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Full Text Cases (Article 2-14)

Article 2 – Effectivity of Laws


Tanada GR L-63915

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

G.R. No. L-63915 April 24, 1985

LORENZO M. TAÑADA, ABRAHAM F. SARMIENTO, and MOVEMENT OF


ATTORNEYS FOR BROTHERHOOD, INTEGRITY AND NATIONALISM, INC.
[MABINI], petitioners,
vs.
HON. JUAN C. TUVERA, in his capacity as Executive Assistant to the President, HON.
JOAQUIN VENUS, in his capacity as Deputy Executive Assistant to the President ,
MELQUIADES P. DE LA CRUZ, in his capacity as Director, Malacañang Records Office,
and FLORENDO S. PABLO, in his capacity as Director, Bureau of Printing, respondents.

ESCOLIN, J.:

Invoking the people's right to be informed on matters of public concern, a right recognized in
Section 6, Article IV of the 1973 Philippine Constitution, 1 as well as the principle that laws to be
valid and enforceable must be published in the Official Gazette or otherwise effectively
promulgated, petitioners seek a writ of mandamus to compel respondent public officials to
publish, and/or cause the publication in the Official Gazette of various presidential decrees, letters
of instructions, general orders, proclamations, executive orders, letter of implementation and
administrative orders.

Specifically, the publication of the following presidential issuances is sought:

a] Presidential Decrees Nos. 12, 22, 37, 38, 59, 64, 103, 171, 179, 184, 197, 200,
234, 265, 286, 298, 303, 312, 324, 325, 326, 337, 355, 358, 359, 360, 361, 368,
404, 406, 415, 427, 429, 445, 447, 473, 486, 491, 503, 504, 521, 528, 551, 566,
573, 574, 594, 599, 644, 658, 661, 718, 731, 733, 793, 800, 802, 835, 836, 923,
935, 961, 1017-1030, 1050, 1060-1061, 1085, 1143, 1165, 1166, 1242, 1246,
1250, 1278, 1279, 1300, 1644, 1772, 1808, 1810, 1813-1817, 1819-1826, 1829-
1840, 1842-1847.

b] Letter of Instructions Nos.: 10, 39, 49, 72, 107, 108, 116, 130, 136, 141, 150,
153, 155, 161, 173, 180, 187, 188, 192, 193, 199, 202, 204, 205, 209, 211-213,
215-224, 226-228, 231-239, 241-245, 248, 251, 253-261, 263-269, 271-273, 275-
283, 285-289, 291, 293, 297-299, 301-303, 309, 312-315, 325, 327, 343, 346,
349, 357, 358, 362, 367, 370, 382, 385, 386, 396-397, 405, 438-440, 444- 445,
473, 486, 488, 498, 501, 399, 527, 561, 576, 587, 594, 599, 600, 602, 609, 610,
611, 612, 615, 641, 642, 665, 702, 712-713, 726, 837-839, 878-879, 881, 882,
939-940, 964,997,1149-1178,1180-1278.

c] General Orders Nos.: 14, 52, 58, 59, 60, 62, 63, 64 & 65.
d] Proclamation Nos.: 1126, 1144, 1147, 1151, 1196, 1270, 1281, 1319-1526,
1529, 1532, 1535, 1538, 1540-1547, 1550-1558, 1561-1588, 1590-1595, 1594-
1600, 1606-1609, 1612-1628, 1630-1649, 1694-1695, 1697-1701, 1705-1723,
1731-1734, 1737-1742, 1744, 1746-1751, 1752, 1754, 1762, 1764-1787, 1789-
1795, 1797, 1800, 1802-1804, 1806-1807, 1812-1814, 1816, 1825-1826, 1829,
1831-1832, 1835-1836, 1839-1840, 1843-1844, 1846-1847, 1849, 1853-1858,
1860, 1866, 1868, 1870, 1876-1889, 1892, 1900, 1918, 1923, 1933, 1952, 1963,
1965-1966, 1968-1984, 1986-2028, 2030-2044, 2046-2145, 2147-2161, 2163-
2244.

e] Executive Orders Nos.: 411, 413, 414, 427, 429-454, 457- 471, 474-492, 494-
507, 509-510, 522, 524-528, 531-532, 536, 538, 543-544, 549, 551-553, 560,
563, 567-568, 570, 574, 593, 594, 598-604, 609, 611- 647, 649-677, 679-703,
705-707, 712-786, 788-852, 854-857.

f] Letters of Implementation Nos.: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11-22, 25-27, 39, 50, 51, 59, 76,
80-81, 92, 94, 95, 107, 120, 122, 123.

g] Administrative Orders Nos.: 347, 348, 352-354, 360- 378, 380-433, 436-439.

The respondents, through the Solicitor General, would have this case dismissed outright on the
ground that petitioners have no legal personality or standing to bring the instant petition. The view
is submitted that in the absence of any showing that petitioners are personally and directly affected
or prejudiced by the alleged non-publication of the presidential issuances in question 2 said
petitioners are without the requisite legal personality to institute this mandamus proceeding, they
are not being "aggrieved parties" within the meaning of Section 3, Rule 65 of the Rules of Court,
which we quote:

SEC. 3. Petition for Mandamus.—When any tribunal, corporation, board or


person unlawfully neglects the performance of an act which the law specifically
enjoins as a duty resulting from an office, trust, or station, or unlawfully excludes
another from the use a rd enjoyment of a right or office to which such other is
entitled, and there is no other plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary
course of law, the person aggrieved thereby may file a verified petition in the
proper court alleging the facts with certainty and praying that judgment be
rendered commanding the defendant, immediately or at some other specified
time, to do the act required to be done to Protect the rights of the petitioner, and
to pay the damages sustained by the petitioner by reason of the wrongful acts of
the defendant.

Upon the other hand, petitioners maintain that since the subject of the petition concerns a public
right and its object is to compel the performance of a public duty, they need not show any specific
interest for their petition to be given due course.

The issue posed is not one of first impression. As early as the 1910 case of Severino vs. Governor
General, 3 this Court held that while the general rule is that "a writ of mandamus would be granted
to a private individual only in those cases where he has some private or particular interest to be
subserved, or some particular right to be protected, independent of that which he holds with the
public at large," and "it is for the public officers exclusively to apply for the writ when public
rights are to be subserved [Mithchell vs. Boardmen, 79 M.e., 469]," nevertheless, "when the
question is one of public right and the object of the mandamus is to procure the enforcement of a
public duty, the people are regarded as the real party in interest and the relator at whose instigation
the proceedings are instituted need not show that he has any legal or special interest in the result, it
being sufficient to show that he is a citizen and as such interested in the execution of the laws
[High, Extraordinary Legal Remedies, 3rd ed., sec. 431].
Thus, in said case, this Court recognized the relator Lope Severino, a private individual, as a
proper party to the mandamus proceedings brought to compel the Governor General to call a
special election for the position of municipal president in the town of Silay, Negros Occidental.
Speaking for this Court, Mr. Justice Grant T. Trent said:

We are therefore of the opinion that the weight of authority supports the
proposition that the relator is a proper party to proceedings of this character when
a public right is sought to be enforced. If the general rule in America were
otherwise, we think that it would not be applicable to the case at bar for the
reason 'that it is always dangerous to apply a general rule to a particular case
without keeping in mind the reason for the rule, because, if under the particular
circumstances the reason for the rule does not exist, the rule itself is not
applicable and reliance upon the rule may well lead to error'

No reason exists in the case at bar for applying the general rule insisted upon by
counsel for the respondent. The circumstances which surround this case are
different from those in the United States, inasmuch as if the relator is not a
proper party to these proceedings no other person could be, as we have seen that
it is not the duty of the law officer of the Government to appear and represent the
people in cases of this character.

The reasons given by the Court in recognizing a private citizen's legal personality in the
aforementioned case apply squarely to the present petition. Clearly, the right sought to be enforced
by petitioners herein is a public right recognized by no less than the fundamental law of the land.
If petitioners were not allowed to institute this proceeding, it would indeed be difficult to conceive
of any other person to initiate the same, considering that the Solicitor General, the government
officer generally empowered to represent the people, has entered his appearance for respondents
in this case.

Respondents further contend that publication in the Official Gazette is not a sine qua non
requirement for the effectivity of laws where the laws themselves provide for their own effectivity
dates. It is thus submitted that since the presidential issuances in question contain special
provisions as to the date they are to take effect, publication in the Official Gazette is not
indispensable for their effectivity. The point stressed is anchored on Article 2 of the Civil Code:

Art. 2. Laws shall take effect after fifteen days following the completion of their
publication in the Official Gazette, unless it is otherwise provided, ...

The interpretation given by respondent is in accord with this Court's construction of said article. In
a long line of decisions,4 this Court has ruled that publication in the Official Gazette is necessary
in those cases where the legislation itself does not provide for its effectivity date-for then the date
of publication is material for determining its date of effectivity, which is the fifteenth day
following its publication-but not when the law itself provides for the date when it goes into effect.

Respondents' argument, however, is logically correct only insofar as it equates the effectivity of
laws with the fact of publication. Considered in the light of other statutes applicable to the issue at
hand, the conclusion is easily reached that said Article 2 does not preclude the requirement of
publication in the Official Gazette, even if the law itself provides for the date of its effectivity.
Thus, Section 1 of Commonwealth Act 638 provides as follows:

Section 1. There shall be published in the Official Gazette [1] all important
legisiative acts and resolutions of a public nature of the, Congress of the
Philippines; [2] all executive and administrative orders and proclamations, except
such as have no general applicability; [3] decisions or abstracts of decisions of
the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals as may be deemed by said courts of
sufficient importance to be so published; [4] such documents or classes of
documents as may be required so to be published by law; and [5] such documents
or classes of documents as the President of the Philippines shall determine from
time to time to have general applicability and legal effect, or which he may
authorize so to be published. ...

The clear object of the above-quoted provision is to give the general public adequate notice of the
various laws which are to regulate their actions and conduct as citizens. Without such notice and
publication, there would be no basis for the application of the maxim "ignorantia legis non
excusat." It would be the height of injustice to punish or otherwise burden a citizen for the
transgression of a law of which he had no notice whatsoever, not even a constructive one.

Perhaps at no time since the establishment of the Philippine Republic has the publication of laws
taken so vital significance that at this time when the people have bestowed upon the President a
power heretofore enjoyed solely by the legislature. While the people are kept abreast by the mass
media of the debates and deliberations in the Batasan Pambansa—and for the diligent ones, ready
access to the legislative records—no such publicity accompanies the law-making process of the
President. Thus, without publication, the people have no means of knowing what presidential
decrees have actually been promulgated, much less a definite way of informing themselves of the
specific contents and texts of such decrees. As the Supreme Court of Spain ruled: "Bajo la
denominacion generica de leyes, se comprenden tambien los reglamentos, Reales decretos,
Instrucciones, Circulares y Reales ordines dictadas de conformidad con las mismas por el
Gobierno en uso de su potestad.5

The very first clause of Section I of Commonwealth Act 638 reads: "There shall be published in
the Official Gazette ... ." The word "shall" used therein imposes upon respondent officials an
imperative duty. That duty must be enforced if the Constitutional right of the people to be
informed on matters of public concern is to be given substance and reality. The law itself makes a
list of what should be published in the Official Gazette. Such listing, to our mind, leaves
respondents with no discretion whatsoever as to what must be included or excluded from such
publication.

The publication of all presidential issuances "of a public nature" or "of general applicability" is
mandated by law. Obviously, presidential decrees that provide for fines, forfeitures or penalties
for their violation or otherwise impose a burden or. the people, such as tax and revenue measures,
fall within this category. Other presidential issuances which apply only to particular persons or
class of persons such as administrative and executive orders need not be published on the
assumption that they have been circularized to all concerned. 6

It is needless to add that the publication of presidential issuances "of a public nature" or "of
general applicability" is a requirement of due process. It is a rule of law that before a person may
be bound by law, he must first be officially and specifically informed of its contents. As Justice
Claudio Teehankee said in Peralta vs. COMELEC 7:

In a time of proliferating decrees, orders and letters of instructions which all form
part of the law of the land, the requirement of due process and the Rule of Law
demand that the Official Gazette as the official government repository
promulgate and publish the texts of all such decrees, orders and instructions so
that the people may know where to obtain their official and specific contents.

The Court therefore declares that presidential issuances of general application, which have not
been published, shall have no force and effect. Some members of the Court, quite apprehensive
about the possible unsettling effect this decision might have on acts done in reliance of the validity
of those presidential decrees which were published only during the pendency of this petition, have
put the question as to whether the Court's declaration of invalidity apply to P.D.s which had been
enforced or implemented prior to their publication. The answer is all too familiar. In similar
situations in the past this Court had taken the pragmatic and realistic course set forth in Chicot
County Drainage District vs. Baxter Bank 8 to wit:

The courts below have proceeded on the theory that the Act of Congress, having
been found to be unconstitutional, was not a law; that it was inoperative,
conferring no rights and imposing no duties, and hence affording no basis for the
challenged decree. Norton v. Shelby County, 118 U.S. 425, 442; Chicago, 1. &
L. Ry. Co. v. Hackett, 228 U.S. 559, 566. It is quite clear, however, that such
broad statements as to the effect of a determination of unconstitutionality must be
taken with qualifications. The actual existence of a statute, prior to such a
determination, is an operative fact and may have consequences which cannot
justly be ignored. The past cannot always be erased by a new judicial declaration.
The effect of the subsequent ruling as to invalidity may have to be considered in
various aspects-with respect to particular conduct, private and official. Questions
of rights claimed to have become vested, of status, of prior determinations
deemed to have finality and acted upon accordingly, of public policy in the light
of the nature both of the statute and of its previous application, demand
examination. These questions are among the most difficult of those which have
engaged the attention of courts, state and federal and it is manifest from
numerous decisions that an all-inclusive statement of a principle of absolute
retroactive invalidity cannot be justified.

Consistently with the above principle, this Court in Rutter vs. Esteban 9 sustained the right of a
party under the Moratorium Law, albeit said right had accrued in his favor before said law was
declared unconstitutional by this Court.

Similarly, the implementation/enforcement of presidential decrees prior to their publication in the


Official Gazette is "an operative fact which may have consequences which cannot be justly
ignored. The past cannot always be erased by a new judicial declaration ... that an all-inclusive
statement of a principle of absolute retroactive invalidity cannot be justified."

From the report submitted to the Court by the Clerk of Court, it appears that of the presidential
decrees sought by petitioners to be published in the Official Gazette, only Presidential Decrees
Nos. 1019 to 1030, inclusive, 1278, and 1937 to 1939, inclusive, have not been so
published. 10 Neither the subject matters nor the texts of these PDs can be ascertained since no
copies thereof are available. But whatever their subject matter may be, it is undisputed that none
of these unpublished PDs has ever been implemented or enforced by the government. In Pesigan
vs. Angeles,11 the Court, through Justice Ramon Aquino, ruled that "publication is necessary to
apprise the public of the contents of [penal] regulations and make the said penalties binding on the
persons affected thereby. " The cogency of this holding is apparently recognized by respondent
officials considering the manifestation in their comment that "the government, as a matter of
policy, refrains from prosecuting violations of criminal laws until the same shall have been
published in the Official Gazette or in some other publication, even though some criminal laws
provide that they shall take effect immediately.

WHEREFORE, the Court hereby orders respondents to publish in the Official Gazette all
unpublished presidential issuances which are of general application, and unless so published, they
shall have no binding force and effect.

SO ORDERED.

Relova, J., concurs.

Aquino, J., took no part.

Concepcion, Jr., J., is on leave.


Article 2 – Effectivity of Laws
De Roy GR 80718

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 80718 January 29, 1988

FELIZA P. DE ROY and VIRGILIO RAMOS, petitioners,


vs.
COURT OF APPEALS and LUIS BERNAL, SR., GLENIA BERNAL, LUIS BERNAL, JR.,
HEIRS OF MARISSA BERNAL, namely, GLICERIA DELA CRUZ BERNAL and LUIS
BERNAL, SR., respondents.

RESOLUTION

CORTES, J.:

This special civil action for certiorari seeks to declare null and void two (2) resolutions of the
Special First Division of the Court of Appeals in the case of Luis Bernal, Sr., et al. v. Felisa
Perdosa De Roy, et al., CA-G.R. CV No. 07286. The first resolution promulgated on 30
September 1987 denied petitioners' motion for extension of time to file a motion for
reconsideration and directed entry of judgment since the decision in said case had become final;
and the second Resolution dated 27 October 1987 denied petitioners' motion for reconsideration
for having been filed out of time.

At the outset, this Court could have denied the petition outright for not being verified as required
by Rule 65 section 1 of the Rules of Court. However, even if the instant petition did not suffer
from this defect, this Court, on procedural and substantive grounds, would still resolve to deny it.

The facts of the case are undisputed. The firewall of a burned-out building owned by petitioners
collapsed and destroyed the tailoring shop occupied by the family of private respondents, resulting
in injuries to private respondents and the death of Marissa Bernal, a daughter. Private respondents
had been warned by petitioners to vacate their shop in view of its proximity to the weakened wall
but the former failed to do so. On the basis of the foregoing facts, the Regional Trial Court. First
Judicial Region, Branch XXXVIII, presided by the Hon. Antonio M. Belen, rendered judgment
finding petitioners guilty of gross negligence and awarding damages to private respondents. On
appeal, the decision of the trial court was affirmed in toto by the Court of Appeals in a decision
promulgated on August 17, 1987, a copy of which was received by petitioners on August 25,
1987. On September 9, 1987, the last day of the fifteen-day period to file an appeal, petitioners
filed a motion for extension of time to file a motion for reconsideration, which was eventually
denied by the appellate court in the Resolution of September 30, 1987. Petitioners filed their
motion for reconsideration on September 24, 1987 but this was denied in the Resolution of
October 27, 1987.
This Court finds that the Court of Appeals did not commit a grave abuse of discretion when it
denied petitioners' motion for extension of time to file a motion for reconsideration, directed entry
of judgment and denied their motion for reconsideration. It correctly applied the rule laid down
in Habaluyas Enterprises, Inc. v. Japzon, [G.R. No. 70895, August 5, 1985,138 SCRA 461, that
the fifteen-day period for appealing or for filing a motion for reconsideration cannot be extended.
In its Resolution denying the motion for reconsideration, promulgated on July 30, 1986 (142
SCRA 208), this Court en banc restated and clarified the rule, to wit:

Beginning one month after the promulgation of this Resolution, the rule shall be strictly enforced
that no motion for extension of time to file a motion for reconsideration may be filed with the
Metropolitan or Municipal Trial Courts, the Regional Trial Courts, and the Intermediate Appellate
Court. Such a motion may be filed only in cases pending with the Supreme Court as the court of
last resort, which may in its sound discretion either grant or deny the extension requested. (at p.
212)

Lacsamana v. Second Special Cases Division of the intermediate Appellate Court, [G.R. No.
73146-53, August 26, 1986, 143 SCRA 643], reiterated the rule and went further to restate and
clarify the modes and periods of appeal.

Bacaya v. Intermediate Appellate Court, [G.R. No. 74824, Sept. 15, 1986,144 SCRA
161],stressed the prospective application of said rule, and explained the operation of the grace
period, to wit:

In other words, there is a one-month grace period from the promulgation on May
30, 1986 of the Court's Resolution in the clarificatory Habaluyas case, or up to
June 30, 1986, within which the rule barring extensions of time to file motions
for new trial or reconsideration is, as yet, not strictly enforceable.

Since petitioners herein filed their motion for extension on February 27, 1986, it
is still within the grace period, which expired on June 30, 1986, and may still be
allowed.

This grace period was also applied in Mission v. Intermediate Appellate Court [G.R. No. 73669,
October 28, 1986, 145 SCRA 306].]

In the instant case, however, petitioners' motion for extension of time was filed on September 9,
1987, more than a year after the expiration of the grace period on June 30, 1986. Hence, it is no
longer within the coverage of the grace period. Considering the length of time from the expiration
of the grace period to the promulgation of the decision of the Court of Appeals on August 25,
1987, petitioners cannot seek refuge in the ignorance of their counsel regarding said rule for their
failure to file a motion for reconsideration within the reglementary period.

