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JURISDICTION G.R. No.

131282 January 4, 2002

GABRIEL L. DUERO, petitioner, vs. HON.COURT OF APPEALS, and BERNARDO A. ERADEL, respondents. QUISUMBING, J.: This petition for certiorari assails the Decisionl dated September 17, 1997, of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. No. SP No.. 2340- UDK, entitled Bernardo Eradel vs. Non. Ermelino G. Andal, setting aside all proceedings in Civil Case No.1075, Gabriel L. Duero vs. Bernardo Eradel, before the Branch 27 of the Regional Tria l Court of Tandag, Surigao del Sur . The pertinent facts are as follow. Sometime in 1988, according to petitioner, private respondent Bemardo Eradel2 en tered and occupied petitioner's land covered by Tax Declaration No. A-16-13-302, located in Baras, San Miguel, Surigao del Sur. As shown in the tax declaration, the land had an assessed value of P5,240. When petitioner politely informed pri vate respondent that the land was his and requested the latter to vacate the lan d, private respondent refused, but instead threatened him with bodily harm. Desp ite repeated demands, private respondent remained steadfast in his refusal to le ave the land. On June 16, 1995, petitioner filed before the RTC a complaint for Recovery of Po ssession and Ownership with Damages and Attorney's Fees against private responde nt and two others, namely, Apolinario and Inocencio Ruena. Petitioner appended t o the complaint the aforementioned tax declaration. The counsel of the Ruenas as ked for extension to file their Answer and was given until July 18, 1995. Meanwh ile, petitioner and the, Ruenas executed a compromise agreement, which became th e trial court's basis for a partial judgment rendered on January 12, 1996. In th is agreement, the Ruenas through their counsel, Atty. Eusebio Avila, entered int o a Compromise Agreement with herein petitioner, Gabriel Duero. Inter alia, the agreement stated that the Ruenas recognized and bound themselves to respect the ownership and possession of Duero.3 Herein private respondent Eradel was not a p arty to the agreement, and he was declared in default for failure to file his an swer to the complaint.4 Petitioner presented his evidence ex parte on February 13, 1996. On May 8, 1996, judgment was rendered in his favor, and private respondent was ordered to peace fully vacate and turn over Lot No.1065 Cad. 537-D to petitioner; pay petitioner P2,000 annual rental from 1988 up the time he vacates the land, and P5,000 as at torney's fees and the cost of the suit.5 Private respondent received a copy of t he decision on May 25, 1996. On June 10, 1996, private respondent filed a Motion for New Trial, alleging that he has been occupying the land as a tenant of Artemio Laurente, Sr., since 1958 . He explained that he turned over the complaint and summons to Laurente in the honest belief that as landlord, the latter had a better right to the land and wa s responsible to defend any adverse claim on it. However, the trial court denied the motion for new trial.1wphi1.nt Meanwhile, RED Conflict Case No.1029, an administrative case between petitioner and applicant-contestants Romeo, Artemio and Jury Laurente, remained pending wit h the Office of the Regional Director of the Department of Environment and Natur al Resources in Davao City. Eventually, it was forwarded to the DENR Regional Of fice in Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur .

On July 24, 1996, private respondent filed before the RTC a Petition for Relief from Judgment, reiterating the same allegation in his Motion for New Trial. He a verred that unless there is a determination on who owned the land, he could not be made to vacate the land. He also averred that the judgment of the trial court was void inasmuch as the heirs of Artemio Laurente, Sr., who are indispensable parties, were not impleaded. On September 24, 1996, Josephine, Ana Soledad and Virginia, all surnamed Laurent e, grandchildren of Artemio who were claiming ownership of the land, filed a Mot ion for Intervention. The RTC denied the motion. On October 8, 1996, the trial court issued an order denying the Petition for Rel ief from Judgment. In a Motion for Reconsideration of said order, private respon dent alleged that the RTC had no jurisdiction over the case, since the value of the land was only P5,240 and therefore it was under the jurisdiction of the muni cipal trial court. On November 22, 1996, the RTC denied the motion for reconside ration. On January 22, 1997, petitioner filed a Motion for Execution, which the RTC gran ted on January 28. On February 18, 1997, Entry of Judgment was made of record an d a writ of execution was issued by the RTC on February 27,1997. On March 12,199 7, private respondent filed his petition for certiorari before the Court of Appe als. The Court of Appeals gave due course to the petition, maintaining that private r espondent is not estopped from assailing the jurisdiction 'of the RTC, Branch 27 in Tandag, Surigao del Sur, when private respondent filed with said court his M otion for Reconsideration And/Or Annulment of Judgment. The Court of Appeals dec reed as follows: IN THE LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the Petition is GRANTED. All proceedings in " Gabriel L. Duero vs. Bernardo Eradel, et. al. Civil Case 1075" filed in the Cour t a quo, including its Decision, Annex "E" of the petition, and its Orders and W rit of Execution and the turn over of the property to the Private Respondent by the Sheriff of the Court a quo, are declared null and void and hereby SET ASIDE, No pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED.6 Petitioner now comes before this Court, alleging that the Court of Appeals acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or in excess of jurisdiction w hen it held that: I. ...THE LOWER COURT HAS NO JURISDICTION OVER THE SUBJECT MA TTER OF THE CASE. II ...PRIVATE RESPONDENT WAS NOT THEREBY ESTOPPED FROM QUESTIONING THE JURISDICTION OF THE LOWER COURT EVEN AFTER IT SUCCESSFULLY SOUGHT AFFIRMATIVE RELIEF THEREFR OM. III ...THE FAlLURE OF PRIVATE RESPONDENT TO FILE HIS ANSWER IS JUSTIFIED. 7 The main issue before us is whether the Court of Appeals gravely abused its disc retion when it held that the municipal trial court had jurisdiction, and that pr

