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GENERAL PROVISION CASES

1.
G.R. No. 155713

May 5, 2006

MILAGROS
G.
vs.
ALFREDO A. RONQUILLO, Respondent.

LUMBUAN,* Petitioner,

DECISION
QUISUMBING, J.:
This petition for review on certiorari seeks to reverse and set aside the Decision 1 dated April 12,
2002, of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 52436 and its Resolution 2 dated October 14,
2002, denying the petitioners motion for reconsideration.
The salient facts, as found by the Court of Appeals, 3 are as follows:
Petitioner Milagros G. Lumbuan is the registered owner of Lot 19-A, Block 2844 with Transfer
Certificate of Title No. 193264, located in Gagalangin, Tondo, Manila. On February 20, 1995, she
leased it to respondent Alfredo A. Ronquillo for a period of three years with a monthly rental
of P5,000. The parties also agreed that there will be a 10% annual increase in rent for the
succeeding two years, i.e., 1996 and 1997, 4 and the leased premises will be used exclusively for
the respondents fastfood business, unless any other use is given, with the petitioners prior
written consent.5
While the respondent at the start operated a fastfood business, he later used the premises as
residence without the petitioners prior written consent. He also failed to pay the 10% annual
increase in rent of P500/month starting 1996 and P1,000/month in 1997 to the present. Despite
repeated verbal and written demands, the respondent refused to pay the arrears and vacate the
leased premises.
On November 15, 1997, the petitioner referred the matter to the Barangay Chairmans office but
the parties failed to arrive at a settlement. The Barangay Chairman then issued a Certificate to
File Action.6
On December 8, 1997, the petitioner filed against the respondent an action for Unlawful
Detainer, docketed as Civil Case No. 157922-CV. It was raffled to the Metropolitan Trial Court
(MeTC) of Manila, Branch 6. On December 15, 1997, the respondent received the summons and
copy of the complaint. On December 24, 1997, he filed his Answer by mail. Before the MeTC
could receive the respondents Answer, the petitioner filed a Motion for Summary Judgment
dated January 7, 1998.7 Acting upon this motion, the MeTC rendered a decision 8 on January 15,
1998, ordering the respondent to vacate and surrender possession of the leased premises; to pay
the petitioner the amount of P46,000 as unpaid rentals with legal interest until fully paid; and to
pay the petitionerP5,000 as attorneys fees plus cost of the suit.
The respondent then filed a Manifestation calling the attention of the MeTC to the fact that his
Answer was filed on time and praying that the decision be set aside. The MeTC denied the

prayer, ruling that the Manifestation was in the nature of a motion for reconsideration which is a
prohibited pleading under the Rules on Summary Procedure.
Upon appeal, the case was raffled to the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch 38, and
docketed as Civil Case No. 98-87311. On July 8, 1998, the RTC rendered its decision 9 setting aside
the MeTC decision. The RTC directed the parties to go back to the Lupon Chairman or Punong
Barangay for further proceedings and to comply strictly with the condition that should the parties
fail to reach an amicable settlement, the entire records of the case will be remanded to MeTC of
Manila, Branch 6, for it to decide the case anew.
The respondent sought reconsideration but the RTC denied the motion in an Order dated March
15, 1999. Thus, he sought relief from the Court of Appeals through a petition for review. 10 On
April 12, 2002, the appellate court promulgated a decision, reversing the decision of the RTC and
ordering the dismissal of the ejectment case. The appellate court ruled that when a complaint is
prematurely instituted, as when the mandatory mediation and conciliation in the barangay level
had not been complied with, the court should dismiss the case and not just remand the records
to the court of origin so that the parties may go through the prerequisite proceedings.
The petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration, which was denied by the appellate court.
Hence, this present petition.
In the meantime, while this petition was pending before this Court, the parties went through
barangay conciliation proceedings as directed by the RTC of Manila, Branch 38. Again, they failed
to arrive at an amicable settlement prompting the RTC to issue an Order 11 remanding the case to
the MeTC of Manila, Branch 6, where the proceedings took place anew. On April 25, 2000, the
MeTC rendered a second decision, the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment on the merits is hereby rendered for the plaintiff as
follows:
1. Ordering defendant and all persons claiming right of possession under him to voluntarily
vacate the property located at Lot 19-A Block 2844, Gagalangin, Tondo, Manila and
surrender possession thereof to the plaintiff;
2. Ordering defendant to pay to plaintiff the amount of P387,512.00 as actual damages in
the form of unpaid rentals and its agreed increase up to January 2000 and to pay the
amount of P6,500.00 a month thereafter until the same is actually vacated;
3. Ordering the defendant to pay to plaintiff the sum of P10,000.00 as and for attorneys
fees plus cost of the suit.
SO ORDERED.12
The respondent appealed the foregoing decision.1avvphil.net The case was raffled to RTC of
Manila, Branch 22, and docketed as Civil Case No. 00-98173. The RTC ruled in favor of the
petitioner and dismissed the appeal. The respondent elevated the case to the Court of Appeals,
where it is now pending.
The sole issue for our resolution is:

[WHETHER] THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN DISMISSING THE COMPLAINT FOR THE
ALLEGED FAILURE OF THE PARTIES TO COMPLY WITH THE MANDATORY MEDIATION AND
CONCILIATION PROCEEDINGS IN THE BARANGAY LEVEL. 13
With the parties subsequent meeting with the Lupon Chairman or Punong Barangay for further
conciliation proceedings, the procedural defect was cured. Nevertheless, if only to clear any
lingering doubt why the Court of Appeals erred in dismissing the complaint, we shall delve on the
issue.
The petitioner alleges that the parties have gone through barangay conciliation proceedings to
settle their dispute as shown by the Certificate to File Action issued by the Lupon/Pangkat
Secretary and attested by the Lupon/Pangkat Chairman. The respondent, on the other hand,
contends that whether there was defective compliance or no compliance at all with the required
conciliation, the case should have been dismissed.
The primordial objective of the Katarungang Pambarangay Rules,14 is to reduce the number of
court litigations and prevent the deterioration of the quality of justice which has been brought
about by the indiscriminate filing of cases in the courts. To attain this objective, Section 412(a) of
Republic Act No. 716015 requires the parties to undergo a conciliation process before
the Lupon Chairman or the Pangkat as a precondition to filing a complaint in court, 16 thus:
SECTION 412. Conciliation. (a) Pre-condition to Filing of Complaint in Court. No complaint,
petition, action, or proceeding involving any matter within the authority of the lupon shall be filed
or instituted directly in court or any other government office for adjudication, unless there has
been a confrontation between the parties before the lupon chairman or the pangkat, and that no
conciliation or settlement has been reached as certified by the lupon secretary or pangkat
secretary as attested to by the lupon or pangkat chairman.
Here, the Lupon/Pangkat Chairman and Lupon/Pangkat Secretary signed the Certificate to File
Action stating that no settlement was reached by the parties. While admittedly no pangkat was
constituted, it was not denied that the parties met at the office of the Barangay Chairman for
possible settlement. The efforts of the Barangay Chairman, however, proved futile as no
agreement was reached. Although no pangkat was formed, in our mind, there was substantial
compliance with the law. It is noteworthy that under the aforequoted provision, the confrontation
before the Lupon Chairman or the pangkat is sufficient compliance with the precondition for filing
the case in court.17 This is true notwithstanding the mandate of Section 410(b) of the same law
that the Barangay Chairman shall constitute a pangkat if he fails in his mediation efforts. Section
410(b) should be construed together with Section 412, as well as the circumstances obtaining in
and peculiar to the case. On this score, it is significant that the Barangay Chairman
or Punong Barangay is herself the Chairman of the Lupon under the Local Government Code. 18
Finally, this Court is aware that the resolution of the substantial issues in this case is pending
with the Court of Appeals. While ordinarily, we would have determined the validity of the parties
substantial claims since to await the appellate courts decision will only frustrate speedy justice
and, in any event, would be a futile exercise, as in all probability the case would end up with this
Court, we find that we cannot do so in the instant case.
It must be underscored that supervening events have taken place before the lower courts where
the parties have been adequately heard, and all the issues have been ventilated. Since the
records of those proceedings are with the Court of Appeals, it is in a better position to fully
adjudicate the rights of the parties. To rely on the records before this Court would prevent us

from rendering a sound judgment in this case. Thus, we are left with no alternative but to leave
the matter of ruling on the merits to the appellate court.
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The decision and resolution of the Court of Appeals in
CA-G.R. SP No. 52436 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE, and the decision of the Regional Trial
Court of Manila, Branch 38, in Civil Case No. 98-87311 is AFFIRMED.
The Court of Appeals is ordered to proceed with the appeal in CA G.R. No. 73453 and decide the
case with dispatch. SO ORDERED.

2.

[G.R. No. 140954. April 12, 2005]


HEIRS OF BERTULDO[1] HINOG: Bertuldo Hinog II, Bertuldo Hinog III, Bertuldo Hinog,
Jr., Jocelyn Hinog, Bertoldo Hinog IV, Bertoldo Hinog V, Edgardo Hinog, Milagros
H. Pabatao, Lilian H. King, Victoria H. Engracia, Terisita C. Hinog, Paz H. Besana,
Roberto C. Hinog, Vicente C. Hinog, Roel C. Hinog, Marilyn C. Hinog, Bebot C.
Hinog, lordes C. Hinog, Pablo Chiong, Arlene Lanasang (All respresented by
Bertuldo Hinog III),petitioners, vs. HON. ACHILLES MELICOR, in his capacity as
Presiding Judge, RTC, Branch 4, 7 th Judicial Region, Tagbiliran City, Bohol, and
CUSTODIO
BALANE,
RUFO
BALANE,
HONORIO
BALANE,
and
TOMAS
BALANE, respondents.
DECISION
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.:
Before us is a petition for certiorari and prohibition under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court which
assails the Orders dated March 22, 1999, August 13, 1999 and October 15, 1999 of the Regional
Trial Court, Branch 4, of Tagbilaran City, Bohol in Civil Case No. 4923.
The factual background of the case is as follows:
On May 21, 1991, private respondents Custodio, Rufo, Tomas and Honorio, all surnamed
Balane, filed a complaint for Recovery of Ownership and Possession, Removal of Construction
and Damages against Bertuldo Hinog (Bertuldo for brevity). They alleged that: they own a 1,399square meter parcel of land situated in Malayo Norte, Cortes, Bohol, designated as Lot No. 1714;
sometime in March 1980, they allowed Bertuldo to use a portion of the said property for a period
of ten years and construct thereon a small house of light materials at a nominal annual rental
of P100.00 only, considering the close relations of the parties; after the expiration of the ten-year
period, they demanded the return of the occupied portion and removal of the house constructed
thereon but Bertuldo refused and instead claimed ownership of the entire property.
Accordingly, private respondents sought to oust Bertuldo from the premises of the subject
property and restore upon themselves the ownership and possession thereof, as well as the
payment of moral and exemplary damages, attorneys fees and litigation expenses in amounts
justified by the evidence. [2]
On July 2, 1991, Bertuldo filed his Answer. He alleged ownership of the disputed property by
virtue of a Deed of Absolute Sale dated July 2, 1980, executed by one Tomas Pahac with the
knowledge and conformity of private respondents. [3]
After the pre-trial, trial on the merits ensued. On November 18, 1997, private respondents
rested their case. Thereupon, Bertuldo started his direct examination. However, on June 24,
1998, Bertuldo died without completing his evidence.

On August 4, 1998, Atty. Sulpicio A. Tinampay withdrew as counsel for Bertuldo as his
services were terminated by petitioner Bertuldo Hinog III. Atty. Veronico G. Petalcorin then
entered his appearance as new counsel for Bertuldo.[4]
On September 22, 1998, Atty. Petalcorin filed a motion to expunge the complaint from the
record and nullify all court proceedings on the ground that private respondents failed to specify
in the complaint the amount of damages claimed so as to pay the correct docket fees; and that
under Manchester Development Corporation vs. Court of Appeals,[5] non-payment of the correct
docket fee is jurisdictional.[6]
In an amended motion, filed on October 2, 1998, Atty. Petalcorin further alleged that the
private respondents failed to pay the correct docket fee since the main subject matter of the
case cannot be estimated as it is for recovery of ownership, possession and removal of
construction.[7]
Private respondents opposed the motion to expunge on the following grounds: (a) said
motion was filed more than seven years from the institution of the case; (b) Atty. Petalcorin has
not complied with Section 16, Rule 3 of the Rules of Court which provides that the death of the
original defendant requires a substitution of parties before a lawyer can have legal personality to
represent a litigant and the motion to expunge does not mention of any specific party whom he
is representing; (c) collectible fees due the court can be charged as lien on the judgment; and (d)
considering the lapse of time, the motion is merely a dilatory scheme employed by petitioners. [8]
In their Rejoinder, petitioners manifested that the lapse of time does not vest the court with
jurisdiction over the case due to failure to pay the correct docket fees. As to the contention that
deficiency in payment of docket fees can be made as a lien on the judgment, petitioners argued
that the payment of filing fees cannot be made dependent on the result of the action taken. [9]
On January 21, 1999, the trial court, while ordering the complaint to be expunged from the
records and the nullification of all court proceedings taken for failure to pay the correct docket
fees, nonetheless, held:
The Court can acquire jurisdiction over this case only upon the payment of the exact prescribed
docket/filing fees for the main cause of action, plus additional docket fee for the amount of
damages being prayed for in the complaint, which amount should be specified so that the same
can be considered in assessing the amount of the filing fees. Upon the complete payment of such
fees, the Court may take appropriate action in the light of the ruling in the case of Manchester
Development Corporation vs. Court of Appeals, supra.[10]
Accordingly, on January 28, 1999, upon payment of deficiency docket fee, private
respondents filed a manifestation with prayer to reinstate the case. [11] Petitioners opposed the
reinstatement[12] but on March 22, 1999, the trial court issued the first assailed Order reinstating
the case.[13]
On May 24, 1999, petitioners, upon prior leave of court, [14] filed their supplemental pleading,
appending therein a Deed of Sale dated November 15, 1982. [15] Following the submission of
private respondents opposition thereto, [16] the trial court, in its Order dated July 7, 1999, denied
the supplemental pleading on the ground that the Deed of Absolute Sale is a new matter which
was never mentioned in the original answer dated July 2, 1991, prepared by Bertuldos original
counsel and which Bertuldo verified; and that such new document is deemed waived in the light
of Section 1, Rule 9[17] of the Rules of Court. The trial court also noted that no formal substitution
of the parties was made because of the failure of defendants counsel to give the names and

addresses of the legal representatives of Bertuldo, so much so that the supposed heirs of
Bertuldo are not specified in any pleading in the case. [18]
On July 14, 1999, petitioners manifested that the trial court having expunged the complaint
and nullified all court proceedings, there is no valid case and the complaint should not be
admitted for failure to pay the correct docket fees; that there should be no case to be reinstated
and no case to proceed as there is no complaint filed. [19]
After the submission of private respondents opposition [20] and petitioners rejoinder,[21] the trial
court issued the second assailed Order on August 13, 1999, essentially denying petitioners
manifestation/rejoinder. The trial court held that the issues raised in such manifestation/rejoinder
are practically the same as those raised in the amended motion to expunge which had already
been passed upon in the Order dated January 21, 1999. Moreover, the trial court observed that
the Order dated March 22, 1999 which reinstated the case was not objected to by petitioners
within the reglementary period or even thereafter via a motion for reconsideration despite
receipt thereof on March 26, 1999.[22]
On August 25, 1999, petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration [23] but the same was
denied by the trial court in its third assailed Order dated October 15, 1999. The trial court held
that the Manchester rule was relaxed in Sun Insurance Office, Ltd. vs. Asuncion.[24] Noting that
there has been no substitution of parties following the death of Bertuldo, the trial court directed
Atty. Petalcorin to comply with the provisions of Section 16, Rule 3 of the Rules of Court. The trial
court also reiterated that the Order dated March 22, 1999 reinstating the case was not assailed
by petitioners within the reglementary period, despite receipt thereof on March 26, 1999. [25]
On November 19, 1999, Atty. Petalcorin complied with the directive of the trial court to
submit the names and addresses of the heirs of Bertuldo. [26]
On November 24, 1999, petitioners filed before us the present petition for certiorari and
prohibition.[27] They allege that the public respondent committed grave abuse of discretion in
allowing the case to be reinstated after private respondents paid the docket fee deficiency since
the trial court had earlier expunged the complaint from the record and nullified all proceedings of
the case and such ruling was not contested by the private respondents. Moreover, they argue
that the public respondent committed grave abuse of discretion in allowing the case to be filed
and denying the manifestation with motion to dismiss, despite the defect in the complaint which
prayed for damages without specifying the amounts, in violation of SC Circular No. 7, dated
March 24, 1988.
In their Comment, private respondents aver that no grave abuse of discretion was committed
by the trial court in reinstating the complaint upon the payment of deficiency docket fees
because petitioners did not object thereto within the reglementary period. Besides, Atty.
Petalcorin possessed no legal personality to appear as counsel for the heirs of Bertuldo until he
complies with Section 16, Rule 3 of the Rules of Court. [28]
At the outset, we note the procedural error committed by petitioners in directly filing the
instant petition before this Court for it violates the established policy of strict observance of the
judicial hierarchy of courts.
Although the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and the Regional Trial Courts have concurrent
jurisdiction to issue writs of certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, habeas corpus and
injunction, such concurrence does not give the petitioner unrestricted freedom of choice of court
forum.[29] As we stated in People vs. Cuaresma:[30]

This Court's original jurisdiction to issue writs of certiorari is not exclusive. It is shared by this
Court with Regional Trial Courts and with the Court of Appeals. This concurrence of jurisdiction is
not, however, to be taken as according to parties seeking any of the writs an absolute,
unrestrained freedom of choice of the court to which application therefor will be directed. There
is after all a hierarchy of courts. That hierarchy is determinative of the venue of appeals, and also
serves as a general determinant of the appropriate forum for petitions for the extraordinary
writs. A becoming regard for that judicial hierarchy most certainly indicates that petitions for the
issuance of extraordinary writs against first level (inferior) courts should be filed with the
Regional Trial Court, and those against the latter, with the Court of Appeals. A direct invocation of
the Supreme Courts original jurisdiction to issue these writs should be allowed only when there
are special and important reasons therefor, clearly and specifically set out in the petition. This is
[an] established policy. It is a policy necessary to prevent inordinate demands upon the Courts
time and attention which are better devoted to those matters within its exclusive jurisdiction,
and to prevent further over-crowding of the Courts docket. [31]
The rationale for this rule is two-fold: (a) it would be an imposition upon the precious time of this
Court; and (b) it would cause an inevitable and resultant delay, intended or otherwise, in the
adjudication of cases, which in some instances had 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
because this Court is not a trier of facts.[32]
Thus, this Court will not entertain direct resort to it unless the redress desired cannot be
obtained in the appropriate courts, and exceptional and compelling circumstances, such as cases
of national interest and of serious implications, justify the availment of the extraordinary remedy
of writ of certiorari, calling for the exercise of its primary jurisdiction. Exceptional and compelling
circumstances were held present in the following cases: (a) Chavez vs. Romulo[33] on citizens
right to bear arms; (b) Government of the United States of America vs. Purganan [34] on bail in
extradition proceedings; (c) Commission on Elections vs. Quijano-Padilla [35] on government
contract involving modernization and computerization of voters registration list; (d) Buklod ng
Kawaning EIIB vs. Zamora[36] on status and existence of a public office; and (e) Fortich vs.
Corona[37] on the so-called Win-Win Resolution of the Office of the President which modified the
approval of the conversion to agro-industrial area.
In this case, no special and important reason or exceptional and compelling circumstance
analogous to any of the above cases has been adduced by the petitioners so as to justify direct
recourse to this Court. The present petition should have been initially filed in the Court of
Appeals in strict observance of the doctrine on the hierarchy of courts. Failure to do so is
sufficient cause for the dismissal of the petition at bar.
In any event, even if the Court disregards such procedural flaw, the petitioners contentions
on the substantive aspect of the case fail to invite judgment in their favor.
The unavailability of the writ of certiorari and prohibition in this case is borne out of the fact
that petitioners principally assail the Order dated March 22, 1999 which they never sought
reconsideration of, in due time, despite receipt thereof on March 26, 1999. Instead, petitioners
went through the motion of filing a supplemental pleading and only when the latter was denied,
or after more than three months have passed, did they raise the issue that the complaint should
not have been reinstated in the first place because the trial court had no jurisdiction to do so,
having already ruled that the complaint shall be expunged.
After recognizing the jurisdiction of the trial court by seeking affirmative relief in their motion
to serve supplemental pleading upon private respondents, petitioners are effectively barred by

estoppel from challenging the trial courts jurisdiction. [38] If a party invokes the jurisdiction of a
court, he cannot thereafter challenge the courts jurisdiction in the same case. [39] To rule
otherwise would amount to speculating on the fortune of litigation, which is against the policy of
the Court.[40]
Nevertheless, there is a need to correct the erroneous impression of the trial court as well as
the private respondents that petitioners are barred from assailing the Order dated March 22,
1999 which reinstated the case because it was not objected to within the reglementary period or
even thereafter via a motion for reconsideration despite receipt thereof on March 26, 1999.
It must be clarified that the said order is but a resolution on an incidental matter which does
not touch on the merits of the case or put an end to the proceedings. [41] It is an interlocutory
order since there leaves something else to be done by the trial court with respect to the merits of
the case.[42] As such, it is not subject to a reglementary period. Reglementary period refers to the
period set by the rules for appeal or further review of a final judgment or order, i.e., one that
ends the litigation in the trial court.
Moreover, the remedy against an interlocutory order is generally not to resort forthwith
to certiorari, but to continue with the case in due course and, when an unfavorable verdict is
handed down, to take an appeal in the manner authorized by law. [43] Only when the court issued
such order without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion and when the
assailed interlocutory order is patently erroneous and the remedy of appeal would not afford
adequate and expeditious relief will certiorari be considered an appropriate remedy to assail an
interlocutory order.[44] Such special circumstances are absolutely wanting in the present case.
Time and again, the Court has held that the Manchester rule has been modified in Sun
Insurance Office, Ltd. (SIOL) vs. Asuncion[45] which defined the following guidelines involving the
payment of docket fees:
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 fees
within a reasonable time but in no case beyond the applicable prescriptive or
reglementary period.
2. The same rule applies to permissive counterclaims, third-party 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.
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.
Plainly, while the payment of the prescribed docket fee is a jurisdictional requirement, even
its non-payment at the time of filing does not automatically cause the dismissal of the case, as
long as the fee is paid within the applicable prescriptive or reglementary period, more so when
the party involved demonstrates a willingness to abide by the rules prescribing such payment.

[46]

Thus, when insufficient filing fees were initially paid by the plaintiffs and there was no
intention to defraud the government, the Manchester rule does not apply.[47]
Under the peculiar circumstances of this case, the reinstatement of the complaint was just
and proper considering that the cause of action of private respondents, being a real action,
prescribes in thirty years,[48] and private respondents did not really intend to evade the payment
of the prescribed docket fee but simply contend that they could not be faulted for inadequate
assessment because the clerk of court made no notice of demand or reassessment. [49] They were
in good faith and simply relied on the assessment of the clerk of court.
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.[50]
Thus, while the docket fees were based only on the real property valuation, the trial court
acquired jurisdiction over the action, and 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.[51]
It is worth noting that when Bertuldo filed his Answer on July 2, 1991, he did not raise the
issue of lack of jurisdiction for non-payment of correct docket fees. Instead, he based his defense
on a claim of ownership and participated in the proceedings before the trial court. It was only in
September 22, 1998 or more than seven years after filing the answer, and under the auspices of
a new counsel, that the issue of jurisdiction was raised for the first time in the motion to expunge
by Bertuldos heirs.
After Bertuldo vigorously participated in all stages of the case before the trial court and even
invoked the trial courts authority in order to ask for affirmative relief, petitioners, considering
that they merely stepped into the shoes of their predecessor, are effectively barred by estoppel
from challenging the trial courts jurisdiction. Although the issue of jurisdiction may be raised at
any stage of the proceedings as the same is conferred by law, it is nonetheless settled that a
party may be barred from raising it on ground of laches or estoppel. [52]
Moreover, no formal substitution of the parties was effected within thirty days from date of
death of Bertuldo, as required by Section 16, Rule 3 [53] of the Rules of Court. Needless to stress,
the purpose behind the rule on substitution is the protection of the right of every party to due
process. It is to ensure that the deceased party would continue to be properly represented in the
suit through the duly appointed legal representative of his estate. [54] Non-compliance with the
rule on substitution would render the proceedings and judgment of the trial court infirm because
the court acquires no jurisdiction over the persons of the legal representatives or of the heirs on
whom the trial and the judgment would be binding. [55] Thus, proper substitution of heirs must be
effected for the trial court to acquire jurisdiction over their persons and to obviate any future
claim by any heir that he was not apprised of the litigation against Bertuldo or that he did not
authorize Atty. Petalcorin to represent him.

The list of names and addresses of the heirs was submitted sixteen months after the death of
Bertuldo and only when the trial court directed Atty. Petalcorin to comply with the provisions of
Section 16, Rule 3 of the Rules of Court. Strictly speaking therefore, before said compliance, Atty.
Petalcorin had no standing in the court a quo when he filed his pleadings. Be that as it may, the
matter has been duly corrected by the Order of the trial court dated October 15, 1999.
To be sure, certiorari under Rule 65[56] is a remedy narrow in scope and inflexible in character.
It is not a general utility tool in the legal workshop. [57] It offers only a limited form of review. Its
principal function is to keep an inferior tribunal within its jurisdiction. [58] It can be invoked only for
an error of jurisdiction, that is, one where the act complained of was issued by the court, officer
or a quasi-judicial body without or in excess of jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion
which is tantamount to lack or in excess of jurisdiction, [59] not to be used for any other purpose,
[60]
such as to cure errors in proceedings or to correct erroneous conclusions of law or fact. [61] A
contrary rule would lead to confusion, and seriously hamper the administration of justice.
Petitioners utterly failed to show that the trial court gravely abused its discretion in issuing
the assailed resolutions. On the contrary, it acted prudently, in accordance with law and
jurisprudence.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition for certiorari is DISMISSED for lack of merit.
No costs.
SO ORDERED.

3.
[G.R. No. 117970. July 28, 1998]
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. ULYSSES M. CAWALING, ERNESTO
TUMBAGAHAN, RICARDO DE LOS SANTOS, and HILARIO CAJILO, accusedappellants.
DECISION
PANGANIBAN, J.:

It is axiomatic that once an accused-appellant admits killing the victim, he bears the burden
of establishing the presence of any circumstance like self-defense, performance of a lawful duty
or, for that matter, double jeopardy, which may relieve him of responsibility, or which may
mitigate his criminal liability.[1] If he fails to discharge this burden, his conviction becomes
inevitable. In this Decision, we also reiterate the following doctrines: (1) the regional trial court,
not the Sandiganbayan, has jurisdiction over informations for murder committed by public
officers, including a town mayor; (2) the assessment of trial courts on the credibility of witnesses
and their testimonies deserve great respect; (3) the equipoise rule cannot be invoked where the
evidence of the prosecution is overwhelming; (4) alibi cannot be believed in the face of credible
testimony identifying the appellants; and (5) conspiracy may be proven by circumstantial
evidence.
The Case
Before us is an appeal from the 34-page Decision [2] dated October 21, 1994, promulgated by the
Regional Trial Court of Romblon in Criminal Case No. OD-269. Convicted of murder were former
Mayor Ulysses M. Cawaling and Policemen Ernesto Tumbagahan, [3] Ricardo De los Santos and
Hilario Cajilo.
Prior to the institution of the criminal case against all the appellants, an administrative
case[4] had been filed before the National Police Commission, in which Policemen Ernesto
Tumbagahan, Ricardo De los Santos, Hilario Cajilo (three of herein appellants) and Andres
Fontamillas were charged by Nelson Ilisan [5] with the killing of his brother Ronie [6] Ilisan. On April
6, 1986, Adjudication Board No. 14 [7] rendered its Decision which found Tumbagahan, De los
Santos, Cajilo and Fontamillas guilty of grave misconduct and ordered their dismissal from the
service with prejudice.[8] On June 26, 1986, the Board issued a resolution, [9] dismissing the
respondents motion for reconsideration for lack of merit.
Subsequently, on June 4, 1987, Second Assistant Provincial Fiscal Alexander Mortel filed,
before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Odiongan, Romblon, [10] an Information for
murder[11]against the appellants and Andres Fontamillas. The accusatory portion reads:
That on or about the 4th day of December 1982, at around 9:00 oclock in the evening, in the
Poblacion, [M]unicipality of San Jose, [P]rovince of Romblon, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, with intent to kill, conspiring, confederating
and mutually helping one another, did then and there, by means of treachery and with evident
premeditation and taking advantage of their superior strenght [sic] willfully, unlawfully and
feloniously attack, assault and shoot RONIE ILISAN, with the use of firearms, inflicting upon the
latter multiple mortal injuries in different parts of his body which were the direct and immediate
cause of his death.
Accused Tumbagahan, De los Santos, Cajilo and Fontamillas, with the assistance of their
lawyers Atty. Abelardo V. Calsado and Juanito Dimaano, pleaded not guilty when arraigned on
February 15, 1988;[12] while Accused Cawaling, assisted by Counsel Jovencio Q. Mayor, entered a
plea of not guilty on March 16, 1988.[13]
After due trial,[14] the court a quo[15] rendered its Decision dated October 21, 1994, [16] the
decretal portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, this Court finds the accused (1) ULYSSES M. CAWALING, (2) ERNESTO
TUMBAGAHAN, (3) RICARDO DELOS SANTOS, (4) HILARIO CAJILO, AND (5) ANDRES FONTAMILLAS
GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of MURDER under the Information, dated June 4,
1987, and sentences each of them to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua, with the accessory
penalties of the law.
The accused, jointly and severally, are ORDERED to pay Nelson Elisan the sum of P6,000.00 as
actual damages and the heirs of the deceased Ronie Elisan the sums of P116,666.66 by way of
lost earnings and P50,000.00 as indemnity for death, without subsidiary imprisonment in case of
insolvency, and to pay the costs.
The bail bonds of all the accused are ORDERED CANCELLED and all said accused are ORDERED
immediately confined in jail.
The slug (Exh. A); the .38 caliber revolver (with 3 empty shells and 3 live bullets) (Exh. G); and
the slug of bullet (Exh. H) are confiscated in favor of the government.

