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340

SUPREMECOURTREPORTSANNOTATED

Hontiveros vs. Regional Trial Court, Br. 25, Iloilo City


*

G.R.No.125465.June29,1999.

SPOUSES AUGUSTO HONTIVEROS and MARIA


HONTIVEROS, petitioners, vs. REGIONAL TRIAL
COURT,Branch25,IloiloCityandSPOUSESGREGORIO
HONTIVEROSandTEODORAAYSON,respondents.
Appeals; Petitions for Review; Pleadings and Practice; Direct
appeals to the Supreme Court from the trial court on questions of
law have to be through the filing of a petition for review on
certiorari.The petition in this case was filed pursuant to Rule 45
of the Rules of Court. As explained in Atlas Consolidated Mining
and Development Corporation v. Court of Appeals:UnderSection5,
subparagraph (2)(e), Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution, the
Supreme Court is vested with the power to review, revise, reverse,
modify, or affirm on appeal or certiorari as the law or the Rules of
Courtmayprovide,finaljudgmentsandordersoflowercourtsinall
casesin
___________________
* SECONDDIVISION.

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Hontiveros vs. Regional Trial Court, Br. 25, Iloilo City


which only an error or question of law is involved. A similar
provision is contained in Section 17, fourth paragraph,
subparagraph (4) of the Judiciary Act of 1948, as amended by
Republic Act No. 5440. And, in such cases where only questions of
law are involved, Section 25 of the Interim Rules and Guidelines
implementing Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, in conjunction with
Section3ofRepublicActNo.5440,providesthattheappealtothe
SupremeCourtshallbetakenbypetitionforcertiorariwhichshall
begovernedbyRule45oftheRulesofCourt.Therule,therefore,is
thatdirectappealstothisCourtfromthetrialcourtonquestionsof
law have to be through the filing of a petition for review on
certiorari.
Actions; Dismissals of Actions; The court cannot dismiss a case
motu proprio without violating the plaintiffs right to be heard;
Exceptions.Thereareinstanceswhenthetrialcourtmayorderthe
dismissal of the case even without a motion to that effect filed by

anyoftheparties.InBaja v. Macandog,thisCourtmentionedthese
cases,towit:Thecourtcannotdismissacasemotu proprio without
violating the plaintiffs right to be heard, except in the following
instances:iftheplaintifffailstoappearatthetimeofthetrial;ifhe
failstoprosecutehisactionforanunreasonablelengthoftime;orif
hefailstocomplywiththerulesoranyorderofthecourt;orifthe
courtfindsthatithasnojurisdictionoverthesubjectmatterofthe
suit.
Same; Judgment on the Pleadings; Where there are actual
issues raised in the answer, such as one involving damages, which
require the presentation of evidence and assessment thereof by the
trial court, it is improper for the judge to render judgment based on
the pleadings alone.Under the rules, if there is no controverted
matter in the case after the answer is filed, the trial court has the
discretiontograntamotionforjudgmentonthepleadingsfiledbya
party. Where there are actual issues raised in the answer, such as
oneinvolvingdamages,whichrequirethepresentationofevidence
and assessment thereof by the trial court, it is improper for the
judgetorenderjudgmentbasedonthepleadingsalone.Inthiscase,
asidefromtheamountofdamages,thefollowingfactualissueshave
to be resolved, namely, (1) private respondent Teodora Aysons
participation and/or liability, if any, to petitioners and (2) the
nature, extent, and duration of private respondents possession of
the subject property. The trial court, therefore, correctly denied
petitionersmotionforjudgmentonthepleadings.
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SUPREMECOURTREPORTSANNOTATED
Hontiveros vs. Regional Trial Court, Br. 25, Iloilo City

