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G.R. No. 155713. May 5, 2006.

*
MILAGROS G. LUMBUAN,** petitioner, vs. ALFREDO A. RONQUILLO, respondent.
Local Government Code; Katarungang Pambarangay Law; Section 412(a) of Republic Act No. 7160
requires the parties to undergo a conciliation process before the Lupon Chairman or the Pangkat as a
precondition to filing a complaint in court.—The primordial objective of the Katarungang
Pambarangay Rules, is to reduce the number of court litigations and prevent the deterioration of
the quality of justice which has been brought about by the indiscriminate filing of cases in the
courts. To attain this objective, Section 412(a) of Republic Act No. 7160 requires the parties to
undergo a conciliation process before the Lupon Chairman or the Pangkat as a precondition to
filing a complaint in court.
PETITION for review on certiorari of the decision and resolution of the Court of Appeals.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.
P.C. Nolasco & Associates for petitioner.
Ma. Theresa T. Balagtas-Gupo for respondent.
QUISUMBING, J.:
This petition for review on certiorari seeks to reverse and set aside the Decision1 dated April 12,
2002, of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 52436 and its Resolution2 dated October 14,
2002, denying the petitioner’s motion for reconsideration.
The salient facts, as found by the Court of Appeals,3 are as follows:
Petitioner Milagros G. Lumbuan is the registered owner of Lot 19-A, Block 2844 with Transfer
Certificate of Title No. 193264, located in Gagalangin, Tondo, Manila. On February 20, 1995, she
leased it to respondent Alfredo A. Ronquillo for a period of three years with a monthly rental of
P5,000. The parties also agreed that there will be a 10% annual increase in rent for the
succeeding two years, i.e., 1996 and 1997,4 and the leased premises will be used exclusively for
the respondent’s fastfood business, unless any other use is given, with the petitioner’s prior
written consent.5
While the respondent at the start operated a fastfood business, he later used the premises as
residence without the petitioner’s prior written consent. He also failed to pay the 10% annual
increase in rent of P500/month starting 1996 and P1,000/month in 1997 to the present. Despite
repeated verbal and written demands, the respondent refused to pay the arrears and vacate the
leased premises.
On November 15, 1997, the petitioner referred the matter to the Barangay Chairman’s office but
the parties failed to arrive at a settlement. The Barangay Chairman then issued a Certificate to File
Action.6
On December 8, 1997, the petitioner filed against the respondent an action for Unlawful
Detainer, docketed as Civil Case No. 157922-CV. It was raffled to the Metropolitan Trial Court
(MeTC) of Manila, Branch 6. On December 15, 1997, the respondent received the summons and
copy of the complaint. On December 24, 1997, he filed his Answer by mail. Before the MeTC
could receive the respondent’s Answer, the petitioner filed a Motion for Summary Judgment
dated January 7, 1998.7 Acting upon this motion, the MeTC rendered a decision8 on January 15,
1998, ordering the respondent to vacate and surrender possession of the leased premises; to pay
the petitioner the amount of P46,000 as unpaid rentals with legal interest until fully paid; and to
pay the petitioner P5,000 as attorney’s fees plus cost of the suit.
The respondent then filed a Manifestation calling the attention of the MeTC to the fact that his
Answer was filed on time and praying that the decision be set aside. The MeTC denied the

prayer, ruling that the Manifestation was in the nature of a motion for reconsideration which is a
prohibited pleading under the Rules on Summary Procedure.
Upon appeal, the case was raffled to the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch 38, and
docketed as Civil Case No. 98-87311. On July 8, 1998, the RTC rendered its decision9 setting
aside the MeTC decision. The RTC directed the parties to go back to the Lupon Chairman or
Punong Barangay for further proceedings and to comply strictly with the condition that should
the parties fail to reach an amicable settlement, the entire records of the case will be remanded to
MeTC of Manila, Branch 6, for it to decide the case anew.
The respondent sought reconsideration but the RTC denied the motion in an Order dated March
15, 1999. Thus, he sought relief from the Court of Appeals through a petition for review.10 On
April 12, 2002, the appellate court promulgated a decision, reversing the decision of the RTC
and ordering the dismissal of the ejectment case. The appellate court ruled that when a
complaint is prematurely instituted, as when the mandatory mediation and conciliation in the
barangay level had not been complied with, the court should dismiss the case and not just
remand the records to the court of origin so that the parties may go through the prerequisite
proceedings.
The petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration, which was denied by the appellate court.
Hence, this present petition.
In the meantime, while this petition was pending before this Court, the parties went through
barangay conciliation proceedings as directed by the RTC of Manila, Branch 38. Again, they
failed to arrive at an amicable settlement prompting the RTC to issue an Order11 remanding the
case to the MeTC of Manila, Branch 6, where the proceedings took place anew. On April 25,
2000, the MeTC rendered a second decision, the dispositive portion of which reads:
“WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment on the merits is hereby rendered for the
plaintiff as follows:
1 1. Ordering defendant and all persons claiming right of possession under him to voluntarily
vacate the property located at Lot 19-A Block 2844, Gagalangin, Tondo, Manila and
surrender possession thereof to the plaintiff;
2 2. Ordering defendant to pay to plaintiff the amount of P387,512.00 as actual damages in the
form of unpaid rentals and its agreed increase up to January 2000 and to pay the
amount of P6,500.00 a month thereafter until the same is actually vacated;
3 3. Ordering the defendant to pay to plaintiff the sum of P10,000.00 as and for attorney’s fees
plus cost of the suit.
SO ORDERED.”12
The respondent appealed the foregoing decision. The case was raffled to RTC of Manila, Branch
22, and docketed as Civil Case No. 00-98173. The RTC ruled in favor of the petitioner and
dismissed the appeal. The respondent elevated the case to the Court of Appeals, where it is now
pending.
The sole issue for our resolution is:
[WHETHER] THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN DISMISSING THE
COMPLAINT FOR THE ALLEGED FAILURE OF THE PARTIES TO COMPLY WITH THE
MANDATORY MEDIATION AND CONCILIATION PROCEEDINGS IN THE BARANGAY
LEVEL.13
With the parties’ subsequent meeting with the Lupon Chairman or Punong Barangay for further
conciliation proceedings, the procedural defect was cured. Nevertheless, if only to clear any
lingering doubt why the Court of Appeals erred in dismissing the complaint, we shall delve on
1

the issue.

Petition granted, judgment and resolution reversed and set aside.

The petitioner alleges that the parties have gone through barangay conciliation proceedings to
settle their dispute as shown by the Certificate to File Action issued by the Lupon/Pangkat
Secretary and attested by the Lupon/Pangkat Chairman. The respondent, on the other hand,
contends that whether there was defective compliance or no compliance at all with the required
conciliation, the case should have been dismissed.

Note.—Section 412(a) of Republic Act No. 7160 clearly provides that, as a precondition to
filing a complaint in court, the parties shall go through the conciliation process either before the
Lupon Chairman or the Pangkat. (Zamora vs. Heirs of Carmen Izquierdo, 443 SCRA 24 [2004])

The primordial objective of the Katarungang Pambarangay Rules,14 is to reduce the number of
court litigations and prevent the deterioration of the quality of justice which has been brought
about by the indiscriminate filing of cases in the courts. To attain this objective, Section 412(a) of
Republic Act No. 716015 requires the parties to undergo a conciliation process before the Lupon
Chairman or the Pangkat as a precondition to filing a complaint in court,16 thus:

HEIRS OF BERTULDO HINOG: Bertuldo Hinog II, Bertuldo Hinog III, Bertuldo Hinog, Jr.,
Jocelyn Hinog, Bertoldo Hinog IV, Bertoldo Hinog V, Edgardo Hinog, Milagros H. Pabatao,
Lilian H. King, Victoria H. Engracia, Terisita C. Hinog, Paz H. Besana, Roberto C. Hinog, Vicente
C. Hinog, Roel C. Hinog, Marilyn C. Hinog, Bebot C. Hinog, lordes C. Hinog, Pablo Chiong,
Arlene Lanasang (All respresented by Bertuldo Hinog III), petitioners, vs. HON. ACHILLES
MELICOR, in his capacity as Presiding Judge, RTC, Branch 4, 7th Judicial Region, Tagbiliran
City, Bohol, and CUSTODIO BALANE, RUFO BALANE, HONORIO BALANE, and TOMAS
BALANE, respondents.

SECTION 412. Conciliation.—(a) Pre-condition to Filing of Complaint in Court.—No complaint,
petition, action, or proceeding involving any matter within the authority of the lupon shall be
filed or instituted directly in court or any other government office for adjudication, unless there
has been a confrontation between the parties before the lupon chairman or the pangkat, and that
no conciliation or settlement has been reached as certified by the lupon secretary or pangkat
secretary as attested to by the lupon or pangkat chairman. . . .
Here, the Lupon/Pangkat Chairman and Lupon/Pangkat Secretary signed the Certificate to File
Action stating that no settlement was reached by the parties. While admittedly no pangkat was
constituted, it was not denied that the parties met at the office of the Barangay Chairman for
possible settlement. The efforts of the Barangay Chairman, however, proved futile as no
agreement was reached. Although no pangkat was formed, in our mind, there was substantial
compliance with the law. It is noteworthy that under the aforequoted provision, the
confrontation before the Lupon Chairman or the pangkat is sufficient compliance with the
precondition for filing the case in court.17 This is true notwithstanding the mandate of Section
410(b) of the same law that the Barangay Chairman shall constitute a pangkat if he fails in his
mediation efforts. Section 410(b) should be construed together with Section 412, as well as the
circumstances obtaining in and peculiar to the case. On this score, it is significant that the
Barangay Chairman or Punong Barangay is herself the Chairman of the Lupon under the Local
Government Code.18
Finally, this Court is aware that the resolution of the substantial issues in this case is pending
with the Court of Appeals. While ordinarily, we would have determined the validity of the
parties’ substantial claims since to await the appellate court’s decision will only frustrate speedy
justice and, in any event, would be a futile exercise, as in all probability the case would end up
with this Court, we find that we cannot do so in the instant case.
It must be underscored that supervening events have taken place before the lower courts where
the parties have been adequately heard, and all the issues have been ventilated. Since the
records of those proceedings are with the Court of Appeals, it is in a better position to fully
adjudicate the rights of the parties. To rely on the records before this Court would prevent us
from rendering a sound judgment in this case. Thus, we are left with no alternative but to leave
the matter of ruling on the merits to the appellate court.
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The decision and resolution of the Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 52436 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE, and the decision of the
Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 38, in Civil Case No. 98-87311 is AFFIRMED.
The Court of Appeals is ordered to proceed with the appeal in CA-G.R. No. 73453 and
decide the case with dispatch.
SO ORDERED.
Carpio, Carpio-Morales, Tinga and Velasco, Jr., JJ., concur.

[G.R. No. 140954. April 12, 2005]
[1]

DECISION
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.:
Before us is a petition for certiorari and prohibition under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court which
assails the Orders dated March 22, 1999, August 13, 1999 and October 15, 1999 of the Regional
Trial Court, Branch 4, of Tagbilaran City, Bohol in Civil Case No. 4923.
The factual background of the case is as follows:
On May 21, 1991, private respondents Custodio, Rufo, Tomas and Honorio, all surnamed
Balane, filed a complaint for Recovery of Ownership and Possession, Removal of Construction
and Damages against Bertuldo Hinog (Bertuldo for brevity). They alleged that: they own a
1,399- square meter parcel of land situated in Malayo Norte, Cortes, Bohol, designated as Lot
No. 1714; sometime in March 1980, they allowed Bertuldo to use a portion of the said property
for a period of ten years and construct thereon a small house of light materials at a nominal
annual rental of P100.00 only, considering the close relations of the parties; after the expiration
of the ten-year period, they demanded the return of the occupied portion and removal of the
house constructed thereon but Bertuldo refused and instead claimed ownership of the entire
property.
Accordingly, private respondents sought to oust Bertuldo from the premises of the subject
property and restore upon themselves the ownership and possession thereof, as well as the
payment of moral and exemplary damages, attorneys fees and litigation expenses in amounts
justified by the evidence. [2]
On July 2, 1991, Bertuldo filed his Answer. He alleged ownership of the disputed property by
virtue of a Deed of Absolute Sale dated July 2, 1980, executed by one Tomas Pahac with the
knowledge and conformity of private respondents.[3]
After the pre-trial, trial on the merits ensued. On November 18, 1997, private respondents rested
their case. Thereupon, Bertuldo started his direct examination. However, on June 24, 1998,
Bertuldo died without completing his evidence.
On August 4, 1998, Atty. Sulpicio A. Tinampay withdrew as counsel for Bertuldo as his services
were terminated by petitioner Bertuldo Hinog III. Atty. Veronico G. Petalcorin then entered his
appearance as new counsel for Bertuldo.[4]
On September 22, 1998, Atty. Petalcorin filed a motion to expunge the complaint from the record
and nullify all court proceedings on the ground that private respondents failed to specify in the
complaint the amount of damages claimed so as to pay the correct docket fees; and that under
Manchester Development Corporation vs. Court of Appeals,[5] non-payment of the correct docket fee
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is jurisdictional.[6]
In an amended motion, filed on October 2, 1998, Atty. Petalcorin further alleged that the private
respondents failed to pay the correct docket fee since the main subject matter of the case cannot
be estimated as it is for recovery of ownership, possession and removal of construction.[7]
Private respondents opposed the motion to expunge on the following grounds: (a) said motion
was filed more than seven years from the institution of the case; (b) Atty. Petalcorin has not
complied with Section 16, Rule 3 of the Rules of Court which provides that the death of the
original defendant requires a substitution of parties before a lawyer can have legal personality to
represent a litigant and the motion to expunge does not mention of any specific party whom he
is representing; (c) collectible fees due the court can be charged as lien on the judgment; and (d)
considering the lapse of time, the motion is merely a dilatory scheme employed by petitioners.[8]
In their Rejoinder, petitioners manifested that the lapse of time does not vest the court with
jurisdiction over the case due to failure to pay the correct docket fees. As to the contention that
deficiency in payment of docket fees can be made as a lien on the judgment, petitioners argued
that the payment of filing fees cannot be made dependent on the result of the action taken.[9]
On January 21, 1999, the trial court, while ordering the complaint to be expunged from the
records and the nullification of all court proceedings taken for failure to pay the correct docket
fees, nonetheless, held:
The Court can acquire jurisdiction over this case only upon the payment of the exact prescribed
docket/filing fees for the main cause of action, plus additional docket fee for the amount of
damages being prayed for in the complaint, which amount should be specified so that the same
can be considered in assessing the amount of the filing fees. Upon the complete payment of such
fees, the Court may take appropriate action in the light of the ruling in the case of Manchester
Development Corporation vs. Court of Appeals, supra.[10]
Accordingly, on January 28, 1999, upon payment of deficiency docket fee, private respondents
filed a manifestation with prayer to reinstate the case.[11] Petitioners opposed the
reinstatement[12] but on March 22, 1999, the trial court issued the first assailed Order reinstating
the case.[13]
On May 24, 1999, petitioners, upon prior leave of court,[14] filed their supplemental pleading,
appending therein a Deed of Sale dated November 15, 1982.[15] Following the submission of
private respondents opposition thereto,[16] the trial court, in its Order dated July 7, 1999, denied
the supplemental pleading on the ground that the Deed of Absolute Sale is a new matter which
was never mentioned in the original answer dated July 2, 1991, prepared by Bertuldos original
counsel and which Bertuldo verified; and that such new document is deemed waived in the
light of Section 1, Rule 9[17] of the Rules of Court. The trial court also noted that no formal
substitution of the parties was made because of the failure of defendants counsel to give the
names and addresses of the legal representatives of Bertuldo, so much so that the supposed
heirs of Bertuldo are not specified in any pleading in the case. [18]
On July 14, 1999, petitioners manifested that the trial court having expunged the complaint and
nullified all court proceedings, there is no valid case and the complaint should not be admitted
for failure to pay the correct docket fees; that there should be no case to be reinstated and no
case to proceed as there is no complaint filed.[19]
After the submission of private respondents opposition[20] and petitioners rejoinder,[21] the trial
court issued the second assailed Order on August 13, 1999, essentially denying petitioners
manifestation/rejoinder. The trial court held that the issues raised in such
manifestation/rejoinder are practically the same as those raised in the amended motion to
expunge which had already been passed upon in the Order dated January 21, 1999. Moreover,
the trial court observed that the Order dated March 22, 1999 which reinstated the case was not

objected to by petitioners within the reglementary period or even thereafter via a motion for
reconsideration despite receipt thereof on March 26, 1999.[22]
On August 25, 1999, petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration[23] but the same was denied by
the trial court in its third assailed Order dated October 15, 1999. The trial court held that the
Manchester rule was relaxed in Sun Insurance Office, Ltd. vs. Asuncion.[24] Noting that there has
been no substitution of parties following the death of Bertuldo, the trial court directed Atty.
Petalcorin to comply with the provisions of Section 16, Rule 3 of the Rules of Court. The trial
court also reiterated that the Order dated March 22, 1999 reinstating the case was not assailed by
petitioners within the reglementary period, despite receipt thereof on March 26, 1999.[25]
On November 19, 1999, Atty. Petalcorin complied with the directive of the trial court to submit
the names and addresses of the heirs of Bertuldo.[26]
On November 24, 1999, petitioners filed before us the present petition for certiorari and
prohibition.[27] They allege that the public respondent committed grave abuse of discretion in
allowing the case to be reinstated after private respondents paid the docket fee deficiency since
the trial court had earlier expunged the complaint from the record and nullified all proceedings
of the case and such ruling was not contested by the private respondents. Moreover, they argue
that the public respondent committed grave abuse of discretion in allowing the case to be filed
and denying the manifestation with motion to dismiss, despite the defect in the complaint which
prayed for damages without specifying the amounts, in violation of SC Circular No. 7, dated
March 24, 1988.
In their Comment, private respondents aver that no grave abuse of discretion was committed by
the trial court in reinstating the complaint upon the payment of deficiency docket fees because
petitioners did not object thereto within the reglementary period. Besides, Atty. Petalcorin
possessed no legal personality to appear as counsel for the heirs of Bertuldo until he complies
with Section 16, Rule 3 of the Rules of Court.[28]
At the outset, we note the procedural error committed by petitioners in directly filing the instant
petition before this Court for it violates the established policy of strict observance of the judicial
hierarchy of courts.
Although the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and the Regional Trial Courts have concurrent
jurisdiction to issue writs of certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, habeas corpus and
injunction, such concurrence does not give the petitioner unrestricted freedom of choice of court
forum.[29] As we stated in People vs. Cuaresma:[30]
This Court's original jurisdiction to issue writs of certiorari is not exclusive. It is shared by this
Court with Regional Trial Courts and with the Court of Appeals. This concurrence of
jurisdiction is not, however, to be taken as according to parties seeking any of the writs an
absolute, unrestrained freedom of choice of the court to which application therefor will be
directed. There is after all a hierarchy of courts. That hierarchy is determinative of the venue of
appeals, and also serves as a general determinant of the appropriate forum for petitions for the
extraordinary writs. A becoming regard for that judicial hierarchy most certainly indicates that
petitions for the issuance of extraordinary writs against first level (inferior) courts should be
filed with the Regional Trial Court, and those against the latter, with the Court of Appeals. A
direct invocation of the Supreme Courts original jurisdiction to issue these writs should be
allowed only when there are special and important reasons therefor, clearly and specifically set
out in the petition. This is [an] established policy. It is a policy necessary to prevent inordinate
demands upon the Courts time and attention which are better devoted to those matters within
its exclusive jurisdiction, and to prevent further over-crowding of the Courts docket.[31]
The rationale for this rule is two-fold: (a) it would be an imposition upon the precious time of
this Court; and (b) it would cause an inevitable and resultant delay, intended or otherwise, in
the adjudication of cases, which in some instances had to be remanded or referred to the lower
3

court as the proper forum under the rules of procedure, or as better equipped to resolve the
issues because this Court is not a trier of facts.[32]
Thus, this Court will not entertain direct resort to it unless the redress desired cannot be
obtained in the appropriate courts, and exceptional and compelling circumstances, such as cases
of national interest and of serious implications, justify the availment of the extraordinary
remedy of writ of certiorari, calling for the exercise of its primary jurisdiction. Exceptional and
compelling circumstances were held present in the following cases: (a) Chavez vs. Romulo[33] on
citizens right to bear arms; (b) Government of the United States of America vs. Purganan[34] on bail in
extradition proceedings; (c) Commission on Elections vs. Quijano-Padilla[35] on government contract
involving modernization and computerization of voters registration list; (d) Buklod ng Kawaning
EIIB vs. Zamora[36] on status and existence of a public office; and (e) Fortich vs. Corona[37] on the socalled Win-Win Resolution of the Office of the President which modified the approval of the
conversion to agro-industrial area.
In this case, no special and important reason or exceptional and compelling circumstance
analogous to any of the above cases has been adduced by the petitioners so as to justify direct
recourse to this Court. The present petition should have been initially filed in the Court of
Appeals in strict observance of the doctrine on the hierarchy of courts. Failure to do so is
sufficient cause for the dismissal of the petition at bar.
In any event, even if the Court disregards such procedural flaw, the petitioners contentions on
the substantive aspect of the case fail to invite judgment in their favor.
The unavailability of the writ of certiorari and prohibition in this case is borne out of the fact that
petitioners principally assail the Order dated March 22, 1999 which they never sought
reconsideration of, in due time, despite receipt thereof on March 26, 1999. Instead, petitioners
went through the motion of filing a supplemental pleading and only when the latter was denied,
or after more than three months have passed, did they raise the issue that the complaint should
not have been reinstated in the first place because the trial court had no jurisdiction to do so,
having already ruled that the complaint shall be expunged.
After recognizing the jurisdiction of the trial court by seeking affirmative relief in their motion to
serve supplemental pleading upon private respondents, petitioners are effectively barred by
estoppel from challenging the trial courts jurisdiction.[38] If a party invokes the jurisdiction of a
court, he cannot thereafter challenge the courts jurisdiction in the same case.[39] To rule otherwise
would amount to speculating on the fortune of litigation, which is against the policy of the
Court.[40]
Nevertheless, there is a need to correct the erroneous impression of the trial court as well as the
private respondents that petitioners are barred from assailing the Order dated March 22, 1999
which reinstated the case because it was not objected to within the reglementary period or even
thereafter via a motion for reconsideration despite receipt thereof on March 26, 1999.
It must be clarified that the said order is but a resolution on an incidental matter which does not
touch on the merits of the case or put an end to the proceedings.[41] It is an interlocutory order
since there leaves something else to be done by the trial court with respect to the merits of the
case.[42] As such, it is not subject to a reglementary period. Reglementary period refers to the
period set by the rules for appeal or further review of a final judgment or order, i.e., one that
ends the litigation in the trial court.
Moreover, the remedy against an interlocutory order is generally not to resort forthwith to
certiorari, but to continue with the case in due course and, when an unfavorable verdict is
handed down, to take an appeal in the manner authorized by law.[43] Only when the court issued
such order without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion and when the
assailed interlocutory order is patently erroneous and the remedy of appeal would not afford
adequate and expeditious relief will certiorari be considered an appropriate remedy to assail an

interlocutory order.[44] Such special circumstances are absolutely wanting in the present case.
Time and again, the Court has held that the Manchester rule has been modified in Sun Insurance
Office, Ltd. (SIOL) vs. Asuncion[45] which defined the following guidelines involving the payment
of docket fees:
1. It is not simply the filing of the complaint or appropriate initiatory pleading, but the payment
of the prescribed docket fee, that vests a trial court with jurisdiction over the subject-matter or
nature of the action. Where the filing of the initiatory pleading is not accompanied by payment
of the docket fee, the court may allow payment of the fees within a reasonable time but in no
case beyond the applicable prescriptive or reglementary period.
2. The same rule applies to permissive counterclaims, third-party claims and similar pleadings,
which shall not be considered filed until and unless the filing fee prescribed therefor is paid. The
court may also allow payment of said fee within a reasonable time but also in no case beyond its
applicable prescriptive or reglementary period.
3. Where the trial court acquires jurisdiction over a claim by the filing of the appropriate
pleading and payment of the prescribed filing fee but, subsequently, the judgment awards a
claim not specified in the pleading, or if specified the same has been left for determination by
the court, the additional filing fee therefor shall constitute a lien on the judgment. It shall be the
responsibility of the Clerk of Court or his duly authorized deputy to enforce said lien and assess
and collect the additional fee.
Plainly, while the payment of the prescribed docket fee is a jurisdictional requirement, even its
non-payment at the time of filing does not automatically cause the dismissal of the case, as long
as the fee is paid within the applicable prescriptive or reglementary period, more so when the
party involved demonstrates a willingness to abide by the rules prescribing such payment.[46]
Thus, when insufficient filing fees were initially paid by the plaintiffs and there was no intention
to defraud the government, the Manchester rule does not apply.[47]
Under the peculiar circumstances of this case, the reinstatement of the complaint was just and
proper considering that the cause of action of private respondents, being a real action, prescribes
in thirty years,[48] and private respondents did not really intend to evade the payment of the
prescribed docket fee but simply contend that they could not be faulted for inadequate
assessment because the clerk of court made no notice of demand or reassessment.[49] They were
in good faith and simply relied on the assessment of the clerk of court.
Furthermore, the fact that private respondents prayed for payment of damages in amounts
justified by the evidence does not call for the dismissal of the complaint for violation of SC
Circular No. 7, dated March 24, 1988 which required that all complaints must specify the
amount of damages sought not only in the body of the pleadings but also in the prayer in order
to be accepted and admitted for filing. Sun Insurance effectively modified SC Circular No. 7 by
providing that filing fees for damages and awards that cannot be estimated constitute liens on
the awards finally granted by the trial court.[50]
Thus, while the docket fees were based only on the real property valuation, the trial court
acquired jurisdiction over the action, and judgment awards which were left for determination by
the court or as may be proven during trial would still be subject to additional filing fees which
shall constitute a lien on the judgment. It would then be the responsibility of the Clerk of Court
of the trial court or his duly authorized deputy to enforce said lien and assess and collect the
additional fees.[51]
It is worth noting that when Bertuldo filed his Answer on July 2, 1991, he did not raise the issue
of lack of jurisdiction for non-payment of correct docket fees. Instead, he based his defense on a
claim of ownership and participated in the proceedings before the trial court. It was only in
September 22, 1998 or more than seven years after filing the answer, and under the auspices of a
4

new counsel, that the issue of jurisdiction was raised for the first time in the motion to expunge
by Bertuldos heirs.
After Bertuldo vigorously participated in all stages of the case before the trial court and even
invoked the trial courts authority in order to ask for affirmative relief, petitioners, considering
that they merely stepped into the shoes of their predecessor, are effectively barred by estoppel
from challenging the trial courts jurisdiction. Although the issue of jurisdiction may be raised at
any stage of the proceedings as the same is conferred by law, it is nonetheless settled that a party
may be barred from raising it on ground of laches or estoppel.[52]
Moreover, no formal substitution of the parties was effected within thirty days from date of
death of Bertuldo, as required by Section 16, Rule 3[53] of the Rules of Court. Needless to stress,
the purpose behind the rule on substitution is the protection of the right of every party to due
process. It is to ensure that the deceased party would continue to be properly represented in the
suit through the duly appointed legal representative of his estate.[54] Non-compliance with the
rule on substitution would render the proceedings and judgment of the trial court infirm
because the court acquires no jurisdiction over the persons of the legal representatives or of the
heirs on whom the trial and the judgment would be binding.[55] Thus, proper substitution of
heirs must be effected for the trial court to acquire jurisdiction over their persons and to obviate
any future claim by any heir that he was not apprised of the litigation against Bertuldo or that he
did not authorize Atty. Petalcorin to represent him.
The list of names and addresses of the heirs was submitted sixteen months after the death of
Bertuldo and only when the trial court directed Atty. Petalcorin to comply with the provisions of
Section 16, Rule 3 of the Rules of Court. Strictly speaking therefore, before said compliance, Atty.
Petalcorin had no standing in the court a quo when he filed his pleadings. Be that as it may, the
matter has been duly corrected by the Order of the trial court dated October 15, 1999.
To be sure, certiorari under Rule 65[56] is a remedy narrow in scope and inflexible in character. It
is not a general utility tool in the legal workshop.[57] It offers only a limited form of review. Its
principal function is to keep an inferior tribunal within its jurisdiction.[58] It can be invoked only
for an error of jurisdiction, that is, one where the act complained 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 to lack or in excess of jurisdiction,[59] not to be used for any other
purpose,[60] such as to cure errors in proceedings or to correct erroneous conclusions of law or
fact.[61] A contrary rule would lead to confusion, and seriously hamper the administration of
justice.
Petitioners utterly failed to show that the trial court gravely abused its discretion in issuing the
assailed resolutions. On the contrary, it acted prudently, in accordance with law and
jurisprudence.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition for certiorari is DISMISSED for lack of merit.
No costs.
SO ORDERED.
Puno, (Chairman), Callejo, Sr., Tinga and Chico-Nazario, JJ., concur.

G.R. No. 117970. July 28, 1998.*
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. ULYSSES M. CAWALING, ERNESTO
TUMBAGAHAN, RICARDO DE LOS SANTOS, and HILARIO CAJILO, accused-appellants.
Criminal Procedure; Courts; Jurisdiction; Statutory Construction; The jurisdiction of a court to try a
criminal case is determined by the law in force at the time of the institution of the action; Exceptions.—
The jurisdiction of a court to try a criminal case is determined by the law in force at the time of
the institution of the action. Once the court acquires jurisdiction, it may not be ousted from the
case by any subsequent events, such as a new legislation placing such proceedings under the
jurisdiction of another tribunal. The only recognized exceptions to the rule, which find no
application in the case at bar, arise when: (1) there is an express provision in the statute, or (2)
the statute is clearly intended to apply to actions pending before its enactment.
Same; Same; Same; Sandiganbayan; Public Officers; In the absence of any allegation that the offense was
committed in relation to the office of the accused or was necessarily connected with the discharge of their
functions, the regional trial court, not the Sandiganbayan, has jurisdiction to hear and decide the case.—
Jurisdiction is determined by the allegations in the complaint or information. In the absence of
any allegation that the offense was committed in relation to the office of appellants or was
necessarily connected with the discharge of their functions, the regional trial court, not the
Sandiganbayan, has jurisdiction to hear and decide the case.
Constitutional Law; Double Jeopardy; Requisites.—There is double jeopardy when the following
requisites are present: (1) a first jeopardy has attached prior to the second; (2) the first jeopardy
has been validly terminated; and (3) a second jeopardy is for the same offense as that in the first.
And the first jeopardy attaches only (a) after a valid indictment; (b) before a competent court; (c)
after arraignment; (d) when a valid plea has been entered; and (e) when the accused was
acquitted or convicted, or the case was dismissed or otherwise terminated without his express
consent.
Criminal Law; Witnesses; Judgments; The general rule that factual findings of trial courts deserve respect
and are not disturbed on appeal does not apply when the judge who penned the decision was not the same
one who had heard the prosecution witnesses testify.—As a general rule, the factual findings of trial
courts deserve respect and are not disturbed on appeal, unless some facts or circumstances of
weight and substance have been overlooked, misapprehended or misinterpreted, and would
otherwise materially affect the disposition of the case. This rule, however, does not apply when
the judge who penned the decision was not the same one who had heard the prosecution
witnesses testify, as in the present case. Nonetheless, we have carefully perused and considered
the voluminous records of this case, and we find no reason to alter the findings of the court a quo
in regard to the credibility of the prosecution witnesses and their testimonies.
Same; Same; Family members who have witnessed the killing of their loved one usually strive to remember
the faces of the assailants.—The three aforementioned witnesses narrated in detail the assault
against their brother Ronie and positively identified the appellants as the perpetrators. The trial
court cannot be faulted for relying on their testimonies and accepting them as true, especially
when the defense failed, to prove any ill motive on their part. In addition, family members who
have witnessed the killing of their loved one usually strive to remember the faces of the
assailants. Thus, the relationship per se of witnesses with the victim does not necessarily mean
that the former are biased. On the contrary, it is precisely such relationship that would impel
them to seek justice and put the real culprit behind bars, rather than impute the offense to the
innocent.
Same; Murder; Autopsies; It is within the power of public officers to request or secure from the court, or
any other competent authority, an order for autopsy.—First, Bebelinia Sacapaño merely cleaned the
cadaver and made no further examination. Second, appellants had an opportunity to have the
body examined again to determine or prove important matters, such as whether Ronie was
drunk, if he fired a gun, how many and what caliber of guns were used in shooting him; they
5

did not, however, avail themselves of this opportunity. As public officers, appellants knew that
it was within their power to request or secure from the court, or any other competent authority,
an order for another autopsy or any such evidence as may affirm their innocence. Third, their
conviction lies in the strong and convincing testimonial evidence of the prosecution, not in the
corroborative testimony of Bebelinia Sacapaño.
Same; Same; Witnesses; The testimony of a witness, although not formally offered in evidence, may still be
admitted by the courts, if the other party does not object to its presentation.—Appellant Cawaling also
questions the trial court’s reliance on the testimonies of Dr. Blandino Flores, Nelson Ilisan and
Prosecutor Pedro Victoriano, Jr., for failure of the prosecution to offer them as evidence. In
People vs. Java, this Court ruled that the testimony of a witness, although not formally offered in
evidence, may still be admitted by the courts, if the other party does not object to its
presentation. The Court explained: “Section 36 of [Rule 132] requires that an objection in the
course of the oral examination of a witness should be made as soon as the grounds therefor shall
become reasonably apparent. Since n objection to the admissibility of evidence was made in the
court below, an objection raised for the first time on appeal will not be considered.” In the
present case, a cursory reading of the stenographic notes reveals that the counsel for the
appellants did not raise any objection when said witnesses testified on the matters now being
impugned. Moreover, they repeatedly cross-examined the witnesses, which shows that they had
waived their objections to the said testimonies of such witnesses.
Criminal Procedure; Prosecutors; Unlike judges who are mandated to display cold neutrality in hearing
cases, prosecutors are not required to divest themselves of their personal convictions and refrain from
exhibiting partiality—they may prosecute with earnestness and vigor but while they may strike hard
blows, they are not at liberty to strike foul ones.—Appellant Mayor Cawaling questions the motive
of Prosecutor Pedro Victoriano, Jr. This contention is likewise bereft of merit. Unlike judges who
are mandated to display cold neutrality in hearing cases, prosecutors are not required to divest
themselves of their personal convictions and refrain from exhibiting partiality. In this case, there
is reasonable ground for Prosecutor Victoriano to believe that an offense has been committed
and that the accused was probably guilty thereof. Under the circumstance, it is his sworn duty
to see that justice is served. Thus, “[h]e may prosecute with earnestness and vigor—indeed, he
should do so. But, while he may strike hard blows, he is not at liberty to strike foul ones. It is as
much his duty to refrain from improper methods calculated to produce a wrongful conviction as
it is to use every legitimate means to bring about a just one.”
Criminal Law; Murder; Justifying Circumstances; Self-Defense; Unlawful aggression on the part of the
victim is a condition sine qua non for the successful invocation of self-defense.—Unlawful aggression
on the part of the victim is a condition sine qua non for the successful invocation of self-defense.
As factually found by the trial court, unlawful aggression did not start with the victim, but
rather with the appellants. Cawaling and his men proceeded to the C & J-4 Kitchenette and
waited for Ronie to come out. When the victim did, they chased and shot him without giving
him any opportunity to defend himself.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Basic is the rule that when unlawful aggression ceases, the defender no longer
has the right to kill or even wound the former aggressor.—Granting arguendo the veracity of the
defense’s factual version, it is important to note that appellants admitted that Ronie was running
away from them when they chased and shot him. Thus, unlawful aggression—assuming it was
initially present—had ceased, and the appellants no longer had any right to pursue the offender.
Basic is the rule that when unlawful aggression ceases, the defender no longer has the right to
kill or even wound the former aggressor. Upon the cessation of the unlawful aggression and the
danger or risk to life and limb, there should be a corresponding cessation of hostilities on the
part of the person defending himself.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Jurisprudence teaches that when an accused admits having committed the crime
but invokes self-defense to escape criminal liability, then the burden of proof is reversed and shifted to
him.—Jurisprudence teaches that when an accused admits having committed the crime but

invokes self-defense to escape criminal liability, the burden of proof is reversed and shifted to
him. He must then prove the elements of self-defense. It necessarily follows that he must now
rely on the strength of his own evidence and not on the weakness of that of the prosecution; for
even if the latter evidence were weak, it could not be disbelieved after the accused has admitted
the killing. Thus, appellants must establish with clear and convincing evidence that the killing
was justified, and that they incurred no criminal liability therefor. They failed to do so, and their
conviction thus becomes inevitable.
Same; Same; Same; Lawful Performance of Duties; Requisites.—Appellants contend that the killing of
Ronie resulted from the lawful performance of their duties as police officers. However, such
justifying circumstance may be invoked only after the defense successfully proves that (1) the
accused acted in the performance of a duty, and (2) the injury or offense committed is the
necessary consequence of the due performance or lawful exercise of such duty. These two
requisites are wanting in this case.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Performance of duties does not include murder.—The appellants, except
Mayor Cawaling, were men in uniform who happened to be on duty when they killed Ronie.
The victim was not committing any offense at the time. Killing the victim under the
circumstances of this case cannot in any wise be considered a valid performance of a lawful duty
by men who had sworn to maintain peace and order and to protect the lives of the people. As
aptly held in People vs. De la Cruz, “Performance of duties does not include murder.” That Ronie
was a troublemaker in their town is not an excuse; as the Court declared in the same case of
People vs. De la Cruz, “Murder is never justified, regardless of the victim.”
Same; Same; Alibi and Denial; Alibi and denial, if not substantiated by clear and convincing evidence, are
negative and self-serving evidence undeserving of weight in law.—We likewise brush aside the
defenses of alibi and denial raised by Appellant De los Santos. Prosecution witnesses positively
identified him and Fontamillas as part of the group which chased and shot Ronie Ilisan. It is
elementary that alibi and denial are outweighed by positive identification that is categorical,
consistent and untainted by any ill motive on the part of the eyewitness testifying on the matter.
Alibi and denial, if not substantiated by clear and convincing evidence, are negative and selfserving evidence undeserving of weight in law.
Same; Same; Same; Alibi is always considered with suspicion and received with caution, not only because
it is inherently weak and unreliable, but also because it is easily fabricated and concocted.—Alibi is
always considered with suspicion and received with caution, not only because it is inherently
weak and unreliable, but also because it is easily fabricated and concocted. It is therefore
incumbent upon the appellant to prove that he was at another place when the felony was
committed, and that it was physically impossible for him to have been at the scene of the crime
at the time it was committed. This he failed to prove.
Same; Same; Evidence; Conspiracy; Direct proof of conspiracy is rarely found, for criminals do not write
down their lawless plans and plots.—The trial court correctly appreciated the presence of
conspiracy. Conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the
commission of a felony and decide to commit it. Direct proof of conspiracy is rarely found, for
criminals do not write down their lawless plans and plots. The agreement to commit a crime,
however, may be deduced from the mode and manner of the commission of the offense or
inferred from acts that point to a joint purpose and design, concerted action, and community of
intent. It does not matter who inflicted the mortal wound, as the act of one is the act of all, and
each incurs the same criminal liability.
Same; Same; Same; Equipoise Rule; Presumption of Innocence; The equipoise rule finds application if the
inculpatory facts and circumstances are capable of two or more explanations, one of which is consistent
with the innocence of the accused and the other consistent with his guilt, for then the evidence does not
fulfill the test of moral certainty, and is not sufficient to support a conviction.—We reject appellants’
position that the equipoise rule should apply to this case. In People vs. Lagnas, the Court, through
6

