of said
law
which
provide:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"Sec. 19. Jurisdiction in civil cases. Regional Trial Courts shall exercise exclusive
original
jurisdiction:chanrob1es
virtual
1aw
library
(1) In all civil actions in which the subject of the litigation is incapable of pecuniary
estimation;"
x
x
x

"WHEREFORE, the Motion to Dismiss is hereby denied, for lack of merit." 10


Likewise, petitioners Motion for Reconsideration was denied in the Order of June
29,
1990
which
We
quote,
to
wit:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"As denominated in the complaint itself, this is a suit for mandatory injunction, and
the nature of the action as designated by the plaintiff is substantiated by the
allegations of the complaint itself. Such being the case, Sec. 21 of BP 129 governs.
The claims for attorneys fees is incidental to the nature of the complaint as one of
mandatory injunction which is also attested by the prayer in the complaint "to
remove the illegal and unauthorized installation of glasses at Unit AB-122 of the
Condominium within five (5) days from receipt of the order . . ." and, therefore, does
not affect the legal competence of the Court to act on the complaint." 11
On elevation to the appellate court in a petition for certiorari and prohibition with
restraining order and preliminary injunction, the petition was again dismissed on
March
11,
1991.chanrobles.com.ph
:
virtual
law
library
Hence, this petition alleging want of jurisdiction of the trial court to hear and decide
private respondents complaint for mandatory injunction considering that private
respondents sole pecuniary claim of P10,000.00 as attorneys fees in Civil Case No.
90-490 is within the original and exclusive jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Trial
Court
as
provided
for
under
Section
33
of
B.P.
129.

"Sec. 21. Original jurisdiction in other cases. Regional Trial Courts shall exercise
original
jurisdiction:chanrob1es
virtual
1aw
library
(1) In the issuance of writs of certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo
warranto, habeas corpus and injunction which may be enforced in any part of their
respective
regions;"
A civil action in which the subject of the litigation is incapable of pecuniary
estimation has invariably been held to be within the exclusive original jurisdiction of
the
Regional
Trial
Courts.chanrobles
law
library
"In determining whether an action is one the subject matter of which is not capable
of pecuniary estimation this Court has adopted the criterion of first ascertaining the
nature of the principal action or remedy sought. If it is primarily for the recovery of a
sum of money, the claim is considered capable of pecuniary estimation, and whether
jurisdiction is in the municipal courts [now municipal trial courts] or in the courts of
first instance [now regional trial courts] would depend on the amount of the claim.
However, where the basic issue is something other than the right to recover a sum of
money, or where the money claim is purely incidental to, or a consequence of, the
principal relief sought, this Court has considered such actions as cases where the
subject of the litigation may not be estimated in terms of money, and are cognizable
exclusively by courts of first instance [now regional trial courts]." 12

As correctly stated by the Court of Appeals, the question for resolution is whether or
not the petitioner violated the provisions of the Master Deed and Declaration of
Restriction of the corporation, and if so, to remove the illegal and unauthorized
installation of glasses at Unit AB-122 of the Condominium. Clearly, the issue is
incapable
of
pecuniary
estimation.
In the instant case. the claim of attorneys fees by the private respondent in the
amount of P10,000.00 is only incidental to its principal cause of action which is for
the removal of the illegal and unauthorized installation of the glasses made by the
petitioner and therefore, said amount is not determinative of the jurisdiction of the
court.
Note should be taken. however, that the trial court had erroneously considered the
complaint as one for mandatory injunction, misled perhaps by the caption of the
complaint.chanrobles.com:cralaw:red
A writ for mandatory injunction is a provisional remedy. It is provisional because it
constitutes a temporary measure availed of during the pendency of the main action
and it is ancillary because it is a mere incident in and is dependent upon the result of
the
main
action.
13
WHEREFORE, the petition for certiorari and prohibition with restraining order and
preliminary injunction is hereby DISMISSED for lack of merit and the decision of
the Court of Appeals promulgated on March 11, 1991 is hereby AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.

[G.R. No. 119347. March 17, 1999]


EULALIA RUSSELL, RUPERTO TAUTHO, FRANCISCO TAUTHO,
SUSANA T. REALES, APITACIO TAUTHO, DANILO TAUTHO,
JUDITHA PROS, GREGORIO TAUTHO, DEODITA T. JUDILLA,
AGRIPINO TAUTHO, FELIX TAUTHO, WILLIAM TAUTHO, AND
MARILYN PERALES, petitioners, vs. HONORABLE AUGUSTINE A.
VESTIL, ADRIANO TAGALOG, MARCELO TAUTHO, JUANITA
MENDOZA, DOMINGO BANTILAN, RAUL BATALUNA AND
ARTEMIO CABATINGAN, respondents.
DECISION
KAPUNAN, J.:
Before us is a Petition for Certiorari to set aside the Order dated January 12,
1995 issued by respondent Judge Augustine A. Vestil of the Regional Trial Court of
Mandaue City, Branch 56, dismissing the complaint filed by petitioners on ground of
lack of jurisdiction, as well as his Order dated February 13, 1995 denying petitioners'
Motion for Reconsideration of the order of dismissal.
The facts of the case are as follows:
On September 28, 1994, petitioners filed a complaint against private
respondents, denominated "DECLARATION OF NULLITY AND PARTITION,"
with the Regional Trial Court of Mandaue City, Branch 56, docketed as Civil Case
No. MAN 2275. The complaint, in substance, alleged that petitioners are co-owners
of that parcel of land, Lot 6149 situated in Liloan, Cebu and containing an area of
56,977.40 square meters, more or less. The land was previously owned by the
spouses Casimero Tautho and Cesaria Tautho. Upon the death of said spouses, the
property was inherited by their legal heirs, herein petitioners and private
respondents. Since then, the lot had remained undivided until petitioners discovered
a public document denominated "DECLARATION OF HEIRS AND DEED OF
CONFIRMATION OF A PREVIOUS ORAL AGREEMENT OF PARTITION,"
executed on June 6, 1990. By virtue of this deed, private respondents divided the
property among themselves to the exclusion of petitioners who are also entitled to
the said lot as heirs of the late spouses Casimero Tautho and Cesaria
Tautho. Petitioners claimed that the document was false and perjurious as the private
respondents were not the only heirs and that no oral partition of the property

whatsoever had been made between the heirs. The complaint prayed that the
document be declared null and void and an order be issued to partition the land
among all the heirs.[1]
On November 24, 1994, private respondents filed a Motion to Dismiss [2] the
complaint on the ground of lack of jurisdiction over the nature of the case as the total
assessed value of the subject land isP5,000.00 which under section 33 (3)[3] of Batas
Pambansa Blg. 129, as amended by R.A. No. 7691,[4] falls within the exclusive
jurisdiction of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Liloan, Compostela. [5]
Petitioners filed an Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss [6] saying that the
Regional Trial Court has jurisdiction over the case since the action is one which is
incapable of pecuniary estimation within the contemplation of Section 19(l) of B.P.
129, as amended.[7]
On January 12, 1995, the respondent judge issued an Order granting the Motion
to Dismiss.[8] A Motion for Reconsideration of said order was filed by petitioners on
January 30, 1995 alleging that the same is contrary to law because their action is not
one for recovery of title to or possession of the land but an action to annul a
document or declare it null and void, [9] hence, one incapable of pecuniary estimation
failing within the jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court. Private respondents did
not oppose the motion for reconsideration.
On February 13, 1995, the respondent judge issued another Order denying the
motion for reconsideration.[10]
Hence, this petition wherein the sole issue raised is whether or not the Regional
Trial Court has jurisdiction to entertain Civil Case No. MAN-2275.
We find merit in the petition.
Petitioners maintain the view that the complaint filed before the Regional Trial
Court is for the annulment of a document denominated as "DECLARATION OF
HEIRS AND DEED OF CONFIRMATION OF PREVIOUS ORAL PARTITION,"
which is clearly one incapable of pecuniary estimation, thus, cognizable by the
Regional Trial Court.
Private respondents, on the other hand, insists that the action is one for repartition and since the assessed value of the property as stated in the complaint

is P5,000.00, then, the case falls within the jurisdiction of the Municipal Circuit Trial
Court of Liloan, Compostela, Cebu.
For better appreciation of the facts, the pertinent portions of the complaint are
reproduced hereunder:

9. That pursuant to said document (Annex "B"), defendants had procured tax
declarations of the land for their supposed "shares" to the great damage and prejudice
of plaintiffs;
10. That the property in controversy should be divided into seven (7) equal parts
since Casimero Tautho and Cesaria N. Tautho had seven children;

xxx
3. That the plaintiffs and the defendants are the legal heirs of spouses Casimero
Tautho and Cesaria N. Tautho who died long time ago;
4. That in life the spouses became the owners in fee simple of a certain parcel of
land, which is more particularly described as follows:
A parcel of land containing 56,977.40 square meters, more or less, located at Cotcot,
Liloan, Cebu.
designated as Lot 6149 per Technical Description and Certification issued by the
Office of the Land Management copy of which are hereto attached as Annexes "A"
and "A-1" and are made part hereof: total assessed value is P5,000.00;

11. That the parties had failed to settle the controversy amicably at the barangay
level; attached hereto as Annex "C" is Certification to file Action;
12. That by reason of the foregoing unjust and illegal act of defendants, plaintiffs
were forced to bring instant action and contract the services of the undersigned
counsel with whom they bind themselves to pay P30,000.00 as attorney's fees.
WHEREFORE, it is most respectfully prayed of this Honorable Court to declare null
and void the document (Annex "B") of declaration of heirs and confirmation and to
order the partition of the land into seven (7) equal parts; each part shall respectively
go to the seven (7) children of Casimero Tautho and considering six (6) of them died
already the same shall go to their children or descendants, and to order the
defendants to pay plaintiffs attorney's fees in the amount of P30,000.00.

5. That the land passed to the children of the spouses.(who are all deceased except
for defendant Marcelo Tautho), namely: Zacarias, Epifania, Vicenta, Felicisimo,
Maria, Lorencia and Marcelo, and which in turn passed to the plaintiffs and
defendants upon their death they being their descendants and legal heirs;

Plaintiffs further pray for such other reliefs and remedies just and equitable under the
premises.[11]

6. That the subject parcel of land has for year been undivided by and among the
legal heirs of said previous owners;

The complaint filed before the Regional Trial Court is doubtless one incapable
of pecuniary estimation and therefore within the jurisdiction of said court.

7. That, very recently, plaintiffs discovered a public document, which is a


declaration of heirs and deed of confirmation of a previous oral agreement, of
partition, affecting the land executed by and among the defendants whereby
defendants divided the property among themselves to the exclusion of plaintiffs who
are entitled thereto; attached hereto as Annex "B" and is made part hereof is xerox
copy of said document;

In Singsong vs. Isabela Sawmill,[12] we had the occasion to rule that:

8. That the instrument (Annex "B") is false and perjurious and is a complete nullity
because the defendants are not the only heirs of Casimero Tautho; plaintiffs are also
legal heirs and descendants of said deceased; moreover, there has been no oral
partition of the property;

We agree with petitioners.

[I]n determining whether an action is one the subject matter of which is not capable
of pecuniary estimation this Court has adopted the criterion of first ascertaining the
nature of the principal action or remedy sought. If it is primarily for the recovery of
a sum of money, the claim is considered capable of pecuniary estimation, and
whether jurisdiction is in the municipal courts or in the courts of first instance would
depend on the amount of the claim. However, where the basic issue is something
other than the right to recover a sum of money, where the money claim is purely
incidental to, or a consequence of, the principal relief sought, this Court has
considered such actions as cases where the subject of the litigation may not be

estimated in terms of money, and are cognizable exclusively by courts of first


instance (now Regional Trial Courts).[13]
Examples of actions incapable of pecuniary estimation are those for specific
performance, support, or foreclosure of mortgage or annulment of judgment; [14] also
actions questioning the validity of a mortgage, [15] annulling a deed of sale or
conveyance and to recover the price paid[16] and for rescession, which is a counterpart
of specific performance.[17]
While actions under Sec. 33(3) of B.P. 129 are also incapable of pecuniary
estimation, the law specifically mandates that they are cognizable by the MTC,
METC, or MCTC where the assessed value of the real property involved does
exceed P20,000.00 in Metro Manila, or P50,000.00, if located elsewhere. If the
value exceeds P20,000.00 or P50,000.00 as the case may be, it is the Regional Trial
Courts which have jurisdiction under Sec. 19(2).[18]
However, the subject matter of the complaint in this case is annulment of a
document denominated as "DECLARATION OF HEIRS AND DEED OF
CONFIRMATION OF PREVIOUS ORAL PARTITION."
The main purpose of petitioners in filing the complaint is to declare null and
void the document in which private respondents declared themselves as the only
heirs of the late spouses Casimero Tautho and Cesaria Tautho and divided his
property among themselves to the exclusion of petitioners who also claim to be legal
heirs and entitled to the property. While the complaint also prays for the partition of
the property, this is just incidental to the main action, which is the declaration of
nullity of the document above-described. It is axiomatic that jurisdiction over the
subject matter of a case is conferred by law and is determined by the allegations in
the complaint and the character of the relief sought, irrespective of whether the
plaintiff is entitled to all or some of the claims asserted therein.[19]
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is hereby GRANTED. The
Order dismissing Civil Case No. MAN-2275, as well as the Order denying the
motion for reconsideration of said Order, is SET ASIDE.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Melo and Pardo, JJ., concur.

