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THIRD DIVISION [G.R. No. 147597, August 06, 2008] CLARISSA U.

MATA, DOING BUSINESS UNDER THE FIRM NAME BESSANG PASS SECURITY AGENCY, PETITIONER, VS. ALEXANDER M. AGRAVANTE, EDDIE E. SANTILLAN, PATRICIO A. ARMODIA, ALEJANDRO A. ALMADEN AND HERMENEGILDO G. SALDO, RESPONDENTS. DECISION
NACHURA, J.: Before us is a petition for review on certiorari assailing the decision[1] of the Court of Appeals (CA) which dismissed petitioner's complaint for damages filed against the respondents. The antecedent facts are as follows: Respondents Eddie E. Santillan, Patricio A. Armodia, Alejandro A. Almaden and Hermenegildo G. Saldo were former security guards of the Bessang Pass Security Agency, owned by herein petitioner Clarissa Mata. On October 27, 1993, the respondents, assisted by their counsel, Atty. Alexander Agravante, filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) in Cebu City for non-payment of salaries/wages and other benefits. [2] Subsequently, they filed an affidavit-complaint with the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Cramp Crame, Quezon City requesting an investigation of the Bessang Pass Security Agency and cancellation of its license to operate as security agency for violation of labor laws. Copies of this affidavitcomplaint were likewise sent to the following offices: (1) Office of the President, (2) Office of the Secretary of Public Works and Highways, (3) Office of the PNP Director General, (4) PNP Chief Superintendent Warlito Capitan, (5) Office of the DILG Secretary, (6) Ombudsman Conrado Vasquez and (7) Office of the Vice-President. On January 6, 1994, petitioner instituted an action for damages against the respondents averring that respondents filed unfounded, baseless complaints before the NLRC for alleged violation of the labor laws and with the PNP for cancellation of its license to operate. She further alleged that by furnishing the government offices copies of these complaints, especially the Department of Public Works and Highways which was its biggest client, the agency's reputation was besmirched, resulting in the loss of contracts/projects and income in the amount of at least P5,000,000.00. Petitioner then declared that respondents' deliberate and concerted campaign of hate and vilification against the Bessang Pass Security Agency violated the provisions of Articles 19, 20, and 21 of the Civil Code, and thus, prayed that the respondents be held jointly and severally liable to pay her the sum of P1,000,000.00 as moral damages, attorney's fees in the amount of P200,000.00 and other reliefs. On August 4, 1999, the trial court rendered judgment, the dispositive portion of which reads, as follows: WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of plaintiff and against defendants ordering the latter to pay plaintiff the sum of ONE MILLION (P1,000,000.00) PESOS as moral damages.[3]

On the basis of the evidence adduced by the petitioner ex parte, the trial court found preponderant evidence enough to justify petitioner's cause of action. It gave credence to the petitioner's contentions that the respondents had no other motive in sending the letter to the seven (7) government offices except to unduly prejudice her good name and reputation. The trial court, however, did not award the sum of P5,000,000.00 as petitioner's estimated loss of income for being speculative. On appeal, the CA reversed and set aside the trial court's decision. It dismissed the complaint for lack of merit. Hence, this petition anchored on the following grounds: WITH ALL DUE RESPECT, THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED A SERIOUS REVERSIBLE ERROR, AMOUNTING TO GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION WHEN IT REVERSED AND SET ASIDE THE DECISION OF THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, BRANCH 89 IN QUEZON CITY AND FURTHER CONCLUDED THAT RESPONDENTS' ACT OF FURNISHING COPIES OF THEIR LETTER-COMPLAINT NOT ONLY TO SEVEN (7) NATIONAL AGENCIES BUT ALSO TO PETITIONER'S BIGGEST CLIENT, WAS NOT TAINTED WITH BAD FAITH AND WITH THE SOLE MOTIVE TO MALIGN THE GOOD NAME AND REPUTATION OF PETITIONER. WITH ALL DUE RESPECT, THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED SERIOUS ERROR IN THE APPRECIATION OF FACTS AND APPLICATION OF LAWS, WHICH IF NOT RECTIFIED, WOULD CAUSE IRREPARABLE INJURY AND DAMAGE TO HEREIN PETITIONER. WITH ALL DUE RESPECT, THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED A SERIOUS REVERSIBLE ERROR, AMOUNTING TO GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION, WHEN IT REVERSED AND SET ASIDE THE DECISION OF THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, BRANCH 89 IN QUEZON CITY, NOTWITHSTANDING RESPONDENTS HAVING BEEN DECLARED IN DEFAULT. [4] Petitioner contends that the respondents were so driven by unrestrained hatred and revenge that they not only succeeded in disseminating the letter-complaint to the 7 government offices but to the DPWH, her biggest client, with the intention to destroy her reputation and, more importantly, her business. She posits that this would mean a loss of employment for numerous employees throughout the country who solely depend on the security agency for their existence, and that respondents obviously failed to see this fact. She claims that the respondents have abused their rights, to her prejudice, and that of the security agency which has tried very hard to protect its name and hard-earned reputation. Petitioner then concludes that the respondents have violated Articles 19 and 21 of the Civil Code and should be held liable for damages.[5] We are not impressed. We are more in accord with the findings and conclusions of the respondent court that petitioner is not entitled to any award of damages. We agree with the respondent court's explanation, viz.: In filing the letter-complaint (Exhibit "D") with the Philippine National Police and furnishing copies thereof to seven (7) other executive offices of the national government, the defendants-appellants may not be said to be motivated simply by the desire to "unduly prejudice the good name and reputation" of plaintiff-appellee. Such act was consistent with and a rational consequence of seeking justice through legal means for the alleged abuses defendants-appellants suffered in the course of their employment with plaintiff-appellee, which started with the case for illegal dismissal and non-payment of backwages and benefits earlier filed with the NLRC Regional Arbitration Branch in Cebu City. In exhausting the legal avenues to air their legitimate grievances, the paramount and overriding concern of the defendants-appellants - who had already suffered from retaliatory acts of their employer when they manifested their desire to take formal action on the violations of labor laws committed by employer - is to secure government intervention or action to correct or punish

their employer, plaintiff-appellee, in accordance with the provisions of existing laws or rules and regulations which may be applicable to their situation. And in this process, the intervention of the Philippine National Police was sought in view of its mandated role of administrative supervision over security agencies like plaintiff-appellee. Section 8 of Republic Act No. 5487, otherwise known as the "Private Security Agency Law," empowered the Chief of the former Philippine Constabulary (PC) at any time "to suspend or cancel the licenses of private watchman or security guard agency found violating any of the provisions of this Act or of the rules and regulations promulgated by the Chief of Constabulary pursuant thereto." With the enactment of Republic Act No. 6975 ("Department of the Interior and Local Government Act of 1990"), the PC-INP was abolished and in its place, a new police force was established, the Philippine National Police (PNP). Among the administrative support units of the PNP under the new law is the Civil Security Unit which shall provide administrative services and general supervision over the organization, business operation and activities of all organized private detectives, watchmen, security guard agencies and company guard houses. It was thus but logical for defendantsappellants, as advised by their counsel, to also communicate their grievances against their employer security guard agency with the PNP. The act of furnishing copies to seven (7) other executive offices, including that of the Office of the President, was merely to inform said offices of the fact of filing of such complaint, as is usually done by individual complainants seeking official government action to address their problems or grievances. Their pending case with the NLRC would not preclude them from seeking assistance from the PNP as said agency is the national body that exercises general supervision over all security guard agencies in the country, the defendants-appellants were of the honest belief that the violation of labor laws committed by their employer will elicit proper action from said body, providing them with a relief (cancellation of license) distinct from those reliefs sought by them from the NLRC (payment of backwages and benefits). Certainly, defendants-appellants had good reason to believe that bringing the matter to PNP is justified as no private security agency found to be violating labor laws should remain in good standing with or [be] tolerated by the PNP. Despite the pendency of the NLRC case, such request for investigation of plaintiff-appellee could not in any way be tainted with malice and bad faith where the same was made by the very individuals who suffered from the illegal labor practices of plaintiff-appellee. Moreover, no liability could arise from defendants-appellants' act of filing of the labor case with the NLRC which plaintiff-appellee claimed to have resulted in the agency's not being able to secure contracts because of such pending labor case, defendants-appellants merely exercised a right granted to them by our labor laws.[6] It has been held that Article 19,[7] known to contain what is commonly referred to as the principle of abuse of rights, is not a panacea for all human hurts and social grievances. The object of this article is to set certain standards which must be observed not only in the exercise of one's rights but also in the performance of one's duties. These standards are the following: act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith. Its antithesis is any act evincing bad faith or intent to injure.[8] Article 21 refers to acts contra bonos mores and has the following elements: (1) an act which is legal; (2) but which is contrary to morals, good custom, public order or public policy; and (3) is done with intent to injure. The common element under Articles 19 and 21 is that the act complained of must be intentional,[9] and attended with malice or bad faith. There is no hard and fast rule which can be applied to determine whether or not the principle of abuse of rights may be invoked. The question of whether or not this principle has been violated, resulting in damages under Articles 20 and 21,[10] or other applicable provision of law, depends on the circumstances of each case.[11] In the case before us, as correctly pointed out by the CA, the circumstances do not warrant an award of damages. Thus, the award of P1,000,000.00 as moral damages is quite preposterous. We agree with the appellate court that in the action of the

respondents, there was no malicious intent to injure petitioner's good name and reputation. The respondents merely wanted to call the attention of responsible government agencies in order to secure appropriate action upon an erring private security agency and obtain redress for their grievances. So, we reiterate the basic postulate that in the absence of proof that there was malice or bad faith on the part of the respondents, no damages can be awarded. WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED. SO ORDERED. Ynares-Santiago, (Chairperson), Austria-Martinez, Chico-Nazario, and Reyes, JJ., concur.