ivate respondent was not estopped from assailing the jurisdiction of the RTC aft er he had filed several motions before it. The secondary issue is whether the Co urt of appeals erred in holding that private respondent's failure to file an ans wer to the complaint was justified. At the outset, however, we note that petitioner through counsel submitted to thi s Court pleadings that contain inaccurate statements. Thus, on page 5 of his pet ition,8 we find that to bolster the claim that the appellate court erred in hold ing that the RTC had no jurisdiction, petitioner pointed to Annex E9 of his peti tion which supposedly is the Certification issued by the Municipal Treasurer of San Miguel, Surigao, specifically containing the notation, "Note: Subject for Ge neral Revision Effective 1994." But it appears that Annex E of his petition is n ot a Certification but a xerox copy of a Declaration of Real Property. Nowhere d oes the document contain a notation, "Note: Subject for General Revision Effecti ve 1994." Petitioner also asked this Court to refer to Annex F,10 where he said the zonal value of the disputed land was P1.40 per sq.m., thus placing the compu ted value of the land at the time the complaint was filed before the RTC at P57, 113.98, hence beyond the jurisdiction of the municipal court and within the juri sdiction of the regional trial court. However, we find that these annexes are bo th merely xerox copies. They are obviously without evidentiary weight or value. Coming now to the principal issue, petitioner contends that respondent appellate court acted with grave abuse of discretion. By "grave abuse of discretion" is m eant such capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment which is equivalent to a n excess or a lack of jurisdiction. The abuse of discretion must be so patent an d gross as to amount to an evasion of a positive duty or a virtual refusal to pe rform a duty enjoined by law, or to act at all in contemplation of law as where the power is exercised in an arbitrary and despotic manner by reason of passion or hostility.11 But here we find that in its decision holding that the municipal court has jurisdiction over the case and that private respondent was not estopp ed from questioning the jurisdiction of the RTC, respondent Court of Appeals dis cussed the facts on which its decision is grounded as well as the law and jurisp rudence on the matter.12 Its action was neither whimsical nor capricious. Was private respondent estopped from questioning the jurisdiction of the RTC? In this case, we are in agreement with the Court of Appeals that he was not. While participation in all stages of a case before the trial court, including invocat ion of its authority in asking for affirmative relief, effectively bars a party by estoppel from challenging the court's jurisdiction,13 we note that estoppel h as become an equitable defense that is both substantive and remedial and its suc cessful invocation can bar a right and not merely its equitable enforcement.14 H ence, estoppel ought to be applied with caution. For estoppel to apply, the acti on giving rise thereto must be unequivocal and intentional because, if misapplie d, estoppel may become a tool of injustice.15 In the present case, private respondent questions the jurisdiction of RTC in Tan dag, Surigao del Sur, on legal grounds. Recall that it was petitioner who filed the complaint against private respondent and two other parties before the said c ourt,16 believing that the RTC had jurisdiction over his complaint. But by then, Republic Act 769117 amending BP 129 had become effective, such that jurisdictio n already belongs not to the RTC but to the MTC pursuant to said amendment. Priv ate respondent, an unschooled farmer, in the mistaken belief that since he was m erely a tenant of the late Artemio Laurente Sr., his landlord, gave the summons to a Hipolito Laurente, one of the surviving heirs of Artemio Sr., who did not d o anything about the summons. For failure to answer the complaint, private respo ndent was declared in default. He then filed a Motion for New Trial in the same court and explained that he defaulted because of his belief that the suit ought to be answered by his landlord. In that motion he stated that he had by then the evidence to prove that he had a better right than petitioner over the land beca use of his long, continuous and uninterrupted possession as bona-fide tenant-les