Petitioners contend that the rule enunciated in the Habaluyas case should not be made to apply to
the case at bar owing to the non-publication of the Habaluyas decision in the Official Gazette as
of the time the subject decision of the Court of Appeals was promulgated. Contrary to petitioners'
view, there is no law requiring the publication of Supreme Court decisions in the Official Gazette
before they can be binding and as a condition to their becoming effective. It is the bounden duty of
counsel as lawyer in active law practice to keep abreast of decisions of the Supreme Court
particularly where issues have been clarified, consistently reiterated, and published in the advance
reports of Supreme Court decisions (G. R. s) and in such publications as the Supreme Court
Reports Annotated (SCRA) and law journals.

This Court likewise finds that the Court of Appeals committed no grave abuse of discretion in
affirming the trial court's decision holding petitioner liable under Article 2190 of the Civil Code,
which provides that "the proprietor of a building or structure is responsible for the damage
resulting from its total or partial collapse, if it should be due to the lack of necessary repairs.
Nor was there error in rejecting petitioners argument that private respondents had the "last clear
chance" to avoid the accident if only they heeded the. warning to vacate the tailoring shop and ,
therefore, petitioners prior negligence should be disregarded, since the doctrine of "last clear
chance," which has been applied to vehicular accidents, is inapplicable to this case.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Court Resolved to DENY the instant petition for
lack of merit.

Fernan (Chairman), Gutierrez, Jr., Feliciano and Bidin, JJ., concur.


Article 4 – Prospectivity of Laws
Atienza AM No MTJ-92-706

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

A.M. No. MTJ-92-706 March 29, 1995

LUPO ALMODIEL ATIENZA, complainant,


vs.
JUDGE FRANCISCO F. BRILLANTES, JR., Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch 28,
Manila, respondent.

QUIASON, J.:

This is a complaint by Lupo A. Atienza for Gross Immorality and Appearance of Impropriety
against Judge Francisco Brillantes, Jr., Presiding Judge of the Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch
20, Manila.

Complainant alleges that he has two children with Yolanda De Castro, who are living together at
No. 34 Galaxy Street, Bel-Air Subdivision, Makati, Metro Manila. He stays in said house, which
he purchased in 1987, whenever he is in Manila.

In December 1991, upon opening the door to his bedroom, he saw respondent sleeping on his
(complainant's) bed. Upon inquiry, he was told by the houseboy that respondent had been
cohabiting with De Castro. Complainant did not bother to wake up respondent and instead left the
house after giving instructions to his houseboy to take care of his children.

Thereafter, respondent prevented him from visiting his children and even alienated the affection of
his children for him.

Complainant claims that respondent is married to one Zenaida Ongkiko with whom he has five
children, as appearing in his 1986 and 1991 sworn statements of assets and liabilities.
Furthermore, he alleges that respondent caused his arrest on January 13, 1992, after he had a
heated argument with De Castro inside the latter's office.

For his part, respondent alleges that complainant was not married to De Castro and that the filing
of the administrative action was related to complainant's claim on the Bel-Air residence, which
was disputed by De Castro.

Respondent denies that he caused complainant's arrest and claims that he was even a witness to
the withdrawal of the complaint for Grave Slander filed by De Castro against complainant.
According to him, it was the sister of De Castro who called the police to arrest complainant.

Respondent also denies having been married to Ongkiko, although he admits having five children
with her. He alleges that while he and Ongkiko went through a marriage ceremony before a Nueva
Ecija town mayor on April 25, 1965, the same was not a valid marriage for lack of a marriage
license. Upon the request of the parents of Ongkiko, respondent went through another marriage
ceremony with her in Manila on June 5, 1965. Again, neither party applied for a marriage license.
Ongkiko abandoned respondent 17 years ago, leaving their children to his care and custody as a
single parent.

Respondent claims that when he married De Castro in civil rites in Los Angeles, California on
December 4, 1991, he believed, in all good faith and for all legal intents and purposes, that he was
single because his first marriage was solemnized without a license.

Under the Family Code, there must be a judicial declaration of the nullity of a previous marriage
before a party thereto can enter into a second marriage. Article 40 of said Code provides:

The absolute nullity of a previous marriage may be invoked for the purposes of
remarriage on the basis solely of a final judgment declaring such previous
marriage void.

Respondent argues that the provision of Article 40 of the Family Code does not apply to him
considering that his first marriage took place in 1965 and was governed by the Civil Code of the
Philippines; while the second marriage took place in 1991 and governed by the Family Code.

Article 40 is applicable to remarriages entered into after the effectivity of the Family Code on
August 3, 1988 regardless of the date of the first marriage. Besides, under Article 256 of the
Family Code, said Article is given "retroactive effect insofar as it does not prejudice or impair
vested or acquired rights in accordance with the Civil Code or other laws." This is particularly true
with Article 40, which is a rule of procedure. Respondent has not shown any vested right that was
impaired by the application of Article 40 to his case.

The fact that procedural statutes may somehow affect the litigants' rights may not preclude their
retroactive application to pending actions. The retroactive application of procedural laws is not
violative of any right of a person who may feel that he is adversely affected (Gregorio v. Court of
Appeals, 26 SCRA 229 [1968]). The reason is that as a general rule no vested right may attach to,
nor arise from, procedural laws (Billones v. Court of Industrial Relations, 14 SCRA 674 [1965]).

Respondent is the last person allowed to invoke good faith. He made a mockery of the institution
of marriage and employed deceit to be able to cohabit with a woman, who beget him five children.

Respondent passed the Bar examinations in 1962 and was admitted to the practice of law in 1963.
At the time he went through the two marriage ceremonies with Ongkiko, he was already a lawyer.
Yet, he never secured any marriage license. Any law student would know that a marriage license
is necessary before one can get married. Respondent was given an opportunity to correct the flaw
in his first marriage when he and Ongkiko were married for the second time. His failure to secure
a marriage license on these two occasions betrays his sinister motives and bad faith.

It is evident that respondent failed to meet the standard of moral fitness for membership in the
legal profession.

While the deceit employed by respondent existed prior to his appointment as a Metropolitan Trial
Judge, his immoral and illegal act of cohabiting with De Castro began and continued when he was
already in the judiciary.

The Code of Judicial Ethics mandates that the conduct of a judge must be free of a whiff of
impropriety, not only with respect to his performance of his judicial duties but also as to his
behavior as a private individual. There is no duality of morality. A public figure is also judged by
his private life. A judge, in order to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of
the judiciary, must behave with propriety at all times, in the performance of his judicial duties and
in his everyday life. These are judicial guideposts too self-evident to be overlooked. No position
exacts a greater demand on moral righteousness and uprightness of an individual than a seat in the
judiciary (Imbing v. Tiongzon, 229 SCRA 690 [1994]).

WHEREFORE, respondent is DISMISSED from the service with forfeiture of all leave and
retirement benefits and with prejudice to reappointment in any branch, instrumentality, or agency
of the government, including government-owned and controlled corporations. This decision is
immediately executory.

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C.J., Feliciano, Padilla, Bidin, Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Puno,
Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza and Francisco, JJ., concur.

Article 4 – Prospectivity of Laws


Carlos GR 179922

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 179922 December 16, 2008

JUAN DE DIOS CARLOS, petitioner,


vs.
FELICIDAD SANDOVAL, also known as FELICIDAD S. VDA. DE CARLOS or
FELICIDAD SANDOVAL CARLOS or FELICIDAD SANDOVAL VDA. DE CARLOS,
and TEOFILO CARLOS II, respondents.

DECISION

REYES, R.T., J.:

ONLY a spouse can initiate an action to sever the marital bond for marriages solemnized during
the effectivity of the Family Code, except cases commenced prior to March 15, 2003. The nullity
and annulment of a marriage cannot be declared in a judgment on the pleadings, summary
judgment, or confession of judgment.

We pronounce these principles as We review on certiorari the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals
(CA) which reversed and set aside the summary judgment2 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in
an action for declaration of nullity of marriage, status of a child, recovery of property,
reconveyance, sum of money, and damages.

The Facts

The events that led to the institution of the instant suitare unveiled as follows:

Spouses Felix B. Carlos and Felipa Elemia died intestate. They left six parcels of land to their
compulsory heirs, Teofilo Carlos and petitioner Juan De Dios Carlos. The lots are particularly
described as follows:

Parcel No. 1

Lot No. 162 of the MUNTINLUPA ESTATE SUBDIVISION, Case No. 6137 of the
Court of Land Registration.

Exemption from the provisions of Article 567 of the Civil Code is specifically reserved.

Area: 1 hectare, 06 ares, 07 centares.

Parcel No. 2

A parcel of land (Lot No. 159-B), being a portion of Lot 159, situated in the Bo. of
Alabang, Municipality of Muntinlupa, Province of Rizal, x x x containing an area of
Thirteen Thousand Four Hundred Forty One (13,441) square meters.

Parcel No. 3

A parcel of land (Lot 159-B-2 of the subd. plan [LRC] Psd-325903, approved as a non-
subd. project), being a portion of Lot 159-B [LRC] Psd- Alabang, Mun. of Muntinlupa,
Metro Manila, Island of Luzon. Bounded on the NE, points 2 to 4 by Lot 155, Muntinlupa
Estate; on the SE, point 4 to 5 by Lot 159-B-5; on the S, points 5 to 1 by Lot 159-B-3; on
the W, points 1 to 2 by Lot 159-B-1 (Road widening) all of the subd. plan, containing an
area of ONE HUNDRED THIRTY (130) SQ. METERS, more or less.
PARCEL No. 4

A parcel of land (Lot 28-C of the subd. plan Psd-13-007090, being a portion of Lot 28,
Muntinlupa Estate, L.R.C. Rec. No. 6137), situated in the Bo. of Alabang, Mun. of
Muntinlupa, Metro Manila. Bounded on the NE, along lines 1-2 by Lot 27, Muntinlupa
Estate; on the East & SE, along lines 2 to 6 by Mangangata River; and on the West.,
along line 6-1, by Lot 28-B of the subd. plan x x x containing an area of ONE
THUSAND AND SEVENTY-SIX (1,076) SQUARE METERS.

PARCEL No. 5

PARCELA DE TERRENO No. 50, Manzana No. 18, de la subd. de Solocan. Linda por el
NW, con la parcela 49; por el NE, con la parcela 36; por el SE, con la parcela 51; y por el
SW, con la calle Dos Castillas. Partiendo de un punto marcado 1 en el plano, el cual se
halla a S. gds. 01'W, 72.50 mts. Desde el punto 1 de esta manzana, que es un mojon de
concreto de la Ciudad de Manila, situado on el esquina E. que forman las Calles Laong
Laan y Dos. Castillas, continiendo un extension superficial de CIENTO CINCUENTA
(150) METROS CUADRADOS.

PARCEL No. 6

PARCELA DE TERRENO No. 51, Manzana No. 18, de la subd. De Solocon. Linda por
el NW, con la parcela 50; por el NE, con la parcela 37; por el SE, con la parcela 52; por el
SW, con la Calle Dos Castillas. Partiendo de un punto Marcado 1 en el plano, el cual se
halla at S. 43 gds. 01'E, 82.50 mts. Desde el punto 1 de esta manzana, que es un mojon de
concreto de la Ciudad de Manila, situado on el esquina E. que forman las Calles Laong
Laan y Dos. Castillas, continiendo una extension superficial de CIENTO CINCUENTA
(150) METROS CUADRADOS.3

During the lifetime of Felix Carlos, he agreed to transfer his estate to Teofilo. The agreement was
made in order to avoid the payment of inheritance taxes. Teofilo, in turn, undertook to deliver and
turn over the share of the other legal heir, petitioner Juan De Dios Carlos.

Eventually, the first three (3) parcels of land were transferred and registered in the name of
Teofilo. These three (3) lots are now covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 234824
issued by the Registry of Deeds of Makati City; TCT No. 139061 issued by the Registry of Deeds
of Makati City; and TCT No. 139058 issued by the Registry of Deeds of Makati City.

Parcel No. 4 was registered in the name of petitioner. The lot is now covered by TCT No. 160401
issued by the Registry of Deeds of Makati City.

On May 13, 1992, Teofilo died intestate. He was survived by respondents Felicidad and their son,
Teofilo Carlos II (Teofilo II). Upon Teofilo's death, Parcel Nos. 5 & 6 were registered in the name
of respondent Felicidad and co-respondent, Teofilo II. The said two (2) parcels of land are covered
by TCT Nos. 219877 and 210878, respectively, issued by the Registry of Deeds of Manila.

In 1994, petitioner instituted a suit against respondents before the RTC in Muntinlupa City,
docketed as Civil Case No. 94-1964. In the said case, the parties submitted and caused the
approval of a partial compromise agreement. Under the compromise, the parties acknowledged
their respective shares in the proceeds from the sale of a portion of the first parcel of land. This
includes the remaining 6,691-square-meter portion of said land.

On September 17, 1994, the parties executed a deed of extrajudicial partition, dividing the
remaining land of the first parcel between them.
Meanwhile, in a separate case entitled Rillo v. Carlos,4 2,331 square meters of the second parcel
of land were adjudicated in favor of plaintiffs Rillo. The remaining 10,000-square meter portion
was later divided between petitioner and respondents.

The division was incorporated in a supplemental compromise agreement executed on August 17,
1994, with respect to Civil Case No. 94-1964. The parties submitted the supplemental
compromise agreement, which was approved accordingly.

Petitioner and respondents entered into two more contracts in August 1994. Under the contracts,
the parties equally divided between them the third and fourth parcels of land.

In August 1995, petitioner commenced an action, docketed as Civil Case No. 95-135, against
respondents before the court a quo with the following causes of action: (a) declaration of nullity of
marriage; (b) status of a child; (c) recovery of property; (d) reconveyance; and (e) sum of money
and damages. The complaint was raffled to Branch 256 of the RTC in Muntinlupa.

In his complaint, petitioner asserted that the marriage between his late brother Teofilo and
respondent Felicidad was a nullity in view of the absence of the required marriage license. He
likewise maintained that his deceased brother was neither the natural nor the adoptive father of
respondent Teofilo Carlos II.

Petitioner likewise sought the avoidance of the contracts he entered into with respondent Felicidad
with respect to the subject real properties. He also prayed for the cancellation of the certificates of
title issued in the name of respondents. He argued that the properties covered by such certificates
of title, including the sums received by respondents as proceeds, should be reconveyed to him.

Finally, petitioner claimed indemnification as and by way of moral and exemplary damages,
attorney's fees, litigation expenses, and costs of suit.

On October 16, 1995, respondents submitted their answer. They denied the material averments of
petitioner's complaint. Respondents contended that the dearth of details regarding the requisite
marriage license did not invalidate Felicidad's marriage to Teofilo. Respondents declared that
Teofilo II was the illegitimate child of the deceased Teofilo Carlos with another woman.

On the grounds of lack of cause of action and lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter,
respondents prayed for the dismissal of the case before the trial court. They also asked that their
counterclaims for moral and exemplary damages, as well as attorney's fees, be granted.

But before the parties could even proceed to pre-trial, respondents moved for summary judgment.
Attached to the motion was the affidavit of the justice of the peace who solemnized the marriage.
Respondents also submitted the Certificate of Live Birth of respondent Teofilo II. In the
certificate, the late Teofilo Carlos and respondent Felicidad were designated as parents.

On January 5, 1996, petitioner opposed the motion for summary judgment on the ground of
irregularity of the contract evidencing the marriage. In the same breath, petitioner lodged his own
motion for summary judgment. Petitioner presented a certification from the Local Civil Registrar
of Calumpit, Bulacan, certifying that there is no record of birth of respondent Teofilo II.

Petitioner also incorporated in the counter-motion for summary judgment the testimony of
respondent Felicidad in another case. Said testimony was made in Civil Case No. 89-2384,
entitled Carlos v. Gorospe, before the RTC Branch 255, Las Piñas. In her testimony, respondent
Felicidad narrated that co-respondent Teofilo II is her child with Teofilo.5

Subsequently, the Office of the City Prosecutor of Muntinlupa submitted to the trial court its
report and manifestation, discounting the possibility of collusion between the parties.
RTC and CA Dispositions

On April 8, 1996, the RTC rendered judgment, disposing as follows:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, defendant's (respondent's) Motion for Summary


Judgment is hereby denied. Plaintiff's (petitioner's) Counter-Motion for Summary
Judgment is hereby granted and summary judgment is hereby rendered in favor of
plaintiff as follows:

1. Declaring the marriage between defendant Felicidad Sandoval and Teofilo Carlos
solemnized at Silang, Cavite on May 14, 1962, evidenced by the Marriage Certificate
submitted in this case, null and void ab initio for lack of the requisite marriage license;

2. Declaring that the defendant minor, Teofilo S. Carlos II, is not the natural, illegitimate,
or legally adopted child of the late Teofilo E. Carlos;

3. Ordering defendant Sandoval to pay and restitute to plaintiff the sum


of P18,924,800.00 together with the interest thereon at the legal rate from date of filing of
the instant complaint until fully paid;

4. Declaring plaintiff as the sole and exclusive owner of the parcel of land, less the
portion adjudicated to plaintiffs in Civil Case No. 11975, covered by TCT No. 139061 of
the Register of Deeds of Makati City, and ordering said Register of Deeds to cancel said
title and to issue another title in the sole name of plaintiff herein;

5. Declaring the Contract, Annex "K" of complaint, between plaintiff and defendant
Sandoval null and void, and ordering the Register of Deeds of Makati City to cancel TCT
No. 139058 in the name of Teofilo Carlos, and to issue another title in the sole name of
plaintiff herein;

6. Declaring the Contract, Annex M of the complaint, between plaintiff and defendant
Sandoval null and void;

7. Ordering the cancellation of TCT No. 210877 in the names of defendant Sandoval and
defendant minor Teofilo S. Carlos II and ordering the Register of Deeds of Manila to
issue another title in the exclusive name of plaintiff herein;

8. Ordering the cancellation of TCT No. 210878 in the name of defendant Sandoval and
defendant Minor Teofilo S. Carlos II and ordering the Register of Deeds of Manila to
issue another title in the sole name of plaintiff herein.

Let this case be set for hearing for the reception of plaintiff's evidence on his claim for
moral damages, exemplary damages, attorney's fees, appearance fees, and litigation
expenses on June 7, 1996 at 1:30 o'clock in the afternoon.

SO ORDERED.6

Dissatisfied, respondents appealed to the CA. In the appeal, respondents argued, inter alia, that the
trial court acted without or in excess of jurisdiction in rendering summary judgment annulling the
marriage of Teofilo, Sr. and Felicidad and in declaring Teofilo II as not an illegitimate child of
Teofilo, Sr.

On October 15, 2002, the CA reversed and set aside the RTC ruling, disposing as follows:
WHEREFORE, the summary judgment appealed from is REVERSED and SET ASIDE
and in lieu thereof, a new one is entered REMANDING the case to the court of origin for
further proceedings.

SO ORDERED.7

The CA opined:

We find the rendition of the herein appealed summary judgment by the court a
quo contrary to law and public policy as ensconced in the aforesaid safeguards. The fact
that it was appellants who first sought summary judgment from the trial court, did not
justify the grant thereof in favor of appellee. Not being an action "to recover upon a
claim" or "to obtain a declaratory relief," the rule on summary judgment apply (sic) to an
action to annul a marriage. The mere fact that no genuine issue was presented and the
desire to expedite the disposition of the case cannot justify a misinterpretation of the rule.
The first paragraph of Article 88 and 101 of the Civil Code expressly prohibit the
rendition of decree of annulment of a marriage upon a stipulation of facts or a confession
of judgment. Yet, the affidavits annexed to the petition for summary judgment practically
amount to these methods explicitly proscribed by the law.