Same; Verifications; Jurisdiction; The absence of the


verification required in Article 151 of the Family Code does not
affect the jurisdiction of the court over the subject matter of the
complaint; If the court doubts the veracity of the allegations
regarding efforts made to settle the case among members of the same
family, it could simply order the petitioners to verify them.The
trial court erred in dismissing petitioners complaint on the ground
that,althoughitallegedthatearnesteffortshadbeenmadetoward
thesettlementofthecasebuttheyprovedfutile,thecomplaintwas
not verified for which reason the trial court could not believe the
veracity of the allegation. The absence of the verification required
in Art. 151 does not affect the jurisdiction of the court over the
subjectmatterofthecomplaint.Theverificationismerelyaformal
requirement intended to secure an assurance that matters which
areallegedaretrueandcorrect.Ifthecourtdoubtedtheveracityof
the allegations regarding efforts made to settle the case among
members of the same family, it could simply have ordered
petitionerstoverifythem.AsthisCourthasalreadyruled,thecourt
maysimplyorderthecorrectionofunverifiedpleadingsoractonit
andwaivestrictcompliancewiththerulesinorderthattheendsof
justice may be served. Otherwise, mere suspicion or doubt on the
part of the trial court as to the truth of the allegation that earnest
effortshadbeenmadetowardacompromisebutthepartiesefforts
proved unsuccessful is not a ground for the dismissal of an action.
Only if it is later shown that such efforts had not really been
exertedwouldthecourtbejustifiedindismissingtheaction.

Same; Pleadings and Practice; Persons and Family Relations;


Words and Phrases; The inclusion of parties who are not members
of the same family takes the case out of the ambit of Article 151 of
the Family Code; The phrase members of the same family refers to
the husband and wife, parents and children, ascendants and
descendants, and brothers and sisters, whether full or halfblood,
but does not include brothersinlaw and sistersinlaw.The
inclusion of private respondent Ayson as defendant and petitioner
MariaHontiverosasplaintifftakesthecaseoutoftheambitofArt.
151oftheFamilyCode.Underthisprovision,thephrasemembers
of the same family refers to the husband and wife, parents and
children, ascendants and descendants, and brothers and sisters,
whether full or halfblood. As this Court held in Guerrero v. RTC,
Ilocos Norte, Br. XVI:Asearlyastwodecadesago,wealreadyruled
inGayon v. Gayonthattheenumerationofbrothersandsistersas
members of the same family does not comprehend sistersinlaw.
Inthatcase,
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343

Hontiveros vs. Regional Trial Court, Br. 25, Iloilo City


then Chief Justice Concepcion emphasized that sistersinlaw
(hence, also brothersinlaw) are not listed under Art. 217 of the
New Civil Code as members of the same family. Since Art. 150 of
the Family Code repeats essentially the same enumeration of
members of the family, we find no reason to alter existing
jurisprudenceonthematter.Consequently,thecourta quoerredin
ruling that petitioner Guerrero, being a brotherinlaw of private
respondentHernando,wasrequiredtoexertearnesteffortstowards
acompromisebeforefilingthepresentsuit.
Same; Same; Same; Religious relationship and relationship by
affinity are not given any legal effect in this jurisdiction.Religious
relationship and relationship by affinity are not given any legal
effect in this jurisdiction. Consequently, private respondent Ayson,
who is described in the complaint as the spouse of respondent
Hontiveros,andpetitionerMariaHontiveros,whoisadmittedlythe
spouseofpetitionerAugustoHontiveros,areconsideredstrangersto
theHontiverosfamily,forpurposesofArt.151.
Judicial Review; Courts do not pass upon constitutional
questions unless they are the very lis mota of the case.Petitioners
finallyquestiontheconstitutionalityofArt.151oftheFamilyCode
on the ground that it in effect amends the Rules of Court. This,
accordingtothem,cannotbedonesincetheConstitutionreservesin
favor of the Supreme Court the power to promulgate rules of
pleadings and procedure. Considering the conclusion we have
reachedinthiscase,however,itisunnecessaryforpresentpurposes
to pass upon this question. Courts do not pass upon constitutional
questionsunlesstheyaretheverylis motaofthecase.