see of the land.18But his motion was denied. He tried an alternative recourse. H e filed before the RTC a Motion for Relief from Judgment. Again, the same court denied his motion, hence he moved for reconsideration of the denial. In his Moti on for Reconsideration, he raised for the first time the RTC's lack of jurisdict ion. This motion was again denied. Note that private respondent raised the issue of lack of jurisdiction, not when the case was already on appeal, but when the case, was still before the RTC that ruled him in default, denied his motion for new trial as well as for relief from judgment, and denied likewise his two motio ns for reconsideration. After the RTC still refused to reconsider the denial of private respondent's motion for relief from judgment, it went on to issue the or der for entry of judgment and a writ of execution. Under these circumstances, we could not fault the Court of Appeals in overruling the RTC and in holding that private respondent was not estopped from questionin g the jurisdiction of the regional trial court. The fundamental rule is that, th e lack of jurisdiction of the court over an action cannot be waived by the parti es, or even cured by their silence, acquiescence or even by their express consen t.19 Further, a party may assail the jurisdiction of the court over the action a t any stage of the proceedings and even on appeal.20 The appellate court did not err in saying that the RTC should have declared itself barren of jurisdiction o ver the action. Even if private respondent actively participated in the proceedi ngs before said court, the doctrine of estoppel cannot still be properly invoked against him because the question of lack of jurisdiction may be raised at anyti me and at any stage of the action.21 Precedents tell us that as a general rule, the jurisdiction of a court is not a question of acquiescence as a matter of fac t, but an issue of conferment as a matter of law.22 Also, neither waiver nor est oppel shall apply to confer jurisdiction upon a court, barring highly meritoriou s and exceptional circumstances.23 The Court of Appeals found support for its ru ling in our decision in Javier vs. Court of Appeals, thus: x x x The point simply is that when a party commits error in filing his suit or proceeding in a court that lacks jurisdiction to take cognizance of the same, su ch act may not at once be deemed sufficient basis of estoppel. It could have bee n the result of an honest mistake, or of divergent interpretations of doubtful l egal provisions. If any fault is to be imputed to a party taking such course of action, part of the blame should be placed on the court which shall entertain th e suit, thereby lulling the parties into believing that they pursued their remed ies in the correct forum. Under the rules, it is the duty of the court to dismis s an action 'whenever it appears that the court has no jurisdiction over the sub ject matter.' (Sec. 2, Rule 9, Rules of Court) Should the Court render a judgmen t without jurisdiction, such judgment may be impeached or annulled for lack of j urisdiction (Sec. 30, Rule 132, Ibid), within ten (10) years from the finality o f the same. [Emphasis ours.]24 Indeed, "...the trial court was duty-bound to take judicial notice of the parame ters of its jurisdiction and its failure to do so, makes its decision a 'lawless ' thing."25 Since a decision of a court without jurisdiction is null and void, it could logi cally never become final and executory, hence appeal therefrom by writ of error would be out of the question. Resort by private respondent to a petition for cer tiorari before the Court of Appeals was in order . In holding that estoppel did not prevent private respondent from questioning the RTC's jurisdiction, the appellate court reiterated the doctrine that estoppel m ust be applied only in exceptional cases, as its misapplication could result in a miscarriage of justice. Here, we find that petitioner, who claims ownership of a parcel of land, filed his complaint before a court without appropriate jurisd iction. Defendant, a farmer whose tenancy status is still pending before the pro per administrative agency concerned, could have moved for dismissal of the case

on jurisdictional grounds. But the farmer as defendant therein could not be expe cted to know the nuances of jurisdiction and related issues. This farmer, who is now the private respondent, ought not to be penalized when he claims that he ma de an honest mistake when he initially submitted his motions before the RTC, bef ore he realized that the controversy was outside the RTC's cognizance but within the jurisdiction of the municipal trial court. To hold him in estoppel as the R TC did would amount to foreclosing his avenue to obtain a proper resolution of h is case. Furthermore, if the RTC's order were to be sustained, he would be evict ed from the land prematurely, while RED Conflict Case No.1029 would remain unres olved. Such eviction on a technicality if allowed could result in an injustice, if it is later found that he has a legal right to till the land he now occupies as tenant-lessee.1wphi1.nt Having determined that there was no grave abuse of discretion by the appellate c ourt in ruling that private respondent was not estopped from questioning the jur isdiction of the RTC, we need not tarry to consider in detail the second issue. Suffice it to say that, given the circumstances in this case, no error was commi tted on this score by respondent appellate court. Since the RTC had no jurisdict ion over the case, private respondent had justifiable reason in law not to file an answer, aside from the fact that he believed the suit was properly his landlo rd's concern. WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED. The assailed decision of the Court of Appe als is AFFIRMED. The decision of the Regional Trial Court in Civil Case No.1075 entitled Gabriel L. Duero vs. Bernardo Eradel, its Order that private respondent turn over the disputed land to petitioner, and the Writ of Execution it issued, are ANNULLED and SET ASIDE. Costs against petitioner . SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 129638

December 8, 2003

ANTONIO T. DONATO, petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS, FILOMENO ARCEPE, TIMOTEO BARCELONA, IGNACIO BENDOL, THELMA P. BULICANO, ROSALINDA CAPARAS, ROSITA DE COSTO, FELIZA DE GUZMAN, LETICIA DE LOS R EYES, ROGELIO GADDI, PAULINO GAJARDO, GERONIMO IMPERIAL, HOMER IMPERIAL, ELVIRA LESLIE, CEFERINO LUGANA, HECTOR PIMENTEL, NIMFA PIMENTEL, AURELIO G. ROCERO, ILU MINADA TARA, JUANITO VALLESPIN, and NARCISO YABUT, respondents. D E C I S I O N AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.: Before us is a "petition for review on certiorari" filed on July 17, 1997 which should be a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. It assa ils the Resolutions1 dated March 21, 1997 and June 23, 1997 issued by the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 41394.2 The factual background of the case is as follows: Petitioner Antonio T. Donato is the registered owner of a real property located at Ciriaco Tuason Street, San Andres, Manila, covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 131793 issued by the Register of Deeds of the City of Manila on Novem ber 24, 1978. On June 7, 1994, petitioner filed a complaint before the Metropoli tan Trial Court (Branch 26) of Manila (MeTC) for forcible entry and unlawful det ainer against 43 named defendants and "all unknown occupants" of the subject pro perty.3

