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ALGURA VS THE CITY OF NAGA

506 SCRA 81 Remedial Law Civil Procedure Rule 141 Indigent Litigants
In 1999, the City of Naga demolished a portion of the house owned by spouses Antonio and Lorencita Algura for allegedly being a
nuisance as the said portion of the house was allegedly blocking the road right of way.
In September, the spouses then sued Naga for damages arising from the said demolition (loss of income from boarders), which to
the spouses is an illegal demolition. Simultaneous to their complaint was an ex-parte motion for them to litigate as indigent
litigants. The motion was granted and the spouses were exempted from paying the required filing fees.
In February 2000, during pre-trial, the City of Naga asked for 5 days within which to file a Motion to Disqualify Petitioners as
Indigent Litigants. Under the Rules of Court (then Sec. 16, Rule 141), a party may be qualified as a pauper litigant (for those
residing outside Metro Manila) if he submits an affidavit attesting that a.) his gross monthly income does not exceed P1,500.00
(now not more than double the monthly minimum wage) and b.) he should not own property with an assessed value of not more
than P18,000.00 (now not more than P300k market value). The City asserted that the combined income of the Alguras is at least
P13,400 which is way beyond the threshold P1.5k. The City presented as proof Antonios pay slip as a policeman (P10,400) and
Lorencitas estimated income from her sari-sari store. The claim of the spouses that they were property-less, as proven by the City
Assessors Certification, was not disputed by the City.
The spouses argued that since the boarding house was demolished by the city, they only relied on the income of Antonio which
was barely enough to cover their familys need like food, shelter, and other basic necessities for them and their family (they have 6
children).
The judge, however, granted the motion of the City and so the spouses were disqualified as pauper-litigants. Subsequently, the
case filed by the spouses against the City was dismissed for the spouses failure to pay the required filing fees.
ISSUE: Whether or not the spouses should be disqualified as pauper-litigants.
HELD: No, there was no hearing on the matter hence the case was remanded back to the lower court. In this case, the Supreme
Court reconciled the provisions of Sec. 21, Rule 3 and Sec. 19, Rule 141 (then Sec. 16, Rule 141).
Sec. 21, Rule 3, merely provides a general statement that indigent litigants may not be required to pay the filing fees. On the other
hand, Sec. 19, Rule 141 provides the specific standards that a party must meet before he can be qualified as an indigent party and
thus be exempt from paying the required fees.
If Sec. 19, Rule 141 (in this case, then Sec. 16, Rule 141) is strictly applied, then the spouses could not qualify because their income
exceeds P1.5k, which was the threshold prior to 2000. But if Sec. 21, Rule 3 is to be applied, the applicant (the Spouses) should be
given a chance in a hearing to satisfy the court that notwithstanding the evidence presented by the opposing party (Naga), they
have no money or property sufficient and available for food, shelter and other basic necessities for their family, and are thus,
qualified as indigent litigants under said Rule. Therefore, the court should have conducted a trial in order to let the spouses satisfy
the court that indeed the income theyre having, even though above the P1.5k limit, was not sufficient to cover food, shelter, and
their other basic needs.