PETITIONforreviewoncertiorariofadecisionofthe
RegionalTrialCourtofIloiloCity,Br.25.
ThefactsarestatedintheopinionoftheCourt.
Ramon A. Gonzalesforpetitioners.

Resurreccion S. Salvillaforprivaterespondents.
MENDOZA,J.:
OnDecember3,1990,petitioners,thespousesAugustoand
MariaHontiveros,filedacomplaintfordamagesagainstpri
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Hontiveros vs. Regional Trial Court, Br. 25, Iloilo City


vate respondents Gregorio Hontiveros and Teodora Ayson
before the Regional Trial Court of Iloilo City, Branch 25,
where it was docketed as Civil Case No. 19504. In said
complaint,petitionersallegedthattheyaretheownersofa
parcelofland,inthetownofJamindan,ProvinceofCapiz,
as shown by OCT No. 02124, issued pursuant to the
decision of the Intermediate Appellate Court, dated April
12, 1984, which modified the decision of the Court of First
Instance of Capiz,
dated January 23, 1975, in a land
1
registration case filed by private respondent Gregorio
Hontiveros; that petitioners were deprived of income from
thelandasaresultofthefilingofthelandregistrationcase;
that such income consisted of rentals from tenants of the
land in the amount of P66,000.00 per year from 1968 to
1987,andP595,000.00peryearthereafter;andthatprivate
respondents filed the land registration case and2withheld
possessionofthelandfrompetitionersinbadfaith.
In their answer, private respondents denied that they
were married and alleged that private respondent
HontiveroswasawidowerwhileprivaterespondentAyson
wassingle.Theydeniedthattheyhaddeprivedpetitioners
ofpossessionofandincomefromtheland.Onthecontrary,
theyallegedthatpossessionofthepropertyinquestionhad
already been transferred to petitioners on August 7, 1985,
byvirtueofawritofpossession,datedJuly18,1985,issued
by the clerk of court of the Regional Trial Court of Capiz,
Mambusao, the return thereof having been received by
petitioners counsel; that since then, petitioners have been
directlyreceivingrentalsfromthetenantsoftheland;that
thecomplaintfailedtostateacauseofactionsinceitdidnot
allege that earnest efforts towards a compromise had been
made, considering that petitioner Augusto Hontiveros and
private respondent Gregorio Hontiveros are brothers; that
the decision of the Intermediate Appellate Court in Land
RegistrationCaseNo.N58125was
_________________
1 Docketed as Land Registration Case No. N58125, LRC Rec. No.

288.
2SeeAmendedComplaint;Petition,AnnexA;Rollo,pp.2830.

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Hontiveros vs. Regional Trial Court, Br. 25, Iloilo City

345

nullandvoidsinceitwasbaseduponagroundwhichwas
notpasseduponbythetrialcourt;thatpetitionersclaimfor
damageswasbarredbyprescriptionwithrespecttoclaims
before 1984; that there were no rentals due since private
respondentHontiveroswasapossessoringoodfaithandfor
value;andthatprivaterespondentAysonhadnothingtodo
withthecaseasshewasnotmarriedtoprivaterespondent
Gregorio Hontiveros and did not have any proprietary
interestinthesubjectproperty.Privaterespondentsprayed
forthedismissalofthecomplaintandforanorderagainst
petitionerstopaydamagestoprivaterespondentsbywayof
counterclaim,aswellasreconveyanceofthesubjectlandto
3
privaterespondents.
On May 16, 1991, petitioners filed an Amended
Complaint to insert therein an allegation that earnest
effortstowardsacompromisehavebeenmadebetweenthe
partiesbutthesamewereunsuccessful.
In due time, private respondents filed an Answer to
Amended Complaint with Counterclaim, in which they
denied, among other things, that earnest efforts had been
made to reach a compromise but the parties were
unsuccessful. On July 19, 1995, petitioners moved for a
judgment on the pleadings on the ground that private
respondents answer did not tender an issue or that it
otherwise 4 admitted the material allegations of the
complaint. Private respondents opposed the motion
alleging that they had denied petitioners claims and thus
tenderedcertainissuesoffactwhichcouldonlyberesolved
5
aftertrial.
OnNovember23,1995,thetrialcourtdeniedpetitioners
motion.Atthesametime,however,itdismissedthecaseon
thegroundthatthecomplaintwasnotverifiedasrequired
by Art. 151 of the Family Code and, therefore, it did not
believe
_________________
3SeeAmendedAnswer;Petition,AnnexB;Rollo,pp.3135.
4Petition,AnnexC;Rollo,pp.3646.
5Petition,AnnexH.