Petitioner alleges that: private respondents had oral contracts of lease that ex pired at the end of each month but were impliedly renewed under the same terms b y mere acquiescence or tolerance; sometime in 1992, they stopped paying rent; on April 7, 1994, petitioner sent them a written demand to vacate; the non-complia nce with said demand letter constrained him to file the ejectment case against t hem.4 Of the 43 named defendants, only 20 (private respondents,5 for brevity) filed a consolidated Answer dated June 29, 1994 wherein they denied non-payment of renta ls. They contend that they cannot be evicted because the Urban Land Reform Law g uarantees security of tenure and priority right to purchase the subject property ; and that there was a negotiation for the purchase of the lots occupied by them but when the negotiation reached a passive stage, they decided to continue paym ent of rentals and tendered payment to petitioner s counsel and thereafter initiat ed a petition for consignation of the rentals in Civil Case No. 144049 while the y await the outcome of the negotiation to purchase. Following trial under the Rule on Summary Procedure, the MeTC rendered judgment on September 19, 1994 against the 23 non-answering defendants, ordering them to vacate the premises occupied by each of them, and to pay jointly and severally P 10,000.00 per month from the date they last paid their rent until the date they actually vacate, plus interest thereon at the legal rate allowed by law, as well as P10,000.00 as attorney s fees and the costs of the suit. As to the 20 private respondents, the MeTC issued a separate judgment6 on the same day sustaining the ir rights under the Land Reform Law, declaring petitioner s cause of action as not duly warranted by the facts and circumstances of the case and dismissing the ca se without prejudice. Not satisfied with the judgment dismissing the complaint as against the private respondents, petitioner appealed to the Regional Trial Court (Branch 47) of Mani la (RTC).7 In a Decision8 dated July 5, 1996, the RTC sustained the decision of the MeTC. Undaunted, petitioner filed a petition for review with the Court of Appeals (CA for brevity), docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 41394. In a Resolution dated March 21, 1997, the CA dismissed the petition on two grounds: (a) the certification of non -forum shopping was signed by petitioner s counsel and not by petitioner himself, in violation of Revised Circular No. 28-91;9 and, (b) the only annex to the peti tion is a certified copy of the questioned decision but copies of the pleadings and other material portions of the record as would support the allegations of th e petition are not annexed, contrary to Section 3, paragraph b, Rule 6 of the Re vised Internal Rules of the Court of Appeals (RIRCA).10 On April 17, 1997, petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration,11 attaching th ereto a photocopy of the certification of non-forum shopping duly signed by peti tioner himself12 and the relevant records of the MeTC and the RTC.13 Five days l ater, or on April 22, 1997, petitioner filed a Supplement14 to his motion for re consideration submitting the duly authenticated original of the certification of non-forum shopping signed by petitioner.15 In a Resolution16 dated June 23, 1997 the CA denied petitioner s motion for recons ideration and its supplement, ruling that "petitioner s subsequent compliance did not cure the defect in the instant petition."17 Hence, the present petition anchored on the following grounds: I. RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN DISMISSING THE PETITION BASED ON HY

