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Oaminal v.

Castillo (Short title) o Declared spouses in default; and


GR # 152776 | October 8, 2003 o Ordered Oaminal to present evidence ex-parte within ten days from
Petition: Petition for review (Rule 45) of CA decision receipt of the order, failing which, the case will be dismissed.
Petitioner: Henry S. Oaminal - RTC: Ruled that by preponderance of evidence, judgment was rendered in
Respondent: Pablito M. Castillo and Guia S. Catsillo favor of Oaminal.
(Rule 14, Rules on Civil Procedure) - Spouses filed with the CA a Petition for certiorari, prohibition and injunction,
with a prayer for a writ of preliminary injunction or temporary restraining
DOCTRINE order (TRO).
Personal service of summons is preferred over substituted service. Resort to the latter o In the main, they raised the issue of whether the trial court had
is permitted when the summons cannot be promptly served on the defendant in validly acquired jurisdiction over them.
person and after stringent formal and substantive requirements have been complied - Ca issued a TRO to enjoin the lower court from issuing a writ of execution to
with. enforce the decision.
- CA: Ruled that the trial court did not validly acquire jurisdiction over
FACTS respondents
- Oaminal filed a complaint for collection against the Spouses Castillo with the o The summons had been improperly served on them by reason of
RTC of Ozamis City. that the Sheriffs Return did not contain any averment that effort had
o Prayed that the spouses be ordered to pay P1,500,000.00 by way been exerted to personally serve the summons before substituted
of liquidated damages and P150,000.00 as attorneys fees. service was resorted to.
- Subsequently, the summons together with the complaint was served upon - Thus, this petition.
Ester Fraginal, secretary of Mrs. Castillo.
- Spouses Castillo then filed their Urgent Motion to Declare Service of ISSUE/S
Summons Improper and Legally Defective 1. W/N the RTC validly acquired jurisdiction
o Alleged that the Sheriff's Return has failed to comply with Section
(1), Rule 14 of the Rules of Court or substituted service of PROVISIONS
summons.
- Oaminal filed an Omnibus Motion to Declare the spouses in default and to Rule 14
Render Judgment because no answer was filed by them
- In reaction, spouses forthwith filed the following: Section 6. Service in person on defendant. Whenever practicable, the summons
o Omnibus Motion Ad Cautelam to Admit Motion to Dismiss and shall be served by handling a copy thereof to the defendant in person, or, if he
Answer with Compulsory Counter-claim refuses to receive and sign for it, by tendering it to him. (7a)
o Urgent Motion to Dismiss
Anchored on the premise that the complaint was barred by Section 7. Substituted service. If, for justifiable causes, the defendant cannot be
improper venue and litis pendentia served within a reasonable time as provided in the preceding section, service may be
o Answer with Compulsory Counter-Claim dated 9 November 2000. effected (a) by leaving copies of the summons at the defendant's residence with some
- The judge denied the spuoses Motion to Dismiss but admitted their Answer, person of suitable age and discretion then residing therein, or (b) by leaving the
and set the pre-trial. copies at defendant's office or regular place of business with some competent person
- Spouses then filed an Urgent Motion to Inhibit Ad Cautelam against Judge in charge thereof. (8a)
Zapatos, in the higher interest of substantial justice and the rule of law which
the judge denied and transferred the date of the pre-trial. RULING & RATIO
- Spouses filed an Urgent Omnibus Motion for Reconsideration with the 1. YES
Accompanying Plea to Reset. - Oaminal contends that the trial court validly acquired jurisdiction because
o The motion prayed that an order be issued by the Honorable Court they never denied that they had actually received the summons and neither
reconsidering its adverse order by dismissing the case at bar on the did they dispute the secretarys competence to receive it.
ground of improper venue or in the alternative, that the Honorable - He also argues that respondents automatically submitted themselves to the
Presiding Judge reconsider and set aside its order by inhibiting jurisdiction of the trial court when they filed their motions.
himself from the case at hand. - In civil cases, the trial court acquires jurisdiction over the person of the
- Judge Zapatos ruled that the Omnibus Motion Ad Cautelam to Admit Motion defendant either by the service of summons or by the latter's voluntary
to Dismiss and Answer with Counterclaim was filed outside the period to file appearance and submission to the authority of the former.
answer. - Where the action is in personam and the defendant is in the Philippines, the
o He denied the Motion to Admit Motion to Dismiss and Answer; service of summons may be made through personal or substituted service
as provided for by Sections 6 and 7 of Rule 14 of the Rules of Court.
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- Personal service of summons is preferred over substituted service. Resort to - A petition for certiorari may be treated as a petition for review under Rule 45.