THIRD DIVISION [G.R. No. 161188, June 13, 2008] HEIRS OF PURISIMA NALA, REPRESENTED BY THEIR ATTORNEY-IN-FACT EFEGENIA DIGNA DUYAN, PETITIONERS, VS. ARTEMIO CABANSAG, RESPONDENT. DECISION
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.: This is a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court assailing the Court of Appeals (CA) Decision[1] dated December 19, 2002 and Resolution [2] dated October 28, 2003, dismissing petitioners' appeal and affirming with modification the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Decision dated August 10, 1994 rendered in Civil Case No. Q-91-10541. The facts of the case are as follows: Artemio Cabansag (respondent) filed Civil Case No. Q-91-10541 for damages in October 1991. According to respondent, he bought a 50-square meter property from spouses Eugenio Gomez, Jr. and Felisa Duyan Gomez on July 23, 1990. Said property is part of a 400-square meter lot registered in the name of the Gomez spouses. In October 1991, he received a demand letter from Atty. Alexander del Prado (Atty. Del Prado), in behalf of Purisima Nala (Nala), asking for the payment of rentals from 1987 to 1991 until he leaves the premises, as said property is owned by Nala, failing which criminal and civil actions will be filed against him. Another demand letter was sent on May 14, 1991. Because of such demands, respondent suffered damages and was constrained to file the case against Nala and Atty. Del Prado.[3] Atty. Del Prado claimed that he sent the demand letters in good faith and that he was merely acting in behalf of his client, Nala, who disputed respondent's claim of ownership. Nala alleged that said property is part of an 800-square meter property owned by her late husband, Eulogio Duyan, which was subsequently divided into two parts. The 400-square meter property was conveyed to spouses Gomez in a fictitious deed of sale, with the agreement that it will be merely held by them in trust for the Duyan's children. Said property is covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 281115 in the name of spouses Gomez. Nala also claimed that respondent is only renting the property which he occupies. [4] After trial, the RTC of Quezon City, Branch 93, rendered its Decision on August 10, 1994, in favor of respondent. The dispositive portion of the Decision provides: WHEREFORE, premises considered, by preponderance of evidence, the Court finds in favor of the plaintiff and hereby orders the defendants, jointly and severally, to pay plaintiff the following: 1. P150,000.00 by way of moral damages; 2. P30,000.00 by way of exemplary damages; 3. P20,000.00 as and for reasonable attorney's fees and other litigation expenses; and 4. to pay the costs.

SO ORDERED.[5] Nala and Atty. Del Prado appealed to the CA. The herein assailed CA Decision dated December 19, 2002 affirmed the RTC Decision with modification, thus: WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant appeal is hereby DISMISSED. The assailed decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 93, Quezon City, in Civil Case No. Q-91-10541 is heretofore AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. Defendants-appellants are ordered to pay, jointly and severally, plaintiff-appellee the amount of P30,000.00 by way of moral damages. It is further ordered to pay him exemplary damages in the amount of P10,000.00 and P10,000.00, attorney's fees. SO ORDERED.[6] In affirming the RTC Decision, the CA took note of the Decision dated September 5, 1994 rendered by the RTC of Quezon City, Branch 80, dismissing Civil Case No. 91-8821, an action for reconveyance of real property and cancellation of TCT No. 281115 with damages, filed by Nala against spouses Gomez.[7] Hence, herein petition by the heirs of Nala (petitioners) [8] with the following assignment of errors: a) Respondent Court of Appeals erred in not considering the right of Purisima Nala to assert her rights and interest over the property. b) Respondent Court of Appeals erred in not considering the Decision rendered by the Court of Appeals in the case for reconveyance which upheld the rights and interest of Purisima Nala and her children over a certain parcel of land, a portion of which is subject of the present case.

c)

Respondent Court of Appeals erred in awarding damages and attorney's fees without any basis.[9] Atty. Del Prado filed a motion for extension of time to file his separate petition but it was denied by the Court per its Resolution dated January 19, 2004 issued in G.R. No. 160829. Petitioners argue that their predecessor-in-interest had every right to protect and assert her interests over the property. Nala had no knowledge that the property was sold by spouses Gomez to respondent when the demand letters were sent. What she was aware of was the fact that spouses Gomez were managing the rentals on the property by virtue of the implied trust created between them and Eulogio Duyan. When spouses Gomez failed to remit the rentals and claimed ownership of the property, it was then that Nala decided to procure the services of legal counsel to protect their rights over the property. Petitioners also contend that it was error for the CA to take note of the RTC Decision in Civil Case No. 91-8821 without further noting that the CA had already reversed and set aside said RTC Decision and ordered reconveyance of the property to Nala and her children in a Decision dated March 8, 2000 rendered in CA-G.R. CV No. 49163. Petitioners also argue that respondent did not substantiate his claim for damages. Preliminarily, the Court notes that both the RTC and the CA failed to indicate the particular provision of law under which it held petitioners liable for damages. Nevertheless, based on the allegations in respondent's complaint, it may be gathered that the basis for his claim for damages is Article 19 of the Civil Code, which provides: Art. 19. Every person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith. The foregoing provision sets the standards which may be observed not only in the exercise of one's rights but also in the performance of one's duties. When a right is exercised in a

manner which does not conform with the norms enshrined in Article 19 and results in damage to another, a legal wrong is thereby committed for which the wrongdoer must be held responsible. But a right, though by itself legal because recognized or granted by law as such, may nevertheless become the source of some illegality. A person should be protected only when he acts in the legitimate exercise of his right; that is, when he acts with prudence and in good faith, but not when he acts with negligence or abuse. There is an abuse of right when it is exercised only for the purpose of prejudicing or injuring another. The exercise of a right must be in accordance with the purpose for which it was established, and must not be excessive or unduly harsh; there must be no intention to injure another. [10] In order to be liable for damages under the abuse of rights principle, the following requisites must concur: (a) the existence of a legal right or duty; (b) which is exercised in bad faith; and (c) for the sole intent of prejudicing or injuring another.[11] It should be stressed that malice or bad faith is at the core of Article 19 of the Civil Code. Good faith is presumed, and he who alleges bad faith has the duty to prove the same.[12] Bad faith, on the other hand, does not simply connote bad judgment to simple negligence, dishonest purpose or some moral obloquy and conscious doing of a wrong, or a breach of known duty due to some motives or interest or ill will that partakes of the nature of fraud. Malice connotes ill will or spite and speaks not in response to duty. It implies an intention to do ulterior and unjustifiable harm.[13] In the present case, there is nothing on record which will prove that Nala and her counsel, Atty. Del Prado, acted in bad faith or malice in sending the demand letters to respondent. In the first place, there was ground for Nala's actions since she believed that the property was owned by her husband Eulogio Duyan and that respondent was illegally occupying the same. She had no knowledge that spouses Gomez violated the trust imposed on them by Eulogio and surreptitiously sold a portion of the property to respondent. It was only after respondent filed the case for damages against Nala that she learned of such sale. The bare fact that respondent claims ownership over the property does not give rise to the conclusion that the sending of the demand letters by Nala was done in bad faith. Absent any evidence presented by respondent, bad faith or malice could not be attributed to petitioner since Nala was only trying to protect their interests over the property. Moreover, respondent failed to show that Nala and Atty. Del Prado's acts were done with the sole intention of prejudicing and injuring him. It may be true that respondent suffered mental anguish, serious anxiety and sleepless nights when he received the demand letters; however, there is a material distinction between damages and injury. Injury is the legal invasion of a legal right while damage is the hurt, loss or harm which results from the injury.[14] Thus, there can be damage without injury in those instances in which the loss or harm was not the result of a violation of a legal duty. In such cases, the consequences must be borne by the injured person alone; the law affords no remedy for damages resulting from an act which does not amount to a legal injury or wrong. These situations are often called damnum absque injuria.[15] Nala was acting well within her rights when she instructed Atty. Del Prado to send the demand letters. She had to take all the necessary legal steps to enforce her legal/equitable rights over the property occupied by respondent. One who makes use of his own legal right does no injury.[16] Thus, whatever damages are suffered by respondent should be borne solely by him. Nala's acts in protecting her rights over the property find further solid ground in the fact that the property has already been ordered reconveyed to her and her heirs. In its