PER-TECHNICAL GROUNDS BECAUSE: A. PETITIONER HAS SUBSTANTIALLY COMPLIED WITH SUPREME COURT CIRCULAR NO. 28-91. MORE, PETITIONER SUBSEQUENTLY SUBMITTED DURING THE PENDENCY OF THE PROCEEDINGS A DULY AUTHENTICATED CERTIFICATE OF NON-FORUM SHOPPING WHICH HE HIMSELF SIGNED AN D EXECUTED IN THE UNITED STATES. B. PETITIONER HAS SUBSTANTIALLY COMPLIED WITH SECTION 3, RULE 6 OF THE REVISED I NTERNAL RULES OF THE COURT OF APPEALS. MORE, PETITIONER SUBSEQUENTLY SUBMITTED D URING THE PENDENCY OF THE PROCEEDINGS COPIES OF THE RELEVANT DOCUMENTS IN THE CA SES BELOW. C. PETITIONER HAS A MERITORIOUS APPEAL, AND HE STANDS TO LOSE SUBSTANTIAL PROPER TY IF THE APPEAL IS NOT GIVEN DUE COURSE. THE RULES OF PROCEDURE MUST BE LIBERAL LY CONSTRUED TO DO SUBSTANTIAL JUSTICE. II. RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN NOT RULING THAT ALL THE ELEMENTS OF UNLAWFUL DETAINER ARE PRESENT IN THE CASE AT BAR. III. RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN NOT RULING THAT THE RTC MANILA, BRANCH 47, COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN AFFIRMING THE FINDING OF MTC MANILA, BRANCH 26, TH AT PRIVATE RESPONDENTS CANNOT BE EJECTED FROM THE SUBJECT PROPERTY WITHOUT VIOLA TING THEIR SECURITY OF TENURE EVEN IF THE TERM OF THE LEASE IS MONTH-TO-MONTH WH ICH EXPIRES AT THE END OF EACH MONTH. IN THIS REGARD, A. RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS SHOULD HAVE RULED THAT THE RTC MANILA COMMITTED R EVERSIBLE ERROR IN NOT RULING THAT TENANTS UNDER P.D. 1517 MAY BE EVICTED FOR NO N-PAYMENT OF RENT, TERMINATION OF LEASE OR OTHER GROUNDS FOR EJECTMENT. B. RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS SHOULD HAVE RULED THAT THE RTC MANILA COMMITTED R EVERSIBLE ERROR IN NOT RULING THAT THE ALLEGED "PRIORITY RIGHT TO BUY THE LOT TH EY OCCUPY" DOES NOT APPLY WHERE THE LANDOWNER DOES NOT INTEND TO SELL THE SUBJEC T PROPERTY, AS IN THE CASE AT BAR. C. RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS SHOULD HAVE RULED THAT THE RTC MANILA COMMITTED R EVERSIBLE ERROR IN RULING THAT THE SUBJECT PROPERTY IS LOCATED WITHIN A ZONAL IM PROVEMENT AREA OR APD. D. RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS SHOULD HAVE RULED THAT THE RTC MANILA COMMITTED R EVERSIBLE ERROR IN NOT RULING THAT PRIVATE RESPONDENTS NON-COMPLIANCE WITH THE CO NDITIONS UNDER THE LAW RESULT IN THE WAIVER OF PROTECTION AGAINST EVICTION. E. RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS SHOULD HAVE RULED THAT THE RTC MANILA COMMITTED R EVERSIBLE ERROR IN NOT RULING THAT PRIVATE RESPONDENTS CANNOT BE ENTITLED TO PRO TECTION UNDER P.D. 2016 SINCE THE GOVERNMENT HAS NO INTENTION OF ACQUIRING THE S UBJECT PROPERTY. F. RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS SHOULD HAVE RULED THAT THE RTC MANILA COMMITTED R EVERSIBLE ERROR IN FINDING THAT THERE IS AN ON-GOING NEGOTIATION FOR THE SALE OF THE SUBJECT PROPERTY AND THAT IT RENDERS THE EVICTION OF PRIVATE RESPONDENTS PR EMATURE. G. RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS SHOULD HAVE RULED THAT THE RTC MANILA COMMITTED R EVERSIBLE ERROR IN NOT RULING THAT THE ALLEGED CASE FOR CONSIGNATION DOES NOT BA R THE EVICTION OF PRIVATE RESPONDENTS.

IV. RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN NOT FINDING THAT RESPONDENTS SHOULD PAY PETITIONER A REASONABLE COMPENSATION FOR THEIR USE AND OCCUPANCY OF THE SUB JECT PROPERTY IN THE AMOUNT OF AT LEAST P10,000.00 PER MONTH FROM THE DATE THEY LAST PAID RENT UNTIL THE TIME THEY ACTUALLY VACATE THE SAME, WITH LEGAL INTEREST AT THE MAXIMUM RATE ALLOWED BY LAW UNTIL PAID. V. RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN NOT FINDING THAT RESPONDENTS SHOULD PAY PETITIONER ATTORNEY S FEES AND EXPENSES OF LITIGATION OF AT LEAST P20,000.00, PLUS COSTS.18 Petitioner submits that a relaxation of the rigid rules of technical procedure i s called for in view of the attendant circumstances showing that the objectives of the rule on certification of non-forum shopping and the rule requiring materi al portions of the record be attached to the petition have not been glaringly vi olated and, more importantly, the petition is meritorious. The proper recourse of an aggrieved party from a decision of the CA is a petitio n for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. However, if the error, subject of the recourse, is one of jurisdiction, or the act complained of was perpetrated by a court with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, the proper remedy available to the aggrieved party is a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the said Rules. As enunciated by the Co urt in Fortich vs. Corona:19 Anent the first issue, in order to determine whether the recourse of petitioners is proper or not, it is necessary to draw a line between an error of judgment a nd an error of jurisdiction. An error of judgment is one which the court may com mit in the exercise of its jurisdiction, and which error is reviewable only by a n appeal. On the other hand, an error of jurisdiction is one where the act compl ained of was issued by the court, officer or a quasi-judicial body without or in excess of jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion which is tantamount t o lack or in excess of jurisdiction. This error is correctible only by the extra ordinary writ of certiorari.20 (Emphasis supplied). Inasmuch as the present petition principally assails the dismissal of the petiti on on ground of procedural flaws involving the jurisdiction of the court a quo t o entertain the petition, it falls within the ambit of a special civil action fo r certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. At the time the instant petition for certiorari was filed, i.e., on July 17, 199 7, the prevailing rule is the newly promulgated 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. H owever, considering that the CA Resolution being assailed was rendered on March 21, 1997, the applicable rule is the three-month reglementary period, establishe d by jurisprudence.21 Petitioner received notice of the assailed CA Resolution d ismissing his petition for review on April 4, 1997. He filed his motion reconsid eration on April 17, 1997, using up only thirteen days of the 90-day period. Pet itioner received the CA Resolution denying his motion on July 3, 1997 and fourte en days later, or on July 17, 1997, he filed a motion for 30-day extension of ti me to file a "petition for review" which was granted by us; and petitioner duly filed his petition on August 15, 1997, which is well-within the period of extens ion granted to him. We now go to the merits of the case. We find the instant petition partly meritorious.