After the judgment has become final, the Officer-in-Charge, Office of the Clerk of Court, this
Court, is ordered to deliver and deposit the foregoing Exhibits A, F, G and H, inclusive, to the
Provincial Director, PNP, of the Province of Romblon properly receipted. Thereafter, the receipt
must be attached to the record of the case and shall form part of the record.
The period of preventive imprisonment the accused had undergone shall be credited in their
favor to its full extent pursuant to Article 29 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended.
The case against co-accused ALEX BATUIGAS who is at large is ORDERED ARCHIVED pending his
arrest.[17]
Hence, this appeal.[18]
The Facts
Version of the Prosecution
The trial court gives this summary of the facts as viewed by the prosecution witnesses:
The killing occurred on December 4, 1982 at around 9:00 oclock in the evening at the ricefield of
Poblacion, San Jose, Romblon when the bright moon was already above the sea at an angle of
about 45 degrees, or if it was daytime, it was about 9:00 oclock in the morning (Imelda Elisan
Tumbagahon, on direct examination, tsn, Jan. 17, 1989, p. 5, and on cross examination, tsn, April
18, 1989, p. 22).
On December 4, 1982, about 8:00 oclock or 8:30 oclock in the evening, Vicente Elisan and his
elder brother Ronie Elisan, the victim, were drinking tuba at C & J-4 Kitchenette of co-accused
Andres Fontamillas in Poblacion, San Jose, Romblon. When they stood up to go home, Luz Venus,
the wife of Diosdado Venus, told them not to go out because the accused were watching them
outside about three (3) meters from the restaurant. Diosdado Venus accompanied them upon
their request and they went out and walked towards home. About a hundred meters from the
restaurant, the six (6) accused, that is, Mayor Cawaling, the four (4) policemen, namely, Hilario
Cajilo, Andres Fontamillas, Ernesto Tumbagahan and Ricardo delos Santos, and civilian Alex
Batuigas, the mayors brother-in-law, flashlighted them and Diosdado Venus ran going back. The
two (2) brothers also ran towards home to the house of their elder sister Imelda Elisan
Tumbagahon. Co-accused Andres Fontamillas and Hilario Cajilo blocked them on the gate of the
fence of their sisters house. Ronie Elisan ran towards the ricefield. The accused were chasing
them. Vicente Elisan saw his brother Ronie f[a]ll down on the ricefield while he ran towards the
bushes and la[y] on the ground. Ronie Elisan rose up by kneeling and raising his two (2)
hands. All the six (6) accused approached him with their flashlights and shot him. Ronie fell down
about twenty (20) meters from the bushes where Vicente Elisan hid behind the coconut tree. Coaccused Cawaling said []you left him, he is already dead.[] Mayor Cawaling was armed with .45
caliber, policemen Andres Fontamillas and Hilario Cajilo were both with armalites, Ernesto
Tumbagahan and Ricardo delos Santos were both with .38 caliber and so with civilian Alex
Batuigas. They left towards the house of Mayor Cawaling. After they were gone, Vicente Elisan
ran towards the house of his older brother Nelson Elisan. Upon seeing him, Vicente told Nelson
that Ronie was already dead. Nelson said nothing. While they were there, elder sister Imelda
Elisan Tumbagahon, who was crying came. She said: Manong, patay ron si Ronie. (Brother, Ronie
is already dead). Nelson said []do not be noisy; they might come back and kill all of us.[] Imelda
stopped crying.
After a while, brothers Nelson and Vicente Elisan went to the house of barangay captain Aldolfo
Tumbagahon. The three (3) went to the townhall and called the police but there was none
there. Going to the house of the Chief of Police Oscar Montero, they were told by his wife that
Commander Montero was in the house of Mayor Cawaling. They proceeded to the place where
Ronie Elisan was shot. The cadaver was brought to the house of Nelson Elisan. Vicente Elisan
found an empty shell of a .45 caliber about three (3) arms length from the body of the
victim. They surrendered it to the Napolcom. [19]
Dr. Blandino C. Flores described the gunshot wounds of the victim as follows:
Gunshot Wounds:
1. Shoulder:

Gun shot wound x inch in diameter shoulder right 2 inches from the neck with contussion [sic]
collar s[u]rrounding the wound.
2. Right Axilla:
Gun shot wound x inch in diameter, 2 inches below the right nipple with contussion [sic] collar
s[u]rrounding the wound.
3. Left Axilla:
Exit of the gun shot wound from the right axilla, measuring x inch with edges everted, one inch
below the axilla and one inch below the level of the nipple.
4. Back:
Gun shot wound measuring x inch, along the vertebral column, right at the level of the 10th ribs
with contussion [sic]collar.
5. Leg, Left:
Gun shot wound measuring x anterior aspect upper third leg with contussion [sic] collar, with the
exit x posterior aspect upper third leg, left. [20]
Based on the death certificate (Exhibit E) issued by Dr. Flores, Ronie Ilisan died of severe
hemorrhage and gun shot wo[unds].[21]
Version of the Defense
Appellant Cawaling, in his 47-page Brief,[22] presented his own narration of the incident as
follows:
At around 7:00 in the evening of December 4, 1982, Ulysses Cawaling, then the mayor of the
[M]unicipality of San Jose in the [P]rovince of Romblon, arrived aboard a hired motorized boat
from Manila in the seashore of San Jose. From the seashore, he immediately proceeded to his
home. At around 7:30 in the evening, Cawaling went to the municipal hall to check on
administrative matters that piled up in the course of his trip to Manila. He also went inside the
police
station
(located
inside
the
municipal
building)
to
be
apprised
of
any developments, afterwhich he went out and joined Pfc. Tumbagahan and Pfc. Cajilo who were
standing near the flagpole in front of the municipal building. The three engaged in a
conversation. Cawaling learned that the two police officers were the ones assigned for
patrol/alert for that night. The three of them went inside the INP office and there Cawaling
informed the two policemen that he received information from reliable persons that certain
persons were plotting to kill him and a member of the towns police force. It is to be noted that
this occurred at the height of the communist insurgency and political violence in the countryside
in the early 80s. Hence, such information was taken very seriously, having been relayed by
sources independent of each other.
Cawaling, as town chief then empowered with supervisory authority over the local police,
accompanied Pfc. Tumbagahan and Pfc. Cajilo in conducting patrol and surveillance operations
around the small municipality. He usually did this as routine since Romblon was then plagued
with political assassinations and armed conflict. On their way to the seashore, they passed by C
& J-4 Kitchenette, and chanced upon Ronnie Ilisan and his brother Vicente Ilisan drinking liquor
and discussing in very loud voices. They stopped right in the front of the restaurant and there
they heard Ronnie Ilisan state in a every loud voice that he will kill a person that night. Inside the
restaurant, without the knowledge then of Cawaling and the two police officers, witness Gil
Palacio, who was buying cigarettes and Luz Venus, the cook/server of the restaurant, saw Ronnie
Ilisan, very drunk, brandishing in the air a .38 caliber Smith and Wesson revolver with a
protruding screw.
Initially dismissing Ronnie Ilisans statement as just another hollow swagger of an intoxicated
person (salitang lasing), Cawaling and the two policemen proceeded on their way. After the
patrol, they returned to the municipal building and stationed themselves in front. At around 8:30
in the evening, Ronnie Elisan passed by the municipal hall walking towards the direction of the
house of Nelson Ilisan, another brother, and shouted the challenge, gawas ang maisog, meaning
THOSE WHO ARE BRAVE, COME OUT. Cawaling and the two police officers again brushed aside
[the] challenge as just another foolish drunken revelry [o]n the part of Ronnie Ilisan, a well-known
troublemaker in the small municipality.

A few moments later, after Ronie Ilisan had passed by, they distinctly heard a gunshot and
hysterical female voices shouting, pulis, tabang meaning POLICE! HELP! four times. Impelled by
the call of duty, Cawaling and the two policemen immediately ran in the direction of the gunshot
and the desperate female voices until they reached the house of Nelson Ilisan in San Jose
Street. At this point, they saw Ronnie Ilisan holding a .38 caliber revolver. They also saw Vicente
Ilisan, Francisco Tesnado, Fe Ilisan, the wife of Nelson and Delma Ilisan, the wife of Vicente, the
latter two being the same persons who cried pulis, tabang four times. Cawaling then told Ronnie
to surrender his gun but the latter responded by pointing the gun at Cawaling and pulling the
trigger.
At the precise moment that the gun fired, Cawaling warned the two policemen to drop to the
ground by shouting dapa. Fortunately, Cawaling was not hit. Ronnie Ilisan then turned around
and ran towards the church. The two policemen gave chase. Cawaling, still shaken and trembling
after the mischance was initially left behind but followed shortly. When Ronnie Ilisan reached the
church, he turned around and again fired at the pursuing Pfc. Cajilo. Fortunately, the gun
misfired. When they finally reached the ricefield, Pfc. Cajilo fired two (2) warning shots in the air
for Ronnie to surrender. Ronnie responded by firing once again at Pfc. Tumbagahan but failed to
hit the latter. At that instance, Pfc. Cajilo counter-fired at Ronnie Ilisan hitting him.Pfc.
Tumbagahan also fired his weapon in the heat of exchange and also hit Ronnie Ilisan. As a result
of the gunshot wounds, Ronnie Ilisan later on succumbed.
Pfc. Tumbagahan picked up the gun still in the hand of the dead Ronnie Ilisan and gave it to Pfc.
Cajilo. The three, Cawaling, who subsequently caught up with them after the incident, and the
two police officers, then proceeded to the police station located in the municipal building to
formally report the incident in their station blotter. [23]
The
Brief
for
All
of
the
Accused-Appellants
filed
by
Atty.
Napoleon U. Galit and the Brief for Appellants Ernesto Tumbagahan and Hilario Cajilo submitted
by Atty. Joselito R. Enriquez merely repeated the facts as narrated by the trial court.
Ruling of the Trial Court
Finding the prosecution witnesses and their testimonies credible, the court a quo convicted
the appellants. The killing was qualified to murder because of the aggravating circumstances of
abuse of superior strength and treachery. The trial court ruled that there was a notorious
inequality of forces between the victim and his assailants, as the latter were greater in number
and armed with guns. It further ruled that abuse of superior strength absorbed treachery, as it
ratiocinated:
Certain cases, an authority wrote, involving the killing of helpless victim by assailants superior to
them in arms or numbers, or victims who were overpowered before being killed, were decided on
the theory that the killing was treacherous, when perhaps the correct qualifying circumstance
would be abuse of superiority. In these cases the attack was not sudden nor unexpected and the
element of surprise was lacking. (Id., I Aquino, pp. 423-424). In the instant case, we earlier ruled
that the qualifying treachery should be considered as an exception to the general rule on
treachery because it was not present at the inception of the attack. The killing was not sudden
nor unexpected and the element of surprise was lacking. It is for this reason that we hold that
alevosia should be deemed absorbed or included in abuse of superiority. Even assuming exgratia argumenti that it should be the other way around, the situation will not be of help,
penaltywise, to the accused.[24]
The defenses raised by the appellants were dismissed and their witnesses declared unworthy
of belief for the following reasons:
1. It was highly improbable that Defense Witness Tesnado would not tell his wife (Dory) and
Bebelinia Ilisan Sacapao about the incident he had allegedly witnessed; more so when Sacapao
was the victims first cousin.
2. The spot report prepared by Station Commander Oscar M. Montero, the testimonies of Cajilo
and Tumbagahan and the medical findings of Dr. Flores contradicted one another on the following
details: the caliber of the gun used in shooting the victim, the wounds inflicted and the
whereabouts of Cawaling during the shoot-out.

3. Cawaling and his men, armed with guns, could have immediately disarmed the victim at the
initial encounter. The court could not understand why the victim was able to fire his gun, run,
then stop and again fire his gun, without being caught.
4. The positive identification made by the prosecution witnesses prevails over the alibi posed by
De los Santos and Fontamillas, a defense that was not corroborated by any other witness.
5. The .38 caliber revolver, allegedly owned by the victim, was in fact owned and used by Alex
Batuigas.
6. The defense presented a photo and a sketch to prove that Imelda Ilisan Tumabagahan had an
obstructed view of the killing. The trial court ruled that such evidence was misleading, because
the window, from where said witness allegedly saw the incident, was at the eastern side of her
house, and thus afforded a clear view of the incident, while the window referred to by the
defense was at the southern portion.
7. The questioned testimonies of Dr. Flores, Nelson Ilisan and Provincial Prosecutor Pedro
Victoriano, Jr., though not formally offered as evidence, may be admitted because of the failure of
the defense to object thereto at the time they were called to testify.
8. The defense failed to prove that the prosecution witnesses had any ill motive to testify falsely
against the appellant.
9. Appellants had a motive to kill the victim. Nelson Ilisan testified that his brother Ronie (the
victim) had witnessed Bonifacio Buenaventura (a former chief commander of the San Jose Police
Force) kill a certain Ruben Ventura. Cawaling, who was Buenaventuras first cousin, wanted Ronie
dead, because the latter had not followed his instruction to leave town to prevent him from
testifying in said case.
Assignment of Errors
The appellants, through their common counsel, Atty. Napoleon Galit, assign the following
errors to the lower court:
1. The trial court gravely erred in sustaining prosecutors theory of conspiracy and thus renders
nugatory or has totally forgotten that policemen when in actual call of duty normally operate in
group but not necessarily in conspiracy.
2. The trial court gravely erred in believing the theory of the prosecution that accused-appellant
Ulysses Cawaling was one of the alleged co-conspirators in the killing of the deceased Ronnie
Elisan.
3. The trial court gravely erred in not believing the defense of accused-appellant Ulysses
Cawaling that he has nothing to do with the shooting incident except to shout to arrest the
accused[,] which prompted his co-accused policemen to chase the accused and sho[o]t him
when he resisted, after he fired at Mayor Cawaling.
4. The trial court gravely erred in not giving weight to accused-appellant policemen[s]
testimonies which carry the presumption of regularity.
5. The trial court gravely erred in not acquitting all the accused-appellants by applying the
equipoise rule thereby resulting [i]n reasonable doubts on the guilt. [25]
In their joint brief,[26] Appellants Tumbagahan and Cajilo cite these other errors:
1. The trial court gravely erred in relying on the theory of the prosecution that accusedappellants Ernesto Tumbagahan and Hilario Cajilo were alleged co-conspirators in the killing of
the victim, Ronie Ilisan.
2. The trial court gravely erred in not believing the defense that herein accused-appellants
merely did a lawful duty when the shooting incident happened which led to the death of Ronnie
Ilisan.
3. The trial court gravely erred in not acquitting herein accused-appellants by applying the
equipoise rule, thereby resulting in reasonable doubt on their guilt.
4. Prescinding from the foregoing, herein accused-appellants do press and hold, that the lower
court committed grave, serious and reversible error in appreciating the qualifying circumstance
of treachery (alevosia).

5. The lower court committed grave, serious and reversible error in convicting both accusedappellants of murder, instead merely of homicide, defined and penalized under the Revised Penal
Code.
6. The lower court committed grave, serious and reversible error in appreciating the qualifying
circumstance of taking advantage of superior strength.
7. The consummated crime being merely homicide, the mitigating circumstance of voluntary
surrender should be considered to lower the penalty of homicide.
8. The lower court committed error in not considering double jeopardy.
9. The lower court committed error in not dismissing the case for want of jurisdiction. [27]
Appellant Cawaling imputes these additional errors to the court a quo:
1. The trial court gravely erred in not acquitting herein accused-appellant, Ulysses M. Cawaling,
considering that he had no part in the killing and the prosecution failed to prove his guilt beyond
reasonable doubt;
2. The trial court gravely erred in not finding the shooting incident a result of hot pursuit and
shoot-out between the deceased Ronnie Ilisan and the police officers in the performance of their
duty and self-defense, and in sustaining the prosecutions conspiracy theory;
3. The trial court gravely erred in not acquitting Accused-Appellant Ulysses M. Cawaling
considering that there was blatant absence of due process in the proceedings tantamount to
mistrial.[28]
This Courts Ruling
We affirm the conviction of the appellants. In so ruling, we will resolve the following
issues: (1) jurisdiction of the trial court, (2) double jeopardy, (3) credibility of prosecution
witnesses and their testimonies, (4) self-defense, (5) performance of lawful duty, (6) alibi, (7)
conspiracy, (8) rule on equipoise, (9) qualifying circumstances, (10) damages and (11) attending
circumstances as they affect the penalty.
We shall address the first two issues as important preliminary questions and discuss the
merits of the remaining ones, which we have culled from the errors cited by the appellants in
their aforementioned briefs.
First Issue:
Jurisdiction of the Trial Court
Appellants Tumbagahan and Cajilo argue that the trial court erred when it assumed
jurisdiction over the criminal case. They insist that the Sandiganbayan, not the regular courts,
had jurisdiction to try and hear the case against the appellants, as they were public officers at
the time of the killing which was allegedly committed by reason of or in relation to their office.
We do not agree.
The jurisdiction of a court to try a criminal case is determined by the law in force at the time
of the institution of the action. Once the court acquires jurisdiction, it may not be ousted from the
case by any subsequent events, such as a new legislation placing such proceedings under the
jurisdiction of another tribunal. The only recognized exceptions to the rule, which find no
application in the case at bar, arise when: (1) there is an express provision in the statute, or (2)
the statute is clearly intended to apply to actions pending before its enactment. [29]
The statutes pertinent to the issue are PD 1606, as amended; [30] and PD 1850, as amended
by PD 1952 and BP 129.
Section 4 of PD 1606[31] reads:
Sec. 4. Jurisdiction. -- The Sandiganbayan shall exercise:
(a) Exclusive original jurisdiction in all cases involving:
xxxxxxxxx
(2) Other offenses or felonies committed by public officers and employees in relation to their
office, including those employed in government-owned or controlled corporations, whether
simple or complexed with other crimes, where the penalty prescribed by law is higher than
prision correccional or imprisonment for six (6) years, or a fine of P6,000.00: PROVIDED,
HOWEVER, that offenses or felonies mentioned in this paragraph where the penalty prescribed

by law does not exceed prision correccional or imprisonment for six (6) years or a fine
ofP6,000.00 shall be tried by the proper Regional Trial Court, Metropolitan Trial Court, Municipal
Trial Court and Municipal Circuit Trial Court.
xxxxxxxxx
However, former President Ferdinand Marcos issued two presidential decrees placing the
members of the Integrated National Police under the jurisdiction of courts-martial. Section 1 of
PD 1952,[32] amending Section 1 of PD 1850, reads:
SECTION 1. Court Martial Jurisdiction over Integrated National Police and Members of the Armed
Forces. Any provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding -- (a) uniformed members of the
Integrated National Police who commit any crime or offense cognizable by the civil courts shall
henceforth be exclusively tried by courts-martial pursuant to and in accordance with
Commonwealth Act No. 408, as amended, otherwise known as the Articles of War; (b) all persons
subjects to military law under Article 2 of the aforecited Articles of War who commit any crime or
offense shall be exclusively tried by courts-martial or their case disposed of under the said
Articles of War; Provided, that, in either of the aforementioned situations, the case shall be
disposed of or tried by the proper civil or judicial authorities when court-martial jurisdiction over
the offense has prescribed under Article 38 of Commonwealth Act Numbered 408, as amended,
or court-martial jurisdiction over the person of the accused military or Integrated National Police
personnel can no longer be exercised by virtue of their separation from the active service
without jurisdiction having duly attached beforehand unless otherwise provided by law:
PROVIDED FURTHER, THAT THE PRESIDENT MAY, IN THE INTEREST OF JUSTICE, ORDER OR
DIRECT, AT ANY TIME BEFORE ARRAIGNMENT, THAT A PARTICULAR CASE BE TRIED BY THE
APPROPRIATE CIVIL COURT.
As used herein, the term uniformed members of the Integrated National Police shall refer to
police officers, policemen, firemen, and jail guards.
On the other hand, the jurisdiction of regular courts over civil and criminal cases was laid
down in BP 129, the relevant portion of which is quoted hereunder:
Sec. 20. Jurisdiction in Criminal Cases. -- Trial Courts shall exercise exclusive original jurisdiction
in all criminal cases not within the exclusive jurisdiction of any court, tribunal or body, except
those now falling under the exclusive and concurrent jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan which
shall hereafter be exclusively taken cognizance of by the latter. [33]
In relation to the above, Section 4-a-2 of PD 1606, as amended by PD 1861, quoted earlier,
lists two requisites that must concur before the Sandiganbayan may exercise exclusive and
original jurisdiction over a case: (a) the offense was committed by the accused public officer in
relation to his office; and (b) the penalty prescribed by law is higher than prision correccionalor
imprisonment for six (6) years, or higher than a fine of six thousand pesos (P6,000).[34] Sanchez
vs. Demetriou[35] clarified that murder or homicide may be committed both by public officers and
by private citizens, and that public office is not a constitutive element of said crime, viz.:
The relation between the crime and the office contemplated by the Constitution is, in our opinion,
direct and not accidental. To fall into the intent of the Constitution, the relation has to be such
that, in the legal sense, the offense cannot exist without the office. In other words, the office
must be a constituent element of the crime as defined in the statute, such as, for instance, the
crimes defined and punished in Chapter Two to Six, Title Seven, of the Revised Penal Code.
Public office is not the essence of murder. The taking of human life is either murder or homicide
whether done by a private citizen or public servant, and the penalty is the same except when the
perpetrator, being a public functionary, took advantage of his office, as alleged in this case, in
which event the penalty is increased.
But the use or abuse of office does not adhere to the crime as an element; and even as an
aggravating circumstance, its materiality arises, not from the allegations but on the proof, not
from the fact that the criminals are public officials but from the manner of the commission of the
crime.
Furthermore, the Information filed against the appellants contains no allegation that
appellants were public officers who committed the crime in relation to their office. The charge
was for murder, a felony punishable under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code. As clarified

in Aguinaldo, et al. vs. Domagas, et al.,[36] [I]n the absence of such essential allegation, and since
the present case does not involve charges of violation of R.A. No. 3019 (the Anti-Graft etc. Act),
the Sandiganbayan does not have jurisdiction over the present case. (Bartolome vs. People, 142
SCRA 459 [1986] Even before considering the penalty prescribed by law for the offense charged,
it is thus essential to determine whether that offense was committed or alleged to have been
committed by the public officers and employees in relation to their offices.
Jurisdiction is determined by the allegations in the complaint or information. [37] In the
absence of any allegation that the offense was committed in relation to the office of appellants or
was necessarily connected with the discharge of their functions, the regional trial court, not the
Sandiganbayan, has jurisdiction to hear and decide the case. [38]
Second Issue:
Double Jeopardy
In seeking their acquittal, Appellants Tumbagahan and Cajilo also invoke their right against
double jeopardy. They argue that the first jeopardy attached when a criminal case for murder
was filed before the Judge Advocate Generals Office (JAGO), which was allegedly dismissed after
several hearings had been conducted. [39] We are not persuaded.
There is double jeopardy when the following requisites are present: (1) a first jeopardy has
attached prior to the second; (2) the first jeopardy has been validly terminated; and, (3) a second
jeopardy is for the same offense as that in the first. And the first jeopardy attaches only (a) after
a valid indictment; (b) before a competent court; (c) after arraignment; (d) when a valid plea has
been entered; and (e) when the accused was acquitted or convicted, or the case was dismissed
or otherwise terminated without his express consent. [40]
For a better appreciation of appellants argument, we must consider PD 39 [41] and its
implementing rules,[42] which prescribe the procedure before a military commission. A summary
preliminary investigation shall be conducted before trial for the purpose of determining whether
there is prima facie evidence to pursue trial before a military commission. The investigation
report shall contain a summary of the evidence, the acts constituting the offense or offenses
committed, and the findings and recommendations of the investigating officer. Thereafter, the
report shall be forwarded to the judge advocate general, who shall determine for either the
defense secretary or for the AFP chief of staff whether the case shall be referred for trial to a
military commission.[43] Where a prima facie case is found against the accused, formal charges
shall be signed by a commissioned officer designated by the judge advocate general. [44] The
accused shall then be arraigned, during which the charge and specification shall be read and the
accused shall enter his plea. [45] After hearings, a record of the trial shall be forwarded to the AFP
chief of staff for proper action.[46]
In the present case, the appellants have presented no sufficient and conclusive evidence to
show that they were charged, arraigned and acquitted in a military commission, or that the case
was dismissed therein without their consent. The defense merely offered as evidence certain
disposition forms[47] and a letter,[48] dated March 8, 1983, recommending that the case against
Appellants Tumbagahan, Cajilo and De los Santos be dropped and considered closed. [49] No
charge sheet and record of arraignment and trial were presented to establish the first jeopardy.
As pointed out by the solicitor general, appellants were never arraigned, they never pleaded
before the Judge Advocate Generals Office, there was no trial, and no judgment on the merits
had been rendered.[50]
Third Issue:
Credibility of Witnesses
As a general rule, the factual findings of trial courts deserve respect and are not disturbed on
appeal, unless some facts or circumstances of weight and substance have been overlooked,
misapprehended or misinterpreted, and would otherwise materially affect the disposition of the
case.[51] This rule, however, does not apply when the judge who penned the decision was not the
same one who had heard the prosecution witnesses testify, [52] as in the present
case. Nonetheless, we have carefully perused and considered the voluminous records of this
case, and we find no reason to alter the findings of the court a quo in regard to the credibility of
the prosecution witnesses and their testimonies.

Vicente Ilisan, the victims brother, narrated before the trial court the circumstances relevant
to the crime:
Q. In the evening of December 4, 1982, at about 8:00 or 8:30, where were you?
A. I was inside the restaurant of Andres Fontamillas.
xxxxxxxxx
Q. What were you doing there?
A. I was drinking tuba.
Q. When you were about to finish drinking tuba, what did you do?
A. I stood up preparing to go home.
Q. Were you able to leave that restaurant actually?
A. No, sir.
Q. Why?
A. Luz Venus told us not to go out when [I] stood up to go home.
Q. Do you know why you were advise[d] not to go out?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Why?
A. Because we were being watched by Mayor Cawaling, Andres Fontamillas, Hilario Cajilo and Alex Bat[ui]gas.
xxxxxxxxx
Q. When you were informed by Luz Venus that you should not go out because Mayor Cawaling and the persons you mentioned
were outside watching for you, what did you do?
A. We did not go out.
Q. Since you remained inside, what did you do?
A. I also viewed thru the window.
Q. Did you see them?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. How far were they from the restaurant?
A. About three meters.
Q. What were they doing outside the restaurant?
A. They were also viewing us.
Q. For how long did they remain there viewing you?
A. Just a short time.
Q. And later on, do you know where did they go? [sic]
A. No, sir. I went out from the restaurant and when I went out, I did not see them anymore.
Q. Before you went out of the restaurant, what did you do?
A. Diosdado Venus accompanied us.
Q. Why did you ask Diosdado Venus to accompany you?
A. Yes, sir. Because we were aware that we were being watched from outside so we asked to be accompanied by Diosdado Venus.
Q. From the restaurant accompanied by Diosdado Venus, what did you do?
A. Towards home.
Q. Were you able to reach home?
A. No, sir.
Q. Why, what happened on the way?
A. Diosdado Venus ran going back because we were lighted by a flashlight.
Q. How many flashlight[s] were trimed [sic] to you?
A. Six.
Q. Did you come to know who trimed [sic] the flashlight towards you?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Who were they?
A. Mayor Cawaling, Andres Fontamillas, Hilario Cajilo, Ernesto Tumbagahan, Ricardo delos Santos and Alex Batuigas.
Q. How were you able to recognize them when that was night time?
A. Because the flashlight[s] were bright.
Q. When Diosdado Venus ran back to his restaurant, what did your brother Ronie Elisan and you do?
A. We also ran towards home.
Q. To whose house?
A. That of my older sister Imelda [E]lisan.
Q. Were you able to reach that house?
A. No, sir.
Q. Why, what happened when you ran away?
A. Andres Fontamillas and Hilario Cajilo were blocking us on the gate of the fence of my sisters house.
Q. Since your way was blocked, where did Ronie Elisan go?
A. We ran towards the ricefield.

