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Summons: Where summons can be served on defendant

Sansio Philippines Inc. v. Spouses Mogol (G.R. 177007)


CHICO-NAZARIO, J.

CASE SUMMARY
Petitioner Sansio Philippines Inc. (Sansio) is a domestic corporation that is engaged in the business of manufacturing and
selling appliances and other related products while respondents Alicia and Leodegario Mogol (SPS Mogol) are the owners
and managers of MR Homes Appliances with residence at 1218 Daisy St., Employee Village, Lucena City where
summons and other written legal processes of the court may be served. Sansio filed a civil case, Complaint for Sum of
Money and Damages against the SPS Mogol for the latter to pay their obligations to the former. At the request of the
petitioner, the process server of the MeTC of Manila served the summons and the copy of the complaint to the respondent
spouses Mogol at the courtroom of another branch in the MeTC of Manila while the said spouses were waiting for the
scheduled hearing of the criminal cases filed by Sansio against them for violating BP 22. The spouses, after informing
themselves of the documents, referred the summons and the complaint to their counsel, who was also in the court room,
and the latter read the same. Thereafter, their counsel pointed out to the process server that the summons and the copy of
the complaint should only be served at the address stated in both documents and not anywhere else. The counsel gave
back the summons and advised the spouses not to obtain nor sign the said documents. This is the crux of the case. Up to
the Supreme Court the respondents maintained the same defense - that there was no valid/ proper service of summons
and therefore the MeTC did not acquire jurisdiction over them, rendering any decision of the said court to be null and void.
The Supreme Court held otherwise, stating that Sections 6 and 7 of Rule 14 of the ROC cannot be construed to apply
simultaneously as they do not provide for alternative modes of service. Generally, the Rules prefer that service of
summons be in person. Substituted service is an extraordinary method, resorted to only when personal service of
summons is impossible.

DOCTRINE
Rule 14 Section 6
Service in person on defendant - Whenever practicable, the summons shall be served by handing a copy thereof to the
defendant in person, or, if he refuses to receive and sign for it, by tendering it to him.

Rule 14 Section 7
Substituted Service - If, for justifiable causes, the defendant cannot be served within a reasonable time as provided
in the preceding section, service may be effected (a) by leaving copies of the summons at the defendants residence
with some person of suitable age and discretion then residing therein, or (b) by leaving the copies at defendants office or
regular place of business with some competent person in charge thereof.

Sections 6 and 7 of Rule 14 cannot be construed to apply simultaneously. Said provisions do not provide for alternative
modes of service of summons, which can either be resorted to on the mere basis of convenience to the parties. Under the
procedural rules, service of summons in the persons of the defendants is generally preferred over substituted service.
Substituted service derogates the regular method of personal service. It is an extraordinary method, since it seeks to
bind the respondent or the defendant to the consequences of a suit, even though notice of such action is served not upon
him.

For substituted service to be justified, the following circumstances must be clearly established:
a. Personal service of summons within a reasonable time was impossible;
b. Efforts were exerted to locate the party; and
c. The summons was served upon a person of sufficient age and discretion residing at the partys residence or upon
a competent person in charge of the partys office or place of business.
Any judgement of the court which has no jurisdiction over the person of the defendant is null and void.
Where the action is in personam, and the defendant is in the Philippines, the service of summons may be made through
personal or substituted service.
In civil action, jurisdiction over the defendant is acquired either upon a valid service of summons or the defendants
voluntary appearance.
FACTS
1. SPS Mogol purchased from Sansio Philippines air-conditioning units and fans worth PHP 217,250.00 and PHP
5,521.20 respectively.
2. Respondents apparently issued postdated checks as payment but the same were dishonored as the account
which the checks were drawn against was already closed.
3. SPS Mogol made partial payments but were still left with a balance of PHP 87,953.12 unpaid.
4. Despite repeated demands, the SPS were not able to settle their obligation, prompting Sansio to file a Complaint
for Sum of Money and Damages against the SPS with the MeTC of Manila. The same was raffled to Branch 25 of
the said court.
5. At the request of the petitioner, the process server of the MeTC of Manila served the summons and the copy of
the complaint on respondent spouses while they were waiting at the courtroom of Branch 24 of the same MeTC.
They were waiting for the scheduled hearing of the criminal cases filed by Sansio against them for violations of BP
22.
6. Upon being informed of the summons and the complaint, respondent spouses referred the same to their counsel
who also appraised himself of the said documents.
7. After reading the documents, the counsel of the spouses pointed out to the process server that the documents
should be served only at the address stated in both documents and not anywhere else.
8. The counsel gave back the documents to the process server and instructed the spouses not to sign for the
aforementioned documents nor obtain a copy of the same.
9. Thereafter, the court process server issued a report of sorts (Return on Service of Summons) concluding that
while he tried to serve a copy to the spouses, they refused to receive the same without any valid reason. The
process server thus concluded in the return that the said documents were UNSERVED.
10. Respondent spouses took a gamble and did not file a responsive pleading to the civil case, thus Sansio filed a
Motion to Declare Respondents in Default which the respondents opposed (by filing an Opposition) through their
counsel and maintained their defense that the summons should have been served at the resident address of the
spouses.
11. The MeTC of Manila Branch 25 issued the order declaring the spouses in DEFAULT.
12. In response, spouses filed a Petition for Ceriorari, Prohibition and/or Injunction before the RTC of Manila against
the MeTC judge (Judge Severino de Castro) and still insisted that there was no valid service of summons and
alleged that the MeTC of Manila Branch 25 acted with GAOD in declaring them in default.
13. The RTC dismissed the petition, so the spouses filed an appeal (through Notice of Appeal) with the Court of
Appeals (CA).
14. The CA reversed the RTC and held that the summons were not validly served because:
a. Absent any contrary evidence, a presumption exists that a sheriff has regularly performed his official
duties
b. There was no proof of irregularity presented by Sansio in the process servers return
c. Said return readily shows that the summons were UNSERVED
d. The trial court is thus NOT left without any remedy in case the defendant refuses to receive the
documents
e. Unfortunately, in this case the trial court did not anymore make any effort to serve the documents anew to
the respondents
15. In the main case (the civil case) the MeTC of Manila Branch 25 rendered a decision in favor of Sansio, adjudging
that petitioner had sufficiently established its entitlement to the grant of the reliefs prayed for and ordered the
Spouses to pay Sansio.
16. The respondents appealed to the RTC, but the RTC merely affirmed the MeTC decision, stating that the refusal of
the respondents to receive the summons without valid cause was equivalent to a valid service.
17. The Spouses sought a reconsideration with the RTC but was denied, and they did not file any further appeal
thereto.
18. Sansio filed the instant Petition for Review, questioning the CA ruling regarding the propriety of declaring the
spouses in DEFAULT in the main civil case.
ISSUES AND RULING
WHETHER OR NOT THE SERVICE OF SUMMONS IN THE COURT ROOM BEFORE THE HEARING WAS A VALID
SERVICE OF SUMMONS?
YES. What is required is that summons must be served by handing a copy thereof to the defendant in person, or if he
refuses to sign for it, by tendering it to him. Under the circumstances of the case, the service of the copy of the summons
and the complaint inside the courtroom of the MeTC of Manila Branch 24 was the most practicable. The refusal of
respondent spouses to receive the summons without valid cause, was thus equivalent to a valid service of summons that
vested jurisdiction in the MeTC of Manila Branch 25.