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SUPREMECOURTREPORTSANNOTATED

Hontiveros vs. Regional Trial Court, Br. 25, Iloilo City


that earnest efforts had been made to 6 arrive at a
compromise.Theorderofthetrialcourtreads:
The Court, after an assessment of the diverging views and
argumentspresentedbybothparties,isoftheopinionandsoholds
thatjudgmentonthepleadingsisinappropriatenotonlyforthefact
thatthedefendantsintheiranswer,particularlyinitsparagraph3
totheamendedcomplaint,specificallydeniedtheclaimofdamages
againstthem,butalsobecauseoftherulinginDelaCruzvs.Cruz,
G.R. No. 27759, April 17, 1970 (32 SCRA 307), citing Rili vs.
Chunaco, 98 Phil. 505, which ruled that the party claiming

damages must satisfactorily prove the amount thereof and that


thoughtheruleisthatfailuretospecificallydenytheallegationsin
the complaint or counterclaim is deemed an admission of said
allegations, there is however an exception to it, that is, that when
theallegationsrefertotheamountofdamages,theallegationsmust
stillbeproved.ThisrulingisinaccordwiththeprovisionofSection
1,Rule9oftheRulesofCourt.
Thatwhiletheplaintiffsintheiramendedcomplaintallegethat
earnest efforts towards a compromise with the defendants were
made,thefactisthattheircomplaintwasnotverifiedasprovidedin
Article151oftheFamilyCode.Besides,itisnotbelievedthatthere
were indeed earnest efforts made to patch up and/or reconcile the
two feuding brothers, Gregorio and Augusto, both surnamed
Hontiveros.
The submission of the plaintiffs that, assuming no such earnest
effortsweremade,thesameisnotnecessaryorjurisdictionalinthe
lightoftherulinginRufinoMagbaleta,etal.,petitioners,vs.Hon.
Arsenio M. Gonong, et al., respondents, No. L44903, April 22,
1977,is,tothemindofthisCourt,notapplicabletothecaseatbar
forthefactistherationaleinthatcaseisnotpresentintheinstant
caseconsideringthesesalientpoints:

a) Teodora Ayson, the alleged wife of defendant


GregorioHontiverosandallegedlynotamemberof
theHontiverosFamily,isnotshowntobereallythe
wifeofGregorio,afactwhichGregorioalsodeniedin
theirverifiedanswertotheamendedcomplaint;
b) TeodoraAysonhasnotbeenshowntohaveacquired
any proprietary right or interest in the land that
waslitigatedbyGrego
___________________
6Id.,AnnexE.

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Hontiveros vs. Regional Trial Court, Br. 25, Iloilo City


rio and Augusto, unlike in the cited case of
Magbaleta where it was shown that a stranger to
thefamilyacquiredcertainright;
c) In the decision rendered by the appellate court no
mention was made at all of the name of Teodora
AysonaspartawardeeofLot37thatwasadjudged
to Gregorio other than himself who was therein
described as a widower. Moreover, Teodora was
never mentioned in said decision, nor in the
amendedcomplaintandintheamendedmotionfor
judgment on the pleadings that she ever took any
part in the act or transaction that gave rise to the
damages allegedly suffered by the plaintiffs for
whichtheynowclaimsomecompensation.
WHEREFORE,inthelightofalltheforegoingpremises,theCourt
orders, as it hereby orders, the dismissal of this case with cost
againsttheplaintiffs.