We are not unmindful of appellee's argument that the foregoing safeguards have
traditionally been applied to prevent collusion of spouses in the matter of dissolution of
marriages and that the death of Teofilo Carlos on May 13, 1992 had effectively dissolved
the marriage herein impugned. The fact, however, that appellee's own brother and
appellant Felicidad Sandoval lived together as husband and wife for thirty years and that
the annulment of their marriage is the very means by which the latter is sought to be
deprived of her participation in the estate left by the former call for a closer and more
thorough inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the case. Rather that the summary
nature by which the court a quo resolved the issues in the case, the rule is to the effect
that the material facts alleged in the complaint for annulment of marriage should always
be proved. Section 1, Rule 19 of the Revised Rules of Court provides:

"Section 1. Judgment on the pleadings. - Where an answer fails to tender an


issue, or otherwise admits the material allegations of the adverse party's pleading,
the court may, on motion of that party, direct judgment on such pleading. But in
actions for annulment of marriage or for legal separation, the material facts
alleged in the complaint shall always be proved." (Underscoring supplied)

Moreover, even if We were to sustain the applicability of the rules on summary judgment
to the case at bench, Our perusal of the record shows that the finding of the court a
quo for appellee would still not be warranted. While it may be readily conceded that a
valid marriage license is among the formal requisites of marriage, the absence of which
renders the marriage void ab initio pursuant to Article 80(3) in relation to Article 58 of
the Civil Code the failure to reflect the serial number of the marriage license on the
marriage contract evidencing the marriage between Teofilo Carlos and appellant
Felicidad Sandoval, although irregular, is not as fatal as appellee represents it to be. Aside
from the dearth of evidence to the contrary, appellant Felicidad Sandoval's affirmation of
the existence of said marriage license is corroborated by the following statement in the
affidavit executed by Godofredo Fojas, then Justice of the Peace who officiated the
impugned marriage, to wit:

"That as far as I could remember, there was a marriage license issued at Silang,
Cavite on May 14, 1962 as basis of the said marriage contract executed by
Teofilo Carlos and Felicidad Sandoval, but the number of said marriage license
was inadvertently not placed in the marriage contract for the reason that it was
the Office Clerk who filled up the blanks in the Marriage Contract who in turn,
may have overlooked the same."

Rather than the inferences merely drawn by the trial court, We are of the considered view
that the veracity and credibility of the foregoing statement as well as the motivations
underlying the same should be properly threshed out in a trial of the case on the merits.

If the non-presentation of the marriage contract - the primary evidence of marriage - is


not proof that a marriage did not take place, neither should appellants' non-presentation of
the subject marriage license be taken as proof that the same was not procured. The burden
of proof to show the nullity of the marriage, it must be emphasized, rests upon the
plaintiff and any doubt should be resolved in favor of the validity of the marriage.

Considering that the burden of proof also rests on the party who disputes the legitimacy
of a particular party, the same may be said of the trial court's rejection of the relationship
between appellant Teofilo Carlos II and his putative father on the basis of the
inconsistencies in appellant Felicidad Sandoval's statements. Although it had effectively
disavowed appellant's prior claims regarding the legitimacy of appellant Teofilo Carlos II,
the averment in the answer that he is the illegitimate son of appellee's brother, to Our
mind, did not altogether foreclose the possibility of the said appellant's illegitimate
filiation, his right to prove the same or, for that matter, his entitlement to inheritance
rights as such.

Without trial on the merits having been conducted in the case, We find appellee's bare
allegation that appellant Teofilo Carlos II was merely purchased from an indigent couple
by appellant Felicidad Sandoval, on the whole, insufficient to support what could well be
a minor's total forfeiture of the rights arising from his putative filiation. Inconsistent
though it may be to her previous statements, appellant Felicidad Sandoval's declaration
regarding the illegitimate filiation of Teofilo Carlos II is more credible when considered
in the light of the fact that, during the last eight years of his life, Teofilo Carlos allowed
said appellant the use of his name and the shelter of his household. The least that the trial
court could have done in the premises was to conduct a trial on the merits in order to be
able to thoroughly resolve the issues pertaining to the filiation of appellant Teofilo Carlos
II.8

On November 22, 2006, petitioner moved for reconsideration and for the inhibition of the ponente,
Justice Rebecca De Guia-Salvador. The CA denied the twin motions.

Issues

In this petition under Rule 45, petitioner hoists the following issues:

1. That, in reversing and setting aside the Summary Judgment under the Decision, Annex
A hereof, and in denying petitioner's Motion for reconsideration under the Resolution,
Annex F hereof, with respect to the nullity of the impugned marriage, petitioner
respectfully submits that the Court of Appeals committed a grave reversible error in
applying Articles 88 and 101 of the Civil Code, despite the fact that the circumstances of
this case are different from that contemplated and intended by law, or has otherwise
decided a question of substance not theretofore decided by the Supreme Court, or has
decided it in a manner probably not in accord with law or with the applicable decisions of
this Honorable Court;

2. That in setting aside and reversing the Summary Judgment and, in lieu thereof, entering
another remanding the case to the court of origin for further proceedings, petitioner most
respectfully submits that the Court of Appeals committed a serious reversible error in
applying Section 1, Rule 19 (now Section 1, Rule 34) of the Rules of Court providing for
judgment on the pleadings, instead of Rule 35 governing Summary Judgments;

3. That in reversing and setting aside the Summary Judgment and, in lieu thereof, entering
another remanding the case to the court of origin for further proceedings, petitioner most
respectfully submits that the Court of Appeals committed grave abuse of discretion,
disregarded judicial admissions, made findings on ground of speculations, surmises, and
conjectures, or otherwise committed misapplications of the laws and misapprehension of
the facts.9 (Underscoring supplied)

Essentially, the Court is tasked to resolve whether a marriage may be declared void ab
initio through a judgment on the pleadings or a summary judgment and without the benefit of a
trial. But there are other procedural issues, including the capacity of one who is not a spouse in
bringing the action for nullity of marriage.

Our Ruling

I. The grounds for declaration of absolute nullity of marriage must be proved. Neither
judgment on the pleadings nor summary judgment is allowed. So is confession of judgment
disallowed.

Petitioner faults the CA in applying Section 1, Rule 1910 of the Revised Rules of Court, which
provides:

SECTION 1. Judgment on the pleadings. - Where an answer fails to tender an issue, or


otherwise admits the material allegations of the adverse party's pleading, the court may,
on motion of that party, direct judgment on such pleading. But in actions for annulment of
marriage or for legal separation, the material facts alleged in the complaint shall always
be proved.

He argues that the CA should have applied Rule 35 of the Rules of Court governing summary
judgment, instead of the rule on judgment on the pleadings.

Petitioner is misguided. The CA did not limit its finding solely within the provisions of the Rule
on judgment on the pleadings. In disagreeing with the trial court, the CA likewise considered the
provisions on summary judgments, to wit:

Moreover, even if We are to sustain the applicability of the rules on summary judgment
to the case at bench, Our perusal of the record shows that the finding of the court a
quo for appellee would still not be warranted. x x x11

But whether it is based on judgment on the pleadings or summary judgment, the CA was correct
in reversing the summary judgment rendered by the trial court. Both the rules on judgment on the
pleadings and summary judgments have no place in cases of declaration of absolute nullity of
marriage and even in annulment of marriage.

With the advent of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC, known as "Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of
Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages," the question on the application of
summary judgments or even judgment on the pleadings in cases of nullity or annulment of
marriage has been stamped with clarity. The significant principle laid down by the said Rule,
which took effect on March 15, 200312 is found in Section 17, viz.:

SEC. 17. Trial. - (1) The presiding judge shall personally conduct the trial of the case. No
delegation of evidence to a commissioner shall be allowed except as to matters involving
property relations of the spouses.
(2) The grounds for declaration of absolute nullity or annulment of marriage must be
proved. No judgment on the pleadings, summary judgment, or confession of
judgment shall be allowed. (Underscoring supplied)

Likewise instructive is the Court's pronouncement in Republic v. Sandiganbayan.13 In that case,


We excluded actions for nullity or annulment of marriage from the application of summary
judgments.

Prescinding from the foregoing discussion, save for annulment of marriage or declaration
of its nullity or for legal separation, summary judgment is applicable to all kinds of
actions.14 (Underscoring supplied)

By issuing said summary judgment, the trial court has divested the State of its lawful right and
duty to intervene in the case. The participation of the State is not terminated by the declaration of
the public prosecutor that no collusion exists between the parties. The State should have been
given the opportunity to present controverting evidence before the judgment was rendered.15

Both the Civil Code and the Family Code ordain that the court should order the prosecuting
attorney to appear and intervene for the State. It is at this stage when the public prosecutor sees to
it that there is no suppression of evidence. Concomitantly, even if there is no suppression of
evidence, the public prosecutor has to make sure that the evidence to be presented or laid down
before the court is not fabricated.

To further bolster its role towards the preservation of marriage, the Rule on Declaration of
Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages reiterates the duty of the public prosecutor, viz.:

SEC. 13. Effect of failure to appear at the pre-trial. - (a) x x x

(b) x x x If there is no collusion, the court shall require the public prosecutor to intervene
for the State during the trial on the merits to prevent suppression or fabrication of
evidence. (Underscoring supplied)

Truly, only the active participation of the public prosecutor or the Solicitor General will ensure
that the interest of the State is represented and protected in proceedings for declaration of nullity
of marriages by preventing the fabrication or suppression of evidence.16

II. A petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriage may be filed solely by the
husband or wife. Exceptions: (1) Nullity of marriage cases commenced before the effectivity
of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC; and (2) Marriages celebrated during the effectivity of the Civil
Code.

Under the Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of
Voidable Marriages, the petition for declaration of absolute nullity of marriage may not be filed
by any party outside of the marriage. The Rule made it exclusively a right of the spouses by
stating:

SEC. 2. Petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriages. -

(a) Who may file. - A petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriage may be
filed solely by the husband or the wife. (Underscoring supplied)

Section 2(a) of the Rule makes it the sole right of the husband or the wife to file a petition for
declaration of absolute nullity of void marriage. The rationale of the Rule is enlightening, viz.:
Only an aggrieved or injured spouse may file a petition for annulment of voidable
marriages or declaration of absolute nullity of void marriages. Such petition cannot be
filed by compulsory or intestate heirs of the spouses or by the State. The Committee is of
the belief that they do not have a legal right to file the petition.Compulsory or intestate
heirs have only inchoate rights prior to the death of their predecessor, and, hence, can
only question the validity of the marriage of the spouses upon the death of a spouse in a
proceeding for the settlement of the estate of the deceased spouse filed in the regular
courts. On the other hand, the concern of the State is to preserve marriage and not to seek
its dissolution.17 (Underscoring supplied)

The new Rule recognizes that the husband and the wife are the sole architects of a healthy, loving,
peaceful marriage. They are the only ones who can decide when and how to build the foundations
of marriage. The spouses alone are the engineers of their marital life. They are simultaneously the
directors and actors of their matrimonial true-to-life play. Hence, they alone can and should decide
when to take a cut, but only in accordance with the grounds allowed by law.

The innovation incorporated in A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC sets forth a demarcation line between
marriages covered by the Family Code and those solemnized under the Civil Code. The Rule
extends only to marriages entered into during the effectivity of the Family Code which took effect
on August 3, 1988.18

The advent of the Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages marks the beginning
of the end of the right of the heirs of the deceased spouse to bring a nullity of marriage case
against the surviving spouse. But the Rule never intended to deprive the compulsory or intestate
heirs of their successional rights.

While A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC declares that a petition for declaration of absolute nullity of
marriage may be filed solely by the husband or the wife, it does not mean that the compulsory or
intestate heirs are without any recourse under the law. They can still protect their successional
right, for, as stated in the Rationale of the Rules on Annulment of Voidable Marriages and
Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages, compulsory or intestate heirs can still question
the validity of the marriage of the spouses, not in a proceeding for declaration of nullity but upon
the death of a spouse in a proceeding for the settlement of the estate of the deceased spouse filed
in the regular courts.19

It is emphasized, however, that the Rule does not apply to cases already commenced before March
15, 2003 although the marriage involved is within the coverage of the Family Code. This is so, as
the new Rule which became effective on March 15, 200320 is prospective in its application. Thus,
the Court held in Enrico v. Heirs of Sps. Medinaceli,21 viz.:

As has been emphasized, A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC covers marriages under the Family
Code of the Philippines, and is prospective in its application.22 (Underscoring supplied)

Petitioner commenced the nullity of marriage case against respondent Felicidad in 1995. The
marriage in controversy was celebrated on May 14, 1962. Which law would govern depends upon
when the marriage took place.23

The marriage having been solemnized prior to the effectivity of the Family Code, the applicable
law is the Civil Code which was the law in effect at the time of its celebration.24 But the Civil
Code is silent as to who may bring an action to declare the marriage void. Does this mean that any
person can bring an action for the declaration of nullity of marriage?

We respond in the negative. The absence of a provision in the Civil Code cannot be construed as a
license for any person to institute a nullity of marriage case. Such person must appear to be the
party who stands to be benefited or injured by the judgment in the suit, or the party entitled to the
avails of the suit.25 Elsewise stated, plaintiff must be the real party-in-interest. For it is basic in
procedural law that every action must be prosecuted and defended in the name of the real party-in-
interest.26

Interest within the meaning of the rule means material interest or an interest in issue to be affected
by the decree or judgment of the case, as distinguished from mere curiosity about the question
involved or a mere incidental interest. One having no material interest to protect cannot invoke the
jurisdiction of the court as plaintiff in an action. When plaintiff is not the real party-in-interest, the
case is dismissible on the ground of lack of cause of action.27

Illuminating on this point is Amor-Catalan v. Court of Appeals,28 where the Court held:

True, under the New Civil Code which is the law in force at the time the respondents
were married, or even in the Family Code, there is no specific provision as to who can file
a petition to declare the nullity of marriage; however, only a party who can
demonstrate "proper interest" can file the same. A petition to declare the nullity of
marriage, like any other actions, must be prosecuted or defended in the name of the real
party-in-interestand must be based on a cause of action. Thus, in Niñal v. Badayog, the
Court held that the children have the personality to file the petition to declare the nullity
of marriage of their deceased father to their stepmother as it affects their successional
rights.

xxxx

In fine, petitioner's personality to file the petition to declare the nullity of marriage cannot
be ascertained because of the absence of the divorce decree and the foreign law allowing
it. Hence, a remand of the case to the trial court for reception of additional evidence is
necessary to determine whether respondent Orlando was granted a divorce decree and
whether the foreign law which granted the same allows or restricts remarriage. If it is
proved that a valid divorce decree was obtained and the same did not allow respondent
Orlando's remarriage, then the trial court should declare respondent's marriage as
bigamous and void ab initio but reduced the amount of moral damages from P300,000.00
to P50,000.00 and exemplary damages fromP200,000.00 to P25,000.00. On the contrary,
if it is proved that a valid divorce decree was obtained which allowed Orlando to remarry,
then the trial court must dismiss the instant petition to declare nullity of marriage on the
ground that petitioner Felicitas Amor-Catalan lacks legal personality to file the
same.29 (Underscoring supplied)

III. The case must be remanded to determine whether or not petitioner is a real-party-in-
interest to seek the declaration of nullity of the marriage in controversy.

In the case at bench, the records reveal that when Teofilo died intestate in 1992, his only surviving
compulsory heirs are respondent Felicidad and their son, Teofilo II. Under the law on succession,
successional rights are transmitted from the moment of death of the decedent and the compulsory
heirs are called to succeed by operation of law.30

Upon Teofilo's death in 1992, all his property, rights and obligations to the extent of the value of
the inheritance are transmitted to his compulsory heirs. These heirs were respondents Felicidad
and Teofilo II, as the surviving spouse and child, respectively.

Article 887 of the Civil Code outlined who are compulsory heirs, to wit:

(1) Legitimate children and descendants, with respect to their legitimate parents and
ascendants;

(2) In default of the foregoing, legitimate parents and ascendants, with respect to their
legitimate children and descendants;
(3) The widow or widower;

(4) Acknowledged natural children, and natural children by legal fiction;

(5) Other illegitimate children referred to in Article 287 of the Civil Code.31

Clearly, a brother is not among those considered as compulsory heirs. But although a collateral
relative, such as a brother, does not fall within the ambit of a compulsory heir, he still has a right
to succeed to the estate. Articles 1001 and 1003 of the New Civil Code provide:

ART. 1001. Should brothers and sisters or their children survive with the widow or
widower, the latter shall be entitled to one-half of the inheritance and the brothers and
sisters or their children to the other half.

ART. 1003. If there are no descendants, ascendants, illegitimate children, or a surviving


spouse, the collateral relatives shall succeed to the entire estate of the deceased in
accordance with the following articles. (Underscoring supplied)

Indeed, only the presence of descendants, ascendants or illegitimate children excludes collateral
relatives from succeeding to the estate of the decedent. The presence of legitimate, illegitimate, or
adopted child or children of the deceased precludes succession by collateral
relatives.32 Conversely, if there are no descendants, ascendants, illegitimate children, or a
surviving spouse, the collateral relatives shall succeed to the entire estate of the decedent.33

If respondent Teofilo II is declared and finally proven not to be the legitimate, illegitimate, or
adopted son of Teofilo, petitioner would then have a personality to seek the nullity of marriage of
his deceased brother with respondent Felicidad. This is so, considering that collateral relatives,
like a brother and sister, acquire successional right over the estate if the decedent dies without
issue and without ascendants in the direct line.

The records reveal that Teofilo was predeceased by his parents. He had no other siblings but
petitioner. Thus, if Teofilo II is finally found and proven to be not a legitimate, illegitimate, or
adopted son of Teofilo, petitioner succeeds to the other half of the estate of his brother, the first
half being allotted to the widow pursuant to Article 1001 of the New Civil Code. This makes
petitioner a real-party-interest to seek the declaration of absolute nullity of marriage of his
deceased brother with respondent Felicidad. If the subject marriage is found to be void ab initio,
petitioner succeeds to the entire estate.

It bears stressing, however, that the legal personality of petitioner to bring the nullity of marriage
case is contingent upon the final declaration that Teofilo II is not a legitimate, adopted, or
illegitimate son of Teofilo.

If Teofilo II is proven to be a legitimate, illegitimate, or legally adopted son of Teofilo, then


petitioner has no legal personality to ask for the nullity of marriage of his deceased brother and
respondent Felicidad. This is based on the ground that he has no successional right to be protected,
hence, does not have proper interest. For although the marriage in controversy may be found to be
void from the beginning, still, petitioner would not inherit. This is because the presence of
descendant, illegitimate,34 or even an adopted child35 excludes the collateral relatives from
inheriting from the decedent.

Thus, the Court finds that a remand of the case for trial on the merits to determine the validity or
nullity of the subject marriage is called for. But the RTC is strictly instructed to dismiss the
nullity of marriage case for lack of cause of action if it is proven by evidence that Teofilo II is
a legitimate, illegitimate, or legally adopted son of Teofilo Carlos, the deceased brother of
petitioner.
IV. Remand of the case regarding the question of filiation of respondent Teofilo II is proper
and in order. There is a need to vacate the disposition of the trial court as to the other causes of
action before it.

Petitioner did not assign as error or interpose as issue the ruling of the CA on the remand of the
case concerning the filiation of respondent Teofilo II. This notwithstanding, We should not leave
the matter hanging in limbo.

This Court has the authority to review matters not specifically raised or assigned as error by the
parties, if their consideration is necessary in arriving at a just resolution of the case.36

We agree with the CA that without trial on the merits having been conducted in the case,
petitioner's bare allegation that respondent Teofilo II was adopted from an indigent couple is
insufficient to support a total forfeiture of rights arising from his putative filiation. However, We
are not inclined to support its pronouncement that the declaration of respondent Felicidad as to the
illegitimate filiation of respondent Teofilo II is more credible. For the guidance of the appellate
court, such declaration of respondent Felicidad should not be afforded credence. We remind the
CA of the guaranty provided by Article 167 of the Family Code to protect the status of legitimacy
of a child, to wit:

ARTICLE 167. The child shall be considered legitimate although the mother may have
declared against its legitimacy or may have been sentenced as an adulteress.
(Underscoring supplied)

It is stressed that Felicidad's declaration against the legitimate status of Teofilo II is the very act
that is proscribed by Article 167 of the Family Code. The language of the law is unmistakable. An
assertion by the mother against the legitimacy of her child cannot affect the legitimacy of a child
born or conceived within a valid marriage.37

Finally, the disposition of the trial court in favor of petitioner for causes of action concerning
reconveyance, recovery of property, and sum of money must be vacated. This has to be so, as said
disposition was made on the basis of its finding that the marriage in controversy was null and
void ab initio.