Q. When you ran, what did Mayor Cawaling do?


A. They were chasing us.
Q. What about Alex Batuigas, what did he do?
A. He also followed helping chasing us. [sic]
Q. What about the four policemen, what did they do?
A. The same. They were also chasing us.
Q. About how far is that restaurant [from] the spot where you were first lighted by the flashlight of the accused?
A. About one hundred meters.
Q. Now, according to you, you ran towards the ricefield, what happened while you were running towards the ricefield?
A. I saw my brother fell [sic] down.
Q. Fell down where?
A. On the ricefield.
Q. What about you, where were you when your brother fell down in the ricefield?
A. I ran towards the bushes.
Q. What did you do upon reaching the bushes?
A. I la[y] on the ground with my belly touch[ing] on the ground behind the coconut tree.
Q. When your brother according to you had fallen on the ricefield, what did he do thereafter?
A. He rose up, [raised] his hands and surrender[ed] to them.
Q In rising, what was his position?
A. He was rising like this. (Witness demonstrating by kneeling [and] raising his two hands).
Q. While Ronie Elisan was kneeling and raising both of his hands, what happened?
A. Mayor Cawaling approached him together with the four policemen and his brother-in-law and they shot him.
Q. Do you know what weapon[s] were used in shooting your brother?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. What weapon were used?
A. The weapon of Mayor Cawaling is .45 caliber and that of Andres Fontamillas and Hilario Cajilo were both armalite and that of
Ernesto Tumbagahan, Alex Batuigas and Ricardo delos Santos were .38 caliber.
Q. How were you able to identify their weapons?
A. Because the flashlight[s] were bright.
Q. Now, what happened to your brother when he was fired upon by the accused in this case?
A. He fell down.
Q. And how far is that spot where your elder brother had fallen down to the spot where Diosdado Venus left you when he returned
to the restaurant?
A. To my estimate it is about 300 meters.
Q. After your brother had fallen down, what did the accused do?
A. Mayor Cawaling said, []you left him, he is already dead.[]
Q. Where did they go?
A. They went towards the house of Mayor Cawaling.

[53]

Imelda Tumbagahan was at home feeding her child when she heard her brother Ronie
shouting for help. After getting a flashlight and looking through the window of her house, she saw
Cawaling and Alex Batuigas chasing Ronie who was running towards her house. Tumbagahan and
De los Santos prevented Ronie from entering the fence of her house, as a result of which, her
brother ran towards a rice field nearby. There, on bended knees and with hands raised, Ronie was
shot by Cawaling and his men.[54]
Nelson Ilisan also heard his younger brother Ronie shouting for help while being chased by
the group of Cawaling. As Cajilo and Fontamillas blocked Ronie from entering the gate of Imeldas
house, the victim ran towards a rice field. Nelson stopped Cawaling and asked, Nong, basi
guinalagas ninyo ang acon hali? (Nong, why do you chase my brother?) But the mayor merely
continued chasing Ronie. Thereafter, Nelson saw his brother, on his knees with both hands
raised, shot by appellants.[55]
The three aforementioned witnesses narrated in detail the assault against their brother Ronie
and positively identified the appellants as the perpetrators. The trial court cannot be faulted for
relying on their testimonies and accepting them as true, [56] especially when the defense failed, to
prove any ill motive on their part.[57] In addition, family members who have witnessed the killing
of their loved one usually strive to remember the faces of the assailants. [58] Thus, the
relationship per se of witnesses with the victim does not necessarily mean that the former are
biased. On the contrary, it is precisely such relationship that would impel them to seek justice
and put the real culprit behind bars, rather than impute the offense to the innocent. [59]

Appellant Cawaling submits that the prosecution witnesses tampered with the evidence by
cleaning the cadaver before an autopsy could be done. Such irregular washing of the cadaver by
a close relative of the deceased, who is educated and who presumably knew perfectly well the
need to preserve it in its original state for the medico-legal examination[,] is highly suspicious. It
points to the fact that the relatives of the deceased wanted to hide, or erase something that
would bolster and assist the defense (that is, state of drunkenness, powder burns or lack thereof,
indicating the firing of a weapon or the proximity of the weapon used on the deceased, etc.). [60]
Such contention is unavailing. First, Bebelinia Sacapao merely cleaned the cadaver and made
no further examination. Second, appellants had an opportunity to have the body examined again
to determine or prove important matters, such as whether Ronie was drunk, if he fired a gun,
how many and what caliber of guns were used in shooting him; they did not, however, avail
themselves of this opportunity. As public officers, appellants knew that it was within their power
to request or secure from the court, or any other competent authority, an order for another
autopsy[61] or any such evidence as may affirm their innocence. Third, their conviction lies in the
strong and convincing testimonial evidence of the prosecution, not in the corroborative
testimony of Bebelinia Sacapao.
Relying on the testimonies of Luz Venus and Gil Palacio, Appellant Cawaling also pointed out
that [t]he power of observation of alleged eyewitness Vicente was severely affected by his
intoxication. It may be inferred that an intoxicated persons sense[s] of sight and hearing and of
touch are less acute than those of a sober person and that his observation are inexact as to what
actually occurred.[62]
This argument is not persuasive. The evidence presented fails to show that Vicente was so
intoxicated that night as to affect his powers of observation and retrospection. Defense Witness
Palacio merely saw the witness drinking tuba on the night of the killing.[63] Meanwhile the whole
testimony of Luz on the matter mainly reveals that Ronie was the person she was referring to as
drunk, as shown by this portion: [64]
Q When Ronie and Vicente both surnamed Ilisan entered the C & J-4 kitchenette what if any
did you observe?
A I saw them so dr[u]nk (Nakita ko sila lasing na lasing).
Q Who was lasing na lasing or so dr[u]nk?
A Ronie Ilisan sir.
Granting that Vicente was drunk, the conviction of the appellants is still inevitable in view of
the positive declarations of Witnesses Nelson and Imelda, who unequivocally identified
appellants as perpetrators of the senseless killing of their brother Ronie.
Appellant Cawaling also questions the trial courts reliance on the testimonies of Dr. Blandino
Flores,[65] Nelson Ilisan[66] and Prosecutor Pedro Victoriano, Jr.,[67] for failure of the prosecution to
offer them as evidence. In People vs. Java,[68] this Court ruled that the testimony of a witness,
although not formally offered in evidence, may still be admitted by the courts, if the other party
does not object to its presentation. The Court explained: Section 36 of [Rule 132] requires that an
objection in the course of the oral examination of a witness should be made as soon as the
grounds therefor shall become reasonably apparent. Since no objection to the admissibility of
evidence was made in the court below, an objection raised for the first time on appeal will not be
considered. In the present case, a cursory reading of the stenographic notes reveals that the
counsel for the appellants did not raise any objection when said witnesses testified on the
matters now being impugned. Moreover, they repeatedly cross-examined the witnesses, which
shows that they had waived their objections to the said testimonies of such witnesses.
Lastly, Appellant Mayor Cawaling questions the motive of Prosecutor Pedro Victoriano Jr. This
contention is likewise bereft of merit. Unlike judges who are mandated to display cold neutrality
in hearing cases,[69] prosecutors are not required to divest themselves of their personal
convictions and refrain from exhibiting partiality. In this case, there is reasonable ground for
Prosecutor Victoriano to believe that an offense has been committed and that the accused was
probably guilty thereof.[70] Under the circumstance, it is his sworn duty to see that justice is
served.[71] Thus, [h]e may prosecute with earnestness and vigor - - indeed, he should do so. But,
while he may strike hard blows, he is not at liberty to strike foul ones. It is as much his duty to

refrain from improper methods calculated to produce a wrongful conviction as it is to use every
legitimate means to bring about a just one. [72] Further,
Under the prevailing criminal procedure, the fiscals sphere of action is quite extensive, for he has
very direct and active intervention in the trial, assuming as the Governments representative the
defense of society, which has been disturbed by the crime, and taking public action as though he
were the injured party, for the purpose of securing the offenders punishment, whenever the
crime has been proved and the guilt of the accused as the undoubted perpetrator thereof
established.[73]
Fourth Issue:
Self-Defense
To escape criminal liability, the appellants also invoke the justifying circumstances of selfdefense and lawful performance of duty. [74] Allegedly, Ronie was firing his gun and shoutingGuwa
ang maisog! (Come out who is brave!). Then the mayor and the policemen arrived at the scene
to pacify him. Ronie fired at them, which forced them to chase him and return fire.
We find this scenario bereft of plausibility.
Unlawful aggression on the part of the victim is a condition sine qua non for the successful
invocation of self-defense.[75] As factually found by the trial court, unlawful aggression did not
start with the victim, but rather with the appellants. Cawaling and his men proceeded to the C &
J-4 Kitchenette and waited for Ronie to come out. When the victim did, they chased and shot him
without giving him any opportunity to defend himself.
Granting arguendo the veracity of the defenses factual version, it is important to note that
appellants admitted that Ronie was running away from them when they chased and shot
him.Thus, unlawful aggression -- assuming it was initially present had ceased, and the appellants
no longer had any right to pursue the offender. Basic is the rule that when unlawful aggression
ceases, the defender no longer has the right to kill or even wound the former aggressor. Upon
the cessation of the unlawful aggression and the danger or risk to life and limb, there should be a
corresponding cessation of hostilities on the part of the person defending himself. [76]
Furthermore, the means employed to ward off the attack was unreasonably excessive. Being
armed, the appellants could have easily ordered the victim to surrender. Even the first shot at his
shoulder would have been sufficient to immobilize him, yet they fired a succession of shots at
him while he was in no position to put up a defense.
Jurisprudence teaches that when an accused admits having committed the crime but invokes
self-defense to escape criminal liability, the burden of proof is reversed and shifted to him.He
must then prove the elements of self-defense.[77] It necessarily follows that he must now rely on
the strength of his own evidence and not on the weakness of that of the prosecution; for even if
the latter evidence were weak, it could not be disbelieved after the accused has admitted the
killing.[78] Thus, appellants must establish with clear and convincing evidence that the killing was
justified, and that they incurred no criminal liability therefor.[79] They failed to do so, and their
conviction thus becomes inevitable.[80]
Fifth Issue:
Lawful Performance of Duties
Appellants contend that the killing of Ronie resulted from the lawful performance of their
duties as police officers. However, such justifying circumstance may be invoked only after the
defense successfully proves that (1) the accused acted in the performance of a duty, and (2) the
injury or offense committed is the necessary consequence of the due performance or lawful
exercise of such duty.[81] These two requisites are wanting in this case.
The appellants, except Mayor Cawaling, were men in uniform who happened to be on duty
when they killed Ronie. The victim was not committing any offense at the time. Killing the victim
under the circumstances of this case cannot in any wise be considered a valid performance of a
lawful duty by men who had sworn to maintain peace and order and to protect the lives of the
people. As aptly held in People vs. De la Cruz,[82] Performance of duties does not include
murder. That Ronie was a troublemaker in their town is not an excuse; as the Court declared in
the same case of People vs. De la Cruz, Murder is never justified, regardless of the victim.

Sixth Issue:
Alibi
We likewise brush aside the defenses of alibi and denial raised by Appellant De los
Santos. Prosecution witnesses positively identified him and Fontamillas as part of the group
which chased and shot Ronie Ilisan. It is elementary that alibi and denial are outweighed by
positive identification that is categorical, consistent and untainted by any ill motive on the part of
the eyewitness testifying on the matter. Alibi and denial, if not substantiated by clear and
convincing evidence, are negative and self-serving evidence undeserving of weight in law. [83]
In fact, De los Santos failed to establish with clear and convincing evidence that it was
physically impossible for him to have been at the scene of the crime during its commission. [84]The
evidence he had presented demonstrated only that, at the time, he was sleeping in his house,
which was near the locus criminis.
Alibi is always considered with suspicion and received with caution, not only because it is
inherently weak and unreliable, but also because it is easily fabricated and concocted. [85] It is
therefore incumbent upon the appellant to prove that he was at another place when the felony
was committed, and that it was physically impossible for him to have been at the scene of the
crime at the time it was committed.[86] This he failed to prove.
Seventh Issue:
Conspiracy
The trial court correctly appreciated the presence of conspiracy. Conspiracy exists when two
or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a felony and decide to
commit it. Direct proof of conspiracy is rarely found, for criminals do not write down their lawless
plans and plots. The agreement to commit a crime, however, may be deduced from the mode
and manner of the commission of the offense or inferred from acts that point to a joint purpose
and design, concerted action, and community of intent. [87] It does not matter who inflicted the
mortal wound, as the act of one is the act of all, and each incurs the same criminal liability. [88] We
concur with the trial courts elucidation:
All of the accused chased the victim and his brother; four (4) of whom blocked their ways, first, to
their elder brother Nelson Elisans house and, second, to their elder sister Imelda Elisan
Tumbagahons house. Having changed course by proceeding to the ricefield in their desperate
attempt to evade the accused, all the six (6) armed accused continued their pursuit. Their victim,
having fallen on the rice paddy, and rising and kneeling on it with raised hands, all the said
accused with their flashlights beamed on their victim, in a united and concerted manner, shot
him. After Ronie Elisan had fallen down, co-accused Mayor Cawaling was even heard as saying
(Y)ou left [sic] him, he is already dead. x x x.[89]
Eighth Issue:
Equipoise Rule
We reject appellants position that the equipoise rule should apply to this case. [90] In People
vs. Lagnas,[91] the Court through Mr. Justice Florenz D. Regalado described this rule, as follows:
Once again, albeit in effect a supportive and cumulative consideration in view of the preceding
disquisition, the equipoise rule finds application in this case, that is, if the inculpatory facts and
circumstances are capable of two or more explanations, one of which is consistent with the
innocence of the accused and the other consistent with his guilt, then the evidence does not
fulfill the test of moral certainty, and is not sufficient to support a conviction.
In this case, the inculpatory facts point to only one conclusion: appellants are guilty. As
amplified in the discussion above, the Court agrees with the trial court that the guilt of the
appellants was proven beyond reasonable doubt.
Ninth Issue:
Murder or Homicide?
The Information alleges three qualifying circumstances: treachery, evident premeditation and
taking advantage of superior strength. If appreciated, any one of these will qualify the killing to
murder. However, Appellants Tumbagahan and Cajilo posit that there was no treachery,
reasoning that Ronie was not an unsuspecting victim, as he had been forewarned by Diosdado

Venus of the presence of the appellants inside the restaurant and there had been a chase prior to
the killing. Further, they contend that abuse of superior strength is deemed absorbed in
treachery, and that the addition of abuse of superior strength to qualify the case to murder is
nothing more than mere repetition - a legal chicanery, so to say. Similarly, where treachery is not
proved, there can be no abuse of superior strength, vice-versa. [92]
We partly agree.
Treachery exists when the malefactors employ means and methods that tend directly and
especially to insure their execution without risk to themselves arising from the defense which the
victims might make. The essence of treachery is the sudden and unexpected attack without the
slightest provocation on the part of the person attacked. [93] While we do not disregard the fact
that the victim, together with his brother Vicente, was able to run towards a rice field, we still
believe that treachery attended the killing.
In People vs. Landicho,[94] we ruled that treachery might still be appreciated even when the
victim was warned of danger to his person, for what is decisive is that the execution of the attack
made it impossible for the victim to defend himself or to retaliate.
The appellants waited for Ronie to come out of the restaurant. All of them chased the victim
and prevented him from seeking refuge either in the house of his sister Imelda or that of his
brother Nelson. All of them carried firearms and flashlights. They fired their guns at the victim
while he was on his knees with arms raised, manifesting his intention not to fight back.
We cannot appreciate the aggravating circumstance of abuse of superior
strength, however, as we have consistently ruled that it is deemed absorbed in treachery. [95]
We also affirm the finding of the trial court that the prosecution failed to prove the attending
circumstance of evident premeditation. To prove this aggravating circumstance, the prosecution
must show the following: (1) the time when the offender determined to commit the crime; (2) an
act manifestly indicating that the offender clung to his determination; and (3) a lapse of time,
between the determination to commit the crime and the execution thereof, sufficient to allow the
offender to reflect upon the consequences of his act. [96] Nothing in the records shows how and
when the plan to kill was hatched, or how much time had elapsed before it was carried out.
Tenth Issue:
Damages
The trial court awarded the following: (a) P50,000.00, as civil indemnity; (b) P6,000.00, as
actual damages; and (c) P116,666.66, for lost earnings. In computing the latter, the trial court
used the following formula:
Total annual net income = 10% x total annual gross income
= .10 x P25,000.00
= P2,500.00
xxx xxx xxx
Loss of earning capacity of Ronie Elisan = 2/3 (90-20) x P2,500.00 = P116,666.66.[97]
Consistent with jurisprudence, we affirm the ruling of the trial court awarding the amount of
P50,000 as civil indemnity to the heirs of the victim. [98]
We cannot do the same to the award of actual damages and lost earnings, however. The
award of actual damages has no basis, as no receipts were presented to substantiate the
expenses allegedly incurred. An alleged pecuniary loss must be established by credible evidence
before actual damages may be awarded. [99] Similarly erroneous is the award for loss of earning
capacity, which should be computed as follows: [100]
2/3 x [80 - age of victim at the time of death] x [reasonable portion of the annual net income
which would have been received as support by heirs]
As testified to by Nelson Ilisan, the deceased had been earning an average of P100 daily
or P3,000 monthly.[101] From this monthly income must be deducted the reasonable amount
ofP1,000 representing the living and other necessary expenses of the deceased. Hence, the lost
earnings of the deceased should be computed as follows:
= 2/3 x [80 - 22] x [P24,000]

= 2/3 x [58] x [P24,000]


= 2[P 1,392,000]
3
= P2,784,000
3
= P928,000.
Eleventh Issue:
Aggravating and Mitigating Circumstances
Prior to the amendment of Section 248 of the Revised Penal Code, [102] the imposable penalty
for murder was reclusion temporal in its maximum period to death. In their Brief, Appellants
Cajilo and Tumbagahan argue for the imposition of the lower penalty of reclusion
temporal, contending that their filing of bail bonds/property bonds, before the order for their
arrest was issued, should be treated as voluntary surrender. [103]
We cannot accept this contention. In the first place, it has no factual basis. The warrant for
the arrest of herein appellants was issued on August 18, 1987, [104] but appellants counsel filed
the Urgent Motion for Bail only thereafter, on September 2, 1987. [105] In the second place,
appellants failed to prove the requisites for voluntary surrender, which are: (1) the offender has
not been actually arrested; (2) the offender surrenders himself to a person in authority or to the
latters agent; and (3) the surrender is voluntary. [106] The records reveal that a warrant of arrest
was actually served on Tumbagahan and Cajilo [107] on September 2, 1987 and that they were in
fact detained.[108]
In view of the absence of any other aggravating or mitigating circumstance, the trial court
correctly imposed reclusion perpetua.
WHEREFORE, the appeal is hereby DENIED and the assailed Decision is AFFIRMED with the
following MODIFICATIONS: (1) the award of P6,000 as actual damages is DELETED,and (2) the
award for loss of earning capacity is INCREASED to P928,000. Costs against appellant.
SO ORDERED.
4.
G.R. No. 130316

January 24, 2007

ERNESTO
V.
YU
vs.
BALTAZAR PACLEB,1 Respondent.

and

ELSIE

O.

YU, Petitioners,

DECISION
CORONA, J.:
The present petition filed under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court originated from an action for
forcible entry and damages filed by petitioners Ernesto and Elsie Yu against respondent Baltazar
Pacleb.
The antecedent facts follow.
Sometime in September 1992, Ruperto Javier allegedly offered to sell Lot No. 6853-D to
petitioners for P75 per sq.m.lawphil.net The lot was approximately 18,000 square meters and
was located in Barangay Langkaan, Dasmarias, Cavite. Javier supposedly purchased the lot from
one Rebecca del Rosario who, in turn, acquired it from respondent and his wife. The title of the
property (Transfer Certificate of Title [TCT] No. T-118375), however, remained in the names of

respondent and his wife. The instruments in support of the series of alleged sales were not
registered.
On September 11, 1992, petitioners accepted the offer and gave Javier P200,000 as
downpayment for the lot. Javier then delivered his supposed muniments of title to petitioners.
After the execution of a contract to sell, he formally turned over the property to petiti oners.
At the time of the turn-over, a portion of the lot was occupied by Ramon C. Pacleb, respondents
son, and his wife as tenants. On September 12, 1992, Ramon and his wife allegedly surrendered
possession of their portion to petitioners. Later on, petitioners appointed Ramon as their trustee
over the subject lot.
Aside from taking possession of the property, petitioners also caused the annotation on TCT No.
T-118375 of a decision rendered in their favor in Civil Case No. 741-93. 2 This decision attained
finality on April 19, 1995.
Petitioners alleged that they exercised ownership rights as well as enjoyed open, public and
peaceful possession over the property from September 12, 1992 until the early part of
September 1995. During this time, respondent was in the United States.
Upon respondents return to the Philippines in May 1995, he allegedly entered the property by
means of force, threat, intimidation, strategy and stealth thereby ousting petitioners and their
trustee, Ramon.
Despite repeated demands, respondent, asserting his rights as registered owner of the property,
refused to vacate the premises and surrender its possession to petitioners.
Petitioners filed an action for forcible entry 3 in the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Dasmarias,
Cavite on November 23, 1995. Respondent filed an answer with compulsory counterclaim dated
December 8, 1995. After the issues were joined, the MTC required the submission of the parties
position papers at a preliminary conference on March 11, 1996. Respondent failed to comply.
On June 17, 1996, the MTC ruled:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the [respondent] and other persons claiming right under
him are hereby ordered to surrender physical possession of Lot No. 6853-D in favor of the
[petitioners] and to pay the sum of TWENTY-FIVE THOUSAND (P25,000.00) PESOS as attorneys
fees.
SO ORDERED.4
On appeal,5 the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Imus, Cavite rendered a decision affirming the MTC
decision in toto.6
Respondent elevated his case to the Court of Appeals (CA) 7 which rendered the assailed decision
on March 18, 1997:
WHEREFORE, the Petition is GRANTED; the Decision dated October 25, 1996 of the [RTC] of Imus,
Cavite in Civil Case No. 052-96 and the Decision of the [MTC] of Dasmarias, Cavite in Civil Case
No. 182 are SET ASIDE; and Civil Case No. 182 for Forcible Entry and Damages is hereby ordered
DISMISSED. No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.8
In a resolution dated August 20, 1997, the CA denied petitioners motion for reconsideration for
lack of merit.
Before us now come petitioners who claim that the appellate court erred in finding that
respondent had prior physical possession of the subject property.lawphil.net
"In an action for forcible entry, the plaintiff must prove that he was in prior possession of the land
or building and that he was deprived thereof by means of force, intimidation, threat, strategy or
stealth."9 The plaintiff, however, cannot prevail where it appears that, as between himself and
the defendant, the latter had possession antedating his own. 10 We are generally precluded in a
Rule 45 petition from reviewing factual evidence tracing the events prior to the first act of
spoliation.11 However, the conflicting factual findings of the MTC and RTC on one hand, and the
CA on the other, require us to make an exception.
We overrule petitioners contentions.
The Civil Code states that possession is the holding of a thing or the enjoyment of a right. 12 In the
grammatical sense, to possess means to have, to actually and physically occupy a thing, with or
without right.13 "Possession always includes the idea of occupation x x x. It is not necessary that
the person in possession should himself be the occupant. The occupancy can be held by another
in his name."14 Without occupancy, there is no possession.15
Two things are paramount in possession. 16 First, there must be occupancy, apprehension or
taking. Second, there must be intent to possess (animus possidendi).17
Here, petitioners failed to establish that they had prior physical possession to justify a ruling in
their favor in the complaint for forcible entry against respondent.
In the decision in Civil Case No. 741-93 (a case for specific performance and damages against
Javier, the alleged vendor of the lot in question) upon which petitioners based their right to
possess in the first place, the trial court categorically stated:
The [petitioners were never placed] in possession of the subject property on which
[was] planned to be [site of] a piggery, nor [were they] given a clearance or certification from the
Municipal Agrarian Reform Officer. 18(emphasis ours)
The claim that the lot was turned over to petitioners in 1992 was self-serving in the face of this
factual finding. On the other hand, the tax declarations and receipts in the name of respondent in
1994 and 1995 established the possession of respondent. 19 The payment of real estate tax is one
of the most persuasive and positive indications showing the will of a person to possess
in concepto de dueo or with claim of ownership.20
"[P]ossession in the eyes of the law does not mean that a man has to have his feet on every
square meter of the ground before he is deemed in possession." 21 In this case, Ramon, as
respondents son, was named caretaker when respondent left for the United States in
1983.22 Due to the eventual loss of trust and confidence in Ramon, however, respondent
transferred the administration of the land to his other son, Oscar, in January 1995 until his return
in May 1995.23 In other words, the subject land was in the possession of the respondents sons
during the contested period.

Petitioners cite an alleged document (Kusangloob na Pagsasauli ng Lupang Sakahan at


Pagpapahayag ng Pagtalikod sa Karapatan) dated March 10, 1995 executed by them and Ramon
to prove a turn over of possession. They also seek to prove their exercise of rights over the land
through alleged frequent visits and the designation of Ramon as their own trustee as declared in
a joint affidavit attached to their position paper filed with the MTC. These instruments, however,
fail to convince us of petitioners actual occupancy of the subject land. First, petitioners
themselves acknowledged that Ramon and his wife occupied part of the land as tenants of
respondent. Second, Ramon, a mere tenant, had no authority to sign such document dated
March 10, 1995 waiving all rights to the land. Third, there was no clear proof in the records of the
appointment of Ramon as petitioners trustee save their self-serving statements to this effect.
Finally, at the time the Kusangloob na Pagsasauli document was executed, the caretaker of the
land was no longer Ramon but Oscar.24
Most important, the title of the land in question (TCT No. T-118375) remained in the name of
respondent.25 "As the registered owner, petitioner had a right to the possession of the property,
which is one of the attributes of ownership." 26 The Civil Code states:
Art. 538. Possession as a fact cannot be recognized at the same time in two different
personalities except in the cases of co-possession. Should a question arise regarding the fact of
possession, the present possessor shall be preferred; if there are two possessors, the one longer
in possession; if the dates of the possession are the same, the one who presents a title; and if all
these conditions are equal, the thing shall be placed in judicial deposit pending determination of
its possession or ownership through proper proceedings.
In view of the evidence establishing respondents continuing possession of the subject property,
petitioners allegation that respondent deprived them of actual possession by means of force,
intimidation and threat was clearly untenable. In Gaza v. Lim, we held that:
Where a dispute over possession arises between two persons, the person first having actual
possession is the one who is entitled to maintain the action granted by law; otherwise, a mere
usurper without any right whatever, might enter upon the property of another and, by allowing
himself to be ordered off, could acquire the right to maintain the action of forcible entry and
detainer, however momentary his intrusion might have been. 27
WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DENIED. The decision of the Court of Appeals dated March
18, 1997 in CA-G.R. SP No. 42604 is AFFIRMED.
Costs against petitioners.
SO ORDERED.