SOORDERED.

Petitioners moved for a reconsideration


of the order of
7
dismissal,buttheirmotionwasdenied. Hence,thispetition
forreviewoncertiorari.Petitionerscontend:
I. THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT PALPABLY
ERRED IN DISMISSING THE COMPLAINT ON
THE GROUND THAT IT DOES NOT ALLEGE
UNDER OATH THAT EARNEST EFFORTS
TOWARDACOMPROMISEWEREMADEPRIOR
TO THE FILING THEREOF AS REQUIRED BY
ARTICLE151OFTHEFAMILYCODE.
II. THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT PALPABLY
ERRED IN NOT DENYING THE MOTION FOR
JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS AND
ORDERINGATRIALONTHEMERITS.
Private respondents raise a preliminary question. They
argue that petitioners should have brought this case on
appeal to the Court of Appeals since the order of the trial
court judge was actually a decision on the merits. On the
other hand, even if petition for certiorari were the proper
remedy,theycontendthatthepetitionisdefectivebecause
the judge of
the trial court has not been impleaded as a
8
respondent.
_________________
7Id.,AnnexF.
8Comment/Answer,pp.12;Rollo,pp.6061.

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Hontiveros vs. Regional Trial Court, Br. 25, Iloilo City


Private respondents contention is without merit. The
petition in this case was filed pursuant to Rule 45 of the
RulesofCourt.AsexplainedinAtlas Consolidated
Mining
9
and Development Corporation v. Court of Appeals:
Under Section 5, subparagraph (2)(e), Article VIII of the 1987
Constitution,theSupremeCourtisvestedwiththepowertoreview,
revise, reverse, modify, or affirm on appeal or certiorari as the law
or the Rules of Court may provide, final judgments and orders of
lowercourtsinallcasesinwhichonlyanerrororquestionoflawis
involved. A similar provision is contained in Section 17, fourth
paragraph, subaragraph (4) of the Judiciary Act of 1948, as
amendedbyRepublicActNo.5440.And,insuchcaseswhereonly
questions of law are involved, Section 25 of the Interim Rules and
GuidelinesimplementingBatasPambansaBlg.129,inconjunction
withSection3ofRepublicActNo.5440,providesthattheappealto
the Supreme Court shall be taken by petition for certiorari which
shallbegovernedbyRule45oftheRulesofCourt.
The rule, therefore, is that direct appeals to this Court from the
trial court on questions of law have to be through the filing of a
petitionforreviewoncertiorari.Ithasbeenheldthat:

xxxwhenaCFI(RTC)adjudicatesacaseintheexerciseofitsoriginal
jurisdiction,thecorrectmodeofelevatingthejudgmenttotheCourtof
Appeals is by ordinary appeal, or appeal by writ of error, involving
merelythefilingofanoticeofappealexceptonlyiftheappealistaken
in special proceedings and other cases wherein multiple appeals are
allowedunderthelaw,inwhicheventhefilingofarecordonappealis
additionally required. Of course, when the appeal would involve purely
questions of law or any of the other cases (except criminal cases as
statedhereunder)specifiedinSection5(2),ArticleXoftheConstitution,
it should be taken to the Supreme Court by petition for review on
certiorariinaccordancewithRules42and45oftheRulesofCourt.

By way of implementation of the aforestated provisions of law,


thisCourtissuedonMarch9,1990CircularNo.290,paragraph2
ofwhichprovides:
_________________
9201SCRA51,5859(1991).

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Hontiveros vs. Regional Trial Court, Br. 25, Iloilo City


2. Appeals from Regional Courts to the Supreme Court.Except in
criminal cases where the penalty imposed is life imprisonment or
reclusion perpetua, judgments of regional trial courts may be appealed
to the Supreme Court only by petition for review on certiorari in
accordance with Rule 45 of the Rules of Court in relation to Section 17
of the Judiciary Act of 1948, as amended, this being the clear
intendment of the provision of the Interim Rules that (a)ppeals to the
Supreme Court shall be taken by petition for certiorari which shall be
governedbyRule45oftheRulesofCourt.