Mr. Justice Florenz D. Regalado, described this rule as follows: “Once again, albeit in effect a
supportive and cumulative consideration in view of the preceding disquisition, the equipoise
rule finds application in this case, that is, if the inculpatory facts and circumstances are capable
of two or more explanations, one of which is consistent with the innocence of the accused and
the other consistent with his guilt, then the evidence does not fulfill the test of moral certainty,
and is not sufficient to support a conviction.”
Same; Same; Aggravating Circumstances; Treachery; The essence of treachery is the sudden and
unexpected attack without the slightest provocation on the part of the person attacked.—Treachery exists
when the malefactors employ means and methods that tend directly and especially to insure
their execution without risk to themselves arising from the defense which the victims might
make. The essence of treachery is the sudden and unexpected attack without the slightest
provocation on the part of the person attacked. While we do not disregard the fact that the
victim, together with his brother Vicente, was able to run towards a rice field, we still believe
that treachery attended the killing. In People vs. Landicho, we ruled that treachery might still be
appreciated even when the victim was warned of danger to his person, for “what is decisive is
that the execution of the attack made it impossible for the victim to defend himself or to
retaliate.”
Same; Same; Same; Abuse of Superior Strength; The aggravating circumstance of abuse of superior
strength is deemed absorbed in treachery.—We cannot appreciate the aggravating circumstance of
abuse of superior strength, however, as we have consistently ruled that it is deemed absorbed in
treachery.
Same; Same; Same; Evident Premeditation; Requisites.—We also affirm the finding of the trial court
that the prosecution failed to prove the attending circumstance of evident premeditation. To
prove this aggravating circumstance, the prosecution must show the following: (1) the time
when the offender determined to commit the crime; (2) an act manifestly indicating that the
offender clung to his determination; and (3) a lapse of time, between the determination to
commit the crime and the execution thereof, sufficient to allow the offender to reflect upon the
consequences of his act. Nothing in the records shows how and when the plan to kill was
hatched, or how much time had elapsed before it was carried out.
Same; Same; Damages; Formula for Loss of Earning Capacity.—We cannot do the same to the award
of actual damages and lost earnings, however. The award of actual damages has no basis, as no
receipts were presented to substantiate the expenses allegedly incurred. An alleged pecuniary
loss must be established by credible evidence before actual damages may be awarded. Similarly
erroneous is the award for loss of earning capacity, which should be computed as follows: “2/3
x [80 - age of victim at the time of death] x [reasonable portion of the annual net income which
would have been received as support by heirs].”
Same; Same; Mitigating Circumstances; Voluntary Surrender; Requisites.—Appellants failed to prove
the requisites for voluntary surrender, which are: (1) the offender has not been actually arrested;
(2) the offender surrenders himself to a person in authority or to the latter’s agent; and (3) the
surrender is voluntary. The records reveal that a warrant of arrest was actually served on
Tumbagahan and Cajilo on September 2, 1987 and that they were in fact detained.
APPEAL from a decision of the Regional Trial Court of Romblon, Romblon, Br. 81.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.
The Solicitor General for plaintiff-appellee.
Joselito R. Enriquez for E. Tumbagahan and H. Cajilo.
Soo, Gutierrez, Leogardo & Lee and Napolion Galit for accused-appellants.
PANGANIBAN, J.:

It is axiomatic that once an accused-appellant admits killing the victim, he bears the burden of
establishing the presence of any circumstance like self-defense, performance of a lawful duty or,
for that matter, double jeopardy, which may relieve him of responsibility, or which may
mitigate his criminal liability.1 If he fails to discharge this burden, his conviction becomes
inevitable. In this Decision, we also reiterate the following doctrines: (1) the regional trial court,
not the Sandiganbayan, has jurisdiction over informations for murder committed by public
officers, including a town mayor; (2) the assessment of trial courts on the credibility of witnesses
and their testimonies deserve great respect; (3) the equipoise rule cannot be invoked where the
evidence of the prosecution is overwhelming; (4) alibi cannot be believed in the face of credible
testimony identifying the appellants; and (5) conspiracy may be proven by circumstantial
evidence.
The Case
Before us is an appeal from the 34-page Decision2 dated October 21, 1994, promulgated by the
Regional Trial Court of Romblon in Criminal Case No. OD-269. Convicted of murder were
former Mayor Ulysses M. Cawaling and Policemen Ernesto Tumbagahan,3 Ricardo De los
Santos and Hilario Cajilo.
Prior to the institution of the criminal case against all the appellants, an administrative case4 had
been filed before the National Police Commission, in which Policemen Ernesto Tumbagahan,
Ricardo De los Santos, Hilario Cajilo (three of herein appellants) and Andres Fontamillas were
charged by Nelson Ilisan5 with the killing of his brother Ronie6 Ilisan. On April 6, 1986,
Adjudication Board No. 147 rendered its Decision which found Tumbagahan, De los Santos,
Cajilo and Fontamillas guilty of grave misconduct and ordered their dismissal from the service
with prejudice.8 On June 26, 1986, the Board issued a resolution,9 dismissing the respondents’
motion for reconsideration for lack of merit.
Subsequently, on June 4, 1987, Second Assistant Provincial Fiscal Alexander Mortel filed, before
the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Odiongan, Romblon,10 an Information for murder11 against the
appellants and Andres Fontamillas. The accusatory portion reads:
“That on or about the 4th day of December 1982, at around 9:00 o’clock in the evening, in the
Poblacion, [M]unicipality of San Jose, [P]rovince of Romblon, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, with intent to kill, conspiring,
confederating and mutually helping one another, did then and there, by means of treachery and
with evident premeditation and taking advantage of their superior strenght [sic] willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and shoot RONIE ILISAN, with the use of firearms,
inflicting upon the latter multiple mortal injuries in different parts of his body which were the
direct and immediate cause of his death.”
Accused Tumbagahan, De los Santos, Cajilo and Fontamillas, with the assistance of their
lawyers Atty. Abelardo V. Calsado and Juanito Dimaano, pleaded not guilty when arraigned on
February 15, 1988;12 while Accused Cawaling, assisted by Counsel Jovencio Q. Mayor, entered a
plea of not guilty on March 16, 1988.13
After due trial,14 the court a quo15 rendered its Decision dated October 21, 1994,16 the decretal
portion of which reads:
“WHEREFORE, this Court finds the accused (1) ULYSSES M. CAWALING, (2) ERNESTO
TUMBAGAHAN, (3) RICARDO DELOS SANTOS, (4) HILARIO CAJILO, AND (5) ANDRES
FONTAMILLAS GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of MURDER under the
Information, dated June 4, 1987, and sentences each of them to suffer the penalty of reclusion
perpetua, with the accessory penalties of the law.
The accused, jointly and severally, are ORDERED to pay Nelson Elisan the sum of P6,000.00 as
actual damages and the heirs of the deceased Ronie Elisan the sums of P116,666.66 by way of
7

lost earnings and P50,000.00 as indemnity for death, without subsidiary imprisonment in case of
insolvency, and to pay the costs.
The bail bonds of all the accused are ORDERED CANCELLED and all said accused are
ORDERED immediately confined in jail.
The slug (Exh. A); the .38 caliber revolver (with 3 empty shells and 3 live bullets) (Exh. G); and
the slug of bullet (Exh. H) are confiscated in favor of the government.
After the judgment has become final, the Officer-in-Charge, Office of the Clerk of Court, this
Court, is ordered to deliver and deposit the foregoing Exhibits A, F, G and H, inclusive, to the
Provincial Director, PNP, of the Province of Romblon properly receipted. Thereafter, the receipt
must be attached to the record of the case and shall form part of the record.
The period of preventive imprisonment the accused had undergone shall be credited in their
favor to its full extent pursuant to Article 29 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended.
The case against co-accused ALEX BATUIGAS who is at large is ORDERED ARCHIVED
pending his arrest.”17
Hence, this appeal.18

us.[”] Imelda stopped crying.
After a while, brothers Nelson and Vicente Elisan went to the house of barangay captain Aldolfo
Tumbagahon. The three (3) went to the townhall and called the police but there was none there.
Going to the house of the Chief of Police Oscar Montero, they were told by his wife that
Commander Montero was in the house of Mayor Cawaling. They proceeded to the place where
Ronie Elisan was shot. The cadaver was brought to the house of Nelson Elisan. Vicente Elisan
found an empty shell of a .45 caliber about three (3) arm’s length from the body of the victim.
They surrendered it to the Napolcom.”19
Dr. Blandino C. Flores described the gunshot wounds of the victim as follows:
“Gunshot Wounds:
1. Shoulder:
Gun shot wound 1/2 x 1/2 inch in diameter shoulder right 2 inches from the neck with
contussion [sic] collar s[u]rrounding the wound.
2. Right Axilla:

The Facts

Gun shot wound 1/4 x 1/4 inch in diameter, 2 inches below the right nipple with contussion
[sic] collar s[u]rrounding the wound.

Version of the Prosecution

3. Left Axilla:

The trial court gives this summary of the facts as viewed by the prosecution witnesses:

Exit of the gun shot wound from the right axilla, measuring 1/2 x 1/2 inch with edges everted,
one inch below the axilla and one inch below the level of the nipple.

“The killing occurred on December 4, 1982 at around 9:00 o’clock in the evening at the ricefield
of Poblacion, San Jose, Romblon when the bright moon was already above the sea at an angle of
about 45 degrees, or if it was daytime, it was about 9:00 o’clock in the morning (Imelda Elisan
Tumbagahon, on direct examination, tsn, Jan. 17, 1989, p. 5, and on cross-examination, tsn, April
18, 1989, p. 22).
On December 4, 1982, about 8:00 o’clock or 8:30 o’clock in the evening, Vicente Elisan and his
elder brother Ronie Elisan, the victim, were drinking tuba at C & J-4 Kitchenette of co-accused
Andres Fontamillas in Poblacion, San Jose, Romblon. When they stood up to go home, Luz
Venus, the wife of Diosdado Venus, told them not to go out because the accused were watching
them outside about three (3) meters from the restaurant. Diosdado Venus accompanied them
upon their request and they went out and walked towards home. About a hundred meters from
the restaurant, the six (6) accused, that is, Mayor Cawaling, the four (4) policemen, namely,
Hilario Cajilo, Andres Fontamillas, Ernesto Tumbagahan and Ricardo delos Santos, and civilian
Alex Batuigas, the mayor’s brother-in-law, flashlighted them and Diosdado Venus ran going
back. The two (2) brothers also ran towards home to the house of their elder sister Imelda Elisan
Tumbagahon. Co-accused Andres Fontamillas and Hilario Cajilo blocked them on the gate of
the fence of their sister’s house. Ronie Elisan ran towards the ricefield. The accused were chasing
them. Vicente Elisan saw his brother Ronie f[a]ll down on the ricefield while he ran towards the
bushes and la[y] on the ground. Ronie Elisan rose up by kneeling and raising his two (2) hands.
All the six (6) accused approached him with their flashlights and shot him. Ronie fell down
about twenty (20) meters from the bushes where Vicente Elisan hid behind the coconut tree. Coaccused Cawaling said [“]you left him, he is already dead.[”] Mayor Cawaling was armed with
.45 caliber, policemen Andres Fontamillas and Hilario Cajilo were both with armalites, Ernesto
Tumbagahan and Ricardo delos Santos were both with .38 caliber and so with civilian Alex
Batuigas. They left towards the house of Mayor Cawaling. After they were gone, Vicente Elisan
ran towards the house of his older brother Nelson Elisan. Upon seeing him, Vicente told Nelson
that Ronie was already dead. Nelson said nothing. While they were there, elder sister Imelda
Elisan Tumbagahon, who was crying came. She said: “Manong, patay ron si Ronie.” (Brother,
Ronie is already dead). Nelson said [“]do not be noisy; they might come back and kill all of

4. Back:
Gun shot wound measuring 1/4 x 1/4 inch, along the vertebral column, right at the level of the
10th ribs with contussion [sic] collar.
5. Leg, Left:
Gun shot wound measuring 1/4 x 1/4 anterior aspect upper third leg with contussion [sic]
collar, with the exit 1/2 x 1/2 posterior aspect upper third leg, left.”20
Based on the death certificate (Exhibit E) issued by Dr. Flores, Ronie Ilisan died of “severe
hemorrhage and gun shot wo[unds].”21
Version of the Defense
Appellant Cawaling, in his 47-page Brief,22 presented his own narration of the incident as
follows:
“At around 7:00 in the evening of December 4, 1982, Ulysses Cawaling, then the mayor of the
[M]unicipality of San Jose in the [P]rovince of Romblon, arrived aboard a hired motorized boat
from Manila in the seashore of San Jose. From the seashore, he immediately proceeded to his
home. At around 7:30 in the evening, Cawaling went to the municipal hall to check on
administrative matters that piled up in the course of his trip to Manila. He also went inside the
police station (located inside the municipal building) to be apprised of any developments, after
which he went out and joined Pfc. Tumbagahan and Pfc. Cajilo who were standing near the
flagpole in front of the municipal building. The three engaged in a conversation. Cawaling
learned that the two police officers were the ones assigned for patrol/alert for that night. The
three of them went inside the INP office and there Cawaling informed the two policemen that he
received information from reliable persons that certain persons were plotting to kill him and a
member of the town’s police force. It is to be noted that this occurred at the height of the
communist insurgency and political violence in the countryside in the early 80’s. Hence, such
8

information was taken very seriously, having been relayed by sources independent of each
other.
Cawaling, as town chief then empowered with supervisory authority over the local police,
accompanied Pfc. Tumbagahan and Pfc. Cajilo in conducting patrol and surveillance operations
around the small municipality. He usually did this as routine since Romblon was then plagued
with political assassinations and armed conflict. On their way to the seashore, they passed by C
& J-4 Kitchenette, and chanced upon Ronnie Ilisan and his brother Vicente Ilisan drinking liquor
and discussing in very loud voices. They stopped right in the front of the restaurant and there
they heard Ronnie Ilisan state in a very loud voice that he will kill a person that night. Inside the
restaurant, without the knowledge then of Cawaling and the two police officers, witness Gil
Palacio, who was buying cigarettes and Luz Venus, the cook/server of the restaurant, saw
Ronnie Ilisan, very drunk, brandishing in the air a .38 caliber Smith and Wesson revolver with a
protruding screw.
Initially dismissing Ronnie Ilisan’s statement as just another hollow swagger of an intoxicated
person (“salitang lasing”), Cawaling and the two policemen proceeded on their way. After the
patrol, they returned to the municipal building and stationed themselves in front. At around
8:30 in the evening, Ronnie Elisan passed by the municipal hall walking towards the direction of
the house of Nelson Ilisan, another brother, and shouted the challenge, “gawas ang maisog,”
meaning THOSE WHO ARE BRAVE, COME OUT. Cawaling and the two police officers again
brushed aside [the] challenge as just another foolish drunken revelry [o]n the part of Ronnie
Ilisan, a well-known troublemaker in the small municipality.
A few moments later, after Ronie Ilisan had passed by, they distinctly heard a gunshot and
hysterical female voices shouting, “pulis, tabang” meaning POLICE! HELP! four times. Impelled
by the call of duty, Cawaling and the two policemen immediately ran in the direction of the
gunshot and the desperate female voices until they reached the house of Nelson Ilisan in San
Jose Street. At this point, they saw Ronnie Ilisan holding a .38 caliber revolver. They also saw
Vicente Ilisan, Francisco Tesnado, Fe Ilisan, the wife of Nelson and Delma Ilisan, the wife of
Vicente, the latter two being the same persons who cried “pulis, tabang” four times. Cawaling
then told Ronnie to surrender his gun but the latter responded by pointing the gun at Cawaling
and pulling the trigger.
At the precise moment that the gun fired, Cawaling warned the two policemen to drop to the
ground by shouting “dapa.” Fortunately, Cawaling was not hit. Ronnie Ilisan then turned
around and ran towards the church. The two policemen gave chase. Cawaling, still shaken and
trembling after the mischance was initially left behind but followed shortly. When Ronnie Ilisan
reached the church, he turned around and again fired at the pursuing Pfc. Cajilo. Fortunately,
the gun misfired. When they finally reached the ricefield, Pfc. Cajilo fired two (2) warning shots
in the air for Ronnie to surrender. Ronnie responded by firing once again at Pfc. Tumbagahan
but failed to hit the latter. At that instance, Pfc. Cajilo counter-fired at Ronnie Ilisan hitting him.
Pfc. Tumbagahan also fired his weapon in the heat of exchange and also hit Ronnie Ilisan. As a
result of the gunshot wounds, Ronnie Ilisan later on succumbed.
Pfc. Tumbagahan picked up the gun still in the hand of the dead Ronnie Ilisan and gave it to Pfc.
Cajilo. The three, Cawaling, who subsequently caught up with them after the incident, and the
two police officers, then proceeded to the police station located in the municipal building to
formally report the incident in their station blotter.”23
The “Brief for All of the Accused-Appellants” filed by Atty. Napoleon U. Galit and the “Brief for
Appellants Ernesto Tumbagahan and Hilario Cajilo” submitted by Atty. Joselito R. Enriquez
merely repeated the facts as narrated by the trial court.
Ruling of the Trial Court
Finding the prosecution witnesses and their testimonies credible, the court a quo convicted the

appellants. The killing was qualified to murder because of the aggravating circumstances of
abuse of superior strength and treachery. The trial court ruled that there was a notorious
inequality of forces between the victim and his assailants, as the latter were greater in number
and armed with guns. It further ruled that abuse of superior strength absorbed treachery, as it
ratiocinated:
“ ‘Certain cases,’ an authority wrote, ‘involving the killing of helpless victim by assailants
superior to them in arms or numbers, or victims who were overpowered before being killed,
were decided on the theory that the killing was treacherous, when perhaps the correct
qualifying circumstance would be abuse of superiority. In these cases the attack was not sudden
nor unexpected and the element of surprise was lacking.’ (Id., I Aquino, pp. 423-424). In the
instant case, we earlier ruled that the qualifying treachery should be considered as an exception
to the general rule on treachery because it was not present at the inception of the attack. The
killing was not sudden nor unexpected and the element of surprise was lacking. It is for this
reason that we hold that alevosia should be deemed absorbed or included in abuse of superiority.
Even assuming ex-gratia argumenti that it should be the other way around, the situation will not
be of help, penaltywise, to the accused.”24
The defenses raised by the appellants were dismissed and their witnesses declared unworthy of
belief for the following reasons:
1. It was highly improbable that Defense Witness Tesnado would not tell his wife (Dory) and
Bebelinia Ilisan Sacapaño about the incident he had allegedly witnessed, more so when
Sacapaño was the victim’s first cousin.
2. The spot report prepared by Station Commander Oscar M. Montero, the testimonies of Cajilo
and Tumbagahan and the medical findings of Dr. Flores contradicted one another on the
following details: the caliber of the gun used in shooting the victim, the wounds inflicted and
the whereabouts of Cawaling during the shoot-out.
3. Cawaling and his men, armed with guns, could have immediately disarmed the victim at the
initial encounter. The court could not understand why the victim was able to fire his gun, run,
then stop and again fire his gun, without being caught.
4. The positive identification made by the prosecution witnesses prevails over the alibi posed by
De los Santos and Fontamillas, a defense that was not corroborated by any other witness.
5. The .38 caliber revolver, allegedly owned by the victim, was in fact owned and used by Alex
Batuigas.
6. The defense presented a photo and a sketch to prove that Imelda Ilisan Tumbagahan had an
obstructed view of the killing. The trial court ruled that such evidence was misleading, because
the window, from where said witness allegedly saw the incident, was at the eastern side of her
house, and thus afforded a clear view of the incident, while the window referred to by the
defense was at the southern portion.
7. The questioned testimonies of Dr. Flores, Nelson Ilisan and Provincial Prosecutor Pedro
Victoriano, Jr., though not formally offered as evidence, may be admitted because of the failure
of the defense to object thereto at the time they were called to testify.
8. The defense failed to prove that the prosecution witnesses had any ill motive to testify falsely
against the appellants.
9. Appellants had a motive to kill the victim. Nelson Ilisan testified that his brother Ronie (the
victim) had witnessed Bonifacio Buenaventura (a former chief commander of the San Jose Police
Force) kill a certain Ruben Ventura. Cawaling, who was Buenaventura’s first cousin, wanted
Ronie dead, because the latter had not followed his instruction to leave town to prevent him
from testifying in said case.
9

Assignment of Errors
The appellants, through their common counsel, Atty. Napoleon Galit, assign the following
errors to the lower court:

1 2. The trial court gravely erred in not finding the shooting incident a result of hot pursuit and
shoot-out between the deceased Ronnie Ilisan and the police officers in the
performance of their duty and self-defense, and in sustaining the prosecution’s
conspiracy theory;

1 “1. The trial court gravely erred in sustaining prosecutor’s theory of conspiracy and thus
renders nugatory or has totally forgotten that policemen when in actual call of duty
normally operate in group but not necessarily in conspiracy.

2 3. The trial court gravely erred in not acquitting Accused-Appellant Ulysses M. Cawaling
considering that there was blatant absence of due process in the proceedings
tantamount to mistrial.”28

2 2. The trial court gravely erred in believing the theory of the prosecution that accusedappellant Ulysses Cawaling was one of the alleged co-conspirators in the killing of the
deceased Ronnie Elisan.

This Court’s Ruling

3 3. The trial court gravely erred in not believing the defense of accused-appellant Ulysses
Cawaling that he has nothing to do with the shooting incident except to shout to
arrest the accused[,] which prompted his co-accused policemen to chase the accused
and sho[o]t him when he resisted, after he fired at Mayor Cawaling.

We affirm the conviction of the appellants. In so ruling, we will resolve the following issues: (1)
jurisdiction of the trial court, (2) double jeopardy, (3) credibility of prosecution witnesses and
their testimonies, (4) self-defense, (5) performance of lawful duty, (6) alibi, (7) conspiracy, (8)
rule on equipoise, (9) qualifying circumstances, (10) damages, and (11) attending circumstances
as they affect the penalty.

4 4. The trial court gravely erred in not giving weight to accused-appellant policemen[’s]
testimonies which carry the presumption of regularity.

We shall address the first two issues as important preliminary questions and discuss the merits
of the remaining ones, which we have culled from the errors cited by the appellants in their
aforementioned briefs.

5 5. The trial court gravely erred in not acquitting all the accused-appellants by applying ‘the
equipoise rule’ thereby resulting [i]n reasonable doubts on the guilt.”25

First Issue:

In their joint brief,26 Appellants Tumbagahan and Cajilo cite these other errors:
1

“1. The trial court gravely erred in relying on the theory of the prosecution that accusedappellants Ernesto Tumbagahan and Hilario Cajilo were alleged co-conspirators in the
killing of the victim, Ronie Ilisan.

2 2. The trial court gravely erred in not believing the defense that herein accused-appellants
merely did a lawful duty when the shooting incident happened which led to the death
of Ronnie Ilisan.
3 3. The trial court gravely erred in not acquitting herein accused-appellants by applying the
equipoise rule, thereby resulting in reasonable doubt on their guilt.
4 4. Prescinding from the foregoing, herein accused-appellants do press and hold, that the
lower court committed grave, serious and reversible error in appreciating the
qualifying circumstance of treachery (alevosia).
5 5. The lower court committed grave, serious and reversible error in convicting both accusedappellants of murder, instead merely of homicide, defined and penalized under the
Revised Penal Code.
6 6. The lower court committed grave, serious and reversible error in appreciating the
qualifying circumstance of taking advantage of superior strength.
7 7. The consummated crime being merely homicide, the mitigating circumstance of voluntary
surrender should be considered to lower the penalty of homicide.
8 8. The lower court committed error in not considering double jeopardy.
9 9. The lower court committed error in not dismissing the case for want of jurisdiction.”27
Appellant Cawaling imputes these additional errors to the court a quo:
1 “1. The trial court gravely erred in not acquitting herein accused-appellant, Ulysses M.
Cawaling, considering that he had no part in the killing and the prosecution failed to
prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt;

Jurisdiction of the Trial Court
Appellants Tumbagahan and Cajilo argue that the trial court erred when it assumed jurisdiction
over the criminal case. They insist that the Sandiganbayan, not the regular courts, had
jurisdiction to try and hear the case against the appellants, as they were public officers at the
time of the killing which was allegedly committed by reason of or in relation to their office.
We do not agree.
The jurisdiction of a court to try a criminal case is determined by the law in force at the time of
the institution of the action. Once the court acquires jurisdiction, it may not be ousted from the
case by any subsequent events, such as a new legislation placing such proceedings under the
jurisdiction of another tribunal. The only recognized exceptions to the rule, which find no
application in the case at bar, arise when: (1) there is an express provision in the statute, or (2)
the statute is clearly intended to apply to actions pending before its enactment.29
The statutes pertinent to the issue are PD 1606, as amended;30 and PD 1850, as amended by PD
1952 and BP 129.
Section 4 of PD 160631 reads:
“Sec. 4. Jurisdiction.—The Sandiganbayan shall exercise:
(a) Exclusive original jurisdiction in all cases involving:
xxx

xxx

xxx

(2) Other offenses or felonies committed by public officers and employees in relation to their
office, including those employed in government-owned or controlled corporations, whether
simple or complexed with other crimes, where the penalty prescribed by law is higher than
prision correccional or imprisonment for six (6) years, or a fine of P6,000.00: PROVIDED,
HOWEVER, that offenses or felonies mentioned in this paragraph where the penalty prescribed
by law does not exceed prision correccional or imprisonment for six (6) years or a fine of
P6,000.00 shall be tried by the proper Regional Trial Court, Metropolitan Trial Court, Municipal
Trial Court and Municipal Circuit Trial Court.
xxx

xxx

x x x”
10

However, former President Ferdinand Marcos issued two presidential decrees placing the
members of the Integrated National Police under the jurisdiction of courts-martial. Section 1 of
PD 1952,32 amending Section 1 of PD 1850, reads:
“SECTION 1. Court Martial Jurisdiction over Integrated National Police and Members of the Armed
Forces.—Any provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding—(a) uniformed members of the
Integrated National Police who commit any crime or offense cognizable by the civil courts shall
henceforth be exclusively tried by courtsmartial pursuant to and in accordance with
Commonwealth Act No. 408, as amended, otherwise known as the Articles of War; (b) all
persons subject to military law under Article 2 of the aforecited Articles of War who commit any
crime or offense shall be exclusively tried by courts-martial or their case disposed of under the
said Articles of War; Provided, that, in either of the aforementioned situations, the case shall be
disposed of or tried by the proper civil or judicial authorities when court-martial jurisdiction
over the offense has prescribed under Article 38 of Commonwealth Act Numbered 408, as
amended, or court-martial jurisdiction over the person of the accused military or Integrated National
Police personnel can no longer be exercised by virtue of their separation from the active service without
jurisdiction having duly attached beforehand unless otherwise provided by law:
PROVIDED FURTHER, THAT THE PRESIDENT MAY, IN THE INTEREST OF JUSTICE,
ORDER OR DIRECT, AT ANY TIME BEFORE ARRAIGNMENT, THAT A PARTICULAR CASE
BE TRIED BY THE APPROPRIATE CIVIL COURT.
As used herein, the term uniformed members of the Integrated National Police shall refer to
police officers, policemen, firemen, and jail guards.”
On the other hand, the jurisdiction of regular courts over civil and criminal cases was laid down
in BP 129, the relevant portion of which is quoted hereunder:
“Sec. 20. Jurisdiction in Criminal Cases.—Trial Courts shall exercise exclusive original jurisdiction
in all criminal cases not within the exclusive jurisdiction of any court, tribunal or body, except
those now falling under the exclusive and concurrent jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan which
shall hereafter be exclusively taken cognizance of by the latter.”33
In relation to the above, Section 4-a-2 of PD 1606, as amended by PD 1861, quoted earlier, lists
two requisites that must concur before the Sandiganbayan may exercise exclusive and original
jurisdiction over a case: (a) the offense was committed by the accused public officer in relation to
his office; and (b) the penalty prescribed by law is higher than prision correccional or
imprisonment for six (6) years, or higher than a fine of six thousand pesos (P6,000).34 Sanchez vs.
Demetriou35 clarified that murder or homicide may be committed both by public officers and by
private citizens, and that public office is not a constitutive element of said crime, viz.:
“The relation between the crime and the office contemplated by the Constitution is, in our
opinion, direct and not accidental. To fall into the intent of the Constitution, the relation has to
be such that, in the legal sense, the offense cannot exist without the office.
In other words, the office must be a constituent element of the crime as defined in the statute,
such as, for instance, the crimes defined and punished in Chapter Two to Six, Title Seven, of the
Revised Penal Code.
Public office is not the essence of murder. The taking of human life is either murder or homicide
whether done by a private citizen or public servant, and the penalty is the same except when the
perpetrator, being a public functionary, took advantage of his office, as alleged in this case, in
which event the penalty is increased.
But the use or abuse of office does not adhere to the crime as an element; and even as an
aggravating circumstance, its materiality arises, not from the allegations but on the proof, not
from the fact that the criminals are public officials but from the manner of the commission of the
crime.”

Furthermore, the Information filed against the appellants contains no allegation that appellants
were public officers who committed the crime in relation to their office. The charge was for
murder, a felony punishable under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code. As clarified in
Aguinaldo, et al. vs. Domagas, et al.,36 “[I]n the absence of such essential allegation, and since the
present case does not involve charges of violation of R.A. No. 3019 (the Anti-Graft etc. Act), the
Sandiganbayan does not have jurisdiction over the present case. (Bartolome vs. People, 142
SCRA 459 [1986]) Even before considering the penalty prescribed by law for the offense charged,
it is thus essential to determine whether that offense was committed or alleged to have been
committed by the public officers and employees in relation to their offices.”
Jurisdiction is determined by the allegations in the complaint or information.37 In the absence of
any allegation that the offense was committed in relation to the office of appellants or was
necessarily connected with the discharge of their functions, the regional trial court, not the
Sandiganbayan, has jurisdiction to hear and decide the case.38
Second Issue:
Double Jeopardy
In seeking their acquittal, Appellants Tumbagahan and Cajilo also invoke their right against
double jeopardy. They argue that the first jeopardy attached when a criminal case for murder
was filed before the Judge Advocate General’s Office (JAGO), which was allegedly dismissed
after several hearings had been conducted.39 We are not persuaded.
There is double jeopardy when the following requisites are present: (1) a first jeopardy has
attached prior to the second; (2) the first jeopardy has been validly terminated; and (3) a second
jeopardy is for the same offense as that in the first. And the first jeopardy attaches only (a) after
a valid indictment; (b) before a competent court; (c) after arraignment; (d) when a valid plea has
been entered; and (e) when the accused was acquitted or convicted, or the case was dismissed or
otherwise terminated without his express consent.40
For a better appreciation of appellants’ argument, we must consider PD 3941 and its
implementing rules,42 which prescribe the procedure before a military commission. A summary
preliminary investigation shall be conducted before trial for the purpose of determining whether
there is prima facie evidence to pursue trial before a military commission. The investigation
report shall contain a summary of the evidence, the acts constituting the offense or offenses
committed, and the findings and recommendations of the investigating officer. Thereafter, the
report shall be forwarded to the judge advocate general, who shall determine for either the
defense secretary or for the AFP chief of staff whether the case shall be referred for trial to a
military commission.43 Where a prima facie case is found against the accused, formal charges
shall be signed by a commissioned officer designated by the judge advocate general.44 The
accused shall then be arraigned, during which the charge and specification shall be read and the
accused shall enter his plea.45 After hearings, a record of the trial shall be forwarded to the AFP
chief of staff for proper action.46
In the present case, the appellants have presented no sufficient and conclusive evidence to show
that they were charged, arraigned and acquitted in a military commission, or that the case was
dismissed therein without their consent. The defense merely offered as evidence certain
disposition forms47 and a letter,48 dated March 8, 1983, recommending that the case against
Appellants Tumbagahan, Cajilo and De los Santos be dropped and considered closed.49 No
charge sheet and record of arraignment and trial were presented to establish the first jeopardy.
As pointed out by the solicitor general, “appellants were never arraigned, they never pleaded
before the Judge Advocate General’s Office, there was no trial, and no judgment on the merits
had been rendered.”50
Third Issue:
11

Credibility of Witnesses
As a general rule, the factual findings of trial courts deserve respect and are not disturbed on
appeal, unless some facts or circumstances of weight and substance have been overlooked,
misapprehended or misinterpreted, and would otherwise materially affect the disposition of the
case.51 This rule, however, does not apply when the judge who penned the decision was not the
same one who had heard the prosecution witnesses testify,52 as in the present case. Nonetheless,
we have carefully perused and considered the voluminous records of this case, and we find no
reason to alter the findings of the court a quo in regard to the credibility of the prosecution
witnesses and their testimonies.
Vicente Ilisan, the victim’s brother, narrated before the trial court the circumstances relevant to
the crime:
“Q.
A.

In the evening of December 4, 1982, at
about 8:00 or 8:30, where were you?
I was inside the restaurant of Andres
Fontamillas.
xxx

xxx

xxx

Q.

Since you remained inside, what did
you do?

A.

I also viewed thru the window.

Q.

Did you see them?

A.

Yes, sir.

Q.

How far were they from the restaurant?

A.

About three meters.

Q.

What were they doing outside the
restaurant?

A.

They were also viewing us.

Q.

For how long did they remain there
viewing you?

A.

Just a short time.

Q.

And later on, do you know where did
they go? [sic]

A.

No, sir. I went out from the restaurant
and when I went out, I did not see them
anymore.