[G.R. No. 146886. April 30, 2003]


DEVORAH E. BARDILLON, petitioner, vs. BARANGAY MASILI of Calamba,
Laguna, respondent.
DECISION
PANGANIBAN, J.:
An expropriation suit is incapable of pecuniary estimation. Accordingly, it falls
within the jurisdiction of regional trial courts, regardless of the value of the subject
property.
The Case
[1]

Before us is a Petition for Review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court,


seeking to set aside the January 10, 2001 Decision and the February 5, 2001
Resolution of the Court of Appeals[2] (CA) in CA-GR SP No. 61088. The dispositive
part of the Decision reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the present [P]etition for [C]ertiorari is hereby
DENIED DUE COURSE and accordingly DISMISSED, for lack of merit.[3]
The assailed Resolution[4] denied petitioners Motion for Reconsideration.
The Facts
The factual antecedents are summarized by the CA as follows:
At the root of this present [P]etition is the controversy surrounding the two (2)
[C]omplaints for eminent domain which were filed by herein respondent for the
purpose of expropriating a ONE HUNDRED FORTY FOUR (144) square meterparcel of land, otherwise known as Lot 4381-D situated in Barangay Masili,
Calamba, Laguna and owned by herein petitioner under Transfer Certificate of Title
No. 383605 of the Registry of Deeds of Calamba, Laguna. Petitioner acquired from
Makiling Consolidated Credit Corporation the said lot pursuant to a Deed of
Absolute Sale which was executed by and between the former and the latter on
October 7, 1996.

The first [C]omplaint for eminent domain, docketed as Civil Case No. 3648 and
entitled Brgy. Masili, Calamba, Laguna v. Emelita A. Reblara, Eugenia Almazan
& Devorah E. Bardillon, was filed before the Municipal Trial Court of Calamba,
Laguna (MTC) on February 23, 1998, following the failure of Barangay Masili to
reach an agreement with herein petitioner on the purchase offer of TWO HUNDRED
THOUSAND PESOS (P200,000.00). The expropriation of Lot 4381-D was being
pursued in view of providing Barangay Masili a multi-purpose hall for the use and
benefit of its constituents.
On March 5, 1999, the MTC issued an order dismissing Civil Case No. 3648 for
lack of interest for failure of the [respondent] and its counsel to appear at the pretrial. The MTC, in its Order dated May 3, 1999, denied [respondents] [M]otion for
[R]econsideration thereof.
The second [C]omplaint for eminent domain, docketed as Civil Case No. 2845-99C and entitled Brgy. Masili, Calamba, Laguna v. Devorah E. Bardillon, was filed
before Branch 37 of the Regional Trial Court of Calamba, Laguna (RTC)
on October 18, 1999. This [C]omplaint also sought the expropriation of the said Lot
4381-D for the erection of a multi-purpose hall of Barangay Masili, but petitioner, by
way of a Motion to Dismiss, opposed this [C]omplaint by alleging in the main that it
violated Section 19(f) of Rule 16 in that [respondents] cause of action is barred by
prior judgment, pursuant to the doctrine of res judicata.
On January 21, 2000, [the] Judge issued an order denying petitioners Motion to
Dismiss, holding that the MTC which ordered the dismissal of Civil Case No. 3648
has no jurisdiction over the said expropriation proceeding.
With the subsequent approval of Municipal Ordinance No. 2000-261 on July 10,
2000, and the submission thereof in compliance with [the] Judges Order dated June
9, 2000 requiring herein respondent to produce the authority for the expropriation
through the Municipal Council of Calamba, Laguna, the assailed Order dated August
4, 2000 was issued in favor of Barangay Masili x x x and, on August 16, 2000, the
corresponding order for the issuance of the [W]rit of [P]ossession over Lot 4381D.[5]
Ruling of the Court of Appeals
In dismissing the Petition, the CA held that the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of
Calamba, Laguna (Branch 37)[6] did not commit grave abuse of discretion in issuing

the assailed Orders. It ruled that the second Complaint for eminent domain (Civil
Case No. 2845-99-C) was not barred by res judicata. The reason is that the
Municipal Trial Court (MTC), which dismissed the first Complaint for eminent
domain (Civil Case No. 3648), had no jurisdiction over the action.

The Petition has no merit.


First Issue:
Jurisdiction Over Expropriation

Hence, this Petition.

[7]

The Issues
In her Memorandum, petitioner raises the following issues for our
consideration:
A. Whether or not, the Honorable Respondent Court committed grave abuse of
discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction when it denied and dismissed petitioners
appeal;
B. Whether or not, the Honorable Respondent Court committed grave abuse of
discretion when it did not pass upon and consider the pending Motion for
Reconsideration which was not resolved by the Regional Trial Court before issuing
the questioned Orders of 4 and 16 August 2000;
C. Whether or not, the Honorable Respondent Court committed grave abuse of
discretion in taking the total amount of the assessed value of the land and building to
confer jurisdiction to the court a quo;
D. Whether or not, the Honorable Respondent Court committed grave abuse of
discretion in ignoring the fact that there is an existing multi-purpose hall erected in
the land owned by Eugenia Almazan which should be subject of expropriation; and
E. Whether or not, the Honorable Respondent Court committed grave abuse of
discretion in failing to consider the issue of forum shopping committed by
Respondent Masili.[8]
Simply put, the issues are as follows: (1) whether the MTC had jurisdiction
over the expropriation case; (2) whether the dismissal of that case before the MTC
constituted res judicata; (3) whether the CA erred when it ignored the issue of entry
upon the premises; and (4) whether respondent is guilty of forum shopping.
The Courts Ruling

Petitioner claims that, since the value of the land is only P11,448, the MTC had
jurisdiction over the case.[9]
On the other hand, the appellate court held that the assessed value of the
property was P28,960.[10] Thus, the MTC did not have jurisdiction over the
expropriation proceedings, because the amount involved was beyond the P20,000
jurisdictional amount cognizable by MTCs.
An expropriation suit does not involve the recovery of a sum of money. Rather,
it deals with the exercise by the government of its authority and right to take property
for public use.[11]As such, it is incapable of pecuniary estimation and should be filed
with the regional trial courts.[12]
This was explained by the Court in Barangay San Roque v. Heirs of Francisco
Pastor:[13]
It should be stressed that the primary consideration in an expropriation suit is
whether the government or any of its instrumentalities has complied with the
requisites for the taking of private property. Hence, the courts determine the
authority of the government entity, the necessity of the expropriation, and the
observance of due process. In the main, the subject of an expropriation suit is the
governments exercise of eminent domain, a matter that is incapable of pecuniary
estimation.
True, the value of the property to be expropriated is estimated in monetary terms,
for the court is duty-bound to determine the just compensation for it. This, however,
is merely incidental to the expropriation suit. Indeed, that amount is determined
only after the court is satisfied with the propriety of the expropriation.
Verily, the Court held in Republic of the Philippines v. Zurbano that condemnation
proceedings are within the jurisdiction of Courts of First Instance, the forerunners of
the regional trial courts. The said case was decided during the effectivity of the
Judiciary Act of 1948 which, like BP 129 in respect to RTCs, provided that courts of
first instance had original jurisdiction over all civil actions in which the subject of

the litigation is not capable of pecuniary estimation. The 1997 amendments to the
Rules of Court were not intended to change these jurisprudential precedents.[14]
To reiterate, an expropriation suit is within the jurisdiction of the RTC
regardless of the value of the land, because the subject of the action is the
governments exercise of eminent domain -- a matter that is incapable of pecuniary
estimation.

The requirements for the issuance of a writ of possession in an expropriation


case are expressly and specifically governed by Section 2 of Rule 67 of the 1997
Rules of Civil Procedure.[18] On the part of local government units, expropriation is
also governed by Section 19 of the Local Government Code. [19] Accordingly, in
expropriation proceedings, the requisites for authorizing immediate entry are as
follows: (1) the filing of a complaint for expropriation sufficient in form and
substance; and (2) the deposit of the amount equivalent to 15 percent of the fair
market value of the property to be expropriated based on its current tax declaration.

Second Issue:

[20]

Res Judicata

In the instant case, the issuance of the Writ of Possession in favor of respondent
after it had filed the Complaint for expropriation and deposited the amount required
was proper, because it had complied with the foregoing requisites.

Petitioner claims that the MTCs dismissal of the first Complaint for eminent
domain was with prejudice, since there was no indication to the contrary in the Order
of dismissal. She contends that the filing of the second Complaint before the RTC
should therefore be dismissed on account of res judicata.
Res judicata literally means a matter adjudged, judicially acted upon or
decided, or settled by judgment.[15] It provides that a final judgment on the merits
rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction is conclusive as to the rights of the
parties and their privies; and constitutes an absolute bar to subsequent actions
involving the same claim, demand or cause of action.[16]

The issue of the necessity of the expropriation is a matter properly addressed to


the RTC in the course of the expropriation proceedings. If petitioner objects to the
necessity of the takeover of her property, she should say so in her Answer to the
Complaint.[21] The RTC has the power to inquire into the legality of the exercise of
the right of eminent domain and to determine whether there is a genuine necessity
for it.[22]
Fourth Issue:

The following are the requisites of res judicata: (1) the former judgment must
be final; (2) the court that rendered it had jurisdiction over the subject matter and the
parties; (3) it is a judgment on the merits; and (4) there is -- between the first and the
second actions -- an identity of parties, subject matter and cause of action.[17]

Forum Shopping

Since the MTC had no jurisdiction over expropriation proceedings, the doctrine
of res judicata finds no application even if the Order of dismissal may have been an
adjudication on the merits.

The test for determining the presence of forum shopping is whether the
elements of litis pendentia are present in two or more pending cases, such that a final
judgment in one case will amount to res judicata in another.[23]

Third Issue:

Be it noted that the earlier case lodged with the MTC had already been
dismissed when the Complaint was filed before the RTC. Even
granting arguendo that both cases were still pending, a final judgment in the MTC
case will not constitute res judicata in the RTC, since the former had no jurisdiction
over the expropriation case.

Legality of Entry Into Premises


Petitioner argues that the CA erred when it ignored the RTCs Writ of
Possession over her property, issued despite the pending Motion for Reconsideration
of the ruling dismissing the Complaint. We are not persuaded.

Petitioner claims that respondent is guilty of forum shopping, because it


scouted for another forum after obtaining an unfavorable Decision from the MTC.

WHEREFORE,
the
Petition
is DENIED and
Decision AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioner.

the

assailed

SO ORDERED.
Puno,
JJ., concur.

(Chairman),

Sandoval-Gutierrez,

Corona, and Carpio-Morales,

G.R. No. 163021

April 27, 2007

PATRICIO
A.
vs.
PATRICIO S. PAYOYO, Respondent.

VILLENA, Petitioner,

On October 26, 1998, Payoyo filed a complaint for recovery of a sum of money and
damages against Villena. Villena moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a
cause of action. He argued that there was no ground to cancel the contract; thus,
there was no basis for refund. The trial court denied his motion. Villena thereafter
filed an answer with compulsory counterclaim citing as an affirmative defense
Payoyos failure to state a cause of action.