The requirement regarding the need for a certification of non-forum shopping in cases filed before the CA and the corresponding sanction for non-compliance ther eto are found in the then prevailing Revised Circular No. 28-91.22 It provides t hat the petitioner himself must make the certification against forum shopping an d a violation thereof shall be a cause for the summary dismissal of the multiple petition or complaint. The rationale for the rule of personal execution of the certification by the petitioner himself is that it is only the petitioner who ha s actual knowledge of whether or not he has initiated similar actions or proceed ings in other courts or tribunals; even counsel of record may be unaware of such fact.23 The Court has ruled that with respect to the contents of the certificat ion, the rule on substantial compliance may be availed of. This is so because th e requirement of strict compliance with the rule regarding the certification of non-forum shopping simply underscores its mandatory nature in that the certifica tion cannot be altogether dispensed with or its requirements completely disregar ded, but it does not thereby interdict substantial compliance with its provision s under justifiable circumstances.24 The petition for review filed before the CA contains a certification against for um shopping but said certification was signed by petitioner s counsel. In submitti ng the certification of non-forum shopping duly signed by himself in his motion for reconsideration,25 petitioner has aptly drawn the Court s attention to the phy sical impossibility of filing the petition for review within the 15-day reglemen tary period to appeal considering that he is a resident of 1125 South Jefferson Street, Roanoke, Virginia, U.S.A. were he to personally accomplish and sign the certification. We fully agree with petitioner that it was physically impossible for the petitio n to have been prepared and sent to the petitioner in the United States, for him to travel from Virginia, U.S.A. to the nearest Philippine Consulate in Washingt on, D.C., U.S.A., in order to sign the certification before the Philippine Consu l, and for him to send back the petition to the Philippines within the 15-day re glementary period. Thus, we find that petitioner has adequately explained his fa ilure to personally sign the certification which justifies relaxation of the rul e. We have stressed that the rules on forum shopping, which were precisely designed to promote and facilitate the orderly administration of justice, should not be interpreted with such absolute literalness as to subvert its own ultimate and le gitimate objective26 which is simply to prohibit and penalize the evils of forum -shopping.27 The subsequent filing of the certification duly signed by the petit ioner himself should thus be deemed substantial compliance, pro hac vice. In like manner, the failure of the petitioner to comply with Section 3, paragrap h b, Rule 6 of the RIRCA, that is, to append to his petition copies of the plead ings and other material portions of the records as would support the petition, d oes not justify the outright dismissal of the petition. It must be emphasized th at the RIRCA gives the appellate court a certain leeway to require parties to su bmit additional documents as may be necessary in the interest of substantial jus tice. Under Section 3, paragraph d of Rule 3 of the RIRCA,28 the CA may require the parties to complete the annexes as the court deems necessary, and if the pet ition is given due course, the CA may require the elevation of a complete record of the case as provided for under Section 3(d)(5) of Rule 6 of the RIRCA.29 At any rate, petitioner attached copies of the pleadings and other material portion s of the records below with his motion for reconsideration.30 In Jaro vs. Court of Appeals,31 the Court reiterated the doctrine laid down in Cusi-Hernandez vs. Diaz32 and Piglas-Kamao vs. National Labor Relations Commission33 that subsequen t submission of the missing documents with the motion for reconsideration amount s to substantial compliance which calls for the relaxation of the rules of proce dure. We find no cogent reason to depart from this doctrine.