Q.

What were you doing there?

A.

I was drinking tuba.

Q.

When you were about to finish drinking
tuba, what did you do?

A.

I stood up preparing to go home.

Q.

Q.

Were you able to leave that restaurant
actually?

Before you went out of the restaurant,
what did you do?

A.

Diosdado Venus accompanied us.

A.

No, sir.

Q.

Q.

Why?

Why did you ask Diosdado Venus to
accompany you?

A.

Luz Venus told us not to go out when [I]
stood up to go home.

A.

Q.

Do you know why you were advise[d]
not to go out?

Yes, sir. Because we were aware that we
were being watched from outside so we
asked to be accompanied by Diosdado
Venus.

Q.

From the restaurant accompanied by
Diosdado Venus, what did you do?

A.

Yes, sir.

Q.

Why?

A.

Towards home.

A.

Because we were being watched by
Mayor Cawaling, Andres Fontamillas,
Hilario Cajilo and Alex Bat[ui]gas.

Q.

Were you able to reach home?

A.

No, sir.

Q.

Why, what happened on the way?

A.

Diosdado Venus ran going back because
we were lighted by a flashlight.

Q.

How many flashlight[s] were trimed
[sic] to you?

A.

Six.

Q.

Did you come to know who trimed [sic]

xxx
Q.

A.

xxx

xxx

When you were informed by Luz Venus
that you should not go out because
Mayor Cawaling and the persons you
mentioned were outside watching for
you, what did you do?
We did not go out.

12

the flashlight towards you?

Q.

Now, according to you, you ran towards
the ricefield, what happened while you
were running towards the ricefield?

A.

I saw my brother fell [sic] down.

A.

Yes, sir.

Q.

Who were they?

A.

Mayor Cawaling, Andres Fontamillas,
Hilario Cajilo, Ernesto Tumbagahan,
Ricardo delos Santos and Alex Batuigas.

Q.

Fell down where?

A.

On the ricefield.

Q.

How were you able to recognize them
when that was night time?

Q.

What about you, where were you when your
brother fell down in the ricefield?

A.

Because the flashlight[s] were bright.

A.

I ran towards the bushes.

Q.

When Diosdado Venus ran back to his
restaurant, what did your brother Ronie
Elisan and you do?

Q.

What did you do upon reaching the bushes?

A.

I la[y] on the ground with my belly touch[ing]
on the ground behind the coconut tree.

Q.

When your brother according to you had
fallen on the ricefield, what did he do
thereafter?

A.

He rose up, [raised] his hands and
surrender[ed] to them.

A.

We also ran towards home.

Q.

To whose house?

A.

That of my older sister Imelda [E]lisan.

Q.

Were you able to reach that house?

A.

No, sir.

Q.

In rising, what was his position?

Q.

Why, what happened when you ran
away?

A.

A.

Andres Fontamillas and Hilario Cajilo
were blocking us on the gate of the fence
of my sister’s house.

He was rising like this. (Witness
demonstrating by kneeling [and] raising his
two hands).

Q.

While Ronie Elisan was kneeling and raising
both of his hands, what happened?

Q.

Since your way was blocked, where did
Ronie Elisan go?

A.

A.

We ran towards the ricefield.

Mayor Cawaling approached him together
with the four policemen and his brother-inlaw and they shot him.

Q.

When you ran, what did Mayor
Cawaling do?

Q.

Do you know what weapon[s] were used in
shooting your brother?

A.

They were chasing us.

A.

Yes, sir.

Q.

What about Alex Batuigas, what did he
do?

Q.

What weapon were used?

A.

A.

He also followed helping chasing us.
[sic]

Q.

What about the four policemen, what
did they do?

The weapon of Mayor Cawaling is .45 caliber
and that of Andres Fontamillas and Hilario
Cajilo were both armalite and that of Ernesto
Tumbagahan, Alex Batuigas and Ricardo
delos Santos were .38 caliber.

A.

The same. They were also chasing us.

Q.

How were you able to identify their weapons?

Q.

About how far is that restaurant [from]
the spot where you were first lighted by
the flashlight of the accused?

A.

Because the flashlight[s] were bright.

Q.

Now, what happened to your brother when
he was fired upon by the accused in this case?

A.

About one hundred meters.

A.

He fell down.
13

Q.

And how far is that spot where your elder
brother had fallen down to the spot where
Diosdado Venus left you when he returned to
the restaurant?

A.

To my estimate it is about 300 meters.

Q.

After your brother had fallen down, what did
the accused do?

A.

Mayor Cawaling said, [“]you left him, he is already dead.[”]

Q.

Where did they go?

A.

They went towards the house of Mayor Cawaling.”53

Imelda Tumbagahan was at home feeding her child when she heard her brother Ronie shouting
for help. After getting a flashlight and looking through the window of her house, she saw
Cawaling and Alex Batuigas chasing Ronie who was running towards her house. Tumbagahan
and De los Santos prevented Ronie from entering the fence of her house, as a result of which, her
brother ran towards a rice field nearby. There, on bended knees and with hands raised, Ronie
was shot by Cawaling and his men.54
Nelson Ilisan also heard his younger brother Ronie shouting for help while being chased by the
group of Cawaling. As Cajilo and Fontamillas blocked Ronie from entering the gate of Imelda’s
house, the victim ran towards a rice field. Nelson stopped Cawaling and asked, “Nong, basi
guinalagas ninyo ang acon hali? (Nong, why do you chase my brother?)” But the mayor merely
continued chasing Ronie. Thereafter, Nelson saw his brother, on his knees with both hands
raised, shot by appellants.55
The three aforementioned witnesses narrated in detail the assault against their brother Ronie
and positively identified the appellants as the perpetrators. The trial court cannot be faulted for
relying on their testimonies and accepting them as true,56 especially when the defense failed, to
prove any ill motive on their part.57 In addition, family members who have witnessed the killing
of their loved one usually strive to remember the faces of the assailants.58 Thus, the relationship
per se of witnesses with the victim does not necessarily mean that the former are biased. On the
contrary, it is precisely such relationship that would impel them to seek justice and put the real
culprit behind bars, rather than impute the offense to the innocent.59
Appellant Cawaling submits that the prosecution witnesses tampered with the evidence by
cleaning the cadaver before an autopsy could be done. “Such irregular washing of the cadaver
by a close relative of the deceased, who is educated and who presumably knew perfectly well
the need to preserve it in its original state for the medico-legal examination[,] is highly
suspicious. It points to the fact that the relatives of the deceased wanted to hide, or erase
something that would bolster and assist the defense (that is, state of drunkenness, powder burns
or lack thereof, indicating the firing of a weapon or the proximity of the weapon used on the
deceased, etc.).”60
Such contention is unavailing. First, Bebelinia Sacapaño merely cleaned the cadaver and made
no further examination. Second, appellants had an opportunity to have the body examined again
to determine or prove important matters, such as whether Ronie was drunk, if he fired a gun,
how many and what caliber of guns were used in shooting him; they did not, however, avail
themselves of this opportunity. As public officers, appellants knew that it was within their
power to request or secure from the court, or any other competent authority, an order for
another autopsy61 or any such evidence as may affirm their innocence. Third, their conviction lies
in the strong and convincing testimonial evidence of the prosecution, not in the corroborative
testimony of Bebelinia Sacapaño.

Relying on the testimonies of Luz Venus and Gil Palacio, Appellant Cawaling also pointed out
that “[t]he power of observation of alleged eyewitness Vicente was severely affected by his
intoxication. It may be inferred that an intoxicated person’s sense[s] of sight and hearing and of
touch are less acute than those of a sober person and that his observation are inexact as to what
actually occurred.”62
This argument is not persuasive. The evidence presented fails to show that Vicente was so
intoxicated that night as to affect his powers of observation and retrospection. Defense Witness
Palacio merely saw the witness drinking tuba on the night of the killing.63 Meanwhile the whole
testimony of Luz on the matter mainly reveals that Ronie was the person she was referring to as
drunk, as shown by this portion:64
“Q

When Ronie and Vicente both surnamed Ilisan entered the C & J-4 kitchenette what if any
did you observe?

A

I saw them so dr[u]nk (Nakita ko sila lasing na lasing).

Q

Who was lasing na lasing or so dr[u]nk?

A

Ronie Ilisan sir.”

Granting that Vicente was drunk, the conviction of the appellants is still inevitable in view of the
positive declarations of Witnesses Nelson and Imelda, who unequivocally identified appellants
as perpetrators of the senseless killing of their brother Ronie.
Appellant Cawaling also questions the trial court’s reliance on the testimonies of Dr. Blandino
Flores,65 Nelson Ilisan66 and Prosecutor Pedro Victoriano, Jr.,67 for failure of the prosecution to
offer them as evidence. In People vs. Java,68 this Court ruled that the testimony of a witness,
although not formally offered in evidence, may still be admitted by the courts, if the other party
does not object to its presentation. The Court explained: “Section 36 of [Rule 132] requires that
an objection in the course of the oral examination of a witness should be made as soon as the
grounds therefor shall become reasonably apparent. Since no objection to the admissibility of
evidence was made in the court below, an objection raised for the first time on appeal will not be
considered.” In the present case, a cursory reading of the stenographic notes reveals that the
counsel for the appellants did not raise any objection when said witnesses testified on the
matters now being impugned. Moreover, they repeatedly cross-examined the witnesses, which
shows that they had waived their objections to the said testimonies of such witnesses.
Lastly, Appellant Mayor Cawaling questions the motive of Prosecutor Pedro Victoriano, Jr. This
contention is likewise bereft of merit. Unlike judges who are mandated to display cold neutrality
in hearing cases,69 prosecutors are not required to divest themselves of their personal
convictions and refrain from exhibiting partiality. In this case, there is reasonable ground for
Prosecutor Victoriano to believe that an offense has been committed and that the accused was
probably guilty thereof.70 Under the circumstance, it is his sworn duty to see that justice is
served.71 Thus, “[h]e may prosecute with earnestness and vigor—indeed, he should do so. But,
while he may strike hard blows, he is not at liberty to strike foul ones. It is as much his duty to
refrain from improper methods calculated to produce a wrongful conviction as it is to use every
legitimate means to bring about a just one.”72 Further,
“Under the prevailing criminal procedure, the fiscal’s sphere of action is quite extensive, for he
has very direct and active intervention in the trial, assuming as the Government’s representative
the defense of society, which has been disturbed by the crime, and taking public action as though he
were the injured party, for the purpose of securing the offender’s punishment, whenever the crime has
been proved and the guilt of the accused as the undoubted perpetrator thereof established.”73
Fourth Issue:
Self-Defense
14

To escape criminal liability, the appellants also invoke the justifying circumstances of selfdefense and lawful performance of duty.74 Allegedly, Ronie was firing his gun and shouting
“Guwa ang maisog! (Come out who is brave!).” Then the mayor and the policemen arrived at the
scene to pacify him. Ronie fired at them, which forced them to chase him and return fire.
We find this scenario bereft of plausibility.
Unlawful aggression on the part of the victim is a condition sine qua non for the successful
invocation of self-defense.75 As factually found by the trial court, unlawful aggression did not
start with the victim, but rather with the appellants. Cawaling and his men proceeded to the C &
J-4 Kitchenette and waited for Ronie to come out. When the victim did, they chased and shot
him without giving him any opportunity to defend himself.
Granting arguendo the veracity of the defense’s factual version, it is important to note that
appellants admitted that Ronie was running away from them when they chased and shot him.
Thus, unlawful aggression—assuming it was initially present—had ceased, and the appellants
no longer had any right to pursue the offender. Basic is the rule that when unlawful aggression
ceases, the defender no longer has the right to kill or even wound the former aggressor. Upon
the cessation of the unlawful aggression and the danger or risk to life and limb, there should be
a corresponding cessation of hostilities on the part of the person defending himself.76
Furthermore, the means employed to ward off the attack was unreasonably excessive. Being
armed, the appellants could have easily ordered the victim to surrender. Even the first shot at
his shoulder would have been sufficient to immobilize him, yet they fired a succession of shots
at him while he was in no position to put up a defense.
Jurisprudence teaches that when an accused admits having committed the crime but invokes
self-defense to escape criminal liability, the burden of proof is reversed and shifted to him. He
must then prove the elements of self-defense.77 It necessarily follows that he must now rely on
the strength of his own evidence and not on the weakness of that of the prosecution; for even if
the latter evidence were weak, it could not be disbelieved after the accused has admitted the
killing.78 Thus, appellants must establish with clear and convincing evidence that the killing was
justified, and that they incurred no criminal liability therefor.79 They failed to do so, and their
conviction thus becomes inevitable.80
Fifth Issue:
Lawful Performance of Duties
Appellants contend that the killing of Ronie resulted from the lawful performance of their duties
as police officers. However, such justifying circumstance may be invoked only after the defense
successfully proves that (1) the accused acted in the performance of a duty, and (2) the injury or
offense committed is the necessary consequence of the due performance or lawful exercise of
such duty.81 These two requisites are wanting in this case.
The appellants, except Mayor Cawaling, were men in uniform who happened to be on duty
when they killed Ronie. The victim was not committing any offense at the time. Killing the
victim under the circumstances of this case cannot in any wise be considered a valid
performance of a lawful duty by men who had sworn to maintain peace and order and to
protect the lives of the people. As aptly held in People vs. De la Cruz,82 “Performance of duties
does not include murder.” That Ronie was a troublemaker in their town is not an excuse; as the
Court declared in the same case of People vs. De la Cruz, “Murder is never justified, regardless of
the victim.”

Prosecution witnesses positively identified him and Fontamillas as part of the group which
chased and shot Ronie Ilisan. It is elementary that alibi and denial are outweighed by positive
identification that is categorical, consistent and untainted by any ill motive on the part of the
eyewitness testifying on the matter. Alibi and denial, if not substantiated by clear and
convincing evidence, are negative and self-serving evidence undeserving of weight in law.83
In fact, De los Santos failed to establish with clear and convincing evidence that it was physically
impossible for him to have been at the scene of the crime during its commission.84 The evidence
he had presented demonstrated only that, at the time, he was sleeping in his house, which was
near the locus criminis.
Alibi is always considered with suspicion and received with caution, not only because it is
inherently weak and unreliable, but also because it is easily fabricated and concocted.85 It is
therefore incumbent upon the appellant to prove that he was at another place when the felony
was committed, and that it was physically impossible for him to have been at the scene of the
crime at the time it was committed.86 This he failed to prove.
Seventh Issue:
Conspiracy
The trial court correctly appreciated the presence of conspiracy. Conspiracy exists when two or
more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a felony and decide to
commit it. Direct proof of conspiracy is rarely found, for criminals do not write down their
lawless plans and plots. The agreement to commit a crime, however, may be deduced from the
mode and manner of the commission of the offense or inferred from acts that point to a joint
purpose and design, concerted action, and community of intent.87 It does not matter who
inflicted the mortal wound, as the act of one is the act of all, and each incurs the same criminal
liability.88 We concur with the trial court’s elucidation:
“All of the accused chased the victim and his brother; four (4) of whom blocked their ways, first,
to their elder brother Nelson Elisan’s house and, second, to their elder sister Imelda Elisan
Tumbagahon’s house. Having changed course by proceeding to the ricefield in their desperate
attempt to evade the accused, all the six (6) armed accused continued their pursuit. Their victim,
having fallen on the rice paddy, and rising and kneeling on it with raised hands, all the said
accused with their flashlights beamed on their victim, in a united and concerted manner, shot
him. After Ronie Elisan had fallen down, co-accused Mayor Cawaling was even heard as saying
‘(Y)ou left [sic] him, he is already dead.’ x x x.”89
Eighth Issue:
Equipoise Rule
We reject appellants’ position that the equipoise rule should apply to this case.90 In People vs.
Lagnas,91 the Court, through Mr. Justice Florenz D. Regalado, described this rule as follows:
“Once again, albeit in effect a supportive and cumulative consideration in view of the preceding
disquisition, the equipoise rule finds application in this case, that is, if the inculpatory facts and
circumstances are capable of two or more explanations, one of which is consistent with the
innocence of the accused and the other consistent with his guilt, then the evidence does not
fulfill the test of moral certainty, and is not sufficient to support a conviction.”

Sixth Issue:

In this case, the inculpatory facts point to only one conclusion: appellants are guilty. As
amplified in the discussion above, the Court agrees with the trial court that the guilt of the
appellants was proven beyond reasonable doubt.

Alibi

Ninth Issue:

We likewise brush aside the defenses of alibi and denial raised by Appellant De los Santos.

Murder or Homicide?
15

The Information alleges three qualifying circumstances: treachery, evident premeditation and
taking advantage of superior strength. If appreciated, any one of these will qualify the killing to
murder. However, Appellants Tumbagahan and Cajilo posit that there was no treachery,
reasoning that Ronie was not an unsuspecting victim, as he had been forewarned by Diosdado
Venus of the presence of the appellants inside the restaurant, and there had been a chase prior to
the killing. Further, they contend that abuse of superior strength is deemed absorbed in
treachery, and that “the addition of abuse of superior strength to qualify the case to murder is
nothing more than mere repetition—a legal chicanery, so to say. Similarly, where treachery is
not proved, there can be no abuse of superior strength, vice-versa.”92
We partly agree.
Treachery exists when the malefactors employ means and methods that tend directly and
specially to insure their execution without risk to themselves arising from the defense which the
victims might make. The essence of treachery is the sudden and unexpected attack without the
slightest provocation on the part of the person attacked.93 While we do not disregard the fact
that the victim, together with his brother Vicente, was able to run towards a rice field, we still
believe that treachery attended the killing.
In People vs. Landicho,94 we ruled that treachery might still be appreciated even when the victim
was warned of danger to his person, for “what is decisive is that the execution of the attack
made it impossible for the victim to defend himself or to retaliate.”
The appellants waited for Ronie to come out of the restaurant. All of them chased the victim and
prevented him from seeking refuge either in the house of his sister Imelda or that of his brother
Nelson. All of them carried firearms and flashlights. They fired their guns at the victim while he
was on his knees with arms raised, manifesting his intention not to fight back.
We cannot appreciate the aggravating circumstance of abuse of superior strength, however, as
we have consistently ruled that it is deemed absorbed in treachery.95
We also affirm the finding of the trial court that the prosecution failed to prove the attending
circumstance of evident premeditation. To prove this aggravating circumstance, the prosecution
must show the following: (1) the time when the offender determined to commit the crime; (2) an
act manifestly indicating that the offender clung to his determination; and (3) a lapse of time,
between the determination to commit the crime and the execution thereof, sufficient to allow the
offender to reflect upon the consequences of his act.96 Nothing in the records shows how and
when the plan to kill was hatched, or how much time had elapsed before it was carried out.
Tenth Issue:
Damages
The trial court awarded the following: (a) P50,000.00, as civil indemnity; (b) P6,000.00, as actual
damages; and (c) P116,666.66, for lost earnings. In computing the latter, the trial court used the
following formula:
“Total annual net income

= 10% x total annual gross income
= .10 x P25,000.00
= P2,500.00

xxx

xxx

xxx

Loss of earning capacity of Ronie Elisan = 2/3 (90-20) x P2,500.00 = P116,666.66.”97
Consistent with jurisprudence, we affirm the ruling of the trial court awarding the amount of
P50,000 as civil indemnity to the heirs of the victim.98

We cannot do the same to the award of actual damages and lost earnings, however. The award
of actual damages has no basis, as no receipts were presented to substantiate the expenses
allegedly incurred. An alleged pecuniary loss must be established by credible evidence before
actual damages may be awarded.99 Similarly erroneous is the award for loss of earning capacity,
which should be computed as follows:100
“2/3 x [80 - age of victim at the time of death] x [reasonable portion of the annual net income
which would have been received as support by heirs]”
As testified to by Nelson Ilisan, the deceased had been earning an average of P100 daily or
P3,000 monthly.101 From this monthly income must be deducted the reasonable amount of
P1,000 representing the living and other necessary expenses of the deceased. Hence, the lost
earnings of the deceased should be computed as follows:
= 2/3 x [80 - 22] x [P24,000]
= 2/3 x [58] x [P24,000]
= 2[P1,392,000]
3
= P2,784,000
3
= P928,000.
Eleventh Issue:
Aggravating and Mitigating Circumstances
Prior to the amendment of Section 248 of the Revised Penal Code,102 the imposable penalty for
murder was reclusion temporal in its maximum period to death. In their Brief, Appellants Cajilo
and Tumbagahan argue for the imposition of the lower penalty of reclusion temporal, contending
that their filing of bail bonds/property bonds, before the order for their arrest was issued,
should be treated as voluntary surrender.103
We cannot accept this contention. In the first place, it has no factual basis. The warrant for the
arrest of herein appellants was issued on August 18, 1987,104 but appellants’ counsel filed the
Urgent Motion for Bail only thereafter, on September 2, 1987.105 In the second place, appellants
failed to prove the requisites for voluntary surrender, which are: (1) the offender has not been
actually arrested; (2) the offender surrenders himself to a person in authority or to the latter’s
agent; and
(3) the surrender is voluntary.106 The records reveal that a warrant of arrest was actually served
on Tumbagahan and Cajilo107 on September 2, 1987 and that they were in fact detained.108
In view of the absence of any other aggravating or mitigating circumstance, the trial court
correctly imposed reclusion perpetua.
WHEREFORE, the appeal is hereby DENIED and the assailed Decision is AFFIRMED with
the following MODIFICATIONS: (1) the award of P6,000 as actual damages is DELETED, and
(2) the award of loss of earning capacity is INCREASED to P928,000. Costs against appellants.
SO ORDERED.
Davide, Jr. (Chairman), Bellosillo, Vitug and Quisumbing, JJ., concur.
Appeal denied, judgment affirmed with modifications.
Notes.—The equipoise rule is applicable only where the evidence of the parties is evenly
16

balanced, not where the prosecution’s evidence is overwhelming and has not been overcome by
the evidence of the defense. (People vs. Deunida, 231 SCRA 520 [1994])
Treachery cannot qualify the killing to murder when the victim was forewarned of the
attack by the assailant, or when the attack was frontal, or the attack was not so sudden as to
have caught the deceased completely unaware. (People vs. Sion, 277 SCRA 127 [1997])
——o0o——

G.R. No. 172172. February 24, 2009.*
SPS. ERNESTO V. YU and ELSIE ONG YU, petitioners, vs. BALTAZAR N. PACLEB,
(Substituted by ANTONIETA S. PACLEB, LORNA PACLEB-GUERRERO, FLORENCIO C.
PACLEB, and MYRLA C. PACLEB), respondents.
Civil Procedure; Actions; The aim and object of an action determine its character. Whether a
proceeding is in rem, or in personam, or quasi in rem for that matter, is determined by its nature and
purpose, and by these only. A proceeding in personam is a proceeding to enforce personal rights and
obligations brought against the person and is based on the jurisdiction of the person, although it may
involve his right to, or the exercise of ownership of, specific property, or seek to compel him to control or
dispose of it in accordance with the mandate of the court.—The settled rule is that the aim and object
of an action determine its character. Whether a proceeding is in rem, or in personam, or quasi in
rem for that matter, is determined by its nature and purpose, and by these only. A proceeding in
personam is a proceeding to enforce personal rights and obligations brought against the person
and is based on the jurisdiction of the person, although it may involve his right to, or the
exercise of ownership of, specific property, or seek to compel him to control or dispose of it in
accordance with the mandate of the court. The purpose of a proceeding in personam is to impose,
through the judgment of a court, some responsibility or liability directly upon the person of the
defendant. Of this character are suits to compel a defendant to specifically perform some act or
actions to fasten a pecuniary liability on him. An action in personam is said to be one which has
for its object a judgment against the person, as distinguished from a judgment against the
propriety (sic) to determine its state. It has been held that an action in personam is a proceeding to
enforce personal rights or obligations; such action is brought against the person. x x x On the
other hand, a proceeding quasi in rem is one brought against persons seeking to subject the
property of such persons to the discharge of the claims assailed. In an action quasi in rem, an
individual is named as defendant and the purpose of the proceeding is to subject his interests
therein to the obligation or loan burdening the property. Actions quasi in rem deal with the
status, ownership or liability of a particular property but which are intended to operate on these
questions only as between the particular parties to the proceedings and not to ascertain or cut
off the rights or interests of all possible claimants. The judgments therein are binding only upon
the parties who joined in the action.
Same; Same; An action for specific performance praying for the execution of a deed of sale in
connection with an undertaking in a contract, such as the contract to sell, in this instance, is an action in
personam.—We have held in an unbroken string of cases that an action for specific performance
is an action in personam. In Cabutihan v. Landcenter Construction and Development Corporation, 383
SCRA 352 (2002), we ruled that an action for specific performance praying for the execution of a
deed of sale in connection with an undertaking in a contract, such as the contract to sell, in this
instance, is an action in personam.
Same; Same; Judgments; A judgment in personam, Civil Case No. 741-93 is binding only upon
the parties properly impleaded therein and duly heard or given an opportunity to be heard.—Being a
judgment in personam, Civil Case No. 741-93 is binding only upon the parties properly
impleaded therein and duly heard or given an opportunity to be heard. Therefore, it cannot bind
respondent since he was not a party therein. Neither can respondent be considered as privy
thereto since his signature and that of his late first wife, Angelita Chan, were forged in the deed
of sale.
PETITION for review on certiorari of the decision and resolution of the Court of Appeals.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.
Esguerra & Blanco for petitioners.
PUNO, C.J.:
17

Before the Court is a Petition filed under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court assailing: (i) the Decision1
dated August 31, 2005 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 78629 setting aside the
Decision2 dated December 27, 2002 of the Regional Trial Court in Civil Case No. 1325-96; and (ii)
the Resolution3 dated April 3, 2006 of the Court of Appeals denying reconsideration of the said
decision.
The facts are well established.
Respondent Baltazar N. Pacleb and his late first wife, Angelita Chan, are the registered owners
of an 18,000-square meter parcel of land in Barrio Langcaan, Dasmariñas, Cavite, covered by
Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. T-1183754 (Langcaan Property).
In 1992, the Langcaan Property became the subject of three (3) documents purporting to transfer
its ownership. On February 27, 1992, a Deed of Absolute Sale5 was entered into between Spouses
Baltazar N. Pacleb and Angelita Chan and Rebecca Del Rosario. On May 7, 1992, a Deed of
Absolute Sale6 was entered into between Rebecca Del Rosario and Ruperto L. Javier (Javier). On
November 10, 1992, a Contract to Sell7 was entered into between Javier and petitioner Spouses
Ernesto V. Yu and Elsie Ong Yu. In their contract, petitioner Spouses Yu agreed to pay Javier a
total consideration of P900,000. Six hundred thousand pesos (P600,000) (consisting of P200,000
as previous payment and P400,000 to be paid upon execution of the contract) was acknowledged
as received by Javier and P300,000 remained as balance. Javier undertook to deliver possession
of the Langcaan Property and to sign a deed of absolute sale within thirty (30) days from
execution of the contract.
All the aforementioned sales were not registered.
On April 23, 1993, petitioner Spouses Yu filed with the Regional Trial Court of Imus, Cavite, a
Complaint8 for specific performance and damages against Javier, docketed as Civil Case No.
741-93, to compel the latter to deliver to them ownership and possession, as well as title to the
Langcaan Property. In their Complaint, they alleged that Javier represented to them that the
Langcaan Property was not tenanted. However, after they already paid P200,000 as initial
payment and entered into an Agreement dated September 11, 1992 for the sale of the Langcaan
Property, they discovered it was tenanted by Ramon C. Pacleb (Ramon).9 Petitioner spouses
demanded the cancellation of their agreement and the return of their initial payment. Thereafter,
petitioner spouses and Javier verified from Ramon if he was willing to vacate the property and
the latter was agreeable. Javier then promised to make arrangements with Ramon to vacate the
property and to pay the latter his disturbance compensation. Hence, they proceeded to enter
into a Contract to Sell canceling the Agreement mentioned. However, Javier failed to comply
with his obligations.
Javier did not appear in the proceedings and was declared in default. On September 8, 1994, the
trial court rendered a Decision,10 the dispositive portion of which reads:
“WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered for the plaintiff and against the defendant based
on the sale of subject parcel of land to the former who is entitled thereby to the ownership and
possession thereof from the said defendant who is further directed to pay damages of Thirty
Thousand Pesos (P30,000.00) including attorney’s fees and expenses incurred by the plaintiff in
this case as a consequence.
The defendant is further directed to deliver the certificate of title of the land to the plaintiff who
is entitled to it as transferee and new owner thereof upon payment by the plaintiff of his balance
of the purchase price in the sum of Three Hundred Thousand Pesos (P300,000.00) with legal
interest from date.
SO ORDERED.”
The said Decision and its Certificate of Finality11 were annotated on TCT No. T-118375 as Entry
No. 2676-7512 and Entry No. 2677-75,13 respectively.

On March 10, 1995, petitioner spouses and Ramon and the latter’s wife, Corazon Bodino,
executed a “Kusangloob na Pagsasauli ng Lupang Sakahan at Pagpapahayag ng Pagtalikod sa
Karapatan.”14 Under the said agreement, petitioner spouses paid Ramon the amount of P500,000
in exchange for the waiver of his tenancy rights over the Langcaan Property.
On October 12, 1995, respondent filed a Complaint15 for annulment of deed of sale and other
documents arising from it, docketed as Civil Case No. 1199-95. He alleged that the deed of sale
purportedly executed between him and his late first wife and Rebecca Del Rosario was spurious
as their signatures thereon were forgeries. Respondent moved to have summons served upon
Rebecca Del Rosario by publication since the latter’s address could not be found. The trial court,
however, denied his motion.16 Respondent then moved to dismiss the case, and the trial court
granted the motion in its Order17 dated April 11, 1996, dismissing the case without prejudice.
Meanwhile, on November 23, 1995, petitioner spouses filed an action for forcible entry against
respondent with the Municipal Trial Court (MTC). They alleged that they had prior physical
possession of the Langcaan Property through their trustee, Ramon, until the latter was ousted by
respondent in September 1995. The MTC ruled in favor of petitioner spouses, which decision
was affirmed by the Regional Trial Court.18 However, the Court of Appeals set aside the
decisions of the lower courts and found that it was respondent who had prior physical
possession of the property as shown by his payment of real estate taxes thereon.19
On May 29, 1996, respondent filed the instant case for removal of cloud from title with damages
to cancel Entry No. 2676-75 and Entry No. 2677-75, the annotated Decision in Civil Case No. 74193 and its Certificate of Finality, from the title of the Langcaan Property.20 Respondent alleged
that the deed of sale between him and his late first wife and Rebecca Del Rosario, who is not
known to them, could not have been possibly executed on February 27, 1992, the date appearing
thereon. He alleged that on said date, he was residing in the United States21 and his late first
wife, Angelita Chan, died twenty (20) years ago.22
On May 28, 1997, during the pendency of the instant case before the trial court, respondent died
without having testified on the merits of his case. Hence, he was substituted by his surviving
spouse, Antonieta S. Pacleb, and Lorna Pacleb-Guerrero, Florencio C. Pacleb and Myrla C.
Pacleb representing the children with the first wife.23
On December 27, 2002, the trial court dismissed respondent’s case and held that petitioner
spouses are purchasers in good faith.24 The trial court ratiocinated that the dismissal of
respondent’s complaint for annulment of the successive sales at his instance “sealed the
regularity of the purchase”25 by petitioner spouses and that he “in effect admits that the said
sale…was valid and in order.”26 Further, the trial court held that the Decision in Civil Case No.
741-93 on petitioner spouses’ action for specific performance against Javier is already final and
can no longer be altered. Accordingly, the trial court ordered the cancellation of TCT No. T118375 in the name of respondent and the issuance of a new title in the name of petitioner
spouses. The trial court also ordered the heirs of respondent and all persons claiming under
them to surrender possession of the Langcaan Property to petitioner spouses.
On appeal by respondent, the Court of Appeals reversed and set aside the decision of the trial
court.27 The Court of Appeals ruled that petitioner spouses are not purchasers in good faith and
that the Decision in Civil Case No. 741-93 did not transfer ownership of the Langcaan Property
to them. Accordingly, the appellate court ordered the cancellation of the annotation of the
Decision in Civil Case No. 741-93 on the title of the Langcaan Property. The Court of Appeals
denied reconsideration of said decision.28
Hence, this Petition.
Two issues are involved in the instant petition. The first is whether petitioner spouses are
innocent purchasers for value and in good faith. The second is whether ownership over the
Langcaan Property was properly vested in petitioner spouses by virtue of the Decision in Civil
18

Case No. 741-93.
Petitioner spouses argue that they are purchasers in good faith. Further, they contend that the
Court of Appeals erred in finding that: “Ramon told him [Ernesto V. Yu] that the property is
owned by his father, Baltazar, and that he is the mere caretaker thereof”29 since Ramon clarified
that his father was the former owner of the Langcaan Property. In support of their stance, they
cite the following testimony of petitioner Ernesto V. Yu:
Atty. Abalos: Mr. Witness, you testified during the direct that you acquired the subject
property from one Ruperto Javier, when for the first time have you come to know Mr. Ruperto
Javier?
A: I first came to know him in the year 1992 when he was accompanied by Mr. Kalagayan. He
showed me some papers to the office.
Q: Do you know the exact date Mr. Witness?
A: I forgot the exact date, ma’am.
Q: More or less can you estimate what month?
A: Sometime in February or March 1992.

On (sic) there he introduced me [to] Mr. Ramon Pacleb the caretaker of the property and I told
them that I will still look at the property and he gave me some documents and that (sic)
documents I gave it to my lawyer for verification.
Q: You said that Mr. Ruperto Javier went to your office with Mr. Kalagayan, so the first time
you visited the property you did not see Mr. Ramon Pacleb there?
A: No, ma’am. When I went there I met Ramon Pacleb the caretaker and he was the one who
showed the place to us.
Q: Mr. Witness, since you visited the place you were able to see the allege[d] caretaker Mr.
Ramon Pacleb, did you ask him regarding the property or the whereabouts of the registered
owner, did you ask him?
A: When Ruperto introduced me to Mr. Ramon Pacleb he told me that he is the son of the
owner and he is the caretaker and his father is in the States. He showed me the place, I verified
and I saw the monuments and I told him I will come back to check the papers and if it is okay I
will bring with me the surveyor.
Q: Could you estimate Mr. Witness, more or less what was the month when you were able to
talk to Mr. Ramon Pacleb?

Q: When you said that the subject property was offered to you for sale, what did you do Mr.
Witness, in preparation for a transaction?

A: I am not sure but it was morning of February.

A: I asked my lawyer Atty. Florencio Paredes to check and verify the Deed of Sale.

A: I am not sure if February or March.

Q: And after Atty. Florencio Paredes verified the document you decided to buy the property?

Q: But definitely…

A: No, ma’am. We visited the place.

A: Before I purchased the property I checked the property.

Q: When was that?

Q: But that was definitely after Mr. Ruperto offered to you for sale the subject property?

A: I could not remember the exact date but I visited the place and I met the son, Ramon Pacleb.
I went there in order to verify if the property is existing. When I verified that the property is
existing Mr. Javier visited me again to follow-up what decision I have but I told him that I will
wait for my lawyer’s advi[c]e.

xxx

Q: Mr. Witness, what particular instruction did you give to your lawyer?

A: He told me that property is their former property and it was owned by them. Now, he is the
tenant of the property.30 (Emphasis ours)

A: To verify the title and the documents.

Q: So it was in February, Mr. Witness?

Atty. Abalos: Okay, Mr. Witness, you said that you talked to Mr. Ramon Pacleb and he told
you that his father is the owner of the property?

Atty. Abalos: When you were able to get the title in whose name the title was registered?

Petitioner spouses conclude that based on their personal inspection of the property and the
representations of the registered tenant thereon, they had no reason to doubt the validity of the
deeds of absolute sale since these were duly notarized. Consequently, the alleged forgery of
Angelita Chan’s signature is of no moment since they had no notice of any claim or interest of
some other person in the property despite their diligent inquiry.

A: It was registered in the name of the older Pacleb.

We find petitioner spouses’ contentions without merit.

Court: By the way Mr. Witness, when you said you met Ramon Pacleb the son of the owner of
the property, was he residing there or he was (sic) just went there? When you visited the
property did you find him to be residing in that property?

At the outset, we note that in petitioner Ernesto V. Yu’s testimony, he stated that he inspected
the Langcaan Property and talked with the tenant, Ramon, before he purchased the same.
However, in his Complaint for specific performance and damages which he filed against Javier,
he alleged that it was only after he had entered into an Agreement for the sale of the property
and his initial payment of P200,000 that he discovered that the property was indeed being
tenanted by Ramon who lives in the said farm, viz.:

Court: Documents for the title?
A: Yes, Your Honor.