Decision dated March 8, 2000 in CA-G.R. CV No. 49163, the CA reversed and set aside the RTC's Decision and ordered the reconveyance of the property to petitioners, and TCT No. 281115 was declared canceled. Said CA Decision was affirmed by this Court in its Decision dated March 18, 2005 in G.R. No. 144148, which became final and executory on July 27, 2005. WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Decision dated December 19, 2002 and Resolution dated October 28, 2003 rendered by the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 48580 are NULLIFIED. Civil Case No. Q-91-10541 is DISMISSED for lack of merit. Costs against respondent. SO ORDERED. Ynares-Santiago, (Chairperson), Chico-Nazario, Reyes, and Brion, JJ., concur.

THIRD DIVISION [G.R. No. 175581, March 28, 2008] REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES,Petitioner,vs. JOSE A. DAYOT, Respondent. [G.R. No. 179474] FELISA TECSON-DAYOT, Petitioner,vs. JOSE A. DAYOT, Respondent. DECISION
CHICO-NAZARIO, J.: Before us are two consolidated petitions. G.R. No. 175581 and G.R. No. 179474 are Petitions for Review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court filed by the Republic of the Philippines and Felisa Tecson-Dayot (Felisa), respectively, both challenging the Amended Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals, dated 7 November 2006, in CA-G.R. CV No. 68759, which declared the marriage between Jose Dayot (Jose) and Felisa void ab initio. The records disclose that on 24 November 1986, Jose and Felisa were married at the Pasay City Hall. The marriage was solemnized by Rev. Tomas V. Atienza.[2] In lieu of a marriage license, Jose and Felisa executed a sworn affidavit,[3] also dated 24 November 1986, attesting that both of them had attained the age of maturity, and that being unmarried, they had lived together as husband and wife for at least five years. On 7 July 1993, Jose filed a Complaint[4] for Annulment and/or Declaration of Nullity of Marriage with the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Bian, Laguna, Branch 25. He contended that his marriage with Felisa was a sham, as no marriage ceremony was celebrated between the parties; that he did not execute the sworn affidavit stating that he and Felisa had lived as husband and wife for at least five years; and that his consent to the marriage was secured through fraud. In his Complaint, Jose gave his version of the events which led to his filing of the same. According to Jose, he was introduced to Felisa in 1986. Immediately thereafter, he came to live as a boarder in Felisa's house, the latter being his landlady. Some three weeks later, Felisa requested him to accompany her to the Pasay City Hall, ostensibly so she could claim a package sent to her by her brother from Saudi Arabia. At the Pasay City Hall, upon a prearranged signal from Felisa, a man bearing three folded pieces of paper approached them. They were told that Jose needed to sign the papers so that the package could be released to Felisa. He initially refused to do so. However, Felisa cajoled him, and told him that his refusal could get both of them killed by her brother who had learned about their relationship. Reluctantly, he signed the pieces of paper, and gave them to the man who immediately left. It was in February 1987 when he discovered that he had contracted marriage with Felisa. He alleged that he saw a piece of paper lying on top of the table at the sala of Felisa's house. When he perused the same, he discovered that it was a copy of his marriage contract with Felisa. When he confronted Felisa, the latter feigned ignorance. In opposing the Complaint, Felisa denied Jose's allegations and defended the validity of their marriage. She declared that they had maintained their relationship as man and wife absent the legality of marriage in the early part of 1980, but that she had deferred contracting

marriage with him on account of their age difference.[5] In her pre-trial brief, Felisa expounded that while her marriage to Jose was subsisting, the latter contracted marriage with a certain Rufina Pascual (Rufina) on 31 August 1990. On 3 June 1993, Felisa filed an action for bigamy against Jose. Subsequently, she filed an administrative complaint against Jose with the Office of the Ombudsman, since Jose and Rufina were both employees of the National Statistics and Coordinating Board.[6] The Ombudsman found Jose administratively liable for disgraceful and immoral conduct, and meted out to him the penalty of suspension from service for one year without emolument.[7] On 26 July 2000, the RTC rendered a Decision[8] dismissing the Complaint. It disposed: WHEREFORE, after a careful evaluation and analysis of the evidence presented by both parties, this Court finds and so holds that the [C]omplaint does not deserve a favorable consideration. Accordingly, the above-entitled case is hereby ordered DISMISSED with costs against [Jose].[9] The RTC ruled that from the testimonies and evidence presented, the marriage celebrated between Jose and Felisa on 24 November 1986 was valid. It dismissed Jose's version of the story as implausible, and rationalized that: Any person in his right frame of mind would easily suspect any attempt to make him or her sign a blank sheet of paper. [Jose] could have already detected that something was amiss, unusual, as they were at Pasay City Hall to get a package for [Felisa] but it [was] he who was made to sign the pieces of paper for the release of the said package. Another indirect suggestion that could have put him on guard was the fact that, by his own admission, [Felisa] told him that her brother would kill them if he will not sign the papers. And yet it took him, more or less, three months to "discover" that the pieces of paper that he signed was [sic] purportedly the marriage contract. [Jose] does not seem to be that ignorant, as perceived by this Court, to be "taken in for a ride" by [Felisa.] [Jose's] claim that he did not consent to the marriage was belied by the fact that he acknowledged Felisa Tecson as his wife when he wrote [Felisa's] name in the duly notarized statement of assets and liabilities he filled up on May 12, 1988, one year after he discovered the marriage contract he is now claiming to be sham and false. [Jose], again, in his company I.D., wrote the name of [Felisa] as the person to be contacted in case of emergency. This Court does not believe that the only reason why her name was written in his company I.D. was because he was residing there then. This is just but a lame excuse because if he really considers her not his lawfully wedded wife, he would have written instead the name of his sister. When [Jose's] sister was put into the witness stand, under oath, she testified that she signed her name voluntarily as a witness to the marriage in the marriage certificate (T.S.N., page 25, November 29, 1996) and she further testified that the signature appearing over the name of Jose Dayot was the signature of his [sic] brother that he voluntarily affixed in the marriage contract (page 26 of T.S.N. taken on November 29, 1996), and when she was asked by the Honorable Court if indeed she believed that Felisa Tecson was really chosen by her brother she answered yes. The testimony of his sister all the more belied his claim that his consent was procured through fraud. [10] Moreover, on the matter of fraud, the RTC ruled that Jose's action had prescribed. It cited Article 87[11] of the New Civil Code which requires that the action for annulment of marriage must be commenced by the injured party within four years after the discovery of the fraud. Thus: That granting even for the sake of argument that his consent was obtained by [Felisa] through fraud, trickery and machinations, he could have filed an annulment or declaration of nullity of marriage at the earliest possible opportunity, the time when he discovered the