5.
[G.R. No. 158407. January 17, 2005]
FILOMENA DOMAGAS, petitioner, vs. VIVIAN LAYNO JENSEN, respondent.
DECISION
CALLEJO, SR., J.:
This is a petition for review on certiorari, under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, of the
Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 73995, which affirmed the Decision [2] of
the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Dagupan City, Branch 44, in Civil Case No. 2000-0244-D, which
declared null and void the decision of the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Calasiao, Pangasinan in
Civil Case No. 879.[3]
The antecedent facts follow.
On February 19, 1999, petitioner Filomena Domagas filed a complaint for forcible entry
against respondent Vivian Jensen before the MTC of Calasiao, Pangasinan. The petitioner alleged

in her complaint that she was the registered owner of a parcel of land covered by Original
Certificate of Title (OCT) No. P-30980, situated in Barangay Buenlag, Calasiao, Pangasinan, and
with an area of 827 square meters. On January 9, 1999 the respondent, by means of force,
strategy and stealth, gained entry into the petitioners property by excavating a portion thereof
and thereafter constructing a fence thereon. As such, the petitioner was deprived of a 68-square
meter portion of her property along the boundary line. The petitioner prayed that, after due
proceedings, judgment be rendered in her favor, thus:
3. And, after trial, judgment be rendered:
a) DECLARING the writ of Preliminary Mandatory Injunction and Writ of Preliminary
Injunction permanent;
b) ORDERING defendant, his representatives, agents and persons acting under her, to
vacate the portion of the property of the plaintiff occupied by them and to desist
from entering, excavating and constructing in the said property of the plaintiff
described in paragraph 2 hereof and/or from disturbing the peaceful ownership
and possession of the plaintiff over the said land, pending the final resolution of
the instant action;
c) ORDERING defendant to pay reasonable rental at FIVE THOUSAND (P5,000.00)
PESOS per month from January 9, 1999 up to the time she finally vacates and
removes all constructions made by her in the property of the plaintiff and up to
the time she finally restores the said property in the condition before her illegal
entry, excavation and construction in the property of the plaintiff;
d) ORDERING defendant to pay actual damages in the amount of TWENTY
THOUSAND (P20,000.00) PESOS; moral damages in the amount of TWENTY
THOUSAND (P20,000.00) PESOS; attorneys fees of THIRTY THOUSAND
(P30,000.00) PESOS in retainers fee and ONE THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED
(P1,500.00) PESOS per court appearance fee; exemplary damages in the amount
of TWENTY THOUSAND (P20,000.00) PESOS, and, costs.
Plaintiff further prays for other reliefs and remedies just and equitable in the premises. [4]
The case was docketed as Civil Case No. 879. The summons and the complaint were not
served on the respondent because the latter was apparently out of the country. This was relayed
to the Sheriff by her (the respondents) brother, Oscar Layno, who was then in the respondents
house at No. 572 Barangay Buenlag, Calasiao, Pangasinan. The Sheriff left the summons and
complaint with Oscar Layno, who received the same. [5]
Nonetheless, on May 17, 1999, the court rendered judgment ordering the respondent and all
persons occupying the property for and in the latters behalf to vacate the disputed area and to
pay monthly rentals therefor, including actual damages, attorneys fees, and exemplary damages.
The fallo of the decision reads:
1) Ordering the defendant, her representatives, agents and persons acting under her, to
vacate the 68-square meters which she encroached upon;
2) Ordering the defendant to pay a monthly rental of P1,000.00 to the plaintiff;

3) To pay plaintiff actual damages of P20,000.00; attorneys fees of P15,000.00 and


exemplary damages in the amount of P20,000.00 plus the costs.
SO ORDERED.[6]
The respondent failed to appeal the decision. Consequently, a writ of execution was issued
on September 27, 1999.
On August 16, 2000, the respondent filed a complaint against the petitioner before the RTC of
Dagupan City for the annulment of the decision of the MTC in Civil Case No. 879, on the ground
that due to the Sheriffs failure to serve the complaint and summons on her because she was in
Oslo, Norway, the MTC never acquired jurisdiction over her person. The respondent alleged
therein that the service of the complaint and summons through substituted service on her
brother, Oscar Layno, was improper because of the following: (a) when the complaint in Civil
Case No. 879 was filed, she was not a resident of Barangay Buenlag, Calasiao, Pangasinan, but of
Oslo, Norway, and although she owned the house where Oscar Layno received the summons and
the complaint, she had then leased it to Eduardo Gonzales; (b) she was in Oslo, Norway, at the
time the summons and the complaint were served; (c) her brother, Oscar Layno, was merely
visiting her house in Barangay Buenlag and was not a resident nor an occupant thereof when he
received the complaint and summons; and (d) Oscar Layno was never authorized to receive the
summons and the complaint for and in her behalf. [7]
The respondent further alleged that the MTC had no jurisdiction over the subject matter of
the complaint in Civil Case No. 879 because the petitioner, the plaintiff therein, failed to show
prior possession of the property. She further claimed that the alleged forcible entry was simply
based on the result of the survey conducted by Geodetic Engineer Leonardo de Vera showing
that the property of the respondent encroached on that of the petitioner.
The respondent filed a Manifestation dated August 31, 2000, and appended thereto the
following: (a) a copy[8] of her passport showing that she left the country on February 17, 1999; (b)
a copy[9] of the Contract of Lease dated November 24, 1997, executed by her and Eduardo D.
Gonzales over her house for a period of three (3) years or until November 24, 2000; (c) her
affidavit[10] stating, inter alia, that she owned the house at Barangay Buenlag, Calasiao,
Pangasinan, which she leased to Eduardo Gonzales; that she was married to Jarl Jensen, a citizen
of Norway, on August 23, 1987 and had resided in Norway with her husband since 1993; that she
arrived in the Philippines on December 31, 1998, but left on February 17, 1999; she returned to
the Philippines on July 30, 2000 and learned, only then, of the complaint against her and the
decision of the MTC in Civil Case No. 879; her brother Oscar Layno was not a resident of the
house at Barangay Buenlag; and that she never received the complaint and summons in said
case; (d) the affidavit[11] of Oscar Layno declaring that sometime in April 1999, he was in the
respondents house to collect rentals from Eduardo Gonzales; that the Sheriff arrived and served
him with a copy of the summons and the complaint in Civil Case No. 879; and that he never
informed the respondent of his receipt of the said summons and complaint; (e) an affidavit [12] of
Eduardo Gonzales stating that he leased the house of the respondent and resided thereat; the
respondent was not a resident of the said house although he (Gonzales) allowed the respondent
to occupy a room therein whenever she returned to the Philippines as a balikbayan; and that
Oscar Layno was not residing therein but only collected the rentals.
In her answer to the complaint, the petitioner alleged that the respondent was a resident of
Barangay Buenlag, Calasiao, Pangasinan and was the owner of the subject premises where Oscar
Layno was when the Sheriff served the summons and complaint; that the service of the
complaint and summons by substituted service on the respondent, the defendant in Civil Case

No. 879, was proper since her brother Oscar Layno, a resident and registered voter of Barangay.
Buenlag, Calasiao, Pangasinan, received the complaint and summons for and in her behalf.
The petitioner appended the following to her answer: (a) a copy [13] of the Deed of Absolute
Sale executed by Jose Layno in her favor, dated August 26, 1992, showing that the respondent
was a resident of Barangay Buenlag, Calasiao, Pangasinan; (b) a Real Estate
Mortgage[14] executed by the respondent, dated February 9, 1999 showing that she was a
resident of Barangay Buenlag, Calasiao, Pangasinan; (c) the Joint Affidavit [15] of Vicenta Peralta
and Orlando Macalanda, both residents of Barangay Buenlag, Calasiao, Pangasinan, declaring
that the respondent and her brother Oscar Layno were their neighbors; that the respondent and
her brother had been residents of Barangay Buenlag since their childhood; that although the
respondent left the country on several occasions, she returned to the Philippines and resided in
her house at No. 572 located in the said barangay; and (d) the Voters Registration Record [16] of
Oscar Layno, approved on June 15, 1997.
After due proceedings, the trial court rendered a decision in favor of the respondent. The
dispositive portion reads:
WHEREFORE, judgment is rendered in favor of plaintiff Vivian Layno Jensen and against
defendant Filomena Domagas, as follows:
1. The Decision of the Municipal Trial Court of Calasiao, Pangasinan in Civil Case No. 879,
entitled Filomena Domagas versus Vivian Layno Jensen is declared null and void, for lack
of jurisdiction over the person of the plaintiff and the subject matter.
2. Defendant Filomena Domagas is ordered to pay plaintiff, the following:
a.)

Actual damages,
of P50,000.00;

representing

litigation

expenses

in

the

amount

b.) Attorneys fees in the amount of P50,000.00;


c.) Moral Damages in the amount of P50,000.00;
d.) Exemplary Damages in the amount of P50,000.00; and
e.) Costs of suit.
SO ORDERED.[17]
The trial court declared that there was no valid service of the complaint and summons on the
respondent, the defendant in Civil Case No. 879, considering that she left the Philippines on
February 17, 1999 for Oslo, Norway, and her brother Oscar Layno was never authorized to
receive the said complaint and summons for and in her behalf.
The petitioner appealed the decision to the CA which, on May 6, 2003, rendered judgment
affirming the appealed decision with modifications. The CA ruled that the complaint in Civil Case
No. 879 was one for ejectment, which is an action quasi in rem. The appellate court ruled that
since the defendant therein was temporarily out of the country, the summons and the complaint
should have been served via extraterritorial service under Section 15 in relation to Section 16,
Rule 14 of the Rules of Court, which likewise requires prior leave of court. Considering that there
was no prior leave of court and none of the modes of service prescribed by the Rules of Court

was followed by the petitioner, the CA concluded that there was really no valid service of
summons and complaint upon the respondent, the defendant in Civil Case No. 879.
Hence, the present petition.
The petitioner assails the decision of the CA, alleging that the appellate court erred in holding
that the respondents complaint for ejectment is an action quasi in rem. The petitioner insists that
the complaint for forcible entry is an action in personam; therefore, substituted service of the
summons and complaint on the respondent, in accordance with Section 7, Rule 14 of the Rules of
Court, is valid. The petitioner, likewise, asserts that Oscar Layno is a resident and a registered
voter of Barangay Buenlag, Calasiao, Pangasinan; hence, the service of the complaint and
summons on the respondent through him is valid.
The respondent, on the other hand, asserts that the action for forcible entry filed against her
was an action quasi in rem, and that the applicable provision of the Rules of Court is Section 15
of Rule 14, which calls for extraterritorial service of summons.
The sole issue is whether or not there was a valid service of the summons and complaint in
Civil Case No. 879 on the respondent herein who was the defendant in the said case. The
resolution of the matter is anchored on the issue of whether or not the action of the petitioner in
the MTC against the respondent herein is an action in personam or quasi in rem.
The ruling of the CA that the petitioners complaint for forcible entry of the petitioner against
the respondent in Civil Case No. 879 is an action quasi in rem, is erroneous. The action of the
petitioner for forcible entry is a real action and one in personam.
The settled rule is that the aim and object of an action determine its character. [18] Whether a
proceeding is in rem, or in personam, or quasi in rem for that matter, is determined by its nature
and purpose, and by these only. [19] A proceeding in personam is a proceeding to enforce personal
rights and obligations brought against the person and is based on the jurisdiction of the person,
although it may involve his right to, or the exercise of ownership of, specific property, or seek to
compel him to control or dispose of it in accordance with the mandate of the court. [20] The
purpose of a proceeding in personam is to impose, through the judgment of a court, some
responsibility or liability directly upon the person of the defendant. [21] Of this character are suits
to compel a defendant to specifically perform some act or actions to fasten a pecuniary liability
on him.[22] An action in personam is said to be one which has for its object a judgment against the
person, as distinguished from a judgment against the propriety to determine its state. It has
been held that an action in personam is a proceeding to enforce personal rights or obligations;
such action is brought against the person. As far as suits for injunctive relief are concerned, it is
well-settled that it is an injunctive act in personam.[23] InCombs v. Combs,[24] the appellate court
held that proceedings to enforce personal rights and obligations and in which personal
judgments are rendered adjusting the rights and obligations between the affected parties is
in personam. Actions for recovery of real property are in personam.[25]
On the other hand, a proceeding quasi in rem is one brought against persons seeking to
subject the property of such persons to the discharge of the claims assailed. [26] In an actionquasi
in rem, an individual is named as defendant and the purpose of the proceeding is to subject his
interests therein to the obligation or loan burdening the property. [27] Actions quasi in rem deal
with the status, ownership or liability of a particular property but which are intended to operate
on these questions only as between the particular parties to the proceedings and not to ascertain
or cut off the rights or interests of all possible claimants. The judgments therein are binding only
upon the parties who joined in the action. [28]

Section 1, Rule 70 of the Rules of Court provides:


Section 1. Who may institute proceedings, and when. - Subject to the provisions of the next
succeeding section, a person deprived of the possession of any land or building in force,
intimidation, threat, strategy, or stealth, or a lessor, vendor, vendee, or other person against
whom the possession of any land or building is unlawfully withheld after the expiration or
termination of the right to hold possession by virtue of any contract, express or implied, or the
legal representatives or assigns of any such lessor, vendor, vendee, or other person, may, at any
time within one (1) year after such unlawful deprivation or withholding of possession, bring an
action in the proper Municipal Trial Court against the person or persons unlawfully withholding or
depriving of possession, or any person or persons claiming under them, for the restitution of such
possession, together with damages and costs.
Under Section 15, Rule 70 of the said Rule, the plaintiff may be granted a writ of preliminary
prohibition or mandatory injunction:
Sec. 15. Preliminary Injunction. The court may grant preliminary injunction, in accordance with
the provisions of Rule 58 hereof, to prevent the defendant from committing further acts of
dispossession against the plaintiff.
A possessor deprived of his possession through forcible entry or unlawful detainer may, within
five (5) days from the filing of the complaint, present a motion in the action for forcible entry or
unlawful detainer for the issuance of a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction to restore him in
his possession. The court shall decide the motion within thirty (30) days from the filing thereof.
If, after due proceedings, the trial court finds for the plaintiff, it shall then render judgment in
his or her favor, thus:
Sec. 17. Judgment. If, after trial, the court finds that the allegations of the complaint are true, it
shall render judgment in favor of the plaintiff for the restitution of the premises, the sum justly
due as arrears of rent or as reasonable compensation for the use and occupation of the premises,
attorneys fees and costs. If it finds that said allegations are not true, it shall render judgment for
the defendant to recover his costs. If a counterclaim is established, the court shall render
judgment for the sum found in arrears from either party and award costs as justice requires.
From the aforementioned provisions of the Rules of Court and by its very nature and purpose,
an action for unlawful detainer or forcible entry is a real action and in personam because the
plaintiff seeks to enforce a personal obligation or liability on the defendant under Article 539 of
the New Civil Code,[29] for the latter to vacate the property subject of the action, restore physical
possession thereof to the plaintiff, and pay actual damages by way of reasonable compensation
for his use or occupation of the property. [30]
As gleaned from the averments of the petitioners complaint in the MTC, she sought a writ of
a preliminary injunction from the MTC and prayed that the said writ be made permanent. Under
its decision, the MTC ordered the defendant therein (the respondent in this case), to vacate the
property and pay a monthly rental of P1,000.00 to the plaintiff therein (the petitioner in this
case).
On the issue of whether the respondent was validly served with the summons and complaint
by the Sheriff on April 5, 1999, the petitioner asserts that since her action of forcible entry
against the respondent in Civil Case No. 879 was in personam, summons may be served on the
respondent, by substituted service, through her brother, Oscar Layno, in accordance with Section

7, Rule 14 of the Rules of Court. The petitioner avers that Oscar Layno, a person of suitable age
and discretion, was residing in the house of the respondent on April 5, 1999. She avers that the
fact that the house was leased to and occupied by Eduardo Gonzales was of no moment.
Moreover, the Sheriff is presumed to have performed his duty of properly serving the summons
on the respondent by substituted service.
The contention of the petitioner has no merit.
In Asiavest Limited v. Court of Appeals,[31] the Court had the occasion to state:
In an action in personam, jurisdiction over the person of the defendant is necessary for the court
to validly try and decide the case. Jurisdiction over the person of a resident defendant who does
not voluntarily appear in court can be acquired by personal service of summons as provided
under Section 7, Rule 14 of the Rules of Court. If he cannot be personally served with summons
within a reasonable time, substituted service may be made in accordance with Section 8 of said
Rule. If he is temporarily out of the country, any of the following modes of service may be
resorted to: (a) substituted service set forth in Section 8; (2) personal service outside the
country, with leave of court; (3) service by publication, also with leave of court; or (4) any other
manner the court may deem sufficient.[32]
Thus, any judgment of the court which has no jurisdiction over the person of the defendant is
null and void.[33]
In the present case, the records show that the respondent, before and after his marriage to
Jarl Jensen on August 23, 1987, remained a resident of Barangay Buenlag, Calasiao, Pangasinan.
This can be gleaned from the Deed of Absolute Sale dated August 26, 1992 in which she declared
that she was a resident of said barangay. Moreover, in the Real Estate Mortgage Contract dated
February 9, 1999, ten days before the complaint in Civil Case No. 879 was filed, the petitioner
categorically stated that she was a Filipino and a resident of Barangay Buenlag, Calasiao,
Pangasinan. Considering that the respondent was in Oslo, Norway, having left the Philippines on
February 17, 1999, the summons and complaint in Civil Case No. 879 may only be validly served
on her through substituted service under Section 7, Rule 14 of the Rules of Court, which reads:
SEC. 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.
Strict compliance with the mode of service is required in order that the court may acquire
jurisdiction over the person of the defendant. [34] The statutory requirement of substituted service
must be followed faithfully and strictly and any substituted service other than that authorized by
the statute is rendered ineffective.[35] As the Court held in Hamilton v. Levy:[36]
The pertinent facts and circumstances attendant to the service of summons must be stated in
the proof of service or Officers Return; otherwise, any substituted service made in lieu of
personal service cannot be upheld. This is necessary because substituted service is in derogation
of the usual method of service. It is a method extraordinary in character and hence may be used
only as prescribed and in the circumstances authorized by statute. Here, no such explanation
was made. Failure to faithfully, strictly, and fully comply with the requirements of substituted
service renders said service ineffective.[37]

In Keister v. Narcereo,[38] the Court held that the term dwelling house or residence are
generally held to refer to the time of service; hence, it is not sufficient to leave the summons at
the formers dwelling house, residence or place of abode, as the case may be. Dwelling house or
residence refers to the place where the person named in the summons is living at the time when
the service is made, even though he may be temporarily out of the country at the time. It is,
thus, the service of the summons intended for the defendant that must be left with the person of
suitable age and discretion residing in the house of the defendant. Compliance with the rules
regarding the service of summons is as much important as the issue of due process as of
jurisdiction.[39]
The Return of Service filed by Sheriff Eduardo J. Abulencia on the service of summons reads:
Respectfully returned to the court of origin the herein summons and enclosures in the aboveentitled case, the undersigned caused the service on April 5, 1999.
Defendant Vivian Layno Jensen is out of the country as per information from her brother Oscar
Layno, however, copy of summons and enclosures was received by her brother Oscar Layno on
April 5, 1999 as evidenced by his signature appearing in the original summons.
Calasiao, Pangasinan, April 6, 1999.
(Sgd.)
EDUARDO J. ABULENCIA
Junior Process Server[40]
As gleaned from the said return, there is no showing that as of April 5, 1999, the house
where the Sheriff found Oscar Layno was the latters residence or that of the respondent herein.
Neither is there any showing that the Sheriff tried to ascertain where the residence of the
respondent was on the said date. It turned out that the occupant of the house was a lessor,
Eduardo Gonzales, and that Oscar Layno was in the premises only to collect the rentals from him.
The service of the summons on a person at a place where he was a visitor is not considered to
have been left at the residence or place or abode, where he has another place at which he
ordinarily stays and to which he intends to return. [41]
The Voters Registration Record of Oscar Layno dated June 15, 1997 wherein he declared that
he was a resident of No. 572 Barangay Buenlag, Calasiao, Pangasinan, as well as the Joint
Affidavit of Vicenta Peralta and Orlando Macasalda cannot prevail over the Contract of Lease the
respondent had executed in favor of Eduardo Gonzales showing that the latter had resided and
occupied the house of the respondent as lessee since November 24, 1997, and the affidavit of
Eduardo Gonzales that Oscar Layno was not residing in the said house on April 5, 1999.
In sum, then, the respondent was not validly served with summons and the complaint in Civil
Case No. 879 on April 5, 1999, by substituted service. Hence, the MTC failed to acquire
jurisdiction over the person of the respondent; as such, the decision of the MTC in Civil Case No.
879 is null and void.
IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the petition is DENIED for lack of merit. No costs.
SO ORDERED.

6.
[G.R. No. 116111. January 21, 1999]
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, (Represented by the Acting Commissioner of Land
Registration), petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS, Spouses CATALINO SANTOS
and THELMA BARRERO SANTOS, ST. JUDES ENTERPRISES, INC., Spouses

DOMINGO CALAGUIAN and FELICIDAD CALAGUIAN, VIRGINIA DE LA FUENTE and


LUCY MADAYA, respondents.
DECISION
PANGANIBAN, J.:
Is the immunity of the government from laches and estoppel absolute? May it still recover
the ownership of lots sold in good faith by a private developer to innocent purchasers for value.
Notwithstanding its approval of the subdivision plan and its issuance of separate individual
certificates of title thereto?
The Case

These are the main questions raised in the Petition for Review before us, seeking to set aside
the November 29, 1993 Decision [1] of the Court of Appeals [2] in CA-GR CV No. 34647. The assailed
Decision affirmed the ruling[3] of the Regional Trial Court of Caloocan City, Branch 125, in Civil
Case No. C-111708, which dismissed petitioners Complaint for the cancellation of Transfer
Certificates of Title (TCTs) to several lots in Caloocan City, issued in the name of private
respondents.
In a Resolution[4] dated July 7, 1994, the Court of Appeals denied the Republics motion for
reconsideration.
The Facts

The facts of the case are not disputed. The trial courts summary, which was adopted by the
Court of Appeals, is reproduced below:
Defendant St. Judes Enterprises, Inc. is the registered owner of a parcel of land known as Lot 865B-1 of the subdivision plan (LRC) PSD-52368, being a portion of Lot 865-B located in Caloocan
City containing an area of 40,623 square meters. For Lot 865-B-1 defendant St. Judes Enterprises,
Inc. was issued TCT No. 22660 on July 25, 1966.
Sometime in March 1966 defendant St Judes Enterprises, Inc. subdivided Lot No. 865-B-1 under
subdivision plan (LRC) PSD-55643 and as a result thereof the Register of Deeds of Caloocan City
cancelled TCT No. 22660 and in lieu thereof issued Certificates of Title Nos. 23967 up to 24068
inclusive, all in the name of defendants St. Judes Enterprises, Inc. The subdivision of lot 865-B-1
[which was] covered [by] TCT No. 22660 was later found to have expanded and enlarged from its
original area of 40,523 square meters to 42,044 square meters or an increase of 1,421 square
meters. This expansion or increase in area was confirmed by the land Registration Commission
[to have been made] on the northern portion of Lot 865-B-1.
Subsequently, defendant St. Judes Enterprises, Inc. sold the lots covered by TCT Nos. 24013 and
24014 to defendant Sps. Catalino Santos and Thelma Barreto Santos[;] TCT No. 24019 to
defendant Sps. Domingo Calaguian and Felicidad de Jesus[;] TCT No. 24022 to defendant Virginia
dela Fuente[;] and TCT No. 2402[3] to defendant Lucy Madaya. Accordingly, these titles were
cancelled and said defendants were issued the following: TCT No. C-43319 issued in the name of
Sps. Santos containing an area of 344 square meters[;] TCT No. 55513 issued in the name of
defendants Sps. Calaguian containing an area of 344 square meters[;] TCT No. 13309 issued in
the name of Sps. Santos[;] TCT No. 24069 issued in the name of Virginia dela Fuente containing

an area of 350 square meters[;] and TCT No. C-46648 issued in the name of defendant Lucy
Mandaya with an area of 350 square meters." [5]
"[On January 29, 1985, then Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza filed] an action seeking xxx the
annulment and cancellation of Transfer Certificates of Title (TCT) Nos. 24015, 24017, 24018,
24020, 24021, 24024, 24025 and 24068 issued in the name of defendant St. Jude's Enterprises,
Inc.[;] Transfer Certificates of Title Nos. 13309 and C-43319 both registered in the name of Sps.
Catalino Santos and Thelma B. Santos[;] TCT No. 55513 registered in the name of Sps. Domingo
Calaguian and Felicidad de Jesus[;] TCT No. 24069 registered in the name of Virginia dela
Fuente[;] and TCT No. C-46648 registered in the name of Lucy Mandaya, principally on the
ground that said Certificates of Title were issued on the strength of [a] null and void subdivision
plan (LRC) PSD-55643 which expanded the original area of TCT No. 22660 in the name of St.
Jude's Enterprises, Inc. from 40,623 square meters to 42,044 square meters upon its subdivision
"Defendants Virginia dela Fuente and Lucy Mandaya were declared in default for failure to file
their respective answer within the reglementary period.
"Defendants Sps. Catalino Santos and Thelma Barreto Santos, St. Jude's Enterprises, Inc. and
Sps. Domingo Calaguian and Felicidad Calaguian filed separate answers to the complaint.
Defendants Sps. Domingo Calaguian and Sps. Catalino Santos interposed defenses, among
others, that they acquired the lots in question in good faith from their former owner, defendant
St. Jude's Enterprises, Inc. and for value and that the titles issued to the said defendants were
rendered incontrovetible, conclusive and indefeasible after one year from the date of the
issuance of the titles by the Register of Deeds of Caloocan City.
"On the other hand, defendant St. Jude's Enterprises, Inc. Interposed defenses, among others,
that the cause of action of plaintiff is barred by prior judgment; that the subdivision plan
submitted having been approved by the LRC, the government is now in estoppel to question the
approved subdivision plan; and the plaintiff's allegation that the area of the subdivision increased
by 1,421 square meters is without any basis in fact and in law." [6]
Ruling of the Trial Court

On April 30, 1991, the trial court dismissed the Complaint. [7] While the plaintiff sufficiently
proved the enlargement or expansion of the area of the disputed property, it presented no proof
that Respondent St. Jude Enterprises, Inc. (St. Jude) had committed fraud when it submitted the
subdivision plan to the Land Registration Commission (LRC) for approval. Because the plan was
presumed to have been subjected to investigation, study and verification by the LRC, there was
no one to blame for the increase in the area but the plaintiff[,] for having allowed and approved
the subdivision plan. Thus, the court concluded, the government was already in estoppel to
question the approved subdivision plan.
The trial court also took into account the absence of complaints from adjoining owners whose
supposed lots [were] encroached upon by the defendants, as well as the fact that an adjoining
owner had categorically stated that there was no such encroachment. Finding that Spouses
Santos, Spouses Calaguian, Dela Fuente and Madaya had brought their respective lots from St.
Jude for value and in good faith, the court held that their titles could no longer be questioned,
because under the Torrens system, such titles had become absolute and irrevocable. As regards
the Republics allegation that it had filed the case to protect the integrity of the said system, the
court said:

xxx [S]ustaining the position taken by the government would certainly lead to disastrous
consequences. Buyers in good faith would lose their titles. Adjoining owners who were deprived
of a portion of their lot would be forced to accept the portion of the property allegedly
encroached upon. Actions for recovery will be filed right and left[;] thus instead of preserving the
integrity of the Torrens System it would certainly cause chaos rather than stability. Finally, if only
to strengthen the Torrens System and in the interest of justice, the boundaries of the affected
properties of the defendants should not be disturbed and the status quo should be maintained. [8]
The solicitor general appealed the trial courts Decision to the Court of Appeals.
Ruling of the Appellate Court

Citing several cases[9] upholding the indefeasibility of titles issued under the Torrens system,
the appellate court affirmed the trial court. It berated petitioner for bringing the suit only after
nineteen (19) years had passed since the issuance of St. Judes title and the approval of the
subdivision plan. The pertinent portion of the assailed Decision reads: [10]
xxx Rather than make the Torrens system reliable and stable, [its] act of filing the instant suit
rocks the system, as it gives the impression to Torrens title holders, like appellees, that their
titles to properties can be questioned by the same authority who had approved the same even
after a long period of time. In that case, no Torrens title holder shall be at peace with the
ownership and possession of his land, for the Commission of land Registration can question his
title any time it makes a finding unfavorable to said Torrens title holder.
Undaunted, petitioner seeks a review by this Court. [11]
The Issues

In this petition, the Republic raises the following issues for our resolution: [12]
1. Whether or not the government is estopped from questioning the approved subdivision plan
which expanded the areas covered by the transfer certificates of title in question;
2. Whether or not the Court of Appeals erred when it did not consider the Torrens System as
merely a means of registering title to land;
3. Whether or not the Court of Appeals erred when it failed to consider that petitioners complaint
before the lower court was filed to preserve the integrity of the Torrens System.
We shall discuss the second and third questions together. Hence, the issues shall be (1) the
applicability of estoppel against the State and (2) the Torrens system.
The Courts Ruling

The petition is bereft of merit.