WHEREFORE, the appealed Decision is MODIFIED as follows:

1. The case is REMANDED to the Regional Trial Court in regard to the action on the
status and filiation of respondent Teofilo Carlos II and the validity or nullity of marriage
between respondent Felicidad Sandoval and the late Teofilo Carlos;

2. If Teofilo Carlos II is proven to be the legitimate, or illegitimate, or legally adopted son


of the late Teofilo Carlos, the RTC is strictly INSTRUCTED to DISMISS the action for
nullity of marriage for lack of cause of action;

3. The disposition of the RTC in Nos. 1 to 8 of the fallo of its decision is VACATED
AND SET ASIDE.

The Regional Trial Court is ORDERED to conduct trial on the merits with dispatch and to give
this case priority in its calendar.

No costs.

SO ORDERED.
Article 4 – Prospectivity of Laws
Cheng GR 174238

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 174238 July 7, 2009

ANITA CHENG, Petitioner,


vs.
SPOUSES WILLIAM SY and TESSIE SY, Respondents.

DECISION

NACHURA, J.:

This is a petition1 for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court of the Order dated
January 2, 20062 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 18, Manila in Civil Case No. 05-
112452 entitled Anita Cheng v. Spouses William Sy and Tessie Sy.

The antecedents are as follows—

Petitioner Anita Cheng filed two (2) estafa cases before the RTC, Branch 7, Manila against
respondent spouses William and Tessie Sy (Criminal Case No. 98-969952 against Tessie Sy and
Criminal Case No. 98-969953 against William Sy) for issuing to her Philippine Bank of
Commerce (PBC) Check Nos. 171762 and 71860 for ₱300,000.00 each, in payment of their loan,
both of which were dishonored upon presentment for having been drawn against a closed account.

Meanwhile, based on the same facts, petitioner, on January 20, 1999, filed against respondents
two (2) cases for violation of Batas Pambansa Bilang (BP Blg.) 22 before the Metropolitan Trial
Court (MeTC), Branch 25, Manila (Criminal Case Nos. 341458-59).

On March 16, 2004, the RTC, Branch 7, Manila dismissed the estafa cases for failure of the
prosecution to prove the elements of the crime. The Order dismissing Criminal Case No. 98-
969952 contained no declaration as to the civil liability of Tessie Sy.3 On the other hand, the
Order in Criminal Case No. 98-969953 contained a statement, "Hence, if there is any liability of
the accused, the same is purely ‘civil,’ not criminal in nature."4

Later, the MeTC, Branch 25, Manila, dismissed, on demurrer, the BP Blg. 22 cases in its
Order5 dated February 7, 2005 on account of the failure of petitioner to identify the accused
respondents in open court. The Order also did not make any pronouncement as to the civil liability
of accused respondents.1avvphi1
On April 26, 2005, petitioner lodged against respondents before the RTC, Branch 18, Manila, a
complaint6 for collection of a sum of money with damages (Civil Case No. 05-112452) based on
the same loaned amount of ₱600,000.00 covered by the two PBC checks previously subject of the
estafa and BP Blg. 22 cases.

In the assailed Order7 dated January 2, 2006, the RTC, Branch 18, Manila, dismissed the
complaint for lack of jurisdiction, ratiocinating that the civil action to collect the amount of
₱600,000.00 with damages was already impliedly instituted in the BP Blg. 22 cases in light of
Section 1, paragraph (b) of Rule 111 of the Revised Rules of Court.

Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration8 which the court denied in its Order9 dated June 5,
2006. Hence, this petition, raising the sole legal issue –

Whether or not Section 1 of Rule 111 of the 2000 Rules of Criminal Procedure and Supreme
Court Circular No. 57-97 on the Rules and Guidelines in the filing and prosecution of criminal
cases under BP Blg. 22 are applicable to the present case where the nature of the order dismissing
the cases for bouncing checks against the respondents was [based] on the failure of the
prosecution to identify both the accused (respondents herein)?10

Essentially, petitioner argues that since the BP Blg. 22 cases were filed on January 20, 1999, the
2000 Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure promulgated on December 1, 2000 should not apply,
as it must be given only prospective application. She further contends that that her case falls
within the following exceptions to the rule that the civil action correspondent to the criminal
action is deemed instituted with the latter—

(1) additional evidence as to the identities of the accused is necessary for the resolution of
the civil aspect of the case;

(2) a separate complaint would be just as efficacious as or even more expedient than a
timely remand to the trial court where the criminal action was decided for further
hearings on the civil aspect of the case;

(3) the trial court failed to make any pronouncement as to the civil liability of the accused
amounting to a reservation of the right to have the civil liability litigated in a separate
action;

(4) the trial court did not declare that the facts from which the civil liability might arise
did not exist;

(5) the civil complaint is based on an obligation ex-contractu and not ex-delicto pursuant
to Article 3111 of the Civil Code; and

(6) the claim for civil liability for damages may be had under Article 2912 of the Civil
Code.

Petitioner also points out that she was not assisted by any private prosecutor in the BP Blg. 22
proceedings.

The rule is that upon the filing of the estafa and BP Blg. 22 cases against respondents, where the
petitioner has not made any waiver, express reservation to litigate separately, or has not instituted
the corresponding civil action to collect the amount of ₱600,000.00 and damages prior to the
criminal action, the civil action is deemed instituted with the criminal cases.13

This rule applies especially with the advent of the 2000 Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure.
Thus, during the pendency of both the estafa and the BP Blg. 22 cases, the action to recover the
civil liability was impliedly instituted and remained pending before the respective trial courts.
This is consonant with our ruling in Rodriguez v. Ponferrada14 that the possible single civil
liability arising from the act of issuing a bouncing check can be the subject of both civil actions
deemed instituted with the estafa case and the prosecution for violation of BP Blg. 22,
simultaneously available to the complaining party, without traversing the prohibition against
forum shopping.15 Prior to the judgment in either the estafa case or the BP Blg. 22 case, petitioner,
as the complainant, cannot be deemed to have elected either of the civil actions both impliedly
instituted in the said criminal proceedings to the exclusion of the other.16

The dismissal of the estafa cases for failure of the prosecution to prove the elements of the crime
beyond reasonable doubt—where in Criminal Case No. 98-969952 there was no pronouncement
as regards the civil liability of the accused and in Criminal Case No. 98-969953 where the trial
court declared that the liability of the accused was only civil in nature—produced the legal effect
of a reservation by the petitioner of her right to litigate separately the civil action impliedly
instituted with the estafa cases, following Article 29 of the Civil Code.17

However, although this civil action could have been litigated separately on account of the
dismissal of the estafa cases on reasonable doubt, the petitioner was deemed to have also elected
that such civil action be prosecuted together with the BP Blg. 22 cases in light of the Rodriguez v.
Ponferrada ruling.

With the dismissal of the BP Blg. 22 cases for failure to establish the identity of the accused, the
question that arises is whether such dismissal would have the same legal effect as the dismissed
estafa cases. Put differently, may petitioner’s action to recover respondents’ civil liability be also
allowed to prosper separately after the BP Blg. 22 cases were dismissed?

Section 1 (b), Rule 111 of the 2000 Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure states –

Section 1. Institution of criminal and civil actions. –

xxx

(b) The criminal action for violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 shall be deemed to include the
corresponding civil action. No reservation to file such civil action separately shall be allowed.

Upon filing of the joint criminal and civil actions, the offended party shall pay in full the filing
fees based on the amount of the check involved, which shall be considered as the actual damages
claimed. Where the complaint or information also seeks to recover liquidated, moral, nominal,
temperate or exemplary damages, the offended party shall pay the filing fees based on the
amounts alleged therein. If the amounts are not so alleged but any of these damages [is]
subsequently awarded by the court, the filing fees based on the amount awarded shall constitute a
first lien on the judgment.

Where the civil action has been filed separately and trial thereof has not yet commenced, it may be
consolidated with the criminal action upon application with the court trying the latter case. If the
application is granted, the trial of both actions shall proceed in accordance with section 2 of this
Rule governing consolidation of the civil and criminal actions.

Petitioner is in error when she insists that the 2000 Rules on Criminal Procedure should not apply
because she filed her BP Blg. 22 complaints in 1999. It is now settled that rules of procedure
apply even to cases already pending at the time of their promulgation. The fact that procedural
statutes may somehow affect the litigants’ rights does not preclude their retroactive application to
pending actions. It is axiomatic that the retroactive application of procedural laws does not violate
any right of a person who may feel that he is adversely affected, nor is it constitutionally
objectionable. The reason for this is that, as a general rule, no vested right may attach to, nor arise
from, procedural laws.18
Indeed, under the present revised Rules, the criminal action for violation of BP Blg. 22 includes
the corresponding civil action to recover the amount of the checks. It should be stressed, this
policy is intended to discourage the separate filing of the civil action. In fact, the Rules even
prohibits the reservation of a separate civil action, i.e., one can no longer file a separate civil case
after the criminal complaint is filed in court. The only instance when separate proceedings are
allowed is when the civil action is filed ahead of the criminal case. Even then, the Rules
encourages the consolidation of the civil and criminal cases. Thus, where petitioner’s rights may
be fully adjudicated in the proceedings before the court trying the BP Blg. 22 cases, resort to a
separate action to recover civil liability is clearly unwarranted on account of res judicata, for
failure of petitioner to appeal the civil aspect of the cases. In view of this special rule governing
actions for violation of BP Blg. 22, Article 31 of the Civil Code is not applicable.19

Be it remembered that rules governing procedure before the courts, while not cast in stone, are for
the speedy, efficient, and orderly dispensation of justice and should therefore be adhered to in
order to attain this objective.20

However, in applying the procedure discussed above, it appears that petitioner would be left
without a remedy to recover from respondents the ₱600,000.00 allegedly loaned from her. This
could prejudice even the petitioner’s Notice of Claim involving the same amount filed in Special
Proceedings No. 98-88390 (Petition for Voluntary Insolvency by Kolin Enterprises, William Sy
and Tessie Sy), which case was reportedly archived for failure to prosecute the petition for an
unreasonable length of time.21 Expectedly, respondents would raise the same defense that
petitioner had already elected to litigate the civil action to recover the amount of the checks along
with the BP Blg. 22 cases.

It is in this light that we find petitioner’s contention that she was not assisted by a private
prosecutor during the BP Blg. 22 proceedings critical. Petitioner indirectly protests that the public
prosecutor failed to protect and prosecute her cause when he failed to have her establish the
identities of the accused during the trial and when he failed to appeal the civil action deemed
impliedly instituted with the BP Blg. 22 cases. On this ground, we agree with petitioner.

Faced with the dismissal of the BP Blg. 22 cases, petitioner’s recourse pursuant to the prevailing
rules of procedure would have been to appeal the civil action to recover the amount loaned to
respondents corresponding to the bounced checks. Hence, the said civil action may proceed
requiring only a preponderance of evidence on the part of petitioner. Her failure to appeal within
the reglementary period was tantamount to a waiver altogether of the remedy to recover the civil
liability of respondents. However, due to the gross mistake of the prosecutor in the BP Blg. 22
cases, we are constrained to digress from this rule.

It is true that clients are bound by the mistakes, negligence and omission of their counsel.22 But
this rule admits of exceptions – (1) where the counsel’s mistake is so great and serious that the
client is prejudiced and denied his day in court, or (2) where the counsel is guilty of gross
negligence resulting in the client’s deprivation of liberty or property without due process of
law.23 Tested against these guidelines, we hold that petitioner’s lot falls within the exceptions.

It is an oft-repeated exhortation to counsels to be well-informed of existing laws and rules and to


keep abreast with legal developments, recent enactments and jurisprudence. Unless they faithfully
comply with such duty, they may not be able to discharge competently and diligently their
obligations as members of the Bar.24 Further, lawyers in the government service are expected to be
more conscientious in the performance of their duties as they are subject to public scrutiny. They
are not only members of the Bar but are also public servants who owe utmost fidelity to public
service.25 Apparently, the public prosecutor neglected to equip himself with the knowledge of the
proper procedure for BP Blg. 22 cases under the 2000 Rules on Criminal Procedure such that he
failed to appeal the civil action impliedly instituted with the BP Blg. 22 cases, the only remaining
remedy available to petitioner to be able to recover the money she loaned to respondents, upon the
dismissal of the criminal cases on demurrer. By this failure, petitioner was denied her day in court
to prosecute the respondents for their obligation to pay their loan.

Moreover, we take into consideration the trial court’s observation when it dismissed the estafa
charge in Criminal Case No. 98-969953 that if there was any liability on the part of respondents, it
was civil in nature. Hence, if the loan be proven true, the inability of petitioner to recover the
loaned amount would be tantamount to unjust enrichment of respondents, as they may now
conveniently evade payment of their obligation merely on account of a technicality applied against
petitioner.

There is unjust enrichment when (1) a person is unjustly benefited, and (2) such benefit is derived
at the expense of or with damages to another. This doctrine simply means that a person shall not
be allowed to profit or enrich himself inequitably at another’s expense. One condition for invoking
this principle of unjust enrichment is that the aggrieved party has no other recourse based on
contract, quasi-contract, crime, quasi-delict or any other provision of law.26

Court litigations are primarily designed to search for the truth, and a liberal interpretation and
application of the rules which will give the parties the fullest opportunity to adduce proof is the
best way to ferret out the truth. The dispensation of justice and vindication of legitimate
grievances should not be barred by technicalities.27 For reasons of substantial justice and equity,
as the complement of the legal jurisdiction that seeks to dispense justice where courts of law,
through the inflexibility of their rules and want of power to adapt their judgments to the special
circumstances of cases, are incompetent to do so,28 we thus rule, pro hac vice, in favor of
petitioner.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. Civil Case No. 05-112452 entitled Anita Cheng v.
Spouses William Sy and Tessie Sy is hereby ordered REINSTATED. No pronouncement as to
costs.

SO ORDERED.

Article 4 – Prospectivity of Laws


Carolino GR 189649
*See PDF

Article 6 – Waiver or Rights


Famanila GR 150429

FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 150429 August 29, 2006

ROBERTO G. FAMANILA, Petitioner,


vs.
THE COURT OF APPEALS (Spc. Fmr. Seventh Division) and BARBERSHIP
MANAGEMENT LIMITED and NFD INTERNATIONAL MANNING AGENTS,
INC. Respondents.

DECISION

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

Before us is a petition for review on certiorari assailing the Decision 1 of the Court of Appeals in
CA-G.R. SP No. 50615 dated March 30, 2001 which affirmed the Decision 2 of the National
Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) dated March 31, 1998 dismissing petitioner’s complaint for
payment of disability and other benefits for lack of merit and the Resolution 3 dated October 5,
2001 of the Court of Appeals denying petitioner’s motion for reconsideration.

The antecedent facts are as follows:

In 1989, respondent NFD International Manning Agents, Inc. hired the services of petitioner
Roberto G. Famanila as Messman 4 for Hansa Riga, a vessel registered and owned by its principal
and co-respondent, Barbership Management Limited.

On June 21, 1990, while Hansa Riga was docked at the port of Eureka, California, U.S.A. and
while petitioner was assisting in the loading operations, the latter complained of a headache.
Petitioner experienced dizziness and he subsequently collapsed. Upon examination, it was
determined that he had a sudden attack of left cerebral hemorrhage from a ruptured cerebral
aneurysm. 5 Petitioner underwent a brain operation and he was confined at the Emmanuel Hospital
in Portland, Oregon, U.S.A. On July 19, 1990, he underwent a second brain operation.

Owing to petitioner’s physical and mental condition, he was repatriated to the Philippines. On
August 21, 1990, he was examined at the American Hospital in Intramuros, Manila where the
examining physician, Dr. Patricia Abesamis declared that he "cannot go back to sea duty and has
been observed for 120 days, he is being declared permanently, totally disabled." 6
Thereafter, authorized representatives of the respondents convinced him to settle his claim
amicably by accepting the amount of US$13,200. 7 Petitioner accepted the offer as evidenced by
his signature in the Receipt and Release dated February 28, 1991. 8 His wife, Gloria Famanila and
one Richard Famanila, acted as witnesses in the signing of the release.

On June 11, 1997, petitioner filed a complaint 9 with the NLRC which was docketed as NLRC
OCW Case No. 6-838-97-L praying for an award of disability benefits, share in the insurance
proceeds, moral damages and attorney’s fees. On September 29, 1997, Acting Executive Labor
Arbiter Voltaire A. Balitaan dismissed the complaint on the ground of prescription. Petitioner
appealed the decision with the NLRC. On March 31, 1998, the NLRC promulgated its
decision 10 finding the appeal to be without merit and ordered its dismissal. When the motion for
reconsideration11 was denied by the NLRC in its resolution dated June 29, 1998, 12 petitioner filed
a petition for certiorari with this Court. On December 2, 1998, we resolved to refer the case to the
Court of Appeals pursuant to our ruling in St. Martin Funeral Home v. National Labor Relations
Commission. 13

On March 30, 2001, the Court of Appeals promulgated the assailed decision which dismissed the
petition for lack of merit. Petitioner’s motion for reconsideration was denied, hence, the present
petition for review raising the following issues:

I. THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION


AMOUNTING TO LACK OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION IN UPHOLDING THE VALIDITY
OF THE RECEIPT AND RELEASE SINCE PETITIONER’S CONSENT THERETO WAS
VITIATED THEREBY MAKING THE SAME VOID AND UNENFORCEABLE.

II. THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION


AMOUNTING TO LACK OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION IN HOLDING THAT THE
PRESCRIPTION PERIOD APPLICABLE TO THE CLAIM OF THE PETITIONER IS THE 3-
YEAR PERIOD PROVIDED FOR UNDER THE LABOR CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES AND
NOT THE 10-YEAR PERIOD PROVIDED FOR UNDER THE CIVIL CODE.

Petitioner claims that he did not sign the Receipt and Release voluntarily or freely because he was
permanently disabled and in financial constraints. These factors allegedly vitiated his consent
which makes the Receipt and Release void and unenforceable.

The petition lacks merit.

It is fundamental that the scope of the Supreme Court’s judicial review under Rule 45 of the Rules
of Court is confined only to errors of law. It does not extend to questions of fact. More so in labor
cases where the doctrine applies with greater force. 14 The Labor Arbiter and the NLRC have
already determined the factual issues, and these were affirmed by the Court of Appeals. Thus, they
are accorded not only great respect but also finality and are deemed binding upon this Court so
long as they are supported by substantial evidence. 15 We reviewed the records of the case and we
find no reason to deviate from the findings of the labor arbiter, NLRC and the Court of Appeals.

A vitiated consent does not make a contract void and unenforceable. A vitiated consent only gives
rise to a voidable agreement. Under the Civil Code, the vices of consent are mistake, violence,
intimidation, undue influence or fraud.16 If consent is given through any of the aforementioned
vices of consent, the contract is voidable. 17 A voidable contract is binding unless annulled by a
proper action in court. 18

Petitioner contends that his permanent and total disability vitiated his consent to the Receipt and
Release thereby rendering it void and unenforceable. However, disability is not among the factors
that may vitiate consent. Besides, save for petitioner’s self-serving allegations, there is no proof on
record that his consent was vitiated on account of his disability. In the absence of such proof of
vitiated consent, the validity of the Receipt and Release must be upheld. We agree with the
findings of the Court of Appeals that:

In the case at bar, there is nothing in the records to show that petitioner’s consent was vitiated
when he signed the agreement. Granting that petitioner has not fully recovered his health at the
time he signed the subject document, the same cannot still lead to the conclusion that he did not
voluntar[il]y accept the agreement, for his wife and another relative witnessed his signing.

Moreover, the document entitled receipt and release which was attached by petitioner in his appeal
does not show on its face any violation of law or public policy. In fact, petitioner did not present
any proof to show that the consideration for the same is not reasonable and acceptable. Absent any
evidence to support the same, the Court cannot, on its own accord, decide against the
unreasonableness of the consideration. 19

It is true that quitclaims and waivers are oftentimes frowned upon and are considered as
ineffective in barring recovery for the full measure of the worker’s right and that acceptance of the
benefits therefrom does not amount to estoppel. 20 The reason is plain. Employer and employee,
obviously do not stand on the same footing. 21 However, not all waivers and quitclaims are invalid
as against public policy. If the agreement was voluntarily entered into and represents a reasonable
settlement, it is binding on the parties and may not later be disowned simply because of change of
mind. It is only where there is clear proof that the waiver was wangled from an unsuspecting or
gullible person, or the terms of the settlement are unconscionable on its face, that the law will step
in to annul the questionable transaction. But where it is shown that the person making the waiver
did so voluntarily, with full understanding of what he was doing, and the consideration for the
quitclaim is credible and reasonable, the transaction must be recognized as a valid and binding
undertaking, 22 as in this case.