alleged sham and false marriage contract. [Jose] did not take any action to void the marriage at the earliest instance. x x x.[12] Undeterred, Jose filed an appeal from the foregoing RTC Decision to the Court of Appeals. In a Decision dated 11 August 2005, the Court of Appeals found the appeal to be without merit. The dispositive portion of the appellate court's Decision reads: WHEREFORE, the Decision appealed from is AFFIRMED. [13] The Court of Appeals applied the Civil Code to the marriage between Jose and Felisa as it was solemnized prior to the effectivity of the Family Code. The appellate court observed that the circumstances constituting fraud as a ground for annulment of marriage under Article 86[14] of the Civil Code did not exist in the marriage between the parties. Further, it ruled that the action for annulment of marriage on the ground of fraud was filed beyond the prescriptive period provided by law. The Court of Appeals struck down Jose's appeal in the following manner: Nonetheless, even if we consider that fraud or intimidation was employed on Jose in giving his consent to the marriage, the action for the annulment thereof had already prescribed. Article 87 (4) and (5) of the Civil Code provides that the action for annulment of marriage on the ground that the consent of a party was obtained by fraud, force or intimidation must be commenced by said party within four (4) years after the discovery of the fraud and within four (4) years from the time the force or intimidation ceased. Inasmuch as the fraud was allegedly discovered by Jose in February, 1987 then he had only until February, 1991 within which to file an action for annulment of marriage. However, it was only on July 7, 1993 that Jose filed the complaint for annulment of his marriage to Felisa. [15] Likewise, the Court of Appeals did not accept Jose's assertion that his marriage to Felisa was void ab initio for lack of a marriage license. It ruled that the marriage was solemnized under Article 76[16] of the Civil Code as one of exceptional character, with the parties executing an affidavit of marriage between man and woman who have lived together as husband and wife for at least five years. The Court of Appeals concluded that the falsity in the affidavit to the effect that Jose and Felisa had lived together as husband and wife for the period required by Article 76 did not affect the validity of the marriage, seeing that the solemnizing officer was misled by the statements contained therein. In this manner, the Court of Appeals gave credence to the good-faith reliance of the solemnizing officer over the falsity of the affidavit. The appellate court further noted that on the dorsal side of said affidavit of marriage, Rev. Tomas V. Atienza, the solemnizing officer, stated that he took steps to ascertain the ages and other qualifications of the contracting parties and found no legal impediment to their marriage. Finally, the Court of Appeals dismissed Jose's argument that neither he nor Felisa was a member of the sect to which Rev. Tomas V. Atienza belonged. According to the Court of Appeals, Article 56[17] of the Civil Code did not require that either one of the contracting parties to the marriage must belong to the solemnizing officer's church or religious sect. The prescription was established only in Article 7 [18] of the Family Code which does not govern the parties' marriage. Differing with the ruling of the Court of Appeals, Jose filed a Motion for Reconsideration thereof. His central opposition was that the requisites for the proper application of the exemption from a marriage license under Article 76 of the Civil Code were not fully attendant in the case at bar. In particular, Jose cited the legal condition that the man and the woman must have been living together as husband and wife for at least five years before the marriage. Essentially, he maintained that the affidavit of marital cohabitation executed by him and Felisa was false. The Court of Appeals granted Jose's Motion for Reconsideration and reversed itself. Accordingly, it rendered an Amended Decision, dated 7 November 2006, the fallo of which reads:

WHEREFORE, the Decision dated August 11, 2005 is RECALLED and SET ASIDE and another one entered declaring the marriage between Jose A. Dayot and Felisa C. Tecson void ab initio. Furnish a copy of this Amended Decision to the Local Civil Registrar of Pasay City. [19] In its Amended Decision, the Court of Appeals relied on the ruling of this Court in Nial v. Bayadog,[20] and reasoned that: In Nial v. Bayadog, where the contracting parties to a marriage solemnized without a marriage license on the basis of their affidavit that they had attained the age of majority, that being unmarried, they had lived together for at least five (5) years and that they desired to marry each other, the Supreme Court ruled as follows: "x x x In other words, the five-year common-law cohabitation period, which is counted back from the date of celebration of marriage, should be a period of legal union had it not been for the absence of the marriage. This 5-year period should be the years immediately before the day of the marriage and it should be a period of cohabitation characterized by exclusivity - meaning no third party was involved at any time within the 5 years and continuity - that is unbroken. Otherwise, if that continuous 5-year cohabitation is computed without any distinction as to whether the parties were capacitated to marry each other during the entire five years, then the law would be sanctioning immorality and encouraging parties to have common law relationships and placing them on the same footing with those who lived faithfully with their spouse. Marriage being a special relationship must be respected as such and its requirements must be strictly observed. The presumption that a man and a woman deporting themselves as husband and wife is based on the approximation of the requirements of the law. The parties should not be afforded any excuse to not comply with every single requirement and later use the same missing element as a pre-conceived escape ground to nullify their marriage. There should be no exemption from securing a marriage license unless the circumstances clearly fall within the ambit of the exception. It should be noted that a license is required in order to notify the public that two persons are about to be united in matrimony and that anyone who is aware or has knowledge of any impediment to the union of the two shall make it known to the local civil registrar. Article 80(3) of the Civil Code provides that a marriage solemnized without a marriage license, save marriages of exceptional character, shall be void from the beginning. Inasmuch as the marriage between Jose and Felisa is not covered by the exception to the requirement of a marriage license, it is, therefore, void ab initio because of the absence of a marriage license.[21] Felisa sought reconsideration of the Amended Decision, but to no avail. The appellate court rendered a Resolution[22] dated 10 May 2007, denying Felisa's motion. Meanwhile, the Republic of the Philippines, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), filed a Petition for Review before this Court in G.R. No. 175581, praying that the Court of Appeals' Amended Decision dated 7 November 2006 be reversed and set aside for lack of merit, and that the marriage between Jose and Felisa be declared valid and subsisting. Felisa filed a separate Petition for Review, docketed as G.R. No. 179474, similarly assailing the appellate court's Amended Decision. On 1 August 2007, this Court resolved to consolidate the two Petitions in the interest of uniformity of the Court rulings in similar cases brought before it for resolution. [23] The Republic of the Philippines propounds the following arguments for the allowance of its Petition, to wit: I

RESPONDENT FAILED TO OVERTHROW THE PRESUMPTION OF THE VALIDITY OF HIS MARRIAGE TO FELISA. II RESPONDENT DID NOT COME TO THE COURT WITH CLEAN HANDS AND SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO PROFIT FROM HIS OWN FRAUDULENT CONDUCT. III RESPONDENT IS ESTOPPED FROM ASSAILING THE LEGALITY OF HIS MARRIAGE FOR LACK OF MARRIAGE LICEN[S]E.[24] Correlative to the above, Felisa submits that the Court of Appeals misapplied Nial.[25] She differentiates the case at bar from Nial by reasoning that one of the parties therein had an existing prior marriage, a circumstance which does not obtain in her cohabitation with Jose. Finally, Felisa adduces that Jose only sought the annulment of their marriage after a criminal case for bigamy and an administrative case had been filed against him in order to avoid liability. Felisa surmises that the declaration of nullity of their marriage would exonerate Jose from any liability. For our resolution is the validity of the marriage between Jose and Felisa. To reach a considered ruling on the issue, we shall jointly tackle the related arguments vented by petitioners Republic of the Philippines and Felisa. The Republic of the Philippines asserts that several circumstances give rise to the presumption that a valid marriage exists between Jose and Felisa. For her part, Felisa echoes the claim that any doubt should be resolved in favor of the validity of the marriage by citing this Court's ruling in Hernandez v. Court of Appeals.[26] To buttress its assertion, the Republic points to the affidavit executed by Jose and Felisa, dated 24 November 1986, attesting that they have lived together as husband and wife for at least five years, which they used in lieu of a marriage license. It is the Republic's position that the falsity of the statements in the affidavit does not affect the validity of the marriage, as the essential and formal requisites were complied with; and the solemnizing officer was not required to investigate as to whether the said affidavit was legally obtained. The Republic opines that as a marriage under a license is not invalidated by the fact that the license was wrongfully obtained, so must a marriage not be invalidated by the fact that the parties incorporated a fabricated statement in their affidavit that they cohabited as husband and wife for at least five years. In addition, the Republic posits that the parties' marriage contract states that their marriage was solemnized under Article 76 of the Civil Code. It also bears the signature of the parties and their witnesses, and must be considered a primary evidence of marriage. To further fortify its Petition, the Republic adduces the following documents: (1) Jose's notarized Statement of Assets and Liabilities, dated 12 May 1988 wherein he wrote Felisa's name as his wife; (2) Certification dated 25 July 1993 issued by the Barangay Chairman 192, Zone ZZ, District 24 of Pasay City, attesting that Jose and Felisa had lived together as husband and wife in said barangay; and (3) Jose's company ID card, dated 2 May 1988, indicating Felisa's name as his wife. The first assignment of error compels this Court to rule on the issue of the effect of a false affidavit under Article 76 of the Civil Code. A survey of the prevailing rules is in order. It is beyond dispute that the marriage of Jose and Felisa was celebrated on 24 November 1986, prior to the effectivity of the Family Code. Accordingly, the Civil Code governs their