First Issue: Estoppel Against the Government

The general rule is that the State cannot be put in estoppel by the mistakes or error of its
officials or agents.[13] However, like all general rules, this is also subject to exceptions, viz.: [14]

Estoppels against the public are little favored. They should not be invoked except in rate and
unusual circumstances, and may not be invoked where they would operate to defeat the
effective operation of a policy adopted to protect the public. They must be applied with
circumspection and should be applied only in those special cases where the interests of justice
clearly require it. Nevertheless, the government must not be allowed to deal dishonorably or
capriciously with its citizens, and must not play an ignoble part or do a shabby thing; and subject
to limitations x x x, the doctrine of equitable estoppel may be invoked against public authorities
as well as against private individuals.
In Republic v. Sandiganbayan,[15] the government, in its effort to recover ill-gotten wealth,
tried to skirt the application of estoppel against it by invoking a specific constitutional provision.
[16]
The Court countered:[17]
We agree with the statement that the State is immune from estoppel, but this concept is
understood to refer to acts and mistakes of its officials especially those which are irregular
(Sharp International Marketing vs. Court of Appeals, 201 SCRA 299; 306 [1991]; Republic v.
Aquino, 120 SCRA 186 [1983]), which peculiar circumstances are absent in the case at
bar. Although the States right of action to recover ill-gotten wealth is not vulnerable to
estoppel[;] it is non sequitur to suggest that a contract, freely and in good faith executed
between the parties thereto is susceptible to disturbance ad infinitum. A different interpretation
will lead to the absurd scenario of permitting a party to unilaterally jettison a compromise
agreement which is supposed to have the authority of res judicata (Article 2037, New Civil Code),
and like any other contract, has the force of law between parties thereto (Article 1159, New Civil
Code; Hernaez vs. Kao, 17 SCRA 296 [1966]; 6 Padilla, Civil Code Annotated, 7 th ed., 1987, p.
711; 3 Aquino, Civil Code, 1990 ed., p. 463). xxx.
The Court further declared that (t)he real office of the equitable norm of estoppel is limited to
supply[ing] deficiency in the law, but it should not supplant positive law. [18]
In the case at bar, for nearly twenty years (starting from the issuance of St. Judes titles in
1966 up to the filing of the Complaint in 1985), petitioner failed to correct and recover the
alleged increase in the land area of St. Jude. Its prolonged inaction strongly militates against its
cause, as it is tantamount to laches, which means the failure or neglect, for an unreasonable and
unexplained length of time, to do that which by exercising due diligence could or should have
been done earlier; it is negligence or omission to assert a right within a reasonable time,
warranting a presumption that the party entitled to assert it either has abandoned it or declined
to assert it.[19]
The Court notes private respondents argument that, prior to the subdivision, the surveyors
erred in the original survey of the whole tract of land covered by TCT No. 22660. So that less
then the actualland area was indicated on the title. Otherwise, the adjoining owners would have
complained upon the partition of the land in accordance with the LRC-approved subdivision
plan. As it is, Florencio Quintos, the owner of the 9,146 square-meter Quintos Village adjoining
the northern portion of St. Judes property (the portion allegedly expanded), even attested on
August 16, 1973 that there [was] no overlapping of boundaries as per my approved plan (LRC)
PSD 147766 dated September 8, 1971. [20] None of the other neighboring owners ever complained
against St. Jude or the purchasers of its property. It is clear, therefore, that there was no actual
damage to third persons caused by the resurvey and the subdivision.
Significantly, the other private respondents -- Spouses Santos, Spouses Calaguian, Dela
Fuente and Madaya -- bought such expanded lots in good faith, relying on the clean certificates
of St. Jude, which had no notice of any flaw in them either. It is only fair and reasonable to apply

the equitable principle of estoppel by laches against the government to avoid an injustice [21] to
the innocent purchasers for value.
Likewise time-settled is the doctrine that where innocent third persons, relying on the
correctness of the certificate of title, acquire rights over the property, courts cannot disregard
such rights and order the cancellation of the certificate. Such cancellation would impair public
confidence in the certificate of title, for everyone dealing with property registered under the
Torrens system would have to inquire in every instance whether the title has been regularly
issued or not. This would be contrary to the very purpose of the law, which is to stabilize land
titles. Verily, all persons dealing with registered land may safely rely on the correctness of the
certificate of title issued therefor, and the law or the courts do not oblige them to go behind the
certificate in order to investigate again the true condition of the property.They are only charged
with notice of the liens and encumbrances on the property that are noted on the certificate. [22]
When private respondents-purchasers bought their lots from St. Jude, they did not have to go
behind the titles thereto to verify their contents or search for hidden defects or inchoate rights
that could defeat their rights to said lots. Although they were bound by liens and encumbrances
annotated on the titles, private respondents-purchasers could not have had notice of defects that
only an inquiry beyond the face of the titles could have satisfied. [23] The rationale for this
presumption has been stated thus: [24]
The main purpose of the Torrens System is to avoid possible conflicts of title to real estate and to
facilitate transactions relative thereto by giving the public the right to rely upon the face of a
Torrens Certificate of Title and to dispense with the need of inquiring further, except when the
party concerned had actual knowledge of facts and circumstances that should impel a
reasonably cautious man to make such further inquiry (Pascua v. Capuyoc, 77 SCRA 78). Thus,
where innocent third persons relying on the correctness of the certificate thus issued, acquire
rights over the property, the court cannot disregard such rights (Director of Land v. Abache, et
al., 73 Phil. 606).
In another case,[25] this Court further said:
The Torrens System was adopted in this country because it was believed to be most effective
measure to guarantee the integrity of land titles and to protect their indefeasibility once the
claim of ownership is established and recognized. If a person purchases a piece of land on the
assurance that the sellers title thereto is valid, he should not run the risk of being told later that
his acquisition was ineffectual after all.This would not only be unfair to him. What is worse is that
if this were permitted, public confidence in the system would be eroded and land transactions
would have to be attended by complicated and not necessarily conclusive investigations and
proof of ownership. The further consequence would be that land conflicts could be even more
abrasive, if not even violent. The Government, recognizing the worthy purposes of the Torrens
System, should be the first to accept the validity of titles issued thereunder once the conditions
laid down by the law are satisfied. [Italics supplied.]
Petitioner never presented proof that the private respondents who had bought their lots from
St. Jude were buyers in bad faith. Consequently, their claim of good faith prevails. A purchaser in
good faith and for value is one who buys the property of another without notice that some other
person has a right to or an interest in such property; and who pays a full and fair price for the
same at the time of such purchase or before he or she has notice of the claims or interest of
some other person.[26] Good faith is the honest intention to abstain from taking any
unconscientious advantage of another.[27]

Furthermore, it should be stressed that the total area of forty thousand six hundred twentythree (40,623) square meters indicated on St. Judes original title (TCT No. 22660) was not
an exact area. Such figure was followed by the phrase more or less. This plainly means that the
land area indicated was not precise. Atty. Antonio H. Noblejas, who became the counsel of St.
Jude subsequent to his tenure as Land Registration Commissioner, offers a sensible
explanation. In his letter[28] to the LRC dated November 8, 1982, he gave the following
information:
a. Records show that our client owned a large tract of land situated in an area cutting the
boundary of Quezon City and Caloocan City, then known as Lot 865-B, Psd-60608, and described
in T.C.T. No. 100412, containing an area of 96,931 sq. meters, more or less.
b. It will be noted that on the northern portion of this Lot 865-B, Psd-60608, is xxx Lot 865-A, Psd60608, which means that at a previous point of time, these 2 lots composed one whole tract of
land.
c. On December 23, 1965, Lot 865-B, Psd-60608, was subdivided into 2 lots, denominated as Lot
865-B-1, with an area of 40,622 sq. meters, more or less, on the Caloocan side, and Lot 865-B-2,
with an area of 56,308 sq. meters, more or less, on the Quezon City side, under Plan (LRC) Psd52368.
d. On March 1-10, 1966, Lot 865-B-1, Psd-52368, then covered by T.C.T. No. N-22660, was
subdivided into residential lots under Plan (LRC) Psd-55643, with a total area of 42,044 sq.
meters, more or less.
e. It will be noted that Lot 865-B, Psd-60608, covered by T.C.T. No. 100412, contained an area
of 96,931 sq. meters, more or less, but when subdivided under Plan (LRC) Psd-52368, into 2
lots, its total area shrank by 1 sq. meter, to wit:
Lot 865-B-1, Psd-52368 = 40,622 sq. meters
Lot 865-B-2, Psd-52368 = 56,308
96,930 sq. meters.
f. There is no allegation whatever in the Perez report that there was error in laying out the metes
and bounds of Lot 865-B-1 in Plan (LRC) Psd-55643, as specified in the Technical Description of
the said lot set forth in T.C.T. No. N-22660 covering the same. There is likewise no allegation, on
the contrary there is confirmation from the boundary owner on the northern side, Mr. Florencio
Quintos, that there is no overlapping of boundaries on the northern side of Lot 865-B-1, Psd55643.
g. We respectfully submit that the area of 42, 044 sq. meters stated in Plan (LRC) Psd-55643 as
the size of Lot 865-B-a, is the more accurate area, confirmed by the Perez report as per
surveyor[]s findings on the ground, which rectifies previous surveryors error in computing its
area as 40,622 sq. meters in Plan (LRC) Psd-52368, which is about 3.5% tolerable error (1,422
divided by 40,622 = .035).
[h.] It is well settled that in the identification of a parcel of land covered by certificate of title,
what is controlling are the metes and bounds as set forth in its Technical Description and not the
area stated therein, which is merely an approximation as indicated in the more or less phrase
placed after the number of square meters.

i. There is thus no unauthorized expansion of the survey occasioned by the subdivision of Lot
865-B-1 under Plan (LRC) Psd-55643; consequently, LRC Circular No. 167, Series of 1967, finds no
application thereto, as to bar the processing and registration in due course of transactions
involving the subdivision lots of our client, subject hereof. This is apart from the fact that LRC
Circular No. 167 has not been implemented by the Register of Deeds of Caloocan City or any
proper government authority since its issuance in 1967, and that, in the interest of justice and
equity, its restrictive and oppressive effect on transactions over certificates of titles of
subdivisions that allegedly expanded on re-surveys, cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely.
(Italics supplied.)
The discrepancy in the figures could have been caused by the inadvertence or the
negligence of the surveyors. There is no proof, though, that the land area indicated was
intentionally and fraudulently increased. The property originally registered was the same
property that was subdivided. It is well-settled that what defines a piece of titled property is not
the numerical date indicated as the area of the land, but the boundaries or metes and bounds of
the property specified in its technical description as enclosing it and showing its limits. [29]
Petitioner miserably failed to prove any fraud, either on the part of Private Respondent St.
Jude or on the part of land registration officials who had approved the subdivision plan and
issued the questioned TCTs. Other than its peremptory statement in the Complaint that the
expansion of the area was motivated by bad faith with intent to defraud, to the damage and
prejudice of the government and of public interests, petitioner did not allege
specifically how fraud was perpetrated to cause an increase in the actual land size indicated. Nor
was any evidence proffered to substantiate the allegation. That the land registration authorities
supposedly erred or committed an irregularity was merely a conclusion drawn from the table
survey showing that the aggregate area of the subdivision lots exceeded the area indicated on
the title of the property before its subdivision. Fraud cannot be presumed, and the failure of
petitioner to prove it defeats it own cause.
Second Issue: The Torrens System

True, the Torrens system is not a means of acquiring titles to lands; it is merely a system
of registration of titles to lands.[30] Consequently, land erroneously included in a Torrens
certificate of title is not necessarily acquired by the holder of such certificate. [31]
But in the interest of justice and equity, neither may the titleholder be made to bear the
unfavorable effect of the mistake or negligence of the States agents, in the absence of proof of
his complicity in a fraud or of manifest damage to third persons. First, the real purpose of the
Torrens system is to quite title to land to put a stop forever to any question as to the legality of
the title, except claims that were noted in the certificate at the time of the registration or that
may arise subsequent thereto.[32] Second, as we discussed earlier, estoppel by laches now bars
petitioner from questioning private respondents titles to the subdivision lots. Third, it was never
proven that Private Respondent St. Jude was a party to the fraud that led to the increase in the
area of the property after its subdivision. Finally, because petitioner even failed to give sufficient
proof of any error that might have been committed by its agent who had surveyed the property,
the presumption of regularity in the performance of their functions must be
respected. Otherwise, the integrity of the Torrens system, which petitioner purportedly aims to
protect by filing this case, shall forever be sullied by the ineptitude and inefficiency of land
registration officials, who are ordinarily presumed to have regularly performed their duties. [33]
We cannot, therefore, adhere to the petitioners submission that, in filing this suit, it seeks to
preserve the integrity of the Torrens system. To the contrary, it is rather evident from our

foregoing discussion that petitioners action derogates the very integrity of the system. Time and
again, we have said that a Torrens certificate is evidence of an indefeasible title to property in
favor of the person whose name appears thereon.
WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DENIED and the assailed Decision is AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.

7.
[G.R. No. 126603. June 29, 1998]
ESTRELLITA J. TAMANO, petitioner, vs. HON. RODOLFO A. ORTIZ, Presiding Judge, RTCBr. 89, Quezon City, HAJA PUTRI ZORAYDA A. TAMANO, ADIB A. TAMANO and the
HON. COURT OF APPEALS, respondents.
DECISION
BELLOSILLO, J.:
This Petition for Review on Certiorari seeks to reverse and set aside the decision of the Court
of Appeals of 30 September 1996 in CA-G.R. SP. No. 39656 which affirmed the decision of the
Regional Trial Court-Br. 89, Quezon City, denying the motion to dismiss as well as the motion for
reconsideration filed by petitioner Estrellita J. Tamano.
On 31 May 1958 Senator Mamintal Abdul Jabar Tamano (Tamano) married private respondent
Haja Putri Zorayda A. Tamano (Zorayda) in civil rites. Their marriage supposedly remained valid
and subsisting until his death on 18 May 1994. Prior to his death, particularly on 2 June 1993,
Tamano also married petitioner Estrellita J. Tamano (Estrellita) in civil rites in Malabang, Lanao del
Sur.
On 23 November 1994 private respondent Zorayda joined by her son Adib A. Tamano (Adib)
filed a Complaint for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage of Tamano and Estrellita on the ground
that it was bigamous. They contended that Tamano and Estrellita misrepresented themselves
as divorced and single, respectively, thus making the entries in the marriage contractfalse and
fraudulent.
Private respondents alleged that Tamano never divorced Zorayda and that Estrellita was
not single when she married Tamano as the decision annulling her previous marriage with Romeo
C. Llave never became final and executory for non-compliance with publication requirements.
Estrellita filed a motion to dismiss alleging that the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City was
without jurisdiction over the subject and nature of the action. She alleged that "only a party to
the marriage" could file an action for annulment of marriage against the other spouse,[1] hence, it
was only Tamano who could file an action for annulment of their marriage. Petitioner likewise
contended that since Tamano and Zorayda were both Muslims and married in Muslim rites the
jurisdiction to hear and try the instant case was vested in the sharia courts pursuant to Art. 155
of the Code of Muslim Personal Laws.

The lower court denied the motion to dismiss and ruled that the instant case was properly
cognizable by the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City since Estrellita and Tamano were married in
accordance with the Civil Code and not exclusively in accordance with PD No. 1083 [2] or the Code
of Muslim Personal laws. The motion for reconsideration was likewise denied; hence, petitioner
filed the instant petition with this Court seeking to set aside the 18 July 1995 order of respondent
presiding judge of the RTC-Br. 89, Quezon City, denying petitioners motion to dismiss and the 22
August 1995 order denying reconsideration thereof.
In a Resolution dated 13 December 1995 we referred the case to the Court of Appeals for
consolidation with G.R. No. 118371. Zorayda and Adib A. Tamano however filed a motion, which
the Court of Appeals granted, to resolve the Complaint for Declaration of Nullity of
Marriage ahead of the other consolidated cases.
The Court of Appeals ruled that the instant case would fall under the exclusive jurisdiction
of sharia courts only when filed in places where there are sharia courts. But in places where there
are no sharia courts, like Quezon City, the instant case could properly be filed before the
Regional Trial Court.
Petitioner is now before us reiterating her earlier argument that it is the sharia court and not
the Regional Trial Court which has jurisdiction over the subject and nature of the action.
Under The Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980,[3] Regional Trial Courts have jurisdiction over
all actions involving the contract of marriage and marital relations.[4] Personal actions, such as
the instant complaint for declaration of nullity of marriage, may be commenced and tried where
the plaintif or any of the principal plaintifs resides, or where the defendant or any of the
principal defendants resides, at the election of the plaintif.[5] There should be no question by
now that what determines the nature of an action and correspondingly the court which has
jurisdiction over it are the allegations made by the plaintif in this case.[6] In the complaint for
declaration of nullity of marriage filed by private respondents herein, it was alleged that Estrellita
and Tamano were married in accordance with the provisions of the Civil Code. Never was it
mentioned that Estrellita and Tamano were married under Muslim laws or PD No.
1083. Interestingly, Estrellita never stated in her Motion to Dismiss that she and Tamano were
married under Muslim laws. That she was in fact married to Tamano under Muslim laws was first
mentioned only in her Motion for Reconsideration.
Nevertheless, the Regional Trial Court was not divested of jurisdiction to hear and try the
instant case despite the allegation in the Motion for Reconsideration that Estrellita and Tamano
were likewise married in Muslim rites. This is because a courts jurisdiction cannot be made to
depend upon defenses set up in the answer, in a motion to dismiss, or in a motion for
reconsideration, but only upon the allegations of the complaint. [7] Jurisdiction over the subject
matter of a case is determined from the allegations of the complaint as the latter comprises a
concise statement of the ultimate facts constituting the plaintiffs causes of action. [8]
Petitioner argues that the sharia courts have jurisdiction over the instant suit pursuant to Art.
13, Title II, PD No. 1083,[9] which provides Art. 13. Application. - (1) The provisions of this Title shall apply to marriage and divorce
wherein both parties are Muslims, or wherein only the male party is a Muslim and the
marriage is solemnized in accordance with Muslim law or this Code in any part of the
Philippines.

(2) In case of a marriage between a Muslim and a non-Muslim, solemnized not in


accordance with Muslim law or this Code, the Civil Code of the Philippines shall apply.
(3) Subject to the provisions of the preceding paragraphs, the essential requisites and
legal impediments to marriage, divorce, paternity and filiation, guardianship and custody
of minors, support and maintenance, claims for customary dower (mahr), betrothal,
breach of contract to marry, solemnization and registration of marriage and divorce,
rights and obligations between husband and wife, parental authority, and the property
relations between husband and wife shall be governed by this Code and other applicable
Muslim laws.
As alleged in the complaint, petitioner and Tamano were married in accordance with the Civil
Code. Hence, contrary to the position of petitioner, the Civil Code is applicable in the instant
case. Assuming that indeed petitioner and Tamano were likewise married under Muslim laws, the
same would still fall under the general original jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Courts.
Article 13 of PD No. 1083 does not provide for a situation where the parties were married
both in civil and Muslim rites. Consequently, the sharia courts are not vested with original
andexclusive jurisdiction when it comes to marriages celebrated under both civil and Muslim
laws. Consequently, the Regional Trial Courts are not divested of their general original jurisdiction
under Sec. 19, par. (6) of BP Blg. 129 which provides Sec. 19. Jurisdiction in Civil Cases. - Regional Trial Courts shall exercise exclusive original
jurisdiction: x x x (6) In all cases not within the exclusive jurisdiction of any court, tribunal,
person or body exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions x x x x
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DENIED. The decision of the Court of Appeals sustaining
the 18 July 1995 and 22 August 1995 orders of the Regional Trial Court - Br. 89, Quezon City,
denying the motion to dismiss and reconsideration thereof, is AFFIRMED. Let the records of this
case be immediately remanded to the court of origin for further proceedings until terminated.
SO ORDERED.

8.

[G.R. No. 109656. November 21, 1996]


LA

TONDEA DISTILLERS, INC., petitioner, vs. THE HON. JUDGE BERNARDO T.


PONFERRADA, JOAQUIN T. GOCHANGCO, ENRIQUE DY, QUINTIN DY, LITO ONG,
JERRY ONG and LUIS T. ONG, respondents.

DECISION
FRANCISCO, J.:
The undisputed facts are simplified as follows:
1. Several persons[1] (herein referred to as defendants) reneged on their contract to sell
to private respondents a parcel of land [2] located in Bago City;
2. This breach prompted private respondents to file on August 25, 1987 before the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Bacolod City an action for specific performance with damages
against defendants. A notice of lis pendens was annotated on the latters title although the
same was cancelled on November 9, 1988 upon defendants filing a bond;
3. Pending the trial before the lower court on November, 1991, petitioner bought the
above lot from defendants. Aggrieved, private respondents amended their complaint and
impleaded petitioner as an additional defendant alleging that petitioner was not a buyer in
good faith;
4. Subsequently, petitioner filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint on two
grounds: no cause of action and improper venue. In support of the first ground, petitioner
asserts that it is a buyer in good faith since the notice of lis pendens was already cancelled
when it bought the lot. As for the second ground, petitioner argued that venue should be
in Bago City where the lot is located and not inBacolod City;
5. On October 1, 1992, petitioner received a resolution from the lower court denying their
motion as there was need for the parties to present evidence on the question of good faith.
Petitioners motion for reconsideration was also denied in a resolution they received
on January 20, 1993;
6. More than three (3) months later, or on April 21, 1993, petitioner went directly to this
Court via petition for certiorari under Rule 65 assailing the denial of its motions.
On November 24, 1993, the court gave due course to the petition and required the parties to
submit their memorandum.[3] After the parties submitted their respective memoranda as
directed, petitioner filed a manifestation alleging for the first time that it sold the lot
sometime in September, 1992 to Distileria Bago, Inc. a separate entity with which the former
has substantial stockholdings. Based on such admission, private respondents moved to
dismiss the instant petition, arguing that petitioner is no longer a real party in interest,
having sold the lot.
The issue posed herein involves the remedy of an aggrieved party when the lower court
denies his motion to dismiss.
However, the petition should be dismissed outright for being filed beyond the reasonable
period,[4] the same having been filed only after more than three months from the time petitioner
received a copy of the assailed RTC resolutions.

Even assuming that the petition was promptly filed, dismissal is still warranted on account of
the following reasons:
First, an order denying a motion to dismiss is only interlocutory which is neither appealable
until final judgment,[5] nor could it generally be assailed on certiorari.[6] The remedy of the
aggrieved party is to file an answer pursuant to Sec. 4, Rule 16, and interpose as defenses, the
objections raised in his motion to dismiss, proceed to trial, and in case of an adverse decision,
elevate the whole case by appeal in due time. [7]
Second, the extraordinary remedy of certiorari can be availed of only if the denial of the
motion constitutes grave abuse of discretion.[8] In the case at bar, the lower court did not abuse
its discretion in deferring[9] action on the motion. Section 3 of Rule 16[10] sanctions deferment of
hearing on the motion until the trial if the ground alleged does not appear to be indubitable.
Clearly respondent judge had doubts on the allegation of petitioners good faith. This is a
question of fact which necessitates presentation of evidence and is certainly far from indubitable.
[11]
It is within the discretion of the court to defer action if the ground alleged does not appear to
be indubitable[12] and that deferment is only deemed a provisional denial of the motion to
dismiss.[13]
Finally, We are not also persuaded by petitioners argument that venue should be lodged
in Bago City where the lot is situated.[14] The complaint is one for specific performance with
damages. Private respondents do not claim ownership of the lot but in fact recognized title of
defendants by annotating a notice of lis pendens. In one case,[15] a similar complaint for specific
performance with damages involving real property, was held to be a personal action, which may
be filed in the proper court where the party resides. Not being an action involving title to or
ownership of real property, venue, in this case, was not improperly laid before the RTC of Bacolod
City.
Counsel for the petitioner should have meticulously observed the procedural guidelines
established by the Rules of Court as well as by jurisprudence. We reiterate that the extraordinary
remedy of certiorari is not intended to be a tool to delay litigation and must be resorted to only in
cases of manifest grave abuse of discretion. The case at bench does not call for such
extraordinary remedy.
ACCORDINGLY, finding no grave abuse of discretion, the instant petition is DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.

9.
[G.R. No. 146594. June 10, 2002]
REBECCA T. CABUTIHAN, petitioner, vs. LANDCENTER CONSTRUCTION & DEVELOPMENT
CORPORATION, respondent.
DECISION
PANGANIBAN, J.:
Breach of contract gives rise to a cause of action for specific performance or for rescission. A
suit for such breach is not capable of pecuniary estimation; hence, the assessed value of the real
estate, subject of the said action, should not be considered in computing the filing fees. Neither a
misjoinder nor a non-joinder of parties is a ground for dismissal of an action, because parties
may be dropped or added at any stage of the proceedings.
The Case

Before us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45, assailing the Orders dated
September 8, 2000 and November 21, 2000, promulgated by of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of
Pasig City, Branch 263.[1] The first assailed Order disposed as follows:
WHEREFORE, foregoing premises considered, this Court hereby resolves to dismiss the instant
complaint.[2]
Reconsideration was denied in the second challenged Order. [3]
The Facts
Culled from the pleadings, the facts of this case are as follows.
On December 3, 1996, herein respondent Landcenter Construction & Development
Corporation, represented by Wilfredo B.Maghuyop -- entered into an Agreement [4] with Petitioner
Rebecca Cabutihan.The Agreement stipulates:
WHEREAS, [respondent corporation], x x x is the absolute owner, x x x of a parcel of land
situated at Kay-biga, Paranaque, Metro Manila covered under Transfer Certificate of Title No. (S30409) (partially cancelled by TCT Nos. 110001 to 110239) and particularly described as follows:
A parcel of land (Plan Psu-80206, Case No. 290, G.L.R.O. Record No. 2291), situated in the Barrio
of Kay-biga, Municipality of Paranaque, Province of Rizal. Bounded on the NE., by properties of
Eulogio Cruz and Isidro Alano; on the E., by property of Justo Bernardo; on the SE., by properties
of Marcelo Nofuente and Lorenzo Molera; on the SW., by properties of Higino and Pedro P. Lopez;
on the W., by property of Odon Rodriguez; and on the NW., by properties of Evaristo de los Santos
and Pastor Leonardo.....; containing an area of ONE HUNDRED SEVEN THOUSAND AND FORTY
SEVEN (107,047) SQUARE METERS, more or less.
WHEREAS, [respondent corporation] decided to engage the assistance of [petitioner] and x x x
herein called the FACILITATOR for the purpose of facilitating and arranging the recovery of the
property in question, as well as the financing of such undertakings necessary in connection
thereto;
WHEREFORE, premises considered and of the mutual covenants of the parties, they have agreed,
as follows:
1. The FACILITATOR undertakes to effect the recovery of the property subject hereof,
including the financing of the undertaking, up to the registration of the same in the name
of [respondent corporation], except any and all taxes due;
2. The FACILITATOR shall be responsible for whatever arrangements necessary in relation
to the squatters presently occupying [a] portion of the property, as well as the legitimate
buyers of lots thereof;
3. As compensation for the undertaking of the FACILITATOR, [she] shall be entitled to
Twenty [Percent] (20%) of the total area of the property thus recovered for and in behalf
of [respondent corporation].
xxx xxx xxx.[5]

Armed with Board Resolution No. 01, Series of 1997, [6] which had authorized her to represent
the corporation, Luz Baylon Ponce entered into a February 11, 1997 Deed of Undertaking with a
group composed of petitioner, Wenifredo P. Forro, Nicanor Radan Sr. and Atty. Prospero A.
Anave. The Deed states the following:
WHEREAS, the UNDERTAKER [respondent corporation] solicited, engaged and hereby voluntarily
acknowledges the assistance of certain persons, in recovering, arranging and financing the
undertaking up to completion/consummation of the same;
WHEREAS, the UNDERTAKER freely, voluntarily, unconditionally and irrevocably agreed,
committed and undertook to compensate x x x said persons, in the manner, specified
hereinbelow;
WHEREFORE, considering the foregoing premises, and the mutual covenants of the parties, the
UNDERTAKER hereby unconditionally and irrevocably [c]ommit[s] and [u]ndertake[s], as follows:
1. To pay or compensate the following persons, based on the gross area of the afore-described
parcel of land or gross proceeds of the sale thereof, as the case may be, to wit:
Rebecca T. Cabutihan ------------------------------------ 20%
Wenifredo P. Forro ----------------------------------- 10%
Nicanor Radan, Sr. ------------------------------------ 4%
Atty. Prospero A. Anave ----------------------------------- 2.5%
TOTAL ----------------------------------- 36.5%
2. Execute a Deed of Assignment unto and in favor of each of the persons above-mentioned
corresponding to their respective shares in the subject parcel of land or in the proceeds thereof;
3. This Undertaking as well as the Deed of Assignment above-stated shall be effective and
binding upon the heirs, successors-in-interest, assigns or designates of the parties herein. [7]
An action for specific performance with damages was filed by petitioner on October 14, 1999
before the RTC of Pasig City, Branch 263. She alleged:
[6.] [Petitioner] accomplished her undertakings under the subject Agreement and the
Undertaking. So in a letter dated 18 April 1997, x x x, [respondent corporation] was informed
accordingly thereof.Simultaneously, [petitioner] demanded upon [respondent corporation] to
execute the corresponding Deed of Assignment of the lots in the subject property, as
compensation for the services rendered in favor of the [respondent corporation]. The subject
letter was duly received and acknowledged receipt, by then Acting Corporate Secretary of the
[respondent corporation].
[7.] [Respondent corporation] failed and refused to act on x x x said demand of
[petitioner]. Hence, [she] sent a letter dated May 8, 1997, to the Register of Deeds for
Paranaque, to inform x x x said Office of x x x [her] claim x x x;

[8.] x x x [T]he subject property was already transferred to and registered in the name of
[respondent corporation] under Transfer Certificate of Title No. -123917-, of the Registry of Deeds
for Paranaque City x x x;
xxx xxx xxx
[10.] With x x x said title of the property now in the possession of the [respondent corporation],
[petitioner] is apprehensive that the more that [she] will not be able to obtain from [respondent
corporation], compliance with the afore-stated Agreement and Undertaking, to the extreme
detriment and prejudice of [petitioner] and her group, x x x;
xxx xxx xxx
[12.] Then in a letter,[8] dated 10 September 1999, [petitioner] through counsel sent to
[respondent corporation] a Formal Demand, to comply with its obligation x x x but x x x
[respondent corporation] did not heed the demand. x x x. [9]
Petitioner prayed, inter alia, that respondent corporation be ordered to execute the
appropriate document assigning, conveying, transferring and delivering the particular lots in her
favor. The lots represented compensation for the undertakings she performed and accomplished,
as embodied in the Agreement.
Respondent then filed a Motion to Dismiss, alleging the following:
5. Because of the troubled situation obtaining at the management level of [respondent
corporation], the sale between [respondent corporation] and PCIB regarding the Fourth Estate
Subdivision was not registered with the Register of Deeds office, although [respondent
corporation] continued holding the deed of sale over the Fourth Estate Subdivision.
6. A group of persons led by one Wilfredo Maghuyop, including herein [petitioner], Wenifredo
Forro, Nicanor Radan, and others, taking advantage of the management mess at [respondent
corporation], tried to grab ownership of the [respondent corporation], and with use of fraud,
cheat, misrepresentation and theft of vital documents from the office of [respondent
corporation], succeeded in filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission false papers and
documents purporting to show that the Articles of Incorporation of [respondent corporation] had
been amended, installing Maghuyop as president of [respondent corporation]. It was on these
occasions that [petitioner] and her companions x x x, with use of fraud, stealth, tricks, deceit and
cheat succeeded in letting Luz Baylon Ponce sign a so-called Deed of Undertaking by virtue of
which [respondent corporation] is duty-bound to give to [petitioner], Forro, Radan and Atty.
Prospero Anave 36.5% of the land area of the Fourth Estate Subdivision as compensation for
alleged services and expenses made by these people in favor of [respondent corporation]. They
also caused said x x x Maghuyop to sign an Agreement with [petitioner] expressing an obligation
on the part of [respondent corporation] to give a big part of the land x x x to [petitioner]. These
Agreement and Deed of Undertaking are being made by herein [petitioner] as her causes of
action in the present case.
Wilfredo Maghuyop was a stranger to [respondent corporation], and he was an impostor used by
[petitioner] and her companions to barge into the management of [respondent corporation] for
the purpose of stealing and creating an obligation against [respondent corporation] in their favor.
7. But Luz Baylon Ponce, whose signature appears on the instrument denominated as Deed of
Undertaking, vehemently denies that she signed said instrument freely and voluntarily. She says

that Wenifredo Forro and Nicanor Radan were once real estate agents of [respondent
corporation] who promised to help sell lots from her project Villaluz II Subdivision located [in]
Malibay, Pasay City. According to Luz Baylon Ponce, the Board of Directors of [respondent
corporation] negotiated with Forro and Radan for the latter to sell units/lots of Villaluz II
Subdivision, and to help obtain a financier who would finance for the expenses for the
reconstitution of the lost title of the Fourth Estate Subdivision situated [in] Sucat, Paranaque
City. Shortly thereafter, these two men resigned from [respondent corporation] as agents, after
they manipulated the signing of x x x said Deed of Undertaking by Luz Baylon Ponce on February
11, 1997. The latter is an old woman 80 years of age. She is weak, has x x x poor sight, and is
feeble in her mental ability. Forro and Radan inserted the Deed of Undertaking among the papers
intended for application for reconstitution of [respondent corporations] title which these men
caused Luz Baylon Ponce to sign, and she unknowingly signed the Deed of Undertaking. x x x. [10]
In the Motion, respondent sought the dismissal of the Complaint on the grounds of (1)
improper venue, (2) lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter, and (3) nonpayment of the
proper docket fees.Specifically, it contended:
8. That venue is improperly laid
xxx xxx xxx
(b) In other words, the present case filed by [petitioner] is for her recovery (and for her
companions) of 36.5% of [respondent corporations] land (Fourth Estate Subdivision) or her
interest therein. x x x therefore, x x x the present case filed x x x is a real action or an action in
rem.
(c) x x x [Following] Section 1, Rule 4 of the Rules of Court, as amended x x x the present case
should have been filed by [petitioner] with the proper court in Paranque City which has
jurisdiction over the x x x Fourth Estate Subdivision because said subdivision is situated in
Paranaque City. Since [petitioner] filed the present case with this x x x [c]ourt in Pasig City, she
chose a wrong venue x x x.
xxx xxx xxx