DECISION
QUISUMBING, J.:
This petition for review on certiorari assails the Decision 1 dated November 21, 2003
of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 70513 and its Resolution 2 dated March
18, 2004, denying petitioners motion for reconsideration. The appellate court had
affirmed with modification the Decision 3 dated April 26, 2000 of the Regional Trial
Court (RTC) of Quezon City, Branch 78.
The facts are undisputed.
On October 28, 1997, respondent Patricio Payoyo and Novaline, Inc., through its
president, petitioner Patricio Villena, entered into a contract for the delivery and
installation of kitchen cabinets in Payoyos residence. The cabinets were to be
delivered within ninety days from downpayment of 50% of the purchase price. On
October 29, 1997, Payoyo paid Villena P155,183 as downpayment.
On December 9, 1997, Payoyo entered into another contract with Villena for the
delivery of home appliances. On the same day, Payoyo paid 50% of the purchase
price equal to P29,638.50 as downpayment.
However, Villena failed to install the kitchen cabinets and deliver the appliances.
Payoyo made several demands upon Villena but the latter failed to comply.
In a letter dated March 12, 1998, Payoyo demanded the cancellation of the contracts
and the refund in full of the downpayments amounting to P184,821.50. Villena
promised to install the kitchen cabinets on or before May 10, 1998 and to deliver the
appliances. Despite repeated demands, Villena again failed to do so.
Payoyo sent Villena two demand letters on June 24, 1998 and on July 28, 1998
asking the latter to either deliver all items or return the downpayments.

On June 1, 1999, immediately after the trial court issued a pre-trial order, Villena
filed a second motion to dismiss on the ground of lack of jurisdiction over the subject
matter but it was denied. Thereafter, trial ensued.
The trial court decided in favor of Payoyo, reasoning that the power to rescind is
implied in reciprocal obligations. Considering that Villena repeatedly failed to
comply with his obligation, Payoyo had the right to rescind the contract and demand
a refund. The trial court ordered petitioner to pay respondent P184,821.50 as actual
damages plus 12% interest per annum from the date of filing of the complaint
and P20,000 as moral damages plus legal interest from judicial demand until fully
paid.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the RTC decision with the following modifications:
1) [Petitioner Villena is] hereby ordered to pay [respondent Payoyo] actual
damages in the amount of P155,183.00 with 12% interest per annum from
the date of the filing of the complaint;
2) [Petitioner is] likewise ordered to deliver the Indesit Multifunction Oven
and Indesit Hob in favor of [respondent] within thirty (30) days from the
finality of this decision; and
3) [Respondent] is hereby ordered to pay the purchase price of the Indesit
Multifunction Oven and Indesit Hob in favor of [petitioner] on the day the
delivery is made.4
The appellate court reasoned that while there was delay in the delivery and
installation of the kitchen cabinets, there was none in the delivery of the appliances.
The contract for said appliances did not specify the date of delivery but that delivery
should be made upon payment of the 50% balance of the purchase price. Considering
that Payoyo failed to pay the balance, Villena did not incur delay.

Hence, the instant petition, where petitioner raises the following issues:
I.
WHETHER OR NOT THE TRIAL COURT HAD JURISDICTION OVER THE
SUBJECT MATTER OF THE CASE.
II.
WHETHER OR NOT [THE] DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS (PETITIONER AND
NOVALINE, INC.), ARE ESTOPPED FROM QUESTIONING THE
JURISDICTION OF THE COURT UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES.5
Simply, the issue in this case is whether the trial court had jurisdiction over the
complaint.
Petitioner maintains that the RTC should have dismissed the complaint for lack of
jurisdiction. He posits that the RTC has no jurisdiction over the complaint since it is
mainly for recovery of a sum of money in the amount ofP184,821.50 which is below
the jurisdictional amount set for RTCs.6 Moreover, petitioner contends that the issue
of jurisdiction may be raised at any time, even on appeal, since jurisdiction is
conferred only by law and cannot be acquired through or waived by any act or
omission of the parties.7

(8) In all other cases in which the demand, exclusive of interest, damages of
whatever kind, attorneys fees, litigation expenses, and costs or the value of the
property in controversy exceeds One Hundred Thousand pesos (P100,000.00) or, in
such other cases in Metro Manila, where the demand, exclusive of the
abovementioned items exceeds Two Hundred Thousand pesos (P200,000.00).
In determining the jurisdiction of an action whose subject is incapable of pecuniary
estimation, the nature of the principal action or remedy sought must first be
ascertained. If it is primarily for the recovery of a sum of money, the claim is
considered capable of pecuniary estimation and the jurisdiction of the court depends
on the amount of the claim. But, where the primary issue is something other than the
right to recover a sum of money, where the money claim is purely incidental to, or a
consequence of, the principal relief sought, such are actions whose subjects are
incapable of pecuniary estimation, hence cognizable by the RTCs.10
Verily, what determines the nature of the action and which court has jurisdiction over
it are the allegations of the complaint and the character of the relief sought.11
In our considered view, the complaint, albeit entitled as one for collection of a sum
of money with damages, is one incapable of pecuniary estimation; thus, one within
the RTCs jurisdiction. The allegations therein show that it is actually for breach of
contract, thus,
xxxx

Respondent, on the other hand, contends that the RTC has jurisdiction over the
complaint as the allegations therein show that it is actually a case for rescission of
the contracts. The recovery of a sum of money is merely a necessary consequence of
the cancellation of the contracts.8
The pertinent portion of Section 19 of Batas Pambansa Bilang 129, as amended by
Republic Act No. 7691,9provides:

7. Under their Contracts, prestation and/or delivery of the items will be performed
and delivered within NINETY (90) DAYS from the receipt of downpayment.
Plaintiff complied with its prestation but defendants defaulted with their obligation;
xxxx

SEC. 19. Jurisdiction in civil cases.Regional Trial Courts shall exercise exclusive
original jurisdiction:

10. On 12 March 1998, plaintiff sent letter to defendants requesting the latter for the
cancellation of the purchase contracts and refund in full the (50%) downpayment
paid in the total amount of (P 184, 821.50) within five (5) days upon receipt of the
letter

(1) In all civil actions in which the subject of the litigation is incapable of pecuniary
estimation;

xxxx

xxxx

12. On 24 March 1998, plaintiff and defendant Patricio A. Villena, personally talked
[to] each other regarding the full refund of the (50%) downpayment in the amount of

P 184, 821.50. Defendant informed the plaintiff that it was their fault because the
order from their Australian supplier was made only on 15 December 1997.
Defendant promised plaintiff [delivery of] the three (3) Kitchen Cabinets on or
before 10 [M]ay 1998, and the three (3) home appliances were considered fully paid
applying the (50%) downpayment of (P 29,638.50) for home appliances only. But
defendant did not fulfill his promise;
13. Despite all these, repeated demands for the installation of the (3) three kitchen
[c]abinets and complete delivery of home appliances were made, but defendants did
nothing;
x x x x12 (Emphasis added.)
A case for breach of contract is a cause of action either for specific performance or
rescission of contracts.13 An action for rescission of contract, as a counterpart of an
action for specific performance, is incapable of pecuniary estimation, and therefore
falls under the jurisdiction of the RTC. 14 In the present case, the averments in the
complaint show that Payoyo sought the cancellation of the contracts and refund of
the downpayments since Villena failed to comply with the obligation to deliver the
appliances and install the kitchen cabinets subject of the contracts. The court then
must examine the facts and the applicable law to determine whether there is in fact
substantial breach that would warrant rescission or cancellation of the contracts and
entitle the respondent for a refund. While the respondent prayed for the refund, this is
just incidental to the main action, which is the rescission or cancellation of the
contracts.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED for lack of merit. The Decision dated
November 21, 2003 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 70513 and the
Resolution dated March 18, 2004 are AFFIRMED.
Costs against petitioner.
SO ORDERED.

RESOLUTION
DAVID LU,

G.R. No. 153690


Petitioner,

NACHURA, J.:
For resolution is the Motion for Reconsideration[1] filed by petitioners John
Lu Ym and Ludo & LuYm Development Corporation (movants), praying that we
reconsider our Decision[2] dated August 26, 2008, where we disposed of the three
consolidated cases in this wise:

- versus PATERNO LU YM, SR., PATERNO LU YM, JR.,


VICTOR LU YM, ET. AL. & LUYM DEVELOPMENT
CORP.,
Respondents.
PATERNO LU YM, SR., PATERNO LU YM, JR.,
VICTOR LU YM, JOHN LU YM, KELLY LU YM, and
LUDO & LUYM DEVELOPMENT CORP.,
Petitioners,

G.R. No. 157381

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petitions in


G.R. Nos. 153690 and 157381 are DENIED for being moot and
academic; while the petition in G.R. No. 170889
isDISMISSED for lack of merit. Consequently, the Status
Quo Order dated January 23, 2006 is hereby LIFTED.
The Court of Appeals is DIRECTED to proceed with
CA-G.R. CV No. 81163 and to resolve the same with dispatch.

- versus -

SO ORDERED.[3]

DAVID LU,
Respondent.
JOHN LU YM and LUDO & LUYM DEVELOPMENT
CORPORATION,
Petitioner,

In support of their motion, the movants advance the following arguments:

G.R. No. 170889


-versusPresent:
THE HON. COURT OF APPEALS OF CEBU CITY
(former Twentieth Division), DAVID LU, ROSA GO,
SILVANO LUDO & CL CORPORATION,
Respondents.

YNARES-SANTIAGO,
Chairperson,
CARPIO-MORALES,
CHICO-NAZARIO,
NACHURA, and
BRION, JJ.**
Promulgated:

August 4, 2009
x-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

1. Private respondents are guilty of fraud in avoiding


payment of the correct docket fees by not listing the real properties
in their Complaint and Amended Complaint despite their
admission that the real properties are the subject matter of the case
and by their act of annotating notices of lis pendens on the
properties of Ludo Dev.
2. The present action is not an intra-corporate controversy
and therefore the RTC, being a special commercial court, has no
jurisdiction over the subject matter of the case.
3. The RTC has no jurisdiction to order the dissolution of
the Corporation.
However, should this Honorable Court decide that the
foregoing grounds are not sufficient justification to warrant a
dismissal of SRC-021 CEB, petitioners ask that the Status
Quo Order of this Court be maintained during the appeal of the

case or that a Writ of Injunction be issued to stop the immediate


implementation of the March 1, 2004 decision based on the
following grounds:
a) The March 1, 2004 decision of the RTC was null and
void for denying petitioners right to due process.
b) The Management Committee organized by the RTC in
the March 1, 2004 decision was unlawfully constituted.
c) Supervening event has made the management
committee functus oficio.[4]

To resolve the motion judiciously, it is necessary to restate, albeit briefly,


the factual and procedural antecedents that gave rise to these consolidated petitions.
On August 14, 2000, David Lu, Rosa Go, Silvano Ludo and CL Corporation
filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Cebu City a complaint against Paterno
Lu Ym, Sr., Paterno Lu Ym, Jr., Victor Lu Ym, John Lu Ym, Kelly Lu Ym, and
Ludo & Luym Development Corporation (LLDC) for Declaration of Nullity of
Share Issue, Receivership and Dissolution. The case was docketed as Civil Case No.
CEB-25502. The plaintiffs, shareholders of LLDC, claimed that the Lu Ym father
and sons, as members of the Board of Directors, caused the issuance to the latter of
600,000 of the corporations unsubscribed and unissued shares for less than their
actual value. They then prayed for the dissolution of the corporation and the
appointment of a receiver during the pendency of the action.
The defendants therein moved to dismiss the complaint for non-compliance
with the requirement of certification of non-forum shopping, and for failure of the
plaintiffs to exert efforts towards a compromise. The trial court denied the motion
and placed LLDC under receivership.
Defendants Lu Ym father and sons elevated the matter to the Court of
Appeals through a petition for certiorari, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No.
64154. However, the same was dismissed for insufficient signatures on the
verification and certification of non-forum shopping. Subsequently, they re-filed a
petition, which was docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 64523. On December 20, 2001,
the CA granted the petition and ordered the dismissal of the complaint. Aggrieved,
David Lu (David), et al., came to this Court via G.R. No. 153690.

