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Michelle Lana Brown-Araneta v Juan Ignacio Araneta

9 Oct 2013
Velasco, Jr., J.
TOPIC: Motion to Dismiss

SV: After 7 years of marriage, Juan and Michelle separated and Michelle had custody of their 2 children.
Juan filed a PETITION FOR CUSTODY of their children with the Makati RTC. After initially failing to file
an answer Michelle filed a Motion to Admit Answer and with a Very Urgent Ex-Parte Motion for Issuance
of Protection Order. The Makati judge was disinclined to grant Michelles motion for a TPO and declared
her in default. Subsequently, she interposed a Motion to Withdraw her Motion for TPO. Subsequently,
Michelle initiated a PETITION FOR TEMPORARY AND PERMANENT PROTECTION ORDER with the
Muntinlupa RTC, which granted the same. Juan filed a Motion to Dismiss on the ground of litis pendentia
and arguing that this constitutes forum shopping, which the RTC only partially granted. He then filed a
Petition for Certiorari with the CA. CA ruled that although the Petition for Certiorari is a prohibited pleading
under RA 9262, the case cant be dismissed because it would in effect reward the forum shopping done
by Michelle.
Court said that Michelle committed forum shopping. Forum shopping is the institution of 2 or more actions
involving the same parties for the same cause of action, either simultaneously or successively, on the
supposition that one or the other court would come out with a favorable disposition. Litis pendentia refers
to the situation wherein another action is pending between the same parties for the same cause of action,
such that the second cause of action becomes vexatious and unnecessary. Applying the rules, Michelle
committed forum shopping because, as a result or in anticipation of the adverse ruling of Makati RTC, she
sought the favorable opinion of Muntinlupa RTC. PETITION FOR TEMPORARY AND PERMANENT
PROTECTION ORDER in Muntinlupa RTC is dismissed.
FACTS:
- Juan Ignacio and Michelle were married and had 2 children, Ara and Ava. After 7 years, they separated and
their 2 children remained in Michelles custody.
- Juan filed a PETITION FOR CUSTODY of his children
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with prayer for visitation rights with the Makati RTC
against Michelle and her mother, Glenda Santos, claiming that they have completely barred him from seeing
or getting in touch with his daughters despite repeated requests.
- The process server attempted to serve summons upon both of them, but only Santos was served. In Santos
answer, she disclaimed knowledge of Michelles whereabouts and she raised the courts jurisdiction over
Michelle and rattled off negative habits and traits of Juan.
- After a visiting grant was granted to Juan later on, Michelle filed a Motion to Admit Answer and an Answer
(With Affirmative Defenses and With Very Urgent Ex-Parte Motion for Issuance of Protection Order),
acknowledging that she heard about the delivery of summons, but she disregarded it because she claimed she
thought that it was improperly served upon her person.
- [RTC Makati] In a hearing for the issuance of a TPO, the judge expressed her bent to maintain jurisdiction
over the PETITION FOR CUSTODY and her disinclination to issue the TPO. Juan was granted visitation rights
for one Saturday and Sunday because he was previously unable to see his children.
Subsequently, the RTC resolved to deny admission of Michelles answer to the PETITION FOR
CUSTODY and declared her in default.
Michelle interposed a Motion to Withdraw Urgent Ex-Parte Motion for Protective Order