A: No, Your Honor.
Atty. Abalos: You mean to say Mr. Witness, you just met Mr. Ramon Pacleb in the place at the
time you went there?
A: No, ma’am. He went to my office with Mr. Kalagayan. He was introduced to me at the Kelly
Hardware. I do not know Mr. Ruperto Javier. He told me that there is a property that [is]
tenanted and occupied by the son Ramon Pacleb after that I went with them to visit the place.

“8. Sometime on September 11, 1992, defendant came again to the Office of plaintiff reiterating
his offer to sell said Lot No. 6853-D, containing an area of 18,000 square meters, at P75.00 per
square meters (sic). Defendant manifested to the plaintiff that if his offer is acceptable to the
plaintiff, he binds and obligates himself to pay the capital gains of previous transactions with
19

the BIR and register subject Lot No. 6853-D in his name (defendant). On these conditions,
plaintiff accepted the offer and made [the] initial payment of Two Hundred Thousand Pesos
(P200,000.00) to defendant by issuance and delivery of plaintiff’s personal check.

purchasers in good faith.

9. Sometime on September 11, 1992, plaintiff and defendant signed an AGREEMENT on the
sale of Lot No. 6853-D of the subdivision plan (LRC) Psd-282604, containing an area of 18,000
square meters, more or less, located at Bo. Langcaan, Municipality of Dasmariñas, Province of
Cavite, at a selling price of P75.00 per square meter. A xerox copy of this AGREEMENT signed
by the parties thereto is hereto attached and marked as ANNEX “D” of this complaint.

Petitioner spouses argue that the decision of the Regional Trial Court in Civil Case No.
741-93 as to the rightful owner of the Langcaan Property is conclusive and binding upon
respondent even if the latter was not a party thereto since it involved the question of possession
and ownership of real property, and is thus not merely an action in personam but an action quasi
in rem.

10. Thereafter, however, plaintiff and defendant, with their surveyor discovered that subject
Lot No. 6853-D offered for sale to the plaintiff is indeed being tenanted by one RAMON
PACLEB who lives in the said farm.

rem.

11. In view of the foregoing developments, plaintiff informed defendant that he wanted the
Agreement be cancelled and for the defendant to return the sum of TWO HUNDRED
THOUSAND PESOS (P200,000.00).”31 (Emphasis supplied)
This inconsistency casts grave doubt as to whether petitioner spouses personally inspected the
property before purchasing it.
More importantly, however, several facts should have put petitioner spouses on inquiry as to
the alleged rights of their vendor, Javier, over the Langcaan Property.
First, it should be noted that the property remains to be registered in the name of
respondent despite the two (2) Deeds of Absolute Sale32 purporting to transfer the Langcaan
Property from respondent and his late first wife, Angelita Chan, to Rebecca Del Rosario then
from the latter to Javier. Both deeds were not even annotated in the title of the Langcaan
Property.
Second, a perusal of the two deeds of absolute sale reveals that they were executed only
about two (2) months apart and that they contain identical provisions.
Third, it is undisputed that the Langcaan Property is in the possession of Ramon, the son of
the registered owner. Regardless of the representations given by the latter, this bare fact alone
should have made petitioner spouses suspicious as to the veracity of the alleged title of their
vendor. Moreover, as noted by the Court of Appeals, petitioner spouses could have easily
verified the true status of the Langcaan Property from Ramon’s wife, since the latter is their
relative, as averred in paragraph 13 of their Answer in Civil Case No. 1199-95.33 The case law is
well-settled, viz.:
“The law protects to a greater degree a purchaser who buys from the registered owner himself.
Corollarily, it requires a higher degree of prudence from one who buys from a person who is not
the registered owner, although the land object of the transaction is registered. While one who
buys from the registered owner does not need to look behind the certificate of title, one who
buys from one who is not the registered owner is expected to examine not only the certificate of
title but all factual circumstances necessary for him to determine if there are any flaws in the title
of the transferor, or in his capacity to transfer the land.
This Court has consistently applied the stricter rule when it comes to deciding the issue of good
faith of one who buys from one who is not the registered owner, but who exhibits a certificate of
title.”34 (Emphasis supplied)

We now go to the second issue.

In Domagas v. Jensen,35 we distinguished between actions in personam and actions quasi in
“The settled rule is that the aim and object of an action determine its character. Whether a
proceeding is in rem, or in personam, or quasi in rem for that matter, is determined by its nature
and purpose, and by these only. A proceeding in personam is a proceeding to enforce personal
rights and obligations brought against the person and is based on the jurisdiction of the person,
although it may involve his right to, or the exercise of ownership of, specific property, or seek to
compel him to control or dispose of it in accordance with the mandate of the court. The purpose
of a proceeding in personam is to impose, through the judgment of a court, some responsibility or
liability directly upon the person of the defendant. Of this character are suits to compel a
defendant to specifically perform some act or actions to fasten a pecuniary liability on him. An
action in personam is said to be one which has for its object a judgment against the person, as
distinguished from a judgment against the propriety (sic) to determine its state. It has been held
that an action in personam is a proceeding to enforce personal rights or obligations; such action is
brought against the person.
xxx
On the other hand, a proceeding quasi in rem is one brought against persons seeking to subject
the property of such persons to the discharge of the claims assailed. In an action quasi in rem, an
individual is named as defendant and the purpose of the proceeding is to subject his interests
therein to the obligation or loan burdening the property. Actions quasi in rem deal with the
status, ownership or liability of a particular property but which are intended to operate on these
questions only as between the particular parties to the proceedings and not to ascertain or cut
off the rights or interests of all possible claimants. The judgments therein are binding only upon
the parties who joined in the action.”
Civil Case No. 741-93 is an action for specific performance and damages filed by petitioner
spouses against Javier to compel performance of the latter’s undertakings under their Contract
to Sell. As correctly held by the Court of Appeals, its object is to compel Javier to accept the full
payment of the purchase price, and to execute a deed of absolute sale over the Langcaan
Property in their favor. The obligations of Javier under the contract to sell attach to him alone,
and do not burden the Langcaan Property.36
We have held in an unbroken string of cases that an action for specific performance is an action
in personam.37 In Cabutihan v. Landcenter Construction and Development Corporation,38 we
ruled that an action for specific performance praying for the execution of a deed of sale in
connection with an undertaking in a contract, such as the contract to sell, in this instance, is an
action in personam.

Finally, as correctly pointed out by the Court of Appeals, the dismissal of Civil Case No.
1199-95 (the action to annul the successive sales of the property) cannot serve to validate the sale
to petitioner spouses since the dismissal was ordered because Rebecca Del Rosario and Javier
could no longer be found. Indeed, the dismissal was without prejudice.

Being a judgment in personam, Civil Case No. 741-93 is binding only upon the parties properly
impleaded therein and duly heard or given an opportunity to be heard.39 Therefore, it cannot
bind respondent since he was not a party therein. Neither can respondent be considered as privy
thereto since his signature and that of his late first wife, Angelita Chan, were forged in the deed
of sale.

Based on the foregoing, therefore, petitioner spouses cannot be considered as innocent

All told, we affirm the ruling of the Court of Appeals finding that, as between respondent and
20

petitioner spouses, respondent has a better right over the Langcaan Property as the true owner
thereof.
IN VIEW WHEREOF, the petition is DENIED. The decision of the Court of Appeals is affirmed.
Costs against petitioners.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 158407. January 17, 2005.*
FILOMENA DOMAGAS, petitioner, vs. VIVIAN LAYNO JENSEN, respondent.
Remedial Law; Actions; Whether a proceeding is in rem or in personam or quasi in rem for that
matter, is determined by its nature and purpose and by these only; Actions for recovery of real property
are in personam.—The settled rule is that the aim and object of an action determine its character.
Whether a proceeding is in rem, or in personam, or quasi in rem for that matter, is determined by
its nature and purpose, and by these only. A proceeding in personam is a proceeding to enforce
personal rights and obligations brought against the person and is based on the jurisdiction of the
person, although it may involve his right to, or the exercise of ownership of, specific property, or
seek to compel him to control or dispose of it in accordance with the mandate of the court. The
purpose of a proceeding in personam is to impose, through the judgment of a court, some
responsibility or liability directly upon the person of the defendant.
Of this character are suits to compel a defendant to specifically perform some act or actions to
fasten a pecuniary liability on him. An action in personam is said to be one which has for its
object a judgment against the person, as distinguished from a judgment against the propriety to
determine its state. It has been held that an action in personam is a proceeding to enforce personal
rights or obligations; such action is brought against the person. As far as suits for injunctive
relief are concerned, it is well-settled that it is an injunctive act in personam. In Combs v. Combs,
the appellate court held that proceedings to enforce personal rights and obligations and in
which personal judgments are rendered adjusting the rights and obligations between the
affected parties is in personam. Actions for recovery of real property are in personam. On the other
hand, a proceeding quasi in rem is one brought against persons seeking to subject the property of
such persons to the discharge of the claims assailed. In an action quasi in rem, an individual is
named as defendant and the purpose of the proceeding is to subject his interests therein to the
obligation or loan burdening the property. Actions quasi in rem deal with the status, ownership
or liability of a particular property but which are intended to operate on these questions only as
between the particular parties to the proceedings and not to ascertain or cut off the rights or
interests of all possible claimants. The judgments therein are binding only upon the parties who
joined in the action.
Same; Same; An action for unlawful detainer or forcible entry is a real action and in personam.—
From the aforementioned provisions of the Rules of Court and by its very nature and purpose,
an action for unlawful detainer or forcible entry is a real action and in personam because the
plaintiff seeks to enforce a personal obligation or liability on the defendant under Article 539 of
the New Civil Code, for the latter to vacate the property subject of the action, restore physical
possession thereof to the plaintiff, and pay actual damages by way of reasonable compensation
for his use or occupation of the property.
Same; Same; Summons; Manner of Service of Summons in an Action in Personam.—In Asiavest
Limited v. Court of Appeals, the Court had the occasion to state: In an action in personam,
jurisdiction over the person of the defendant is necessary for the court to validly try and decide
the case. Jurisdiction over the person of a resident defendant who does not voluntarily appear in
court can be acquired by personal service of summons as provided under Section 7, Rule 14 of
the Rules of Court. If he cannot be personally served with summons within a reasonable time,
substituted service may be made in accordance with Section 8 of said Rule. If he is temporarily
out of the country, any of the following modes of service may be resorted to: (a) substituted
service set forth in Section 8; (2) personal service outside the country, with leave of court; (3)
service by publication, also with leave of court; or (4) any other manner the court may deem
sufficient.
Same; Same; Same; The statutory requirement of substituted service must be followed faithfully
and strictly and any substituted service other than that authorized by the statute is rendered ineffective.—
Strict compliance with the mode of service is required in order that the court may acquire
21

jurisdiction over the person of the defendant. The statutory requirement of substituted service
must be followed faithfully and strictly and any substituted service other than that authorized
by the statute is rendered ineffective.
Same; Same; Same; The term “dwelling house” or “residence” are generally held to refer to the
time of service, hence it is not sufficient to leave the summons at the former’s dwelling house, residence or
place of abode, as the case may be.—In Keister v. Navarro, the Court held that the term “dwelling
house” or “residence” are generally held to refer to the time of service; hence, it is not sufficient
to leave the summons at the former’s dwelling house, residence or place of abode, as the case
may be. Dwelling house or residence refers to the place where the person named in the
summons is living at the time when the service is made, even though he may be temporarily out
of the country at the time. It is, thus, the service of the summons intended for the defendant that
must be left with the person of suitable age and discretion residing in the house of the
defendant. Compliance with the rules regarding the service of summons is as much important
as the issue of due process as of jurisdiction.
Same; Same; Same; The service of the summons on a person at a place where he was a visitor is
not considered to have been left at the residence or place or abode, where he has another place at which he
ordinarily stays and to which he intends to return.—As gleaned from the said return, there is no
showing that as of April 5, 1999, the house where the Sheriff found Oscar Layno was the latter’s
residence or that of the respondent herein. Neither is there any showing that the Sheriff tried to
ascertain where the residence of the respondent was on the said date. It turned out that the
occupant of the house was a lessor, Eduardo Gonzales, and that Oscar Layno was in the
premises only to collect the rentals from him. The service of the summons on a person at a place
where he was a visitor is not considered to have been left at the residence or place or abode,
where he has another place at which he ordinarily stays and to which he intends to return.
PETITION for review on certiorari of a decision of the Court of Appeals.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.
Alejandro M. Villamil for petitioner.
Hermogenes S. Decano for respondent.
CALLEJO, SR., J.:
This is a petition for review on certiorari, under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, of the
Decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 73995, which affirmed the Decision2
of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Dagupan City, Branch 44, in Civil Case No. 2000-0244-D,
which declared null and void the decision of the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Calasiao,
Pangasinan in Civil Case No. 879.3
The antecedent facts follow.
On February 19, 1999, petitioner Filomena Domagas filed a complaint for forcible entry
against respondent Vivian Jensen before the MTC of Calasiao, Pangasinan. The petitioner
alleged in her complaint that she was the registered owner of a parcel of land covered by
Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. P-30980, situated in Barangay Buenlag, Calasiao,
Pangasinan, and with an area of 827 square meters. On January 9, 1999 the respondent, by
means of force, strategy and stealth, gained entry into the petitioner’s property by excavating a
portion thereof and thereafter constructing a fence thereon. As such, the petitioner was deprived
of a 68-square meter portion of her property along the boundary line. The petitioner prayed that,
after due proceedings, judgment be rendered in her favor, thus:
3. And, after trial, judgment be rendered:
a) DECLARING the writ of Preliminary Mandatory Injunction and Writ of Preliminary
Injunction permanent;

b) ORDERING defendant, his representatives, agents and persons acting under her, to vacate
the portion of the property of the plaintiff occupied by them and to desist from entering,
excavating and constructing in the said property of the plaintiff described in paragraph 2 hereof
and/or from disturbing the peaceful ownership and possession of the plaintiff over the said
land, pending the final resolution of the instant action;
c) ORDERING defendant to pay reasonable rental at FIVE THOUSAND (P5,000.00) PESOS per
month from January 9, 1999 up to the time she finally vacates and removes all constructions
made by her in the property of the plaintiff and up to the time she finally restores the said
property in the condition before her illegal entry, excavation and construction in the property of
the plaintiff;
d) ORDERING defendant to pay actual damages in the amount of TWENTY THOUSAND
(P20,000.00) PESOS; moral damages in the amount of TWENTY THOUSAND (P20,000.00)
PESOS; attorney’s fees of THIRTY THOUSAND (P30,000.00) PESOS in retainer’s fee and ONE
THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED (P1,500.00) PESOS per court appearance fee; exemplary
damages in the amount of TWENTY THOUSAND (P20,000.00) PESOS, and, costs.
Plaintiff further prays for other reliefs and remedies just and equitable in the premises.4
The case was docketed as Civil Case No. 879. The summons and the complaint were not served
on the respondent because the latter was apparently out of the country. This was relayed to the
Sheriff by her (the respondent’s) brother, Oscar Layno, who was then in the respondent’s house
at No. 572 Barangay Buenlag, Calasiao, Pangasinan. The Sheriff left the summons and complaint
with Oscar Layno, who received the same.5
Nonetheless, on May 17, 1999, the court rendered judgment ordering the respondent and all
persons occupying the property for and in the latter’s behalf to vacate the disputed area and to
pay monthly rentals therefor, including actual damages, attorney’s fees, and exemplary
damages. The fallo of the decision reads:
1) Ordering the defendant, her representatives, agents and persons acting under her, to vacate
the 68-square meters which she encroached upon;
2) Ordering the defendant to pay a monthly rental of P1,000.00 to the plaintiff;
3) To pay plaintiff actual damages of P20,000.00; attorney’s fees of P15,000.00 and exemplary
damages in the amount of P20,000.00 plus the costs.
SO ORDERED.6
The respondent failed to appeal the decision. Consequently, a writ of execution was issued on
September 27, 1999.
On August 16, 2000, the respondent filed a complaint against the petitioner before the RTC of
Dagupan City for the annulment of the decision of the MTC in Civil Case No. 879, on the
ground that due to the Sheriff’s failure to serve the complaint and summons on her because she
was in Oslo, Norway, the MTC never acquired jurisdiction over her person. The respondent
alleged therein that the service of the complaint and summons through substituted service on
her brother, Oscar Layno, was improper because of the following: (a) when the complaint in
Civil Case No. 879 was filed, she was not a resident of Barangay Buenlag, Calasiao, Pangasinan,
but of Oslo, Norway, and although she owned the house where Oscar Layno received the
summons and the complaint, she had then leased it to Eduardo Gonzales; (b) she was in Oslo,
Norway, at the time the summons and the complaint were served; (c) her brother, Oscar Layno,
was merely visiting her house in Barangay Buenlag and was not a resident nor an occupant
thereof when he received the complaint and summons; and (d) Oscar Layno was never
authorized to receive the summons and the complaint for and in her behalf.7
The respondent further alleged that the MTC had no jurisdiction over the subject matter of the
22

complaint in Civil Case No. 879 because the petitioner, the plaintiff therein, failed to show prior
possession of the property. She further claimed that the alleged forcible entry was simply based
on the result of the survey conducted by Geodetic Engineer Leonardo de Vera showing that the
property of the respondent encroached on that of the petitioner.

b.) Attorney’s fees in the amount of P50,000.00;

The respondent filed a Manifestation dated August 31, 2000, and appended thereto the
following: (a) a copy8 of her passport showing that she left the country on February 17, 1999; (b)
a copy9 of the Contract of Lease dated November 24, 1997, executed by her and Eduardo D.
Gonzales over her house for a period of three (3) years or until November 24, 2000; (c) her
affidavit10 stating, inter alia, that she owned the house at Barangay Buenlag, Calasiao,
Pangasinan, which she leased to Eduardo Gonzales; that she was married to Jarl Jensen, a citizen
of Norway, on August 23, 1987 and had resided in Norway with her husband since 1993; that
she arrived in the Philippines on December 31, 1998, but left on February 17, 1999; she returned
to the Philippines on July 30, 2000 and learned, only then, of the complaint against her and the
decision of the MTC in Civil Case No. 879; her brother Oscar Layno was not a resident of the
house at Barangay Buenlag; and that she never received the complaint and summons in said
case; (d) the affidavit11 of Oscar Layno declaring that sometime in April 1999, he was in the
respondent’s house to collect rentals from Eduardo Gonzales; that the Sheriff arrived and served
him with a copy of the summons and the complaint in Civil Case No. 879; and that he never
informed the respondent of his receipt of the said summons and complaint; (e) an affidavit12 of
Eduardo Gonzales stating that he leased the house of the respondent and resided thereat; the
respondent was not a resident of the said house although he (Gonzales) allowed the respondent
to occupy a room therein whenever she returned to the Philippines as a balikbayan; and that
Oscar Layno was not residing therein but only collected the rentals.

d.) Exemplary Damages in the amount of P50,000.00; and

In her answer to the complaint, the petitioner alleged that the respondent was a resident of
Barangay Buenlag, Calasiao, Pangasinan and was the owner of the subject premises where
Oscar Layno was when the Sheriff served the summons and complaint; that the service of the
complaint and summons by substituted service on the respondent, the defendant in Civil Case
No. 879, was proper since her brother Oscar Layno, a resident and registered voter of Barangay.
Buenlag, Calasiao, Pangasinan, received the complaint and summons for and in her behalf.
The petitioner appended the following to her answer: (a) a copy13 of the Deed of Absolute Sale
executed by Jose Layno in her favor, dated August 26, 1992, showing that the respondent was a
resident of Barangay Buenlag, Calasiao, Pangasinan; (b) a Real Estate Mortgage14 executed by
the respondent, dated February 9, 1999 showing that she was a resident of Barangay. Buenlag,
Calasiao, Pangasinan; (c) the Joint Affidavit15 of Vicenta Peralta and Orlando Macalanda, both
residents of Barangay Buenlag, Calasiao, Pangasinan, declaring that the respondent and her
brother Oscar Layno were their neighbors; that the respondent and her brother had been
residents of Barangay Buenlag since their childhood; that although the respondent left the
country on several occasions, she returned to the Philippines and resided in her house at No. 572
located in the said barangay; and (d) the Voter’s Registration Record16 of Oscar Layno, approved
on June 15, 1997.
After due proceedings, the trial court rendered a decision in favor of the respondent. The
dispositive portion reads:
“WHEREFORE, judgment is rendered in favor of plaintiff Vivian Layno Jensen and against
defendant Filomena Domagas, as follows:
1. The Decision of the Municipal Trial Court of Calasiao, Pangasinan in Civil Case No. 879,
entitled Filomena Domagas versus Vivian Layno Jensen is declared null and void, for lack of
jurisdiction over the person of the plaintiff and the subject matter.
2. Defendant Filomena Domagas is ordered to pay plaintiff, the following:
a.) Actual damages, representing litigation expenses in the amount of P50,000.00;

c.) Moral Damages in the amount of P50,000.00;

e.) Costs of suit.
SO ORDERED.”17
The trial court declared that there was no valid service of the complaint and summons on the
respondent, the defendant in Civil Case No. 879, considering that she left the Philippines on
February 17, 1999 for Oslo, Norway, and her brother Oscar Layno was never authorized to
receive the said complaint and summons for and in her behalf.
The petitioner appealed the decision to the CA which, on May 6, 2003, rendered judgment
affirming the appealed decision with modifications. The CA ruled that the complaint in Civil
Case No. 879 was one for ejectment, which is an action quasi in rem. The appellate court ruled
that since the defendant therein was temporarily out of the country, the summons and the
complaint should have been served via extraterritorial service under Section 15 in relation to
Section 16, Rule 14 of the Rules of Court, which likewise requires prior leave of court.
Considering that there was no prior leave of court and none of the modes of service prescribed
by the Rules of Court was followed by the petitioner, the CA concluded that there was really no
valid service of summons and complaint upon the respondent, the defendant in Civil Case No.
879.
Hence, the present petition.
The petitioner assails the decision of the CA, alleging that the appellate court erred in holding
that the respondent’s complaint for ejectment is an action quasi in rem. The petitioner insists that
the complaint for forcible entry is an action in personam; therefore, substituted service of the
summons and complaint on the respondent, in accordance with Section 7, Rule 14 of the Rules of
Court, is valid. The petitioner, likewise, asserts that Oscar Layno is a resident and a registered
voter of Barangay Buenlag, Calasiao, Pangasinan; hence, the service of the complaint and
summons on the respondent through him is valid.
The respondent, on the other hand, asserts that the action for forcible entry filed against her was
an action quasi in rem, and that the applicable provision of the Rules of Court is Section 15 of
Rule 14, which calls for extraterritorial service of summons.
The sole issue is whether or not there was a valid service of the summons and complaint in Civil
Case No. 879 on the respondent herein who was the defendant in the said case. The resolution of
the matter is anchored on the issue of whether or not the action of the petitioner in the MTC
against the respondent herein is an action in personam or quasi in rem.
The ruling of the CA that the petitioner’s complaint for forcible entry of the petitioner against
the respondent in Civil Case No. 879 is an action quasi in rem, is erroneous. The action of the
petitioner for forcible entry is a real action and one in personam.
The settled rule is that the aim and object of an action determine its character.18 Whether a
proceeding is in rem, or in personam, or quasi in rem for that matter, is determined by its nature
and purpose, and by these only.19 A proceeding in personam is a proceeding to enforce personal
rights and obligations brought against the person and is based on the jurisdiction of the person,
although it may involve his right to, or the exercise of ownership of, specific property, or seek to
compel him to control or dispose of it in accordance with the mandate of the court.20 The
purpose of a proceeding in personam is to impose, through the judgment of a court, some
responsibility or liability directly upon the person of the defendant.21 Of this character are suits
23

to compel a defendant to specifically perform some act or actions to fasten a pecuniary liability
on him.22 An action in personam is said to be one which has for its object a judgment against the
person, as distinguished from a judgment against the propriety to determine its state. It has been
held that an action in personam is a proceeding to enforce personal rights or obligations; such
action is brought against the person. As far as suits for injunctive relief are concerned, it is wellsettled that it is an injunctive act in personam.23 In Combs v. Combs,24 the appellate court held that
proceedings to enforce personal rights and obligations and in which personal judgments are
rendered adjusting the rights and obligations between the affected parties is in personam. Actions
for recovery of real property are in personam.25
On the other hand, a proceeding quasi in rem is one brought against persons seeking to subject
the property of such persons to the discharge of the claims assailed.26 In an action quasi in rem, an
individual is named as defendant and the purpose of the proceeding is to subject his interests
therein to the obligation or loan burdening the property.27 Actions quasi in rem deal with the
status, ownership or liability of a particular property but which are intended to operate on these
questions only as between the particular parties to the proceedings and not to ascertain or cut
off the rights or interests of all possible claimants. The judgments therein are binding only upon
the parties who joined in the action.28
Section 1, Rule 70 of the Rules of Court provides:
Section 1. Who may institute proceedings, and when.—Subject to the provisions of the next
succeeding section, a person deprived of the possession of any land or building in force,
intimidation, threat, strategy, or stealth, or a lessor, vendor, vendee, or other person against
whom the possession of any land or building is unlawfully withheld after the expiration or
termination of the right to hold possession by virtue of any contract, express or implied, or the
legal representatives or assigns of any such lessor, vendor, vendee, or other person, may, at any
time within one (1) year after such unlawful deprivation or withholding of possession, bring an
action in the proper Municipal Trial Court against the person or persons unlawfully
withholding or depriving of possession, or any person or persons claiming under them, for the
restitution of such possession, together with damages and costs.
Under Section 15, Rule 70 of the said Rule, the plaintiff may be granted a writ of preliminary
prohibition or mandatory injunction:
Sec. 15. Preliminary Injunction.—The court may grant preliminary injunction, in
accordance with the provisions of Rule 58 hereof, to prevent the defendant from committing
further acts of dispossession against the plaintiff.
A possessor deprived of his possession through forcible entry or unlawful detainer may,
within five (5) days from the filing of the complaint, present a motion in the action for forcible
entry or unlawful detainer for the issuance of a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction to
restore him in his possession. The court shall decide the motion within thirty (30) days from the
filing thereof.
If, after proceedings, the trial court finds for the plaintiff, it shall then render judgment in his or
her favor, thus:
Sec. 17. Judgment.—If, after trial, the court finds that the allegations of the complaint are
true, it shall render judgment in favor of the plaintiff for the restitution of the premises, the sum
justly due as arrears of rent or as reasonable compensation for the use and occupation of the
premises, attorney’s fees and costs. If it finds that said allegations are not true, it shall render
judgment for the defendant to recover his costs. If a counterclaim is established, the court shall
render judgment for the sum found in arrears from either party and award costs as justice
requires.
From the aforementioned provisions of the Rules of Court and by its very nature and purpose,

an action for unlawful detainer or forcible entry is a real action and in personam because the
plaintiff seeks to enforce a personal obligation or liability on the defendant under Article 539 of
the New Civil Code,29 for the latter to vacate the property subject of the action, restore physical
possession thereof to the plaintiff, and pay actual damages by way of reasonable compensation
for his use or occupation of the property.30
As gleaned from the averments of the petitioner’s complaint in the MTC, she sought a writ of a
preliminary injunction from the MTC and prayed that the said writ be made permanent. Under
its decision, the MTC ordered the defendant therein (the respondent in this case), to vacate the
property and pay a “monthly rental” of P1,000.00 to the plaintiff therein (the petitioner in this
case).
On the issue of whether the respondent was validly served with the summons and complaint by
the Sheriff on April 5, 1999, the petitioner asserts that since her action of forcible entry against
the respondent in Civil Case No. 879 was in personam, summons may be served on the
respondent, by substituted service, through her brother, Oscar Layno, in accordance with
Section 7, Rule 14 of the Rules of Court. The petitioner avers that Oscar Layno, a person of
suitable age and discretion, was residing in the house of the respondent on April 5, 1999. She
avers that the fact that the house was leased to and occupied by Eduardo Gonzales was of no
moment. Moreover, the Sheriff is presumed to have performed his duty of properly serving the
summons on the respondent by substituted service.
The contention of the petitioner has no merit.
In Asiavest Limited v. Court of Appeals,31 the Court had the occasion to state:
“In an action in personam, jurisdiction over the person of the defendant is necessary for the court
to validly try and decide the case. Jurisdiction over the person of a resident defendant who does
not voluntarily appear in court can be acquired by personal service of summons as provided
under Section 7, Rule 14 of the Rules of Court. If he cannot be personally served with summons
within a reasonable time, substituted service may be made in accordance with Section 8 of said
Rule. If he is temporarily out of the country, any of the following modes of service may be
resorted to: (a) substituted service set forth in Section 8; (2) personal service outside the country,
with leave of court; (3) service by publication, also with leave of court; or (4) any other manner
the court may deem sufficient.”32
Thus, any judgment of the court which has no jurisdiction over the person of the defendant is
null and void.33
In the present case, the records show that the respondent, before and after his marriage to Jarl
Jensen on August 23, 1987, remained a resident of Barangay Buenlag, Calasiao, Pangasinan. This
can be gleaned from the Deed of Absolute Sale dated August 26, 1992 in which she declared that
she was a resident of said barangay. Moreover, in the Real Estate Mortgage Contract dated
February 9, 1999, ten days before the complaint in Civil Case No. 879 was filed, the petitioner
categorically stated that she was a Filipino and a resident of Barangay Buenlag, Calasiao,
Pangasinan. Considering that the respondent was in Oslo, Norway, having left the Philippines
on February 17, 1999, the summons and complaint in Civil Case No. 879 may only be validly
served on her through substituted service under Section 7, Rule 14 of the Rules of Court, which
reads:
SEC. 7. Substituted service.—If, for justifiable causes, the defendant cannot be served
within a reasonable time as provided in the preceding section, service may be effected (a) by
leaving copies of the summons at the defendant’s residence with some person of suitable age
and discretion then residing therein, or (b) by leaving the copies at defendant’s office or regular
place of business with some competent person in charge thereof.
Strict compliance with the mode of service is required in order that the court may acquire
24

jurisdiction over the person of the defendant.34 The statutory requirement of substituted service
must be followed faithfully and strictly and any substituted service other than that authorized
by the statute is rendered ineffective.35 As the Court held in Hamilton v. Levy:36
. . . The pertinent facts and circumstances attendant to the service of summons must be stated in
the proof of service or Officer’s Return; otherwise, any substituted service made in lieu of
personal service cannot be upheld. This is necessary because substituted service is in derogation
of the usual method of service. It is a method extraordinary in character and hence may be used
only as prescribed and in the circumstances authorized by statute. Here, no such explanation
was made. Failure to faithfully, strictly, and fully comply with the requirements of substituted
service renders said service ineffective.37

IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the petition is DENIED for lack of merit. No costs.
SO ORDERED.
Puno (Chairman), Austria-Martinez, Tinga and Chico-Nazario, JJ., concur.

In Keister v. Navarro,38 the Court held that the term “dwelling house” or “residence” are
generally held to refer to the time of service; hence, it is not sufficient to leave the summons at
the former’s dwelling house, residence or place of abode, as the case may be. Dwelling house or
residence refers to the place where the person named in the summons is living at the time when
the service is made, even though he may be temporarily out of the country at the time. It is, thus,
the service of the summons intended for the defendant that must be left with the person of
suitable age and discretion residing in the house of the defendant. Compliance with the rules
regarding the service of summons is as much important as the issue of due process as of
jurisdiction.39
The Return of Service filed by Sheriff Eduardo J. Abulencia on the service of summons reads:
Respectfully returned to the court of origin the herein summons and enclosures in the aboveentitled case, the undersigned caused the service on April 5, 1999.
Defendant Vivian Layno Jensen is out of the country as per information from her brother Oscar
Layno, however, copy of summons and enclosures was received by her brother Oscar Layno on
April 5, 1999 as evidenced by his signature appearing in the original summons.
Calasiao, Pangasinan, April 6, 1999.
(Sgd.)
EDUARDO J. ABULENCIA
Junior Process Server40
As gleaned from the said return, there is no showing that as of April 5, 1999, the house where
the Sheriff found Oscar Layno was the latter’s residence or that of the respondent herein.
Neither is there any showing that the Sheriff tried to ascertain where the residence of the
respondent was on the said date. It turned out that the occupant of the house was a lessor,
Eduardo Gonzales, and that Oscar Layno was in the premises only to collect the rentals from
him. The service of the summons on a person at a place where he was a visitor is not considered
to have been left at the residence or place or abode, where he has another place at which he
ordinarily stays and to which he intends to return.41
The Voter’s Registration Record of Oscar Layno dated June 15, 1997 wherein he declared that he
was a resident of No. 572 Barangay Buenlag, Calasiao, Pangasinan, as well as the Joint Affidavit
of Vicenta Peralta and Orlando Macasalda cannot prevail over the Contract of Lease the
respondent had executed in favor of Eduardo Gonzales showing that the latter had resided and
occupied the house of the respondent as lessee since November 24, 1997, and the affidavit of
Eduardo Gonzales that Oscar Layno was not residing in the said house on April 5, 1999.
In sum, then, the respondent was not validly served with summons and the complaint in Civil
Case No. 879 on April 5, 1999, by substituted service. Hence, the MTC failed to acquire
jurisdiction over the person of the respondent; as such, the decision of the MTC in Civil Case
No. 879 is null and void.
25