Meanwhile, the Presiding Judge of Branch 6 of the RTC of Cebu City,


where the case was initially raffled, inhibited himself on motion of the Lu Ym father
and sons. The case was re-raffled to Branch 11. The Presiding Judge of the latter
branch directed the parties to amend their respective pleadings in order to conform to
the requirements of Republic Act No. 8799, and the case was re-docketed as SRC
Case No. 021-CEB.
The Lu Ym father and sons then filed with the trial court a motion to lift the
order of receivership over LLDC. Before the matter could be heard, David instituted
a petition for certiorari and prohibition before the CA on the issue of the motion to
lift order of receivership, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 73383. On February 27,
2003, the CA granted the petition and ruled that the proceedings on the receivership
could not proceed without the parties amending their pleadings. The Lu Ym father
and sons thus filed a petition for review with this Court (G.R. No. 157381).
In the meantime, the Presiding Judge of Branch 11 also inhibited himself,
and the case was transferred to Branch 12. On March 31, 2003, the plaintiffs therein
filed a Motion to Admit Complaint to Conform to the Interim Rules Governing IntraCorporate Controversies, which was admitted by the trial court.
On January 23, 2004, the Lu Ym father and sons inquired from the Clerk of
Court as to the amount of docket fees paid by David, et al. John Lu Ym further
inquired from the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) on the correctness of the
amount paid by David, et al. The OCA informed John Lu Ym that a query on the
matter of docket fees should be addressed to the trial court and not to the OCA.
On March 1, 2004, the RTC decided the case on the merits. It annulled the
issuance of LLDCs 600,000 shares of stock to the Lu Ym father and sons. It also
ordered the dissolution of LLDC and the liquidation of its assets, and created a
management committee to take over LLDC. The Lu Ym father and sons appealed to
the CA, where the case was docketed as CA-G.R. CV No. 81163.
In view of the executory nature of the decision of the trial court, as
mandated in the Interim Rules of Procedure for Intra-Corporate Controversies, [5] the
Lu Ym father and sons moved for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction
which, however, was denied by the CA. They filed a motion for reconsideration,
wherein they further questioned the sufficiency of the docket fees paid by David, et
al. in the RTC. On December 8, 2005, the CA denied the motion for reconsideration
and stated that the matter should be raised in the appellants brief to be threshed out
in the appeal. Hence, the Lu Ym father and sons filed with this Court a special civil
action for certiorari and prohibition (G.R. No. 170889).

On August 26, 2008, this Court rendered judgment as aforesaid. Lu Ym


father and sons filed the instant Motion for Reconsideration. We required David, et
al., to submit their Comment thereto. With our directive complied with, we now
resolve the Motion for Reconsideration.
In our August 26, 2008 Decision, we declared that the subject matter of the
complaint filed by David, et al., was one incapable of pecuniary
estimation. Movants beg us to reconsider this position, pointing out that the case
filed below by David, et al., had for its objective the nullification of the issuance of
600,000 shares of stock of LLDC. The complaint itself contained the allegation that
the real value of these shares, based on underlying real estate values, was One
Billion Eighty Seven Million Fifty Five Thousand One Hundred Five Pesos
(P1,087,055,105).[6]
Upon deeper reflection, we find that the movants claim has merit. The
600,000 shares of stock were, indeed, properties in litigation. They were the subject
matter of the complaint, and the relief prayed for entailed the nullification of the
transfer thereof and their return to LLDC. David, et al., are minority shareholders of
the corporation who claim to have been prejudiced by the sale of the shares of stock
to the Lu Ym father and sons. Thus, to the extent of the damage or injury they
allegedly have suffered from this sale of the shares of stock, the action they filed can
be characterized as one capable of pecuniary estimation. The shares of stock have a
definite value, which was declared by plaintiffs themselves in their
complaint. Accordingly, the docket fees should have been computed based on this
amount. This is clear from the following version of Rule 141, Section 7, which was
in effect at the time the complaint was filed:
SEC. 7. Clerks of Regional Trial Courts.
(a) For filing an action or a permissive counterclaim or money
claim against an estate not based on judgment, or for filing
with leave of court a third-party, fourth-party, etc. complaint,
or a complaint in intervention, and for all clerical services in
the same, if the total sum claimed, exclusive of interest, or the
stated value of the property in litigation, is:
x x x x[7]

We have earlier held that a court acquires jurisdiction over a case only upon
the payment of the prescribed fees.[8] Hence, without payment of the correct docket
fees, the trial court did not acquire jurisdiction over the action filed by David, et al.
We also stated in our Decision that the earlier rule in Manchester
Development Corporation v. Court of Appeals [9] has been relaxed. Subsequent
decisions now uniformly hold that when insufficient filing fees are initially paid by
the plaintiffs and there is no intention to defraud the government,
the Manchester rule does not apply.[10]
Addressing this point, movants argue that David, et al., were guilty of fraud
in that, while they did not mention any real property in their complaint, they were
able to obtain the annotation of notices of lis pendens on various real properties of
LLDC by alleging in their motion to conduct special raffle that there was an
imminent danger that properties subject matter of this case might be disposed
of. Moreover, David, et al., prayed for, among others, the liquidation and
distribution of the assets of the corporation, so that they may receive their share
therein. Among the assets of the corporation are real properties. Hence, the case
was, in actuality, a real action that had for its objective the recovery of real property.
Fraud is a generic term embracing all multifarious means which human
ingenuity can devise and which are resorted to by one individual to secure an
advantage over another by false suggestions or by suppression of truth, and includes
all surprise, trick, cunning, dissembling and any unfair way by which another is
cheated.[11] Since fraud is a state of mind, its presence can only be determined by
examining the attendant circumstances.[12]
It is true, as we held in our Decision, that David, et al., merely relied on the
assessment made by the Clerk of Court and cannot be faulted for their payment of
insufficient docket fees. However, movants now point out that when David Lu
moved for the annotation of notices of lis pendens on real properties owned by
LLDC, they in effect acknowledged that the case they filed was a real action.
A notice of lis pendens is governed by Rule 13, Section 14 of the Rules of
Court, which states:
Sec. 14. Notice of lis pendens. In an action affecting the
title or the right of possession of real property, the plaintiff and the
defendant, when affirmative relief is claimed in his answer, may
record in the office of the registry of deeds of the province in
which the property is situated a notice of the pendency of the

action. Said notice shall contain the names of the parties and the
object of the action or defense, and a description of the property in
that province affected thereby. Only from the time of filing such
notice for record shall a purchaser, or encumbrancer of the
property affected thereby, be deemed to have constructive notice of
the pendency of the action, and only of its pendency against the
parties designated by their real names.
The notice of lis pendens hereinabove mentioned may be
cancelled only upon order of the court, after proper showing that
the notice is for the purpose of molesting the adverse party, or that
it is not necessary to protect the rights of the party who caused it to
be recorded.[13]

A notice of lis pendens is an announcement to the whole world that a


particular real property is in litigation, serving as a warning that one who acquires
interest over said property does so at his own risk, or that he gambles on the result of
the litigation over the said property. The filing of a notice of lis pendens charges all
strangers with notice of the particular litigation referred to therein and, therefore, any
right they may thereafter acquire over the property is subject to the eventuality of the
suit. Such announcement is founded upon public policy and necessity, the purpose of
which is to keep the properties in litigation within the power of the court until the
litigation is terminated and to prevent the defeat of the judgment or decree by
subsequent alienation.[14]

As a general rule, the only instances in which a notice of lis pendens may be
availed of are as follows: (a) an action to recover possession of real estate; (b) an
action for partition; and (c) any other court proceedings that directly affect the title to
the land or the building thereon or the use or the occupation thereof. Additionally,
this Court has held that resorting to lis pendens is not necessarily confined to cases
that involve title to or possession of real property. This annotation also applies to
suits seeking to establish a right to, or an equitable estate or interest in, a specific real
property; or to enforce a lien, a charge or an encumbrance against it.[15]
From the foregoing, it is clear that a notice of lis pendens is availed of
mainly in real actions. Hence, when David, et al., sought the annotation of notices
of lis pendens on the titles of LLDC, they acknowledged that the complaint they had
filed affected a title to or a right to possession of real properties. At the very least,
they must have been fully aware that the docket fees would be based on the value of
the realties involved. Their silence or inaction to point this out to the Clerk of Court
who computed their docket fees, therefore, becomes highly suspect, and thus,
sufficient for this Court to conclude that they have crossed beyond the threshold of
good faith and into the area of fraud. Clearly, there was an effort to defraud the
government in avoiding to pay the correct docket fees. Consequently, the trial court
did not acquire jurisdiction over the case.
Anent the issue of estoppel, we earlier ruled that the movants are barred
from questioning the jurisdiction of the trial court because of their participation in
the proceedings therein. In passing upon this issue, we take heed from the
pronouncement of this Court in the recent case Vargas v. Caminas:[16]

The Court finds that Tijam is not applicable in the present


case. The general rule is that lack of jurisdiction of a court may be
raised at any stage of the proceedings. In Calimlim v.Ramirez, the
Court stated that Tijam is an exception to the general rule because
of the presence of laches:
A rule that had been settled by unquestioned
acceptance and upheld in decisions so numerous
to cite is that the jurisdiction of a court over the
subject matter of the action is a matter of law and
may not be conferred by consent or agreement of
the parties. The lack of jurisdiction of a court
may be raised at any stage of the proceedings,
even on appeal. This doctrine has been qualified

by recent pronouncements which stemmed


principally from the ruling in the cited case
of [Tijam]. It is to be regretted, however, that the
holding in said case had been applied to
situations
which
were
obviously
not
contemplated
therein. The
exceptional
circumstance involved in [Tijam] which justified
the departure from the accepted concept of nonwaivability of objection to jurisdiction has been
ignored and, instead a blanket doctrine had been
repeatedly upheld that rendered the supposed
ruling in [Tijam] not as the exception, but rather
the general rule, virtually overthrowing
altogether the time-honored principle that the
issue of jurisdiction is not lost by waiver or
by estoppel.
In Tijam, the lack of jurisdiction was raised for the first
time in a motion to dismiss filed almost fifteen (15) years after the
questioned ruling had been rendered. Hence, the Court ruled that
the issue of jurisdiction may no longer be raised for being barred
by laches.
The circumstances of the present case are different
from Tijam. Spouses Vargas raised the issue of jurisdiction before
the trial court rendered its decision. They continued to raise the
issue in their appeal before the Court of Appeals and this
Court. Hence, it cannot be said that laches has set in. The
exception in Tijam finds no application in this case and the general
rule must apply, that the question of jurisdiction of a court may be
raised at any stage of the proceedings. Spouses Vargas are
therefore not estopped from questioning the jurisdiction of the trial
court.[17]

The exhortations of this Court in the above-cited case have constrained us


to look more closely into the nature of the participation of the movants in the
proceedings, to determine whether the exceptional principle of estoppel may be
applied against them. The records show that the very first pleading filed by the Lu
Ym father and sons before the court a quo was a motion to dismiss, albeit anchored
on the ground of insufficiency of the certificate of non-forum shopping and failure of

the plaintiffs to exert efforts towards a compromise. When the trial court denied this,
they went up to the CA on certiorari, where they were sustained and the appellate
court ordered the dismissal of the complaint below.
Next, the Lu Ym father and sons filed a motion for the lifting of the
receivership order, which the trial court had issued in the interim. David, et al.,
brought the matter up to the CA even before the trial court could resolve the
motion. Thereafter, David, et al., filed their Motion to Admit Complaint to Conform
to the Interim Rules Governing Intra-Corporate Controversies. It was at this point
that the Lu Ym father and sons raised the question of the amount of filing fees
paid. They raised this point again in the CA when they appealed the trial courts
decision in the case below.
We find that, in the circumstances, the Lu Ym father and sons are not
estopped from challenging the jurisdiction of the trial court. They raised the
insufficiency of the docket fees before the trial court rendered judgment and
continuously maintained their position even on appeal to the CA. Although the
manner of challenge was erroneous they should have addressed this issue directly
to the trial court instead of to the OCA they should not be deemed to have waived
their right to assail the jurisdiction of the trial court.
The matter of lack of jurisdiction of the trial court is one that may be raised
at any stage of the proceedings. More importantly, this Court may pass upon this
issue motu proprio.
Hence, notwithstanding that the petition in G.R. No. 170889 is a special
civil action for certiorari and prohibition assailing an interlocutory resolution of the
CA, we have the power to order the dismissal of the complaint filed in the court of
origin and render all incidents herein moot and academic.
With the foregoing findings, there is no more need to discuss the other
arguments raised in the Motion for Reconsideration.
In summary, the trial court did not acquire jurisdiction over the case for
failure of David, et.al. to pay the correct docket fees. Consequently, all interlocutory
matters pending before this Court, specifically the incidents subject of these three
consolidated petitions, must be denied for being moot and academic. With the
dismissal of the main action, the ancillary motions have no more leg to stand on.
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Motion for Reconsideration
filed by John Lu Ym and Ludo & LuYm Development Corporation

is GRANTED. The
Decision
of
this
Court
dated August
26,
2008 is RECONSIDERED and SET ASIDE. The complaint in SRC Case No. 021CEB, now on appeal with the Court of Appeals in CA G.R. CV No. 81163,
is DISMISSED.
All interlocutory matters challenged in these consolidated petitions
are DENIED for being moot and academic.
SO ORDERED.