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Pursuant to A.M. No. 03-04-04-SC or The Rule on Custody of Minors and Writ of Habeas Corpus In relation to
Custody of Minors
- Michelle initiated a PETITION FOR TEMPORARY AND PERMANENT PRTECTION ORDER before RTC
Muntinlupa. In the verification portion of her petition for protection order, Michelle stated that there was a
pending petition for custody of their children in Makati.
- [RTC Muntinlupa] granted Michelles prayer for a TPO which ordered Juan to stay away at a specified
distance from Michelle and the children and to desist from communicating with Michelle.
Juan filed a MOTION TO DISMISS PETITION WITH PRAYER TO LIFT TPO anchored on, among others,
litis pendentia, since Makati RTC is competent to grant the very same reliefs Michelle sought from
Muntinlupa RTC. Thus, Michelles act of filing her PETITION FOR PROTECTION ORDER constitutes
forum shopping.
RTC conceded the exclusionary effect of RTC Makati assuming the jurisdiction on the issue of custody
first, so it PARTIALLY GRANTED the Motion to Dismiss and modified the protection order to exclude
from its coverage the orders issued by Makati RTC in the exercise of its jurisdiction on the pending
custody case.
- Meanwhile in relation to the custody case in Makati RTC, Michelle went to the CA on certiorari
- [CA] ruled partly in favor of Michelle, and decided that Makati RTC erred in not admitting her answer and in
holding that she is in default.
- From the adverse orders of Muntinlupa RTC, Juan also went to the CA on a Petition for Certiorari, praying to
enjoin the Muntinlupa RTC from further taking cognizance of Michelles protection order petition since it will
intrude upon Makati RTCs disposition of the custody case.
Michelle opposed and sought the dismissal of the PETITION FOR CERTIORARI on the ground that it
is a prohibited pleading under RA 9262.
- [CA] found Michelle guilty of forum shopping, but also said that Juans PETITION FOR CERTIORARI is a
prohibited pleading which renders it dismissible. Nonetheless, it ruled in favor of Juan, declaring void the
issuances made by Muntinlupa RTC.
It said that the rule that a petition for certiorari against any interlocutory order issued by a family
court is a prohibited pleading is not absolute.
On the other hand, Michelle initially recognized the jurisdiction of Makati RTC to issue a TPO, but it
was only after it denied her prayer for a TPO when she filed a petition before Muntinlupa RTC.
Dismissing this petition on the ground that it is a prohibited pleading would in effect, reward
Michelle for this negative act.
- Michelle sought to set aside the Decision of the CA.
ISSUE: Did Michelle commit forum shopping? (YES)
- Michelle argues that:
She withdrew her petition for protective order in the custody case. Besides, the CA decided that
Makati RTC did not acquire jurisdiction over her so all its issuances were void
There was no forum shopping because there is no identity of parties and the rights asserted and the
reliefs prayed for arent the same
It wasnt possible for her to apply for a protection order under RA 9262 in the custody case because
she wasnt a petitioner in the Makati case and the venue for the application for a protection order
under the law is the place where the offended party resides, which is Muntinlupa.
- Court pointed out that Michelle only withdrew her petition for protective order in the Makati Court after it
was denied. Also, there is nothing in the CA decision declaring that all issuances of the Makati RTC were void
for lack of jurisdiction over Michellethe Court said that this posture was meant to deceive and mislead the
court.
- Forum shopping is the institution of 2 or more actions involving the same parties for the same cause of
action, either simultaneously or successively, on the supposition that one or the other court would come out
with a favorable disposition.
The test for determining whether there is forum shopping is where the elements of litis pendentia
are present or where a final judgment in one case will amount to res judicata in the other case.
Litis pendentia refers to the situation wherein another action is pending between the same parties
for the same cause of action, such that the second cause of action becomes vexatious and
unnecessary. For this to apply, the ff. requisites must be present:
o 1. Identity of the parties, or at least such parties as represent the same interests in both
actions
o 2. Identity of rights asserted and relief prayed for, the relief being founded on the same facts
o 3. Identity of the two preceding particulars is such that any judgment rendered in the
pending case, regardless of which party is successful would amount to res judicata in the
other
Thus it has been held that there is forum shopping:
o 1. Whenever as a result of an adverse decision in one forum, a party seeks a favorable
decision (other than by appeal or certiorari) in another;
o 2. If, after he has filed a petition before the SC, a party files another before the CA since in
such case said party deliberately splits appeals in the hope that even as one case in which a
particular remedy is sought is dismissed, another case offering a similar remedy would still
be open; or
o 3. Where a party attempts to obtain a preliminary injunction in another court after failing to
obtain it from the original court.
- Applying the rules, Michelle committed forum shopping because, as a result or in anticipation of the adverse
ruling of Makati RTC, she sought the favorable opinion of Muntinlupa RTC.
The cases have identical parties. In a long line of cases, the SC has held that absolute identity of
parties isnt required, it being enough that there is substantial identity of the parties or at least such
parties represent the same interests in both actions. The fact that the identities of parties are
reversed doesnt negate the identity of parties for the purpose of determining whether the case is
dismissible on the ground of litis pendentia.
The rights asserted and reliefs prayed for are based on the same facts. Both courts will have to
make a finding on Michelles allegations of abuse and whether granting visitation rights will be in the
childrens best interest.
Elements of litis pendentia are present and any any judgment rendered in the pending cases,
regardless of which party is successful, will amount to res judicata. In the custody case, Juan
asserted his right to visit his children and enjoy custody over them. In the Petition for Protection
Order filed by Michelle, on the other hand, she asserts that the grant of visitation rights in Juans
favor will not be in the best interest of the children. A favorable decision in one case would amount to
res judicata in the other.
- The evil sought to be avoided by the rule against forum shopping is the rendition by 2 competent tribunals
of 2 separate and contradictory decisions, thereby causing confusion, is present in this case.
Petition for TPO filed by Michelle in Muntinlupa RTC should be dismissed with prejudice since this is a
clear case of forum shopping.
CA Decision AFFIRMED.