9. That the [c]ourt has no jurisdiction over the subject matter of the claim
xxx xxx xxx

(c) x x x Wenifredo P. Forro, Nicanor Radan, Sr. and Atty. Prospero A. Anave are not named as
plaintiffs in the complaint. [Petitioner] x x x is not named as representative of Forro, Radan and
Anave by virtue of a Special Power of Attorney or other formal written authority. According to the
Rules, where the action is allowed to be prosecuted or defended by a representative or someone
acting in a fiduciary capacity, the beneficiary shall be included in the title of the case and shall
be deemed to be the real party in interest (Sec. 3, Rule 3, Rules of Court, as amended x x x).
xxx xxx xxx
10. That a condition precedent for filing the claim has not been complied with

xxx xxx xxx


(b) Obviously, [petitioner] has not paid the docket or filing fees on the value of her land claim x x
x. Thirty-six percent (36%) x x x is P180,000,000.00, x x x.[11]
Ruling of the Trial Court
The RTC ruled that the allegations in the Complaint show that its primary objective was to
recover real property. Equally important, the prayer was to compel respondent to execute the
necessary deeds of transfer and conveyance of a portion of the property corresponding to 36.5
percent of its total area or, in the alternative, to hold respondent liable for the value of the said
portion, based on the prevailing market price. The RTC further ruled that, since the suit would
affect the title to the property, it should have been instituted in the trial court where the property
was situated.[12]
Furthermore, the action was filed only by petitioner. There was no allegation that she had
been authorized by Forro, Radan and Anave to represent their respective shares in the
compensation.
Finally, since this case was an action in rem, it was imperative for petitioner to pay the
appropriate docket or filing fees equivalent to the pecuniary value of her claim, a duty she failed
to discharge.Consequently, following Manchester Development Corp. v. Court of Appeals, [13] the
trial court never acquired jurisdiction over the case.
Hence, this Petition.[14]
Issues
In her Memorandum, petitioner phrases the issue in this wise:
Whether or not the dismissal of the [C]omplaint was in accordance with the pertinent law and
jurisprudence on the matter.[15]
She argues that the RTC erred in dismissing her Complaint on the grounds of (1) improper
venue, (2) non-joinder of necessary parties, and (3) non-payment of proper docket fees.
This Courts Ruling
The Petition is meritorious.
First Issue:
Proper Venue
Maintaining that the action is in personam, not in rem, petitioner alleges that the venue was
properly laid. The fact that she ultimately sought the conveyance of real property not located in
the territorial jurisdiction of the RTC of Pasig is, she claims, an anticipated consequence and
beyond the cause for which the action was instituted.
On the other hand, the RTC ruled that since the primary objective of petitioner was to recover
real property -- even though her Complaint was for specific performance and damages -- her

action should have been instituted in the trial court where the property was situated, in
accordance with Commodities Storage & Ice Plant Corp. v. Court of Appeals. [16]
We agree with petitioner. Sections 1 and 2, Rule 4 of the Rules of Court provide an answer to
the issue of venue.[17] Actions affecting title to or possession of real property or an interest
therein (real actions), shall be commenced and tried in the proper court that has territorial
jurisdiction over the area where the real property is situated. On the other hand, all other
actions, (personal actions) shall be commenced and tried in the proper courts where the plaintiff
or any of the principal plaintiffs resides or where the defendant or any of the principal defendants
resides.
In Commodities Storage cited earlier, petitioner spouses obtained a loan secured by a
mortgage over their land and ice plant in Sta. Maria, Bulacan. Because they had failed to pay the
loan, the mortgage was foreclosed and the ice plant auctioned. Before the RTC of Manila, they
sued the bank for damages and for the fixing of the redemption period. Since the spouses
ultimately sought redemption of the mortgaged property, the action affected the mortgage
debtors title to the foreclosed property; hence, it was a real action. [18] Where the action affects
title to the property, it should be instituted in the trial court where the property is situated. [19]
In National Steel Corp. v. Court of Appeals, [20] the Court held that an action in which petitioner
seeks the execution of a deed of sale of a parcel of land in his favor x x x has been held to be for
the recovery of the real property and not for specific performance since his primary objective is
to regain the ownership and possession of the parcel of land.
However, in La Tondea Distillers, Inc. v. Ponferrada, [21] private respondents filed an action for
specific performance with damages before the RTC of Bacolod City. The defendants allegedly
reneged on their contract to sell to them a parcel of land located in Bago City - - a piece of
property which the latter sold to petitioner while the case was pending before the said
RTC. Private respondent did not claim ownership but, by annotating a notice of lis pendens on the
title, recognized defendants ownership thereof. This Court ruled that the venue had properly
been laid in the RTC of Bacolod, even if the property was situated in Bago.
In Siasoco v. Court of Appeals, [22] private respondent filed a case for specific performance
with damages before the RTC of Quezon City. It alleged that after it accepted the offer of
petitioners, they sold to a third person several parcels of land located in Montalban, Rizal. The
Supreme Court sustained the trial courts order allowing an amendment of the original Complaint
for specific performance with damages. Contrary to petitioners position that the RTC of Quezon
City had no jurisdiction over the case, as the subject lots were located in Montalban, Rizal, the
said RTC had jurisdiction over the original Complaint. The Court reiterated the rule that a case for
specific performance with damages is a personal action which may be filed in a court where any
of the parties reside.
A close scrutiny of National Steel and Ruiz reveals that the prayers for the execution of a
Deed of Sale were not in any way connected to a contract, like the Undertaking in this
case. Hence, even if there were prayers for the execution of a deed of sale, the actions filed in
the said cases were not for specific performance.
In the present case, petitioner seeks payment of her services in accordance with the
undertaking the parties signed. Breach of contract gives rise to a cause of action for specific
performance or for rescission.[23] If petitioner had filed an action in rem for the conveyance of real
property, the dismissal of the case would have been proper on the ground of lack of cause of
action.

Second Issue:
Non-Joinder of Proper Parties
Petitioner claims that she was duly authorized and empowered to represent the members of
her group and to prosecute their claims on their behalf via a Special Power of Attorney executed
by Forro, Radan and Anave. Besides, she argues that the omission of her companions as plaintiffs
did not prevent the RTC from proceeding with the action, because whatever judgment would be
rendered would be without prejudice to their rights. In the alternative, she avers that the trial
court may add or drop a party or parties at any stage of the action and on such terms as are just.
The RTC ruled that there was no allegation anywhere in the records that petitioner had been
authorized to represent Forro, Radan and Anave, who were real parties-in-interest with respect to
their respective shares of the 36.5 percent claim. Such being the case, the trial court never
acquired jurisdiction over the subject matter of their claims.
Again, we side with petitioner. Neither a misjoinder nor a non-joinder of parties is a ground
for the dismissal of an action. Parties may be dropped or added by order of the court, on motion
of any party or on the courts own initiative at any stage of the action. [24] The RTC should have
ordered the joinder of such party, and noncompliance with the said order would have been
ground for dismissal of the action.
Although the Complaint prayed for the conveyance of the whole 36.5 percent claim without
impleading the companions of petitioner as party-litigants, the RTC could have separately
proceeded with the case as far as her 20 percent share in the claim was concerned, independent
of the other 16.5 percent. This fact means that her companions are not indispensable parties
without whom no final determination can be had. [25] At best, they are mere necessary parties who
ought to be impleaded for a complete determination or settlement of the claim subject of the
action.[26] The non-inclusion of a necessary party does not prevent the court from proceeding with
the action, and the judgment rendered therein shall be without prejudice to the rights of such
party.[27]
Third Issue:
Correct Docket Fees
Petitioner insists that the value of the real property, which was the subject of the contract,
has nothing to do with the determination of the correct docket or filing fees.
The RTC ruled that although the amount of damages sought had not been specified in the
body of the Complaint, one can infer from the assessed value of the disputed land that it would
amount to P50 million. Hence, when compared to this figure, the P210 paid as docket fees would
appear paltry.
We hold that the trial court and respondent used technicalities to avoid the resolution of the
case and to trifle with the law. True, Section 5, Rule 141 of the Rules of Court requires that the
assessed value of the real estate, subject of an action, should be considered in computing the
filing fees. But the Court has already clarified that the Rule does not apply to an action for
specific performance,[28] which is classified as an action not capable of pecuniary estimation. [29]
Besides, if during the course of the trial, petitioners 20 percent claim on the Fourth Estate
Subdivision can no longer be satisfied and the payment of its monetary equivalent is the only

solution left,Sunlife Insurance Office, Ltd. v. Asuncion [30] holds as follows: 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.
WHEREFORE, the Petition is hereby GRANTED, and the assailed Orders REVERSED and SET
ASIDE. The case is REMANDED to the court of origin which is ordered to PROCEED with deliberate
speed in disposing of the case. No costs.
SO ORDERED.

10.
[G.R. No. L-32170. March 31, 1971.]
CITIZENS SURETY & INSURANCE COMPANY, INC., Petitioner, v. HON. JUDGE A. MELENCIOHERRERA, SANTIAGO DACANAY, and JOSEFINA DACANAY, Respondents.
Dayos, Tesoro & Gloria, Jr. for Petitioner.
Respondent Judge for and in his own behalf.
1. REMEDIAL LAW; JURISDICTION; ACTION IN PERSONAM; PERSONAL SERVICE OF SUMMONS
REQUIRED. We agree with respondent Judge that the action of plaintiff petitioner, being in
personam, the Court could not validly acquire jurisdiction on a non-appearing defendant, absent
a personal service of summons within the forum. We have explicitly so ruled in Pantaleon v.
Asuncion, 105 Phil. 765, pointing out without such personal service, any judgment on a nonappearing defendant would be violative of due process. In the aforecited case this Court, through
Justice Roberto Concepcion, now Chief Justice, ruled as follows: . . . "It is a well-settled principle
of Constitutional Law that, in an action strictly in personam, like the one at bar, personal service
of summons, within the forum, is essential to the acquisition of jurisdiction over the person of the
defendant, who does not voluntary submit himself to the authority of the court. In other words,
summons by publication cannot consistently with the due process clause in the Bill of Rights
confer upon the court jurisdiction over said defendants.Due process of law requires personal
service to support a personal judgment, and, when the proceeding is strictly in personam
brought to determine the personal rights and obligations of the parties, personal service within
the state or a voluntary appearance in the case is essential to the acquisition of jurisdiction so as
to constitute compliance with the constitutional requirement of due process. . . .Although a state
legislature has more control over the form of service on its own residents than nonresidents, it
has been held that in actions in personam . . . service by publication on resident defendants who
are personally within the state and can be found therein is not "due process of law," and statute
allowing it is unconstitutional. (16A C.J.S., pp. 786, 789; Emphasis our)"

2. CIVIL LAW; OBLIGATIONS AND CONTRACTS; CREDITORS; REMEDY AGAINST ABSCONDING


DEBTORS. The proper recourse for a creditor in the same situation as petitioner is to locate
properties, real or personal, of the resident defendant debtor with unknown address and cause
them to be attached under Rule 57, Sec. l(f), in which case, the enactment converts the action
into a proceeding in rem or quasi in rem and the summons by publication may then accordingly
be deemed valid and effective But because debtors who abscond and conceal themselves are
also quite adept at concealing their properties, the dismissal of the case below by respondent
Judge should be set aside and the case held pending in the courts archives, until petitioner as
plaintiff succeed in determining the whereabouts of the defendants person or properties and
causes valid summons to be served personally or by publication as the case may be. In this
manner, the tolling of the period of prescription for as long as the debtor remains in hiding would
properly be a matter of court record, and he can not emerge after a sufficient lapse of time from
the dismissal of the case to profit from his own misdeed and claim prescription of his just debt.
DECISION

REYES, J.B.L., J.:


Petitioner Citizens Surety & Insurance Company, Inc. seeks review of an order of respondent
Judge in Civil Case No. 77134 of the Court of First Instance of Manila, Branch XVII, entitled
"Citizens Surety & Insurance Co., Inc. v. Santiago Dacanay and Josefina Dacanay," dismissing the
complaint for lack of proper service of summons upon defendants.
The record is to the effect that petitioner had filed its complaint in the Court below, alleging that
at request of defendant Santiago Dacanay, the plaintiff Surety Company had issued its Surety
Bonds Nos. 4942 and 4944, the first, in favor of Gregorio Fajardo to guarantee payment of a
P5,000-promissory note executed by said Dacanay, and the second, in favor of Manufacturers
Bank & Trust Co., to guarantee payment of another promissory note in like amount; that in
consideration of said bonds, Santiago and Josefina Dacanay executed Indemnity Agreements,
binding themselves jointly and severally to indemnify plaintiff for any losses, costs and expenses
which it might sustain in connection with the issuance of the bonds aforesaid, with interest at
12% per annum; that as additional security, the Dacanays mortgaged to plaintiff a parcel of land
in Baguio City, covered by Certificate of Title No. T-8116, the mortgage having been duly
recorded; that the promissory notes were not paid .and as a result, plaintiff Surety was compelled
to pay P5,000.00 to Gregorio Fajardo and P4,081.69 to the Manufacturers Bank; that the
Dacanays failed to reimburse the Surety for such payments, whereupon the Surety caused the
extrajudicial foreclosure of the mortgage to pay its claim of P12,941.69 representing its
payments, interest and stipulated liquidated damages: that at the foreclosure sale, the land
mortgaged was sold to plaintiff, as highest bidder, for the sum of P2,000.00 leaving an
unsatisfied balance of P10,491.69, that plaintiff sought to recover from defendants Dacanay, plus
10% thereof as attorneys fees, and the costs.
At petitioners request, respondent Judge caused summons to be made by publication in the
newspaper Philippines Herald. But despite the publication and deposit of a prepaid copy of the
complaint at the Manila post office, defendants did not appear within the period of 60 days from
last publication, as required by the summons.
Plaintiff then asked that defendants be declared in default; but :instead, the Judge, by order of
May 16, 1970, asked it to show cause why the action should not be dismissed, the suit being in
personam and defendants not having appeared. Then, on May 29, 1970, respondent Judge
dismissed the case, despite plaintiff Suretys argument that the summons by publication was
sufficient and valid under section 16 of Rule 14 of the Revised Rules of Court.
We agree with respondent Judge that the action of plaintiff petitioner, being in personam, the
Court could not validly acquire jurisdiction on a non-appearing defendant, absent a personal
service of summons within the forum. We have explicitly so ruled in Pantaleon v. Asuncin, 105
Phil. 765, pointing out without such personal service, any judgment on a non-appearing
defendant would be violative of due process. In the aforecited case this Court, through Justice
Roberto Concepcin, now Chief Justice, ruled as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Apart from the foregoing, it is well-settled principle of Constitutional Law that, in an action
strictly in personam, like the one at bar, personal service of summons, within the forum. is
essential to the acquisition of jurisdiction over the person of the defendant, who does not
voluntarily submit himself to the authority of the court. In other words, summons by publication
cannot consistently with the due process clause in the Bill of Rights confer upon the court
jurisdiction over said defendants.
Due process of law requires personal service to support a personal judgment, and. when the
proceeding is strictly in personam brought to determine the personal rights and obligations of
the parties, personal service within the state or a voluntary appearance in the case is essential to
the acquisition of jurisdiction so as to constitute compliance with the constitutional requirement
of due process. . . .
Although a state legislature has more control over the form of service on its own residents than
nonresidents, it has been held that in actions in personam . . . service by publication on resident
defendants, who are personally within the state and can be found therein is not "due process of
law," and a statute allowing it is unconstitutional. (16A C.J.S., pp. 786, 789; Emphasis ours.)"
The proper recourse for a creditor in the same situation as petitioner is to locate properties, real
or personal, of the resident defendant debtor with unknown address and cause them to be
attached under Rule 57, section 1(f), in which case, the attachment converts the action into a
proceeding in rem or quasi in rem and the summons by publication may then accordingly be
deemed valid and effective.
But because debtors who abscond and conceal themselves are also quite adept at concealing
their properties, the dismissal of the case below by respondent Judge should be set aside and the
case held pending in the courts archives, until petitioner as plaintiff succeeds in determining the
whereabouts of the defendants person or properties and causes valid summons to be served
personally or by publication as the case may be. In this manner, the tolling of the period of
prescription for as long as the debtor remains in hiding would properly be a matter of court
records and he can not emerge after a sufficient lapse of time from the dismissal of the case to
profit from his own misdeed and claim prescription of his just debt.
WHEREFORE, the order of dismissal of the case issued by the Court below is hereby set aside,
and in the interest of justice, the proceedings are ordered suspended, to be held pending until
the plaintiff petitioner succeeds in ascertaining the whereabouts of the defendants and/or
locating properties of the same, to enable proper summons to be issued conformably to this
Opinion. No costs.

11.
[G.R. No. 156187. November 11, 2004]
JIMMY T. GO, petitioner, vs. UNITED COCONUT PLANTERS BANK, ANGELO V. MANAHAN,
FRANCISCO
C.
ZARATE,
PERLITA
A.
URBANO
and
ATTY.
EDWARD
MARTIN, respondents.
DECISION
CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

Before Us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari[1] assailing the Decision[2] dated 31 July 2002 of
the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 62625, the decretal portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED and the assailed orders dated June 7, 2000, August 9,
2000 and November 8, 2000 are SET ASIDE.
Respondent judge is directed to DISMISS Civil Case No. 67878 on the ground of improper venue.
[3]

Petitioner Jimmy T. Go and Alberto T. Looyuko are co-owners of Noahs Ark International,
Noahs Ark Sugar Carriers, Noahs Ark Sugar Truckers, Noahs Ark Sugar Repacker, Noahs Ark Sugar
Insurers, Noahs Ark Sugar Terminal, Noahs Ark Sugar Building, and Noahs Ark Sugar Refinery. [4]
Sometime in August 1996, petitioner Jimmy T. Go and Alberto T. Looyuko applied for an
Omnibus Line accommodation with respondent United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) in the
amount of Nine Hundred Million (P900,000,000) Pesos,[5] and was favorably acted upon by the
latter.
The transaction was secured by Real Estate Mortgages over parcels of land, covered by
Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 64070, located at Mandaluyong City with an area of 24,837
square meters, and registered in the name of Mr. Looyuko; and TCT No. 3325, also located at
Mandaluyong City with an area of 14,271 square meters, registered in the name of Noahs Ark
Sugar Refinery.
On 21 July 1997, the approved Omnibus Line accommodation granted to petitioner was
subsequently cancelled[6] by respondent UCPB. As a consequence, petitioner Jimmy T. Go
demanded from UCPB the return of the two (2) TCTs (No. 64070 and No. 3325) covered by Real
Estate Mortgages earlier executed. UCPB refused to return the same and proceeded to have the
two (2) pre-signed Real Estate Mortgages notarized on 22 July 1997 and caused the registration
thereof before the Registry of Deeds of Mandaluyong City on 02 September 1997.
On 15 June 1999, respondent UCPB filed with the Office of the Clerk of Court and Ex-Officio
Sheriff of Mandaluyong City an extrajudicial foreclosure of real estate mortgage [7] covered by TCT
No. 64070, for nonpayment of the obligation secured by said mortgage. As a result, the public
auction sale of the mortgaged property was set on 11 April 2000 and 03 May 2000.
To protect his interest, petitioner Jimmy T. Go filed a complaint for Cancellation of Real Estate
Mortgage and damages, with prayer for temporary restraining order and/or writ of preliminary
injunction, against respondent bank and its officers, namely, Angelo V. Manahan, Francisco C.
Zarate, Perlita A. Urbano and Atty. Edward E. Martin, together with Ex-Officio Sheriff Lydia G. San
Juan and Sheriff IV Helder A. Dyangco, with the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City, Branch 266,
docketed as Civil Case No. 67878. The complaint was subsequently amended [8] on 22 May 2000.
The amended complaint alleged, among other things, the following: that petitioner Jimmy T. Go is
a co-owner of the property covered by TCT No. 64070, although the title is registered only in the
name of Looyuko; that respondent bank was aware that he is a co-owner as he was asked to sign
two deeds of real estate mortgage covering the subject property; that the approved omnibus
credit line applied for by him and Looyuko did not materialize and was cancelled by respondent
bank on 21 July 1997, so that the pre-signed real estate mortgages were likewise cancelled; that
he demanded from respondent bank that TCTs No. 64070 and No. 3325 be returned to him, but
respondent bank refused to do so; that despite the cancellation of the omnibus credit line on 21
July 1997, respondent bank had the two deeds of real estate mortgage dated and notarized on
22 July 1997 and caused the extrajudicial foreclosure of mortgage constituted on TCT No. 64070;

that the auction sale scheduled on 11 April 2000 and 03 May 2000 be enjoined; that the two real
estate mortgages be cancelled and TCTs No. 64070 and No. 3325 be returned to him; and that
respondent bank and its officers be ordered to pay him moral and exemplary damages and
attorneys fees.
On 07 June 2000, respondent bank, instead of filing an answer, filed a motion to
dismiss[9] based on the following grounds: 1) that the court has no jurisdiction over the case due
to nonpayment of the proper filing and docket fees; 2) that the complaint was filed in the wrong
venue; 3) an indispensable party/real party in interest was not impleaded and, therefore, the
complaint states no cause of action; 4) that the complaint was improperly verified; and 5) that
petitioner is guilty of forum shopping and submitted an insufficient and false certification of nonforum shopping.
On 07 June 2000, the trial court issued an order[10] granting petitioners application for a writ
of preliminary injunction. Correspondingly, the auction sale, scheduled on 11 April 2000 and 03
May 2000, was enjoined.
On 09 August 2000, the trial court denied [11] respondent banks motion to dismiss Civil Case
No. 67878. A motion for reconsideration[12] was filed, but the same was likewise denied in an
Order[13] dated 08 November 2000.
Respondent bank questioned said orders before the Court of Appeals via a petition
for certiorari[14] dated 03 January 2001, alleging that the trial court acted without or in excess of
jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion in issuing an order denying the motion to dismiss
and the motion for reconsideration thereof.
On 31 July 2002, the Court of Appeals[15] set aside the Orders dated 07 June 2000, 09 August
2000 and 08 November 2000 issued by the trial court and directed the trial court to dismiss Civil
Case No. 67878 on the ground of improper venue.
A motion for reconsideration was filed by petitioner, [16] which was denied in an order dated 14
November 2002.[17]
Hence, this petition for review on certiorari.[18]
On 16 June 2003, the Court gave due course to the petition, and required [19] the parties to file
their respective memoranda. Respondents filed their Joint Memorandum on 27 August 2003,
while petitioner filed his on 25 September 2003 upon prior leave of court for extension. With
leave of this Court, private respondents filed their reply to petitioners memorandum.
In his memorandum, petitioner raised a lone issue:
WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR WHEN
IT FAILED TO APPLY THE LAW AND ESTABLISHED JURISPRUDENCE ON THE MATTER BY
ISSUING THE QUESTIONED RESOLUTIONS FINDING THAT THE CASE A QUO IS A REAL
ACTION.
Simply put, the issue to be resolved in this case is whether petitioners complaint for
cancellation of real estate mortgage is a personal or real action for the purpose of determining
venue.

In a real action, the plaintiff seeks the recovery of real property, or as provided for in Section
1, Rule 4,[20] a real action is an action affecting title to or possession of real property, or interest
therein. These include partition or condemnation of, or foreclosure of mortgage on, real property.
The venue for real actions is the same for regional trial courts and municipal trial courts -- the
court which has territorial jurisdiction over the area where the real property or any part thereof
lies.[21]
Personal action is one brought for the recovery of personal property, for the enforcement of
some contract or recovery of damages for its breach, or for the recovery of damages for the
commission of an injury to the person or property. [22] The venue for personal actions is likewise
the same for the regional and municipal trial courts -- the court of the place where the plaintiff or
any of the principal plaintiffs resides, or where the defendant or any of the principal defendants
resides, at the election of the plaintiff, as indicated in Section 2 of Rule 4. [23]
It is quite clear then that the controlling factor in determining venue for cases of the above
nature is the primary objective for which said cases are filed. Thus:
1.

In Commodities Storage & Ice Plant Corp. v. Court of Appeals,[24] this Court ruled that
an action to redeem by the mortgage debtor affects his title to the foreclosed property.
If the action is seasonably made, it seeks to erase from the title of the judgment or
mortgage debtor the lien created by registration of the mortgage and sale. If not made
seasonably, it may seek to recover ownership to the land since the purchasers
inchoate title to the property becomes consolidated after [the] expiration of the
redemption period. Either way, redemption involves the title to the foreclosed
property. It is a real action.

2.

In Fortune Motors, (Phils.), Inc., v. Court of Appeals, [25] this Court quoting the
decision of the Court of Appeals ruled that since an extrajudicial foreclosure of real
property results in a conveyance of the title of the property sold to the highest bidder
at the sale, an action to annul the foreclosure sale is necessarily an action affecting
the title of the property sold. It is therefore a real action which should be commenced
and tried in the province where the property or part thereof lies.

3.

In Punsalan, Jr. v. Vda. de Lacsamana,[26] this court ruled that while it is true that
petitioner does not directly seek the recovery . . . of the property in question, his
action for annulment of sale and his claim for damages are closely intertwined with the
issue of ownership of the building which, under the law, is considered immovable
property, the recovery of which is petitioners primary objective. The prevalent doctrine
is that an action for the annulment or rescission of a sale of real property does not
operate to efface the fundamental and prime objective and nature of the case, which
is to recover said real property. It is a real action. Respondent Court, therefore, did not
err in dismissing the case on the ground of improper venue which was timely raised.

4.

In Ruiz v. J. M. Tuason Co., Inc., et al.,[27] the court ruled that although [a] complaint
is entitled to be one for specific performance, yet the fact that [complainant] asked
that a deed of sale of a parcel of land . . . be issued in his favor and that a transfer
certificate of title covering said land be issued to him, shows that the primary
objective and nature of the action is to recover the parcel of land itself because to
execute in favor of complainant the conveyance requested there is need to make a
finding that he is the owner of the land which in the last analysis resolves itself into an
issue of ownership. Hence, the action must be commenced in the province where the
property is situated . . . ."

5.

In Dr. Antonio A. Lizares, Inc. v. Hon. Hermogenes Caluag,[28] this Court ruled that an
action praying that defendant be ordered `to accept the payment being made by
plaintiff for the lot which the latter contracted to buy on installment basis from the
former, to pay plaintiff compensatory damages and attorneys fees and to enjoin
defendant and his agents from repossessing the lot in question, is one that affects title
to the land under Section 3 of Rule 5, of the Rules of Court, and shall be commenced
and tried in the province where the property or any part thereof lies, because,
although the immediate remedy is to compel the defendant to accept the tender of
payment allegedly made, it is obvious that this relief is merely the first step to
establish plaintiffs title to [the] real property.

6.

In Land Tenure Administration, et al. v. The Honorable Higinio B. Macadaeg and


Alejandro T. Lim,[29] this Court ruled that where the lessee seeks to establish an interest
in an hacienda that runs with the land and one that must be respected by the
purchaser of the land even if the latter is not a party to the original lease contract, the
question of whether or not the standing crop is immovable property become[s]
irrelevant, for venue is determined by the nature of the principal claim. Since the
lessee is primarily interested in establishing his right to recover possession of the land
for the purpose of enabling him to gather his share of the crops, his action is real and
must be brought in the locality where the land is situated.

7.

In Espineli & Mojica v. Hon. Santiago and Vda. de Ramirez,[30] the court ruled that
although the main relief sought in the case at bar was the delivery of the certificate of
title, said relief, in turn, entirely depended upon who, between the parties, has a better
right to the lot in question. As it is not possible for the court to decide the main relief,
without passing upon the claim of the parties with respect to the title to and
possession of the lot in question, the claim shall be determined x x x in the province
where [the] said property or any part thereof lies.