union. Article 53 of the Civil Code spells out the essential requisites of marriage as a contract: ART. 53. No marriage shall be solemnized unless all these requisites are complied with: (1) Legal capacity of the contracting parties; (2) Their consent, freely given; (3) Authority of the person performing the marriage; and (4) A marriage license, except in a marriage of exceptional character. (Emphasis ours.) Article 58[27] makes explicit that no marriage shall be solemnized without a license first being issued by the local civil registrar of the municipality where either contracting party habitually resides, save marriages of an exceptional character authorized by the Civil Code, but not those under Article 75.[28] Article 80(3)[29] of the Civil Code makes it clear that a marriage performed without the corresponding marriage license is void, this being nothing more than the legitimate consequence flowing from the fact that the license is the essence of the marriage contract.[30] This is in stark contrast to the old Marriage Law,[31] whereby the absence of a marriage license did not make the marriage void. The rationale for the compulsory character of a marriage license under the Civil Code is that it is the authority granted by the State to the contracting parties, after the proper government official has inquired into their capacity to contract marriage.[32] Under the Civil Code, marriages of exceptional character are covered by Chapter 2, Title III, comprising Articles 72 to 79. To wit, these marriages are: (1) marriages in articulo mortis or at the point of death during peace or war, (2) marriages in remote places, (2) consular marriages,[33] (3) ratification of marital cohabitation, (4) religious ratification of a civil marriage, (5) Mohammedan or pagan marriages, and (6) mixed marriages.[34] The instant case pertains to a ratification of marital cohabitation under Article 76 of the Civil Code, which provides: ART. 76. No marriage license shall be necessary when a man and a woman who have attained the age of majority and who, being unmarried, have lived together as husband and wife for at least five years, desire to marry each other. The contracting parties shall state the foregoing facts in an affidavit before any person authorized by law to administer oaths. The official, priest or minister who solemnized the marriage shall also state in an affidavit that he took steps to ascertain the ages and other qualifications of the contracting parties and that he found no legal impediment to the marriage. The reason for the law,[35] as espoused by the Code Commission, is that the publicity attending a marriage license may discourage such persons who have lived in a state of cohabitation from legalizing their status. [36] It is not contested herein that the marriage of Jose and Felisa was performed without a marriage license. In lieu thereof, they executed an affidavit declaring that "they have attained the age of maturity; that being unmarried, they have lived together as husband and wife for at least five years; and that because of this union, they desire to marry each other."[37] One of the central issues in the Petition at bar is thus: whether the falsity of an affidavit of marital cohabitation, where the parties have in truth fallen short of the minimum five-year requirement, effectively renders the marriage void ab initio for lack of a marriage license. We answer in the affirmative.

Marriages of exceptional character are, doubtless, the exceptions to the rule on the indispensability of the formal requisite of a marriage license. Under the rules of statutory construction, exceptions, as a general rule, should be strictly[38] but reasonably construed.[39] They extend only so far as their language fairly warrants, and all doubts should be resolved in favor of the general provisions rather than the exception. [40] Where a general rule is established by statute with exceptions, the court will not curtail the former or add to the latter by implication.[41] For the exception in Article 76 to apply, it is a sine qua non thereto that the man and the woman must have attained the age of majority, and that, being unmarried, they have lived together as husband and wife for at least five years. A strict but reasonable construction of Article 76 leaves us with no other expediency but to read the law as it is plainly written. The exception of a marriage license under Article 76 applies only to those who have lived together as husband and wife for at least five years and desire to marry each other. The Civil Code, in no ambiguous terms, places a minimum period requirement of five years of cohabitation. No other reading of the law can be had, since the language of Article 76 is precise. The minimum requisite of five years of cohabitation is an indispensability carved in the language of the law. For a marriage celebrated under Article 76 to be valid, this material fact cannot be dispensed with. It is embodied in the law not as a directory requirement, but as one that partakes of a mandatory character. It is worthy to mention that Article 76 also prescribes that the contracting parties shall state the requisite facts[42] in an affidavit before any person authorized by law to administer oaths; and that the official, priest or minister who solemnized the marriage shall also state in an affidavit that he took steps to ascertain the ages and other qualifications of the contracting parties and that he found no legal impediment to the marriage. It is indubitably established that Jose and Felisa have not lived together for five years at the time they executed their sworn affidavit and contracted marriage. The Republic admitted that Jose and Felisa started living together only in June 1986, or barely five months before the celebration of their marriage.[43] The Court of Appeals also noted Felisa's testimony that Jose was introduced to her by her neighbor, Teresita Perwel, sometime in February or March 1986 after the EDSA Revolution.[44] The appellate court also cited Felisa's own testimony that it was only in June 1986 when Jose commenced to live in her house. [45] Moreover, it is noteworthy that the question as to whether they satisfied the minimum fiveyear requisite is factual in nature. A question of fact arises when there is a need to decide on the truth or falsehood of the alleged facts.[46] Under Rule 45, factual findings are ordinarily not subject to this Court's review.[47] It is already well-settled that: The general rule is that the findings of facts of the Court of Appeals are binding on this Court. A recognized exception to this rule is when the Court of Appeals and the trial court, or in this case the administrative body, make contradictory findings. However, the exception does not apply in every instance that the Court of Appeals and the trial court or administrative body disagree. The factual findings of the Court of Appeals remain conclusive on this Court if such findings are supported by the record or based on substantial evidence.
[48]

Therefore, the falsity of the affidavit dated 24 November 1986, executed by Jose and Felisa to exempt them from the requirement of a marriage license, is beyond question. We cannot accept the insistence of the Republic that the falsity of the statements in the parties' affidavit will not affect the validity of marriage, since all the essential and formal requisites were complied with. The argument deserves scant merit. Patently, it cannot be denied that the marriage between Jose and Felisa was celebrated without the formal

requisite of a marriage license. Neither did Jose and Felisa meet the explicit legal requirement in Article 76, that they should have lived together as husband and wife for at least five years, so as to be excepted from the requirement of a marriage license. Anent petitioners' reliance on the presumption of marriage, this Court holds that the same finds no applicability to the case at bar. Essentially, when we speak of a presumption of marriage, it is with reference to the prima facie presumption that a man and a woman deporting themselves as husband and wife have entered into a lawful contract of marriage. [49] Restated more explicitly, persons dwelling together in apparent matrimony are presumed, in the absence of any counter-presumption or evidence special to the case, to be in fact married.[50] The present case does not involve an apparent marriage to which the presumption still needs to be applied. There is no question that Jose and Felisa actually entered into a contract of marriage on 24 November 1986, hence, compelling Jose to institute a Complaint for Annulment and/or Declaration of Nullity of Marriage, which spawned the instant consolidated Petitions. In the same vein, the declaration of the Civil Code[51] that every intendment of law or fact leans towards the validity of marriage will not salvage the parties' marriage, and extricate them from the effect of a violation of the law. The marriage of Jose and Felisa was entered into without the requisite marriage license or compliance with the stringent requirements of a marriage under exceptional circumstance. The solemnization of a marriage without prior license is a clear violation of the law and would lead or could be used, at least, for the perpetration of fraud against innocent and unwary parties, which was one of the evils that the law sought to prevent by making a prior license a prerequisite for a valid marriage. [52] The protection of marriage as a sacred institution requires not just the defense of a true and genuine union but the exposure of an invalid one as well. [53] To permit a false affidavit to take the place of a marriage license is to allow an abject circumvention of the law. If this Court is to protect the fabric of the institution of marriage, we must be wary of deceptive schemes that violate the legal measures set forth in our laws. Similarly, we are not impressed by the ratiocination of the Republic that as a marriage under a license is not invalidated by the fact that the license was wrongfully obtained, so must a marriage not be invalidated by a fabricated statement that the parties have cohabited for at least five years as required by law. The contrast is flagrant. The former is with reference to an irregularity of the marriage license, and not to the absence of one. Here, there is no marriage license at all. Furthermore, the falsity of the allegation in the sworn affidavit relating to the period of Jose and Felisa's cohabitation, which would have qualified their marriage as an exception to the requirement for a marriage license, cannot be a mere irregularity, for it refers to a quintessential fact that the law precisely required to be deposed and attested to by the parties under oath. If the essential matter in the sworn affidavit is a lie, then it is but a mere scrap of paper, without force and effect. Hence, it is as if there was no affidavit at all. In its second assignment of error, the Republic puts forth the argument that based on equity, Jose should be denied relief because he perpetrated the fabrication, and cannot thereby profit from his wrongdoing. This is a misplaced invocation. It must be stated that equity finds no room for application where there is a law.[54] There is a law on the ratification of marital cohabitation, which is set in precise terms under Article 76 of the Civil Code. Nonetheless, the authorities are consistent that the declaration of nullity of the parties' marriage is without prejudice to their criminal liability.[55] The Republic further avers in its third assignment of error that Jose is deemed estopped from assailing the legality of his marriage for lack of a marriage license. It is claimed that

Jose and Felisa had lived together from 1986 to 1990, notwithstanding Jose's subsequent marriage to Rufina Pascual on 31 August 1990, and that it took Jose seven years before he sought the declaration of nullity; hence, estoppel had set in. This is erroneous. An action for nullity of marriage is imprescriptible. [56] Jose and Felisa's marriage was celebrated sans a marriage license. No other conclusion can be reached except that it is void ab initio. In this case, the right to impugn a void marriage does not prescribe, and may be raised any time. Lastly, to settle all doubts, jurisprudence has laid down the rule that the five-year commonlaw cohabitation period under Article 76 means a five-year period computed back from the date of celebration of marriage, and refers to a period of legal union had it not been for the absence of a marriage.[57] It covers the years immediately preceding the day of the marriage, characterized by exclusivity - meaning no third party was involved at any time within the five years - and continuity that is unbroken.[58] WHEREFORE, the Petitions are DENIED. The Amended Decision of the Court of Appeals, dated 7 November 2006 in CA-G.R. CV No. 68759, declaring the marriage of Jose Dayot to Felisa Tecson-Dayot void ab initio, is AFFIRMED, without prejudice to their criminal liability, if any. No costs. SO ORDERED. Austria-Martinez, (Acting Chairperson), Tinga*, Velasco, Jr.,** and Reyes, JJ., concur.