To be valid and effective, waivers must be couched in clear and unequivocal terms, leaving no
doubt as to the intention of those giving up a right or a benefit that legally pertains to them. 23 We
have reviewed the terms and conditions contained in the Receipt and Release and we find the
same to be clear and unambiguous. The signing was even witnessed by petitioner’s wife, Gloria T.
Famanila and one Richard T. Famanila. The Receipt and Release provides in part:

That for and in consideration of the sum of THIRTEEN THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED
DOLLARS (US$13,200.00) or its equivalent in Philippine currency THREE HUNDRED SIXTY
FIVE THOUSAND NINE HUNDRED FOUR PESOS (365,904.00), the receipt of which is
hereby acknowledged to my full and complete satisfaction x x x I, ROBERTO G. FAMANILA, x
x x hereby remise, release and forever discharge said vessel "HANSA RIGA", her Owners,
operators, managers, charterers, agents, underwriters, P and I Club, master, officers, and crew and
all parties at interest therein or thereon, whether named or not named, including but not limited to
BARBER SHIP MANAGEMENT LIMITED, NFD INTERNATIONAL MANNING AGENTS,
INC. and ASSURANCEFORENIGEN GARD from any and all claims, demands, debts, dues,
liens, actions or causes of action, at law or in equity, in common law or in admiralty, statutory or
contractual, arising from and under the laws of the United States of America, Norway, Hongkong
or the Republic of the Philippines and/or any other foreign country now held, owned or possessed
by me or by any person or persons, arising from or related to or concerning whether directly or
indirectly, proximately or remotely, without being limited to but including the said illness suffered
by me on board the vessel "HANSA RIGA" on or about 21st June 1990 at Portland, Oregon and
disability compensation in connection therewith.

This instrument is a GENERAL RELEASE intended to release all liabilities of any character
and/or claims or damages and/or losses and/or any other liabilities whatsoever, whether
contractual or statutory, at common law or in equity, tortious or in admiralty, now or henceforth in
any way related to or occurring as a consequence of the illness suffered by me as Messman of the
vessel "HANSA RIGA", including but not limited to all damages and/or losses consisting of loss
of support, loss of earning capacity, loss of all benefits of whatsoever nature and extent incurred,
physical pain and suffering and/or all damages and/or indemnities claimable in law, tort, contract,
common law, equity and/or admiralty by me or by any person or persons pursuant to the laws of
the United States of America, Norway, Hongkong or the Republic of the Philippines and of all
other countries whatsoever.

I hereby certify that I am of legal age and that I fully understand this instrument which was read to
me in the local dialect and I agree that this is a FULL AND FINAL RELEASE AND
DISCHARGE of all parties and things referred to herein, and I further agree that this release may
be pleaded as an absolute and final bar to any suit or suits or legal proceedings that may hereafter
be prosecuted by me or by any one claiming by, through, or under me, against any of the persons
or things

referred to or related herein, for any matter or thing referred to or related herein. 24

It is elementary that a contract is perfected by mere consent and from that moment the parties are
bound not only to the fulfillment of what has been expressly stipulated but also to all the
consequences which, according to their nature, may be in keeping with good faith, usage and
law. 25 Further, dire necessity is not an acceptable ground for annulling the Receipt and Release
since it has not been shown that petitioner was forced to sign it. 26

Regarding prescription, the applicable prescriptive period for the money claims against the
respondents is the three year period pursuant to Article 291 of the Labor Code which provides
that:

ART. 291. Money Claims. – All money claims arising from employer-employee relations
accruing during the effectivity of this Code shall be filed within three (3) years from the time the
cause of action accrued; otherwise they shall be forever barred.

xxxx

Since petitioner’s demand for an award of disability benefits is a money claim arising from his
employment, Article 291 of the Labor Code applies. From the time petitioner was declared
permanently and totally disabled on August 21, 1990 which gave rise to his entitlement to
disability benefits up to the time that he filed the complaint on June 11, 1997, more than three
years have elapsed thereby effectively barring his claim.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated March 30,
2001 in CA-G.R. SP No. 50615 which affirmed the Decision of the National Labor Relations
Commission dismissing petitioner’s complaint for disability and other benefits for lack of merit,
and

the Resolution dated October 5, 2001 denying the motion for reconsideration, are AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

Article 6 – Waiver or Rights


GUY GR 163707
FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 163707 September 15, 2006

MICHAEL C. GUY, petitioner,


vs.
HON. COURT OF APPEALS, HON. SIXTO MARELLA, JR., Presiding Judge, RTC,
Branch 138, Makati City and minors, KAREN DANES WEI and KAMILLE DANES WEI,
represented by their mother, REMEDIOS OANES,respondents.

DECISION

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

This petition for review on certiorari assails the January 22, 2004 Decision1 of the Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 79742, which affirmed the Orders dated July 21, 20002 and July 17,
20033 of the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Branch 138 in SP Proc. Case No. 4549 denying
petitioner's motion to dismiss; and its May 25, 2004 Resolution4 denying petitioner's motion for
reconsideration.

The facts are as follows:

On June 13, 1997, private respondent-minors Karen Oanes Wei and Kamille Oanes Wei,
represented by their mother Remedios Oanes (Remedios), filed a petition for letters of
administration5 before the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Branch 138. The case was
docketed as Sp. Proc. No. 4549 and entitled Intestate Estate of Sima Wei(a.k.a. Rufino Guy
Susim).

Private respondents alleged that they are the duly acknowledged illegitimate children of Sima
Wei, who died intestate in Makati City on October 29, 1992, leaving an estate valued at
P10,000,000.00 consisting of real and personal properties. His known heirs are his surviving
spouse Shirley Guy and children, Emy, Jeanne, Cristina, George and Michael, all surnamed Guy.
Private respondents prayed for the appointment of a regular administrator for the orderly
settlement of Sima Wei's estate. They likewise prayed that, in the meantime, petitioner Michael C.
Guy, son of the decedent, be appointed as Special Administrator of the estate. Attached to private
respondents' petition was a Certification Against Forum Shopping6 signed by their counsel, Atty.
Sedfrey A. Ordoñez.

In his Comment/Opposition,7 petitioner prayed for the dismissal of the petition. He asserted that
his deceased father left no debts and that his estate can be settled without securing letters of
administration pursuant to Section 1, Rule 74 of the Rules of Court. He further argued that private
respondents should have established their status as illegitimate children during the lifetime of
Sima Wei pursuant to Article 175 of the Family Code.

The other heirs of Sima Wei filed a Joint Motion to Dismiss8 on the ground that the certification
against forum shopping should have been signed by private respondents and not their counsel.
They contended that Remedios should have executed the certification on behalf of her minor
daughters as mandated by Section 5, Rule 7 of the Rules of Court.
In a Manifestation/Motion as Supplement to the Joint Motion to Dismiss,9 petitioner and his co-
heirs alleged that private respondents' claim had been paid, waived, abandoned or otherwise
extinguished by reason of Remedios' June 7, 1993 Release and Waiver of Claim stating that in
exchange for the financial and educational assistance received from petitioner, Remedios and her
minor children discharge the estate of Sima Wei from any and all liabilities.

The Regional Trial Court denied the Joint Motion to Dismiss as well as the Supplemental Motion
to Dismiss. It ruled that while the Release and Waiver of Claim was signed by Remedios, it had
not been established that she was the duly constituted guardian of her minor daughters. Thus, no
renunciation of right occurred. Applying a liberal application of the rules, the trial court also
rejected petitioner's objections on the certification against forum shopping.

Petitioner moved for reconsideration but was denied. He filed a petition for certiorari before the
Court of Appeals which affirmed the orders of the Regional Trial Court in its assailed Decision
dated January 22, 2004, the dispositive portion of which states:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the present petition is hereby DENIED DUE


COURSE and accordingly DISMISSED, for lack of merit. Consequently, the assailed
Orders dated July 21, 2000 and July 17, 2003 are hereby both AFFIRMED. Respondent
Judge is hereby DIRECTED to resolve the controversy over the illegitimate filiation of
the private respondents (sic) minors [-] Karen Oanes Wei and Kamille Oanes Wei who
are claiming successional rights in the intestate estate of the deceased Sima Wei, a.k.a.
Rufino Guy Susim.

SO ORDERED.10

The Court of Appeals denied petitioner's motion for reconsideration, hence, this petition.

Petitioner argues that the Court of Appeals disregarded existing rules on certification against
forum shopping; that the Release and Waiver of Claim executed by Remedios released and
discharged the Guy family and the estate of Sima Wei from any claims or liabilities; and that
private respondents do not have the legal personality to institute the petition for letters of
administration as they failed to prove their filiation during the lifetime of Sima Wei in accordance
with Article 175 of the Family Code.

Private respondents contend that their counsel's certification can be considered substantial
compliance with the rules on certification of non-forum shopping, and that the petition raises no
new issues to warrant the reversal of the decisions of the Regional Trial Court and the Court of
Appeals.

The issues for resolution are: 1) whether private respondents' petition should be dismissed for
failure to comply with the rules on certification of non-forum shopping; 2) whether the Release
and Waiver of Claim precludes private respondents from claiming their successional rights; and 3)
whether private respondents are barred by prescription from proving their filiation.

The petition lacks merit.

Rule 7, Section 5 of the Rules of Court provides that the certification of non-forum shopping
should be executed by the plaintiff or the principal party. Failure to comply with the requirement
shall be cause for dismissal of the case. However, a liberal application of the rules is proper where
the higher interest of justice would be served. In Sy Chin v. Court of Appeals,11 we ruled that
while a petition may have been flawed where the certificate of non-forum shopping was signed
only by counsel and not by the party, this procedural lapse may be overlooked in the interest of
substantial justice.12 So it is in the present controversy where the merits13 of the case and the
absence of an intention to violate the rules with impunity should be considered as compelling
reasons to temper the strict application of the rules.
As regards Remedios' Release and Waiver of Claim, the same does not bar private respondents
from claiming successional rights. To be valid and effective, a waiver must be couched in clear
and unequivocal terms which leave no doubt as to the intention of a party to give up a right or
benefit which legally pertains to him. A waiver may not be attributed to a person when its terms
do not explicitly and clearly evince an intent to abandon a right.14

In this case, we find that there was no waiver of hereditary rights. The Release and Waiver of
Claim does not state with clarity the purpose of its execution. It merely states that Remedios
received P300,000.00 and an educational plan for her minor daughters "by way of financial
assistance and in full settlement of any and all claims of whatsoever nature and kind x x x against
the estate of the late Rufino Guy Susim."15 Considering that the document did not specifically
mention private respondents' hereditary share in the estate of Sima Wei, it cannot be construed as
a waiver of successional rights.

Moreover, even assuming that Remedios truly waived the hereditary rights of private respondents,
such waiver will not bar the latter's claim. Article 1044 of the Civil Code, provides:

ART. 1044. Any person having the free disposal of his property may accept or repudiate
an inheritance.

Any inheritance left to minors or incapacitated persons may be accepted by their


parents or guardians. Parents or guardians may repudiate the inheritance left to
their wards only by judicial authorization.

The right to accept an inheritance left to the poor shall belong to the persons designated
by the testator to determine the beneficiaries and distribute the property, or in their
default, to those mentioned in Article 1030. (Emphasis supplied)

Parents and guardians may not therefore repudiate the inheritance of their wards without judicial
approval. This is because repudiation amounts to an alienation of property16 which must pass the
court's scrutiny in order to protect the interest of the ward. Not having been judicially authorized,
the Release and Waiver of Claim in the instant case is void and will not bar private respondents
from asserting their rights as heirs of the deceased.

Furthermore, it must be emphasized that waiver is the intentional relinquishment of a known right.
Where one lacks knowledge of a right, there is no basis upon which waiver of it can rest.
Ignorance of a material fact negates waiver, and waiver cannot be established by a consent given
under a mistake or misapprehension of fact.17

In the present case, private respondents could not have possibly waived their successional rights
because they are yet to prove their status as acknowledged illegitimate children of the deceased.
Petitioner himself has consistently denied that private respondents are his co-heirs. It would thus
be inconsistent to rule that they waived their hereditary rights when petitioner claims that they do
not have such right. Hence, petitioner's invocation of waiver on the part of private respondents
must fail.

Anent the issue on private respondents' filiation, we agree with the Court of Appeals that a ruling
on the same would be premature considering that private respondents have yet to present
evidence. Before the Family Code took effect, the governing law on actions for recognition of
illegitimate children was Article 285 of the Civil Code, to wit:

ART. 285. The action for the recognition of natural children may be brought only during
the lifetime of the presumed parents, except in the following cases:
(1) If the father or mother died during the minority of the child, in which case the
latter may file the action before the expiration of four years from the attainment of
his majority;

(2) If after the death of the father or of the mother a document should appear of which
nothing had been heard and in which either or both parents recognize the child.

In this case, the action must be commenced within four years from the finding of the
document. (Emphasis supplied)

We ruled in Bernabe v. Alejo18 that illegitimate children who were still minors at the time the
Family Code took effect and whose putative parent died during their minority are given the right
to seek recognition for a period of up to four years from attaining majority age. This vested right
was not impaired or taken away by the passage of the Family Code.19

On the other hand, Articles 172, 173 and 175 of the Family Code, which superseded Article 285
of the Civil Code, provide:

ART. 172. The filiation of legitimate children is established by any of the following:

(1) The record of birth appearing in the civil register or a final judgment; or

(2) An admission of legitimate filiation in a public document or a private handwritten


instrument and signed by the parent concerned.

In the absence of the foregoing evidence, the legitimate filiation shall be proved by:

(1) The open and continuous possession of the status of a legitimate child; or

(2) Any other means allowed by the Rules of Court and special laws.

ART. 173. The action to claim legitimacy may be brought by the child during his or her
lifetime and shall be transmitted to the heirs should the child die during minority or in a
state of insanity. In these cases, the heirs shall have a period of five years within which to
institute the action.

The action already commenced by the child shall survive notwithstanding the death of
either or both of the parties.

ART. 175. Illegitimate children may establish their illegitimate filiation in the same way
and on the same, evidence as legitimate children.

The action must be brought within the same period specified in Article 173, except when
the action is based on the second paragraph of Article 172, in which case the action may
be brought during the lifetime of the alleged parent.

Under the Family Code, when filiation of an illegitimate child is established by a record of birth
appearing in the civil register or a final judgment, or an admission of filiation in a public
document or a private handwritten instrument signed by the parent concerned, the action for
recognition may be brought by the child during his or her lifetime. However, if the action is based
upon open and continuous possession of the status of an illegitimate child, or any other means
allowed by the rules or special laws, it may only be brought during the lifetime of the alleged
parent.
It is clear therefore that the resolution of the issue of prescription depends on the type of evidence
to be adduced by private respondents in proving their filiation. However, it would be impossible to
determine the same in this case as there has been no reception of evidence yet. This Court is not a
trier of facts. Such matters may be resolved only by the Regional Trial Court after a full-blown
trial.

While the original action filed by private respondents was a petition for letters of administration,
the trial court is not precluded from receiving evidence on private respondents' filiation. Its
jurisdiction extends to matters incidental and collateral to the exercise of its recognized powers in
handling the settlement of the estate, including the determination of the status of each heir.20 That
the two causes of action, one to compel recognition and the other to claim inheritance, may be
joined in one complaint is not new in our jurisprudence.21 As held in Briz v. Briz:22

The question whether a person in the position of the present plaintiff can in any event
maintain a complex action to compel recognition as a natural child and at the same time
to obtain ulterior relief in the character of heir, is one which in the opinion of this court
must be answered in the affirmative, provided always that the conditions justifying the
joinder of the two distinct causes of action are present in the particular case. In other
words, there is no absolute necessity requiring that the action to compel acknowledgment
should have been instituted and prosecuted to a successful conclusion prior to the action
in which that same plaintiff seeks additional relief in the character of heir. Certainly, there
is nothing so peculiar to the action to compel acknowledgment as to require that a rule
should be here applied different from that generally applicable in other cases. x x x

The conclusion above stated, though not heretofore explicitly formulated by this court, is
undoubtedly to some extent supported by our prior decisions. Thus, we have held in
numerous cases, and the doctrine must be considered well settled, that a natural child
having a right to compel acknowledgment, but who has not been in fact acknowledged,
may maintain partition proceedings for the division of the inheritance against his coheirs
(Siguiong vs. Siguiong, 8 Phil., 5; Tiamson vs. Tiamson, 32 Phil., 62); and the same
person may intervene in proceedings for the distribution of the estate of his deceased
natural father, or mother (Capistrano vs. Fabella, 8 Phil., 135; Conde vs. Abaya, 13 Phil.,
249; Ramirez vs. Gmur, 42 Phil., 855). In neither of these situations has it been thought
necessary for the plaintiff to show a prior decree compelling acknowledgment. The
obvious reason is that in partition suits and distribution proceedings the other persons
who might take by inheritance are before the court; and the declaration of heirship is
appropriate to such proceedings.

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DENIED. The Decision dated January 22, 2004 of the
Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 79742 affirming the denial of petitioner's motion to dismiss;
and its Resolution dated May 25, 2004 denying petitioner's motion for reconsideration,
are AFFIRMED. Let the records be REMANDED to the Regional Trial Court of Makati City,
Branch 138 for further proceedings.

SO ORDERED.
Article 6 – Waiver or Rights
Otamias GR 189516

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 189516, June 08, 2016

EDNA MABUGAY-OTAMIAS, JEFFREN M. OTAMIAS AND MINOR JEMWEL M.


OTAMIAS, REPRESENTED BY THEIR MOTHER EDNA MABUGAY-
OTAMIAS, Petitioners, v. REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, REPRESENTED BY COL.
VIRGILIO O. DOMINGO, IN HIS CAPACITY AS THE COMMANDING OFFICER OF
THE PENSION AND GRATUITY MANAGEMENT CENTER (PGMC) OF THE ARMED
FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

DECISION

LEONEN, J.:

A writ of execution lies against the pension benefits of a retired officer of the Armed Forces of the
Philippines, which is the subject of a deed of assignment drawn by him granting support to his
wife and five (5) children. The benefit of exemption from execution of pension benefits is a
statutory right that may be waived, especially in order to comply with a husband's duty to provide
support under Article XV of the 1987 Constitution and the Family Code.

Petitioner Edna Mabugay-Otamias (Edna) and retired Colonel Francisco B. Otamias (Colonel
Otamias) were married on June 16, 1978 and had five (5) children.1ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

On September 2000, Edna and Colonel Otamias separated due to his alleged infidelity.2 Their
children remained with Edna.3ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

On August 2002, Edna filed a Complaint-Affidavit against Colonel Otamias before the Provost
Marshall Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.4 Edna demanded monthly support
equivalent to 75% of Colonel Otamias' retirement benefits.5 Colonel Otamias executed an
Affidavit, stating:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

That sometime in August or September 2002, I was summoned at the Office of the Provost
Marshal, Philippine Army, in connection with a complaint affidavit submitted to said Office by
my wife Mrs. Edna M. Otamias signifying her intention 75% of my retirement benefits from the
AFP;

That at this point, I can only commit 50% of my retirement benefits to be pro-rated among my
wife and five (5) children;

That in order to implement this compromise, I am willing to enter into Agreement with my wife
covering the same;

That I am executing this affidavit to attest to the truth of the foregoing facts and whatever legal
purpose it may serve.6cralawred
On February 26, 2003, Colonel Otamias executed a Deed of Assignment where he waived 50% of
his salary and pension benefits in favor of Edna and their children.7 The Deed of Assignment was
considered by the parties as a compromise agreement.8 It stated:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
This Assignment, made and executed unto this 26th day of February 2003 at Fort Bonifacio,
Makati City, by the undersigned LTC Francisco B. Otamias, 0-0-111045 (INP) PA, of legal age,
married and presently residing at Dama De Noche St., Pembo, Makati City.