The essence of personal service is the handing or tendering of a copy of the summons to defendant himself
The act of the counsel of spouses of receiving the summons and the copy of the complaint already constituted
receipt on the part of his clients, for the same was done with the latters behest and consent - the operative act of
handing has been accomplished.
o The subsequent act of the counsel of returning the summons to the process server was no longer
material.
The provision under Rule 14 Section 6 is crystal clear that whenever practicable summons must be served by
handing a copy to the defendant. Said section DOES NOT require that the service be done only at the residence
of the defendant.
Section 6 and 7 cannot be construed to apply simultaneously as they do not provide for alternative modes of
service since substituted service is an extraordinary method that should be resorted to only when the
personal service of summons is impossible to do.
Lazaro v. Rural Bank of Francisco Balagtas was very categorical in stating that the service of summons to be
done personally does not mean that service is possible only at the defendants residence. It is enough that
the defendant is handed a copy in person by anyone authorized by law.
o In Lazaro, petitioner Cipriano M. Lazaro obtained a loan from respondent Rural Bank of Francisco
Balagtas (Bulacan), Inc., (RFBI for brevity). Apparently, Lazaro failed to pay said loan on March 12,
1984. RFBI sued him before the RTC of Malolos, Bulacan, for collection of deficiency in the payment of
the loan.
If the contention of the spouses is allowed, this would inevitably give every future defendant to a case the
unwarranted means to easily thwart the cardinal procedures for the service of summons at the simple
expedient of returning the summons and the copy of the complaint to the process server and refusing to
sign for the same.
The CAs reliance on the second paragraph of the Return of the process server (which stated that the documents
were returned UNSERVED) is utterly misplaced.
o A simple reading of the said return (specifically the first paragraph) manifestly reveals that the said
documents were already validly served, its just that the spouses merely refused to receive or obtain a
copy of the same.
o This is prima facie evidence of the facts as set out, plus it is also fortified by the presumption of regularity
of performance of duty. To overcome this presumption, evidence must be CLEAR and CONVINCING -
something which is lacking in the defense of the spouses.
o Also, the spouses did not dispute the said facts in the first paragraph of the Return.
The apparently erroneous statement of the process server in his return is a mere conclusion of law and does
not bind the independent judgement of the courts.
Since the answer to the main issue is in the affirmative, the following issues grounded on the main issue are also
answered in the affirmative:

WON the RTC properly declared the spouses in default


WON the MeTC was able to acquire jurisdiction over the spouses

And the following are answered in the negative:

WON summons refused to be received [by the spouses], upon advice of their counsel, need to be served anew to
them
WON the court is bound by the conclusions of the Process Server in his Return of Service of Summons

The SC however, did not clearly resolve the following issues:

WON tendering it to him = leaving a copy of the summons to her or in the premises where the defendant can
get it
WON said appeal before the CA has become moot and academic in light of the Decision of the MeTC of Manila
which has become final and executory.
DISPOSITIVE
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 is GRANTED. The Decision
dated 21 November 2006 and the Resultion dated 12 March 2007 of the Court of Appeals are hereby REVERSED AND
SET ASIDE. The Order dated 18 January 2002 of the RTC of Manila Branch 33 is hereby AFFIRMED.
No costs.
SO ORDERED.

Digester: Kim