Under the foregoing considerations, therefore, the inescapable


conclusion is that herein petitioner adopted the correct mode of
appeal in G.R. No. 88354 by filing with this Court a petition to
reviewoncertiorarithedecisionoftheRegionalTrialCourtofPasig
inCivilCaseNo.25528andraisingthereinpurelyquestionsoflaw.
10

InMeneses v. Court of Appeals,itwasheld:

It must also be stressed that the trial courts order of 5 June 1992
dismissing the petitioners complaint was, whether it was right or
wrong, a final order because it had put an end to the particular
matter resolved, or settled definitely the matter therein disposed of
and left nothing more to be done by the trial court except the
execution of the order. It is a firmly settled rule that the remedy
againstsuchorderistheremedyofappealandnotcertiorari.That
appeal may be solely on questions of law, in which case it may be
taken only to this Court; or on questions of fact and law, in which
case the appeal should be brought to the Court of Appeals.
Pursuant to Murillo v. Consul, the appeal to this Court should be
bypetitionforreviewoncertiorariinaccordancewithRule45ofthe
RulesofCourt.

As private respondents themselves admit, the order of


November 23, 1995 is a final order from which an appeal
canbetaken.Itisfinalinthesensethatitdisposesofthe

pending action before the court and puts an end to the


litigationsothatnothingmorewasleftforthetrialcourtto
11
do. Further
__________________
10237SCRA484,491492(1994).
11AlliedFreeWorkersUnionv.JudgeEstipona,113Phil.748(1961).

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Hontiveros vs. Regional Trial Court, Br. 25, Iloilo City


more,asthequestionsraisedarequestionsoflaw,petition
forreviewoncertiorariisthepropermodeofappeal.These
questionsare:(1)whetherafterdenyingpetitionersmotion
forjudgmentonthepleadings,thetrialcourtcoulddismiss
theircomplaintmotu proprioforfailuretocomplywithArt.
151oftheFamilyCodewhichprovidesthatnosuitbetween
membersofthesamefamilyshallprosperunlessitappears
from the complaint, which must be verified, that earnest
effortstowardsacompromisehavebeenmadebutthesame
have failed; and (2) whether Art. 151 applies to this case.
These questions do not require an examination of the
probative value of evidence presented and the truth or
falsehood
of facts asserted which questions of fact would
12
entail.
On the other hand, petitioners contend that the trial
courterredindismissingthecomplaintwhennomotionto
thateffectwasmadebyanyoftheparties.Theypointout
that,inopposingthemotionforjudgmentonthepleadings,
private respondents did not seek the dismissal of the case
but only the denial of petitioners motion. Indeed, what
private respondents asked was that trial be held on the
merits.
Of course, there are instances when the trial court may
orderthedismissalofthecaseevenwithoutamotiontothat
13
effectfiledbyanyoftheparties.InBaja v. Macandog, this
Courtmentionedthesecases,towit:
Thecourtcannotdismissacasemotu proprio without violating the
plaintiffsrighttobeheard,exceptinthefollowinginstances:ifthe
plaintiff fails to appear at the time of the trial; if he fails to
prosecutehisactionforanunreasonablelengthoftime;orifhefails
to comply with the rules or any order of the court; or if the court
findsthatithasnojurisdictionoverthesubjectmatterofthesuit.

However,noneoftheseexceptionsappearsinthiscase.
__________________
12SeeRomanCatholicArchbishopofManilav.CourtofAppeals, 258

SCRA195,199(1996).
13158SCRA391,396397(1986).