WITNESSETH

WHEREAS, the undersigned affiant is the legal husband of EDNA M. OTAMIAS and the father
of Julie Ann, Jonathan, Jennifer, Jeffren and Jemwel all residing at Patag, Cagayan de Oro City;

WHEREAS, the undersigned will be retiring from the military service and expects to receive
retirement benefits from the Armed Forces of the Philippines;

WHEREAS, the undersigned had expressed his willingness to give a share in his retirement
benefits to my wife and five (5) abovenamed children,

NOW, THEREFORE, for and in consideration of the foregoing premises, the undersigned hereby
stipulated the following:

1. That the undersigned will give to my legal wife and five (5) children FIFTY PERCENT (50%)
of my retirement benefits to be pro rated among them.

2. That a separate check(s) be issued and to be drawn and encash [sic] in the name of the legal
wife and five (5) children pro-rating the fifty (50%) percent of my retirement benefits.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this 26th day of February 2003 at Fort
Bonifacio, Makati City.9cralawred
Colonel Otamias retired on April 1, 2003.10ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
The agreement was honored until January 6, 2006.11 Edna alleged that "the A[rmed] F[orces] [of
the] Philippines] suddenly decided not to honor the agreement"12 between Colonel Otamias and
his legitimate family.

In a letter13 dated April 3, 2006, the Armed Forces of the Philippines Pension and Gratuity
Management Center (AFP PGMC) informed Edna that a court order was required for the AFP
PGMC to recognize the Deed of Assignment.14ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

In another letter15 dated April 17, 2006, the AFP PGMC reiterated that it could not act on Edna's
request to receive a portion of Colonel Otamias' pension "unless ordered by [the] appropriate
court."16ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

Heeding the advice of the AFP PGMC, Edna, on behalf of herself and Jeffren M. Otamias and
Jemwel M. Otamias (Edna, et al.), filed before the Regional Trial Court of Cagayan de Oro,
Misamis Oriental an action for support, docketed as F.C. Civil Case No. 2006-
039.17ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

The trial court's Sheriff tried to serve summons on Colonel Otamias several times, to no
avail.18Substituted service was resorted to.19 Colonel Otamias was subsequently declared in
default for failure to file a responsive pleading despite order of the trial
court.20ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

The trial court ruled in favor of Edna, et al. and ordered the automatic deduction of the amount of
support from the monthly pension of Colonel Otamias.21ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

The dispositive portion of the trial court's Decision stated:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary


ALL THE FOREGOING CONSIDERED, and in consonance with the legal obligation of the
defendant to the plaintiffs, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, through its Finance Center and/or
appropriate Finance Officer thereof, is thereby ordered to release to Edna Mabugay Otamias and
minor Jemwel M. Otamias, herein represented by his mother Edna, their fifty (50%) per cent share
of each of the monthly pension due to Colonel Francisco B. Otamias, AFP PA (Retired).

Defendant Francisco Otamias is also ordered to pay plaintiff Edna M. Otamias, fifty (50%) per
cent of whatever retirement benefits he has already received from the Armed Forces of the
Philippines AND the arrears in support, effective January 2006 up to the time plaintiff receives
her share direct from the Finance Center of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

IT IS SO ORDERED.22cralawred
The Armed Forces of the Philippines, through the Office of the Judge Advocate General, filed a
Manifestation/Opposition23 to the Decision of the trial court, but it was not given due course due
to its late filing.24ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

Edna, et al., through counsel, filed a Motion for Issuance of Writ of Execution25 dated February
22, 2008. The trial court granted the Motion, and a writ of execution was issued by the trial court
on April 10, 2008.26ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

The Armed Forces of the Philippines Finance Center (AFP Finance Center), tlirough the Office of
the Judge Advocate General, filed a Motion to Quash27 the writ of execution and argued that the
AFP Finance Center's duty to disburse benefits is ministerial. It releases benefits only upon the
AFP PGMC's approval.28ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

The trial court denied the Motion to Quash and held that:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Under the law and existing jurisprudence, the "right to support" is practically equivalent to the
"right to life." The "right to life" always takes precedence over "property rights." The "right to
support/life" is also a substantive right which always takes precedence over
technicalities/procedural rules. It being so, technical rules must yield to substantive justice.
Besides, this Court's Decision dated February 27, 2007 has long acquired finality, and as such, is
ripe for enforcement/execution.

THE FOREGOING CONSIDERED, the instant Motion is hereby DENIED.29cralawred


The AFP PGMC moved for reconsideration of the order denying the Motion to Quash,30 but the
Motion was also denied by the trial court in the Order31 dated August 6, 2008.

A Notice of Garnishment was issued by the trial court on July 15, 2008 and was received by the
AFP PGMC on September 9, 2008.32ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

The AFP PGMC filed before the Court of Appeals a Petition for Certiorari and
Prohibition.33ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

The Court of Appeals granted34 the Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition and partially nullified
the trial court's Decision insofar as it directed the automatic deduction of support from the pension
benefits of Colonel Otamias.

The Court of Appeals discussed that Section 3135 of Presidential Decree No. 1638, otherwise
known as the AFP Military Personnel Retirement and Separation Decree of 1979, "provides for
the exemption of the monthly pension of retired military personnel from execution and
attachment[,]"36 while Rule 39, Section 13 of the Rules of Court
provides:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
SEC. 13. Property exempt from execution. Except as otherwise expressly provided by law, the
following property, and no other, shall be exempt from execution:

....

(1) The right to receive legal support, or money or property obtained as such support, or any
pension or gratuity from the Government[.]cralawred
The Court of Appeals also cited Pacific Products, Inc. vs. Ong:37
[M]oneys sought to be garnished, as long as they remain in the hands of the disbursing officer of
the Government, belong to the latter, although the defendant in garnishment may be entitled to a
specific portion thereof. And still another reason which covers both of the foregoing is that every
consideration of public policy forbids it.38cralawred
In addition, the AFP PGMC was not impleaded as a party in the action for support; thus, it is not
bound by the Decision.39ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

The dispositive portion of the Court of Appeals Decision reads:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary


WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The assailed Decision of the Regional Trial Court,
Branch 19, Cagayan de Oro City dated February 27, 2007 in Civil Case No. 2006-039
isPARTIALLY NULLIFIED in so far as it directs the Armed Forces of the Philippines Finance
Center to automatically deduct the financial support in favor of private respondents, Edna Otamias
and her children Jeffren and Jemwel Otamias, from the pension benefits of Francisco Otamias, a
retired military officer. The Order dated June 10, 2008, Order dated August 6, 2008 and Writ of
Execution dated April 10, 2008, all issued by the court a quoare likewise SET ASIDE. Perforce,
let a writ of permanent injunction issue enjoining the implementation of the assailed Writ of
Execution dated April 10, 2008 and the corresponding Notice of Garnishment dated July 15, 2008.
No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.40 (Emphasis in the original)cralawred


Edna, et al. moved for reconsideration, but the Motion was denied by the Court of
Appeals.41ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

Edna, et al. filed before this Court a Petition for Review on Certiorari42 on November 11, 2009. In
the Resolution43 dated January 20, 2010, this Court required respondent to comment.

In the Resolution44 dated August 4, 2010, this Court noted the Comment filed by the Office of the
Solicitor General and required Edna, et al. to file a reply.45ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
A Reply46 was filed on September 27, 2010.

Edna, et al. argue that the Deed of Assignment Colonel Otamias executed Is valid and
legal.47ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

They claim that Section 31 of Presidential Decree No. 163848 "does not include support";49 hence,
the retirement benefits of Colonel Otamias can be executed upon.

Edna, et al. also argue that the Court of Appeals erred in granting respondent's Petition because it
effectively rendered the Deed of Assignment of no force and effect.50 On the other hand, the trial
court's Decision implements the Deed of Assignment and Edna, et al.'s right to
support.51ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

Further, the AFP PGMC had already recognized the validity of the agreement and had made
payments to them until it suddenly stopped payment.52 After Edna, et al. obtained a court order,
the AFP PGMC still refused to honor the Deed of Assignment.53ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

The Armed Forces of the Philippines, through the Office of the Solicitor General, argues that it
was not a party to the case filed by Edna, et al.54 Thus, "it cannot be compelled to release part of
the monthly pension benefits of retired Colonel Otamias in favor of [Edna, et
al]."55ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

The Office of the Solicitor General avers that the AFP PGMC never submitted itself to the
jurisdiction of the trial court.56 It was not a party to the case as the trial court never acquired
jurisdiction over the AFP PGMC.57ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

The Office of the Solicitor General also argues that Section 31 of Presidential Decree No. 1638
and Rule 39, Section 13(1) of the Rules of Court support the Court of Appeals Decision that
Colonel Otamias' pension benefits are exempt from execution.58ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

Section 31 of Presidential Decree No. 1638 "does not deprive the survivor/s of a retired or
separated officer or enlisted man of their right to support."59 Rather, "[w]hat is prohibited is for
respondent [AFP PGMC] to segregate a portion of the pension benefit in favor of the retiree's
family while still in the hands of the A[rmed] F[orces] [of the]
Philippines]."60ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

Thus, the AFP PGMC "cannot be compelled to directly give or issue a check in favor of [Edna, et
al.] out of the pension gratuity of Col. Otamias."61ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

In their Reply,62 Edna, et al. argue that the Armed Forces of the Philippines should not be allowed
to question the legal recourse they took because it was an officer of the Armed Forces of the
Philippines who had advised them to file an action for support.63ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

They argue that the phrase "while in the active service" in Section 31 of Presidential Decree No.
1638 refers to the "time when the retired officer incurred his accountabilities in favor of a private
creditor[,]"64who is a third person. The phrase also "serves as a timeline designed to separate the
debts incurred by the retired officer after his retirement from those which he incurred prior
thereto."65ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

Further, the accountabilities referred to in Section 31 of Presidential Decree No. 1638 refer to
debts or loans, not to support.66ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

The issues for resolution are:

First, whether the Court of Appeals erred in ruling that the AFP Finance Center cannot be directed
to automatically deduct the amount of support needed by the legitimate family of Colonel
Otamias; and

Second, whether Colonel Otamias' pension benefits can be executed upon for the financial support
of his legitimate family.

The Petition is granted.

Article 6 of the Civil Code provides:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary


Article 6. Rights may be waived, unless the waiver is contrary to law, public order, public policy,
morals or good customs, or prejudicial to a third person with a right recognized by law.cralawred
The concept of waiver has been defined by this Court as:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
a voluntary and intentional relinquishment or abandonment of a known existing legal right,
advantage, benefit, claim or privilege, which except for such waiver the party would have
enjoyed; the voluntary abandonment or surrender, by a capable person, of a right known by him to
exist, with the intent that such right shall be surrendered and such person forever deprived of its
benefit; or such conduct as warrants an inference of the relinquishment of such right; or the
intentional doing of an act inconsistent with claiming it.67cralawred
In determining whether a statutory right can be waived, this Court is guided by the following
pronouncement:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
[T]he doctrine of waiver extends to rights and privileges of any character, and, since the word
'waiver' covers every conceivable right, it is the general rule that a person may waive any matter
which affects his property, and any alienable right or privilege of which he is the owner or which
belongs to him or to which he is legally entitled, whether secured by contract, conferred with
statute, or guaranteed by constitution, provided such rights and privileges rest in the
individual, are intended for his sole benefit, do not infringe on the rights of others, and
further provided the waiver of the right or privilege is not forbidden by law, and does not
contravene public policy; and the principle is recognized that everyone has a right to waive, and
agree to waive, the advantage of a law or rule made solely for the benefit and protection of the
individual in his private capacity, if it can be dispensed with and relinquished without infringing
on any public right, and without detriment to the community at large[.]68 (Emphasis in the
original)cralawred
When Colonel Otamias executed the Deed of Assignment, he effectively waived his right to claim
that his retirement benefits are exempt from execution. The right to receive retirement benefits
belongs to Colonel Otamias. His decision to waive a portion of his retirement benefits does not
infringe on the right of third persons, but even protects the right of his family to receive support.

In addition, the Deed of Assignment should be considered as the law between the parties, and its
provisions should be respected in the absence of allegations that Colonel Otamias was coerced or
defrauded in executing it. The general rule is that a contract is the law between parties and parties
are free to stipulate terms and conditions that are not contrary to law, morals, good customs,
public order, or public policy.69ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

The Deed of Assignment executed by Colonel Otamias was not contrary to law; it was in
accordance with the provisions on support in the Family Code. Hence, there was no reason for the
AFP PGMC not to recognize its validity.

Further, this Court notes that the AFP PGMC granted the request for support of the wives of other
retired military personnel in a similar situation as that of petitioner in this case. Attached to the
Petition are the affidavits of the wives of retired members of the military, who have received a
portion of their husbands' pensions.70ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

One affidavit stated:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary


4. That when I consulted and appeared before the Office of PGMC, I was instructed to
submit a Special Power of Authority from my husband so they can release part of his
pension to me;

5. That my husband signed the Special Power of Attorney at the PGMC ceding 50% of his
pension to me; the SPA form was given to us by the PGMC and the same was signed by
my husband at the PGMC;. . .

....

7. That the amount was deposited directly to my account by the PGMC- Finance Center
AFP out of the pension of my husband;

8. That only the Special Power of Attorney was required by the PGMC in order for them to
segregate my share of my husband's pension and deposit the same to my account[.]71

The other affidavit stated:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

8. That my husband signed the Special Power of Attorney at the PGMC ceding 50% of his
pension to me; the SPA form was given to us by the PGMC and the same was signed by
my husband at the PGMC[.]72

In addition, the AFP PGMC's website informs the public of the following
procedure:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Tanong: My husband-retiree cut-off my allotment. How can I have it restored?
Sagot: Pension benefits are separate properties of the retiree and can not [sic] be subject of a
Ocurt [sic] Order for execution nor can they be assigned to any third party (Sec 31, PD 1638, as
amended). However, a valid Special Power of Attorney (SPA) by the retiree himself empowering
the AFP Finance Center to deduct certain amount from his lumpsum [sic] or pension pay as the
case maybe, as a rule, is a valid waiver of rights which can be effectively implemented by the AFP
F[inance] C[enter].73cralawred
Clearly, the AFP PGMC allows deductions from a retiree's pension for as long as the retiree
executes a Special Power of Attorney authorizing the AFP PGMC to deduct a certain amount for
the benefit of the retiree's beneficiary.

It is curious why Colonel Otamias was allowed to execute a Deed of Assignment by the
administering officer when, in the first place, the AFP PGMC's recognized procedure was to
execute a Special Power of Attorney, which would have been the easier remedy for Colonel
Otamias' family.

Instead, Colonel Otamias' family was forced to incur litigation expenses just to be able to receive
the financial support that Colonel Otamias was willing to give to Edna, et al.

II

Section 31 of Presidential Decree No. 1638 provides:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary


Section 31. The benefits authorized under this Decree, except as provided herein, shall not be
subject to attachment, garnishment, levy, execution or any tax whatsoever; neither shall they be
assigned, ceded, or conveyed to any third person: Provided, That if a retired or separated officer or
enlisted man who is entitled to any benefit under this Decree has unsettled money and/or property
accountabilities incurred while in the active service, not more than fifty per centum of the pension
gratuity or other payment due such officer or enlisted man or his survivors under this Decree may
be withheld and be applied to settle such accountabilities.cralawred
Under Section 31, Colonel Otamias' retirement benefits are exempt from execution. Retirement
benefits are exempt from execution so as to ensure that the retiree has enough funds to support
himself and his family.
On the other hand, the right to receive support is provided under the Family Code. Article 194 of
the Family Code defines support as follows:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Art. 194. Support comprises everything indispensable for sustenance, dwelling, clothing, medical
attendance, education and transportation, in keeping with the financial capacity of the family.

The education of the person entitled to be supported referred to in the preceding paragraph shall
include his schooling or training for some profession, trade or vocation, even beyond the age of
majority. Transportation shall include expenses in going to and from school, or to and from place
of work.cralawred
The provisions of the Family Code also state who are obliged to give support,
thus:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Art. 195. Subject to the provisions of the succeeding articles, the following are obliged to support
each other to the whole extent set forth in the preceding article:

(1) The spouses;

(2) Legitimate ascendants and descendants;

(3) Parents and their legitimate children and the legitimate and illegitimate children of the latter;

(4) Parents and their illegitimate children and the legitimate and illegitimate children of the latter;
and

(5) Legitimate brothers and sisters, whether of the full or half- blood.

Art. 196. Brothers and sisters not legitimately related, whether of the full or half-blood, are
likewise bound to support each other to the full extent set forth in Article 194 except only when
the need for support of the brother or sister, being of age, is due to a cause imputable to the
claimant's fault or negligence.

Art. 197. For the support of legitimate ascendants; descendants, whether legitimate or illegitimate;
and brothers and sisters, whether legitimately or illegitimately related, only the separate property
of the person obliged to give support shall be answerable provided that in case the obligor has no
separate property, the absolute community or the conjugal partnership, if financially capable, shall
advance the support, which shall be deducted from the share of the spouses obliged upon the
liquidation of the absolute community or of the conjugal partnership[.]cralawred
The provisions of Rule 39 of the Rules of Court that are applicable to this case are in apparent
conflict with each other. Section 4 provides that judgments in actions for support are immediately
executory. On the other hand, Section 13(1) provides that the right to receive pension from
government is exempt from execution, thus:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
RULE 39

EXECUTION, SATISFACTION, AND EFFECT OF JUDGMENTS

....

SEC. 4. Judgments not stayed by appeal. — Judgments in actions for injunction, receivership,
accounting and support, and such other judgments as are now or may hereafter be declared to be
immediately executory, shall be enforceable after their rendition and shall not, be stayed by an
appeal taken therefrom, unless otherwise ordered by the trial court. On appeal therefrom, the
appellate court in its discretion may make an order suspending, modifying, restoring or granting
the injunction, receivership, accounting, or award of support.

The stay of execution shall be upon such terms as to bond or otherwise as may be considered
proper for the security or protection of the rights of the adverse party.

....
SEC. 13. Property exempt from execution. — Except as otherwise expressly provided by law, the
following property, and no other, shall be exempt from execution:

....

(1) The right to receive legal support, or money or property obtained as such support, or
any pension or gratuity from the Government;

....

But no article or species of property mentioned in this section shall be exempt from execution
issued upon a judgment recovered for its price or upon a judgment of foreclosure of a mortgage
thereon. (Emphasis supplied)cralawred
Based on the Family Code, Colonel Otamias is obliged to give support to his family, petitioners in
this case. However, he retired in 2003, and his sole source of income is his pension. Judgments in
actions for support are immediately executory, yet under Section 31 of Presidential Decree No.
1638, his pension cannot be executed upon.

However, considering that Colonel Otamias has waived a portion of his retirement benefits
through his Deed of Assignment, resolution on the conflict between the civil code provisions on
support and Section 31 of Presidential Decree No. 1638 should be resolved in a more appropriate
case.

III

Republic v. Yahon74 is an analogous case because it involved the grant of support to the spouse of
a retired member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

In Republic v. Yahon, Daisy R. Yahon filed a Petition for the Issuance of Protection Order under
Republic Act No. 9262.75 She alleged that she did not have any source of income because her
husband made her resign from her job.76 The trial court issued a temporary restraining order, a
portion of which stated:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
To insure that petitioner [Daisy R. Yahon] can receive a fair share of respondent's
retirement and other benefits, the following agencies thru their heads are directed to
WITHHOLD any retirement, pension [,] and other benefits of respondent, S/SGT.
CHARLES A. YAHON, a member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines assigned at 4ID,
Camp Evangelista, Patag, Cagayan de Oro City until further orders from the
court:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
1. Commanding General/Officer of the Finance Center of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,
Camp Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City;

2. The Management of RSBS, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City;

3. The Regional Manager of PAG-IBIG, Mortola St., Cagayan de Oro City.77(Emphasis in the
original)cralawred
The trial court subsequently granted Daisy's Petition and issued a permanent protection
order78 and held:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Pursuant to the order of the court dated February 6, 2007, respondent, S/Sgt. Charles A. Yahon is
directed to give it to petitioner 50% of whatever retirement benefits and other claims that may be
due or released to him from the government and the said share of petitioner shall be automatically
deducted from respondent's benefits and claims and be given directly to the petitioner, Daisy R.
Yahon.