the latter is permitted when the summons cannot be promptly served on the Such move is in accordance with the liberal spirit pervading the Rules of
defendant in person and after stringent formal and substantive requirements Court and in the interest of substantial justice. Besides, it is axiomatic that
have been complied with. the nature of an action is determined by the allegations of the complaint or
- For substituted service of summons to be valid, it is necessary to establish petition and the character of the relief sought.
that: (a) personal service of summons within a reasonable time was - The Petition effectively tolled the finality of the trial court Decision.
impossible; (b) efforts were exerted to locate the party; and (c) the summons Consequently, the appellate court had jurisdiction to pass upon the assigned
was served upon a person of sufficient age and discretion residing at the errors.
party's residence or upon a competent person in charge of the party's office
or regular place of business. It is likewise required that the pertinent facts On the Default order
proving these circumstances are stated in the proof of service. - The Trial Court's Default Orders are erroneous.
- In the present case, the Sheriff's Return failed to state that efforts had been - A review of the assailed Decision reveals that the alleged lack of jurisdiction
made to personally serve the summons on respondents. Neither did the of the trial court over the defendants therein was the reason why the CA
Return indicate that it was impossible to do so within a reasonable time. nullified the former's default judgment and dismissed the case without
- However, nothing in the records shows that respondents denied actual prejudice.
receipt of the summons but merely assailed the manner of its service. - However, we have ruled earlier that the lower court had acquired jurisdiction
- The actual receipt of the summons satisfied the requirements of procedural over them. Given this fact, the CA erred in dismissing the case; as a
due process. consequence, it failed to rule on the propriety of the Order and the judgment
- They also did not raised in their Motion to Dismiss the issue of jurisdiction of default.
over their persons but only improper venue and litis pendentia. Hence, - As much as possible, suits should be decided on the merits and not on
whatever defect there was in the service should be deemed waived. technicalities. For this reason, courts have repeatedly been admonished
- Assuming arguendo that the service of summons was defective, such flaw against default orders and judgments that lay more emphasis on procedural
was cured and spouses are deemed to have submitted themselves to the niceties at the expense of substantial justice.
jurisdiction of the trial court when they filed their motions. - Not being based upon the merits of the controversy, such issuances may
- The filing of Motions seeking affirmative relief -- to admit answer, for indeed amount to a considerable injustice resulting in serious consequences
additional time to file answer, for reconsideration of a default judgment, and on the part of the defendant. Thus, it is necessary to examine carefully the
to lift order of default with motion for reconsideration -- are considered grounds upon which these orders and judgments are sought to be set aside.
voluntary submission to the jurisdiction of the court. - Respondents herein were declared in default purportedly because of their
- Having invoked the trial court's jurisdiction to secure affirmative relief, delay in filing an answer. Its unexpected volte face came six months after it
respondents cannot -- after failing to obtain the relief prayed for -- repudiate had ruled to admit their Answer.
the very same authority they have invoked. - In Indiana Aerospace University v. Commission on Higher Education it was
held that no practical purpose was served in declaring the defendants in
DISPOSITION default when their Answer had already been filed -- albeit after the 15-day
WHEREFORE, the Petition is hereby GRANTED IN PART, and the Decision of the period, but before they were declared as such. Applying that ruling to the
Court of Appeals MODIFIED. The trial courts Order of Default dated May 22, 2001 present case, respondents were, therefore, imprudently declared in default.
and Judgment of Default dated August 23, 2001 are ANNULLED, and the case
remanded to the trial court for further proceedings on the merits. No costs.

SO ORDERED.

NOTES

On the propriety of the Petition for Certiorari


- Oaminal contends that the certiorari Petition filed by the spuoses before the
CA was improper, because other remedies in the ordinary course of law
were available to them.
- Well-settled is the rule that certiorari will lie only when a court has acted
without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion. As a
condition for the filing of a petition for certiorari, Section 1 of Rule 65 of the
Rules of Court additionally requires that no appeal nor any plain, speedy and
adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law must be available.
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