CEFERINA DE UNGRIA [DECEASED],


substituted by her HEIRS, represented by
LOLITA UNGRIA SAN JUAN-JAVIER, and
RHODORA R. PELOMIDA as their Attorney-infact,
Petitioner,
- versus THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS,
THE HONORABLE REGIONAL TRIAL
COURT OF GENERAL SANTOS CITY,
BRANCH 35, ROSARIO DIDELES VDA. DE
CASTOR, NEPTHALIE CASTOR ITUCAS,
FEROLYN CASTOR FACURIB, RACHEL DE
CASTOR, LEA CASTOR DOLLOLOSA, and
ROSALIE CASTOR BENEDICTO,
Respondents.

G.R. No. 165777

favor of Eugenio de Ungria, petitioner's father; and (2) the Affidavit of


Relinquishment dated November 23, 1960 executed by Eugenio in favor of
petitioner.

Present:
Petitioner Ceferina filed a Motion to Dismiss [4] (Ex-Abundante Ad Cautelam)
on the following grounds: (1) the claim or demand has been extinguished by virtue
*
CARPIO, J.,
of the valid sale of Lot No. 1615 to Eugenio; (2) the action is barred by extraordinary
VELASCO, JR., J., Chairperson, acquisitive prescription; (3) the action is barred by laches; and (4) plaintiff failed to
PERALTA,
state a cause of action, or filed the case prematurely for failure to resort to
ABAD, and
prior barangay conciliation proceedings.
MENDOZA, JJ.
Petitioner also filed an Addendum to the Motion to Dismiss [5] raising the
following additional grounds: (1) plaintiffs have no legal capacity to sue; and (2) the
court has no jurisdiction over the case for failure of plaintiffs to pay the filing fee in
full. Respondents filed their Opposition thereto.
On November 19, 1999, the RTC issued an Order[6] denying the motion to
Promulgated:
dismiss, to wit:

July 25, 2011


x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x
DECISION
PERALTA, J.:
Assailed in this petition for review on certiorari are the Decision[1] dated May
26, 2004 and the Resolution[2] dated September 17, 2004 of the Court of Appeals
(CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 60764.
On August 26, 1999, respondents Rosario Dideles Vda. de Castor (Rosario),
Nepthalie Castor Itucas, Ferolyn Castor Facurib (Ferolyn), Rachel De Castor, Lea
Castor Dollolosa and Rosalie Castor Benedicto, filed with the Regional Trial Court
(RTC) of General Santos City a Complaint [3] for ownership, possession and
damages, and alternative causes of action either to declare two documents as patent
nullities, and/or for recovery of Rosario's conjugal share with damages or redemption
of the subject land against petitioner Ceferina de Ungria, defendants Avelino
Gumban, Dolores Cagaitan, Zacasio Poutan, PO1 Jonas Montales, Ignacio Olarte
and alias Dory. Respondent Rosario is the surviving wife of the late Fernando Castor,
while the rest of the respondents are their legitimate children. The documents they
sought to annul are (1) the Deed of Transfer of Rights and Interest including
Improvements thereon dated October 3, 1960 allegedly executed by Fernando in

After the motion to dismiss and its addendum have


been received, it is now ripe for resolution. One of the grounds
alleged in the complaint is for the recovery of conjugal share on
Lot No. 1615, of Pls-209 D with damages.
It is alleged that the late Fernando Castor and
Rosario Dideles Vda. de Castor were married on September 15,
1952, and the application to the land was dated January 17, 1952
and the patent was issued by the President on November 19, 1954.
The said land was sold to the defendant on October
3, 1960 (Annex C) and an Affidavit of Relinquishment dated
November 23, 1960 which was made a part thereof as Annex D.
Considering the marriage of September 15, 1992, the said land
became conjugal as of the date of the marriage and, therefore,
thereof belongs to the wife, Rosario Dideles Vda. de Castor.
Thus, considering the above, the motion to dismiss is
DENIED.[7]

Petitioner Ceferina filed a Motion for Reconsideration,[8] which the RTC


denied in an Order[9] dated February 4, 2000.

Petitioner filed an Omnibus Motion[10] asking the RTC to resolve the issues of
(1) whether or not the complaint should be dismissed or expunged from the records
pursuant to Supreme Court (SC) Circular No. 7; (2) reconsidering the findings
contained in the Order dated February 4, 2000; and (3) holding in abeyance the
submission of the answer to the complaint.

On March 30, 2000, the RTC issued a Clarificatory Order [14] reading as
follows:

Pending resolution of the motion, respondents filed a Motion to Allow [11] them
to continue prosecuting this case as indigent litigants.

As has been said, the plaintiff asserted in its motion


that they are charging defendants actual and compensatory
damages as has been proved during the hearing of this case. So also
are attorney's fees and moral damages all to be proved during the
hearing of this case.

On March 8, 2000, the RTC resolved the Omnibus Motion in an Order [12] that
read in this wise:

Since there was no hearing yet, they are not in a


possession (sic) to determine how much is to be charged.

On the omnibus motion regarding filing fees, the


plaintiffs asserted in its motion that they are charging defendant
actual and compensatory damages such as are proved during the
hearing of this case. So also are attorneys fees and moral
damages, all to be proved during the hearing of this case.

At any rate, after hearing, the Clerk of Court


determines that the filing fee is still insufficient, the same shall be
considered as lien on the judgment that may be entered.

Since there was no hearing yet, they are not in a


possession (sic) to determine how much is to be charged.
At any rate, if after hearing the Clerk of Court
determine that the filing fees is still insufficient, considering the
total amount of the claim, the Clerk of Court should determine and,
thereafter, if any amount is found due, he must require the private
respondent to pay the same x x x.
As to the second issue, the same has already been
decided in its order dated February 4, 2000.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the omnibus
motion is DENIED.
The defendant shall file their answer within fifteen
(15) days from receipt of this order.[13]

From this Order, petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration and


clarification on whether plaintiffs should be allowed to continue prosecuting the case
as indigent litigants.

As to the motion seeking from the Honorable Court


allowance to allow plaintiff to continue prosecuting this case as
indigent litigants, suffice it to say that the same is already provided
for in this order.
WHEREFORE, the defendants shall file their
answer within fifteen (15) days from receipt of this Order.[15]

In an Order dated May 31, 2000, the RTC again denied petitioner's motion for
reconsideration.
Petitioner filed with the CA a petition for certiorari and prohibition with prayer
for the issuance of a temporary restraining order and/or writ of preliminary
injunction. Petitioner sought the nullification of the Order dated November 19, 1999
and the subsequent orders issued by the RTC thereto for having been issued with
grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. Respondents
filed their Comment thereto.
In a Decision dated May 26, 2004, the CA dismissed the petition. The CA
found that SC Circular No. 7 would not apply where the amount of damages or value
of the property was immaterial; that the Circular could be applied only in cases
where the amount claimed or the value of the personal property was determinative of
the court's jurisdiction citing the case of Tacay v. RTC of Tagum, Davao del Norte.

[16]

The CA found that respondents had paid the corresponding docket fees upon the
filing of the complaint, thus, the RTC had acquired jurisdiction over the case despite
the failure to state the amount of damages claimed in the body of the complaint or in
the prayer thereof. The CA found that the RTC did not commit grave abuse of
discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction when it denied petitioner's motion to
dismiss. It noted that the RTC's Clarificatory Order dated March 30, 2000, which
stated that if after hearing the Clerk of Court determines that the filing fee is still
insufficient, the same shall be considered as lien on the judgment that may be
entered was in accordance with the rule laid down in Sun Insurance Office, Ltd. v.
Asuncion.[17] The CA proceeded to state that a judicious examination of the
complaint pointed to a determination of the respective rights and interests of the
parties over the property based on the issues presented therein which could only be
determined in a full-blown trial on the merits of the case.
Petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration, which the CA denied in a
Resolution dated September 17, 2004. The CA ruled, among others, that the
defenses of acquisitive prescription and laches were likewise unavailing. It found
that the subject property is covered by a Torrens title (OCT No. V-19556); thus, it is
axiomatic that adverse, notorious and continuous possession under a claim of
ownership for the period fixed by law is ineffective against a Torrens title; that unless
there are intervening rights of third persons which may be affected or prejudiced by a
decision directing the return of the lot to petitioner, the equitable defense of laches
will not apply as against the registered owner.
Hence, this petition for review on certiorari where petitioner raises the
following assignment of errors:
THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN NOT FINDING
THAT RESPONDENT TRIAL COURT COMMITTED GRAVE
ABUSE OF DISCRETION IN DENYING PETITIONER'S
MOTION TO DISMISS DESPITE RESPONDENTS' NONPAYMENT OF THE CORRECT DOCKET FEES.
THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN NOT FINDING
THAT THE ACTION OF PRIVATE RESPONDENTS IS
BARRED
BY
LACHES
AND
EXTRAORDINARY
[18]
ACQUISITIVE PRESCRIPTION.

We find the petition without merit.

Preliminarily, although not raised as an issue in this petition, we find it


necessary to discuss the issue of jurisdiction over the subject matter of this case.
Respondents' complaint was filed in 1999, at the time Batas Pambansa Blg. (BP)
129, the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980, was already amended by Republic
Act (RA) No. 7691, An Act Expanding the Jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Trial
Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts, amending for
the purpose BP Blg. 129.[19] Section 1 of RA 7691, amending BP Blg. 129, provides
that the RTC shall exercise exclusive original jurisdiction on the following actions:
Section 1. Section 19 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129,
otherwise known as the "Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980," is
hereby amended to read as follows:
Sec. 19. Jurisdiction in civil cases.
Regional Trial Courts shall exercise exclusive
original jurisdiction:
(1) In all civil actions in which the subject
of the litigation is incapable of pecuniary
estimation;
(2) In all civil actions which involve
the title to, or possession of, real property, or any
interest therein, where the assessed value of the
property involved exceeds Twenty Thousand
Pesos (P20,000.00) or for civil actions in Metro
Manila, where such value exceeds Fifty
Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00), except actions for
forcible entry into and unlawful detainer of lands
or buildings, original jurisdiction over which is
conferred upon the Metropolitan Trial Courts,
Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit
Trial Courts; x x x
Section 3 of RA No. 7691 expanded the exclusive original jurisdiction of the first
level courts, thus:
Section 3. Section 33 of the same law (BP Blg. 129) is
hereby amended to read as follows:
Sec. 33. Jurisdiction of Metropolitan Trial
Courts, Municipal Trial Courts and Municipal
Circuit Trial Courts in Civil Cases.
Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial

Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts shall


exercise:
xxxx
(3)
Exclusive
original
jurisdiction in all civil actions
which involve title to, or
possession of, real property, or
any interest therein where the
assessed value of the property
or interest therein does not
exceed Twenty Thousand
Pesos (P20,000.00) or, in civil
actions in Metro Manila, where
such assessed value does not
exceed Fifty Thousand Pesos
(P50,000.00) exclusive of
interest, damages of whatever
kind, attorney's fees, litigation
expenses and costs: Provided,
That in cases of land not
declared for taxation purposes,
the value of such property shall
be determined by the assessed
value of the adjacent lots.
Respondents filed their Complaint with the RTC; hence, we would first
determine whether the RTC has jurisdiction over the subject matter of this case based
on the above-quoted provisions.
The Complaint filed by respondents in the RTC was for ownership, possession
and damages, and alternative causes of action either to declare two documents as
patent nullities and/or for recovery of conjugal share on the subject land with
damages or redemption of the subject land. In their Complaint, respondents claimed
that Rosario and Fernando are the registered owners of the subject land with an
assessed value of P12,780.00; that the couple left the cultivation and enjoyment of
the usufruct of the subject land to Fernando's mother and her second family to
augment their means of livelihood; that respondent Rosario and Fernando thought
that when the latter's mother died in 1980, the subject land was in the enjoyment of
the second family of his mother, but later learned that the subject land was leased by

petitioner Ceferina; that sometime in August 1999, respondents learned of the


existence of the Deed of Transfer of Rights and Interest including Improvements
thereon dated October 3, 1960, where Fernando had allegedly transferred his rights
and interests on the subject land in favor of Eugenio, petitioner Ceferina's father, as
well as an Affidavit of Relinquishment dated November 23, 1960 executed by
Eugenio in favor of petitioner Ceferina; that Fernando's signature in the Deed of
Transfer was not his but a forgery; and the Affidavit of Relinquishment was also void
as it was a direct result of a simulated Deed of Transfer.
Respondents prayed that they be declared as absolute and lawful owners of
the subject land and to order petitioner and the other defendants to vacate the
premises and restore respondents to its possession and enjoyment therefore. On their
second cause of action, they prayed that the Deed of Transfer of Rights and Interest
Including Improvements Thereon be declared as a forgery, purely simulated and
without any consideration; hence, inexistent, void ab initio and/or a patent nullity, as
well as the Affidavit of Relinquishment which was the direct result of the Deed of
Transfer. Respondents also prayed in the alternative that if the Deed be finally upheld
as valid, to order petitioner to reconvey to respondent Rosario the undivided one-half
portion of the subject land as conjugal owner thereof and to account and reimburse
her of its usufruct; and/or to allow them to redeem the subject land.
It would appear that the first cause of action involves the issue of recovery
of possession and interest of the parties over the subject land which is a real action.
Respondents alleged that the assessed value of the subject land was P12,780.00
based on Tax Declaration No. 15272. Thus, since it is a real action with an assessed
value of less thanP20,000.00, the case would fall under the jurisdiction of the MTC
as provided under the above-quoted Section 33 (3) of BP 129, as amended.
Notably, however, respondents in the same Complaint filed alternative
causes of action assailing the validity of the Deed of Transfer of Rights and Interest
executed by Fernando in favor of petitioner's father. Respondents also sought for the
reconveyance to respondent Rosario of the undivided one-half portion of the subject
land as conjugal owner thereof in case the Deed of Transfer of Rights and Interest
will be upheld as valid; and/or for redemption of the subject land. Clearly, this is a
case of joinder of causes of action which comprehends more than the issue
of possession of, or any interest in the real property under contention, but includes
an action to annul contracts and reconveyance which are incapable of pecuniary
estimation and, thus, properly within the jurisdiction of the RTC.[20]
In Singson v. Isabela Sawmill,[21] we held that:

In determining whether an action is one the subject matter


of which is not capable of pecuniary estimation this Court has
adopted the criterion of first ascertaining the nature of the principal
action or remedy sought. If it is primarily for the recovery of a
sum of money, the claim is considered capable of pecuniary
estimation, and whether jurisdiction is in the municipal courts or in
the courts of first instance would depend on the amount of the
claim. However, where the basic issue is something other than the
right to recover a sum of money, where the money claim is purely
incidental to, or a consequence of, the principal relief sought, this
Court has considered such actions as cases where the subject of the
litigation may not be estimated in terms of money, and are
cognizable exclusively by courts of first instance (now Regional
Trial Courts).[22]

Thus, respondents correctly filed their Complaint with the RTC.


It is a settled rule in this jurisdiction that when an action is filed in court, the
complaint must be accompanied by the payment of the requisite docket and filing
fees.[23] It is not simply the filing of the complaint or appropriate initiatory pleading,
but the payment of the prescribed docket fee, that vests a trial court with jurisdiction
over the subject matter or nature of the action.[24]
Section 7(b)(1) of Rule 141 of the Rules of Court provides:
SEC. 7. Clerks of Regional Trial Courts. - (a) For filing
an action or a permissive counter-claim or money claim against an
estate not based on judgment, or for filing with leave of court a
third-party, fourth-party, etc. complaint, or a complaint-inintervention, and for all clerical services in the same, if the totalsum claimed, exclusive of interest, or the stated value of the
property in litigation, is:
xxxx
(b) For filing:
1. Actions where the value of the subject matter
cannot be estimated ........ P400.00
2. x x x
In a real action, the assessed value of the
property, or if there is none, the estimated value

thereof shall be alleged by the claimant and shall


be the basis in computing the fees.[25]
Since we find that the case involved the annulment of contract which is not
susceptible of pecuniary estimation, thus, falling within the jurisdiction of the
RTC, the docket fees should not be based on the assessed value of the subject land
as claimed by petitioner in their memorandum, but should be based on Section 7(b)
(1) of Rule 141. A perusal of the entries in the Legal Fees Form attached to the
records would reflect that the amount of P400.00 was paid to the Clerk of Court,
together with the other fees, as assessed by the Clerk of Court. Thus, upon
respondents' proof of payment of the assessed fees, the RTC has properly acquired
jurisdiction over the complaint. Jurisdiction once acquired is never lost, it continues
until the case is terminated. [26]
Notably, petitioners claim that the RTC did not acquire jurisdiction in this
case is premised on her contention that respondents violated SC Circular No. 7
issued on March 24, 1998 requiring that all complaints must specify the amount of
damages sought not only in the body of the pleadings but also in the prayer to be
accepted and admitted for filing. Petitioner argues that respondents alleged in
paragraph 13 of their Complaint that:
(T)he reasonable rental for the use of the [subject] land
is P2,000.00 per hectare, every crop time, once every four months,
or P6,000.00 a year per hectare; that defendants in proportion and
length of time of their respective occupancy is and/or are jointly
and severally liable to plaintiffs of the produce thereby in the
following proportions, viz: (a) for defendant Ceferina de Ungria
for a period of time claimed by her as such; (b) for defendants
Dolores Cagautan, a certain alias Dory, and PO1 Jonas
Montales, of an undetermined area, the latter having entered the
area sometime in 1998 and defendant alias Dory, only just few
months ago; that defendant Ignacio Olarte and Zacasio Puutan of
occupying about one-half hectare each.[27]

and in their prayer asked:


x x x Ordering the defendants, jointly and severally, in proportion
to the length and area of their respective occupancy, to pay
reasonable rentals to the plaintiffs in the proportion and amount
assessed in paragraph 13 of the First Cause of Action.

xxxx
(a) Ordering the defendants, jointly and severally, to pay
plaintiffs actual and compensatory damages such as are proved
during the hearing of this case;
(b) Ordering the defendants, jointly and severally, to pay
plaintiffs attorneys' fees and moral damages, all to be proved
during the hearing of this case.[28]

3. Where the trial court acquires jurisdiction over a claim


by the filing of the appropriate pleading and payment of the
prescribed filing fee but, subsequently, the judgment awards a
claim not specified in the pleading, or if specified the same has
been left for determination by the court, the additional filing fee
therefor shall constitute a lien on the judgment. It shall be the
responsibility of the Clerk of Court or his duly-authorized deputy
to enforce said lien and assess and collect the additional fee.

Subsequently, in Heirs of Bertuldo Hinog v. Melicor,[31] we said:


Thus, the RTC should have dismissed the case, since respondents did not specify the
amount of damages in their prayer.
We are not persuaded.
SC Circular No. 7 was brought about by our ruling in Manchester
Development Corporation v. Court of Appeals,[29] where we held that a pleading
which does not specify in the prayer the amount of damages being asked for shall not
be accepted or admitted, or shall otherwise be expunged from the record; and that the
Court acquires jurisdiction over any case only upon the payment of the prescribed
docket fee.
However, in Sun Insurance Office, Ltd. v. Asuncion,[30] we laid down the
following guidelines in the payment of docket fees, to wit:
1. It is not simply the filing of the complaint or appropriate
initiatory pleading, but the payment of the prescribed docket fee,
that vests a trial court with jurisdiction over the subject matter or
nature of the action. Where the filing of the initiatory pleading is
not accompanied by payment of the docket fee, the court may
allow payment of the fee within a reasonable time but in no case
beyond the applicable prescriptive or reglementary period.
2. The same rule applies to permissive counterclaims, thirdparty claims and similar pleadings, which shall not be considered
filed until and unless the filing fee prescribed therefor is paid. The
court may also allow payment of said fee within a reasonable time
but also in no case beyond its applicable prescriptive or
reglementary period.

Furthermore, the fact that private respondents


prayed for payment of damages "in amounts justified by the
evidence" does not call for the dismissal of the complaint for
violation of SC Circular No. 7, dated March 24, 1988 which
required that all complaints must specify the amount of damages
sought not only in the body of the pleadings but also in the prayer
in order to be accepted and admitted for filing. Sun
Insurance effectively modified SC Circular No. 7 by providing that
filing fees for damages and awards that cannot be estimated
constitute liens on the awards finally granted by the trial court.
x x x judgment awards which were left for determination by the
court or as may be proven during trial would still be subject to
additional filing fees which shall constitute a lien on the judgment.
It would then be the responsibility of the Clerk of Court of the trial
court or his duly-authorized deputy to enforce said lien and assess
and collect the additional fees.[32]

A reading of the allegations in the complaint would show that the amount of
the rental due can only be determined after a final judgment, since there is a need to
show supporting evidence when the petitioner and the other defendants started to
possess the subject land. Thus, we find no reversible error committed by the CA
when it ruled that there was no grave abuse of discretion committed by the RTC in
issuing its Order dated March 30, 2000, where the RTC stated that since there was
no hearing yet, respondents are not in a position to determine how much is to be
charged and that after hearing, the Clerk of Court determines that the filing fee is still
insufficient, the same shall be considered as lien on the judgment that may be
entered.

Petitioner claims that the action is barred by extraordinary acquisitive


prescription and laches. Petitioner contends that she took possession of the land in
the concept of an owner, open, exclusive, notorious and continuous since 1952
through her predecessor-in-interest, Eugenio, and by herself up to the present; that
the late Fernando and private respondents had never taken possession of the land at
any single moment; and that, granting without admitting that the transfer of rights
between Fernando and Eugenio was null and void for any reason
whatsoever, petitioner's possession of the land had already ripened into ownership
after the lapse of 30 years from August 1952 by virtue of the extraordinary
acquisitive prescription.
We are not persuaded.
It is a well-entrenched rule in this jurisdiction that no title to registered land in
derogation of the rights of the registered owner shall be acquired by prescription or
adverse possession.[33] Prescription is unavailing not only against the registered
owner but also against his hereditary successors. [34] In this case, the parcel of land
subject of this case isa titled property, i.e., titled in the name of the late Fernando
Castor, married to Rosario Dideles.
Petitioner claims that respondent had impliedly admitted the fact of sale by
Fernando to Eugenio in August 1952, but only according to respondents, the sale was
null and void because it violated the provisions of the Public Land Act. Petitioner
argues that the application of Fernando, dated January 17, 1952, was not the
homestead application referred to in Sections 118 and 124 of the Public Land
Act; and that Fernando's application was only as settler, or for the allocation of the
subject land to him vice the original settler Cadiente.
Such argument does not persuade.
The trial in this case has not yet started as in fact no answer has yet been filed.
We find that these issues are factual which must be resolved at the trial of this case
on the merits wherein both parties will be given ample opportunity to prove their
respective claims and defenses.
Anent petitioner's defense of laches, the same is evidentiary in nature and
cannot be established by mere allegations in the pleadings. Without solid evidentiary
basis, laches cannot be a valid ground to dismiss respondents' complaint. [35] Notably,
the allegations of respondents in their petition filed before the RTC which alleged
among others:

7. That sometime between the years 1965 to 1970, defendant


Ceferina de Ungria, accompanied by Miss Angela Jagna-an,
appeared in the residence of plaintiff Rosario Dideles Vda. de
Castor in Bo.1, Banga, South Cotabato, and requested her to sign a
folded document with her name only appearing thereon, telling her
that it has something to do with the land above-described, of which
she refused telling her that she better return it to the person who
requested her to do so (referring to her mother-in-law), more so
that her husband was out at that time;
8. That when the matter was brought home to Fernando
Castor, the latter just commented that [his] mother desires the land
above-described to be sold to defendant Ceferina de Ungria which
however he was opposed to do so even as they occasionally come
into heated arguments everytime this insistence on the same subject
propped up;
9. That even after the death of the mother of the late
Fernando Castor in Bo. Bula, City of General Santos, sometime in
1980, the latter and his surviving wife thought all the while that the
land above-described was in the enjoyment of his late mother's
family with his 2nd husband; that it was only after sometime when
plaintiff Rosario Dideles Vda. de Castor heard that the land abovedescribed had even been leased by defendant Ceferina de Ungria
with the Stanfilco and Checkered farm;
10. That sometime in 1997, defendant Ceferina de Ungria
sent overtures to plaintiffs through Ester Orejana, who is the half
sister-in-law of plaintiff Rosario Dideles Vda. de Castor that she
desires to settle with them relating to the land above-described; that
the overtures developed into defendant Ceferina de
Ungria meeting for the purpose plaintiff Ferolyn Castor Facurib
where the negotiation continued with Lolita Javier as attorney-infact after defendant Ceferina de Ungria left to reside in Manila and
which resulted later to the attorney-in-fact offering the
plaintiffs P100,000.00 to quitclaim on their rights over the said
land, which offer, however, was refused by plaintiffs as so
[insignificant] as compared to the actual value of the same land;
that in that negotiation, defendant Ceferina de Ungria was
challenged to show any pertinent document to support her claim on

the land in question and where she meekly answered by saying at


the time that she does not have any of such document;

x x x x[36]
would not conclusively establish laches. Thus, it is necessary for petitioners to
proceed to trial and present controverting evidence to prove the elements of laches.
WHEREFORE, the petition for review is DENIED.
SO ORDERED.