Let copy of this decision be sent to the Commanding General/Officer of Finance Center of the
Armed Forces of the Philippines, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City; the Management of
RSBS, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City and the Regional Manager of PAG-IBIG, Mortola
St., Cagayan de Oro City for their guidance and strict compliance.79cralawred
In that case, the AFP Finance Center filed before the trial court a Manifestation and Motion stating
that "it was making a limited and special appearance"80 and argued that the trial court did not
acquire jurisdiction over the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Hence, the Armed Forces of the
Philippines is not bound by the trial court's ruling.81ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

The Armed Forces of the Philippines also cited Pacific Products, where this Court ruled
that:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
A rule, which has never been seriously questioned, is that money in the hands of public officers,
although it may be due government employees, is not liable to the creditors of these employees in
the process of garnishment. One reason is, that the State, by virtue of its sovereignty may not be
sued in its own courts except by express authorization by the Legislature, and to subject its
officers to garnishment would be to permit indirectly what is prohibited directly. Another reason is
that moneys sought to be garnished, as long as they remain in the hands of the disbursing officer
of the Government, belong to the latter, although the defendant in garnishment may be entitled to
a specific portion thereof. And still another reason which covers both of the foregoing is that every
consideration of public policy forbids it.82 (Citations omitted)cralawred
This Court in Republic v. Yahon denied the Petition and discussed that because Republic Act No.
9262 is the later enactment, its provisions should prevail,83 thus:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
We hold that Section 8(g) of R.A. No. 9262, being a later enactment, should be construed as
laying down an exception to the general rule above stated that retirement benefits are exempt from
execution. The law itself declares that the court shall order the withholding of a percentage of the
income or salary of the respondent by the employer, which shall be automatically remitted directly
to the woman "[n]otwithstanding other laws to the contrary"84 (Emphasis in the
original)cralawred
IV

The 1987 Constitution gives much importance to the family as the basic unit of society, such that
Article XV85 is devoted to it.

The passage of the Family Code further implemented Article XV of the Constitution. This Court
has recognized the importance of granting support to minor children, provided that the filiation of
the child is proven. In this case, the filiation of Jeffren M. Otamias and Jemwel M. Otamias was
admitted by Colonel Otamias in the Deed of Assignment.86ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

Even before the passage of the Family Code, this Court has given primary consideration to the
right of a child to receive support. In Samson v. Yatco,87 a petition for support was dismissed with
prejudice by the trial court on the ground that the minor asking for support was not present in
court during trial. An appeal was filed, but it was dismissed for having been filed out of time. This
Court relaxed the rules of procedure and held that "[i]f the order of dismissal with prejudice of the
petition for support were to stand, the petitioners would be deprived of their right to present and
nature support."88ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

In Gan v. Reyes,89 Augustus Caezar R. Gan (Gan) questioned the trial court's decision requiring
him to give support and claimed that that he was not the father of the minor seeking support. He
also argued that he was not given his day in court. This Court held that Gan's arguments were
meant to delay the execution of the judgment, and that in any case, Gan himself filed a Motion for
Leave to Deposit in Court Support Pendente Lite:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
In all cases involving a child, his interest and welfare are always the paramount concerns. There
may be instances where, in view of the poverty of the child, it would be a travesty of justice to
refuse him support until the decision of the trial court attains finality while time continues to slip
away. An excerpt from the early case of De Leon v. Soriano is relevant,
thus:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
The money and property adjudged for support and education should and must be given presently
and without delay because if it had to wait the final judgment, the children may in the meantime
have suffered because of lack of food or have missed and lost years in school because of lack of
funds. One cannot delay the payment of such funds for support and education for the reason that if
paid long afterwards, however much the accumulated amount, its payment cannot cure the evil
and repair the damage caused. The children with such belated payment for support and education
cannot act as gluttons and eat voraciously and unwisely, afterwards, to make up for the years of
hunger and starvation. Neither may they enrol in several classes and schools and take up
numerous subjects all at once to make up for the years they missed in school, due to non-payment
of the funds when needed.90cralawred
V

The non-inclusion of the AFP PGMC or the AFP Finance Center in the action for support was
proper, considering that both the AFP PGMC and the AFP Finance Center are not the persons
obliged to give support to Edna, et al. Thus, it was not a real party-in-interest.91 Nor was the AFP
PGMC a necessary party because complete relief could be obtained even without impleading the
AFP PGMC.92ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

WHEREFORE, the Petition is GRANTED. The Court of Appeals Decision dated May 22, 2009
and Resolution dated August 11, 2009 in CA-G.R. SP No. 02555-MIN are REVERSED and SET
ASIDE. The Regional Trial Court Decision dated February 27, 2007 in F.C. Civil Case No. 2006-
039 is REINSTATED.

SO ORDERED.chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

Carpio, (Chairperson), Del Castillo, and Mendoza, JJ.,concur.


Brion, J., on official leave.
Article 9 – Duty of Courts/Judges to Render Judgment
Silverio GR 174689

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 174689 October 22, 2007

ROMMEL JACINTO DANTES SILVERIO, petitioner,


vs.
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondent.

DECISION

CORONA, J.:

When God created man, He made him in the likeness of God; He created them male and
female. (Genesis 5:1-2)

Amihan gazed upon the bamboo reed planted by Bathala and she heard voices coming
from inside the bamboo. "Oh North Wind! North Wind! Please let us out!," the voices
said. She pecked the reed once, then twice. All of a sudden, the bamboo cracked and slit
open. Out came two human beings; one was a male and the other was a female. Amihan
named the man "Malakas" (Strong) and the woman "Maganda" (Beautiful). (The Legend
of Malakas and Maganda)

When is a man a man and when is a woman a woman? In particular, does the law recognize the
changes made by a physician using scalpel, drugs and counseling with regard to a person’s sex?
May a person successfully petition for a change of name and sex appearing in the birth certificate
to reflect the result of a sex reassignment surgery?

On November 26, 2002, petitioner Rommel Jacinto Dantes Silverio filed a petition for the change
of his first name and sex in his birth certificate in the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 8.
The petition, docketed as SP Case No. 02-105207, impleaded the civil registrar of Manila as
respondent.

Petitioner alleged in his petition that he was born in the City of Manila to the spouses Melecio
Petines Silverio and Anita Aquino Dantes on April 4, 1962. His name was registered as "Rommel
Jacinto Dantes Silverio" in his certificate of live birth (birth certificate). His sex was registered as
"male."

He further alleged that he is a male transsexual, that is, "anatomically male but feels, thinks and
acts as a female" and that he had always identified himself with girls since childhood.1 Feeling
trapped in a man’s body, he consulted several doctors in the United States. He underwent
psychological examination, hormone treatment and breast augmentation. His attempts to
transform himself to a "woman" culminated on January 27, 2001 when he underwent sex
reassignment surgery2 in Bangkok, Thailand. He was thereafter examined by Dr. Marcelino
Reysio-Cruz, Jr., a plastic and reconstruction surgeon in the Philippines, who issued a medical
certificate attesting that he (petitioner) had in fact undergone the procedure.
From then on, petitioner lived as a female and was in fact engaged to be married. He then sought
to have his name in his birth certificate changed from "Rommel Jacinto" to "Mely," and his sex
from "male" to "female."

An order setting the case for initial hearing was published in the People’s Journal Tonight, a
newspaper of general circulation in Metro Manila, for three consecutive weeks.3 Copies of the
order were sent to the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) and the civil registrar of Manila.

On the scheduled initial hearing, jurisdictional requirements were established. No opposition to


the petition was made.

During trial, petitioner testified for himself. He also presented Dr. Reysio-Cruz, Jr. and his
American fiancé, Richard P. Edel, as witnesses.

On June 4, 2003, the trial court rendered a decision4 in favor of petitioner. Its relevant portions
read:

Petitioner filed the present petition not to evade any law or judgment or any infraction
thereof or for any unlawful motive but solely for the purpose of making his birth records
compatible with his present sex.

The sole issue here is whether or not petitioner is entitled to the relief asked for.

The [c]ourt rules in the affirmative.

Firstly, the [c]ourt is of the opinion that granting the petition would be more in
consonance with the principles of justice and equity. With his sexual [re-assignment],
petitioner, who has always felt, thought and acted like a woman, now possesses the
physique of a female. Petitioner’s misfortune to be trapped in a man’s body is not his own
doing and should not be in any way taken against him.

Likewise, the [c]ourt believes that no harm, injury [or] prejudice will be caused to
anybody or the community in granting the petition. On the contrary, granting the petition
would bring the much-awaited happiness on the part of the petitioner and her [fiancé] and
the realization of their dreams.

Finally, no evidence was presented to show any cause or ground to deny the present
petition despite due notice and publication thereof. Even the State, through the [OSG] has
not seen fit to interpose any [o]pposition.

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered GRANTING the petition and ordering the
Civil Registrar of Manila to change the entries appearing in the Certificate of Birth of
[p]etitioner, specifically for petitioner’s first name from "Rommel Jacinto" to MELY and
petitioner’s gender from "Male" to FEMALE. 5

On August 18, 2003, the Republic of the Philippines (Republic), thru the OSG, filed a petition for
certiorari in the Court of Appeals.6 It alleged that there is no law allowing the change of entries in
the birth certificate by reason of sex alteration.

On February 23, 2006, the Court of Appeals7 rendered a decision8 in favor of the Republic. It
ruled that the trial court’s decision lacked legal basis. There is no law allowing the change of
either name or sex in the certificate of birth on the ground of sex reassignment through surgery.
Thus, the Court of Appeals granted the Republic’s petition, set aside the decision of the trial court
and ordered the dismissal of SP Case No. 02-105207. Petitioner moved for reconsideration but it
was denied.9 Hence, this petition.
Petitioner essentially claims that the change of his name and sex in his birth certificate is allowed
under Articles 407 to 413 of the Civil Code, Rules 103 and 108 of the Rules of Court and RA
9048.10

The petition lacks merit.

A Person’s First Name Cannot Be Changed On the Ground of Sex Reassignment

Petitioner invoked his sex reassignment as the ground for his petition for change of name and sex.
As found by the trial court:

Petitioner filed the present petition not to evade any law or judgment or any infraction
thereof or for any unlawful motive but solely for the purpose of making his birth
records compatible with his present sex. (emphasis supplied)

Petitioner believes that after having acquired the physical features of a female, he became entitled
to the civil registry changes sought. We disagree.

The State has an interest in the names borne by individuals and entities for purposes of
identification.11 A change of name is a privilege, not a right.12 Petitions for change of name are
controlled by statutes.13 In this connection, Article 376 of the Civil Code provides:

ART. 376. No person can change his name or surname without judicial authority.

This Civil Code provision was amended by RA 9048 (Clerical Error Law). In particular, Section 1
of RA 9048 provides:

SECTION 1. Authority to Correct Clerical or Typographical Error and Change of First


Name or Nickname. – No entry in a civil register shall be changed or corrected without a
judicial order, except for clerical or typographical errors and change of first name or
nickname which can be corrected or changed by the concerned city or municipal civil
registrar or consul general in accordance with the provisions of this Act and its
implementing rules and regulations.

RA 9048 now governs the change of first name.14 It vests the power and authority to entertain
petitions for change of first name to the city or municipal civil registrar or consul general
concerned. Under the law, therefore, jurisdiction over applications for change of first name is now
primarily lodged with the aforementioned administrative officers. The intent and effect of the law
is to exclude the change of first name from the coverage of Rules 103 (Change of Name) and 108
(Cancellation or Correction of Entries in the Civil Registry) of the Rules of Court, until and unless
an administrative petition for change of name is first filed and subsequently denied.15 It likewise
lays down the corresponding venue,16 form17 and procedure. In sum, the remedy and the
proceedings regulating change of first name are primarily administrative in nature, not judicial.

RA 9048 likewise provides the grounds for which change of first name may be allowed:

SECTION 4. Grounds for Change of First Name or Nickname. – The petition for change
of first name or nickname may be allowed in any of the following cases:

(1) The petitioner finds the first name or nickname to be ridiculous, tainted with dishonor
or extremely difficult to write or pronounce;

(2) The new first name or nickname has been habitually and continuously used by the
petitioner and he has been publicly known by that first name or nickname in the
community; or
(3) The change will avoid confusion.

Petitioner’s basis in praying for the change of his first name was his sex reassignment. He
intended to make his first name compatible with the sex he thought he transformed himself into
through surgery. However, a change of name does not alter one’s legal capacity or civil
status.18 RA 9048 does not sanction a change of first name on the ground of sex reassignment.
Rather than avoiding confusion, changing petitioner’s first name for his declared purpose may
only create grave complications in the civil registry and the public interest.

Before a person can legally change his given name, he must present proper or reasonable cause or
any compelling reason justifying such change.19 In addition, he must show that he will be
prejudiced by the use of his true and official name.20 In this case, he failed to show, or even allege,
any prejudice that he might suffer as a result of using his true and official name.

In sum, the petition in the trial court in so far as it prayed for the change of petitioner’s first name
was not within that court’s primary jurisdiction as the petition should have been filed with the
local civil registrar concerned, assuming it could be legally done. It was an improper remedy
because the proper remedy was administrative, that is, that provided under RA 9048. It was also
filed in the wrong venue as the proper venue was in the Office of the Civil Registrar of Manila
where his birth certificate is kept. More importantly, it had no merit since the use of his true and
official name does not prejudice him at all. For all these reasons, the Court of Appeals correctly
dismissed petitioner’s petition in so far as the change of his first name was concerned.

No Law Allows The Change of Entry In The Birth Certificate As To Sex On the Ground of
Sex Reassignment

The determination of a person’s sex appearing in his birth certificate is a legal issue and the court
must look to the statutes.21 In this connection, Article 412 of the Civil Code provides:

ART. 412. No entry in the civil register shall be changed or corrected without a judicial
order.

Together with Article 376 of the Civil Code, this provision was amended by RA 9048 in so far
as clerical or typographical errors are involved. The correction or change of such matters can now
be made through administrative proceedings and without the need for a judicial order. In effect,
RA 9048 removed from the ambit of Rule 108 of the Rules of Court the correction of such
errors.22 Rule 108 now applies only to substantial changes and corrections in entries in the civil
register.23

Section 2(c) of RA 9048 defines what a "clerical or typographical error" is:

SECTION 2. Definition of Terms. – As used in this Act, the following terms shall mean:

xxx xxx xxx

(3) "Clerical or typographical error" refers to a mistake committed in the


performance of clerical work in writing, copying, transcribing or typing an entry
in the civil register that is harmless and innocuous, such as misspelled name or
misspelled place of birth or the like, which is visible to the eyes or obvious to the
understanding, and can be corrected or changed only by reference to other
existing record or records:Provided, however, That no correction must involve
the change of nationality, age, status or sex of the petitioner. (emphasis
supplied)
Under RA 9048, a correction in the civil registry involving the change of sex is not a mere clerical
or typographical error. It is a substantial change for which the applicable procedure is Rule 108 of
the Rules of Court.

The entries envisaged in Article 412 of the Civil Code and correctable under Rule 108 of the
Rules of Court are those provided in Articles 407 and 408 of the Civil Code:24

ART. 407. Acts, events and judicial decrees concerning the civil status of persons shall be
recorded in the civil register.

ART. 408. The following shall be entered in the civil register:

(1) Births; (2) marriages; (3) deaths; (4) legal separations; (5) annulments of marriage; (6)
judgments declaring marriages void from the beginning; (7) legitimations; (8) adoptions;
(9) acknowledgments of natural children; (10) naturalization; (11) loss, or (12) recovery
of citizenship; (13) civil interdiction; (14) judicial determination of filiation; (15)
voluntary emancipation of a minor; and (16) changes of name.

The acts, events or factual errors contemplated under Article 407 of the Civil Code include even
those that occur after birth.25 However, no reasonable interpretation of the provision can justify
the conclusion that it covers the correction on the ground of sex reassignment.

To correct simply means "to make or set aright; to remove the faults or error from" while to
change means "to replace something with something else of the same kind or with something that
serves as a substitute."26 The birth certificate of petitioner contained no error. All entries therein,
including those corresponding to his first name and sex, were all correct. No correction is
necessary.

Article 407 of the Civil Code authorizes the entry in the civil registry of certain acts (such as
legitimations, acknowledgments of illegitimate children and naturalization), events (such as births,
marriages, naturalization and deaths) and judicial decrees (such as legal separations, annulments
of marriage, declarations of nullity of marriages, adoptions, naturalization, loss or recovery of
citizenship, civil interdiction, judicial determination of filiation and changes of name). These acts,
events and judicial decrees produce legal consequences that touch upon the legal capacity, status
and nationality of a person. Their effects are expressly sanctioned by the laws. In contrast, sex
reassignment is not among those acts or events mentioned in Article 407. Neither is it recognized
nor even mentioned by any law, expressly or impliedly.

"Status" refers to the circumstances affecting the legal situation (that is, the sum total of capacities
and incapacities) of a person in view of his age, nationality and his family membership.27

The status of a person in law includes all his personal qualities and relations, more or less
permanent in nature, not ordinarily terminable at his own will, such as his being
legitimate or illegitimate, or his being married or not. The comprehensive term status…
include such matters as the beginning and end of legal personality, capacity to have rights
in general, family relations, and its various aspects, such as birth, legitimation, adoption,
emancipation, marriage, divorce, and sometimes even succession.28 (emphasis supplied)

A person’s sex is an essential factor in marriage and family relations. It is a part of a person’s
legal capacity and civil status. In this connection, Article 413 of the Civil Code provides:

ART. 413. All other matters pertaining to the registration of civil status shall be governed
by special laws.
But there is no such special law in the Philippines governing sex reassignment and its effects. This
is fatal to petitioner’s cause.

Moreover, Section 5 of Act 3753 (the Civil Register Law) provides:

SEC. 5. Registration and certification of births. – The declaration of the physician or


midwife in attendance at the birth or, in default thereof, the declaration of either parent of
the newborn child, shall be sufficient for the registration of a birth in the civil register.
Such declaration shall be exempt from documentary stamp tax and shall be sent to the
local civil registrar not later than thirty days after the birth, by the physician or midwife in
attendance at the birth or by either parent of the newborn child.

In such declaration, the person above mentioned shall certify to the following facts: (a)
date and hour of birth; (b) sex and nationality of infant; (c) names, citizenship and
religion of parents or, in case the father is not known, of the mother alone; (d) civil status
of parents; (e) place where the infant was born; and (f) such other data as may be required
in the regulations to be issued.

xxx xxx xxx (emphasis supplied)

Under the Civil Register Law, a birth certificate is a historical record of the facts as they existed at
the time of birth.29Thus, the sex of a person is determined at birth, visually done by the birth
attendant (the physician or midwife) by examining the genitals of the infant. Considering that
there is no law legally recognizing sex reassignment, the determination of a person’s sex made at
the time of his or her birth, if not attended by error,30 is immutable.31

When words are not defined in a statute they are to be given their common and ordinary meaning
in the absence of a contrary legislative intent. The words "sex," "male" and "female" as used in the
Civil Register Law and laws concerning the civil registry (and even all other laws) should
therefore be understood in their common and ordinary usage, there being no legislative intent to
the contrary. In this connection, sex is defined as "the sum of peculiarities of structure and
function that distinguish a male from a female"32 or "the distinction between male and
female."33Female is "the sex that produces ova or bears young"34 and male is "the sex that has
organs to produce spermatozoa for fertilizing ova."35 Thus, the words "male" and "female" in
everyday understanding do not include persons who have undergone sex reassignment.
Furthermore, "words that are employed in a statute which had at the time a well-known meaning
are presumed to have been used in that sense unless the context compels to the contrary."36 Since
the statutory language of the Civil Register Law was enacted in the early 1900s and remains
unchanged, it cannot be argued that the term "sex" as used then is something alterable through
surgery or something that allows a post-operative male-to-female transsexual to be included in the
category "female."

For these reasons, while petitioner may have succeeded in altering his body and appearance
through the intervention of modern surgery, no law authorizes the change of entry as to sex in the
civil registry for that reason. Thus, there is no legal basis for his petition for the correction or
change of the entries in his birth certificate.