FIRST DIVISION [G.R. No. 170943, September 23, 2008] PEDRO T. SANTOS, JR., PETITIONER, VS. PNOC EXPLORATION CORPORATION, RESPONDENT. DECISION
CORONA, J.: This is a petition for review[1] of the September 22, 2005 decision[2] and December 29, 2005 resolution[3] of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 82482. On December 23, 2002, respondent PNOC Exploration Corporation filed a complaint for a sum of money against petitioner Pedro T. Santos, Jr. in the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City, Branch 167. The complaint, docketed as Civil Case No. 69262, sought to collect the amount of P698,502.10 representing petitioner's unpaid balance of the car loan[4] advanced to him by respondent when he was still a member of its board of directors. Personal service of summons to petitioner failed because he could not be located in his last known address despite earnest efforts to do so. Subsequently, on respondent's motion, the trial court allowed service of summons by publication. Respondent caused the publication of the summons in Remate, a newspaper of general circulation in the Philippines, on May 20, 2003. Thereafter, respondent submitted the affidavit of publication of the advertising manager of Remate[5] and an affidavit of service of respondent's employee[6] to the effect that he sent a copy of the summons by registered mail to petitioner's last known address. When petitioner failed to file his answer within the prescribed period, respondent moved that the case be set for the reception of its evidence ex parte. The trial court granted the motion in an order dated September 11, 2003. Respondent proceeded with the ex parte presentation and formal offer of its evidence. Thereafter, the case was deemed submitted for decision on October 15, 2003. On October 28, 2003, petitioner filed an "Omnibus Motion for Reconsideration and to Admit Attached Answer." He sought reconsideration of the September 11, 2003 order, alleging that the affidavit of service submitted by respondent failed to comply with Section 19, Rule 14 of the Rules of Court as it was not executed by the clerk of court. He also claimed that he was denied due process as he was not notified of the September 11, 2003 order. He prayed that respondent's evidence ex parte be stricken off the records and that his answer be admitted. Respondent naturally opposed the motion. It insisted that it complied with the rules on service by publication. Moreover, pursuant to the September 11, 2003 order, petitioner was already deemed in default for failure to file an answer within the prescribed period. In an order dated February 6, 2004, the trial court denied petitioner's motion for reconsideration of the September 11, 2003 order. It held that the rules did not require the affidavit of complementary service by registered mail to be executed by the clerk of court. It

also ruled that due process was observed as a copy of the September 11, 2003 order was actually mailed to petitioner at his last known address. It also denied the motion to admit petitioner's answer because the same was filed way beyond the reglementary period. Aggrieved, petitioner assailed the September 11, 2003 and February 6, 2004 orders of the trial court in the Court of Appeals via a petition for certiorari. He contended that the orders were issued with grave abuse of discretion. He imputed the following errors to the trial court: taking cognizance of the case despite lack of jurisdiction due to improper service of summons; failing to furnish him with copies of its orders and processes, particularly the September 11, 2003 order, and upholding technicality over equity and justice. During the pendency of the petition in the Court of Appeals, the trial court rendered its decision in Civil Case No. 69262. It ordered petitioner to pay P698,502.10 plus legal interest and costs of suit.[7] Meanwhile, on September 22, 2005, the Court of Appeals rendered its decision [8] sustaining the September 11, 2003 and February 6, 2004 orders of the trial court and dismissing the petition. It denied reconsideration.[9] Thus, this petition. Petitioner essentially reiterates the grounds he raised in the Court of Appeals, namely, lack of jurisdiction over his person due to improper service of summons, failure of the trial court to furnish him with copies of its orders and processes including the September 11, 2003 order and preference for technicality rather than justice and equity. In particular, he claims that the rule on service by publication under Section 14, Rule 14 of the Rules of Court applies only to actions in rem, not actions in personam like a complaint for a sum of money. He also contends that the affidavit of service of a copy of the summons should have been prepared by the clerk of court, not respondent's messenger. The petition lacks merit. ProprietyOf Service By Publication Section 14, Rule 14 (on Summons) of the Rules of Court provides: SEC. 14. Service upon defendant whose identity or whereabouts are unknown. - In any action where the defendant is designated as an unknown owner, or the like, or whenever his whereabouts are unknown and cannot be ascertained by diligent inquiry, service may, by leave of court, be effected upon him by publication in a newspaper of general circulation and in such places and for such times as the court may order. (emphasis supplied) Since petitioner could not be personally served with summons despite diligent efforts to locate his whereabouts, respondent sought and was granted leave of court to effect service of summons upon him by publication in a newspaper of general circulation. Thus, petitioner was properly served with summons by publication. Petitioner invokes the distinction between an action in rem and an action in personam and claims that substituted service may be availed of only in an action in rem. Petitioner is wrong. The in rem/in personam distinction was significant under the old rule because it was silent as to the kind of action to which the rule was applicable.[10] Because of this silence, the Court limited the application of the old rule to in rem actions only.[11] This has been changed. The present rule expressly states that it applies "[i]n any action where the defendant is designated as an unknown owner, or the like, or whenever his

whereabouts are unknown and cannot be ascertained by diligent inquiry." Thus, it now applies to any action, whether in personam, in rem or quasi in rem.[12] Regarding the matter of the affidavit of service, the relevant portion of Section 19,[13] Rule 14 of the Rules of Court simply speaks of the following: ... an affidavit showing the deposit of a copy of the summons and order for publication in the post office, postage prepaid, directed to the defendant by registered mail to his last known address. Service of summons by publication is proved by the affidavit of the printer, his foreman or principal clerk, or of the editor, business or advertising manager of the newspaper which published the summons. The service of summons by publication is complemented by service of summons by registered mail to the defendant's last known address. This complementary service is evidenced by an affidavit "showing the deposit of a copy of the summons and order for publication in the post office, postage prepaid, directed to the defendant by registered mail to his last known address." The rules, however, do not require that the affidavit of complementary service be executed by the clerk of court. While the trial court ordinarily does the mailing of copies of its orders and processes, the duty to make the complementary service by registered mail is imposed on the party who resorts to service by publication. Moreover, even assuming that the service of summons was defective, the trial court acquired jurisdiction over the person of petitioner by his own voluntary appearance in the action against him. In this connection, Section 20, Rule 14 of the Rules of Court states: SEC. 20. Voluntary appearance. - The defendant's voluntary appearance in the action shall be equivalent to service of summons. The inclusion in a motion to dismiss of other grounds aside from lack of jurisdiction over the person of the defendant shall not be deemed a voluntary appearance. (emphasis supplied) Petitioner voluntarily appeared in the action when he filed the "Omnibus Motion for Reconsideration and to Admit Attached Answer."[14] This was equivalent to service of summons and vested the trial court with jurisdiction over the person of petitioner. EntitlementTo Notice Of Proceedings The trial court allowed respondent to present its evidence ex parte on account of petitioner's failure to file his answer within the prescribed period. Petitioner assails this action on the part of the trial court as well as the said court's failure to furnish him with copies of orders and processes issued in the course of the proceedings. The effects of a defendant's failure to file an answer within the time allowed therefor are governed by Sections 3 and 4, Rule 9 (on Effect of Failure to Plead) of the Rules of Court: SEC. 3. Default; declaration of. - If the defending party fails to answer within the time allowed therefor, the court shall, upon motion of the claiming party with notice to the defending party, and proof of such failure, declare the defending party in default. Thereupon, the court shall proceed to render judgment granting the claimant such relief as his pleading may warrant, unless the court in its discretion requires the claimant to submit evidence. Such reception of evidence may be delegated to the clerk of court. SEC. 4. Effect of order of default. - A party in default shall be entitled to notice of subsequent proceedings but not to take part in the trial. (emphasis supplied)

