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103200 August 31, 1994 FACTS: Respondent Yao was the owner of a commercial building, a portion of which is leased to herein petitioner. However, during the renewal of the contract of lease, the two disagreed on the rental rate, and to resolve the controversy, they submitted their disagreement to arbitration. Two arbitrators (Alamarez and Sabile) has been appointed by the parties while the appointment of the third arbitrator (Tupang) was held in abeyance because La Naval Drug instructed its arbitrator to defer the same until its Board of Directors could convene and approved Tupangs appointment. This was theorized by the respondent as dilatory tactics, hence, he prayed that a summary hearing be conducted and direct the 2 arbitrators to proceed with the arbitration in accordance with Contract of Lease and the applicable provisions of the Arbitration law, by appointing and confirming the appointment of the Third Arbitrator; and that the Board of Three Arbitrators be ordered to immediately convene and resolve the controversy before it. The respondent court announced that the two arbitrators chose Mrs. Eloisa R. Narciso as the third arbitrator and ordered the parties to submit their position papers on the issue as to whether or not respondent Yao's claim for damages may be litigated upon in the summary proceeding for enforcement of arbitration agreement. In moving for reconsideration of the said Order, petitioner argued that in Special Case No. 6024, the respondent court sits as a special court exercising limited jurisdiction and is not competent to act on respondent Yao's claim for damages, which poses an issue litigable in an ordinary civil action. However, respondent court was not persuaded by petitioner's submission, hence, it denied the motion for reconsideration. While the appellate court has agreed with petitioner that, under Section 6 of Republic Act No. 876, a court, acting within the limits of its special jurisdiction, may in this case solely determine the issue of whether the litigants should proceed or not to arbitration, it, however, considered petitioner in estoppel from questioning the competence of the court to additionally hear and decide in the summary proceedings private respondent's claim for damages, it (petitioner) having itself filed similarly its own counterclaim with the court a quo. ISSUES: 1. WON THE COURT HAS JURISDICTION OVER THE PERSON. 2. WON THE COURT A QUO HAS JURISDICTION OVER THE SUBJECT MATTER. HELD: As to the first issue, it was held that jurisdiction over the person must be seasonably raised, i.e., that it is pleaded in a motion to dismiss or by way of an affirmative defense in an answer. Voluntary appearance shall be deemed a waiver of this defense. The assertion, however, of affirmative defenses shall not be constructed as an estoppel or as a waiver of such defense. With regard to the second issue, it was held that where the court itself clearly has no jurisdiction over the subject matter or the nature of the action, the invocation of this defense may be done at any time. It is neither for the courts nor the parties to violate or disregard that rule, let alone to confer that jurisdiction, this matter being legislative in character. Barring highly meritorious and exceptional circumstances, such as herein before exemplified, neither estoppel nor waiver shall apply. The court must then

refrain from taking up the claims of the contending parties for damages, which, upon the other hand, may be ventilated in separate regular proceedings at an opportune