Neither May Entries in the Birth Certificate As to First Name or Sex Be Changed on the
Ground of Equity

The trial court opined that its grant of the petition was in consonance with the principles of justice
and equity. It believed that allowing the petition would cause no harm, injury or prejudice to
anyone. This is wrong.

The changes sought by petitioner will have serious and wide-ranging legal and public policy
consequences. First, even the trial court itself found that the petition was but petitioner’s first step
towards his eventual marriage to his male fiancé. However, marriage, one of the most sacred
social institutions, is a special contract of permanent unionbetween a man and a woman.37 One of
its essential requisites is the legal capacity of the contracting parties who must be a male and a
female.38 To grant the changes sought by petitioner will substantially reconfigure and greatly alter
the laws on marriage and family relations. It will allow the union of a man with another man who
has undergone sex reassignment (a male-to-female post-operative transsexual). Second, there are
various laws which apply particularly to women such as the provisions of the Labor Code on
employment of women,39 certain felonies under the Revised Penal Code40 and the presumption of
survivorship in case of calamities under Rule 131 of the Rules of Court,41 among others. These
laws underscore the public policy in relation to women which could be substantially affected if
petitioner’s petition were to be granted.

It is true that Article 9 of the Civil Code mandates that "[n]o judge or court shall decline to render
judgment by reason of the silence, obscurity or insufficiency of the law." However, it is not a
license for courts to engage in judicial legislation. The duty of the courts is to apply or interpret
the law, not to make or amend it.

In our system of government, it is for the legislature, should it choose to do so, to determine what
guidelines should govern the recognition of the effects of sex reassignment. The need for
legislative guidelines becomes particularly important in this case where the claims asserted are
statute-based.

To reiterate, the statutes define who may file petitions for change of first name and for correction
or change of entries in the civil registry, where they may be filed, what grounds may be invoked,
what proof must be presented and what procedures shall be observed. If the legislature intends to
confer on a person who has undergone sex reassignment the privilege to change his name and sex
to conform with his reassigned sex, it has to enact legislation laying down the guidelines in turn
governing the conferment of that privilege.

It might be theoretically possible for this Court to write a protocol on when a person may be
recognized as having successfully changed his sex. However, this Court has no authority to
fashion a law on that matter, or on anything else. The Court cannot enact a law where no law
exists. It can only apply or interpret the written word of its co-equal branch of government,
Congress.

Petitioner pleads that "[t]he unfortunates are also entitled to a life of happiness, contentment and
[the] realization of their dreams." No argument about that. The Court recognizes that there are
people whose preferences and orientation do not fit neatly into the commonly recognized
parameters of social convention and that, at least for them, life is indeed an ordeal. However, the
remedies petitioner seeks involve questions of public policy to be addressed solely by the
legislature, not by the courts.

WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DENIED.

Costs against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

Puno, C.J., Chairperson, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Azcuna, Garcia, JJ., concur.


Article 14 – Obligatory Effect of Penal Laws
Del Socorro GR 193707

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 193707 December 10, 2014

NORMA A. DEL SOCORRO, for and in behalf of her minor child RODERIGO NORJO
VAN WILSEM, Petitioner,
vs.
ERNST JOHAN BRINKMAN VAN WILSEM, Respondent.

DECISION
PERALTA, J.:

Before the Court is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court seeking
to reverse and set aside the Orders1 dated February 19, 2010 and September 1, 2010, respectively,
of the Regional Trial Court of Cebu City (RTC-Cebu), which dismissed the criminal case entitled
People of the Philippines v. Ernst Johan Brinkman Van Wilsem, docketed as Criminal Case No.
CBU-85503, for violation of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9262, otherwise known as the Anti-
Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004.

The following facts are culled from the records:

Petitioner Norma A. Del Socorro and respondent Ernst Johan Brinkman Van Wilsem contracted
marriage in Holland on September 25, 1990.2 On January 19, 1994, they were blessed with a son
named Roderigo Norjo Van Wilsem, who at the time of the filing of the instant petition was
sixteen (16) years of age.3

Unfortunately, their marriage bond ended on July 19, 1995 by virtue of a Divorce Decree issued
by the appropriate Court of Holland.4 At that time, their son was only eighteen (18) months
old.5 Thereafter, petitioner and her son came home to the Philippines.6

According to petitioner, respondent made a promise to provide monthly support to their son in the
amount of Two Hundred Fifty (250) Guildene (which is equivalent to Php17,500.00 more or
less).7 However, since the arrival of petitioner and her son in the Philippines, respondent never
gave support to the son, Roderigo.8

Not long thereafter, respondent cameto the Philippines and remarried in Pinamungahan, Cebu, and
since then, have been residing thereat.9 Respondent and his new wife established a business
known as Paree Catering, located at Barangay Tajao, Municipality of Pinamungahan, Cebu
City.10 To date, all the parties, including their son, Roderigo, are presently living in Cebu City.11

On August 28, 2009, petitioner, through her counsel, sent a letter demanding for support from
respondent. However, respondent refused to receive the letter.12

Because of the foregoing circumstances, petitioner filed a complaint affidavit with the Provincial
Prosecutor of Cebu City against respondent for violation of Section 5, paragraph E(2) of R.A. No.
9262 for the latter’s unjust refusal to support his minor child with petitioner.13 Respondent
submitted his counter-affidavit thereto, to which petitioner also submitted her reply-
affidavit.14 Thereafter, the Provincial Prosecutor of Cebu City issued a Resolution recommending
the filing of an information for the crime charged against herein respondent.

The information, which was filed with the RTC-Cebu and raffled to Branch 20 thereof, states that:

That sometime in the year 1995 and up to the present, more or less, in the Municipality of
Minglanilla, Province of Cebu, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court,
the above-named accused, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and deliberately deprive, refuse
and still continue to deprive his son RODERIGO NORJO VAN WILSEM, a fourteen (14) year
old minor, of financial support legally due him, resulting in economic abuse to the victim.
CONTRARY TO LAW.15

Upon motion and after notice and hearing, the RTC-Cebu issued a Hold Departure Order against
respondent.16Consequently, respondent was arrested and, subsequently, posted bail.17 Petitioner
also filed a Motion/Application of Permanent Protection Order to which respondent filed his
Opposition.18 Pending the resolution thereof, respondent was arraigned.19 Subsequently, without
the RTC-Cebu having resolved the application of the protection order, respondent filed a Motion
to Dismiss on the ground of: (1) lack of jurisdiction over the offense charged; and (2) prescription
of the crime charged.20
On February 19, 2010, the RTC-Cebu issued the herein assailed Order,21 dismissing the instant
criminal case against respondent on the ground that the facts charged in the information do not
constitute an offense with respect to the respondent who is an alien, the dispositive part of which
states:

WHEREFORE, the Court finds that the facts charged in the information do not constitute an
offense with respect to the accused, he being an alien, and accordingly, orders this case
DISMISSED.

The bail bond posted by accused Ernst Johan Brinkman Van Wilsem for his provisional liberty is
hereby cancelled (sic) and ordered released.

SO ORDERED.

Cebu City, Philippines, February 19, 2010.22

Thereafter, petitioner filed her Motion for Reconsideration thereto reiterating respondent’s
obligation to support their child under Article 19523 of the Family Code, thus, failure to do so
makes him liable under R.A. No. 9262 which "equally applies to all persons in the Philippines
who are obliged to support their minor children regardless of the obligor’s nationality."24

On September 1, 2010, the lower court issued an Order25 denying petitioner’s Motion for
Reconsideration and reiterating its previous ruling. Thus:

x x x The arguments therein presented are basically a rehash of those advanced earlier in the
memorandum of the prosecution. Thus, the court hereby reiterates its ruling that since the accused
is a foreign national he is not subject to our national law (The Family Code) in regard to a parent’s
duty and obligation to givesupport to his child. Consequently, he cannot be charged of violating
R.A. 9262 for his alleged failure to support his child. Unless it is conclusively established that
R.A. 9262 applies to a foreigner who fails to give support tohis child, notwithstanding that he is
not bound by our domestic law which mandates a parent to give such support, it is the considered
opinion of the court that no prima faciecase exists against the accused herein, hence, the case
should be dismissed.

WHEREFORE, the motion for reconsideration is hereby DENIED for lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.

Cebu City, Philippines, September 1, 2010.26

Hence, the present Petition for Review on Certiorari raising the following issues:

1. Whether or not a foreign national has an obligation to support his minor child under
Philippine law; and

2. Whether or not a foreign national can be held criminally liable under R.A. No. 9262 for
his unjustified failure to support his minor child.27

At the outset, let it be emphasized that We are taking cognizance of the instant petition despite the
fact that the same was directly lodged with the Supreme Court, consistent with the ruling in
Republic v. Sunvar Realty Development Corporation,28 which lays down the instances when a
ruling of the trial court may be brought on appeal directly to the Supreme Court without violating
the doctrine of hierarchy of courts, to wit:
x x x Nevertheless, the Rules do not prohibit any of the parties from filing a Rule 45 Petition with
this Court, in case only questions of law are raised or involved. This latter situation was one that
petitioners found themselves in when they filed the instant Petition to raise only questions of law.
In Republic v. Malabanan, the Court clarified the three modes of appeal from decisions of the
RTC, to wit: (1) by ordinary appeal or appeal by writ of error under Rule 41, whereby judgment
was rendered in a civil or criminal action by the RTC in the exercise of its original jurisdiction; (2)
by a petition for review under Rule 42, whereby judgment was rendered by the RTC in the
exercise of its appellate jurisdiction; and (3) by a petition for review on certiorari before the
Supreme Court under Rule 45. "The first mode of appeal is taken to the [Court of Appeals] on
questions of fact or mixed questions of fact and law. The second mode of appeal is brought to the
CA on questions of fact, of law, or mixed questions of fact and law. The third mode of appealis
elevated to the Supreme Court only on questions of law." (Emphasis supplied)

There is a question of law when the issue does not call for an examination of the probative value
of the evidence presented or of the truth or falsehood of the facts being admitted, and the doubt
concerns the correct application of law and jurisprudence on the matter. The resolution of the
issue must rest solely on what the law provides on the given set of circumstances.29

Indeed, the issues submitted to us for resolution involve questions of law – the response thereto
concerns the correct application of law and jurisprudence on a given set of facts, i.e.,whether or
not a foreign national has an obligation to support his minor child under Philippine law; and
whether or not he can be held criminally liable under R.A. No. 9262 for his unjustified failure to
do so.

It cannot be negated, moreover, that the instant petition highlights a novel question of law
concerning the liability of a foreign national who allegedly commits acts and omissions
punishable under special criminal laws, specifically in relation to family rights and duties. The
inimitability of the factual milieu of the present case, therefore, deserves a definitive ruling by this
Court, which will eventually serve as a guidepost for future cases. Furthermore, dismissing the
instant petition and remanding the same to the CA would only waste the time, effort and resources
of the courts. Thus, in the present case, considerations of efficiency and economy in the
administration of justice should prevail over the observance of the hierarchy of courts.

Now, on the matter of the substantive issues, We find the petition meritorious. Nonetheless, we do
not fully agree with petitioner’s contentions.

To determine whether or not a person is criminally liable under R.A. No. 9262, it is imperative
that the legal obligation to support exists.

Petitioner invokes Article 19530 of the Family Code, which provides the parent’s obligation to
support his child. Petitioner contends that notwithstanding the existence of a divorce decree issued
in relation to Article 26 of the Family Code,31 respondent is not excused from complying with his
obligation to support his minor child with petitioner.

On the other hand, respondent contends that there is no sufficient and clear basis presented by
petitioner that she, as well as her minor son, are entitled to financial support.32 Respondent also
added that by reason of the Divorce Decree, he is not obligated topetitioner for any financial
support.33

On this point, we agree with respondent that petitioner cannot rely on Article 19534 of the New
Civil Code in demanding support from respondent, who is a foreign citizen, since Article 1535 of
the New Civil Code stresses the principle of nationality. In other words, insofar as Philippine laws
are concerned, specifically the provisions of the Family Code on support, the same only applies to
Filipino citizens. By analogy, the same principle applies to foreigners such that they are governed
by their national law with respect to family rights and duties.36
The obligation to give support to a child is a matter that falls under family rights and duties. Since
the respondent is a citizen of Holland or the Netherlands, we agree with the RTC-Cebu that he is
subject to the laws of his country, not to Philippinelaw, as to whether he is obliged to give support
to his child, as well as the consequences of his failure to do so.37

In the case of Vivo v. Cloribel,38 the Court held that –

Furthermore, being still aliens, they are not in position to invoke the provisions of the Civil Code
of the Philippines, for that Code cleaves to the principle that family rights and duties are governed
by their personal law, i.e.,the laws of the nation to which they belong even when staying in a
foreign country (cf. Civil Code, Article 15).39

It cannot be gainsaid, therefore, that the respondent is not obliged to support petitioner’s son under
Article195 of the Family Code as a consequence of the Divorce Covenant obtained in Holland.
This does not, however, mean that respondent is not obliged to support petitioner’s son altogether.

In international law, the party who wants to have a foreign law applied to a dispute or case has the
burden of proving the foreign law.40 In the present case, respondent hastily concludes that being a
national of the Netherlands, he is governed by such laws on the matter of provision of and
capacity to support.41 While respondent pleaded the laws of the Netherlands in advancing his
position that he is not obliged to support his son, he never proved the same.

It is incumbent upon respondent to plead and prove that the national law of the Netherlands does
not impose upon the parents the obligation to support their child (either before, during or after the
issuance of a divorce decree), because Llorente v. Court of Appeals,42 has already enunciated that:

True, foreign laws do not prove themselves in our jurisdiction and our courts are not authorized to
takejudicial notice of them. Like any other fact, they must be alleged and proved.43

In view of respondent’s failure to prove the national law of the Netherlands in his favor, the
doctrine of processual presumption shall govern. Under this doctrine, if the foreign law involved
is not properly pleaded and proved, our courts will presume that the foreign law is the same as our
local or domestic or internal law.44 Thus, since the law of the Netherlands as regards the
obligation to support has not been properly pleaded and proved in the instant case, it is presumed
to be the same with Philippine law, which enforces the obligation of parents to support their
children and penalizing the non-compliance therewith.

Moreover, while in Pilapil v. Ibay-Somera,45 the Court held that a divorce obtained in a foreign
land as well as its legal effects may be recognized in the Philippines in view of the nationality
principle on the matter of status of persons, the Divorce Covenant presented by respondent does
not completely show that he is notliable to give support to his son after the divorce decree was
issued. Emphasis is placed on petitioner’s allegation that under the second page of the aforesaid
covenant, respondent’s obligation to support his child is specifically stated,46 which was not
disputed by respondent.

We likewise agree with petitioner that notwithstanding that the national law of respondent states
that parents have no obligation to support their children or that such obligation is not punishable
by law, said law would still not find applicability,in light of the ruling in Bank of America, NT
and SA v. American Realty Corporation,47 to wit:

In the instant case, assuming arguendo that the English Law on the matter were properly pleaded
and proved in accordance with Section 24, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court and the jurisprudence
laid down in Yao Kee, et al. vs. Sy-Gonzales, said foreign law would still not find applicability.

Thus, when the foreign law, judgment or contract is contrary to a sound and established public
policy of the forum, the said foreign law, judgment or order shall not be applied.
Additionally, prohibitive laws concerning persons, their acts or property, and those which have for
their object public order, public policy and good customs shall not be rendered ineffective by laws
or judgments promulgated, or by determinations or conventions agreed upon in a foreign country.

The public policy sought to be protected in the instant case is the principle imbedded in our
jurisdiction proscribing the splitting up of a single cause of action.

Section 4, Rule 2 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure is pertinent

If two or more suits are instituted on the basis of the same cause of action, the filing of one or a
judgment upon the merits in any one is available as a ground for the dismissal of the others.
Moreover, foreign law should not be applied when its application would work undeniable injustice
to the citizens or residents of the forum. To give justice is the most important function of law;
hence, a law, or judgment or contract that is obviously unjust negates the fundamental principles
of Conflict of Laws.48

Applying the foregoing, even if the laws of the Netherlands neither enforce a parent’s obligation
to support his child nor penalize the noncompliance therewith, such obligation is still duly
enforceable in the Philippines because it would be of great injustice to the child to be denied of
financial support when the latter is entitled thereto.

We emphasize, however, that as to petitioner herself, respondent is no longer liable to support his
former wife, in consonance with the ruling in San Luis v. San Luis,49 to wit:

As to the effect of the divorce on the Filipino wife, the Court ruled that she should no longerbe
considered marriedto the alien spouse. Further, she should not be required to perform her marital
duties and obligations. It held:

To maintain, as private respondent does, that, under our laws, petitioner has to be considered still
married to private respondent and still subject to a wife's obligations under Article 109, et. seq. of
the Civil Code cannot be just. Petitioner should not be obliged to live together with, observe
respect and fidelity, and render support to private respondent. The latter should not continue to be
one of her heirs with possible rights to conjugal property. She should not be discriminated against
in her own country if the ends of justice are to be served. (Emphasis added)50

Based on the foregoing legal precepts, we find that respondent may be made liable under Section
5(e) and (i) of R.A. No. 9262 for unjustly refusing or failing to give support topetitioner’s son, to
wit:

SECTION 5. Acts of Violence Against Women and Their Children.- The crime of violence
against women and their children is committed through any of the following acts:

xxxx

(e) Attempting to compel or compelling the woman or her child to engage in conduct which the
woman or her child has the right to desist from or desist from conduct which the woman or her
child has the right to engage in, or attempting to restrict or restricting the woman's or her child's
freedom of movement or conduct by force or threat of force, physical or other harm or threat of
physical or other harm, or intimidation directed against the woman or child. This shall include,
butnot limited to, the following acts committed with the purpose or effect of controlling or
restricting the woman's or her child's movement or conduct:

xxxx
(2) Depriving or threatening to deprive the woman or her children of financial support legally due
her or her family, or deliberately providing the woman's children insufficient financial support; x
xxx

(i) Causing mental or emotional anguish, public ridicule or humiliation to the woman or her child,
including, but not limited to, repeated verbal and emotional abuse, and denial of financial support
or custody of minor childrenof access to the woman's child/children.51

Under the aforesaid special law, the deprivation or denial of financial support to the child is
considered anact of violence against women and children.

In addition, considering that respondent is currently living in the Philippines, we find strength in
petitioner’s claim that the Territoriality Principle in criminal law, in relation to Article 14 of the
New Civil Code, applies to the instant case, which provides that: "[p]enal laws and those of public
security and safety shall be obligatory upon all who live and sojourn in Philippine territory,
subject to the principle of public international law and to treaty stipulations." On this score, it is
indisputable that the alleged continuing acts of respondent in refusing to support his child with
petitioner is committed here in the Philippines as all of the parties herein are residents of the
Province of Cebu City. As such, our courts have territorial jurisdiction over the offense charged
against respondent. It is likewise irrefutable that jurisdiction over the respondent was acquired
upon his arrest.

Finally, we do not agree with respondent’s argument that granting, but not admitting, that there is
a legal basis for charging violation of R.A. No. 9262 in the instant case, the criminal liability has
been extinguished on the ground of prescription of crime52 under Section 24 of R.A. No. 9262,
which provides that:

SECTION 24. Prescriptive Period. – Acts falling under Sections 5(a) to 5(f) shall prescribe in
twenty (20) years. Acts falling under Sections 5(g) to 5(I) shall prescribe in ten (10) years.

The act of denying support to a child under Section 5(e)(2) and (i) of R.A. No. 9262 is a
continuing offense,53 which started in 1995 but is still ongoing at present. Accordingly, the crime
charged in the instant case has clearly not prescribed.

Given, however, that the issue on whether respondent has provided support to petitioner’s child
calls for an examination of the probative value of the evidence presented, and the truth and
falsehood of facts being admitted, we hereby remand the determination of this issue to the RTC-
Cebu which has jurisdiction over the case.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Orders dated February 19, 2010 and September 1,
2010, respectively, of the Regional Trial Court of the City of Cebu are hereby REVERSED and
SET ASIDE. The case is REMANDED to the same court to conduct further proceedings based on
the merits of the case.

SO ORDERED.