Truly, in dismissing the petition for review, the CA had committed grave abuse o f discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction in putting a premium on technical ities at the expense of a just resolution of the case. Needless to stress, "a litigation is not a game of technicalities."34 When techn icality deserts its function of being an aid to justice, the Court is justified in exempting from its operations a particular case.35 Technical rules of procedu re should be used to promote, not frustrate justice. While the swift unclogging of court dockets is a laudable objective, granting substantial justice is an eve n more urgent ideal.36 The Court s pronouncement in Republic vs. Court of Appeals37 is worth echoing: "ca ses should be determined on the merits, after full opportunity to all parties fo r ventilation of their causes and defenses, rather than on technicality or some procedural imperfections. In that way, the ends of justice would be better serve d."38 Thus, what should guide judicial action is that a party litigant is given the fullest opportunity to establish the merits of his action or defense rather than for him to lose life, honor or property on mere technicalities.39 This guid eline is especially true when the petitioner has satisfactorily explained the la pse and fulfilled the requirements in his motion for reconsideration,40 as in th is case. In addition, petitioner prays that we decide the present petition on the merits without need of remanding the case to the CA. He insists that all the elements o f unlawful detainer are present in the case. He further argues that the alleged "priority right to buy the lot they occupy" does not apply where the landowner d oes not intend to sell the subject property, as in the case; that respondents ca nnot be entitled to protection under P.D. No. 2016 since the government has no i ntention of acquiring the subject property, nor is the subject property located within a zonal improvement area; and, that assuming that there is a negotiation for the sale of the subject property or a pending case for consignation of renta ls, these do not bar the eviction of respondents. We are not persuaded. We shall refrain from ruling on the foregoing issues in th e present petition for certiorari.1wphi1 The issues involved are factual issues w hich inevitably require the weighing of evidence. These are matters that are bey ond the province of this Court in a special civil action for certiorari. These i ssues are best addressed to the CA in the petition for review filed before it. A s an appellate court, it is empowered to require parties to submit additional do cuments, as it may find necessary, or to receive evidence, to promote the ends o f justice, pursuant to the last paragraph of Section 9, B.P. Blg. 129, otherwise known as The Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980, to wit: The Intermediate Appellate Court shall have the power to try cases and conduct h earings, receive evidence and perform any and all acts necessary to resolve fact ual issues raised in cases falling within its original and appellate jurisdictio n, including the power to grant and conduct new trials or further proceedings. WHEREFORE, the petition is PARTLY GRANTED. The Resolutions dated March 21, 1997 and June 23, 1997 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 41394 are REVERSED a nd SET ASIDE. The case is REMANDED to the Court of Appeals for further proceedin gs in CA-G.R. No. 41394, entitled, "Antonio T. Donato vs. Hon. Judge of the Regi onal Trial Court of Manila, Branch 47, Filomeno Arcepe, et al." SO ORDERED. G.R. No. 144025 December 27, 2002

SPS. RENE GONZAGA and LERIO GONZAGA, petitioners,

vs. HON. COURT OF APPEALS, Second Division, Manila, HON. QUIRICO G. DEFENSOR, Judge, RTC, Branch 36, Sixth Judicial Region, Iloilo C ity, and LUCKY HOMES, INC., represented by WILSON JESENA, JR., as Manager, respondent s. D E C I S I O N CORONA, J.: Before this Court is a petition for review on certiorari seeking the reversal of the decision1 of the Court of Appeals dated December 29, 1999 and its resolutio n dated June 1, 2000 in CA-G.R. SP No. 54587. The records disclose that, sometime in 1970, petitioner-spouses purchased a parc el of land from private respondent Lucky Homes, Inc., situated in Iloilo and con taining an area of 240 square meters. Said lot was specifically denominated as L ot No. 19 under Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 28254 and was mortgaged to the Social Security System (SSS) as security for their housing loan. Petition ers then started the construction of their house, not on Lot No. 19 but on Lot N o. 18, as private respondent mistakenly identified Lot No. 18 as Lot No. 19. Upo n realizing its error, private respondent, through its general manager, informed petitioners of such mistake but the latter offered to buy Lot No. 18 in order t o widen their premises. Thus, petitioners continued with the construction of the ir house. However, petitioners defaulted in the payment of their housing loan fr om SSS. Consequently, Lot No. 19 was foreclosed by SSS and petitioners certificat e of title was cancelled and a new one was issued in the name of SSS. After Lot No. 19 was foreclosed, petitioners offered to swap Lot Nos. 18 and 19 and demand ed from private respondent that their contract of sale be reformed and another d eed of sale be executed with respect to Lot No. 18, considering that their house was built therein. However, private respondent refused. This prompted petitione rs to file, on June 13, 1996, an action for reformation of contract and damages with the Regional Trial Court of Iloilo City, Branch 36, which was docketed as C ivil Case No. 17115. On January 15, 1998, the trial court2 rendered its decision dismissing the compl aint for lack of merit and ordering herein petitioners to pay private respondent the amount of P10,000 as moral damages and another P10,000 as attorney s fees. Th e pertinent conclusion of the trial court reads as follows: "Aware of such fact, the plaintiff nonetheless continued to stay in the premises of Lot 18 on the proposal that he would also buy the same. Plaintiff however fa iled to buy Lot 18 and likewise defaulted in the payment of his loan with the SS S involving Lot 19. Consequently Lot 19 was foreclosed and sold at public auctio n. Thereafter TCT No. T-29950 was cancelled and in lieu thereof TCT No. T-86612 (Exh. 9 ) was issued in favor of SSS. This being the situation obtaining, the refor mation of instruments, even if allowed, or the swapping of Lot 18 and Lot 19 as earlier proposed by the plaintiff, is no longer feasible considering that plaint iff is no longer the owner of Lot 19, otherwise, defendant will be losing Lot 18 without any substitute therefore (sic). Upon the other hand, plaintiff will be unjustly enriching himself having in its favor both Lot 19 which was earlier mor tgaged by him and subsequently foreclosed by SSS, as well as Lot 18 where his ho use is presently standing. "The logic and common sense of the situation lean heavily in favor of the defend ant. It is evident that what plaintiff had bought from the defendant is Lot 19 c overed by TCT No. 28254 which parcel of land has been properly indicated in the instruments and not Lot 18 as claimed by the plaintiff. The contracts being clea r and unmistakable, they reflect the true intention of the parties, besides the