The case of Carandang v. Court of Appeals,[31] is more particularly instructive. There, we held
that an action for nullification of the mortgage documents and foreclosure of the mortgaged
property is a real action that affects the title to the property. Thus, venue of the real action is
before the court having jurisdiction over the territory in which the property lies, which is the
Court of First Instance of Laguna.
Petitioner in this case contends that a case for cancellation of mortgage is a personal action
and since he resides at Pasig City, venue was properly laid therein. He tries to make a point by
alluding to the case of Francisco S. Hernandez v. Rural Bank of Lucena.[32]
Petitioners reliance in the case of Francisco S. Hernandez v. Rural Bank of Lucena [33] is
misplaced. Firstly, said case was primarily an action to compel the mortgagee bank to accept
payment of the mortgage debt and to release the mortgage. That action, which is not expressly
included in the enumeration found in Section 2(a) of Rule 4 of the Old Civil Procedure and now
under Section 1, Rule 4 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, does not involve titles to the
mortgaged lots. It is a personal action and not a real action. The mortgagee has not foreclosed
the mortgage. The plaintiffs title is not in question. They are in possession of the mortgaged lots.
Hence, the venue of the plaintiffs personal action is the place where the defendant or any of the
defendants resides or may be found, or where the plaintiff or any of the plaintiffs resides, at the
election of the plaintiff. In the case at bar, the action for cancellation of real estate mortgage
filed by herein petitioner was primarily an action to compel private respondent bank to return to
him the properties covered by TCTs No. 64070 and No. 3325 over which the bank had already
initiated foreclosure proceedings because of the cancellation by the said respondent bank of the

omnibus credit line on 21 July 1997. The prime objective is to recover said real properties.
Secondly, Carandang distinctly articulated that the ruling in Hernandez does not apply where the
mortgaged property had already been foreclosed. Here, and as correctly pointed out by the
appellate court, respondent bank had already initiated extrajudicial foreclosure proceedings, and
were it not for the timely issuance of a restraining order secured by petitioner Go in the lower
court, the same would have already been sold at a public auction.
In a relatively recent case, Asset Privatization Trust v. Court of Appeals,[34] it was succinctly
stated that the prayer for the nullification of the mortgage is a prayer affecting real property,
hence, is a real action.
In sum, the cancellation of the real estate mortgage, subject of the instant petition, is a real
action, considering that a real estate mortgage is a real right and a real property by itself. [35]An
action for cancellation of real estate mortgage is necessarily an action affecting the title to the
property. It is, therefore, a real action which should be commenced and tried in Mandaluyong
City, the place where the subject property lies.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DENIED for lack of merit. The assailed decision dated 31
July 2002 and the Order dated 14 November 2002 denying the motion for reconsideration are
hereby AFFIRMED. With costs.
SO ORDERED.

12.
[G.R. No. 146089. December 13, 2001]
VIRGINIA GOCHAN, LOUISE GOCHAN, LAPU-LAPU REAL ESTATE CORPORATION, FELIX
GOCHAN AND SONS REALTY CORPORATION, MACTAN REALTY DEVELOPMENT
CORPORATION, petitioners, vs. MERCEDES GOCHAN, ALFREDO GOCHAN,
ANGELINA GOCHAN-HERNAEZ, MA. MERCED GOCHAN GOROSPE, CRISPO
GOCHAN, JR., and MARLON GOCHAN, respondents.
DECISION
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:
This is a petition for review seeking to set aside the decision of the Court of Appeals dated
September 10, 1999 in CA-G.R. SP No. 49084, [1] as well as its Resolution[2] dated November 22,
2000, denying the Motion for Reconsideration.
Respondents were stockholders of the Felix Gochan and Sons Realty Corporation and the
Mactan Realty Development Corporation. Sometime in 1996, respondents offered to sell their
shares in the two corporations to the individual petitioners, the heirs of the late Ambassador
Esteban Gochan, for and in consideration of the sum of P200,000,000.00. Petitioners accepted
and paid the said amount to respondents. Accordingly, respondents issued to petitioners the
necessary Receipts.[3] In addition, respondents executed their respective Release, Waiver and
Quitclaim,[4] wherein they undertook that they would not initiate any suit, action or complaint
against petitioners for whatever reason or purpose.
In turn, respondents, through Crispo Gochan, Jr., required individual petitioners to execute a
promissory note,[5] undertaking not to divulge the actual consideration they paid for the shares of
stock. For this purpose, Crispo Gochan, Jr. drafted a document entitled promissory note in his own
handwriting and had the same signed by Felix Gochan, III, Louise Gochan and Esteban Gochan, Jr.
Unbeknown to petitioners, Crispo Gochan, Jr. inserted in the promissory note a phrase that
says, Said amount is in partial consideration of the sale. [6]
On April 3, 1998, respondents filed a complaint against petitioners for specific performance
and damages with the Regional Trial Court of Cebu City, Branch 11, docketed as Civil Case No.

CEB-21854.Respondents alleged that sometime in November 1996, petitioner Louise Gochan, on


behalf of all the petitioners, offered to buy their shares of stock, consisting of 254 shares in the
Felix Gochan and Sons Realty Corporation and 1,624 shares of stock in the Mactan Realty
Development Corporation; and that they executed a Provisional Memorandum of Agreement,
wherein they enumerated the following as consideration for the sale:
1. Pesos: Two Hundred Million Pesos (P200M)
2. Two (2) hectares more or less of the fishpond in Gochan compound, Mabolo, Lot 4F-2-B
3. Lot 2, Block 9 with an area of 999 square meters in Gochan Compound, Mabolo, Cebu
4. Three Thousand (3,000) square meters of Villas Magallanes in Mactan, Cebu
5. Lot 423 New Gem Building with an area of 605 square meters. [7]
Accordingly, respondents claimed that they are entitled to the conveyance of the
aforementioned properties, in addition to the amount of P200,000,000.00, which they
acknowledge to have received from petitioners. Further, respondents prayed for moral damages
of P15,000,000.00, exemplary damages of P2,000,000.00, attorneys fees of P14,000,000.00, and
litigation expenses of P2,000,000.00.
Petitioners filed their answer, raising the following affirmative defenses: (a) lack of
jurisdiction by the trial court for non-payment of the correct docket fees; (b) unenforceability of
the obligation to convey real properties due to lack of a written memorandum thereof, pursuant
to the Statute of Frauds; (c) extinguishment of the obligation by payment; (d) waiver,
abandonment and renunciation by respondent of all their claims against petitioners; and (e) nonjoinder of indispensable parties.
On August 7, 1998, petitioners filed with the trial court a motion for a preliminary hearing on
the affirmative defenses. In an Order dated August 11, 1998, the trial court denied the motion,
ruling as follows:
As the grant of said motion lies in the discretion of the court under Section 6 of Rule 16 of the
1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, this Court in the exercise of its discretion, hereby denies the said
motion because the matters sought to be preliminarily heard do not appear to be tenable. For
one, the statute of frauds does not apply in this case because the contract which is the subject
matter of this case is already an executed contract. The statute of frauds applies only to
executory contracts. According to Dr. Arturo M. Tolentino, a leading authority in civil law, since
the statute of frauds was enacted for the purpose of preventing frauds, it should not be made the
instrument to further them. Thus, where one party has performed his obligation under a contract,
equity would agree that all evidence should be admitted to prove the alleged agreement (PNB
vs. Philippine Vegetable Oil Company, 49 Phil. 897). For another, the contention of the
defendants that the claims of the plaintiffs are already extinguished by full payment thereof does
not appear to be indubitable because the plaintiffs denied under oath the due execution and
genuineness of the receipts which are attached as Annexes 1-A, 1-B and 1-C of defendants
answer.This issue therefore has to be determined on the basis of preponderance of evidence to
be adduced by both parties. Then, still for another, the contention that the complaint is defective
because it allegedly has failed to implead indispensable parties appears to be wanting in merit
because the parties to the memorandum of agreement adverted to in the complaint are all
parties in this case. Then the matter of payment of docketing and filing fees is not a fatal issue in
this case because the record shows that the plaintiffs had paid at least P165,000.00 plus in the

form of filing and docketing fees. Finally, regarding exerting earnest efforts toward a compromise
by the plaintiffs, the defendants cannot say that there is an absence of an allegation to this
effect in the complaint because paragraph 11 of the complaint precisely states that before filing
this case, earnest efforts toward a compromise have been made.
Petitioners motion for reconsideration of the above Order was denied by the trial court on
September 11, 1998.
Petitioners thus filed a petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals, docketed as CA-G.R.
SP No. 49084. On September 10, 1999, the Court of Appeals rendered the appealed decision
dismissing the petition on the ground that respondent court did not commit grave abuse of
discretion, tantamount to lack or in excess of jurisdiction in denying the motion to hear the
affirmative defenses.[8]
Again, petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration, but the same was denied by the Court of
Appeals in its assailed Resolution of November 22, 2000. [9]
Petitioners, thus, brought the present petition for review anchored on the following grounds:
I.
THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED GRAVE AND PALPABLE ERROR IN FINDING THAT THE
CORRECT DOCKET FEES HAVE BEEN PAID.
II.
THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED SERIOUS ERROR IN RULING THAT THE PMOA WAS A
PARTIALLY EXECUTED CONTRACT AND HENCE NOT COVERED BY THE STATUTE OF FRAUDS.
III.
THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED GRAVE ERROR IN DECIDING THAT THE CLAIMS OF PRIVATE
RESPONDENTS HAVE NOT BEEN EXTINGUISHED BY PAYMENT OR FULL SETTLEMENT DESPITE THE
PRESENCE OF RECEIPTS SIGNED BY THE PRIVATE RESPONDENTS SHOWING THE CONTRARY.
IV.
THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED GRAVE ERROR IN RESOLVING THAT FELIX GOCHAN III AND
ESTEBAN GOCHAN, JR. ARE NOT INDISPENSABLE PARTIES AND THEREFORE NEED NOT BE
IMPLEADED AS PARTIES.[10]
Respondents filed their Comment,[11] arguing, in fine, that petitioners are guilty of forumshopping when they filed two petitions for certiorari with the Court of Appeals; and that the Court
of Appeals did not err in dismissing the petition for certiorari.
The instant petition has merit.
The rule is well-settled that the court acquires jurisdiction over any case only upon the
payment of the prescribed docket fees. In the case of Sun Insurance Office, Ltd. (SIOL) v.
Asuncion,[12] this Court held that 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.

Respondents maintain that they paid the correct docket fees in the amount of P165,000.00
when they filed the complaint with the trial court. Petitioners, on the other hand, contend that
the complaint is in the nature of a real action which affects title to real properties; hence,
respondents should have alleged therein the value of the real properties which shall be the basis
for the assessment of the correct docket fees.
The Court of Appeals found that the complaint was one for specific performance and
incapable of pecuniary estimation. We do not agree.
It is necessary to determine the true nature of the complaint in order to resolve the issue of
whether or not respondents paid the correct amount of docket fees therefor. In this jurisdiction,
the dictum adhered to is that the nature of an action is determined by the allegations in the body
of the pleading or complaint itself, rather than by its title or heading. [13] The caption of the
complaint below was denominated as one for specific performance and damages. The relief
sought, however, is the conveyance or transfer of real property, or ultimately, the execution of
deeds of conveyance in their favor of the real properties enumerated in the provisional
memorandum of agreement. Under these circumstances, the case below was actually a real
action, affecting as it does title to or possession of real property.
In the case of Hernandez v. Rural Bank of Lucena, [14] this Court held that a real action is one
where the plaintiff seeks the recovery of real property or, as indicated in section 2(a) of Rule 4
(now Section 1, Rule 4 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure), a real action is an action affecting
title to or recovery of possession of real property.
It has also been held that where a complaint is entitled as one for specific performance but
nonetheless prays for the issuance of a deed of sale for a parcel of land, its primary objective
and nature is one to recover the parcel of land itself and, thus, is deemed a real action. In such a
case, the action must be filed in the proper court where the property is located:
In this Court, the appellant insists that her action is one for specific performance, and, therefore,
personal and transitory in nature.
This very issue was considered and decided by this Court in the case of Manuel B. Ruiz vs. J.M.
Tuason & Co., Inc. et al., L-18692, promulgated 31 January 1963. There the Court, by unanimous
vote of all the Justices, held as follows:
This contention has no merit. Although appellants complaint is entitled to be one for specific
performance, yet the fact that he asked that a deed of sale of a parcel of land situated in Quezon
City be issued in his favor and that a transfer certificate of title covering said parcel of land be
issued to him shows that the primary objective and nature of the action is to recover the parcel
of land itself because to execute in favor of appellant the conveyance requested there is need to
make a finding that he is the owner of the land which in the last analysis resolves itself into an
issue of ownership. Hence, the action must be commenced in the province where the property is
situated pursuant to Section 3, Rule 5, of the Rules of Court, which provides that actions affecting
title to or recovery of possession of real property shall be commenced and tried in the province
where the property or any part thereof lies. [15]
In the case at bar, therefore, the complaint filed with the trial court was in the nature of a
real action, although ostensibly denominated as one for specific performance. Consequently, the
basis for determining the correct docket fees shall be the assessed value of the property, or the
estimated value thereof as alleged by the claimant. Rule 141, Section 7, of the Rules of Court, as
amended by A.M. No. 00-2-01-SC, provides:

Section 7. Clerks of Regional Trial Courts. - x x x


(b) xxx
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.
We are not unmindful of our pronouncement in the case of Sun Insurance,[16] to the effect
that in case 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 period. However, the liberal interpretation of the rules relating to the
payment of docket fees as applied in the case of Sun Insurance cannot apply to the instant case
as respondents have never demonstrated any willingness to abide by the rules and to pay the
correct docket fees. Instead, respondents have stubbornly insisted that the case they filed was
one for specific performance and damages and that they actually paid the correct docket fees
therefor at the time of the filing of the complaint. Thus, it was stated in the case of Sun
Insurance:[17]
The principle in Manchester could very well be applied in the present case. The pattern and the
intent to defraud the government of the docket fee due it is obvious not only in the filing of the
original complaint but also in the filing of the second amended complaint.
However, in Manchester, petitioner did not pay any additional docket fee until the case was
decided by this Court on May 7, 1987. Thus, in Manchester, due to the fraud committed on the
government, this Court held that the court a quo did not acquire jurisdiction over the case and
that the amended complaint could not have been admitted inasmuch as the original complaint
was null and void.
In the present case, a more liberal interpretation of the rules is called for considering that,
unlike Manchester, private respondent demonstrated his willingness to abide by the rules by
paying the additional docket fees as required. The promulgation of the decision
in Manchester must have had that sobering influence on private respondent who thus paid the
additional docket fee as ordered by the respondent court. It triggered his change of stance by
manifesting his willingness to pay such additional docket fee as may be ordered.
Respondents accuse petitioners of forum-shopping when they filed two petitions before the
Court of Appeals. Petitioners, on the other hand, contend that there was no forum-shopping as
there was no identity of issues or identity of reliefs sought in the two petitions.
We agree with petitioners that they are not guilty of forum-shopping. The deplorable practice
of forum-shopping is resorted to by litigants who, for the purpose of obtaining the same relief,
resort to two different fora to increase his or her chances of obtaining a favorable judgment in
either one. In the case of Golangco v. Court of Appeals, [18] we laid down the following test to
determine whether there is forum-shopping:
Ultimately, what is truly important to consider in determining whether forum-shopping exists or
not is the vexation caused the courts and the parties-litigant by a person who asks different
courts and/or administrative agencies to rule on the same or related causes and/or grant the
same or substantially the same reliefs, in the process creating the possibility of conflicting
decisions being rendered by the different fora upon the same issues.

In sum, two different orders were questioned, two distinct causes of action and issues were
raised, and two objectives were sought; thus, forum shopping cannot be said to exist in the case
at bar.
Likewise, we do not find that there is forum-shopping in the case at bar. The first petition,
docketed as CA-G.R. SP. No. 49084, which is now the subject of the instant petition, involved the
propriety of the affirmative defenses relied upon by petitioners in Civil Case No. CEB-21854. The
second petition, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 54985, raised the issue of whether or not public
respondent Judge Dicdican was guilty of manifest partiality warranting his inhibition from further
hearing Civil Case No. CEB-21854.
More importantly, the two petitions did not seek the same relief from the Court of Appeals. In
CA-G.R. SP. No. 49084, petitioners prayed, among others, for the annulment of the orders of the
trial court denying their motion for preliminary hearing on the affirmative defenses in Civil Case
No. CEB-21854. No such reliefs are involved in the second petition, where petitioners merely
prayed for the issuance of an order enjoining public respondent Judge Dicdican from further
trying the case and to assign a new judge in his stead.
True, the trial court has the discretion to conduct a preliminary hearing on affirmative
defenses. In the case at bar, however, the trial court committed a grave abuse of its discretion
when it denied the motion for preliminary hearing. As we have discussed above, some of these
defenses, which petitioners invoked as grounds for the dismissal of the action, appeared to be
indubitable, contrary to the pronouncement of the trial court. Indeed, the abuse of discretion it
committed amounted to an evasion of positive duty or virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined
by law, or to act at all in contemplation of law, [19] which would have warranted the extraordinary
writ of certiorari. Hence, the Court of Appeals erred when it dismissed the petition for certiorari
filed by petitioners.
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the instant petition is GRANTED. This case is
REMANDED to the Regional Trial Court of Cebu City, Branch 11, which is directed to forthwith
conduct the preliminary hearing on the affirmative defenses in Civil Case No. CEB-21854.
SO ORDERED.

13.
G.R. No. 75919 May 7, 1987
MANCHESTER
DEVELOPMENT
CORPORATION,
ET
AL., petitioners,
vs.
COURT OF APPEALS, CITY LAND DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, STEPHEN ROXAS,
ANDREW LUISON, GRACE LUISON and JOSE DE MAISIP, respondents.
Tanjuatco, Oreta and Tanjuatco for petitioners.
Pecabar Law Offices for private respondents.
RESOLUTION

GANCAYCO, J.:
Acting on the motion for reconsideration of the resolution of the Second Division of January
28,1987 and another motion to refer the case to and to be heard in oral argument by the
Court En Banc filed by petitioners, the motion to refer the case to the Court en banc is granted
but the motion to set the case for oral argument is denied.
Petitioners in support of their contention that the filing fee must be assessed on the basis of the
amended complaint cite the case of Magaspi vs. Ramolete. 1 They contend that the Court of
Appeals erred in that the filing fee should be levied by considering the amount of damages
sought in the original complaint.
The environmental facts of said case differ from the present in that
1. The Magaspi case was an action for recovery of ownership and possession of a parcel of land
with damages. 2While the present case is an action for torts and damages and specific
performance with prayer for temporary restraining order, etc. 3
2. In the Magaspi case, the prayer in the complaint seeks not only the annulment of title of the
defendant to the property, the declaration of ownership and delivery of possession thereof to
plaintiffs but also asks for the payment of actual moral, exemplary damages and attorney's fees
arising therefrom in the amounts specified therein. 4 However, in the present case, the prayer is
for the issuance of a writ of preliminary prohibitory injunction during the pendency of the action
against the defendants' announced forfeiture of the sum of P3 Million paid by the plaintiffs for the
property in question, to attach such property of defendants that maybe sufficient to satisfy any
judgment that maybe rendered, and after hearing, to order defendants to execute a contract of
purchase and sale of the subject property and annul defendants' illegal forfeiture of the money of
plaintiff, ordering defendants jointly and severally to pay plaintiff actual, compensatory and
exemplary damages as well as 25% of said amounts as maybe proved during the trial as
attorney's fees and declaring the tender of payment of the purchase price of plaintiff valid and
producing the effect of payment and to make the injunction permanent. The amount of damages

sought is not specified in the prayer although the body of the complaint alleges the total amount
of over P78 Million as damages suffered by plaintiff. 5
3. Upon the filing of the complaint there was an honest difference of opinion as to the nature of
the action in the Magaspi case. The complaint was considered as primarily an action for recovery
of ownership and possession of a parcel of land. The damages stated were treated as merely to
the main cause of action. Thus, the docket fee of only P60.00 and P10.00 for the sheriff's fee
were paid. 6
In the present case there can be no such honest difference of opinion. As maybe gleaned from
the allegations of the complaint as well as the designation thereof, it is both an action for
damages and specific performance. The docket fee paid upon filing of complaint in the amount
only of P410.00 by considering the action to be merely one for specific performance where the
amount involved is not capable of pecuniary estimation is obviously erroneous. Although the
total amount of damages sought is not stated in the prayer of the complaint yet it is spelled out
in the body of the complaint totalling in the amount of P78,750,000.00 which should be the basis
of assessment of the filing fee.
4. When this under-re assessment of the filing fee in this case was brought to the attention of
this Court together with similar other cases an investigation was immediately ordered by the
Court. Meanwhile plaintiff through another counsel with leave of court filed an amended
complaint on September 12, 1985 for the inclusion of Philips Wire and Cable Corporation as coplaintiff and by emanating any mention of the amount of damages in the body of the complaint.
The prayer in the original complaint was maintained. After this Court issued an order on October
15, 1985 ordering the re- assessment of the docket fee in the present case and other cases that
were investigated, on November 12, 1985 the trial court directed plaintiffs to rectify the
amended complaint by stating the amounts which they are asking for. It was only then that
plaintiffs specified the amount of damages in the body of the complaint in the reduced amount of
P10,000,000.00. 7 Still no amount of damages were specified in the prayer. Said amended
complaint was admitted.
On the other hand, in the Magaspi case, the trial court ordered the plaintiffs to pay the amount of
P3,104.00 as filing fee covering the damages alleged in the original complaint as it did not
consider the damages to be merely an or incidental to the action for recovery of ownership and
possession of real property. 8 An amended complaint was filed by plaintiff with leave of court to
include the government of the Republic as defendant and reducing the amount of damages, and
attorney's fees prayed for to P100,000.00. Said amended complaint was also admitted. 9
In the Magaspi case, the action was considered not only one for recovery of ownership but also
for damages, so that the filing fee for the damages should be the basis of assessment. Although
the payment of the docketing fee of P60.00 was found to be insufficient, nevertheless, it was
held that since the payment was the result of an "honest difference of opinion as to the correct
amount to be paid as docket fee" the court "had acquired jurisdiction over the case and the
proceedings thereafter had were proper and regular." 10 Hence, as the amended complaint
superseded the original complaint, the allegations of damages in the amended complaint should
be the basis of the computation of the filing fee.11
In the present case no such honest difference of opinion was possible as the allegations of the
complaint, the designation and the prayer show clearly that it is an action for damages and
specific performance. The docketing fee should be assessed by considering the amount of
damages as alleged in the original complaint.

As reiterated in the Magaspi case the rule is well-settled "that a case is deemed filed only upon
payment of the docket fee regardless of the actual date of filing in court . 12 Thus, in the present
case the trial court did not acquire jurisdiction over the case by the payment of only P410.00 as
docket fee. Neither can the amendment of the complaint thereby vest jurisdiction upon the
Court. 13 For an legal purposes there is no such original complaint that was duly filed which
could be amended. Consequently, the order admitting the amended complaint and all
subsequent proceedings and actions taken by the trial court are null and void.
The Court of Appeals therefore, aptly ruled in the present case that the basis of assessment of
the docket fee should be the amount of damages sought in the original complaint and not in the
amended complaint.
The Court cannot close this case without making the observation that it frowns at the practice of
counsel who filed the original complaint in this case of omitting any specification of the amount
of damages in the prayer although the amount of over P78 million is alleged in the body of the
complaint. This is clearly intended for no other purpose than to evade the payment of the correct
filing fees if not to mislead the docket clerk in the assessment of the filing fee. This fraudulent
practice was compounded when, even as this Court had taken cognizance of the anomaly and
ordered an investigation, petitioner through another counsel filed an amended complaint,
deleting all mention of the amount of damages being asked for in the body of the complaint. It
was only when in obedience to the order of this Court of October 18, 1985, the trial court
directed that the amount of damages be specified in the amended complaint, that petitioners'
counsel wrote the damages sought in the much reduced amount of P10,000,000.00 in the body
of the complaint but not in the prayer thereof. The design to avoid payment of the required
docket fee is obvious.
The Court serves warning that it will take drastic action upon a repetition of this unethical
practice.
To put a stop to this irregularity, henceforth all complaints, petitions, answers and other similar
pleadings should specify the amount of damages being prayed for not only in the body of the
pleading but also in the prayer, and said damages shall be considered in the assessment of the
filing fees in any case. Any pleading that fails to comply with this requirement shall not bib
accepted nor admitted, or shall otherwise be expunged from the record.
The Court acquires jurisdiction over any case only upon the payment of the prescribed docket
fee. An amendment of the complaint or similar pleading will not thereby vest jurisdiction in the
Court, much less the payment of the docket fee based on the amounts sought in the amended
pleading. The ruling in the Magaspi case 14 in so far as it is inconsistent with this
pronouncement is overturned and reversed. WHEREFORE, the motion for reconsideration is
denied for lack of merit
14. Sun Insurance vs. Asuncion
15.
G.R. Nos. 88075-77 December 20, 1989
MAXIMO
TACAY,
PONCIANO
PANES
and
ANTONIA
NOEL, petitioners,
vs.
REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF TAGUM Davao del Norte, Branches 1 and 2, Presided by Hon.
Marcial Fernandez and Hon. Jesus Matas, respectively, PATSITA GAMUTAN, Clerk of Court,
and GODOFREDO PINEDA, respondents.

Eduardo C. De Vera for petitioners.


RESOLUTION

NARVASA, J.:
In the Regional Trial Court at Tagum, Davao del Norte, 1 three
(3) actions for recovery of possession (acciones publicianas
Pineda against three (3) defendants, docketed as follows:

) were separately instituted by Godofredo

1) vs. Antonia Noel Civil Case No. 2209


2) vs. Ponciano Panes Civil Case No. 2210
3) vs. Maximo Tacay Civil Case No. 2211.
Civil Cases Numbered 2209 and 2211 were raffled to Branch I of the Trial Court, presided over by
Judge Marcial Hernandez. Civil No. 2210 was assigned to Branch 2, presided over by Judge Jesus
Matas.
The complaints 3 all alleged the same essential facts (1) Pineda was the owner of a parcel of land
measuring 790 square meters, his ownership being evidenced by TCT No. T-46560; (2) the previous owner
had allowed the defendants to occupy portions of the land by mere tolerance; (3) having himself need to
use the property, Pineda had made demands on the defendants to vacate the property and pay reasonable
rentals therefor, but these demands had been refused; and (4) the last demand had been made more than
a year prior to the commencement of suit. The complaints prayed for the same reliefs, to wit:
1) that plaintiff be declared owner of the areas occupied by the defendants;
2) that defendants and their "privies and allies" be ordered to vacate and deliver the
portions of the land usurped by them;
3) that each defendant be ordered to pay:
1 ) P 2,000 as monthly rents from February, 1987;
2 ) Actual damages, as proven;
3 ) Moral and nominal damages as the Honorable Court may fix ;
4) P30,000.00, "as attorney's fees, and representation fees of P5,000.00 per day of
appearance;" 4
and
4) that he (Pineda) be granted such "further relief and remedies ... just and equitable in
the premises.
The prayer of each complaint contained a handwritten notation (evidently made by plaintiff's counsel)
reading, "P5,000.00 as and for," immediately above the typewritten words, "Actual damages, as

proven," the intention apparently being to make the entire phrase read, " P5,000.00 as and for actual
damages as proven. 5
Motions to dismiss were filed in behalf of each of the defendants by common counsel . 6 Every motion
alleged that the Trial Court had not acquired jurisdiction of the case

. . . for the reason that the ... complaint violates the mandatory and clear provision of
Circular No. 7 of the ... Supreme Court dated March 24,1988, by failing to specify all the
amounts of damages which plaintiff is claiming from defendant;" and
. . . for ... failure (of the complaint) to even allege the basic requirement as to the
assessed value of the subject lot in dispute.
Judge Matas denied the motion to dismiss filed in Civil Case No. 2210 but ordered the expunction of
the "allegations in paragraph 11 of the ... complaint regarding moral as well as nominal
damages . 7 On motion of defendant Panes, Judge Matas later ordered the striking out, too, of the
"handwritten amount of 'P5,000. 00 as and for.' including the typewritten words 'actual damages as
proven' ... in sub-paragraph b of paragraph 4 in the conclusion and prayer of the complaint ..." 8
The motions to dismiss submitted in Civil Cases Numbered 2211 and 2209 were also denied in separate
orders promulgated by Judge Marcial Fernandez. 9 His Order in Case No. 2209 dated March 15, 1989 (a)
declared that since the "action at bar is for Reivindicatoria, Damages and Attorney's fees ... (d)efinitely this
Court has the exclusive jurisdiction," (b) that the claims for actual, moral and nominal damages "are only
one aspect of the cause of action," and (c) because of absence of specification of the amounts claimed as
moral, nominal and actual damages, they should be "expunged from the records."