G.R. No. 116111. January 21, 1999.*
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES (Represented by the Acting Commissioner of Land
Registration), petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS, Spouses CATALINO SANTOS and
THELMA BARRERO SANTOS, ST. JUDE’S ENTERPRISES, INC., Spouses DOMINGO
CALAGUIAN and FELICIDAD CALAGUIAN, VIRGINIA DELA FUENTE and LUCY
MADAYA, respondents.
Estoppel; Doctrine of Equitable Estoppel; While the State cannot be put in estoppel by the mistakes or
errors of its officials or agents, the government must not be allowed to deal dishonorably or capriciously
with its citizens, and must not play an ignoble part or do a shabby thing; and subject to limitations, the
doctrine of equitable estoppel may be invoked against public authorities as well as against private
individuals.—The general rule is that the State cannot be put in estoppel by the mistakes or errors
of its officials or agents. However, like all general rules, this is also subject to exceptions, viz.:
“Estoppels against the public are little favored. They should not be invoked except in rare and
unusual circumstances, and may not be invoked where they would operate to defeat the
effective operation of a policy adopted to protect the public. They must be applied with
circumspection and should be applied only in those special cases where the interests of justice
clearly require it. Nevertheless, the government must not be allowed to deal dishonorably or
capriciously with its citizens, and must not play an ignoble part or do a shabby thing; and
subject to limitations x x x, the doctrine of equitable estoppel may be invoked against public
authorities as well as against private individuals.”
Same; The real office of the equitable norm of estoppel is limited to supplying deficiency in the law, but it
should not supplant positive law.—The Court further declared that “(t)he real office of the
equitable norm of estoppel is limited to supply[ing] deficiency in the law, but it should not
supplant positive law.”
Same; Land Registration; Land Titles; Laches; Words and Phrases; “Laches,” Defined; The Government’s
prolonged inaction for nearly twenty years (starting from the issuance of titles in 1966 up to the filing of
the Complaint in 1985), whereby it failed to correct and recover the alleged increase in the land area of a
private party, militates against its cause, as it is tantamount to laches.—In the case at bar, for nearly
twenty years (starting from the issuance of St. Jude’s titles in 1966 up to the filing of the
Complaint in 1985), petitioner failed to correct and recover the alleged increase in the land area
of St. Jude. Its prolonged inaction strongly militates against its cause, as it is tantamount to
laches, which means “the failure or neglect, for an unreasonable and unexplained length of time,
to do that which by exercising due diligence could or should have been done earlier; it is
negligence or omission to assert a right within a reasonable time, warranting a presumption that
the party entitled to assert it either has abandoned it or declined to assert it.”
Same; Same; Same; Same; It is only fair and reasonable to apply the equitable principle of estoppel by
laches against the government to avoid an injustice to the innocent purchasers for value.—The other
private respondents—Spouses Santos, Spouses Calaguian, Dela Fuente and Madaya—bought
such “expanded” lots in good faith, relying on the clean certificates of St. Jude, which had no
notice of any flaw in them either. It is only fair and reasonable to apply the equitable principle of
estoppel by laches against the government to avoid an injustice to the innocent purchasers for
value.
Land Titles; Torrens System; Likewise time-settled is the doctrine that where innocent third persons,
relying on the correctness of the certificate of title, acquire rights over the property, courts cannot
disregard such rights and order the cancellation of the certificate—verily, all persons dealing with
registered land may safely rely on the correctness of the certificate of title issued therefor, and the law or
the courts do not oblige them to go behind the certificate in order to investigate again the true condition of
the property.—Likewise time-settled is the doctrine that where innocent third persons, relying on
the correctness of the certificate of title, acquire rights over the property, courts cannot disregard
such rights and order the cancellation of the certificate. Such cancellation would impair public

confidence in the certificate of title, for everyone dealing with property registered under the
Torrens system would have to inquire in every instance whether the title has been regularly
issued or not. This would be contrary to the very purpose of the law, which is to stabilize land
titles. Verily, all persons dealing with registered land may safely rely on the correctness of the
certificate of title issued therefor, and the law or the courts do not oblige them to go behind the
certificate in order to investigate again the true condition of the property. They are only charged
with notice of the liens and encumbrances on the property that are noted on the certificate.
Same; Same; The main purpose of the Torrens System is to avoid possible conflicts of title to real estate
and to facilitate transactions relative thereto by giving the public the right to rely upon the face of a
Torrens Certificate of Title and to dispense with the need of inquiring further, except when the party
concerned had actual knowledge of facts and circumstances that should impel a reasonably cautious man
to make such further inquiry.—When private respondents-purchasers bought their lots from St.
Jude, they did not have to go behind the titles thereto to verify their contents or search for
hidden defects or inchoate rights that could defeat their rights to said lots. Although they were
bound by liens and encumbrances annotated on the titles, private respondents-purchasers could
not have had notice of defects that only an inquiry beyond the face of the titles could have
satisfied. The rationale for this presumption has been stated thus: “The main purpose of the
Torrens System is to avoid possible conflicts of title to real estate and to facilitate transactions
relative thereto by giving the public the right to rely upon the face of a Torrens Certificate of
Title and to dispense with the need of inquiring further, except when the party concerned had
actual knowledge of facts and circumstances that should impel a reasonably cautious man to
make such further inquiry (Pascua v. Capuyoc, 77 SCRA 78). Thus, where innocent third
persons relying on the correctness of the certificate thus issued, acquire rights over the property,
the court cannot disregard such rights (Director of Land v. Abache, et al., 73 Phil. 606).”
Same; Same; Purchasers in Good Faith; Words and Phrases; “Purchaser for Value” and “Good Faith,”
Defined.—Petitioner never presented proof that the private respondents who had bought their
lots from St. Jude were buyers in bad faith. Consequently, their claim of good faith prevails. A
purchaser in good faith and for value is one who buys the property of another without notice
that some other person has a right to or an interest in such property; and who pays a full and
fair price for the same at the time of such purchase or before he or she has notice of the claims or
interest of some other person. Good faith is the honest intention to abstain from taking any
unconscientious advantage of another.
Same; Same; Words and Phrases; A figure in a certificate of title followed by the phrase “more or less”
plainly means that the land area indicated is not precise.—It should be stressed that the total area of
forty thousand six hundred twenty-three (40,623) square meters indicated on St. Jude’s original
title (TCT No. 22660) was not an exact area. Such figure was followed by the phrase “more or
less.” This plainly means that the land area indicated was not precise.
Same; Same; What defines a piece of titled property is not the numerical data indicated as the area of the
land, but the boundaries or “metes and bounds” of the property specified in its technical description as
enclosing it and showing its limits.—The discrepancy in the figures could have been caused by the
inadvertence or the negligence of the surveyors. There is no proof, though, that the land area
indicated was intentionally and fraudulently increased. The property originally registered was
the same property that was subdivided. It is well-settled that what defines a piece of titled
property is not the numerical data indicated as the area of the land, but the boundaries or
“metes and bounds” of the property specified in its technical description as enclosing it and
showing its limits.
Same; Same; The Torrens system is not a means of acquiring titles to lands—it is merely a system of
registration of titles to lands.— The Torrens system is not a means of acquiring titles to lands; it is
merely a system of registration of titles to lands. Consequently, land erroneously included in a
Torrens certificate of title is not necessarily acquired by the holder of such certificate.
26

Same; Same; Equity; In the interest of justice and equity, the titleholder may not be made to bear the
unfavorable effect of the mistake or negligence of the State’s agents, in the absence of proof of his
complicity in a fraud or of manifest damage to third persons.—But in the interest of justice and equity,
neither may the titleholder be made to bear the unfavorable effect of the mistake or negligence
of the State’s agents, in the absence of proof of his complicity in a fraud or of manifest damage to
third persons. First, the real purpose of the Torrens system is to quiet title to land to put a stop
forever to any question as to the legality of the title, except claims that were noted in the certificate at
the time of the registration or that may arise subsequent thereto. Second, as we discussed earlier,
estoppel by laches now bars petitioner from questioning private respondents’ titles to the
subdivision lots. Third, it was never proven that Private Respondent St. Jude was a party to the
fraud that led to the increase in the area of the property after its subdivision. Finally, because
petitioner even failed to give sufficient proof of any error that might have been committed by its
agents who had surveyed the property, the presumption of regularity in the performance of
their functions must be respected. Otherwise, the integrity of the Torrens system, which
petitioner purportedly aims to protect by filing this case, shall forever be sullied by the
ineptitude and inefficiency of land registration officials, who are ordinarily presumed to have
regularly performed their duties.
Same; Same; A Torrens certificate is evidence of an indefeasible title to property in favor of the person
whose name appears thereon.— We cannot, therefore, adhere to the petitioner’s submission that, in
filing this suit, it seeks to preserve the integrity of the Torrens system. To the contrary, it is
rather evident from our foregoing discussion that petitioner’s action derogates the very integrity
of the system. Time and again, we have said that a Torrens certificate is evidence of an
indefeasible title to property in favor of the person whose name appears thereon.
VITUG, J., Concurring Opinion:
Land Titles; Torrens System; It is my understanding that the rule that the Court has here announced
would not apply to a situation where the enlargement or expansion in area would result in an
encroachment on or reduction of any area covered by a certificate of title previously issued.—The rule
has been to the effect that a purchaser of registered land is not ordinarily required to explore
further than what the record in the Registry indicates on its face in quest of any hidden defect or
inchoate right which might adversely affect the buyer’s right over the property. Undoubtedly, to
allow in the instant case the cancellation of the titles of herein private respondents would defeat
rather than enhance the purpose and scheme of the Torrens System. It is my understanding,
however, that the rule that the Court has here announced would not apply to a situation where the
enlargement or expansion in area would result in an encroachment on or reduction of any area covered by
a certificate of title previously issued. To rule otherwise would itself be to downgrade the integrity
of the Torrens System.
PETITION for review on certiorari of a decision of the Court of Appeals.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.
The Solicitor General for petitioners.
Public Attorney’s Office for Sps. Calaguian, V. dela Fuente and L. Madaya.
Simeon D. Canlas, for Catalino and Thelma Santos.
Cabrera & Associates for St. Jude Enterprises.
PANGANIBAN, J.:
Is the immunity of the government from laches and estoppel absolute? May it still recover the
ownership of lots sold in good faith by a private developer to innocent purchasers for value,
notwithstanding its approval of the subdivision plan and its issuance of separate individual
certificates of title thereto?

The Case
These are the main questions raised in the Petition for Review before us, seeking to set aside the
November 29, 1993 Decision1 of the Court of Appeals2 in CA-GR CV No. 34647. The assailed
Decision affirmed the ruling3 of the Regional Trial Court of Caloocan City, Branch 125, in Civil
Case No. C-111708, which dismissed petitioner’s Complaint for the cancellation of Transfer
Certificates of Title (TCTs) to several lots in Caloocan City, issued in the name of private
respondents.
In a Resolution4 dated July 7, 1994, the Court of Appeals denied the Republic’s motion for
reconsideration.
The Facts
The facts of the case are not disputed. The trial court’s summary, which was adopted by the
Court of Appeals, is reproduced below:
“Defendant St. Jude’s Enterprises, Inc. is the registered owner of a parcel of land known as Lot
865-B-1 of the subdivision plan (LRC) PSD-52368, being a portion of Lot 865-B located in
Caloocan City containing an area of 40,623 square meters. For Lot 865-B-1 defendant St. Jude’s
Enterprises, Inc. was issued TCT No. 22660 on July 25, 1966.
“Sometime in March 1966 defendant St. Judge’s Enterprises, Inc. subdivided Lot No. 865-B-1
under subdivision plan (LRC) PSD-55643 and as a result thereof the Register of Deeds of
Caloocan City cancelled TCT No. 22660 and in lieu thereof issued Certificates of Title Nos. 23967
up to 24068 inclusive, all in the name of defendant St. Judge’s Enterprises, Inc. The subdivision
of lot 865-B-1 [which was] covered [b] TCT No. 22660 was later found to have expanded and
enlarged from its original area of 40,523 square meters to 42,044 square meters or an increase of
1,421 square meters. This expansion or increase in area was confirmed by the Land Registration
Commission [to have been made] on the northern portion of Lot 865-B-1.
“Subsequently, defendant St. Judge’s Enterprises, Inc. sold the lots covered by TCT Nos. 24013
and 24014 to defendant Sps. Catalino Santos and Thelma Barreto Santos[;] TCT No. 24019 to
defendant Sps. Domingo Calaguian and Felicidad de Jesus[;] TCT No. 24022 to defendant
Virginia dela Fuente[;] and TCT No. 2402[3] to defendant Lucy Madaya. Accordingly, these titles
were cancelled and said defendants were issued the following: TCT No. C-43319 issued in the
name of Sps. Santos containing an area of 344 square meters[;] TCT No. 55513 issued in the
name of defendants Sps. Calaguian containing an area of 344 square meters[;] TCT No. 13309
issued in the name of Sps. Santos[;] TCT No. 24069 issued in the name of Virginia dela Fuente
containing an area of 350 square meters[;] and TCT No. C-46648 issued in the name of defendant
Lucy Madaya with an area of 350 square meters.”5
“[On January 29, 1985, then Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza filed] an action seeking x x x the
annulment and cancellation of Transfer Certificates of Title (TCT) Nos. 24015, 24017, 24018,
24020, 24021, 24024, 24025 and 24068 issued in the name of defendant St. Jude’s Enterprises,
Inc.[;] Transfer Certificates of Title Nos. 13309 and C-43319 both registered in the name of Sps.
Catalino Santos and Thelma B. Santos[;] TCT No. 55513 registered in the name of Sps. Domingo
Calaguian and Felicidad de Jesus[;] TCT No. 24069 registered in the name of Virginia dela
Fuente[;] and TCT No. C-46648 registered in the name of Lucy Madaya, principally on the
ground that said Certificates of Title were issued on the strength of [a] null and void subdivision
plan (LRC) PSD-55643 which expanded the original area of TCT No. 22660 in the name of St.
Jude’s Enterprises, Inc. from 40,623 square meters to 42,044 square meters upon its subdivision.
“Defendants Virginia dela Fuente and Lucy Madaya were declared in default for failure to file
their respective answers within the reglementary period.
“Defendants Sps. Catalino Santos and Thelma Barreto Santos, St. Jude’s Enterprises, Inc. and
Sps. Domingo Calaguian and Felicidad Calaguian filed separate answers to the complaint.
27

Defendants Sps. Domingo Calaguian and Sps. Catalino Santos interposed defenses, among
others, that they acquired the lots in question in good faith from their former owner, defendant
St. Jude’s Enterprises, Inc. and for value and that the titles issued to the said defendants were
rendered incontrovertible, conclusive and indefeasible after one year from the date of the
issuance of the titles by the Register of Deeds of Caloocan City.

The Issues

“On the other hand, defendant St. Jude’s Enterprises, Inc. interposed defenses, among others,
that the cause of action of plaintiff is barred by prior judgment; that the subdivision plan
submitted having been approved by the LRC, the government is now in estoppel to question the
approved subdivision plan; and the plaintiff’s allegation that the area of the subdivision
increased by 1,421 square meters is without any basis in fact and in law.”6

5 “2. Whether or not the Court of Appeals erred when it did not consider the Torrens System
as merely a means of registering title to land;

Ruling of the Trial Court
On April 30, 1991, the trial court dismissed the Complaint.7 While the plaintiff sufficiently
proved the enlargement or expansion of the area of the disputed property, it presented no proof
that Respondent St. Jude Enterprises, Inc. (“St. Jude”) had committed fraud when it submitted
the subdivision plan to the Land Registration Commission (LRC) for approval. Because the plan
was presumed to have been subjected to investigation, study and verification by the LRC, there
was no one to blame for the increase in the area “but the plaintiff[,] for having allowed and
approved the subdivision plan.” Thus, the court concluded, the government was already “in
estoppel to question the approved subdivision plan.”
The trial court also took into account the “absence of complaints from adjoining owners whose
supposed lots [were] encroached upon by the defendants,” as well as the fact that an adjoining
owner had categorically stated that there was no such encroachment. Finding that Spouses
Santos, Spouses Calaguian, Dela Fuente and Madaya had bought their respective lots from St.
Jude for value and in good faith, the court held that their titles could no longer be questioned,
because under the Torrens system, such titles had become absolute and irrevocable. As regards
the Republic’s allegation that it had filed the case to protect the integrity of the said system, the
court said:
“x x x [S]ustaining the position taken by the government would certainly lead to disastrous
consequences. Buyers in good faith would lose their titles. Adjoining owners who were
deprived of a portion of their lot would be forced to accept the portion of the property allegedly
encroached upon. Actions for recovery will be filed right and left[;] thus instead of preserving
the integrity of the Torrens System it would certainly cause chaos rather than stability. Finally, if
only to strengthen the Torrens System and in the interest of justice, the boundaries of the
affected properties of the defendants should not be disturbed and the status quo should be
maintained.”8
The solicitor general appealed the trial court’s Decision to the Court of Appeals.
Ruling of the Appellate Court
Citing several cases9 upholding the indefeasibility of titles issued under the Torrens system, the
appellate court affirmed the trial court. It berated petitioner for bringing the suit only after
nineteen (19) years had passed since the issuance of St. Jude’s title and the approval of the
subdivision plan. The pertinent portion of the assailed Decision reads:10
“x x x Rather than make the Torrens system reliable and stable, [its] act of filing the instant suit
rocks the system, as it gives the impression to Torrens title holders, like appellees, that their
titles to properties can be questioned by the same authority who had approved the same even
after a long period of time. In that case, no Torrens title holder shall be at peace with the
ownership and possession of his land, for the Commission of Land Registration can question his
title any time it makes a finding unfavorable to said Torrens title holder.”
Undaunted, petitioner seeks a review by this Court.11

In this petition, the Republic raises the following issues for our resolution:12
4 “1. Whether or not the government is estopped from questioning the approved subdivision
plan which expanded the areas covered by the transfer certificates of title in question;

6 “3. Whether or not the Court of Appeals erred when it failed to consider that petitioner’s
complaint before the lower court was filed to preserve the integrity of the Torrens
System.”
We shall discuss the second and third questions together. Hence, the issues shall be (1) the
applicability of estoppel against the State and (2) the Torrens system.
The Court’s Ruling
The petition is bereft of merit.
First Issue: Estoppel Against the Government
The general rule is that the State cannot be put in estoppel by the mistakes or errors of its
officials or agents.13 However, like all general rules, this is also subject to exceptions, viz.:14
“Estoppels against the public are little favored. They should not be invoked except in rare and
unusual circumstances, and may not be invoked where they would operate to defeat the
effective operation of a policy adopted to protect the public. They must be applied with
circumspection and should be applied only in those special cases where the interests of justice
clearly require it. Nevertheless, the government must not be allowed to deal dishonorably or
capriciously with its citizens, and must not play an ignoble part or do a shabby thing; and
subject to limitations x x x, the doctrine of equitable estoppel may be invoked against public
authorities as well as against private individuals.”
In Republic v. Sandiganbayan,15 the government, in its effort to recover ill-gotten wealth, tried to
skirt the application of estoppel against it by invoking a specific constitutional provision.16 The
Court countered:17
“We agree with the statement that the State is immune from estoppel, but this concept is
understood to refer to acts and mistakes of its officials especially those which are irregular
(Sharp International Marketing vs. Court of Appeals, 201 SCRA 299; 306 [1991]; Republic v. Aquino,
120 SCRA 186 [1983]), which peculiar circumstances are absent in the case at bar. Although the
State’s right of action to recover ill-gotten wealth is not vulnerable to estoppel[;] it is non sequitur
to suggest that a contract, freely and in good faith executed between the parties thereto is
susceptible to disturbance ad infinitum. A different interpretation will lead to the absurd scenario
of permitting a party to unilaterally jettison a compromise agreement which is supposed to have
the authority of res judicata (Article 2037, New Civil Code), and like any other contract, has the
force of law between parties thereto (Article 1159, New Civil Code; Hernaez vs. Kao, 17 SCRA 296
[1966]; 6 Padilla, Civil Code Annotated, 7th ed., 1987, p. 711; 3 Aquino, Civil Code, 1990 ed., p.
463). x x x.”
The Court further declared that “(t)he real office of the equitable norm of estoppel is limited to
supply[ing] deficiency in the law, but it should not supplant positive law.”18
In the case at bar, for nearly twenty years (starting from the issuance of St. Jude’s titles in 1966
up to the filing of the Complaint in 1985), petitioner failed to correct and recover the alleged
increase in the land area of St. Jude. Its prolonged inaction strongly militates against its cause, as
it is tantamount to laches, which means “the failure or neglect, for an unreasonable and
28

unexplained length of time, to do that which by exercising due diligence could or should have
within a reasonable time, warranting a presumption that the party entitled to assert it either has
abandoned it or declined to assert it.”19
The Court notes private respondents’ argument that, prior to the subdivision, the surveyors
erred in the original survey of the whole tract of land covered by TCT No. 22660, so that less than
the actual land area was indicated on the title. Otherwise, the adjoining owners would have
complained upon the partition of the land in accordance with the LRC-approved subdivision
plan. As it is, Florencio Quintos, the owner of the 9,146 square-meter Quintos Village adjoining
the northern portion of St. Jude’s property (the portion allegedly “expanded”), even attested on
August 16, 1973 that “there [was] no overlapping of boundaries as per my approved plan (LRC)
PSD 147766 dated September 8, 1971.”20 None of the other neighboring owners ever complained
against St. Jude or the purchasers of its property. It is clear, therefore, that there was no actual
damage to third persons caused by the resurvey and the subdivision.
Significantly, the other private respondents—Spouses Santos, Spouses Calaguian, Dela Fuente
and Madaya—bought such “expanded” lots in good faith, relying on the clean certificates of St.
Jude, which had no notice of any flaw in them either. It is only fair and reasonable to apply the
equitable principle of estoppel by laches against the government to avoid an injustice21 to the
innocent purchasers for value.
Likewise time-settled is the doctrine that where innocent third persons, relying on the
correctness of the certificate of title, acquire rights over the property, courts cannot disregard
such rights and order the cancellation of the certificate. Such cancellation would impair public
confidence in the certificate of title, for everyone dealing with property registered under the
Torrens system would have to inquire in every instance whether the title has been regularly
issued or not. This would be contrary to the very purpose of the law, which is to stabilize land
titles. Verily, all persons dealing with registered land may safely rely on the correctness of the
certificate of title issued therefor, and the law or the courts do not oblige them to go behind the
certificate in order to investigate again the true condition of the property. They are only charged
with notice of the liens and encumbrances on the property that are noted on the certificate.22
When private respondents-purchasers bought their lots from St. Jude, they did not have to go
behind the titles thereto to verify their contents or search for hidden defects or inchoate rights
that could defeat their rights to said lots. Although they were bound by liens and encumbrances
annotated on the titles, private respondents-purchasers could not have had notice of defects that
only an inquiry beyond the face of the titles could have satisfied.23 The rationale for this
presumption has been stated thus:24
“The main purpose of the Torrens System is to avoid possible conflicts of title to real estate and
to facilitate transactions relative thereto by giving the public the right to rely upon the face of a
Torrens Certificate of Title and to dispense with the need of inquiring further, except when the
party concerned had actual knowledge of facts and circumstances that should impel a
reasonably cautious man to make such further inquiry (Pascua v. Capuyoc, 77 SCRA 78). Thus,
where innocent third persons relying on the correctness of the certificate thus issued, acquire
rights over the property, the court cannot disregard such rights (Director of Land v. Abache, et
al., 73 Phil. 606).”
In another case,25 this Court further said:
“The Torrens System was adopted in this country because it was believed to be the most
effective measure to guarantee the integrity of land titles and to protect their indefeasibility once
the claim of ownership is established and recognized. If a person purchases a piece of land on
the assurance that the seller’s title thereto is valid, he should not run the risk of being told later
that his acquisition was ineffectual after all. This would not only be unfair to him. What is worse
is that if this were permitted, public confidence in the system would be eroded and land
transactions would have to be attended by complicated and not necessarily conclusive

investigations and proof of ownership. The further consequence would be that land conflicts
could be even more abrasive, if not even violent. The Government, recognizing the worthy purposes
of the Torrens System, should be the first to accept the validity of titles issued thereunder once the
conditions laid down by the law are satisfied.” [Italics supplied.]
Petitioner never presented proof that the private respondents who had bought their lots from St.
Jude were buyers in bad faith. Consequently, their claim of good faith prevails. A purchaser in
good faith and for value is one who buys the property of another without notice that some other
person has a right to or an interest in such property; and who pays a full and fair price for the
same at the time of such purchase or before he or she has notice of the claims or interest of some
other person.26 Good faith is the honest intention to abstain from taking any unconscientious
advantage of another.27
Furthermore, it should be stressed that the total area of forty thousand six hundred twenty-three
(40,623) square meters indicated on St. Jude’s original title (TCT No. 22660) was not an exact
area. Such figure was followed by the phrase “more or less.” This plainly means that the land
area indicated was not precise. Atty. Antonio H. Noblejas, who became the counsel of St. Jude
subsequent to his tenure as Land Registration Commissioner, offers a sensible explanation. In
his letter28 to the LRC dated November 8, 1982, he gave the following information:
1 “a. Records show that our client owned a large tract of land situated in an area cutting the
boundary of Quezon City and Caloocan City, then known as Lot 865-B, Psd-60608,
and described in T.C.T. No. 100412, containing an area of 96,931 sq. meters, more or
less.
2 b. It will be noted that on the northern portion of this Lot 865-B, Psd-60608, is x x x Lot 865-A,
Psd-60608, which means that at a previous point of time, these 2 lots composed one
whole tract of land.
3 c. On December 23, 1965, Lot 865-B, Psd-60608, was subdivided into 2 lots, denominated as
Lot 865-B-1, with an area of 40,622 sq. meters, more or less, on the Caloocan side, and
Lot 865-B-2, with an area of 56,308 sq. meters, more or less, on the Quezon City side,
under Plan (LRC) Psd-52368.
4 d. On March 1-10, 1966, Lot 865-B-1, Psd-52368, then covered by T.C.T. No. N-22660, was
subdivided into residential lots under Plan (LRC) Psd-55643, with a total area of 42,044
sq. meters, more or less.
5 e. It will be noted that Lot 865-B, Psd-60608, covered by T.C.T. No. 100412, contained an area
of 96,931 sq. meters, more or less, but when subdivided under Plan (LRC) Psd-52368,
into 2 lots, its total area shrank by 1 sq. meter, to wit:
Lot 865-B-1, Psd-52368

= 40,622 sq. meters

Lot 865-B-2, Psd-52368

= 53,300 ”

96,930 sq. meters
6 f. There is no allegation whatever in the Perez report that there was error in laying out the
metes and bounds of Lot 865-B-1 in Plan (LRC) Psd-55643, as specified in the
Technical Description of the said lot set forth in T.C.T. No. N-22660 covering the same.
There is likewise no allegation, on the contrary there is confirmation from the
boundary owner on the northern side, Mr. Florencio Quintos, that there is no
overlapping of boundaries on the northern side of Lot 865-B-1, Psd-55643.
7 g. We respectfully submit that the area of 42,044 sq. meters stated in Plan (LRC) Psd-55643 as
the size of Lot 865-B-a, is the more accurate area, confirmed by the Perez report ‘as per
surveyor[’]s findings on the ground,’ which rectifies previous surveyor’s error in
computing its area as 40,622 sq. meters in Plan (LRC) Psd-52368, which is about 3.5%
29

tolerable error (1,422 divided by 40,622 = .035).
8 h. It is well settled that in the identification of a parcel of land covered by a certificate of title,
what is controlling are the metes and bounds as set forth in its Technical Description
and not the area stated therein, which is merely an approximation as indicated in the
‘more or less’ phrase placed after the number of square meters.
9 i. There is thus no unauthorized expansion of the survey occasioned by the subdivision of Lot
865-B-1 under Plan (LRC) Psd-55643; consequently, LRC Circular No. 167, Series of
1967, finds no application thereto, as to bar the processing and registration in due
course of transactions involving the subdivision lots of our client, subject hereof. This
is apart from the fact that LRC Circular No. 167 has not been implemented by the
Register of Deeds of Caloocan City or any proper government authority since its
issuance in 1967, and that, in the interest of justice and equity, its restrictive and
oppressive effect on transactions over certificates of titles of subdivisions that
allegedly expanded on re-surveys, cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely.” (Italics
supplied.)
The discrepancy in the figures could have been caused by the inadvertence or the negligence of
the surveyors. There is no proof, though, that the land area indicated was intentionally and
fraudulently increased. The property originally registered was the same property that was
subdivided. It is well-settled that what defines a piece of titled property is not the numerical
data indicated as the area of the land, but the boundaries or “metes and bounds” of the property
specified in its technical description as enclosing it and showing its limits.29
Petitioner miserably failed to prove any fraud, either on the part of Private Respondent St. Jude
or on the part of land registration officials who had approved the subdivision plan and issued
the questioned TCTs. Other than its peremptory statement in the Complaint that the
“expansion” of the area was “motivated by bad faith with intent to defraud, to the damage and
prejudice of the government and of public interest,” petitioner did not allege specifically how
fraud was perpetrated to cause an increase in the actual land size indicated. Nor was any
evidence proffered to substantiate the allegation. That the land registration authorities
supposedly erred or committed an irregularity was merely a conclusion drawn from the “table
survey” showing that the aggregate area of the subdivision lots exceeded the area indicated on
the title of the property before its subdivision. Fraud cannot be presumed, and the failure of
petitioner to prove it defeats its own cause.

We cannot, therefore, adhere to the petitioner’s submission that, in filing this suit, it seeks to
preserve the integrity of the Torrens system. To the contrary, it is rather evident from our
foregoing discussion that petitioner’s action derogates the very integrity of the system. Time and
again, we have said that a Torrens certificate is evidence of an indefeasible title to property in
favor of the person whose name appears thereon.
WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DENIED and the assailed Decision is AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.
Romero (Chairman) and Gonzaga-Reyes, JJ., concur.
Vitug, J., Please see Concurring Opinion.
Purisima, J., I join J. Vitug’s concurring opinion.
CONCURRING OPINION
VITUG, J.:
The rule has been to the effect that a purchaser of registered land is not ordinarily required to
explore further than what the record in the Registry indicates on its face in quest of any hidden
defect or inchoate right which might adversely affect the buyer’s right over the property.1
Undoubtedly, to allow in the instant case the cancellation of the titles of herein private
respondents would defeat rather than enhance the purpose and scheme of the Torrens System. It
is my understanding, however, that the rule that the Court has here announced would not apply to a
situation where the enlargement or expansion in area would result in an encroachment on or reduction of
any area covered by a certificate of title previously issued. To rule otherwise would itself be to
downgrade the integrity of the Torrens System.
Petition denied, judgment affirmed.
Note.—The principle of equitable estoppel states that where one or two innocent persons
must suffer a loss, he who by his conduct made the loss possible must bear it. (Veloso vs. Court of
Appeals, 260 SCRA 593 [1996])
——o0o——

Second Issue: The Torrens System
True, the Torrens system is not a means of acquiring titles to lands; it is merely a system of
registration of titles to lands.30 Consequently, land erroneously included in a Torrens certificate of
title is not necessarily acquired by the holder of such certificate.31
But in the interest of justice and equity, neither may the titleholder be made to bear the
unfavorable effect of the mistake or negligence of the State’s agents, in the absence of proof of
his complicity in a fraud or of manifest damage to third persons. First, the real purpose of the
Torrens system is to quiet title to land to put a stop forever to any question as to the legality of the title,
except claims that were noted in the certificate at the time of the registration or that may arise
subsequent thereto.32 Second, as we discussed earlier, estoppel by laches now bars petitioner
from questioning private respondents’ titles to the subdivision lots. Third, it was never proven
that Private Respondent St. Jude was a party to the fraud that led to the increase in the area of
the property after its subdivision. Finally, because petitioner even failed to give sufficient proof
of any error that might have been committed by its agents who had surveyed the property, the
presumption of regularity in the performance of their functions must be respected. Otherwise,
the integrity of the Torrens system, which petitioner purportedly aims to protect by filing this
case, shall forever be sullied by the ineptitude and inefficiency of land registration officials, who
are ordinarily presumed to have regularly performed their duties.33
30

G.R. No. 126603. June 29, 1998.*
ESTRELLITA J. TAMANO, petitioner, vs. HON. RODOLFO A. ORTIZ, Presiding Judge, RTC-Br.
89, Quezon City, HAJA PUTRI ZORAYDA A. TAMANO, ADIB A. TAMANO and the HON.
COURT OF APPEALS, respondents.
Marriage; Husband and Wife; Actions; Declaration of Nullity of Marriage; Jurisdiction; Venue; Personal
actions, such as one for declaration of nullity of marriage, may be commenced and tried where the plaintiff
or any of the principal plaintiffs resides, or where the defendant or any of the principal defendants resides,
at the election of the plaintiff; What determines the nature of an action and correspondingly the court
which has jurisdiction over it are the allegations made by the plaintiff.—Under The Judiciary
Reorganization Act of 1980, Regional Trial Courts have jurisdiction over all actions involving the
contract of marriage and marital relations. Personal actions, such as the instant complaint for
declaration of nullity of marriage, may be commenced and tried where the plaintiff or any of the
principal plaintiffs resides, or where the defendant or any of the principal defendants resides, at
the election of the plaintiff. There should be no question by now that what determines the nature
of an action and correspondingly the court which has jurisdiction over it are the allegations
made by the plaintiff in this case. In the complaint for declaration of nullity of marriage filed by
private respondents herein, it was alleged that Estrellita and Tamano were married in
accordance with the provisions of the Civil Code. Never was it mentioned that Estrellita and
Tamano were married under Muslim laws or P.D. No. 1083. Interestingly, Estrellita never stated
in her Motion to Dismiss that she and Tamano were married under Muslim laws. That she was in
fact married to Tamano under Muslim laws was first mentioned only in her Motion for
Reconsideration.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; Pleadings and Practice; A court’s jurisdiction cannot be made to depend
upon defenses set up in the answer, in a motion to dismiss, or in a motion for reconsideration, but only
upon the allegations of the complaint.—Nevertheless, the Regional Trial Court was not divested of
jurisdiction to hear and try the instant case despite the allegation in the Motion for Reconsideration
that Estrellita and Tamano were likewise married in Muslim rites. This is because a court’s
jurisdiction cannot be made to depend upon defenses set up in the answer, in a motion to
dismiss, or in a motion for reconsideration, but only upon the allegations of the complaint.
Jurisdiction over the subject matter of a case is determined from the allegations of the complaint
as the latter comprises a concise statement of the ultimate facts constituting the plaintiff’s causes
of action.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; Where the complaint alleges that the couple were married in
accordance with the Civil Code, it is the said Code that is applicable in a complaint for declaration of
nullity of marriage.—As alleged in the complaint, petitioner and Tamano were married in
accordance with the Civil Code. Hence, contrary to the position of petitioner, the Civil Code is
applicable in the instant case. Assuming that indeed petitioner and Tamano were likewise
married under Muslim laws, the same would still fall under the general original jurisdiction of
the Regional Trial Courts.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; Code of Muslim Personal Laws (Presidential Decree 1083); Courts; The
shari’a courts are not vested with original and exclusive jurisdiction when it comes to marriages
celebrated under both civil and Muslim laws—Regional Trial Courts are not divested of their general
original jurisdiction under Sec. 19, par. (6) of B.P. Blg. 129.—Article 13 of P.D. No. 1083 does not
provide for a situation where the parties were married both in civil and Muslim rites.
Consequently, the shari’a courts are not vested with original and exclusive jurisdiction when it
comes to marriages celebrated under both civil and Muslim laws. Consequently, the Regional
Trial Courts are not divested of their general original jurisdiction under Sec. 19, par. (6) of B.P.
Blg. 129 which provides—Sec. 19. Jurisdiction in Civil Cases.—Regional Trial Courts shall exercise
exclusive original jurisdiction: x x x (6) In all cases not within the exclusive jurisdiction of any
court, tribunal, person or body exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions. x x x x

PETITION for review on certiorari of a decision of the Court of Appeals.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.
Emiliano S. Samson, R. Balderrama-Samson, Mary Anne B. Samson-Willis for petitioner.
AQSA Law Firm and Abbas & Associates for private respondents.
BELLOSILLO, J.:
This Petition for Review on Certiorari seeks to reverse and set aside the decision of the Court of
Appeals of 30 September 1996 in CA-G.R. SP. No. 39656 which affirmed the decision of the
Regional Trial Court-Br. 89, Quezon City, denying the motion to dismiss as well as the motion
for reconsideration filed by petitioner Estrellita J. Tamano.
On 31 May 1958 Senator Mamintal Abdul Jabar Tamano (Tamano) married private respondent
Haja Putri Zorayda A. Tamano (Zorayda) in civil rites. Their marriage supposedly remained
valid and subsisting until his death on 18 May 1994. Prior to his death, particularly on 2 June
1993, Tamano also married petitioner Estrellita J. Tamano (Estrellita) in civil rites in Malabang,
Lanao del Sur.
On 23 November 1994 private respondent Zorayda joined by her son Adib A. Tamano (Adib)
filed a Complaint for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage of Tamano and Estrellita on the ground that
it was bigamous. They contended that Tamano and Estrellita misrepresented themselves as
divorced and single, respectively, thus making the entries in the marriage contract false and
fraudulent.
Private respondents alleged that Tamano never divorced Zorayda and that Estrellita was not
single when she married Tamano as the decision annulling her previous marriage with Romeo
C. Llave never became final and executory for noncompliance with publication requirements.
Estrellita filed a motion to dismiss alleging that the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City was
without jurisdiction over the subject and nature of the action. She alleged that “only a party to
the marriage” could file an action for annulment of marriage against the other spouse,1 hence, it
was only Tamano who could file an action for annulment of their marriage. Petitioner likewise
contended that since Tamano and Zorayda were both Muslims and married in Muslim rites the
jurisdiction to hear and try the instant case was vested in the shari’a courts pursuant to Art. 155
of the Code of Muslim Personal Laws.
The lower court denied the motion to dismiss and ruled that the instant case was properly
cognizable by the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City since Estrellita and Tamano were
married in accordance with the Civil Code and not exclusively in accordance with P.D. No.
10832 or the Code of Muslim Personal Laws. The motion for reconsideration was likewise denied;
hence, petitioner filed the instant petition with this Court seeking to set aside the 18 July 1995
order of respondent presiding judge of the RTC-Br. 89, Quezon City, denying petitioner’s
motion to dismiss and the 22 August 1995 order denying reconsideration thereof.
In a Resolution dated 13 December 1995 we referred the case to the Court of Appeals for
consolidation with G.R. No. 118371. Zorayda and Adib A. Tamano however filed a motion,
which the Court of Appeals granted, to resolve the Complaint for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage
ahead of the other consolidated cases.
The Court of Appeals ruled that the instant case would fall under the exclusive jurisdiction of
shari’a courts only when filed in places where there are shari’a courts. But in places where there
are no shari’a courts, like Quezon City, the instant case could properly be filed before the
Regional Trial Court.
Petitioner is now before us reiterating her earlier argument that it is the shari’a court and not the
Under The Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980,3 Regional Trial Courts have jurisdiction over all
31

actions involving the contract of marriage and marital relations.4 Personal actions, such as the
instant complaint for declaration of nullity of marriage, may be commenced and tried where the
plaintiff or any of the principal plaintiffs resides, or where the defendant or any of the principal
defendants resides, at the election of the plaintiff.5 There should be no question by now that what
determines the nature of an action and correspondingly the court which has jurisdiction over it
are the allegations made by the plaintiff in this case.6 In the complaint for declaration of nullity of
marriage filed by private respondents herein, it was alleged that Estrellita and Tamano were
married in accordance with the provisions of the Civil Code. Never was it mentioned that
Estrellita and Tamano were married under Muslim laws or P.D. No. 1083. Interestingly,
Estrellita never stated in her Motion to Dismiss that she and Tamano were married under Muslim
laws. That she was in fact married to Tamano under Muslim laws was first mentioned only in
her Motion for Reconsideration.
Nevertheless, the Regional Trial Court was not divested of jurisdiction to hear and try the
instant case despite the allegation in the Motion for Reconsideration that Estrellita and Tamano
were likewise married in Muslim rites. This is because a court’s jurisdiction cannot be made to
depend upon defenses set up in the answer, in a motion to dismiss, or in a motion for
reconsideration, but only upon the allegations of the complaint.7 Jurisdiction over the subject
matter of a case is determined from the allegations of the complaint as the latter comprises a
concise statement of the ultimate facts constituting the plaintiff’s causes of action.8

case be immediately remanded to the court of origin for further proceedings until terminated.
SO ORDERED.
Davide, Jr. (Chairman), Vitug, Panganiban and Quisumbing, JJ., concur.
Petition denied, judgment affirmed.
Notes.—Under Muslim Law, it is not “immoral” by Muslim standards for Judge Malik to
marry a second time while his first marriage exists. (Sulu Islamic Association of Masjid Lambayong
vs. Malik, 226 SCRA 193 [1993])
A petition to resume the use of maiden name filed by a Muslim divorcee is a superfluity
and unnecessary proceeding since the law requires her to do so as her former husband is
already married to another woman after obtaining a decree of divorce from her in accordance
with Muslim laws. (Yasin vs. Judge, Shari’a District Court, 241 SCRA 606 [1995])
——o0o——