[G.R. No. 160384. April 29, 2005]

5. That, to reach a possible amicable settlement, the plaintiffs brought the


matter to the Lupon of Barangay Sawang, to no avail, evidenced by the
CERTIFICATE TO FILE ACTION hereto attached as ANNEX B;

CESAR T. HILARIO, for himself and as Attorney-in-Fact of IBARRA,


NESTOR,
LINA
and
PRESCILLA,
all
surnamed
HILARIO, petitioners, vs. ALLAN T. SALVADOR, respondent.

6. That, the unjustified refusal of the defendant to vacate the property has
caused the plaintiffs to suffer shame, humiliation, wounded feelings,
anxiety and sleepless nights;

HEIRS OF SALUSTIANO SALVADOR, namely, REGIDOR M. SALVADOR


and VIRGINIA SALVADOR-LIM, respondents-intervenors.

7. That, to protect their rights and interest, plaintiffs were constrained to


engage the services of a lawyer.[3]

DECISION
CALLEJO, SR., J.:

The petitioners prayed that, after due proceedings, judgment be rendered in


their favor, thus:

This is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of
Court of the Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 63737 as
well as its Resolution[2]denying the motion for the reconsideration of the said
decision.

WHEREFORE, it is prayed of this Honorable Court that after due process (sic), an
order be issued for the defendant to vacate and peacefully turn over to the plaintiffs
the occupied property and that defendant be made to pay plaintiffs:

The Antecedents

a.

actual damages, as follows:


a.1.

On September 3, 1996, petitioners Cesar, Ibarra, Nestor, Lina and Prescilla, all
surnamed Hilario, filed a complaint with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of
Romblon, Romblon, Branch 71, against private respondent Allan T. Salvador. They
alleged therein, inter alia, as follows:

transportation expenses in connection with the projected


settlement of the case amounting to P1,500.00 and for the
subsequent attendance to the hearing of this case at P1,500.00
each schedule;

a.2. attorneys fees in the amount of P20,000.00 and P500.00 for


every court appearance;

2. That, the plaintiffs are co-owners by inheritance from Concepcion Mazo


Salvador of a parcel of land designated as Cad. Lot No. 3113-part, located
at Sawang, Romblon, Romblon, which property was [adjudged] as the
hereditary share of their father, Brigido M. Hilario, Jr. when their father
was still single, and which adjudication was known by the
plaintiffs[] fathers co-heirs;

b. moral and exemplary damages in such amount incumbent upon the


Honorable Court to determine; and
c. such other relief and remedies just and equitable under the premises.[4]

3. That, sometime in 1989, defendant constructed his dwelling unit of mixed


materials on the property of the plaintiffs father without the knowledge of
the herein plaintiffs or their predecessors-in-interest;
4. That, demands have been made of the defendant to vacate the premises but
the latter manifested that he have (sic) asked the prior consent of their
grandmother, Concepcion Mazo Salvador;

The private respondent filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on the ground of
lack of jurisdiction over the nature of the action, citing Section 33 of Batas Pambansa
(B.P.) Blg. 129, as amended by Section 3(3) of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 7691. [5] He
averred that
(1)

the complaint failed to state the assessed value of the land in dispute;

(2)
the complaint does not sufficiently identify and/or describe the parcel of
land referred to as the subject-matter of this action;

On June 3, 1999, the trial court rendered judgment finding in favor of the
petitioners. The dispositive portion of the decision reads:

both of which are essential requisites for determining the jurisdiction of the Court
where the case is filed. In this case, however, the assessed value of the land in
question is totally absent in the allegations of the complaint and there is nothing in
the relief prayed for which can be picked-up for determining the Courts jurisdiction
as provided by law.

WHEREFORE, as prayed for, judgment is rendered:


Ordering the defendant to vacate and peacefully turn over to the plaintiffs the
occupied property; and
Dismissing defendants counterclaim.

In the face of this predicament, it can nevertheless be surmised by reading between


the lines, that the assessed value of the land in question cannot exceed P20,000.00
and, as such, it falls within the jurisdiction of the Municipal Trial Court of Romblon
and should have been filed before said Court rather than before the RTC. [6]
The petitioners opposed the motion.[7] They contended that the RTC had
jurisdiction over the action since the court can take judicial notice of the market
value of the property in question, which was P200.00 per square meter and
considering that the property was 14,797 square meters, more or less, the total value
thereof is P3,500,000.00. Besides, according to the petitioners, the motion to dismiss
was premature and the proper time to interpose it is when the [petitioners]
introduced evidence that the land is of such value.
On November 7, 1996, the RTC issued an Order[8] denying the motion to
dismiss, holding that the action was incapable of pecuniary estimation, and therefore,
cognizable by the RTC as provided in Section 19(1) of B.P. Blg. 129, as amended.
After the denial of the motion to dismiss, the private respondent filed his
answer with counterclaim.[9] Traversing the material allegations of the complaint, he
contended that the petitioners had no cause of action against him since the property
in dispute was the conjugal property of his grandparents, the spouses Salustiano
Salvador and Concepcion Mazo-Salvador.
On April 8, 1997, Regidor and Virginia Salvador filed their Answer-inIntervention[10] making common cause with the private respondent. On her own
motion, however, Virginia Salvador was dropped as intervenor.[11]
During trial, the petitioners adduced in evidence Tax Declaration No. 8590-A
showing that in 1991 the property had an assessed value of P5,950.00.[12]

SO ORDERED.[13]
Aggrieved, the private respondent and respondent-intervenor Regidor Salvador
appealed the decision to the CA, which rendered judgment on May 23, 2003
reversing the ruling of the RTC and dismissing the complaint for want of
jurisdiction. The fallo of the decision is as follows:
IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the appealed decision is REVERSED, and the
case DISMISSED, without prejudice to its refilling in the proper court.
SO ORDERED.[14]
The CA declared that the action of the petitioners was one for the recovery of
ownership and possession of real property. Absent any allegation in the complaint of
the assessed value of the property, the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) had exclusive
jurisdiction over the action, conformably to Section 33[15] of R.A. No. 7691.
The petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration of the said decision, which
the appellate court denied.[16] Hence, they filed the instant petition, with the
following assignment of errors:
I
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED GRAVE REVERSIBLE
ERROR
IN
HOLDING
THAT
THE
INSTANT
CASE, ACCION
REINVINDICATORIA, FALLS WITHIN THE EXCLUSIVE ORIGINAL
JURISDICTION OF THE MUNICIPAL TRIAL COURT OF ROMBLON, AND
NOT WITH THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF ROMBLON.
II

THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED SERIOUS


REVERSIBLE ERROR IN ORDERING THE REFILING OF THE CASE IN THE
[PROPER] COURT, INSTEAD OF DECIDING THE CASE ON THE MERITS
BASED ON THE COMPLETE RECORDS ELEVATED BEFORE SAID
APPELLATE COURT AND IN NOT AFFIRMING IN TOTO THE DECISION OF
THE TRIAL COURT.[17]
The Ruling of the Court
The lone issue for our resolution is whether the RTC had jurisdiction over the
action of the petitioners, the plaintiffs in the RTC, against the private respondent,
who was the defendant therein.
The petitioners maintain that the RTC has jurisdiction since their action is
an accion reinvindicatoria, an action incapable of pecuniary estimation; thus,
regardless of the assessed value of the subject property, exclusive jurisdiction falls
within the said court. Besides, according to the petitioners, in their opposition to
respondents motion to dismiss, they made mention of the increase in the assessed
value of the land in question in the amount of P3.5 million. Moreover, the
petitioners maintain that their action is also one for damages exceeding P20,000.00,
over which the RTC has exclusive jurisdiction under R.A. No. 7691.
The petition has no merit.
It bears stressing that the nature of the action and which court has original and
exclusive jurisdiction over the same is determined by the material allegations of the
complaint, the type of relief prayed for by the plaintiff and the law in effect when the
action is filed, irrespective of whether the plaintiffs are entitled to some or all of the
claims asserted therein.[18] The caption of the complaint is not determinative of the
nature of the action. Nor does the jurisdiction of the court depend upon the answer
of the defendant or agreement of the parties or to the waiver or acquiescence of the
parties.
We do not agree with the contention of the petitioners and the ruling of the CA
that the action of the petitioners in the RTC was an accion reinvindicatoria. We find
and so rule that the action of the petitioners was an accion publiciana, or one for the
recovery of possession of the real property subject matter thereof. An accion
reinvindicatoria is a suit which has for its object the recovery of possession over the
real property as owner. It involves recovery of ownership and possession based on
the said ownership. On the other hand, an accion publicianais one for the recovery

of possession of the right to possess. It is also referred to as an ejectment suit filed


after the expiration of one year after the occurrence of the cause of action or from the
unlawful withholding of possession of the realty.[19]
The action of the petitioners filed on September 3, 1996 does not involve a
claim of ownership over the property. They allege that they are co-owners thereof,
and as such, entitled to its possession, and that the private respondent, who was the
defendant, constructed his house thereon in 1989 without their knowledge and
refused to vacate the property despite demands for him to do so. They prayed that
the private respondent vacate the property and restore possession thereof to them.
When the petitioners filed their complaint on September 3, 1996, R.A. No.
7691 was already in effect. Section 33(3) of the law provides:
Sec. 33. Jurisdiction of Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts and
Municipal Circuit Trial Courts in Civil Cases. Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal
Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts shall exercise:

(3) Exclusive original jurisdiction in all civil actions which involve title to, or
possession of, real property, or any interest therein where the assessed value of the
property or interest therein does not exceed Twenty Thousand Pesos (P20,000.00) or,
in civil actions in Metro Manila, where such assessed value does not exceed Fifty
Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) exclusive of interest, damages of whatever kind,
attorneys fees, litigation expenses and costs: Provided, That in cases of land not
declared for taxation purposes, the value of such property shall be determined by the
assessed value of the adjacent lots.
Section 19(2) of the law, likewise, provides that:
Sec. 19. Jurisdiction in civil cases. The Regional Trial Court shall exercise
exclusive original jurisdiction:

(2) In all civil actions, which involve the title to, or possession of, real property, or
any interest therein, where the assessed value of the property involved exceeds
Twenty Thousand Pesos (P20,000.00) or, for civil actions in Metro Manila, where
such value exceeds Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) except actions for forcible

entry into and unlawful detainer of lands or buildings, original jurisdiction over
which is conferred upon the Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and
Municipal Circuit Trial Courts.

within the exclusive original jurisdiction of the Municipal Trial Court of Romblon
which has jurisdiction over the territory where the property is located, and not the
court a quo.[24]

The jurisdiction of the court over an action involving title to or possession of


land is now determined by the assessed value of the said property and not the market
value thereof. The assessed value of real property is the fair market value of the real
property multiplied by the assessment level. It is synonymous to taxable value.
[20]
The fair market value is the price at which a property may be sold by a seller, who
is not compelled to sell, and bought by a buyer, who is not compelled to buy.