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Hontiveros vs. Regional Trial Court, Br. 25, Iloilo City


Moreover,thetrialcourtitselffoundthatjudgmentonthe
pleadingsisinappropriatenotonlyforthefactthat[private
respondents] in their answer . . . specifically denied the
claim of damages against them, but also because of the
[rule] . . . that the party claiming damages must
satisfactorilyprovetheamountthereof....Necessarily,a
trialmustbeheld.
14
Rule19oftheRulesofCourtprovides:
SECTION 1. Judgment on the pleadings.Where an answer fails
totenderanissue,orotherwiseadmitsthematerialallegationofthe
adverse partys pleading, the court may, on motion of the party,
direct judgment on such pleading. But in actions for annulment of
marriage or for legal separation the material facts alleged in the
complaintshallalwaysbeproved.

Under the rules, if there is no controverted matter in the


case after the answer is filed, the trial court has the
discretiontograntamotionforjudgmentonthepleadings
15
filed by a party. Where there are actual issues raised in
theanswer,suchasoneinvolvingdamages,whichrequire
thepresentationofevidenceandassessmentthereofbythe
trialcourt,itisimproperforthejudgetorenderjudgment
16
basedonthepleadingsalone. Inthiscase,asidefromthe
amountofdamages,thefollowingfactualissueshavetobe
resolved, namely, (1) private respondent Teodora Aysons
participation and/or liability, if any, to petitioners and (2)
the nature, extent, and duration of private respondents
possessionofthesubjectproperty.Thetrialcourt,therefore,
correctly denied petitioners motion for judgment on the
pleadings.
However, the trial court erred in dismissing petitioners
complaint on the ground that, although it alleged that
earnesteffortshadbeenmadetowardthesettlementofthe
case but they proved futile, the complaint was not verified
forwhich
____________________
14NowRule34ofthe1997
15

Rules of Civil Procedure.

1 V.J. Francisco, The Revised Rules of Court in the Philippines

1033(1973).
16 Rocamora v. RTC, Cebu (Branch VIII), 167 SCRA 615 (1988); 1 M.

V.Moran,Comment on the Rules of Court538(1967).


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Hontiveros vs. Regional Trial Court, Br. 25, Iloilo City


reason the trial court could not believe the veracity of the
allegation.
TheabsenceoftheverificationrequiredinArt.151does
not affect the jurisdiction of the court over the subject
matterofthecomplaint.Theverificationismerelyaformal
requirement intended to secure an assurance that matters

whichareallegedaretrueandcorrect.Ifthecourtdoubted
the veracity of the allegations regarding efforts made to
settlethecaseamongmembersofthesamefamily,itcould
simply have ordered petitioners to verify them. As this
Court has already ruled, the court may simply order the
correction of unverified pleadings or act on it and waive
strict compliance with17 the rules in order that the ends of
justicemaybeserved. Otherwise,meresuspicionordoubt
onthepartofthetrialcourtastothetruthoftheallegation
that earnest efforts had been made toward a compromise
butthepartieseffortsprovedunsuccessfulisnotaground
forthedismissalofanaction.Onlyifitislatershownthat
sucheffortshadnotreallybeenexertedwouldthecourtbe
justifiedindismissingtheaction.Thus,Art.151provides:
Nosuitbetweenmembersofthesamefamilyshallprosperunlessit
should appear from the verified complaint or petition that earnest
efforts toward a compromise have been made, but that the same
havefailed.Itifisshownthatnosucheffortswereinfactmade,the
casemustbedismissed.
Thisruleshallnotapplytocaseswhichmaynotbethesubjectof
compromiseundertheCivilCode.

Moreover, as petitioners contend, Art. 151 of the Family


Code does not apply in this case since the suit is not
18
exclusively among family members. Citing several cases
decided
_________________
17SeeVda.deGabrielv.CourtofAppeals,264SCRA137(1996);Sy v.