Petitioner argues that the shari’a courts have jurisdiction over the instant suit pursuant to Art. 13,
Title II, P.D. No. 1083,9 which provides—
Art. 13. Application.—(1) The provisions of this Title shall apply to marriage and divorce wherein
both parties are Muslims, or wherein only the male party is a Muslim and the marriage is
solemnized in accordance with Muslim law or this Code in any part of the Philippines.
7 (2) In case of a marriage between a Muslim and a non-Muslim, solemnized not in accordance
with Muslim law or this Code, the Civil Code of the Philippines shall apply.
8 (3) Subject to the provisions of the preceding paragraphs, the essential requisites and legal
impediments to marriage, divorce, paternity and filiation, guardianship and custody
of minors, support and maintenance, claims for customary dower (mahr), betrothal,
breach of contract to marry, solemnization and registration of marriage and divorce,
rights and obligations between husband and wife, parental authority, and the
property relations between husband and wife shall be governed by this Code and
other applicable Muslim laws.
As alleged in the complaint, petitioner and Tamano were married in accordance with the Civil
Code. Hence, contrary to the position of petitioner, the Civil Code is applicable in the instant
case. Assuming that indeed petitioner and Tamano were likewise married under Muslim laws,
the same would still fall under the general original jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Courts.
Article 13 of P.D. No. 1083 does not provide for a situation where the parties were married both
in civil and Muslim rites. Consequently, the shari’a courts are not vested with original and
exclusive jurisdiction when it comes to marriages celebrated under both civil and Muslim laws.
Consequently, the Regional Trial Courts are not divested of their general original jurisdiction
under Sec. 19, par. (6) of BP Blg. 129 which provides—
Sec. 19. Jurisdiction in Civil Cases.—Regional Trial Courts shall exercise exclusive original
jurisdiction: x x x (6) In all cases not within the exclusive jurisdiction of any court, tribunal,
person or body exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions x x x x
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DENIED. The decision of the Court of Appeals sustaining
the 18 July 1995 and 22 August 1995 orders of the Regional Trial Court-Br. 89, Quezon City,
denying the motion to dismiss and reconsideration thereof, is AFFIRMED. Let the records of this
32

G.R. No. 109656. November 21, 1996.*
LA TONDEÑA DISTILLERS, INC., petitioner, vs. THE HON. JUDGE BERNARDO T.
PONFERRADA, JOAQUIN T. GOCHANGCO, ENRIQUE DY, QUINTIN DY, LITO ONG,
JERRY ONG and LUIS T. ONG, respondents.
Remedial Law; Certiorari; Appeals; An order denying a motion to dismiss is only interlocutory which is
neither appealable until final judgment nor could it generally be assailed in certiorari.—An order
denying a motion to dismiss is only interlocutory which is neither appealable until final
judgment, nor could it generally be assailed on certiorari. The remedy of the aggrieved party is to
file an answer pursuant to Sec. 4, Rule 16, and interpose as defenses, the objections raised in his
motion to dismiss, proceed to trial, and in case of an adverse decision, elevate the whole case by
appeal in due time.
Same; Same; Same; The extraordinary remedy of certiorari can be availed of only if the denial of the
motion constitutes grave abuse of discretion.—The extraordinary remedy of certiorari can be availed
of only if the denial of the motion constitutes grave abuse of discretion. In the case at bar, the
lower court did not abuse its discretion in deferring action on the motion. Section 3 of Rule 16
sanctions deferment of hearing on the motion “until the trial if the ground alleged does not
appear to be indubitable.” Clearly respondent judge had doubts on the allegation of petitioner’s
good faith. This is a question of fact which necessitates presentation of evidence and is certainly
far from indubitable. It is within the discretion of the court to defer action if the ground alleged
does not appear to be indubitable and that deferment is only deemed a provisional denial of the
motion to dismiss.
Same; Venue; Specific Performance; A complaint for specific performance with damages involving real
property was held to be a personal action which may be filed in the proper court where the party resides.—
We are not also persuaded by petitioner’s argument that venue should be lodged in Bago City
where the lot is situated. The complaint is one for “specific performance with damages.” Private
respondents do not claim ownership of the lot but in fact recognized title of defendants by
annotating a notice of lis pendens. In one case, a similar complaint for “specific performance with
damages” involving real property, was held to be a personal action, which may be filed in the
proper court where the party resides. Not being an action involving title to or ownership of real
property, venue, in this case, was not improperly laid before the RTC of Bacolod City.
SPECIAL CIVIL ACTION in the Supreme Court. Certiorari.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.
Siguion Reyna, Montecillo & Ongsiako for petitioner.

Enrique S. Chua for private respondent.

FRANCISCO, J.:
The undisputed facts are simplified as follows:
1. Several persons1 (herein referred to as defendants) reneged on their contract to sell to private
respondents a parcel of land2 located in Bago City;
2. This breach prompted private respondents to file on August 25, 1987 before the Regional Trial
Court (RTC) of Bacolod City an action for “specific performance with damages” against
defendants. A notice of lis pendens was annotated on the latter’s title although the same was
cancelled on November 9, 1988 upon defendants filing a bond;
3. Pending the trial before the lower court on November, 1991, petitioner bought the above lot
from defendants. Aggrieved, private respondents amended their complaint and impleaded
petitioner as an additional defendant alleging that petitioner was not a buyer in good faith;
4. Subsequently, petitioner filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint on two grounds: no
cause of action and improper venue. In support of the first ground, petitioner asserts that it is a

buyer in good faith since the notice of lis pendens was already cancelled when it bought the lot.
As for the second ground, petitioner argued that venue should be in Bago City where the lot is
located and not in Bacolod City;
5. On October 1, 1992, petitioner received a resolution from the lower court denying their motion
as there was need for the parties to present evidence on the question of good faith. Petitioner’s
motion for reconsideration was also denied in a resolution they received on January 20, 1993;
6. More than three (3) months later, or on April 21, 1993, petitioner went directly to this Court
via petition for certiorari under Rule 65 assailing the denial of their motions. On November 24,
1993, the court gave due course to the petition and required the parties to submit their
memorandum.3 After the parties submitted their respective memoranda as directed, petitioner
filed a “manifestation” alleging for the first time that it sold the lot sometime in September, 1992
to Distileria Bago, Inc. a separate entity with which the former has substantial stockholdings.
Based on such admission, private respondents moved to dismiss the instant petition, arguing
that petitioner is no longer a real party in interest, having sold the lot.
The issue posed herein involves the remedy of an aggrieved party when the lower court denies
his motion to dismiss.
However, the petition should be dismissed outright for being filed beyond the reasonable
period,4 the same having been filed only after more than three months from the time petitioner
received a copy of the assailed RTC resolutions.
Even assuming that the petition was promptly filed, dismissal is still warranted on account of
the following reasons:
First, an order denying a motion to dismiss is only interlocutory which is neither appealable
until final judgment,5 nor could it generally be assailed on certiorari.6The remedy of the
aggrieved party is to file an answer pursuant to Sec. 4, Rule 16, and interpose as defenses, the
objections raised in his motion to dismiss, proceed to trial, and in case of an adverse decision,
elevate the whole case by appeal in due time.7
Second, the extraordinary remedy of certiorari can be availed of only if the denial of the motion
constitutes grave abuse of discretion.8 In the case at bar, the lower court did not abuse its
discretion in deferring9 action on the motion. Section 3 of Rule 1610 sanctions deferment of
hearing on the motion “until the trial if the ground alleged does not appear to be indubitable.”
Clearly respondent judge had doubts on the allegation of petitioner’s good faith. This is a
question of fact which necessitates presentation of evidence and is certainly far from
indubitable.11 It is within the discretion of the court to defer action if the ground alleged does not
appear to be indubitable12 and that deferment is only deemed a provisional denial of the motion
to dismiss.13
Finally, We are not also persuaded by petitioner’s argument that venue should be lodged in
Bago City where the lot is situated.14 The complaint is one for “specific performance with
damages.” Private respondents do not claim ownership of the lot but in fact recognized title of
defendants by annotating a notice of lis pendens. In one case,15 a similar complaint for “specific
performance with damages” involving real property, was held to be a personal action, which
may be filed in the proper court where the party resides. Not being an action involving title to or
ownership of real property, venue, in this case, was not improperly laid before the RTC of
Bacolod City.
Counsel for the petitioner should have meticulously observed the procedural guidelines
established by the Rules of Court as well as by jurisprudence. We reiterate that the extraordinary
remedy of certiorari is not intended to be a tool to delay litigation and must be resorted to only in
cases of manifest grave abuse of discretion. The case at bench does not call for such
extraordinary remedy. ACCORDINGLY, finding no grave abuse of discretion, the instant
33

petition is DISMISSED.

G.R. No. 146594. June 10, 2002.*

SO ORDERED.
Narvasa (C.J., Chairman), Davide, Jr., Melo and Panganiban, JJ., concur.
Petition dismissed.
Note.—Errors of judgment or of procedure not relating to the court’s jurisdiction nor
involving grave abuse of discretion are not reviewable by certiorari under Rule 65 of the Revised
Rules of Court. (Rodriquez vs. Court of Appeals, 245 SCRA 150 [1995])
——o0o——

REBECCA T. CABUTIHAN, petitioner, vs. LANDCENTER CONSTRUCTION &
DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, respondent.
Actions; Pleadings and Practice; Venue; Actions affecting title to or possession of real property or an
interest therein (real actions), shall be commenced and tried in the proper court that has territorial
jurisdiction over the area where the real property is situated, while all other actions (personal actions)
shall be commenced and tried in the proper courts where the plaintiff or any of the principal plaintiffs
resides or where the defendant or any of the principal defendants resides.—We agree with petitioner.
Sections 1 and 2, Rule 4 of the Rules of Court provide an answer to the issue of venue. Actions
affecting title to or possession of real property or an interest therein (real actions), shall be
commenced and tried in the proper court that has territorial jurisdiction over the area where the
real property is situated. On the other hand, all other actions, (personal actions) shall be
commenced and tried in the proper courts where the plaintiff or any of the principal plaintiffs
resides or where the defendant or any of the principal defendants resides.
Same; Same; Same; Contracts; Breach of contract gives rise to a cause of action for specific performance or
for rescission.—In the present case, petitioner seeks payment of her services in accordance with
the undertaking the parties signed. Breach of contract gives rise to a cause of action for specific
performance or for rescission. If petitioner had filed an action in rem for the conveyance of real
property, the dismissal of the case would have been proper on the ground of lack of cause of
action.
Same; Same; Parties; Neither a misjoinder nor a non-joinder of parties is a ground for the dismissal of an
action—parties may be dropped or added by order of the court, on motion of any party or on the court’s
own initiative at any stage of the action.—Again, we side with petitioner. Neither a misjoinder nor a
non-joinder of parties is a ground for the dismissal of an action. Parties may be dropped or
added by order of the court, on motion of any party or on the court’s own initiative at any stage
of the action. The RTC should have ordered the joinder of such party, and noncompliance with
the said order would have been ground for dismissal of the action.
Same; Same; Same; Necessary Parties; The non-inclusion of a necessary party does not prevent the court
from proceeding with the action, and the judgment rendered therein shall be without prejudice to the
rights of such party.—Although the Complaint prayed for the conveyance of the whole 36.5
percent claim without impleading the companions of petitioner as party-litigants, the RTC could
have separately proceeded with the case as far as her 20 percent share in the claim was
concerned, independent of the other 16.5 percent. This fact means that her companions are not
indispensable parties without whom no final determination can be had. At best, they are mere
necessary parties who ought to be impleaded for a complete determination or settlement of the
claim subject of the action. The noninclusion of a necessary party does not prevent the court
from proceeding with the action, and the judgment rendered therein shall be without prejudice
to the rights of such party.
Same; Same; Docket Fees; Section 5, Rule 141 of the Rules of Court requiring the assessed value of the real
estate, subject of an action, to be considered in computing the filing fees does not apply to an action for
specific performance, which is classified as an action not capable of pecuniary estimation.—We hold that
the trial court and respondent used technicalities to avoid the resolution of the case and to trifle
with the law. True, Section 5, Rule 141 of the Rules of Court requires that the assessed value of
the real estate, subject of an action, should be considered in computing the filing fees. But the
Court has already clarified that the Rule does not apply to an action for specific performance,
which is classified as an action not capable of pecuniary estimation.
Same; Same; Same; Where the filing of the initiatory pleading is not accompanied by payment of the
docket fee, the court may allow payment of the fee within a reasonable time but in no case beyond the
applicable prescriptive or reglementary period.—Besides, if during the course of the trial, petitioner’s
20 percent claim on the Fourth Estate Subdivision can no longer be satisfied and the payment of
34

its monetary equivalent is the only solution left, Sunlife Insurance Office, Ltd. v. Asuncion holds as
follows: “Where the filing of the initiatory pleading is not accompanied by payment of the
docket fee, the court may allow payment of the fee within a reasonable time but in no case
beyond the applicable prescriptive or reglementary period.”
PETITION for review on certiorari of the orders of the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City, Br.
263.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.
Prospero A. Anave for petitioner.
Francisco E. Antonio for respondent.

agreed, as follows:
1. The FACILITATOR undertakes to effect the recovery of the property subject hereof, including
the financing of the undertaking, up to the registration of the same in the name of [respondent
corporation], except any and all taxes due;
2. The FACILITATOR shall be responsible for whatever arrangements necessary in relation to
the squatters presently occupying [a] portion of the property, as well as the legitimate buyers of
lots thereof;
3. As compensation for the undertaking of the FACILITATOR, [she] shall be entitled to Twenty
[Percent] (20%) of the total area of the property thus recovered for and in behalf of [respondent
corporation].

PANGANIBAN, J.:

xxx

xxx

x x x.”5

Breach of contract gives rise to a cause of action for specific performance or for rescission. A suit
for such breach is not capable of pecuniary estimation; hence, the assessed value of the real
estate, subject of the said action, should not be considered in computing the filing fees. Neither a
misjoinder nor a non-joinder of parties is a ground for dismissal of an action, because parties
may be dropped or added at any stage of the proceedings.

Armed with Board Resolution No. 01, Series of 1997,6 which had authorized her to represent the
corporation, Luz Baylon Ponce entered into a February 11, 1997 Deed of Undertaking with a
group composed of petitioner, Wenifredo P. Forro, Nicanor Radan, Sr. and Atty. Prospero A.
Anave. The Deed states the following:

The Case

“WHEREAS, the UNDERTAKER [respondent corporation] solicited, engaged and hereby
voluntarily acknowledges the assistance of certain persons, in recovering, arranging and
financing the undertaking up to completion/consummation of the same;

Before us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45, assailing the Orders dated
September 8, 2000 and November 21, 2000, promulgated by of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of
Pasig City, Branch 263.1 The first assailed Order disposed as follows:
“WHEREFORE, foregoing premises considered, this Court hereby resolves to dismiss the
instant complaint.”2
Reconsideration was denied in the second challenged Order.3
The Facts
Culled from the pleadings, the facts of this case are as follows.

“WHEREAS, the UNDERTAKER freely, voluntarily, unconditionally and irrevocably agreed,
committed and undertook to compensate x x x said persons, in the manner, specified
hereinbelow;
“WHEREFORE, considering the foregoing premises, and the mutual covenants of the parties,
the UNDERTAKER hereby unconditionally and irrevocably [c]ommit[s] and [u]ndertake[s], as
follows:
“1. To pay or compensate the following persons, based on the gross area of the afore-described
parcel of land or gross proceeds of the sale thereof, as the case may be, to wit:

On December 3, 1996, herein respondent—Landcenter Construction & Development
Corporation, represented by Wilfredo B. Maghuyop—entered into an Agreement4 with
Petitioner Rebecca Cabutihan. The Agreement stipulates:

Rebecca T. Cabutihan .....................

20%

Wenifredo P. Forro ........................

10%

“WHEREAS, [respondent corporation], x x x is the absolute owner, x x x of a parcel of land
situated at Kay-biga, Parañaque, Metro Manila covered under Transfer Certificate of Title No.
(S-30409) (partially cancelled by TCT Nos. 110001 to 110239) and particularly described as
follows:

Nicanor Radan, Sr. .........................

4%

Atty. Prospero A. Anave ..................
TOTAL ......................

2.5%
36.5%

‘A parcel of land (Plan Psu-80206, Case No. 290, G.L.R.O. Record No. 2291), situated in the
Barrio of Kay-biga, Municipality of Parañaque, Province of Rizal. Bounded on the NE., by
properties of Eulogio Cruz and Isidro Alano; on the E., by property of Justo Bernardo; on the
SE., by properties of Marcelo Nofuente and Lorenzo Molera; on the SW., by properties of Higino
and Pedro P. Lopez; on the W., by property of Odon Rodriguez; and on the NW., by properties
of Evaristo de los Santos and Pastor Leonardo . . . . .; containing an area of ONE HUNDRED
SEVEN THOUSAND AND FORTY SEVEN (107,047) SQUARE METERS, more or less.’

“2. Execute a Deed of Assignment unto and in favor of each of the persons above-mentioned
corresponding to their respective shares in the subject parcel of land or in the proceeds thereof;

“WHEREAS, [respondent corporation] decided to engage the assistance of [petitioner] and x x x
herein called the FACILITATOR for the purpose of facilitating and arranging the recovery of the
property in question, as well as the financing of such undertakings necessary in connection
thereto;

“[6.] [Petitioner] accomplished her undertakings under the subject Agreement and the
Undertaking. So in a letter dated 18 April 1997, x x x, [respondent corporation] was informed
accordingly thereof. Simultaneously, [petitioner] demanded upon [respondent corporation] to
execute the corresponding Deed of Assignment of the lots in the subject property, as
compensation for the services rendered in favor of the [respondent corporation]. The subject
letter was duly received and acknowledged receipt, by then Acting Corporate Secretary of the

“WHEREFORE, premises considered and of the mutual covenants of the parties, they have

“3. This Undertaking as well as the Deed of Assignment above-stated shall be effective and
binding upon the heirs, successors-in-interest, assigns or designates of the parties herein.”7
An action for specific performance with damages was filed by petitioner on October 14, 1999
before the RTC of Pasig City, Branch 263. She alleged:

35

[respondent corporation].
“[7.] [Respondent corporation] failed and refused to act on x x x said demand of [petitioner].
Hence, [she] sent a letter dated May 8, 1997, to the Register of Deeds for Parañaque, to inform x
x x said Office of x x x [her] claim x x x;
“[8.] x x x [T]he subject property was already transferred to and registered in the name of
[respondent corporation] under Transfer Certificate of Title No. -123917-, of the Registry of
Deeds for Parañaque City x x x;
xxx

xxx

xxx

“[10.] With x x x said title of the property now in the possession of the [respondent corporation],
[petitioner] is apprehensive that the more that [she] will not be able to obtain from [respondent
corporation], compliance with the afore-stated Agreement and Undertaking, to the extreme
detriment and prejudice of [petitioner] and her group, x x x;
xxx

xxx

xxx

“[12.] Then in a letter,8 dated 10 September 1999, [petitioner] through counsel sent to
[respondent corporation] a Formal Demand, to comply with its obligation x x x but x x x
[respondent corporation] did not heed the demand, x x x.”9

says that Wenifredo Forro and Nicanor Radan were once real estate agents of [respondent
corporation] who promised to help sell lots from her project Villaluz II Subdivision located [in]
Malibay, Pasay City. According to Luz Baylon Ponce, the Board of Directors of [respondent
corporation] negotiated with Forro and Radan for the latter to sell units/lots of Villaluz II
Subdivision, and to help obtain a financier who would finance for the expenses for the
reconstitution of the lost title of the Fourth Estate Subdivision situated [in] Sucat, Parañaque
City. Shortly thereafter, these two men resigned from [respondent corporation] as agents, after
they manipulated the signing of x x x said ‘Deed of Undertaking’ by Luz Baylon Ponce on
February 11, 1997. The latter is an old woman 80 years of age. She is weak, has x x x poor sight,
and is feeble in her mental ability. Forro and Radan inserted the ‘Deed of Undertaking’ among
the papers intended for application for reconstitution of [respondent corporation’s] title which
these men caused Luz Baylon Ponce to sign, and she unknowingly signed the ‘Deed of
Undertaking.’ x x x.”10
In the Motion, respondent sought the dismissal of the Complaint on the grounds of (1) improper
venue, (2) lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter, and (3) nonpayment of the proper docket
fees. Specifically, it contended:
“8. That venue is improperly laid
xxx

xxx

xxx

Petitioner prayed, inter alia, that respondent corporation be ordered to execute the appropriate
document assigning, conveying, transferring and delivering the particular lots in her favor. The
lots represented compensation for the undertakings she performed and accomplished, as
embodied in the Agreement.

“(b) In other words, the present case filed by [petitioner] is for her recovery (and for her
companions) of 36.5% of [respondent corporation’s] land (Fourth Estate Subdivision) or her
interest therein, x x x therefore, x x x the present case filed x x x is a real action or an action in
rem.

Respondent then filed a Motion to Dismiss, alleging the following:

“(c) x x x [Following] Section 1, Rule 4 of the Rules of Court, as amended x x x the present case
should have been filed by [petitioner] with the proper court in Parañaque City which has
jurisdiction over the x x x Fourth Estate Subdivision because said subdivision is situated in
Parañaque City. Since [petitioner] filed the present case with this x x x [c]ourt in Pasig City, she
chose a wrong venue x x x.

“5. Because of the troubled situation obtaining at the management level of [respondent
corporation], the sale between [respondent corporation] and PCIB regarding the Fourth Estate
Subdivision was not registered with the Register of Deeds office, although [respondent
corporation] continued holding the deed of sale over the Fourth Estate Subdivision.
“6. A group of persons led by one Wilfredo Maghuyop, including herein [petitioner], Wenifredo
Forro, Nicanor Radan, and others, taking advantage of the management mess at [respondent
corporation], tried to grab ownership of the [respondent corporation], and with use of fraud,
cheat, misrepresentation and theft of vital documents from the office of [respondent
corporation], succeeded in filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission false papers and
documents purporting to show that the Articles of Incorporation of [respondent corporation]
had been amended, installing Maghuyop as president of [respondent corporation]. It was on
these occasions that [petitioner] and her companions x x x, with use of fraud, stealth, tricks,
deceit and cheat succeeded in letting Luz Baylon Ponce sign a so-called ‘Deed of Undertaking’
by virtue of which [respondent corporation] is duty-bound to give to [petitioner], Forro, Radan
and Atty. Prospero Anave 36.5% of the land area of the Fourth Estate Subdivision as
compensation for alleged services and expenses made by these people in favor of [respondent
corporation]. They also caused said x x x Maghuyop to sign an ‘Agreement’ with [petitioner]
expressing an obligation on the part of [respondent corporation] to give a big part of the land x x
x to [petitioner]. These ‘Agreement’ and ‘Deed of Undertaking’ are being made by herein
[petitioner] as her causes of action in the present case.

xxx

xxx

xxx

“9. That the [c]ourt has no jurisdiction over the subject matter of the claim
xxx

xxx

xxx

“(c) x x x Wenifredo P. Forro, Nicanor Radan, Sr. and Atty. Prospero A. Anave are not named as
plaintiffs in the complaint. [Petitioner] x x x is not named as representative of Forro, Radan and
Anave by virtue of a Special Power of Attorney or other formal written authority. According to
the Rules, where the action is allowed to be prosecuted or defended by a representative or
someone acting in a fiduciary capacity, the beneficiary shall be included in the title of the case
and shall be deemed to be the real party in interest (Sec. 3, Rule 3, Rules of Court, as amended x
x x).
xxx

xxx

xxx

“10. That a condition precedent for filing the claim has not been complied with
xxx

xxx

xxx

“Wilfredo Maghuyop was a stranger to [respondent corporation], and he was an impostor used
by [petitioner] and her companions to barge into the management of [respondent corporation]
for the purpose of stealing and creating an obligation against [respondent corporation] in their
favor.

(b) Obviously, [petitioner] has not paid the docket or filing fees on the value of her land claim x
x x. Thirty-six percent (36%) x x x is P180,000,000.00, x x x.”11

“7. But Luz Baylon Ponce, whose signature appears on the instrument denominated as ‘Deed of
Undertaking,’ vehemently denies that she signed said instrument freely and voluntarily. She

The RTC ruled that the allegations in the Complaint show that its primary objective was to
recover real property. Equally important, the prayer was to compel respondent to execute the

Ruling of the Trial Court

36

necessary deeds of transfer and conveyance of a portion of the property corresponding to 36.5
percent of its total area or, in the alternative, to hold respondent liable for the value of the said
portion, based on the prevailing market price. The RTC further ruled that, since the suit would
affect the title to the property, it should have been instituted in the trial court where the
property was situated.12
Furthermore, the action was filed only by petitioner. There was no allegation that she had been
authorized by Forro, Radan and Anave to represent their respective shares in the compensation.
Finally, since this case was an action in rem, it was imperative for petitioner to pay the
appropriate docket or filing fees equivalent to the pecuniary value of her claim, a duty she failed
to discharge. Consequently, following Manchester Development Corp. v. Court of Appeals,13 the trial
court never acquired jurisdiction over the case.
Hence, this Petition.14
Issues
In her Memorandum, petitioner phrases the issue in this wise:
“Whether or not the dismissal of the [C]omplaint was in accordance with the pertinent law and
jurisprudence on the matter.”15
She argues that the RTC erred in dismissing her Complaint on the grounds of (1) improper
venue, (2) non-joinder of necessary parties, and (3) non-payment of proper docket fees.
This Court’s Ruling
The Petition is meritorious.
First Issue:
Proper Venue
Maintaining that the action is in personam, not in rem, petitioner alleges that the venue was
properly laid The fact that “she ultimately sought the conveyance of real property” not located
in the territorial jurisdiction of the RTC of Pasig is, she claims, an anticipated consequence and
beyond the cause for which the action was instituted.
On the other hand, the RTC ruled that since the primary objective of petitioner was to recover
real property—even though her Complaint was for specific performance and damages—her
action should have been instituted in the trial court where the property was situated, in
accordance with Commodities Storage & Ice Plant Corp. v. Court of Appeals.16
We agree with petitioner. Sections 1 and 2, Rule 4 of the Rules of Court provide an answer to the
issue of venue.17 Actions affecting title to or possession of real property or an interest therein
(real actions), shall be commenced and tried in the proper court that has territorial jurisdiction
over the area where the real property is situated. On the other hand, all other actions, (personal
actions) shall be commenced and tried in the proper courts where the plaintiff or any of the
principal plaintiffs resides or where the defendant or any of the principal defendants resides.
In Commodities Storage cited earlier, petitioner spouses obtained a loan secured by a mortgage
over their land and ice plant in Sta. Maria, Bulacan. Because they had failed to pay the loan, the
mortgage was foreclosed and the ice plant auctioned. Before the RTC of Manila, they sued the
bank for damages and for the fixing of the redemption period. Since the spouses ultimately
sought redemption of the mortgaged property, the action affected the mortgage debtor’s title to
the foreclosed property; hence, it was a real action.18 Where the action affects title to the
property, it should be instituted in the trial court where the property is situated.19
In National Steel Corp. v. Court of Appeals,20 the Court held that “an action in which petitioner

seeks the execution of a deed of sale of a parcel of land in his favor x x x has been held to be for
the recovery of the real property and not for specific performance since his primary objective is
to regain the ownership and possession of the parcel of land.”
However, in La Tondeña Distillers, Inc. v. Ponferrada,21 private respondents filed an action for
specific performance with damages before the RTC of Bacolod City. The defendants allegedly
reneged on their contract to sell to them a parcel of land located in Bago City—a piece of
property which the latter sold to petitioner while the case was pending before the said RTC.
Private respondent did not claim ownership but, by annotating a notice of lis pendens on the title,
recognized defendants’ ownership thereof. This Court ruled that the venue had properly been
laid in the RTC of Bacolod, even if the property was situated in Bago.
In Siasoco v. Court of Appeals,22 private respondent filed a case for specific performance with
damages before the RTC of Quezon City. It alleged that after it accepted the offer of petitioners,
they sold to a third person several parcels of land located in Montalban, Rizal. The Supreme
Court sustained the trial court’s order allowing an amendment of the original Complaint for
specific performance with damages. Contrary to petitioners’ position that the RTC of Quezon
City had no jurisdiction over the case, as the subject lots were located in Montalban, Rizal, the
said RTC had jurisdiction over the original Complaint. The Court reiterated the rule that a case
for specific performance with damages is a personal action which may be filed in a court where
any of the parties reside.
A close scrutiny of National Steel and Ruiz reveals that the prayers for the execution of a Deed of
Sale were not in any way connected to a contract, like the Undertaking in this case. Hence, even
if there were prayers for the execution of a deed of sale, the actions filed in the said cases were
not for specific performance.
In the present case, petitioner seeks payment of her services in accordance with the undertaking
the parties signed. Breach of contract gives rise to a cause of action for specific performance or
for rescission.23 If petitioner had filed an action in rem for the conveyance of real property, the
dismissal of the case would have been proper on the ground of lack of cause of action.
Second Issue:
Non-Joinder of Proper Parties
Petitioner claims that she was duly authorized and empowered to represent the members of her
group and to prosecute their claims on their behalf via a Special Power of Attorney executed by
Forro, Radan and Anave. Besides, she argues that the omission of her companions as plaintiffs
did not prevent the RTC from proceeding with the action, because whatever judgment would be
rendered would be without prejudice to their rights. In the alternative, she avers that the trial
court may add or drop a party or parties at any stage of the action and on such terms as are just.
The RTC ruled that there was no allegation anywhere in the records that petitioner had been
authorized to represent Forro, Radan and Anave, who were real parties-in-interest with respect
to their respective shares of the 36.5 percent claim. Such being the case, the trial court never
acquired jurisdiction over the subject matter of their claims.
Again, we side with petitioner. Neither a misjoinder nor a nonjoinder of parties is a ground for
the dismissal of an action. Parties may be dropped or added by order of the court, on motion of
any party or on the court’s own initiative at any stage of the action.24
The RTC should have ordered the joinder of such party, and noncompliance with the said order
would have been ground for dismissal of the action.
Although the Complaint prayed for the conveyance of the whole 36.5 percent claim without
impleading the companions of petitioner as party-litigants, the RTC could have separately
proceeded with the case as far as her 20 percent share in the claim was concerned, independent
37

of the other 16.5 percent. This fact means that her companions are not indispensable parties
without whom no final determination can be had.25 At best, they are mere necessary parties who
ought to be impleaded for a complete determination or settlement of the claim subject of the
action.26 The non-inclusion of a necessary party does not prevent the court from proceeding with
the action, and the judgment rendered therein shall be without prejudice to the rights of such
party.27
Third Issue:
Correct Docket Fees
Petitioner insists that the value of the real property, which was the subject of the contract, has
nothing to do with the determination of the correct docket or filing fees.
The RTC ruled that although the amount of damages sought had not been specified in the body
of the Complaint, one can infer from the assessed value of the disputed land that it would
amount to P50 million. Hence, when compared to this figure, the P210 paid as docket fees would
appear paltry.
We hold that the trial court and respondent used technicalities to avoid the resolution of the case
and to trifle with the law. True, Section 5, Rule 141 of the Rules of Court requires that the
assessed value of the real estate, subject of an action, should be considered in computing the
filing fees. But the Court has already clarified that the Rule does not apply to an action for
specific performance,28 which is classified as an action not capable of pecuniary estimation.29
Besides, if during the course of the trial, petitioner’s 20 percent claim on the Fourth Estate
Subdivision can no longer be satisfied and the payment of its monetary equivalent is the only
solution left, Sunlife Insurance Office, Ltd. v. Asuncion30 holds as follows: “Where the filing of the
initiatory pleading is not accompanied by payment of the docket fee, the court may allow
payment of the fee within a reasonable time but in no case beyond the applicable prescriptive or
reglementary period.”
WHEREFORE, the Petition is hereby GRANTED, and the assailed Orders REVERSED and
SET ASIDE. The case is REMANDED to the court of origin which is ordered to PROCEED with
deliberate speed in disposing of the case. No costs.
SO ORDERED.
Sandoval-Gutierrez and Carpio, JJ., concur.
Puno (Chairman), J., Abroad, on official leave.
Petition granted, orders reversed and set aside. Case remanded to court a quo.
Notes.—Venue in Pangasinan was improperly laid where the plaintiff was a resident of
Los Angeles, California while his attorney-in-fact was a resident of Quezon City and the
defendant claims to reside in Sorsogon while his “business address” is in Pasay City. (Baritua vs.
Court of Appeals, 267 SCRA 331 [1997])
In procedural law, specifically for purposes of venue, it has been held that the residence of a
person is his personal, actual or physical habitation or his actual residence or place of abode,
which may not necessarily be his legal residence or domicile provided he resides therein with
continuity and consistency. (Boleyley vs. Villanueva, 314 SCRA 364 [1999])
——o0o——

No. L-32170. March 31, 1971.
CITIZENS’ SURETY &INSURANCE COMPANY,INC., petitioner, vs. HON.JUDGE A.
MELENCIO-HERRERA,SANTIAGO DACANAY, and JOSEFINA DACANAY, respondents.
Remedial law; Summons; Service of summons; Jurisdiction over defendant in actions in personam, how
acquired.—In an action strictly in personam, personal service of summons, within the forum, is
essential to the acquisition of jurisdiction over the person of the defendant, who does not
voluntarily submit himself to the authority of the court. In other words, summons by
publication cannot—consistently with the due process clause in the Bill of Rights—confer upon
the court jurisdiction over said defendants.
Same; Due process; Personal service required to support a personal judgment.—Due process of law
requires personal service to support a personal judgment, and, when the proceeding is strictly in
personam brought to determine the personal rights and obligations of the parties, personal service
within the state or a voluntary appearance in the case is essential to the acquisition of jurisdiction so
as to constitute compliance with the constitutional requirement of due process.
Same; Prescription; Effect of.—The tolling of the period of prescription for as long as the debtor
remains in hiding would properly be a matter of court record, and he can not emerge after a
sufficient lapse of time from the dismissal of the case to profit from his own misdeed and claim
prescription of his just debt.
PETITION to review an order of the Court of First Instance of Manila, Branch XVII. MelencioHerrera, J.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.
Dayos, Tesoro & Gloria, Jr. for petitioner.
Respondent Judge for and in his own behalf.
REYES, J.B.L., J.:
Petitioner Citizens’ Surety & Insurance Company, Inc. seeks review of an order of respondent
Judge in Civil Case No. 77134 of the Court of First Instance of Manila, Branch XVII, entitled
“Citizens’ Surety & Insurance Co., Inc. vs. Santiago Dacanay and Josefina Dacanay,” dismissing
the complaint for lack of proper service of summons upon defendants.
The record is to the effect that petitioner had filed its complaint in the Court below, alleging that
at request of defendant Santiago Dacanay, the plaintiff Surety Company had issued its Surety
Bonds Nos. 4942 and 4944, the first, in favor of Gregorio Fajardo to guarantee payment of a
P5,000-promissory note executed by said Dacanay, and the second, in favor of Manufacturers
Bank & Trust Co., to guarantee payment of another promissory note in like amount; that in
consideration of said bonds, Santiago and Josefina Dacanay executed Indemnity Agreements,
binding themselves jointly and severally to indemnify plaintiff for any losses, costs and
expenses which it might sustain in connection with the issuance of the bonds aforesaid, with
interest at 12% per annum; that as additional security, the Dacanays mortgaged to plaintiff a
parcel of land in Baguio City, covered by Certificate of Title No. T-8116, the mortgage having
been duly recorded; that the promissory notes were not paid and as a result, plaintiff Surety was
compelled to pay P5,000.00 to Gregorio Fajardo and P4,081.69 to the Manufacturers’ Bank; that
the Dacanays failed to reimburse the Surety for such payments, whereupon the Surety caused
the extrajudicial foreclosure of the mortgage to pay its claim of P12,941.69 representing its
payments, interest and stipulated liquidated damages: that at the foreclosure sale, the land
mortgaged was sold to plaintiff, as highest bidder, for the sum of P2,000.00—leaving an
unsatisfied balance of P10,491.69, that plaintiff sought to recover from defendants Dacanay, plus
10% thereof as attorneys’ fees, and the costs.
At petitioner’s request, respondent Judge caused summons to be made by publication in the
38

newspaper Philippines Herald. But despite the publication and deposit of a prepaid copy of the
complaint at the Manila post office, defendants did not appear within the period of 60 days from
last publication, as required by the summons.