If the defendant fails to file his answer on time, he may be declared in default upon motion of the plaintiff with notice to the said defendant. In case he is declared in default, the court shall proceed to render judgment granting the plaintiff such relief as his pleading may warrant, unless the court in its discretion requires the plaintiff to submit evidence. The defaulting defendant may not take part in the trial but shall be entitled to notice of subsequent proceedings. In this case, even petitioner himself does not dispute that he failed to file his answer on time. That was in fact why he had to file an "Omnibus Motion for Reconsideration and to Admit Attached Answer." But respondent moved only for the ex parte presentation of evidence, not for the declaration of petitioner in default. In its February 6, 2004 order, the trial court stated: The disputed Order of September 11, 2003 allowing the presentation of evidence ex-parte precisely ordered that "despite and notwithstanding service of summons by publication, no answer has been filed with the Court within the required period and/or forthcoming.["] Effectively[,] that was a finding that the defendant [that is, herein petitioner] was in default for failure to file an answer or any responsive pleading within the period fixed in the publication as precisely the defendant [could not] be found and for which reason, service of summons by publication was ordered. It is simply illogical to notify the defendant of the Order of September 11, 2003 simply on account of the reality that he was no longer residing and/or found on his last known address and his whereabouts unknown thus the publication of the summons. In other words, it was reasonable to expect that the defendant will not receive any notice or order in his last known address. Hence, [it was] impractical to send any notice or order to him. Nonetheless, the record[s] will bear out that a copy of the order of September 11, 2003 was mailed to the defendant at his last known address but it was not claimed. (emphasis supplied) As is readily apparent, the September 11, 2003 order did not limit itself to permitting respondent to present its evidence ex parte but in effect issued an order of default. But the trial court could not validly do that as an order of default can be made only upon motion of the claiming party.[15] Since no motion to declare petitioner in default was filed, no default order should have been issued. To pursue the matter to its logical conclusion, if a party declared in default is entitled to notice of subsequent proceedings, all the more should a party who has not been declared in default be entitled to such notice. But what happens if the residence or whereabouts of the defending party is not known or he cannot be located? In such a case, there is obviously no way notice can be sent to him and the notice requirement cannot apply to him. The law does not require that the impossible be done.[16] Nemo tenetur ad impossibile. The law obliges no one to perform an impossibility.[17] Laws and rules must be interpreted in a way that they are in accordance with logic, common sense, reason and practicality. [18] Hence, even if petitioner was not validly declared in default, he could not reasonably demand that copies of orders and processes be furnished him. Be that as it may, a copy of the September 11, 2003 order was nonetheless still mailed to petitioner at his last known address but it was unclaimed. CorrectnessOf Non-Admission Of Answer Petitioner failed to file his answer within the required period. Indeed, he would not have moved for the admission of his answer had he filed it on time. Considering that the answer was belatedly filed, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying its admission.

Petitioner's plea for equity must fail in the face of the clear and express language of the rules of procedure and of the September 11, 2003 order regarding the period for filing the answer. Equity is available only in the absence of law, not as its replacement.[19] Equity may be applied only in the absence of rules of procedure, never in contravention thereof. WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DENIED. Costs against petitioner. SO ORDERED Puno, C.J., (Chairperson), Carpio, Azcuna and Leonardo-De Castro, JJ., concur.

THIRD DIVISION

[G.R. No. 95815. March 10, 1999]

SERVANDO MANGAHAS, petitioner, vs. THE HON. COURT OF APPEALS and SPOUSES SIMEON and LEONORA CAYME, respondents. DECISION
PURISIMA, J.:

This is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court seeking to nullify the decision of the Court of Appealsi[1] dated May 25, 1990ii[2] and the Court of Appeals Resolution of October 12, 1990,iii[3] denying petitioners motion for reconsideration. From the records on hand, the antecedent facts that matter can be culled as follows: Since April 1955,iv[4] the spouses, Severo S. Rodil and Caridad S. Rodil, occupied and possessed the subject property,v[5] which is an agricultural land with an area of 15.0871 hectares. vi [6] On February 1, 1971, they sold the said piece of land to the spouses, Pablo Simeon and Leonora Cayme, for Seven Thousand (P7,000.00) Pesos, as evidenced by the affidavitvii[7] executed by the former in favor of the latter in the presence of the herein petitioner, Servando Mangahas.viii[8] During the trial below, the lower court gave credence to the evidence on record that it was the herein petitioner himself who approached the buyer and offered to sell subject parcel of land and he was also the one who received said consideration of P7,000.00. On the same day, the private respondents filed with the Bureau of Lands a Free Patent application for the same land in dispute, which application was approved on August 27, 1975 by the Bureau of Lands under Free Patent No. 576411.ix[9] Pursuant thereto, the Register of Deeds in Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro issued the corresponding Original Certificate of Title No. P6924.x[10] Records show that before the sale, the spouses Rodil had already applied for subject tract of land with the Bureau of Lands which application was not acted upon even until the aforesaid sale. It was also shown that petitioner, Servando Mangahas, had been in possession thereof by virtue of the agreement between him and the spouses Rodil, allowing him (petitioner) to occupy and cultivate the said parcel of land.xi[11] For allowing him to occupy and cultivate the same, petitioner Servando Mangahas paid the amount of P7,000.00 to the Rodils, as mentioned in the Kasulatan ng Pagtanggap ng Salapi xii[12] Twelve (12) hectares of the property were then developed into a fishpond, two (2) hectares planted to rice and one (1) hectare used as tumana with a house erected thereon. Petitioner was permitted by the private respondents to continue possessing and working on the same land, even after the sale, upon the request of the private respondents themselves because they were then busy in their palay business. Private respondents did not get any share in the fruits or harvest of the land except on one occasion, when the petitioner gave them one-half (1/2) tiklis (big basket) of tilapia. However, the private respondents had long before demanded from the petitioner the return of the premises in question but the latter refused to vacate the place. Private respondents tolerated petitioners possession until February 5, 1985,

when they commenced the present action for recovery of ownership and the possession of real property, docketed as Civil Case No. R-528 before Branch 45 of the Regional Trial Court in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro. Petitioner theorized that he entered into the possession of the land under controversy, sometime in 1969, by virtue of a prior sale he inked with the spouses Rodil on December 7, 1969, and since then, he has been in continuous occupation and possession in concepto de dueo up to the present, enjoying the fruits thereof to the exclusion of all others, his right thereto being evidenced by the Kasulatan ng Pagtangap ng Salapi dated December 7, 1969. Petitioner denied having offered the same land for sale to the private respondents or ever receiving the amount of P7,000.00, the consideration of the alleged sale of February 1, 1971. xiii[13] He further averred that respondent Leonora Cayme misled the Bureau of Lands into granting her a Free Patent for subject parcel of land on the basis of a Deed of Relinquishment of Rights, supposedly executed by Severo Rodil, and to which document the signature of petitioner as a witness was procured through fraud, deceit and misrepresentation.xiv[14] In due time, the parties went to trial which culminated in the rendition by the court a quo of its decision of November 14, 1986, in favor of the plaintiffs (now the private respondents), disposing as follows:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered: (a) Declaring the plaintiffs to be the absolute and registered owners of the land in question covered by and described in OCT No. P-6924 (Free Patent NO. 576411) of the Office of the Register of Deeds for the Province of Occidental Mindoro; (b) Ordering defendant and all persons claiming under him to remove their respective houses constructed thereon, and to deliver the possession of the land in question together with all the improvements thereon unto the plaintiffs; (c) Ordering the defendant to pay the plaintiffs the sum of P5, 000. 00 as and for attorneys fees; and (d) Ordering the defendant to pay the costs of suit.

SO ORDERED.xv[15]

With the denialxvi[16] of his Motion for Reconsideration and/or New Trial, petitioner seasonably appealed to the Court of Appeals which came out with a judgment of affirmance on May 25, 1990.xvii[17] The issues posited by petitioner boil down to:
I. WHETHER THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN NOT HOLDING THAT THE LAND IN QUESTION IS NO LONGER PART OF THE PUBLIC DOMAIN FOR THE REASON THAT DEFENDANT IS ALREADY, BY OPERATION OF LAW, THE OWNER THEREOF BY VIRTUE OF A GOVERNMENT GRANT IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE LAW AND EXISTING JURISPRUDENCE. II. WHETHER THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN NOT FINDING PLAINTIFF LEONORA CAYME GUILTY OF FRAUD AND MISREPRESENTATION IN SECURING FREE PATENT NO. 576411 FROM THE BUREAU OF LANDS.