It is elementary that the tax declaration indicating the assessed value of the
property enjoys the presumption of regularity as it has been issued by the proper
government agency.[25]

Even a cursory reading of the complaint will show that it does not contain an
allegation stating the assessed value of the property subject of the complaint. [21] The
court cannot take judicial notice of the assessed or market value of lands. [22] Absent
any allegation in the complaint of the assessed value of the property, it cannot thus
be determined whether the RTC or the MTC had original and exclusive jurisdiction
over the petitioners action.
We note that during the trial, the petitioners adduced in evidence Tax
Declaration No. 8590-A, showing that the assessed value of the property in 1991
was P5,950.00. The petitioners, however, did not bother to adduce in evidence the
tax declaration containing the assessed value of the property when they filed their
complaint in 1996. Even assuming that the assessed value of the property in 1991
was the same in 1995 or 1996, the MTC, and not the RTC had jurisdiction over the
action of the petitioners since the case involved title to or possession of real property
with an assessed value of less than P20,000.00.[23]
We quote with approval, in this connection, the CAs disquisition:
The determining jurisdictional element for the accion reinvindicatoria is, as RA 7691
discloses, the assessed value of the property in question. For properties in the
provinces, the RTC has jurisdiction if the assessed value exceeds P20,000, and the
MTC, if the value is P20,000 or below. An assessed value can have reference only to
the tax rolls in the municipality where the property is located, and is contained in the
tax declaration. In the case at bench, the most recent tax declaration secured and
presented by the plaintiffs-appellees is Exhibit B. The loose remark made by them
that the property was worth 3.5 million pesos, not to mention that there is absolutely
no evidence for this, is irrelevant in the light of the fact that there is an assessed
value. It is the amount in the tax declaration that should be consulted and no other
kind of value, and as appearing in Exhibit B, this is P5,950. The case, therefore, falls

Unavailing also is the petitioners argumentation that since the complaint,


likewise, seeks the recovery of damages exceeding P20,000.00, then the RTC had
original jurisdiction over their actions. Section 33(3) of B.P. Blg. 129, as amended,
quoted earlier, explicitly excludes from the determination of the jurisdictional
amount the demand for interest, damages of whatever kind, attorneys fees,
litigation expenses, and costs. This Court issued Administrative Circular No. 09-94
setting the guidelines in the implementation of R.A. No. 7691, and paragraph 2
thereof states that
2.
The exclusion of the term damages of whatever kind in determining the
jurisdictional amount under Section 19(8) and Section 33(1) of B.P. Blg. 129, as
amended by R.A. 7691, applies to cases where the damages are merely incidental to
or a consequence of the main cause of action. However, in cases where the claim for
damages is the main cause of action, or one of the causes of action, the amount of
such claim shall be considered in determining the jurisdiction of the court.
Neither may the petitioners find comfort and solace in Section 19(8) of B.P.
Blg. 129, as amended, which states:
SEC. 19. Jurisdiction in civil cases. Regional Trial Courts shall exercise exclusive
original jurisdiction:

(8) In all other cases in which the demand, exclusive of interest, damages of
whatever kind, attorney's fees, litigation expenses, and costs or the value of the
property in controversy exceeds One Hundred Thousand Pesos (P100,000.00) or, in
such other cases in Metro Manila, where the demand, exclusive of the abovementioned items exceeds Two Hundred Thousand Pesos (P200,000.00).
The said provision is applicable only to all other cases other than an action
involving title to, or possession of real property in which the assessed value is the

controlling factor in determining the courts jurisdiction. The said damages are
merely incidental to, or a consequence of, the main cause of action for recovery of
possession of real property.[26]
Since the RTC had no jurisdiction over the action of the petitioners, all the
proceedings therein, including the decision of the RTC, are null and void. The
complaint should perforce be dismissed.[27]
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The assailed Decision and
Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 63737 are AFFIRMED.
Costs against the petitioners.
SO ORDERED.

ANA DE GUIA SAN PEDRO

G.R. No. 164560

and ALEJO DOPEO,


Petitioners,

Present:

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J
Chairperson,
CHICO-NAZARIO,
VELASCO, JR.,
NACHURA, and
PERALTA, JJ.

- versus -

HON. FATIMA G. ASDALA, in her


capacity as the Presiding Judge of the
Regional Trial Court of Quezon City,
Branch 87; HON. MANUEL TARO, in his
capacity as the Presiding Judge of the
Metropolitan Trial Court of Quezon City,
Branch 42; and the HEIRS OF SPOUSES
APOLONIO V. DIONISIO and VALERIANA
DIONISIO (namely, ALLAN GEORGE R.
DIONISIO and ELEANOR R. DIONISIO,
herein represented by ALLAN GEORGE
R. DIONISIO),

Promulgated:
July 22, 2009

Respondents.

This resolves the petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court,
praying that the Resolutions[1] of the Court of Appeals (CA) dated September 15,
2003 andJune 1, 2004, respectively, in CA-G.R. SP No. 78978, be reversed and set
aside.
The antecedent facts are as follows.
Sometime in July 2001, private respondents, heirs of spouses Apolonio and
Valeriana Dionisio, filed with the Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) of Quezon City,
Branch 42, a Complaint[2] against herein petitioners and Wood Crest Residents
Association, Inc., for Accion Reivindicatoria, Quieting of Title and Damages, with
Prayer for Preliminary Mandatory Injunction. Private respondents alleged that
subject property located in Batasan Hills, Quezon City, with an assessed value
of P32,100.00, was titled in the name of spouses Apolonio and Valeriana Dionisio;
but petitioners, with malice and evident bad faith, claimed that they were the owners
of a parcel of land that encompasses and covers subject property. Private
respondents had allegedly been prevented from entering, possessing and using
subject property. It was further alleged in the Complaint that petitioners' Transfer
Certificate of Title over their alleged property was spurious. Private respondents
then prayed that they be declared the sole and absolute owners of the subject
property; that petitioners be ordered to surrender possession of subject property to
them; that petitioners and Wood Crest and/or its members be ordered to pay actual
and moral damages, and attorney's fees.
Petitioners, for their part, filed a Motion to Dismiss [3] said complaint on the
ground that the MeTC had no jurisdiction over the subject matter of the action, as the
subject of litigation was incapable of pecuniary estimation.
The MeTC then issued an Order[4] dated July 4, 2002 denying the motion
to dismiss, ruling that, under Batas Pambansa (B.P.) Blg. 129, as amended, the
MeTC
had
exclusive
original
jurisdiction
over
actions
involving title to or possession of real property of small value.
Petitioners' Motion for Reconsideration of said Order dated July 4, 2002 was denied.

x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x
DECISION
PERALTA, J.:

Petitioners assailed the aforementioned Order by filing a petition


for certiorari with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City, Branch
87. However, in its Decision[5] dated March 10, 2003, the RTC dismissed the
petition, finding no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the MeTC Presiding
Judge. The RTC sustained the MeTC ruling, stating that, in accordance with Section
33(3) of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 7691, amending B.P. Blg. 129, the MeTC had
jurisdiction over the complaint for Accion Reivindicatoria, as it involves recovery of

ownership and possession of real property located in Quezon City, with an assessed
value not exceeding P50,000.00. A Motion for Reconsideration[6] of the Decision
was filed by petitioners, but was denied in an Order[7] dated July 3, 2003.
Petitioners then filed with the Court of Appeals another petition
for certiorari, insisting that both the MeTC and RTC acted with grave abuse of
discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction by not ordering the dismissal of
the complaint for Accion Reivindicatoria, for lack of jurisdiction over the same. In
the assailed CA Resolution dated September 15, 2003, the CA dismissed the petition
outright, holding that certiorari was not available to petitioners as they should have
availed themselves of the remedy of appeal. Petitioners' motion for reconsideration
of the resolution of dismissal was denied per Resolution[8] dated June 1, 2004.
Thus, petitioners filed the instant petition and, in support thereof, they allege
that:

THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ACTED WITH


GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK
OR IN (SIC) EXCESS OF JURISDICTION IN DENYING THE
PETITION FOR CERTIORARI AND FOR FAILURE TO
RESOLVE
THE
ISSUE
RAISED
IN
THE CERTIORARI REGARDING THE JURISDICTION OF THE
METROPOLITAN TRIAL COURT TO TAKE COGNIZANCE
OF A CASE OF ACCION REINVINDICATORIA.
THE HONORABLE PUBLIC RESPONDENT FATIMA
GONZALES-ASDALA, AS PRESIDING JUDGE OF RTC
BRANCH 87, QUEZON CITY, ACTED WITH GRAVE ABUSE
OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OR IN EXCESS OF
(SIC) JURISDICTION IN DISMISSING THE PETITION
FOR CERTIORARI AND IN RESOLVING THAT A CASE
OFACCION
REINVINDICATORIA IS
WITHIN
THE
JURISDICTION OF THE METROPOLITAN TRIAL COURT.
THE HONORABLE PUBLIC RESPONDENT MANUEL TARO
AS PRESIDING JUDGE MeTC, BRANCH 42, QUEZON CITY,
ACTED WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION
AMOUNTING TO LACK OR IN (SIC) EXCESS OF
JURISDICTION IN SO TAKING COGNIZANCE OF THE
COMPLAINT FOR ACCION REINVINDICATORIA IN CIVIL

CASE NO. 27434 ENTITLED, HEIRS OF SPS. APOLONIO V.


DIONISIO AND VALERIANA DIONISIO, ETC. VS. ANA DE
GUIA SAN PEDRO, ET. AL.[9]

The present Petition for Certiorari is doomed and should not have been
entertained from the very beginning.
The settled rule is that appeals from judgments or final orders or resolutions of
the CA should be by a verified petition for review on certiorari, as provided for
under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Civil Procedure. Thus, in Pasiona, Jr. v.
Court of Appeals,[10] the Court expounded as follows:
The aggrieved party is proscribed from assailing a decision
or final order of the CA via Rule 65, because such recourse is
proper only if the party has no plain, speedy and adequate remedy
in the course of law. In this case, petitioner had an adequate
remedy, namely, a petition for review on certiorari under Rule
45 of the Rules of Court. A petition for review oncertiorari, not
a special civil action for certiorari was, therefore, the correct
remedy.
xxxx
Settled is the rule that where appeal is available to the
aggrieved party, the special civil action for certiorari will not be
entertained remedies of appeal and certiorari are mutually
exclusive, not alternative or successive. Hence, certiorari is not
and cannot be a substitute for a lost appeal, especially if one's
own negligence or error in one's choice of remedy occasioned such
loss or lapse. One of the requisites of certiorari is that there be no
available appeal or any plain, speedy and adequate remedy. Where
an appeal was available, as in this case, certiorariwill not
prosper, even if the ground therefor is grave abuse of
discretion. Petitioner's resort to this Court by Petition
for Certiorari was a fatal procedural error, and the instant petition
must, therefore, fail.[11]

For the very same reason given above, the CA, therefore,
acted properly when it dismissed the petition for certiorari outright,
on the ground that petitioners should have resorted to the remedy
of appeal instead of certiorari. Verily, the present Petition
for Certiorari should not have been given due course at all.
Moreover, since the period for petitioners to file a petition for
review on certiorari had lapsed by the time the instant petition was
filed, the assailed CA Resolutions have attained finality.
Nevertheless, just to put the matter to rest, the Court
reiterates the ruling in Heirs of Valeriano S. Concha, Sr. v. Spouses
Lumocso,[12] to wit:
In a number of cases, we have held that
actions for reconveyance of or for cancellation of title
to or to quiet title over real property are actions that
fall under the classification of cases that involve
title to, or possession of, real property, or any
interest therein.

R.A. No. 7691 in 1994, which expanded the exclusive


original jurisdiction of the first level courts to include
"all civil actions which involve title to, or possession
of, real property, or any interest therein where the
assessed value of the property or interest
therein does not exceed Twenty thousand
pesos (P20,000.00) or, in civil actions in Metro
Manila, where such assessed value does not
exceed Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00)
exclusive of interest, damages of whatever
kind, attorney's fees, litigation expenses and
costs." Thus, under the present law, original
jurisdiction over cases the subject matter of
which involves "title to, possession of, real
property or any interest therein" under Section
19(2) of B.P. 129 is divided between the first
and second level courts, with the assessed
value of the real property involved as the
benchmark. This amendment was introduced to
"unclog the overloaded dockets of the RTCs which
would result in the speedier administration of
justice."[13]

xxxx
Clearly, the RTC and the CA ruled correctly that the MeTC had jurisdiction
over private respondents' complaint for Accion Reivindicatoria.
x x x Thus, under the old law, there was no
substantial effect on jurisdiction whether a case is
one, the subject matter of which was incapable of
pecuniary estimation, under Section 19(1) of B.P.
129, or one involving title to property under Section
19(2). The distinction between the two classes
became crucial with the amendment introduced by

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the petition is DISMISSED for utter lack


of merit. The Resolutions of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 78978,
datedSeptember 15, 2003 and June 1, 2004, are AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.