plaintiff failed to assail the contracts on mutual mistake, hence the same need no longer be reformed."3 On June 22, 1998, a writ of execution was issued by the trial court. Thus, on Se ptember 17, 1998, petitioners filed an urgent motion to recall writ of execution , alleging that the court a quo had no jurisdiction to try the case as it was ve sted in the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) pursuant to PD 957 (Th e Subdivision and Condominium Buyers Protective Decree). Conformably, petitioner s filed a new complaint against private respondent with the HLURB. Likewise, on June 30, 1999, petitioner-spouses filed before the Court of Appeals a petition f or annulment of judgment, premised on the ground that the trial court had no jur isdiction to try and decide Civil Case No. 17115. In a decision rendered on December 29, 1999, the Court of Appeals denied the pet ition for annulment of judgment, relying mainly on the jurisprudential doctrine of estoppel as laid down in the case of Tijam vs. Sibonghanoy.4 Their subsequent motion for reconsideration having been denied, petitioners file d this instant petition, contending that the Court of Appeals erred in dismissin g the petition by applying the principle of estoppel, even if the Regional Trial Court, Branch 36 of Iloilo City had no jurisdiction to decide Civil Case No. 17 115. At the outset, it should be stressed that petitioners are seeking from us the an nulment of a trial court judgment based on lack of jurisdiction. Because it is n ot an appeal, the correctness of the judgment is not in issue here. Accordingly, there is no need to delve into the propriety of the decision rendered by the tr ial court. Petitioners claim that the recent decisions of this Court have already abandoned the doctrine laid down in Tijam vs. Sibonghanoy.5 We do not agree. In countless decisions, this Court has consistently held that, while an order or decision re ndered without jurisdiction is a total nullity and may be assailed at any stage, active participation in the proceedings in the court which rendered the order o r decision will bar such party from attacking its jurisdiction. As we held in th e leading case of Tijam vs. Sibonghanoy:6 "A party may be estopped or barred from raising a question in different ways and for different reasons. Thus we speak of estoppel in pais, or estoppel by deed o r by record, and of estoppel by laches. x x x "It has been held that a party cannot invoke the jurisdiction of a court to secu re affirmative relief against his opponent and, after obtaining or failing to ob tain such relief, repudiate, or question that same jurisdiction x x x x [T]he qu estion whether the court had jurisdiction either of the subject matter of the ac tion or of the parties was not important in such cases because the party is barr ed from such conduct not because the judgment or order of the court is valid and conclusive as an adjudication, but for the reason that such a practice can not be tolerated obviously for reasons of public policy." Tijam has been reiterated in many succeeding cases. Thus, in Orosa vs. Court of Appeals;7 Ang Ping vs. Court of Appeals;8 Salva vs. Court of Appeals;9 National Steel Corporation vs. Court of Appeals;10 Province of Bulacan vs. Court of Appea ls;11 PNOC Shipping and Transport Corporation vs. Court of Appeals,12 this Court affirmed the rule that a party s active participation in all stages of the case b efore the trial court, which includes invoking the court s authority to grant affi rmative relief, effectively estops such party from later challenging that same c ourt s jurisdiction.

In the case at bar, it was petitioners themselves who invoked the jurisdiction o f the court a quo by instituting an action for reformation of contract against p rivate respondents. It appears that, in the proceedings before the trial court, petitioners vigorously asserted their cause from start to finish. Not even once did petitioners ever raise the issue of the court s jurisdiction during the entire proceedings which lasted for two years. It was only after the trial court rende red its decision and issued a writ of execution against them in 1998 did petitio ners first raise the issue of jurisdiction - and it was only because said decisi on was unfavorable to them. Petitioners thus effectively waived their right to q uestion the court s jurisdiction over the case they themselves filed. Petitioners should bear the consequence of their act. They cannot be allowed to profit from their omission to the damage and prejudice of the private respondent . This Court frowns upon the undesirable practice of a party submitting his case for decision and then accepting the judgment but only if favorable, and attacki ng it for lack of jurisdiction if not.13 Public policy dictates that this Court must strongly condemn any double-dealing by parties who are disposed to trifle with the courts by deliberately taking inc onsistent positions, in utter disregard of the elementary principles of justice and good faith.14 There is no denying that, in this case, petitioners never rais ed the issue of jurisdiction throughout the entire proceedings in the trial cour t. Instead, they voluntarily and willingly submitted themselves to the jurisdict ion of said court. It is now too late in the day for them to repudiate the juris diction they were invoking all along. WHEREFORE, the petition for review is hereby DENIED. SO ORDERED.