The first issue is mainly predicated on the theory that the petitioner acquired ownership of

the disputed land by acquisitive prescription. Petitioner theorized that with the length of possession of his predecessors-in-interest, the spouses Rodil, tacked to his own possession, the total period of possession in his favor would suffice to vest in him the ownership of the property under the law on prescription. xviii[18] So also, citing the early case of Cario vs. Insular Governmentxix[19] up to and including the more recent cases of The Director of Lands vs. Bengzon, et al.xx[20] and The Director of Lands vs. Manila Electric Company, et al. xxi[21], petitioner stressed that by prescription, he became the owner of subject property ipso jure, which land became a private property by operation of law, and had been withdrawn and segregated from the alienable and disposable part of the public domain. Consequently, the Bureau of Lands had no authority to issue the Free Patent in question, which was then null and void;xxii[22] petitioner argued. The factual milieu obtaining with respect to the petition under scrutiny has rendered petitioners reliance on the applicability of the aforestated principles misplaced. In disposing of the issue, the Court of Appeals opined:
xxx Even if we were to disregard the need for a proper application, Article 1138 of the Civil Code provides, In the computation of time necessary for prescription the following rules shall be observed: (1) The present possessor may complete the period necessary for prescription by tacking his possession to that of his grantor or predecessor in interest x x x.

The defendant-appellants grantor or predecessor in interest (Severo Rodil) took possession of the property, subject matter of the litigation, on April 1955 (Exhibit F for the plaintiffappellees and exhibit 5 for the defendant). Since the complaint in the case at bar was filed on February 25, 1985,xxiii[23] the requirement of at least thirty years continuous possession has not been complied with even if We were to tack Rodils period of possession. xxxxxiv[24] As found by the lower court below, petitioner had admitted, xxv[25] contrary to his disclaimer, that the possession of the spouses Rodil, from whom he traces the origin of his supposed title, commenced only in April 1955. Petitioner can not now feign ignorance of such judicial admission which he has resolutely repudiated in his present petition. xxvi[26] Acquisition of ownership under the law on prescription cannot be pleaded in support of petitioners submission that subject land has ipso jure become his private property. As regards the issue of fraud tainting the acquisition of the questioned Free Patent, the Court discerns no basis for disturbing the finding by the lower court as affirmed by the Court of Appeals. Findings of fact by the trial court are not to be disturbed on appeal, except for cogent reasons, as when the findings of fact are not duly supported by evidence. xxvii[27] On the other hand, findings by the Court of Appeals on factual questions are conclusive and ought not to be disregarded. But the rule admits of some exceptions as when such findings of fact are contrary to what the trial court found.xxviii[28] Mere allegation of error without more will not prevail over the findings by the trial court, especially when affirmed by the Court of Appeals, as in the case under consideration. Petitioner has not adduced before the lower court a preponderance of evidence of fraud. It is well settled that a party who alleges a fact has the burden of proving it.xxix[29] Thus, whoever alleges fraud or mistake affecting a transaction must substantiate his allegation, since it is presumed that a person takes ordinary care of his concerns and private transactions have been

fair and regular.xxx[30] The requirement that fraud must be established by clear and convincing evidence has been reiterated in Cuizon vs. Court of Appeals,xxxi[31] viz.:
We are not, however, inclined to toe the line of the trial courts finding that private respondents are liable for fraud. Fraud is the deliberate or intentional evasion of the normal fulfillment of an obligation. The mere failure of private respondents to execute a deed of sale because they demanded first an accounting of the lots used as collaterals by petitioner and the amount of loans secured could not be considered as fraud. Fraud is never presumed. It must be alleged and proven. Fraus est odiosa et non praesumeda x x x (Emphasis ours)

In the petition under scrutiny, the fraud theorized upon by petitioner is belied by what the Court of Appeals found, to wit:
"This court has found that the defendant-appellant is a person whose credibility is much in doubt. On the other hand, We have found the plaintiff-appellee Leonora Simeon Cayme to be straightforward and credible. She has convincingly shown to this court, through her testimony and the supporting documentary evidence, that she is in fact the rightful owner of the property in dispute x x x xxxii[32] (Underscoring supplied for emphasis.)

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED and the decision appealed from AFFIRMED. No pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED. Romero (Chairman), Vitug, Panganiban, and Gonzaga-Reyes, JJ., concur.

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Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila EN BANC

G.R. Nos. 162335 & 162605

February 13, 2009

SEVERINO MANOTOK IV, FROILAN M. MANOTOK, FERNANDO M. MANOTOK, FAUSTO M. MANOTOK III, MARIA MAMERTA M. MANOTOK, PATRICIA L. TIONGSON, PACITA L. GO, ROBERTO LAPERAL III, MICHAEL MARSHALL V. MANOTOK, MARY ANN V. MANOTOK, FELISA MYLENE V. MANOTOK, IGNACIO V. MANOTOK, JR., MILAGROS V. MANOTOK, SEVERINO MANOTOK III, ROSA R. MANOTOK, MIGUEL A.B. SISON, GEORGE M. BOCANEGRA, MA. CRISTINA E. SISON, PHILIPP L. MANOTOK, JOSE CLEMENTE L. MANOTOK, RAMON SEVERINO L. MANOTOK, THELMA R. MANOTOK JOSE MARIA MANOTOK, JESUS JUDE MANOTOK, JR., and MA. THERESA L. MANOTOK, represented by their Attorney-in-fact, ROSA R. MANOTOK Petitioners, vs. HEIRS OF HOMER L. BARQUE, represented by TERESITA BARQUE-HERNANDEZ, Respondents. RESOLUTION TINGA, J.: This treats of respondents Omnibus Motion dated 5 January 2009. Respondents convey therein that the Courts Resolution dated 18 December 2008 did not obtain the requisite number of votes for its adoption, citing in particular the Separate Concurring Opinion of Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio, which was joined by Associate Justice Conchita Carpio Morales, and the Separate Opinion filed by Associate Justice Renato C. Corona. It would be recalled that the Resolution was penned by Associate Justice Dante O. Tinga, who was joined without qualification by four (4) other Justices namely: Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno; and Associate Justices Alicia Austria-Martinez, Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr. and Arturo D. Brion. Associate Justice Carpios opinion is labeled "Separate Concurring Opinion." A "concurring opinion" has been defined as "[a] separate opinion delivered by one or more judges which agrees with the decision of the majority of the court but offering its own reason for reaching that decision." 1 Indeed, the tenor of Associate Justice Carpios opinion, as well as that of Associate Justice Corona, reflects their agreement with the action taken by the Court. In addition, it can be gleaned from the Resolution that Associate Justice Carpio Morales signed the same with the statement: "I also concur with J. Carpios

Separate Opinion."2 It is evident that by the use of "also," Associate Justice Carpio Morales manifested that she had concurred in the Resolution penned by Justice Tinga and joined the other members of the Court who were of the same persuasion as regards the Resolution. Likewise notable is the fact that Justice Coronas Separate Opinion reaches the same conclusions and substantially favors the same relief granted by the Court. He concludes that the 12 December 2005 Decision of the Courts First Division should not be affirmed, 3 as it unduly enlarged the scope of authority of the Land Registration Authority in administrative reconstitution proceedings. 4 To dispel whatever misgiving, if any there be, as to whether the Resolution dated 18 December 2008 was adopted by a majority of the members of the Court en banc, the Court through this Resolution attests that eight (8) Justices have affirmed their vote in favor of the relief extended in the Resolution dated December 18, 2008, to wit: WHEREFORE, the Decision dated 12 June 2005, and the Resolutions dated 19 April and 19 June 2006 of the Courts First Division are hereby SET ASIDE, and the Entry of Judgment recorded on 2 May 2006 is RECALLED. The Amended Decision dated 24 February 2004 in CA-G.R. SP No. 66642, the Amended Decision dated 7 November 2003 and the Resolution dated 12 March 2004 in CA-G.R. SP No. 66700, and the Resolutions of the Land Registration Authority dated 24 June 1998 and 14 June 1998 in Admin. Recons. No. Q-547-A[97] are all REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The instant cases are hereby REMANDED to the Court of Appeals for further proceedings in accordance with this Resolution. The Court of Appeals is directed to raffle these remanded cases immediately upon receipt of this Resolution. This Resolution is immediately executory. The other arguments raised in the Omnibus Motion are bereft of merit and are not cause for us to set aside the 18 December 2008 Resolution. These arguments do not detract from the Courts central rulingthat neither the Land Registration Authority nor the Court of Appeals has jurisdiction to cancel certificates of title in an administrative reconstitution proceeding. With respect to arguments that raise factual issues concerning the validity of the Barque or Manotok titles, the same can be duly brought before the Court of Appeals to which the cases have been remanded for further reception of evidence. WHEREFORE, the OMNIBUS MOTION is DENIED with FINALITY. SO ORDERED. DANTE O. TINGA Associate Justice

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