JJ., concur.
Dizon and Castro, JJ., reserve their votes. Order set aside.

Plaintiff then asked that defendants be declared in default; but instead, the Judge, by order of
May 16, 1970, asked it to show cause why the action should not be dismissed, the suit being in
personam and defendants not having appeared. Then, on May 29, 1970, respondent Judge
dismissed the case, despite plaintiff Surety’s argument that the summons by publication was
sufficient and valid under section 16 of Rule 14 of the Revised Rules of Court.
We agree with respondent Judge that the action of plaintiff petitioner, being in personam, the
Court could not validly acquire jurisdiction on a non-appearing defendant, absent a personal
service of summons within the forum. We have explicitly so ruled in Pantaleon vs. Asunción, 105
Phil. 765, pointing out without such personal service, any judgment on a non-appearing
defendant would be violative of due process. In the aforecited case this Court, through Justice
Roberto Concepcion, now Chief Justice, ruled as follows:
“Apart from the foregoing, it is well-settled principle of Constitutional Law that, in an action
strictly in personam, like the one at bar, personal service of summons, within the forum, is
essential to the acquisition of jurisdiction over the person of the defendant, who does not
voluntarily submit himself to the authority of the court. In other words, summons by
publication cannot—consistently with the due process clause in the Bill of Rights—confer upon
the court jurisdiction over said defendants.
‘Due process of law requires personal service to support a personal judgment, and, when the
proceeding is strictly in personam brought to determine the personal rights and obligations of the
parties, personal service within the state or a voluntary appearance in the case is essential to the
acquisition of jurisdiction so as to constitute compliance with the constitutional requirement of due
process.* * *
‘Although a state legislature has more control over the form of service on its own residents than
nonresidents, it has been held that in actions in personam * * * service by publication on resident
defendants, who are personally within the state and can be found therein is not “due process of
law,” and a statute allowing it is unconstitutional.’ (16A C.J.S., pp. 786, 789; Italics ours.)”
The proper recourse for a creditor in the same situation as petitioner is to locate properties, real
or personal, of the resident defendant debtor with unknown address and cause them to be
attached under Rule 57, section 1(f), in which case, the attachment converts the action into a
proceeding in rem or quasi in rem and the summons by publication may then accordingly be
deemed valid and effective.
But because debtors who abscond and conceal themselves are also quite adept at concealing
their properties, the dismissal of the case below by respondent Judge should be set aside and the
case held pending in the court’s archives, until petitioner as plaintiff succeeds in determining the
whereabouts of the defendants’ person or properties and causes valid summons to be served
personally or by publication as the case may be. In this manner, the tolling of the period of
prescription for as long as the debtor remains in hiding would properly be a matter of court
record, and he can not emerge after a sufficient lapse of time from the dismissal of the case to
profit from his own misdeed and claim prescription of his just debt.
WHEREFORE, the order of dismissal of the case issued by the Court below is hereby set
aside, and in the interest of justice, the proceedings are ordered suspended, to be held pending
until the plaintiff petitioner succeeds in ascertaining the whereabouts of the defendants and/or
locating properties of the same, to enable proper summons to be issued conformably to this
Opinion. No costs.
Concepcion, C.J., Makalintal, Zaldivar, Fernando, Teehankee, Barredo, Villamor and Makasiar,
39

G.R. No. 156178. January 20, 2006.*
PHILIPPINE NATIONAL BANK and ASSET PRIVATIZATION TRUST, petitioners, vs.
REFRIGERATION INDUSTRIES, INC., respondent.
Actions; Judgments; Summary Judgments; Words and Phrases; A “genuine issue” is an issue of fact
which requires the presentation of evidence; When the facts as pleaded appear uncontested or undisputed,
then there is no real or genuine issue or question as to the facts—summary judgment must then ensue as
a matter of law, to weed out sham claims or defenses at an early stage of the litigation, to avoid the
expenses and loss of time involved in the trial and to separate what is formal or pretended in denial or
averment from what is genuine or substantial, so that the latter may subject a suitor to the burden of
trial.—After considering the records of this case, we find that petitioners’ contention could not
be upheld. We agree that the Court of Appeals correctly held that the summary judgment was
properly rendered by the trial court. Firstly, it may be noted that PNB admitted in its May 11,
1989 letter to APT that the contested chattels belonged to RII, but were erroneously taken during
the foreclosure of DMC’s properties; that these were eventually transferred to APT. Secondly, we
also note that APT admitted that PNB wrote the letter dated May 11, 1989; and that APT wrote a
letter dated May 29, 1989 to PNB. With these admissions, there is no genuine issue concerning
RII’s ownership of the chattels and their erroneous delivery to APT had remained. A “genuine
issue” is an issue of fact which requires the presentation of evidence. When the facts as pleaded
appear uncontested or undisputed, then there is no real or genuine issue or question as to the
facts. Summary judgment, as prescribed by the rules must then ensue as a matter of law, to
weed out sham claims or defenses at an early stage of the litigation, to avoid the expense and
loss of time involved in a trial, and to separate what is formal or pretended in denial or
averment from what is genuine and substantial, so that only the latter may subject a suitor to the
burden of trial.
Evidence; Admissions; Judicial admissions do not require proof and may not be contradicted in the
absence of a prior showing that the admissions had been made through palpable mistake.—Contrary to
petitioners’ claim that there was no admission on their part that respondent owned the chattels,
our review of the records shows that petitioners failed to either specifically deny or directly
assail and raise as an issue, the validity of the letter dated May 11, 1989 and the letter dated May
29, 1989. Their failure to deny the genuineness and due execution of the said documents
amounts to a judicial admission pursuant to Section 8, Rule 8 of the Rules of Court. Judicial
admissions do not require proof and may not be contradicted in the absence of a prior showing
that the admissions had been made through palpable mistake. These letters are deemed
admitted as evidence, and they likewise supersede the defenses interposed by petitioners in
their respective answers.
PETITION for review on certiorari of a decision of the Court of Appeals.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.
The Chief Legal Counsel for petitioner.
Juan G. Ranola, Jr. and Felix Daren R. Abante for Privatization and Management Office.
Marcelo P. Villanueva and John Paolo Roberto Calleza for respondent Refrigeration Industries.
QUISUMBING, J.:
This is a petition for review on certiorari seeking reversal of the Decision1 dated November 22,
2002, of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 51912. The decision affirmed the Summary
Judgment2 dated August 7, 1995, of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Makati, Branch 61, in Civil
Case No. 13944.

Privatization Trust (APT), an agency created by Proclamation No. 50 that takes title to or
possession, conserves, provisionally manages, and disposes assets, which have been identified
for privatization or disposition, for the benefit of the National Government. Respondent
Refrigeration Industries Inc. (RII) is a manufacturer of refrigerators and compressors.
Prior to 1984, respondent RII occupied a portion of the assembly plant of Delta Motor
Corporation (DMC). RII installed in the plant equipment, machinery and other chattels RII used
in its business.3
In February 1984, PNB, then a government-owned and controlled bank, foreclosed several
parcels of real estate and chattels of DMC located at the DMC Compound. In an auction of the
foreclosed properties, PNB was the highest bidder. Thus, it took possession of all chattels inside
the DMC compound, both as owner of chattels and as mortgagee of the remaining properties.4
On June 18, 1984 when PNB took possession of the DMC compound, RII demanded the release
of its properties still inside the compound, now the subject of the case, after RII made statements
claiming ownership over them. PNB allowed RII to remove some of its personal properties from
the DMC compound, upon the latter’s showing of proof of ownership. However, respondent
failed to produce any proof of ownership,5 with respect to the contested properties found in
Annex “C” of the Complaint. PNB’s refusal to release the subject properties led to the filing of a
complaint by RII for Recovery of Possession with Damages before the RTC of Makati on June 10,
1986.
At all the scheduled pre-trial conferences, PNB consistently manifested in court its willingness
to release the chattels conditioned upon RII’s showing of evidence of ownership. Eventually,
some of the properties were released.
By virtue of Proclamation No. 50 as implemented by Administrative Circular No. 14 dated
February 27, 1989, certain properties of RII inside DMC’s compound, with some other acquired
assets of PNB covered by the Circular, were transferred to the Asset Privatization Trust (APT).
Hence in 1992, APT was impleaded as a party-defendant. Pursuant to Republic Act No. 8758,6
the corporate existence of APT expired on December 31, 2000. On December 6, 2000, former
President Joseph Estrada signed Executive Order No. 323 creating the Privatization and
Management Office (PMO) which succeeded the APT. At the time, RII had not yet shown
additional evidence to support its claim over the remaining personal properties in PNB’s
possession.
Six (6) years later, on February 10, 1995, RII filed a Motion for Summary Judgment.7 It averred
that there was no genuine issue to any material fact except the issue on damages, costs and
attorneys’ fees. RII alleged that during the pre-trial conference, PNB manifested to APT, in a
letter8 dated May 11, 1989, that the machineries and equipments of RII listed in Annex “C” of the
complaint were erroneously transferred to APT, and that in a letter9 dated May 31, 1989, APT
acknowledged the mistakes and agreed to release the properties to the authorized representative
of RII.
Both PNB and APT (PMO) opposed the motion on the ground that there still existed a genuine
factual issue, which was the ownership of the chattels.
On August 7, 1995, a Summary Judgment was rendered by the lower court, the decretal portion
of which reads:

The facts in this case are culled from the records.

“WHEREFORE, premises above considered, and there is no genuine issue left to be litigated, the
motion for summary judgment is hereby GRANTED, and judgment is hereby rendered for
plaintiff as against defendants who are hereby ORDERED to effect the return of all the chattels
and/or personal properties of plaintiff that were taken by them as stated in Annex “C” of the
Complaint.

Petitioners are the Philippine National Bank (PNB), a private banking corporation, and the Asset

SO ORDERED.”10
40

PNB appealed to the Court of Appeals.

Petition denied, assailed decision affirmed.

On November 22, 2002, the Court of Appeals affirmed in toto the trial court’s decision. Hence,
this petition raising a single issue as follows:

Notes.—Upon a motion for summary judgment, the sole function of the court is to
determine whether or not there is an issue of fact to be tried, and any doubt as to the existence of
an issue of fact must be resolved against the movant—courts are quite critical of the papers
presented by the moving party but not of the papers in opposition thereto. (Garcia vs. Court of
Appeals, 336 SCRA 475 [2000])

THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS DID NOT CONSIDER THE EXISTENCE OF A
GENUINE ISSUE IN THIS CASE, THAT OF THE OWNERSHIP OF THE CONTESTED
CHATTELS, THAT WOULD PRECLUDE ISSUANCE OF SUMMARY JUDGMENT.11
Simply put, was the summary judgment proper? Did the appellate court err in affirming the trial
court’s decision?
Petitioners contend that the Court of Appeals gravely erred in affirming the summary judgment.
There was no admission made as to RII’s ownership of the contested chattels, thus, there still
exists a genuine issue as to a material fact that precludes the issuance of summary judgment.

A motion for summary judgment is premised on the assumption that a scrutiny of the
facts will disclose that the issues presented need not be tried either because these are patently
devoid of substance or that there is no genuine issue as to any pertinent fact—it is a method
sanctioned by the Rules of Court for prompt disposition of a civil action where there exists no
serious controversy. (Raboca vs. Velez, 341 SCRA 543 [2000])
——o0o——

After considering the records of this case, we find that petitioners’ contention could not be
upheld. We agree that the Court of Appeals correctly held that the summary judgment was
properly rendered by the trial court.
Firstly, it may be noted that PNB admitted in its May 11, 1989 letter to APT that the
contested chattels belonged to RII, but were erroneously taken during the foreclosure of DMC’s
properties; that these were eventually transferred to APT. Secondly, we also note that APT
admitted that PNB wrote the letter dated May 11, 1989; and that APT wrote a letter dated May
29, 1989 to PNB. With these admissions, there is no genuine issue concerning RII’s ownership of
the chattels and their erroneous delivery to APT had remained. A “genuine issue” is an issue of
fact which requires the presentation of evidence. When the facts as pleaded appear uncontested
or undisputed, then there is no real or genuine issue or question as to the facts.12
Summary judgment, as prescribed by the rules must then ensue as a matter of law, to weed out
sham claims or defenses at an early stage of the litigation, to avoid the expense and loss of time
involved in a trial, and to separate what is formal or pretended in denial or averment from what
is genuine and substantial, so that only the latter may subject a suitor to the burden of trial.13
Contrary to petitioners’ claim that there was no admission on their part that respondent owned
the chattels, our review of the records shows that petitioners failed to either specifically deny or
directly assail and raise as an issue, the validity of the letter dated May 11, 1989 and the letter
dated May 29, 1989. Their failure to deny the genuineness and due execution of the said
documents amounts to a judicial admission pursuant to Section 8,14 Rule 8 of the Rules of Court.
Judicial admissions do not require proof and may not be contradicted in the absence of a prior
showing that the admissions had been made through palpable mistake.15 These letters are
deemed admitted as evidence, and they likewise supersede the defenses interposed by
petitioners in their respective answers.
It may lastly be recalled that from the very start, PNB consistently manifested its willingness to
release the said properties upon respondent’s proof of ownership over them. The
correspondence between the parties shows that PNB actually admitted that the subject chattels
belonged to RII but were erroneously transferred to petitioner APT. Conformably then, the trial
court’s summary judgment is proper and correct. No reversible error was committed by the
Court of Appeals in affirming it.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DENIED for lack of merit. The assailed Decision
dated November 22, 2002 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 51912 is AFFIRMED. Costs
against petitioners.
SO ORDERED.
Carpio, Carpio-Morales and Tinga, JJ., concur.
41

G.R. No. 146089. December 13, 2001.*
VIRGINIA GOCHAN, LOUISE GOCHAN, LAPU-LAPU REAL ESTATE CORPORATION,
FELIX GOCHAN AND SONS REALTY CORPORATION, MACTAN REALTY DEVELOPMENT
CORPORATION, petitioners, vs. MERCEDES GOCHAN, ALFREDO GOCHAN, ANGELINA
GOCHAN-HERNAEZ, MA. MERCED GOCHAN GOROSPE, CRISPO GOCHAN, JR., and
MARLON GOCHAN, respondents.
Actions; Docket Fees; The rule is well-settled that the court acquires jurisdiction over any case only upon
the payment of the prescribed docket fees.—The rule is well-settled that the court acquires
jurisdiction over any case only upon the payment of the prescribed docket fees. In the case of
Sun Insurance Office, Ltd. (SIOL) v. Asuncion, this Court held that it is not simply the filing of the
complaint or appropriate initiatory pleading, but the payment of the prescribed docket fee that
vests a trial court with jurisdiction over the subject matter or nature of the action.
Same; Same; Pleadings and Practice; In this jurisdiction, the dictum adhered to is that the nature of an
action is determined by the allegations in the body of the pleading or complaint itself, rather than by its
title or heading.—It is necessary to determine the true nature of the complaint in order to resolve
the issue of whether or not respondents paid the correct amount of docket fees therefor. In this
jurisdiction, the dictum adhered to is that the nature of an action is determined by the
allegations in the body of the pleading or complaint itself, rather than by its title or heading. The
caption of the complaint below was denominated as one for “specific performance and
damages.” The relief sought, however, is the conveyance or transfer of real property, or
ultimately, the execution of deeds of conveyance in their favor of the real properties enumerated
in the provisional memorandum of agreement. Under these circumstances, the case below was
actually a real action, affecting as it does title to or possession of real property.
Same; Same; Same; Where the complaint filed with the trial court was in the nature of a real action
although ostensibly denominated as one for specific performance, the basis for determining the correct
docket fees shall be the assessed value of the property, or the estimated value thereof as alleged by the
claimant.—In the case at bar, therefore, the complaint filed with the trial court was in the nature
of a real action, although ostensibly denominated as one for specific performance. Consequently,
the basis for determining the correct docket fees shall be the assessed value of the property, or
the estimated value thereof as alleged by the claimant. Rule 141, Section 7, of the Rules of Court,
as amended by A.M. No. 00-2-01-SC, provides: Section 7. Clerks of Regional Trial Courts.—x x x (b)
x x x In a real action, the assessed value of the property, or if there is none, the estimated value
thereof shall be alleged by the claimant and shall be the basis in computing the fees.
Same; Same; The liberal interpretation of the rules relating to the payment of docket fees as applied in the
case of Sun Insurance Office, Ltd. v. Asuncion, 170 SCRA 274 (1989), cannot apply to the instant case as
the respondents have never demonstrated any willingness to abide by the rules and to pay the correct
docket fees.—We are not unmindful of our pronouncement in the case of Sun Insurance, to the
effect that in case the filing of the initiatory pleading is not accompanied by payment of the
docket fee, the court may allow payment of the fee within a reasonable time but in no case
beyond the applicable prescriptive period. However, the liberal interpretation of the rules
relating to the payment of docket fees as applied in the case of Sun Insurance cannot apply to the
instant case as respondents have never demonstrated any willingness to abide by the rules and
to pay the correct docket fees. Instead, respondents have stubbornly insisted that the case they
filed was one for specific performance and damages and that they actually paid the correct
docket fees therefor at the time of the filing of the complaint.
Same; Forum Shopping; Test to Determine Whether There is Forum-Shopping; The deplorable practice of
forum-shopping is resorted to by litigants who, for the purpose of obtaining the same relief, resort to two
different fora to increase his or her chances of obtaining a favorable judgment in either one.—We agree
with petitioners that they are not guilty of forum-shopping. The deplorable practice of forumshopping is resorted to by litigants who, for the purpose of obtaining the same relief, resort to

two different fora to increase his or her chances of obtaining a favorable judgment in either one.
In the case of Golangco v. Court of Appeals, we laid down the following test to determine whether
there is forum-shopping: Ultimately, what is truly important to consider in determining whether
forum-shopping exists or not is the vexation caused the courts and the parties-litigant by a
person who asks different courts and/or administrative agencies to rule on the same or related
causes and/or grant the same or substantially the same reliefs, in the process creating the
possibility of conflicting decisions being rendered by the different fora upon the same issues.
Same; Same; There is no forum-shopping where the first petition involved the propriety of the affirmative
defenses relied upon by petitioners and the second petition raised the issue of whether or not public
respondent judge was guilty of manifest partiality warranting his inhibition from further hearing the
case.—Likewise, we do not find that there is forum-shopping in the case at bar. The first petition,
docketed as CA-G.R. SP. No. 49084, which is now the subject of the instant petition, involved the
propriety of the affirmative defenses relied upon by petitioners in Civil Case No. CEB-21854.
The second petition, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 54985, raised the issue of whether or not public
respondent Judge Dicdican was guilty of manifest partiality warranting his inhibition from
further hearing Civil Case No. CEB-21854. More importantly, the two petitions did not seek the
same relief from the Court of Appeals. In CA-G.R. SP. No. 49084, petitioners prayed, among
others, for the annulment of the orders of the trial court denying their motion for preliminary
hearing on the affirmative defenses in Civil Case No. CEB-21854. No such reliefs are involved in
the second petition, where petitioners merely prayed for the issuance of an order enjoining
public respondent Judge Dicdican from further trying the case and to assign a new judge in his
stead.
DAVIDE, C.J., Dissenting Opinion:
Certiorari; The trial court did not commit any grave abuse of discretion in denying the motion for a
preliminary hearing on the affirmative defenses on the ground that such defenses do not appear to be
indubitable.—I submit that the trial court did not commit any grave abuse of discretion in
denying the motion for a preliminary hearing on the affirmative defenses on the ground that
such defenses do not appear to be indubitable. The ponencia itself admits that only some of the
defenses appeared indubitable. The last paragraph of page 10 of the latest draft of the ponencia
reads: True, the trial court has the discretion to conduct a preliminary hearing on affirmative
defenses. In the case at bar, however, the trial court committed a grave abuse of its discretion
when it denied the motion for preliminary hearing. As we have discussed above, some of these
defenses, which petitioners invoked as grounds for the dismissal of the action, appeared to be indubitable,
contrary to the pronouncement of the trial court. Indeed, the abuse of discretion it committed
amounted to an evasion of positive duty or virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law, or
to act at all in contemplation of law, which would have warranted the extraordinary writ of
certiorari. Hence, the Court of Appeals erred when it dismissed the petition for certiorari filed by
petitioners.
PETITION for review on certiorari of a decision of the Court of Appeals.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.
Soo, Gutierrez, Leogardo & Lee for petitioners.
Zosa & Quijano Law Offices for respondents.
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:
This is a petition for review seeking to set aside the decision of the Court of Appeals dated
September 10, 1999 in CA-G.R. SP No. 49084,1 as well as its Resolution2 dated November 22,
2000, denying the Motion for Reconsideration.
Respondents were stockholders of the Felix Gochan and Sons Realty Corporation and the
Mactan Realty Development Corporation. Sometime in 1996, respondents offered to sell their
42

shares in the two corporations to the individual petitioners, the heirs of the late Ambassador
Esteban Gochan, for and in consideration of the sum of P200,000,000.00. Petitioners accepted and
paid the said amount to respondents. Accordingly, respondents issued to petitioners the
necessary “Receipts.”3 In addition, respondents executed their respective “Release, Waiver and
Quitclaim,”4 wherein they undertook that they would not initiate any suit, action or complaint
against petitioners for whatever reason or purpose. In turn, respondents, through Crispo
Gochan, Jr., required individual petitioners to execute a “promissory note,”5 undertaking not to
divulge the actual consideration they paid for the shares of stock. For this purpose, Crispo
Gochan, Jr. drafted a document entitled “promissory note” in his own handwriting and had the
same signed by Felix Gochan, III, Louise Gochan and Esteban Gochan, Jr.
Unbeknown to petitioners, Crispo Gochan, Jr. inserted in the “promissory note” a phrase that
says, “Said amount is in partial consideration of the sale.”6
On April 3, 1998, respondents filed a complaint against petitioners for specific performance and
damages with the Regional Trial Court of Cebu City, Branch 11, docketed as Civil Case No.
CEB-21854. Respondents alleged that sometime in November 1996, petitioner Louise Gochan, on
behalf of all the petitioners, offered to buy their shares of stock, consisting of 254 shares in the
Felix Gochan and Sons Realty Corporation and 1,624 shares of stock in the Mactan Realty
Development Corporation; and that they executed a Provisional Memorandum of Agreement,
wherein they enumerated the following as consideration for the sale:
9 1. Pesos: Two Hundred Million Pesos (P200M)
10 2. Two (2) hectares more or less of the fishpond in Gochan Compound, Mabolo, Lot 4F-2-B

agreement (PNB vs. Philippine Vegetable Oil Company, 49 Phil. 897). For another, the
contention of the defendants that the claims of the plaintiffs are already extinguished by full
payment thereof does not appear to be indubitable because the plaintiffs denied under oath the
due execution and genuineness of the receipts which are attached as Annexes 1-A, 1-B and 1-C
of defendants’ answer. This issue therefore has to be determined on the basis of preponderance
of evidence to be adduced by both parties. Then, still for another, the contention that the
complaint is defective because it allegedly has failed to implead indispensable parties appears to
be wanting in merit because the parties to the memorandum of agreement adverted to in the
complaint are all parties in this case. Then the matter of payment of docketing and filing fees is
not a fatal issue in this case because the record shows that the plaintiffs had paid at least
P165,000.00 plus in the form of filing and docketing fees. Finally, regarding exerting earnest
efforts toward a compromise by the plaintiffs, the defendants cannot say that there is an absence
of an allegation to this effect in the complaint because paragraph 11 of the complaint precisely
states that “before filing this case, earnest efforts toward a compromise have been made.”
Petitioners’ motion for reconsideration of the above Order was denied by the trial court on
September 11, 1998.
Petitioners thus filed a petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals, docketed as CA-G.R. SP
No. 49084. On September 10, 1999, the Court of Appeals rendered the appealed decision
dismissing the petition on the ground that respondent court did not commit grave abuse of
discretion, tantamount to lack or in excess of jurisdiction in denying the motion to hear the
affirmative defenses.8

11 3. Lot 2, Block 9 with an area of 999 square meters in Gochan Compound, Mabolo, Cebu

Again, petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration, but the same was denied by the Court of
Appeals in its assailed Resolution of November 22, 2000.9

12 4. Three Thousand (3,000) square meters of Villas Magallanes in Mactan, Cebu

Petitioners, thus, filed the instant petition for review anchored on the following grounds:

13 5. Lot 423 New Gem Building with an area of 605 square meters.7

I.

Accordingly, respondents claimed that they are entitled to the conveyance of the
aforementioned properties, in addition to the amount of P200,000,000.00, which they
acknowledge to have received from petitioners. Further, respondents prayed for moral damages
of P15,000,000.00, exemplary damages of P2,000,000.00, attorney’s fees of P14,000,000.00, and
litigation expenses of P2,000,000.00.

THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED GRAVE AND PALPABLE ERROR IN FINDING
THAT THE CORRECT DOCKET FEES HAVE BEEN PAID.

Petitioners filed their answer, raising the following affirmative defenses: (a) lack of jurisdiction
by the trial court for non-payment of the correct docket fees; (b) unenforceability of the
obligation to convey real properties due to lack of a written memorandum thereof, pursuant to
the Statute of Frauds; (c) extinguishment of the obligation by payment; (d) waiver, abandonment
and renunciation by respondent of all their claims against petitioners; and (e) non-joinder of
indispensable parties.
On August 7, 1998, petitioners filed with the trial court a motion for a preliminary hearing on
the affirmative defenses. In an Order dated August 11, 1998, the trial court denied the motion,
ruling as follows:
As the grant of said motion lies in the discretion of the court under Section 6 of Rule 16 of the
1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, this Court in the exercise of its discretion, hereby denies the said
motion because the matters sought to be preliminarily heard do not appear to be tenable. For
one, the statute of frauds does not apply in this case because the contract which is the subject
matter of this case is already an executed contract. The statute of frauds applies only to
executory contracts. According to Dr. Arturo M. Tolentino, a leading authority in civil law, since
the statute of frauds was enacted for the purpose of preventing frauds, it should not be made the
instrument to further them. Thus, where one party has performed his obligation under a
contract, equity would agree that all evidence should be admitted to prove the alleged

II.
THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED SERIOUS ERROR IN RULING THAT THE PMOA
WAS A PARTIALLY EXECUTED CONTRACT AND HENCE NOT COVERED BY THE
STATUTE OF FRAUDS.
III.
THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED GRAVE ERROR IN DECIDING THAT THE CLAIMS
OF PRIVATE RESPONDENTS HAVE NOT BEEN EXTINGUISHED BY PAYMENT OR FULL
SETTLEMENT DESPITE THE PRESENCE OF RECEIPTS SIGNED BY THE PRIVATE
RESPONDENTS SHOWING THE CONTRARY.
IV.
THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED GRAVE ERROR IN RESOLVING THAT FELIX
GOCHAN III AND ESTEBAN GOCHAN, JR. ARE NOT INDISPENSABLE PARTIES AND
THEREFORE NEED NOT BE IMPLEADED AS PARTIES.10
Respondents filed their Comment,11 arguing, in fine, that petitioners are guilty of forumshopping when they filed two petitions for certiorari with the Court of Appeals; and that the
Court of Appeals did not err in dismissing the petition for certiorari.
The instant petition has merit.
The rule is well-settled that the court acquires jurisdiction over any case only upon the payment
43

of the prescribed docket fees. In the case of Sun Insurance Office, Ltd. (SIOL) v. Asuncion,12 this
Court held that it is not simply the filing of the complaint or appropriate initiatory pleading, but
the payment of the prescribed docket fee that vests a trial court with jurisdiction over the subject
matter or nature of the action.
Respondents maintain that they paid the correct docket fees in the amount of P165,000.00 when
they filed the complaint with the trial court. Petitioners, on the other hand, contend that the
complaint is in the nature of a real action which affects title to real properties; hence,
respondents should have alleged therein the value of the real properties which shall be the basis
for the assessment of the correct docket fees.
The Court of Appeals found that the complaint was one for specific performance and incapable
of pecuniary estimation. We do not agree.
It is necessary to determine the true nature of the complaint in order to resolve the issue of
whether or not respondents paid the correct amount of docket fees therefor. In this jurisdiction,
the dictum adhered to is that the nature of an action is determined by the allegations in the body
of the pleading or complaint itself, rather than by its title or heading.13 The caption of the
complaint below was denominated as one for “specific performance and damages.” The relief
sought, however, is the conveyance or transfer of real property, or ultimately, the execution of
deeds of conveyance in their favor of the real properties enumerated in the provisional
memorandum of agreement. Under these circumstances, the case below was actually a real
action, affecting as it does title to or possession of real property.
In the case of Hernandez v. Rural Bank of Lucena,14 this Court held that a real action is one where
the plaintiff seeks the recovery of real property or, as indicated in section 2(a) of Rule 4 (now
Section 1, Rule 4 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure), a real action is an action affecting title to
or recovery of possession of real property.
It has also been held that where a complaint is entitled as one for specific performance but
nonetheless prays for the issuance of a deed of sale for a parcel of land, its primary objective and
nature is one to recover the parcel of land itself and, thus, is deemed a real action. In such a case,
the action must be filed in the proper court where the property is located:
In this Court, the appellant insists that her action is one for specific performance, and, therefore,
personal and transitory in nature.
This very issue was considered and decided by this Court in the case of Manuel B. Ruiz vs. J.M.
Tuason & Co., Inc., et al., L-18692, promulgated 31 January 1963. There the Court, by unanimous
vote of all the Justices, held as follows:
‘This contention has no merit. Although appellant’s complaint is entitled to be one for specific
performance, yet the fact that he asked that a deed of sale of a parcel of land situated in Quezon
City be issued in his favor and that a transfer certificate of title covering said parcel of land be
issued to him shows that the primary objective and nature of the action is to recover the parcel
of land itself because to execute in favor of appellant the conveyance requested there is need to
make a finding that he is the owner of the land which in the last analysis resolves itself into an
issue of ownership. Hence, the action must be commenced in the province where the property is
situated pursuant to Section 3, Rule 5, of the Rules of Court, which provides that actions
affecting title to or recovery of possession of real property shall be commenced and tried in the
province where the property or any part thereof lies.”15
In the case at bar, therefore, the complaint filed with the trial court was in the nature of a real
action, although ostensibly denominated as one for specific performance. Consequently, the
basis for determining the correct docket fees shall be the assessed value of the property, or the
estimated value thereof as alleged by the claimant. Rule 141, Section 7, of the Rules of Court, as
amended by A.M. No. 00-2-01-SC, provides:

Section 7. Clerks of Regional Trial Courts.—x x x
(b) x x x
In a real action, the assessed value of the property, or if there is none, the estimated value
thereof shall be alleged by the claimant and shall be the basis in computing the fees.
We are not unmindful of our pronouncement in the case of Sun Insurance,16 to the effect that in
case the filing of the initiatory pleading is not accompanied by payment of the docket fee, the
court may allow payment of the fee within a reasonable time but in no case beyond the
applicable prescriptive period. However, the liberal interpretation of the rules relating to the
payment of docket fees as applied in the case of Sun Insurance cannot apply to the instant case as
respondents have never demonstrated any willingness to abide by the rules and to pay the
correct docket fees. Instead, respondents have stubbornly insisted that the case they filed was
one for specific performance and damages and that they actually paid the correct docket fees
therefor at the time of the filing of the complaint. Thus, it was stated in the case of Sun
Insurance:17
The principle in Manchester could very well be applied in the present case. The pattern and the
intent to defraud the government of the docket fee due it is obvious not only in the filing of the
original complaint but also in the filing of the second amended complaint.
However, in Manchester, petitioner did not pay any additional docket fee until the case was
decided by this Court on May 7, 1987. Thus, in Manchester, due to the fraud committed on the
government, this Court held that the court a quo did not acquire jurisdiction over the case and
that the amended complaint could not have been admitted inasmuch as the original complaint
was null and void.
In the present case, a more liberal interpretation of the rules is called for considering that, unlike
Manchester, private respondent demonstrated his willingness to abide by the rules by paying the
additional docket fees as required. The promulgation of the decision in Manchester must have
had that sobering influence on private respondent who thus paid the additional docket fee as
ordered by the respondent court. It triggered his change of stance by manifesting his willingness
to pay such additional docket fee as may be ordered.
Respondents accuse petitioners of forum-shopping when they filed two petitions before the
Court of Appeals. Petitioners, on the other hand, contend that there was no forum-shopping as
there was no identity of issues or identity of reliefs sought in the two petitions.
We agree with petitioners that they are not guilty of forum-shopping. The deplorable practice of
forum-shopping is resorted to by litigants who, for the purpose of obtaining the same relief,
resort to two different fora to increase his or her chances of obtaining a favorable judgment in
either one. In the case of Golangco v. Court of Appeals,18 we laid down the following test to
determine whether there is forum-shopping:
Ultimately, what is truly important to consider in determining whether forum-shopping exists
or not is the vexation caused the courts and the parties-litigant by a person who asks different
courts and/or administrative agencies to rule on the same or related causes and/or grant the
same or substantially the same reliefs, in the process creating the possibility of conflicting
decisions being rendered by the different fora upon the same issues.
In sum, two different orders were questioned, two distinct causes of action and issues were
raised, and two objectives were sought; thus, forum shopping cannot be said to exist in the case
at bar.
Likewise, we do not find that there is forum-shopping in the case at bar. The first petition,
docketed as CA-G.R. SP. No. 49084, which is now the subject of the instant petition, involved the
propriety of the affirmative defenses relied upon by petitioners in Civil Case No. CEB-21854.
44

The second petition, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 54985, raised the issue of whether or not public
respondent Judge Dicdican was guilty of manifest partiality warranting his inhibition from
further hearing Civil Case No. CEB-21854.

balance thereof, and upon such payment, the defect is cured and the court may properly take
cognizance of the action, unless in the meantime prescription has set in and consequently barred
the right of action.

More importantly, the two petitions did not seek the same relief from the Court of Appeals. In
CA-G.R. SP. No. 49084, petitioners prayed, among others, for the annulment of the orders of the
trial court denying their motion for preliminary hearing on the affirmative defenses in Civil
Case No. CEB-21854. No such reliefs are involved in the second petition, where petitioners
merely prayed for the issuance of an order enjoining public respondent Judge Dicdican from
further trying the case and to assign a new judge in his stead.

Where the action involves real property and a related claim for damages as well, the legal fees
shall be assessed on the basis of both (a) the value of the property and (b) the total amount of
related damages sought. The Court acquires jurisdiction over the action if the filing of the
initiatory pleading is accompanied by the payment of the requisite fees, or, if the fees are not
paid at the time of the filing of the pleading, as of the time of full payment of the fees within
such reasonable time as the court may grant, unless, of course, prescription has set in in the
meantime. But where—as in the case at bar—the fees prescribed for an action involving real
property have been paid, but the amounts of certain of the related damages (actual, moral and
nominal) being demanded are unspecified, the action may not be dismissed. The Court
undeniably has jurisdiction over the action involving the real property, acquiring it upon the
filing of the complaint or similar pleading and payment of the prescribed fee. And it is not
divested of that authority by the circumstance that it may not have acquired jurisdiction over the
accompanying claims for damages because of lack of specification thereof. What should be done
is simply to expunge those claims for damages as to which no amounts are stated, which is what
the respondent Courts did, or allow, on motion, a reasonable time for the amendment of the
complaints so as to allege the precise amount of each item of damages and accept payment of
the requisite fees therefor within the relevant prescriptive period.