HabiconGarayblas, 228 SCRA 644 (1993); Buenaventura v. Halili, 149


SCRA22(1987).
18 Magbaleta

v. Gonong, 76 SCRA 511 (1977); Gayon v. Gayon, 36

SCRA104(1970);Mendezv.Eugenia,80SCRA82(1977);Gon
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bythisCourt,petitionersclaimthatwheneverastrangeris
a party in a case involving family members, the requisite
showing of earnest efforts to compromise is no longer
mandatory. They argue that since private respondent
AysonisadmittedlyastrangertotheHontiverosfamily,the
case is not covered by the requirements of Art. 151 of the
FamilyCode.
We agree with petitioners. The inclusion of private
respondent Ayson as defendant and petitioner Maria
HontiverosasplaintifftakesthecaseoutoftheambitofArt.
151 of the Family Code. Under this provision, the phrase
members of the same family refers to the husband and
wife, parents and children, ascendants and descendants,
19
andbrothersandsisters,whetherfullorhalfblood. 20
Asthis
CourtheldinGuerrero v. RTC, Ilocos Norte, Br. XVI:
As early as two decades ago, we already ruled in Gayon v. Gayon
that the enumeration of brothers and sisters as members of the

samefamilydoesnotcomprehendsistersinlaw.Inthatcase,then
Chief Justice Concepcion emphasized that sistersinlaw (hence,
alsobrothersinlaw)arenotlistedunderArt.217oftheNewCivil
Code as members of the same family. Since Art. 150 of the Family
Code repeats essentially the same enumeration of members of the
family, we find no reason to alter existing jurisprudence on the
matter.Consequently,thecourta quoerredinrulingthatpetitioner
Guerrero, being a brotherinlaw of private respondent Hernando,
was required to exert earnest efforts towards a compromise before
filingthepresentsuit.

Religious relationship and relationship by21affinity are not


given any legal effect in this jurisdiction. Consequently,
privaterespondentAyson,whoisdescribedinthecomplaint
as the spouse of respondent Hontiveros, and petitioner
MariaHontiveros,whoisadmittedlythespouseofpetitioner
_________________
zalesv.Lopez,160SCRA346(1988);Guerrerov.RTC,IlocosNorte,Br.
XVI,229SCRA274(1994).
19Family

Code,Art.150.

20229SCRA274,278(1994).
21 1 A.M. Tolentino, Commentaries

and Jurisprudence on the Civil

Code of the Philippines504(1990).


354

354

SUPREMECOURTREPORTSANNOTATED

Hontiveros vs. Regional Trial Court, Br. 25, Iloilo City


Augusto Hontiveros, are considered strangers to the
Hontiverosfamily,forpurposesofArt.151.
Petitioners finally question the constitutionality of Art.
151 of the Family Code on the ground that it in effect
amendstheRulesofCourt.This,accordingtothem,cannot
be done since the Constitution reserves in favor of the
SupremeCourtthepowertopromulgaterulesofpleadings
andprocedure.Consideringtheconclusionwehavereached
inthiscase,however,itisunnecessaryforpresentpurposes
to pass upon this question. Courts do not pass upon
constitutionalquestionsunlesstheyaretheverylis motaof
thecase.
WHEREFORE,thepetitionisGRANTEDandtheOrder,
dated November 23, 1995 of the Regional Trial Court of
Iloilo City, Branch 25 is SET ASIDE and the case is
remanded to the trial court for further proceedings not
inconsistentwiththisdecision.
SOORDERED.
Bellosillo (Chairman), Puno, Quisumbing and
Buena, JJ.,concur.
Petition granted, order set aside. Case remanded to trial
court for further proceedings.
Notes.Earnest efforts towards a compromise is a
conditionprecedenttofilingofsuitsbetweenmembersofthe
same family, noncompliance of which, complaint is

assailableatanystageoftheproceedingsforlackofcauseof
action.(OLaco vs. Co Cho Chit,220SCRA656[1993])
Abrotherinlawisnotamemberofthefamilyofhiswife
andisoutsidethescopeandcoverageofArticle222ofthe
Civil Code requiring that the same members of a family
shouldexerteffortstobringaboutacompromisebeforethe
commencement of a litigation. (Esquivias vs. Court of
Appeals,272SCRA803[1997])
o0o
355

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