Ascribing grave abuse of discretion to both Judges Matas and Fernandez in the rendition of the Orders
above described, the defendants in all three (3) actions have filed with this Court a "Joint Petition" for
certiorari, prohibition and mandamus, with prayer for temporary restraining order and/or writ of
preliminary prohibitory injunction," praying essentially that said orders be annulled and respondent
judges directed to dismiss all the complaints "without prejudice to private respondent Pineda's refiling a similar complaint that complies with Circular No. 7." The joint petition (a) re-asserted the
proposition that because the complaints had failed to state the amounts being claimed as actual,
moral and nominal damages, the Trial Courts a quo had not acquired jurisdiction over the three (3)
actions in question-indeed, the respondent Clerk of Court should not have accepted the complaints
which initiated said suits, and (b) it was not proper merely to expunge the claims for damages and
allow "the so-called cause of action for "reivindicatoria" remain for trial" by itself. 10
The joint petition should be, as it is hereby, dismissed.
It should be dismissed for failure to comply with this Court's Circular No. 1-88 (effective January 1,
1989). The copies of the challenged Orders thereto attached 11 were not certified by the proper Clerk of
Court or his duly authorized representative. Certification was made by the petitioners' counsel, which is not
allowed.
The petition should be dismissed, too, for another equally important reason. It fails to demonstrate
any grave abuse of discretion on the part of the respondent Judges in rendering the Orders
complained of or, for that matter, the existence of any proper cause for the issuance of the writ of
mandamus. On the contrary, the orders appear to have correctly applied the law to the admitted
facts.
It is true that the complaints do not state the amounts being claimed as actual, moral and nominal
damages. It is also true, however, that the actions are not basically for the recovery of sums of
money. They are principally for recovery of possession of real property, in the nature of an accion

publiciana. Determinative of the court's jurisdiction in this type of actions is the nature thereof, not
the amount of the damages allegedly arising from or connected with the issue of title or possession,
and regardless of the value of the property. Quite obviously, an action for recovery of possession of
real property (such as an accion plenaria de possesion) or the title thereof, 12or for partition or
condemnation of, or the foreclosure of a mortgage on, said real property 13 - in other words, a real actionmay be commenced and prosecuted without an accompanying claim for actual, moral, nominal or
exemplary damages; and such an action would fall within the exclusive, original jurisdiction of the Regional
Trial Court.
Batas Pambansa Bilang 129 provides that Regional Trial Courts shall exercise exclusive original
jurisdiction inter alia over "all civil actions which involve the title to, or possession of, real property, or
any interest therein, except actions for forcible entry into and unlawful detainer of lands or buildings,
original jurisdiction over which is conferred upon Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and
Municipal Circuit Trial Courts." 14 The rule applies regardless of the value of the real property involved,
whether it be worth more than P20,000.00 or not, infra. The rule also applies even where the complaint
involving realty also prays for an award of damages; the amount of those damages would be immaterial to
the question of the Court's jurisdiction. The rule is unlike that in other cases e.g., actions simply for
recovery of money or of personal property, 15 or actions in admiralty and maritime jurisdiction 16 in which
the amount claimed, 17 or the value of the personal property, is determinative of jurisdiction; i.e., the value
of the personal property or the amount claimed should exceed twenty thousand pesos (P20,000.00) in
order to be cognizable by the Regional Trial Court.
Circular No. 7 of this Court, dated March 24, 1988, cannot thus be invoked, as the petitioner does, as
authority for the dismissal of the actions at bar. That circular, avowedly inspired by the doctrine laid
down in Manchester Development Corporation v. Court of appeals, 149 SCRA 562 (May 7, 1987), has
but limited application to said actions, as shall presently be discussed. Moreover, the rules therein
laid down have since been clarified and amplified by the Court's subsequent decision in Sun
Insurance Office, Ltd. (SIOL) v. Asuncion, et al., G.R. Nos. 79937-38, February 13, 1989.
Circular No. 7 was aimed at the practice of certain parties who omit from the prayer of their
complaints "any specification of the amount of damages," the omission being "clearly intended for no
other purposes than to evade the payment of the correct filing fees if not to mislead the docket clerk,
in the assessment of the filing fee." The following rules were therefore set down:
1. All complaints, petitions, answers, and similar pleadings should specify the amount of damages
being prayed for not only in the body of the pleading but also in the prayer, and said damages shall
be considered in the assessment of the filing fees in any case.
2. Any pleading that fails to comply with this requirement shall not be accepted nor admitted, or shall
otherwise be expunged from the record.
3. The Court acquires jurisdiction over any case only upon the payment of the prescribed docket fee.
An amendment of the complaint or similar pleading will not thereby vest jurisdiction in the Court,
much less the payment of the docket fee based on the amount sought in the amended pleading.
The clarificatory and additional rules laid down in Sun Insurance Office, Ltd. v. Asuncion, supra, read
as follows:
1. It is not simply the filing of the complaint or appropriate initiatory pleading, but (also) 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, third-party 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.
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.
As will be noted, the requirement in Circular No. 7 that complaints, petitions, answers, and similar
pleadings should specify the amount of damages being prayed for not only in the body of the
pleading but also in the prayer, has not been altered. What has been revised is the rule that
subsequent "amendment of the complaint or similar pleading will not thereby vest jurisdiction in the
Court, much less the payment of the docket fee based on the amount sought in the amended
pleading," the trial court now being authorized to allow payment of the fee within a reasonable time
but in no case beyond the applicable prescriptive or reglementary period. Moreover, a new rule has
been added, governing awards of claims not specified in the pleading - i.e., damages arising after the
filing of the complaint or similar pleading-as to which the additional filing fee therefor shall constitute
a lien on the judgment.
Now, under the Rules of Court, docket or filing fees are assessed on the basis of the "sum claimed,"
on the one hand, or the "value of the property in litigation or the value of the estate," on the
other. 18 There are, in other words, as already above intimated, actions or proceedings involving real
property, in which the value of the property is immaterial to the court's jurisdiction, account thereof being
taken merely for assessment of the legal fees; and there are actions or proceedings, involving personal
property or the recovery of money and/or damages, in which the value of the property or the amount of
the demand is decisive of the trial court's competence (aside from being the basis for fixing the
corresponding docket fees). 19
Where the action is purely for the recovery of money or damages, the docket fees are assessed on the
basis of the aggregate amount claimed, exclusive only of interests and costs. In this case, the complaint or
similar pleading should, according to Circular No. 7 of this Court, "specify the amount of damages being
prayed for not only in the body of the pleading but also in the prayer, and said damages shall be
considered in the assessment of the filing fees in any case."

Two situations may arise. One is where the complaint or similar pleading sets out a claim purely for
money or damages and there is no precise statement of the amounts being claimed. In this event the
rule is that the pleading will "not be accepted nor admitted, or shall otherwise be expunged from the
record." In other words, the complaint or pleading may be dismissed, or the claims as to which the
amounts are unspecified may be expunged, although as aforestated the Court may, on motion,
permit amendment of the complaint and payment of the fees provided the claim has not in the
meantime become time-barred. The other is where the pleading does specify the amount of every
claim, but the fees paid are insufficient; and here again, the rule now is that the court may allow a
reasonable time for the payment of the prescribed fees, or the balance thereof, and upon such
payment, the defect is cured and the court may properly take cognizance of the action, unless in the
meantime prescription has set in and consequently barred the right of action.
Where the action involves real property and a related claim for damages as well, the legal fees shall
be assessed on the basis of both (a) the value of the property and (b) the total amount of related
damages sought. The Court acquires jurisdiction over the action if the filing of the initiatory pleading
is accompanied by the payment of the requisite fees, or, if the fees are not paid at the time of the
filing of the pleading, as of the time of full payment of the fees within such reasonable time as the

court may grant, unless, of course, prescription has set in the meantime. But where-as in the case at
bar-the fees prescribed for an action involving real property have been paid, but the amounts of
certain of the related damages (actual, moral and nominal) being demanded are unspecified, the
action may not be dismissed. The Court undeniably has jurisdiction over the action involving the real
property, acquiring it upon the filing of the complaint or similar pleading and payment of the
prescribed fee. And it is not divested of that authority by the circumstance that it may not have
acquired jurisdiction over the accompanying claims for damages because of lack of specification
thereof. What should be done is simply to expunge those claims for damages as to which no amounts
are stated, which is what the respondent Courts did, or allow, on motion, a reasonable time for the
amendment of the complaints so as to allege the precise amount of each item of damages and
accept payment of the requisite fees therefor within the relevant prescriptive period.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED, without pronouncement as to costs.

16.
G.R. No. 88421 January 30, 1990

AYALA CORPORATION, LAS PIAS VENTURES, INC., and FILIPINAS LIFE ASSURANCE
COMPANY,
INC.,petitioners
vs.
THE HONORABLE JOB B. MADAYAG, PRESIDING JUDGE, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, NATIONAL
CAPITAL JUDICIAL REGION, BRANCH 145 and THE SPOUSES CAMILO AND MA. MARLENE
SABIO, respondents.
Renato L. De la Fuente for petitioners.
Camilo L. Sabio for private respondents.

GANCAYCO, J.:
Once more the issue relating to the payment of filing fees in an action for specific performance with
damages is presented by this petition for prohibition.
Private respondents filed against petitioners an action for specific performance with damages in the
Regional Trial Court of Makati. Petitioners filed a motion to dismiss on the ground that the lower court
has not acquired jurisdiction over the case as private respondents failed to pay the prescribed docket
fee and to specify the amount of exemplary damages both in the body and prayer of the amended
and supplemental complaint. The trial court denied the motion in an order dated April 5, 1989. A
motion for reconsideration filed by petitioners was likewise denied in an order dated May 18, 1989.
Hence this petition.
The main thrust of the petition is that private respondent paid only the total amount of P l,616.00 as
docket fees instead of the amount of P13,061.35 based on the assessed value of the real properties
involved as evidenced by its tax declaration. Further, petitioners contend that private respondents
failed to specify the amount of exemplary damages sought both in the body and the prayer of the
amended and supplemental complaint.
In Manchester Development Corporation vs. Court of Appeals 1 a similar case involving an action for
specific performance with damages, this Court held that the docket fee should be assessed by considering
the amount of damages as alleged in the original complaint.
However, the contention of petitioners is that since the action concerns real estate, the assessed
value thereof should be considered in computing the fees pursuant to Section 5, Rule 141 of the Rules
of Court. Such rule cannot apply to this case which is an action for specific performance with
damages although it is in relation to a transaction involving real estate. Pursuant to Manchester, the
amount of the docket fees to be paid should be computed on the basis of the amount of damages
stated in the complaint.
Petitioners also allege that because of the failure of the private respondents to state the amount of
exemplary damages being sought, the complaint must nevertheless be dismissed in accordance
to Manchester. The trial court denied the motion stating that the determination of the exemplary
damages is within the sound discretion of the court and that it would be unwarrantedly presumptuous
on the part of the private respondents to fix the amount of exemplary damages being prayed for. The
trial court cited the subsequent case of Sun Insurance vs. Judge Asuncion 2 in support of its ruling.
The clarificatory and additional rules laid down in Sun Insurance are as follows:

1. It is not simply the filing of the complaint or appropriate initiatory pleading, but (also)
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 tune but in no case beyond the applicable prescriptive or
reglementary period.
2. The same rule applies to permissive counterclaims, third party 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.
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.
Apparently, the trial court misinterpreted paragraph 3 of the above ruling of this Court wherein it is
stated that "where the judgment awards a claim not specified in the pleading, or if specified, the
same has been left for the determination of the court, the additional filing fee therefor shall constitute
a lien on the judgment" by considering it to mean that where in the body and prayer of the complaint
there is a prayer, say for exemplary or corrective damages, the amount of which is left to the
discretion of the Court, there is no need to specify the amount being sought, and that any award
thereafter shall constitute a lien on the judgment.
In the latest case Tacay vs. Regional Trial Court of Tagum, 3 this Court had occasion to make the
clarification that the phrase "awards of claims not specified in the pleading" refers only to "damages
arising after the filing of the complaint or similar pleading . . . as to which the additional filing fee therefor
shall constitute a lien on the judgment." The amount of any claim for damages, therefore, arising on or
before the filing of the complaint or any pleading, should be specified. While it is true that the
determination of certain damages as exemplary or corrective damages is left to the sound discretion of the
court, it is the duty of the parties claiming such damages to specify the amount sought on the basis of
which the court may make a proper determination, and for the proper assessment of the appropriate
docket fees. The exception contemplated as to claims not specified or to claims although specified are left
for determination of the court is limited only to any damages that may arise after the filing of the
complaint or similar pleading for then it will not be possible for the claimant to specify nor speculate as to
the amount thereof.
The amended and supplemental complaint in the present case, therefore, suffers from the material
defect in failing to state the amount of exemplary damages prayed for.
As ruled in Tacay the trial court may either order said claim to be expunged from the record as it did
not acquire jurisdiction over the same or on motion, it may allow, within a reasonable time, the
amendment of the amended and supplemental complaint so as to state the precise amount of the
exemplary damages sought and require the payment of the requisite fees therefor within the relevant
prescriptive period. 4
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The trial court is directed either to expunge from the record
the claim for exemplary damages in the amended and supplemental complaint, the amount of which
is not specified, or it may otherwise, upon motion, give reasonable time to private respondents to
amend their pleading by specifying its amount and paying the corresponding docketing fees within
the appropriate reglementary or prescriptive period. No costs.

SO ORDERED.

17.

NEGROS ORIENTAL PLANTERS ASSOCIATION, INC. (NOPA), Petitioner,- versus -HON. PRESIDING
JUDGE OF RTC-NEGROS OCCIDENTAL, BRANCH 52, BACOLOD CITY, and ANICETO MANOJO
CAMPOS Respondents.
G.R. No. 179878
Whats sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari seeking the reversal of the Resolutions[1] of the Court
of Appeals dated 23 May 2007 and 16 August 2007, respectively, in CA-G.R. SP No. 02651
outrightly dismissing the Petition for Certiorari filed by petitioner Negros Oriental Planters
Association, Inc. (NOPA) against private respondent Aniceto Manojo Campos (Campos).
On 17 March 1999, Campos filed a Complaint for Breach of Contract with Damages, docketed as
Civil Case No. 99-10773, against NOPA before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Negros Occidental,
Bacolod City. According to the Complaint, Campos and NOPA entered into two separate contracts
denominated as Molasses Sales Agreement. Campos allegedly paid the consideration of the
Molasses Sales Agreement in full, but was only able to receive a partial delivery of the molasses
because of a disagreement as to the quality of the products being delivered.
On 17 August 2005, more than six years after NOPA filed its Answer, NOPA filed a Motion to
Dismiss on the ground of an alleged failure of Campos to file the correct filing fee. According to
NOPA, Campos deliberately concealed in his Complaint the exact amount of actual damages by
opting to estimate the value of the unwithdrawn molasses in order to escape the payment of the
proper docket fees.
On 30 June 2006, the RTC issued an Order denying the Motion to Dismiss. NOPA received this
Order on 17 July 2006.
On 1 August 2006, NOPA filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the 30 June 2006 Order. On 5
January 2007, the RTC issued an Order denying NOPAs Motion for Reconsideration.
On 2 April 2007, NOPA filed a Petition for Certiorari before the Court of Appeals assailing the
Orders of the RTC dated 30 June 2006 and 5 January 2007.
On 23 May 2007, the Court of Appeals issued the first assailed Resolution dismissing the Petition
for Certiorari on the following grounds:
1. Failure of the Petitioner to state in its Verification that the allegations in the petition are based
on authentic records, in violation of Section 4, Rule 7, of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as
amended by A.M. No. 00-2-10-SC (May 1, 2000), which provides:
x x x - A pleading is verified by an affidavit that the affiant has read the pleading and that the
allegations therein are true and correct of his personal knowledge or based on authentic records.
A pleading required to be verified which contains a verification based on information and belief,
or lacks a proper verification, shall be treated as an unsigned pleading.
2. Failure of the petitioner to append to the petition relevant pleadings and documents, which
would aid in the resolution of the instant petition, in violation of Section 1, Rule 65 of the Rules of
Court, such as:
a.
b.
c.
d.
e.

Ex-parte Motion to Set the Case for Pre-Trial dated July 27, 1999;
Notice of Pre-Trial;
Motion for Leave to File Third Party Complaint;
Orders dated July 31, 2000, March 20 2001, November 17, 2004, and May 17, 2005, respectively;
Motion to Suspend the Proceedings dated August 10, 2003;

f.
g.

Motion to Dismiss for Failure to Prosecute; and


Motion for Reconsideration to the Order dated May 12, 2005.

Section 1, Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, provides:


When any tribunal, board or officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions has acted
without or in excess of its or his jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack
or excess of jurisdiction, and there is no appeal, or any plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in
the ordinary course of law, a person aggrieved thereby may file a verified petition in the proper
court, alleging the facts with certainty and praying that judgment be rendered annulling or
modifying the proceedings of such tribunal, board or officer, and granting such incidental reliefs
as law and justice may require.
The petition shall be accompanied by a certified true copy of the judgment, order or resolution
subject thereof, copies of all pleadings and documents relevant and pertinent thereto, and a
sworn certification of non-forum shopping as provided in the paragraph of section 3, Rule 46.
3. Failure of petitioners counsel to indicate in the petition his current IBP Official Receipt Number,
in violation of Bar Matter No. 1132 and/or A.M. No. 287, which reads as follows:
The Court resolved, upon recommendation of the Office of the Bar Confidant, to GRANT the
request of the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Sanguniang
Panlalawigan of Ilocos Norte to require all lawyers to indicate their Roll of Attorneys Number in all
papers or pleadings submitted to the various judicial or quasi-judicial bodies in addition to the
requirement of indicating the current Professional Tax Receipt (PTR) and the IBP Official Receipt
or Lifetime Member Number.[2]
On 22 June 2007, NOPA filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the above Resolution, attaching
thereto an Amended Petition for Certiorari in compliance with the requirements of the Court of
Appeals deemed to have been violated by NOPA. The Court of Appeals denied the said Motion in
the second assailed Resolution dated 16 August 2007.
Hence, this Petition for Review on Certiorari, where NOPA raises the following issue and
arguments:
ISSUE
WHETHER OR NOT THE PUBLIC RESPONDENT CA COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR WHEN IT
RULED THAT THERE WAS NO SUBSTANTIAL COMPLIANCE WITH THE PROCEDURAL REQUIREMENTS
WHEN PETITIONER FAILED TO ALLEGE IN ITS VERIFICATION THAT THE ALLEGATIONS THEREIN ARE
TRUE AND CORRECT OF HIS PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE OR BASED ON AUTHENTIC RECORDS AND
FAILURE TO ATTACH THE NECESSARY DOCUMENTS ON ITS PLEADINGS AS REQUIRED BY SECTION
1, RULE 65 OF THE 1997 RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE.[3]

ARGUMENTS
1. The requirement that a pleading be verified is merely formal and not jurisdictional. The court
may give due course to an unverified pleading where the material facts alleged are a matter of
record and the questions raised are mainly of law such as in a petition for certiorari.[4]
2. Petitioner had attached to its Petition for Certiorari clearly legible and duplicate original or a
certified true copy of the judgment or final order or resolution of the court a quo and the
requisite number of plain copies thereof and such material portions of the record as would
support the petition.[5]
3. Substantial compliance of the rules, which was further supplied by the petitioners subsequent
full compliance demonstrates its good faith to abide by the procedural requirements.[6]
4. The resolution of the important jurisdictional issue raised by the petitioner before the PUBLIC
RESPONDENT CA would justify a relaxation of the rules.[7]
The original Verification in the original Petition for Certiorari filed by NOPA states as follows:

1. That I am the President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Negros Oriental Planters
Association, Inc. (NOPA), the petitioner in this case, a domestic corporation duly organized under
Philippine Laws, with principal place of business at Central Bais, Bais City, Philippines; that I am
duly authorized by the Board of NOPA (Secretarys Certificate attached as Annex A) to cause the
preparation of the foregoing petition; and that I hereby affirm and confirm that all the allegations
contained herein are true and correct to my own knowledge and belief;[8]
NOPA claims that this Court has in several cases allowed pleadings with a Verification that
contains the allegation to the best of my knowledge and the allegation are true and correct,
without the words of his own knowledge, citing Decano v. Edu,[9] and Quimpo v. De la Victoria.
[10] NOPA claims that the allegations in these cases constitute substantial compliance with the
Rules of Court, and should likewise apply to the case at bar.
NOPA is mistaken. NOPA cited cases promulgated before 1 May 2000, when Section 4 of Rule 7
was amended by A.M. No. 00-2-10. Before the amendment, said Section 4 stated:
SEC. 4. Verification.Except when otherwise specifically required by law or rule, pleadings need
not be under oath, verified or accompanied by affidavit.
A pleading is verified by an affidavit that the affiant has read the pleading and that the
allegations therein are true and correct of his knowledge and belief.
As amended, said Section 4 now states:
SEC. 4. Verification.Except when otherwise specifically required by law or rule, pleadings need
not be under oath, verified or accompanied by affidavit.
A pleading is verified by an affidavit that the affiant has read the pleading and that the
allegations therein are true and correct of his personal knowledge or based on authentic records.
Clearly, the amendment was introduced in order to make the verification requirement stricter,
such that the party cannot now merely state under oath that he believes the statements made in
the pleading. He cannot even merely state under oath that he has knowledge that such
statements are true and correct. His knowledge must be specifically alleged under oath to be
either personal knowledge or at least based on authentic records.
Unlike, however, the requirement for a Certification against Forum Shopping in Section 5,
wherein failure to comply with the requirements is not curable by amendment of the complaint
or other initiatory pleading,[11] Section 4 of Rule 7, as amended, states that the effect of the
failure to properly verify a pleading is that the pleading shall be treated as unsigned:
A pleading required to be verified which contains a verification based on information and belief,
or upon knowledge, information and belief, or lacks a proper verification, shall be treated as an
unsigned pleading.
Unsigned pleadings are discussed in the immediately preceding section of Rule 7:
SEC. 3. Signature and address. x x x.
xxx
An unsigned pleading produces no legal effect. However, the court may, in its discretion, allow
such deficiency to be remedied if it shall appear that the same was due to mere inadvertence
and not intended for delay. Counsel who deliberately files an unsigned pleading, or signs a
pleading in violation of this Rule, or alleges scandalous or indecent matter therein, or fails to
promptly report to the court a change of his address, shall be subject to appropriate disciplinary
action. (5a)
A pleading, therefore, wherein the Verification is merely based on the partys knowledge and
belief produces no legal effect, subject to the discretion of the court to allow the deficiency to be
remedied. In the case at bar, the Court of Appeals, in the exercise of this discretion, refused to
allow the deficiency in the Verification to be remedied, by denying NOPAs Motion for
Reconsideration with attached Amended Petition for Certiorari.
May an appellate court reverse the exercise of discretion by a lower court? The old case of Lino
Luna v. Arcenas[12] states that it can, but only in exceptional cases when there is grave abuse of
this discretion or adverse effect on the substantial rights of a litigant:

Discretionary power is generally exercised by trial judges in furtherance of the convenience of


the courts and the litigants, the expedition of business, and in the decision of interlocutory
matters on conflicting facts where one tribunal could not easily prescribe to another the
appropriate rule of procedure.
The general rule, therefore, and indeed one of the fundamental principles of appellate procedure
is that decisions of a trial court which "lie in discretion" will not be reviewed on appeal, whether
the case be civil or criminal at law or in equity.
We have seen that where such rulings have to do with minor matters, not affecting the
substantial rights of the parties, the prohibition of review in appellate proceedings is made
absolute by the express terms of the statute; but it would be a monstrous travesty on justice to
declare that where the exercise of discretionary power by an inferior court affects adversely the
substantial legal rights of a litigant, it is not subject to review on appeal in any case wherein a
clear and affirmative showing is made of an abuse of discretion, or of a total lack of its exercise,
or of conduct amounting to an abuse of discretion, such as its improper exercise under a
misapprehension of the law applicable to the facts upon which the ruling is based.
In its very nature, the discretionary control conferred upon the trial judge over the proceedings
had before him implies the absence of any hard-and-fast rule by which it is to be exercised, and
in accordance with which it may be reviewed. But the discretion conferred upon the courts is not
a willful, arbitrary, capricious and uncontrolled discretion. It is a sound, judicial discretion which
should always be exercised with due regard to the rights of the parties and the demands of
equity and justice. As was said in the case of The Styria vs. Morgan (186 U. S., 1, 9): "The
establishment of a clearly defined rule of action would be the end of discretion, and yet
discretion should not be a word for arbitrary will or inconsiderate action." So in the case of
Goodwin vs. Prime (92 Me., 355), it was said that "discretion implies that in the absence of
positive law or fixed rule the judge is to decide by his view of expediency or by the demands of
equity and justice."
There being no "positive law or fixed rule" to guide the judge in the court below in such cases,
there is no "positive law or fixed rule" to guide a court of appeal in reviewing his action in the
premises, and such courts will not therefore attempt to control the exercise of discretion by the
court below unless it plainly appears that there was "inconsiderate action" or the exercise of
mere "arbitrary will," or in other words that his action in the premises amounted to "an abuse of
discretion." But the right of an appellate court to review judicial acts which lie in the discretion of
inferior courts may properly be invoked upon a showing of a strong and clear case of abuse of
power to the prejudice of the appellant, or that the ruling objected to rested on an erroneous
principle of law not vested in discretion.[13]
The case at bar demonstrates a situation in which there is no effect on the substantial rights of a
litigant. NOPAs Petition for Certiorari is seeking the reversal of the Orders of the RTC denying
NOPAs Motion to Dismiss on the ground of failure to pay the proper docket fees. The alleged
deficiency in the payment of docket fees by Campos, if there is any, would not inure to the
benefit of NOPA.
There is therefore no substantive right that will be prejudiced by the Court of Appeals exercise of
discretion in the case at bar. While the payment of docket fees is jurisdictional, it is nevertheless
unmistakably also a technicality. Ironically, in seeking the leniency of this Court on the basis of
substantial justice, NOPA is ultimately praying for a Writ of Certiorari enjoining the action for
breach of contract from being decided on the merits. Whats sauce for the goose is sauce for the
gander. A party cannot expect its opponent to comply with the technical rules of procedure while,
at the same time, hoping for the relaxation of the technicalities in its favor.
There was therefore no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Court of Appeals warranting
this Courts reversal of the exercise of discretion by the former. However, even if we decide to
brush aside the lapses in technicalities on the part of NOPA in its Petition for Certiorari, we
nevertheless find that such Petition would still fail.
NOPA seeks in its Petition for Certiorari for the application of this Courts ruling in Manchester
Development Corporation v. Court of Appeals,[14] wherein we ruled that the court acquires
jurisdiction over any case only upon payment of the prescribed docket fee. An amendment of the

complaint or similar pleading will not thereby vest jurisdiction in the court, much less the
payment of the docket fee based on the amount sought in the amended pleading.
In denying[15] NOPAs Motion to Dismiss, the RTC cited Sun Insurance Office, Ltd. (SIOL) v.
Asuncion,[16] wherein we modified our ruling in Manchester and decreed that where the
initiatory pleading is not accompanied by the payment of the docket fee, the court may allow
payment of the fee within a reasonable period of time, but in no case beyond the applicable
prescriptive or reglementary period. The aforesaid ruling was made on the justification that,
unlike in Manchester, the private respondent in Sun Insurance Office, Ltd. (SIOL) demonstrated
his willingness to abide by the rules by paying the additional docket fees required. NOPA claims
that Sun is not applicable to the case at bar, since Campos deliberately concealed his claim for
damages in the prayer.
In United Overseas Bank (formerly Westmont Bank) v. Ros,[17] we discussed how Manchester
was not applicable to said case in view of the lack of deliberate intent to defraud manifested in
the latter:
This Court wonders how the petitioner could possibly arrive at the conclusion that the private
respondent was moved by fraudulent intent in omitting the amount of damages claimed in its
Second Amended Complaint, thus placing itself on the same footing as the complainant in
Manchester, when it is clear that the factual milieu of the instant case is far from that of
Manchester.
First, the complainant in Manchester paid the docket fee only in the amount of P410.00,
notwithstanding its claim for damages in the amount of P78,750,000.00, while in the present
case, the private respondent paid P42,000.00 as docket fees upon filing of the original complaint.
Second, complainant's counsel in Manchester claimed, in the body of the complaint, damages in
the amount of P78,750.00 but omitted the same in its prayer in order to evade the payment of
docket fees. Such fraud-defining circumstance is absent in the instant petition.
Finally, when the court took cognizance of the issue of non-payment of docket fees in
Manchester, the complainant therein filed an amended complaint, this time omitting all mention
of the amount of damages being claimed in the body of the complaint; and when directed by the
court to specify the amount of damages in such amended complaint, it reduced the same from
P78,750,000.00 to P10,000,000.00, obviously to avoid payment of the required docket fee.
Again, this patent fraudulent scheme is wanting in the case at bar.
This Court is not inclined to adopt the petitioner's piecemeal construction of our rulings in
Manchester and Sun Insurance. Its attempt to strip the said landmark cases of one or two lines
and use them to bolster its arguments and clothe its position with jurisprudential blessing must
be struck down by this Court.
All told, the rule is clear and simple. In case where the party does not deliberately intend to
defraud the court in payment of docket fees, and manifests its willingness to abide by the rules
by paying additional docket fees when required by the court, the liberal doctrine enunciated in
Sun Insurance and not the strict regulations set in Manchester will apply.
In the case at bar, Campos filed an amount of P54,898.50 as docket fee, based on the amounts
of P10,000,000.00 representing the value of unwithdrawn molasses, P100,00.00 as storage fee,
P200,00.00 as moral damages, P100,000.00 as exemplary damages and P500,000.00 as
attorneys fees. The total amount considered in computing the docket fee was P10,900,000.00.
NOPA alleges that Campos deliberately omitted a claim for unrealized profit of P100,000.00 and
an excess amount of storage fee in the amount of P502,875.98 in its prayer and, hence, the
amount that should have been considered in the payment of docket fees is P11,502,875.98. The
amount allegedly deliberately omitted was therefore only P602,875.98 out of P11,502,875.98, or
merely 5.2% of said alleged total. Camposs pleadings furthermore evince his willingness to abide
by the rules by paying the additional docket fees when required by the Court.
Since the circumstances of this case clearly show that there was no deliberate intent to defraud
the Court in the payment of docket fees, the case of Sun should be applied, and the Motion to
Dismiss by NOPA should be denied.
WHEREFORE, the Resolutions of the Court of Appeals dated 23 May 2007 and 16 August 2007,
respectively, in CA-G.R. SP No. 02651, outrightly dismissing the Petition for Certiorari filed by

petitioner Negros Oriental Planters Association, Inc. against private respondent Aniceto Manojo
Campos, are AFFIRMED. No costs.
SO ORDERED.