True, the trial court has the discretion to conduct a preliminary hearing on affirmative defenses.
In the case at bar, however, the trial court committed a grave abuse of its discretion when it
denied the motion for preliminary hearing. As we have discussed above, some of these defenses,
which petitioners invoked as grounds for the dismissal of the action, appeared to be indubitable,
contrary to the pronouncement of the trial court. Indeed, the abuse of discretion it committed
amounted to an evasion of positive duty or virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law, or
to act at all in contemplation of law,19 which would have warranted the extraordinary writ of
certiorari. Hence, the Court of Appeals erred when it dismissed the petition for certiorari filed
by petitioners.
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the instant petition is GRANTED. This case is
REMANDED to the Regional Trial Court of Cebu City, Branch 11, which is directed to forthwith
conduct the preliminary hearing on the affirmative defenses in Civil Case No. CEB-21854.
SO ORDERED.
Kapunan and Pardo, JJ., concur.
Davide, Jr. (C.J., Chairman), Please see Dissenting Opinion.
Puno, J., I join the dissent of C.J. Davide, Jr.
DISSENTING OPINION
DAVIDE, JR., C.J.:
I respectfully make of record my dissent to both drafts of the decision penned by Mme. Justice
Consuelo Y. Santiago.
I. The first draft
The first draft (1) sets aside the Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP
No. 49084 and the Orders of the Regional Trial Court of Cebu City, Branch 11, in Civil Case No.
CEB-21854; and (2) orders of the dismissal of said civil case. I seriously doubt the propriety of
this action, even if it is principally based on the non-payment of the deficiency of the docket fee.
Sun Life Insurance Office Ltd. v. Asuncion (170 SCRA 274 [1989]) is not the final word on deficiency
of docket fees. Tacay v. Regional Trial Court of Tagum, Davao del Norte, (180 SCRA 433, 443 [1989])
further liberalized the rule. Thus:
Two situations may arise. One is where the complaint or similar pleading sets out a claim purely
for money or damages and there is no precise statement of the amounts being claimed. In this
event the rule is that the pleading will ‘not be accepted nor admitted, or shall otherwise be
expunged from the record.’ In other words, the complaint or pleading may be dismissed, or the
claims as to which the amounts are unspecified may be expunged, although as aforestated the
Court may, on motion, permit amendment of the complaint and payment of the fees provided
the claim has not in the meantime become time-barred. The other is where the pleading does
specify the amount of every claim, but the fees paid are insufficient; and here again, the rule
now is that the court may allow a reasonable time for the payment of the prescribed fees, or the

Even if we would still cling to Sun Life, the rule therein laid down would still be applicable to
this case, contrary to the assertion in the ponencia in question. The evil contemplated in
Manchester case which prompted the pronouncement therein does not exist in the instant case.
Verily, there is good faith on the part of the private respondents in insisting on what their cause
of action is. Even the Court of Appeals sustained their position in this issue.
Therefor, private respondents should only be required to pay the deficiency in docket fees.
II. The second draft
The second draft ponencia declares the trial court and the Court of Appeals as having acted with
grave abuse of discretion in denying the motion for a preliminary hearing on the affirmative
defenses. The order of the trial court denying the motion is an interlocutory order. There can be
no appeal from such order of denial. A special civil action of certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules
of Court may be resorted to, but there must be a clear showing that the court had acted without
or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of or in excess of
jurisdiction. Grave abuse of discretion means arbitrary and despotic action.
I submit that the trial court did not commit any grave abuse of discretion in denying the motion
for a preliminary hearing on the affirmative defenses on the ground that such defenses do not
appear to be indubitable. The ponencia itself admits that only some of the defenses appeared
indubitable. The last paragraph of page 10 of the latest draft of the ponencia reads:
True, the trial court has the discretion to conduct a preliminary hearing on affirmative defenses.
In the case at bar, however, the trial court committed a grave abuse of its discretion when it
denied the motion for preliminary hearing. As we have discussed above, some of these defenses, which
petitioners invoked as grounds for the dismissal of the action, appeared to be indubitable, contrary to the
pronouncement of the trial court. Indeed, the abuse of discretion it committed amounted to an
evasion of positive duty or virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law, or to act at all in
contemplation of law, which would have warranted the extraordinary writ of certiorari. Hence,
the Court of Appeals erred when it dismissed the petition for certiorari filed by petitioners.
(italics supplied for emphasis.)
Accordingly, since the orders of the trial court are not tainted with grave abuse of discretion, the
45

Court of Appeals committed no error in dismissing the petition for certiorari against said orders.
I then vote to deny due course to the petition.
Petition granted, case remanded to trial court.
Notes.—A court cannot acquire jurisdiction over the subject matter of a case unless the
docket fees are paid. (Philippine Pryce Assurance Corporation vs. Court of Appeals, 230 SCRA 164
[1994])
Although the payment of the proper docket fees is a jurisdictional requirement, the trial
court may allow the plaintiff in an action to pay the same within a reasonable time before the
expiration of the applicable prescriptive or reglementary period. (National Steel Corporation vs.
Court of Appeals, 302 SCRA 522 [1999])
There was no clear rule on the payment of docket fees before the Sandiganbayan in 1988.
(Yuchengco vs. Republic, 344 SCRA 641 [2000])
——o0o——

No. L-75919. May 7, 1987.*
MANCHESTER DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, ET AL., petitioners, vs. COURT OF
APPEALS, CITYLAND DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, STEPHEN ROXAS, ANDREW
LUISON, GRACE LUISON and JOSE DE MAISIP, respondents.
Remedial Law; Civil Procedure; Complaint; Filing Fees; Environmental facts of Magaspi vs. Ramolete
case, different from case at bar.—ln the Magaspi case, the action was considered not only one for
recovery of ownership but also for damages, so that the filing fee for the damages should be the
basis of assessment. Although the payment of the docketing fee of P60.00 was found to be
insufficient, nevertheless, it was held that since the payment was the result of an "honest
difference of opinion as to the correct amount to be paid as docket fee" the court "had acquired
jurisdiction over the case and the proceedings thereafter had were proper and regular." Hence,
as the amended complaint superseded the original complaint, the allegations of damages in the
amended complaint should be the basis of the computation of the filing fee. In the present case
no such honest difference of opinion was possible as the allegations of the complaint, the
designation and the prayer show clearly that it is an action for damages and specific
performance. The docketing fee should be assessed by considering the amount of damages as
alleged in the original complaint.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Case is deemed filed only upon payment of the docket fee regardless of actual
date of filing in court.—As reiterated in the Magaspi case the rule is well-settled "that a case is
deemed filed only upon payment of the docket fee regardless of the actual date of filing in
court." Thus, in the present case the trial court did not acquire jurisdiction over the case by the
payment of only P410.00 as docket fee. Neither can the amendment of the complaint thereby
vest jurisdiction upon the Court. For all legal purposes there is no such original complaint that
was duly filed which could be amended. Consequently, the order admitting the amended
complaint and all subsequent proceedings and actions taken by the trial court are null and void.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Basis of assessment of the docket fee should be the amount of damages in the
original complaint and not in the amended complaint.—The Court of Appeals therefore, aptly ruled
in the present case that the basis of assessment of the docket fee should be the amount of
damages sought in the original complaint and not in the amended complaint.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Attorneys; Court frowns at practice of counsel who filed the original complaint
of omitting any specification of the amount of damages in the prayer although the amount of over P78
million is alleged in the body of the complaint which is clearly intended to thwart payment of correct filing
fees.—The Court cannot close this case without making the observation that it frowns at the
practice of counsel who filed the original complaint in this case of omitting any specification of
the amount of damages in the prayer although the amount of over P 78 million is alleged in the
body of the complaint. This is clearly intended for no other purpose than to evade the payment
of the correct filing fees if not to mislead the docket clerk in the assessment of the filing fee. This
fraudulent practice was compounded when, even as this Court had taken cognizance of the
anomaly and ordered an investigation, petitioner through another counsel filed an amended
complaint, deleting all mention of the amount of damages being asked for in the body of the
complaint. It was only when in obedience to the order of this Court of October 18, 1985, the trial
court directed that the amount of damages be specified in the amended complaint, that
petitioners' counsel wrote the damages sought in the much reduced amount of P10,000,000.00 in
the body of the complaint but not in the prayer thereof. The design to avoid payment of the
required docket f ee is obvious.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; Warning of Supreme Court that drastic action will be taken upon a
repetition of the unethical practice.—The Court serves warning that it will take drastic action upon
a repetition of this unethical practice.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Requirement that henceforth all complaints, petitions, answers and other
similar pleadings should specify the amount of damages prayed for not only in the body of the pleading but
46

also in the prayer, and that the damages should be considered in the assessment of the filing fees; Any
pleading that fails to comply with the requirement shall not be accepted or admitted.—To put a stop to
this irregularity, henceforth all complaints, petitions, answers and other similar pleadings
should specify the amount of damages being prayed for not only in the body of the pleading but
also in the prayer, and said damages shall be considered in the assessment of the filing fees in
any case. Any pleading that fails to comply with this requirement shall not be accepted nor
admitted, or shall otherwise be expunged from the record.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Jurisdiction; Court acquires jurisdiction over any case only upon payment of
the prescribed docket fee; An amendment of the complaint or similar pleading will not vest jurisdiction in
the court, much less payment of the docket fee based on amount in the amended pleading Magaspi vs.
Ramolete case which is inconsistent with this decision, is reversed.—The Court acquires jurisdiction
over any case only upon the payment of the prescribed docket fee. An amendment of the
complaint or similar pleading will not thereby vest jurisdiction in the Court, much less the
payment of the docket fee based on the amounts sought in the amended pleading. The ruling in
the Magaspi case in so far as it is inconsistent with this pronouncement is overturned and
reversed.
PETITION to review the decision of the Court of Appeals,
The facts are stated in the resolution of the Court.
Tanjuatco, Oreta and Tanjuatco for petitioners.
Pecabar Law Offices for private respondents.
RESOLUTION
GANCAYCO, J.:
Acting on the motion f or reconsideration of the resolution of the Second Division of January 28,
1987 and. another motion to refer the case to and to be heard in oral argument by the Court En
Banc filed by petitioners, the motion to refer the case to the Court en banc is granted but the
motion to set the case f or oral argument is denied.
Petitioners in support of their contention that the filing fee must be assessed on the basis of the
amended complaint cite the case of Magaspi vs. Ramolete.1 They contend that the Court of
Appeals erred in ruling that the filing fee should be levied by considering the amount of
damages sought in the original complaint.
The environmental facts of said case differ from the present in that—
1. The Magaspi case was an action for recovery of ownership and possession of a parcel of land
with damages,2 while the present case is an action for torts and damages and specific
performance with prayer for temporary restraining order, etc.3
2. In the Magaspi case, the prayer in the complaint seeks not only the annulment of title of the
defendant to the property, the declaration of ownership and delivery of possession thereof to
plaintiffs but also asks for the payment of actual, moral, exemplary damages and attorney's fees
arising therefrom in the amounts specified therein.4 However, in the present case, the prayer is
for the issuance of a writ of preliminary prohibitory injunction during the pendency of the
action against the dafendants' announced forfeiture of the sum of P3 Million paid by the plaintiff
s for the property in question, to attach such property of defendants that maybe sufficient to
satisfy any judgment that maybe rendered, and after hearing, to order defendants to execute a
contract of purchase and sale of the subject property and annul defendants' illegal forfeiture of
the money of plaintiff, ordering defendants jointly and severally to pay plaintiff actual,
compensatory and exemplary damages as well as 25% of said amounts as maybe proved during
the trial as attorney's fees and declaring the tender of payment of the purchase price of plaintiff
valid and producing the effect of payment and to make the injunction permanent. The amount

of damages sought is not specified in the prayer although the body of the complaint alleges the
total amount of over P78 Million as damages suffered by plaintiff.5
3. Upon the filing of the complaint there was an honest difference of opinion as to the nature of
the action in the Magaspi case. The complaint was considered as primarily an action for
recovery of ownership and possession of a parcel of land. The damages stated were treated as
merely ancillary to the main cause of action. Thus, the docket fee of only P60.00 and P10.00 for
the sheriff s fee were paid.6
In the present case there can be no such honest difference of opinion. As maybe gleaned from
the allegations of the complaint as well as the designation thereof, it is both an action for
damages and specific performance. The docket fee paid upon filing of complaint in the amount
only of P410.00 by considering the action to be merely one for specific performance where the
amount involved is not capable of pecuniary estimation is obviously erroneous. Although the
total amount of damages sought is not stated in the prayer of the complaint yet it is spelled out
in the body of the complaint totalling in the amount of P78,750,000.00 which should be the basis
of assessment of the f iling fee,
4. When this under-assessment of the filing fee in this case was brought to the attention of this
Court together with similar other cases an investigation was immediately ordered by the Court.
Meanwhile plaintiff through another counsel with leave of court filed an amended complaint on
September 12, 1985 for the inclusion of Philips Wire and Cable Corporation as co-plaintiff and
by eliminating any mention of the amount of damages in the body of the complaint. The prayer
in the original complaint was maintained. After this Court issued an order on October 15, 1985
ordering the re-assessment of the docket fee in the present case and other cases that were
investigated, on November 12, 1985 the trial court directed plaintiffs to rectify the amended
complaint by stating the amounts which they are asking for. It was only then that plaintiffs
specified the amount of damages in the body of the complaint in the reduced amount of
P10,000,000.00.7 Still no amount of damages were specified in the prayer. Said amended
complaint was admitted.
On the other hand, in the Magaspi case, the trial court ordered the plaintiffs to pay the amount
of P3,104.00 as filing fee covering the damages alleged in the original complaint as it did not
consider the damages to be merely ancillary or incidental to the action for recovery of ownership
and possession of real property.8 An amended complaint was filed by plaintiff with leave of
court to include the government of the Republic as defendant and reducing the amount of
damages, and attorney's fees prayed for to P100,000.00. Said amended complaint was also
admitted.9
In the Magaspi case, the action was considered not only one for recovery of ownership but also
for damages, so that the filing fee for the damages should be the basis of assessment. Although
the payment of the docketing fee of P60.00 was found to be insufficient, nevertheless, it was held
that since the payment was the result of an "honest difference of opinion as to the correct
amount to be paid as docket fee" the court "had acquired jurisdiction over the case and the
proceedings thereafter had were proper and regular."10 Hence, as the amended complaint
superseded the original complaint, the allegations of damages in the amended complaint should
be the basis of the computation of the filing fee.11
In the present case no such honest difference of opinion was possible as the allegations of the
complaint, the designation and the prayer show clearly that it is an action for damages and
specific performance. The docketing fee should be assessed by considering the amount of
damages as alleged in the original complaint.
As reiterated in the Magaspi case the rule is well-settled "that a case is deemed filed only upon
payment of the docket fee regardless of the actual date of filing in court."12 Thus, in the present
case the trial court did not acquire jurisdiction over the case by the payment of only P410.00 as
docket fee. Neither can the amendment of the complaint thereby vest jurisdiction upon the
47

Court.13 For all legal purposes there is no such original complaint that was duly filed which
could be amended. Consequently, the order admitting the amended complaint and all
subsequent proceedings and actions taken by the trial court are null and void.
The Court of Appeals therefore, aptly ruled in the present case that the basis of assessment of
the docket fee should be the amount of damages sought in the original complaint and not in the
amended complaint.
The Court cannot close this case without making the observation that it frowns at the practice of
counsel who filed the original complaint in this case of omitting any specification of the amount
of damages in the prayer although the amount of over P78 million is alleged in the body of the
complaint. This is clearly intended for no other purpose than to evade the payment of the correct
filing fees if not to mislead the docket clerk in the assessment of the filing fee. This fraudulent
practice was compounded when, even as this Court had taken cognizance of the anomaly and
ordered an investigation, petitioner through another counsel filed an amended complaint,
deleting all mention of the amount of damages being asked for in the body of the complaint It
was only when in obedience to the order of this Court of October 18, 1985, the trial court
directed that the amount of damages be specified in the amended complaint, that petitioners'
counsel wrote the damages sought in the much reduced amount of P 10,000,000.00 in the body
of the complaint but not in the prayer thereof. The design to avoid payment of the required
docket fee is obvious.
The Court serves warning that it will take drastic action upon a repetition of this unethical
practice.
To put a stop to this irregularity, henceforth all complaints, petitions, answers and other similar
pleadings should specify the amount of damages being prayed for not only in the body of the
pleading but also in the prayer, and said damages shall be considered in the assessment of the
filing fees in any case. Any pleading that fails to comply with this requirement shall not be
accepted nor admitted, or shall otherwise be expunged from the record.
The Court acquires jurisdiction over any case only upon the payment of the prescribed docket
fee. An amendment of the complaint or similar pleading will not thereby vest jurisdiction in the
Court, much less the payment of the docket fee based on the amounts sought in the amended
pleading. The ruling in the Magaspi case14 in so far as it is inconsistent with this pronouncement
is overturned and reversed.
WHEREFORE, the motion for reconsideration is denied for lack of merit.
SO ORDERED.
Teehankee, C.J., Yap, Fernan, Narvasa, Melencio-Herrera, Gutierrez, Jr, Cruz, Paras, Feliciano, Bidin,
Sarmiento and Cortes, JJ., concur.
Paras, J., took no part; I was retained counsel of respondent Cityland Development Corporation.

G.R. Nos. 79937-38. February 13, 1989.*
SUN INSURANCE OFFICE, LTD., (SIOL), E.B. PHILIPPS AND D.J. WARBY, petitioners, vs.
HON. MAXIMIANO C. ASUNCION, Presiding Judge, Branch 104, Regional Trial Court,
Quezon City and MANUEL CHUA UY PO TIONG, respondents.
Remedial Law; Civil Procedure; Actions; Statutes regulating the procedure of courts are applicable to
actions pending and undetermined at the time of their passage.—On the other hand, private
respondent claims that the ruling in Manchester cannot apply retroactively to Civil Case No. Q41177 for at the time said civil case was filed in court there was no such Manchester ruling as yet.
Further, private respondent avers that what is applicable is the ruling of this Court in Magaspi v.
Ramolete, wherein this Court held that the trial court acquired jurisdiction over the case even if
the docket fee paid was insufficient. The contention that Manchester cannot apply retroactively to
this case is untenable. Statutes regulating the procedure of the courts will be construed as
applicable to actions pending and undetermined at the time of their passage. Procedural laws
are retrospective in that sense and to that extent.
Same; Same; Same; Jurisdiction; Complaint; Docket Fees; It is not only the filing of the complaint, but the
payment of the prescribed docket fee, that vests a trial court with jurisdiction over the subject matter or
nature of the action.—It is not simply the filing of the complaint or appropriate initiatory
pleading, but the payment of the prescribed docket fee, that vests a trial court with jurisdiction
over the subject-matter or nature of the action. Where the filing of the initiatory pleading is not
accompanied by payment of the docket fee, the court may allow payment of the fee within a
reasonable time but in no case beyond the applicable prescriptive or reglementary period.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; Permissive Counter-claims; Third-Party Claims; Permissive
counter-claims, third-party claims and the like shall not be considered filed until and unless the prescribed
filing fee is paid.—The same rule applies to permissive counterclaims, third-party claims and
similar pleadings, which shall not be considered filed until and unless the filing fee prescribed
therefor is paid. The court may also allow payment of said fee within a reasonable time but also
in no case beyond its applicable prescriptive or reglementary period.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; Judgments; Lien; When the judgment of the courts awards a claim
not specified in the pleading, the additional filing fee shall constitute a lien on the judgment.—Where the
trial court acquires jurisdiction over a claim by the filing of the appropriate pleading and
payment of the prescribed filing fee but, subsequently, the judgment awards a claim not
specified in the pleading, or if specified the same has been left for determination by the court,
the additional filing fee therefor shall constitute a lien on the judgment. It shall be the
responsibility of the Clerk of Court or his duly authorized deputy to enforce said lien and assess
and collect the additional fee.
PETITION to review the decision of the Court of Appeals.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.
Romulo, Mabanta, Buenaventura, Sayoc & De los Angeles Law Offices for petitioners.

Motion denied.
——o0o——

Tanjuatco, Oreta, Tanjuatco, Berenguer & Sanvicente Law Offices for private respondent.
GANCAYCO, J.:
Again the Court is asked to resolve the issue of whether or not a court acquires jurisdiction over
a case when the correct and proper docket fee has not been paid.
On February 28, 1984, petitioner Sun Insurance Office, Ltd. (SIOL for brevity) filed a complaint
with the Regional Trial Court of Makati, Metro Manila for the consignation of a premium refund
on a fire insurance policy with a prayer for the judicial declaration of its nullity against private
respondent Manuel Uy Po Tiong. Private respondent was declared in default for failure to file
the required answer within the reglementary period.
48

On the other hand, on March 28, 1984, private respondent filed a complaint in the Regional Trial
Court of Quezon City for the refund of premiums and the issuance of a writ of preliminary
attachment which was docketed as Civil Case No. Q-41177, initially against petitioner SIOL, and
thereafter including E.B. Philipps and D.J. Warby as additional defendants. The complaint
sought, among others, the payment of actual, compensatory, moral, exemplary and liquidated
damages, attorney’s fees, expenses of litigation and costs of the suit. Although the prayer in the
complaint did not quantify the amount of damages sought said amount may be inferred from
the body of the complaint to be about Fifty Million Pesos (P50,000,000.00).

October 16, 1986, or some seven months after filing the supplemental complaint, the private
respondent paid the additional docket fee of P80,396.00.1

Only the amount of P210.00 was paid by private respondent as docket fee which prompted
petitioners’ counsel to raise his objection. Said objection was disregarded by respondent Judge
Jose P. Castro who was then presiding over said case.

14 (a) denying petitioners’ motion to dismiss the complaint, as amended, and

Upon the order of this Court, the records of said case together with twenty-two other cases
assigned to different branches of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City which were under
investigation for under-assessment of docket fees were transmitted to this Court. The Court
thereafter returned the said records to the trial court with the directive that they be reraffled to
the other judges in Quezon City, to the exclusion of Judge Castro. Civil Case No. Q-41177 was
re-raffled to Branch 104, a sala which was then vacant.
On October 15, 1985, the Court en banc issued a Resolution in Administrative Case No. 85-108752-RTC directing the judges in said cases to reassess the docket fees and that in case of
deficiency, to order its payment. The Resolution also requires all clerks of court to issue
certificates of re-assessment of docket fees. All litigants were likewise required to specify in their
pleadings the amount sought to be recovered in their complaints.
On December 16, 1985, Judge Antonio P. Solano, to whose sala Civil Case No. Q-41177 was
temporarily assigned, issued an order to the Clerk of Court instructing him to issue a certificate
of assessment of the docket fee paid by private respondent and, in case of deficiency, to include
the same in said certificate.
On Jaunary 7, 1984, to forestall a default, a cautionary answer was filed by petitioners. On
August 30, 1984, an amended complaint was filed by private respondent including the two
additional defendants aforestated.
Judge Maximiano C. Asuncion, to whom Civil Case No. Q-41177 was thereafter assigned, after
his assumption into office on January 16, 1986, issued a Supplemental Order requiring the
parties in the case to comment on the Clerk of Court’s letter-report signifying her difficulty in
complying with the Resolution of this Court of October 15, 1985 since the pleadings filed by
private respondent did not indicate the exact amount sought to be recovered. On January 23,
1986, private respondent filed a “Compliance” and a “Re-Amended Complaint” stating therein a
claim of “not less than P10,000,000.00 as actual compensatory damages” in the prayer. In the
body of the said second amended complaint however, private respondent alleges actual and
compensatory damages and attorney’s fees in the total amount of about P44,601,623.70.
On January 24, 1986, Judge Asuncion issued another Order admitting the second amended
complaint and stating therein that the same constituted proper compliance with the Resolution
of this Court and that a copy thereof should be furnished the Clerk of Court for the reassessment
of the docket fees. The reassessment by the Clerk of Court based on private respondent’s claim
of “not less than P10,000,000.00 as actual and compensatory damages” amounted to P39,786.00
as docket fee. This was subsequently paid by private respondent.
Petitioners then filed a petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals questioning the said
order of Judge Asuncion dated January 24, 1986.
On April 24, 1986, private respondent filed a supplemental complaint alleging an additional
claim of P20,000,000.00 as damages so the total claim amounts to about P64,601,623.70. On

On August 13, 1987, the Court of Appeals rendered a decision ruling, among others, as follows:
“WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered:
1. Denying due course to the petition in CA-G.R. SP No. L-09715 insofar as it seeks annulment of
the order

15 (b) granting the writ of preliminary attachment, but giving due course to the portion thereof
questioning the reassessment of the docketing fee, and requiring the Honorable
respondent Court to reassess the docketing fee to be paid by private respondent on
the basis of the amount of P25,401,707.00.”2
Hence, the instant petition.
During the pendency of this petition and in conformity with the said judgment of respondent
court, private respondent paid the additional docket fee of P62,432.90 on April 28, 1988.3
The main thrust of the petition is that the Court of Appeals erred in not finding that the lower
court did not acquire jurisdiction over Civil Case No. Q-41177 on the ground of non-payment of
the correct and proper docket fee. Petitioners allege that while it may be true that private
respondent had paid the amount of P182,824.90 as docket fee as herein-above related, and
considering that the total amount sought to be recovered in the amended and supplemental
complaint is P64,601,623.70 the docket fee that should be paid by private respondent is
P257,810.49, more or less. Not having paid the same, petitioners contend that the complaint
should be dismissed and all incidents arising therefrom should be annulled. In support of their
theory, petitioners cite the latest ruling of the Court in Manchester Development Corporation vs.
CA,4 as follows:
“The Court acquires jurisdiction over any case only upon the payment of the prescribed docket
fee. An amendment of the complaint or similar pleading will not thereby vest jurisdiction in the
Court, much less the payment of the docket fee based on the amounts sought in the amended
pleading. The ruling in the Magaspi Case in so far as it is inconsistent with this pronouncement
is overturned and reversed.”
On the other hand, private respondent claims that the ruling in Manchester cannot apply
retroactively to Civil Case No. Q-41177 for at the time said civil case was filed in court there was
no such Manchester ruling as yet. Further, private respondent avers that what is applicable is the
ruling of this Court in Magaspi v. Ramolete,5 wherein this Court held that the trial court acquired
jurisdiction over the case even if the docket fee paid was insufficient.
The contention that Manchester cannot apply retroactively to this case is untenable. Statutes
regulating the procedure of the courts will be construed as applicable to actions pending and
undetermined at the time of their passage. Procedural laws are retrospective in that sense and to
that extent.6
In Lazaro vs. Endencia and Andres,7 this Court held that the payment of the full amount of the
docket fee is an indispensable step for the perfection of an appeal. In a forcible entry and
detainer case before the justice of the peace court of Manaoag, Pangasinan, after notice of a
judgment dismissing the case, the plaintiff filed a notice of appeal with said court but he
deposited only P8.00 for the docket fee, instead of P16.00 as required, within the reglementary
period of appeal of five (5) days after receiving notice of judgment. Plaintiff deposited the
additional P8.00 to complete the amount of the docket fee only fourteen (14) days later. On the
basis of these facts, this court held that the Court of First Instance did not acquire jurisdiction to
hear and determine the appeal as the appeal was not thereby perfected.
49

In Lee vs. Republic,8 the petitioner filed a verified declaration of intention to become a Filipino
citizen by sending it through registered mail to the Office of the Solicitor General in 1953 but the
required filing fee was paid only in 1956, barely 5-1/2 months prior to the filing of the petition
for citizenship. This Court ruled that the declaration was not filed in accordance with the legal
requirement that such declaration should be filed at least one year before the filing of the
petition for citizenship. Citing Lazaro, this Court concluded that the filing of petitioner’s
declaration of intention on October 23, 1953 produced no legal effect until the required filing fee
was paid on May 23, 1956.
In Malimit vs. Degamo,9 the same principles enunciated in Lazaro and Lee were applied. It was an
original petition for quo warranto contesting the right to office of proclaimed candidates which
was mailed, addressed to the clerk of the Court of First Instance, within the one-week period
after the proclamation as provided therefor by law.10 However, the required docket fees were
paid only after the expiration of said period. Consequently, this Court held that the date of such
payment must be deemed to be the real date of filing of aforesaid petition and not the date when
it was mailed.
Again, in Garica vs. Vasquez,11 this Court reiterated the rule that the docket fee must be paid
before a court will act on a petition or complaint. However, we also held that said rule is not
applicable when petitioner seeks the probate of several wills of the same decedent as he is not
required to file a separate action for each will but instead he may have other wills probated in
the same special proceeding then pending before the same court.
Then in Magaspi,12 this Court reiterated the ruling in Malimit and Lee that a case is deemed filed
only upon payment of the docket fee regardless of the actual date of its filing in court. Said case
involved a complaint for recovery of ownership and possession of a parcel of land with
damages filed in the Court of First Instance of Cebu. Upon the payment of P60.00 for the docket
fee and 10.00 for the sheriffs fee, the complaint was docketed as Civil Case No. R-11882. The
prayer of the complaint sought that the Transfer Certificate of Title issued in the name of the
defendant be declared as null and void. It was also prayed that plaintiff be declared as owner
thereof to whom the proper title should be issued, and that defendant be made to pay monthly
rentals of P3,500.00 from June 2, 1948 up to the time the property is delivered to plaintiff,
P500,000.00 as moral damages, attorney’s fees in the amount of P250,000.00, the costs of the
action and exemplary damages in the amount ofP500,000.00.
The defendant then filed a motion to compel the plaintiff to pay the correct amount of the docket
fee to which an opposition was filed by the plaintiff alleging that the action was for the recovery
of a parcel of land so the docket fee must be based on its assessed value and that the amount of
P60.00 was the correct docketing fee. The trial court ordered the plaintiff to pay P3,l04.00 as
filing fee.
The plaintiff then filed a motion to admit the amended complaint to include the Republic as the
defendant. In the prayer of the amended complaint the exemplary damages earlier sought was
eliminated. The amended prayer merely sought moral damages as the court may determine,
attorney’s fees of P100,000.00 and the costs of the action. The defendant filed an opposition to
the amended complaint. The opposition notwithstanding, the amended complaint was admitted
by the trial court. The trial court reiterated its order for the payment of the additional docket fee
which plaintiff assailed and then challenged before this Court. Plaintiff alleged that he paid the
total docket fee in the amount of P60.00 and that if he has to pay the additional fee it must be
based on the amended complaint.
The question posed, therefore, was whether or not the plaintiff may be considered to have filed
the case even if the docketing fee paid was not sufficient. In Magaspi, We reiterated the rule that
the case was deemed filed only upon the payment of the correct amount for the docket fee
regardless of the actual date of the filing of the complaint; that there was an honest difference of
opinion as to the correct amount to be paid as docket fee in that as the action appears to be one

for the recovery of property the docket fee of P60.00 was correct; and that as the action is also
one for damages, We upheld the assessment of the additional docket fee based on the damages
alleged in the amended complaint as against the assessment of the trial court which was based
on the damages alleged in the original complaint.
However, as aforecited, this Court overturned Magaspi in Manchester. Manchester involves an
action for torts and damages and specific performance with a prayer for the issuance of a
temporary restraining order, etc. The prayer in said case is for the issuance of a writ of
preliminary prohibitory injunction during the pendency of the action against the defendants’
announced forfeiture of the sum of P3 Million paid by the plaintiffs for the property in question,
the attachment of such property of defendants that may be sufficient to satisfy any judgment
that may be rendered, and, after hearing, the issuance of an order requiring defendants to
execute a contract of purchase and sale of the subject property and annul defendants’ illegal
forfeiture of the money of plaintiff. It was also prayed that the defendants be made to pay the
plaintiff, jointly and severally, actual, compensatory and exemplary damages as well as 25% of
said amounts as may be proved during the trial for attorney’s fees. The plaintiff also asked the
trial court to declare the tender of payment of the purchase price of plaintiff valid and sufficient
for purposes of payment, and to make the injunction permanent. The amount of damages
sought is not specified in the prayer although the body of the complaint alleges the total amount
of over P78 Millon allegedly suffered by plaintiff.
Upon the filing of the complaint, the plaintiff paid the amount of only P410.00 for the docket fee
based on the nature of the action for specific performance where the amount involved is not
capable of pecuniary estimation. However, it was obvious from the allegations of the complaint
as well as its designation that the action was one for damages and specific performance. Thus,
this court held the plaintiff must be assessed the correct docket fee computed against the
amount of damages of about P78 Million, although the same was not spelled out in the prayer of
the complaint.
Meanwhile, plaintiff through another counsel, with leave of court, filed an amended complaint
on September 12, 1985 by the inclusion of another co-plaintiff and eliminating any mention of
the amount of damages in the body of the complaint. The prayer in the original complaint was
maintained.
On October 15, 1985, this Court ordered the re-assessment of the docket fee in the said case and
other cases that were investigated. On November 12, 1985, the trial court directed the plaintiff to
rectify the amended complaint by stating the amounts which they were asking for. This plaintiff
did as instructed. In the body of the complaint the amount of damages alleged was reduced to
P10,000,000.00 but still no amount of damages was specified in the prayer. Said amended
complaint was admitted.
Applying the principle in Magaspi that “the case is deemed filed only upon payment of the
docket fee regardless of the actual date of filing in court,” this Court held that the trial court did
not acquire jurisdiction over the case by payment of only P410.00 for the docket fee. Neither can
the amendment of the complaint thereby vest jurisdiction upon the Court. For all legal purposes
there was no such original complaint duly filed which could be amended. Consequently, the
order admitting the amended complaint and all subsequent proceedings and actions taken by
the trial court were declared null and void.13
The present case, as above discussed, is among the several cases of under-assessment of docket
fee which were investigated by this Court together with Manchester. The facts and circumstances
of this case are similar to Manchester. In the body of the original complaint, the total amount of
damages sought amounted to about P50 Million. In the prayer, the amount of damages asked for
was not stated. The action was for the refund of the premium and the issuance of the writ of
preliminary attachment with damages. The amount of only P210.00 was paid for the docket fee.
On January 23, 1986, private respondent filed an amended complaint wherein in the prayer it is
50

asked that he be awarded no less than P10,000,000.00 as actual and exemplary damages but in
the body of the complaint the amount of his pecuniary claim is approximately P44,601,623.70.
Said amended complaint was admitted and the private respondent was reassessed the
additional docket fee of P39,786.00 based on his prayer of not less than P10,000,000.00 in
damages, which he paid.
On April 24, 1986, private respondent filed a supplemental complaint alleging an additional
claim of P20,000,000.00 in damages so that his total claim is approximately P64,601,620.70. On
October 16, 1986, private respondent paid an additional docket fee of P80,396.00. After the
promulgation of the decision of the respondent court on August 31, 1987 wherein private
respondent was ordered to be reassessed for additional docket fee, and during the pendency of
this petition, and after the promulgation of Manchester, on April 28, 1988, private respondent
paid an additional docket fee of P62,132.92. Although private respondent appears to have paid a
total amount of P182,824.90 for the docket fee considering the total amount of his claim in the
amended and supplemental complaint amounting to about P64,601,620.70, petitioner insists that
private respondent must pay a docket fee of P257,810.49.
The principle in Manchester could very well be applied in the present case. The pattern and the
intent to defraud the government of the docket fee due it is obvious not only in the filing of the
original complaint but also in the filing of the second amended complaint.
However, in Manchester, petitioner did not pay any additional docket fee untill the case was
decided by this Court on May 7, 1987. Thus, in Manchester, due to the fraud committed on the
government, this Court held that the court a quo did not acquire jurisdiction over the case and
that the amended complaint could not have been admitted inasmuch as the original complaint
was null and void.

the judgment. It shall be the responsibility of the Clerk of Court or his duly authorized
deputy to enforce said lien and assess and collect the additional fee.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED for lack of merit.
The Clerk of Court of the court a quo is hereby instructed to reassess and determine the
additional filing fee that should be paid by private respondent considering the total amount of
the claim sought in the original complaint and the supplemental complaint as may be gleaned
from the allegations and the prayer thereof and to require private respondent to pay the
deficiency, if any, without pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.
Fernan (C.J), Narvasa, Melencio-Herrera, Gutierrez, Jr., Cruz, Paras, Feliciano, Padilla, Bidin,
Sarmiento, Cortes, Griño-Aquino, Medialdea and Regalado, JJ., concur.
Petition dismissed.
Note.—Court acquires jurisdiction over any case only upon payment of the prescribed docket
fee. An amendment of the complaint or similar pleading will not vest jurisdiction in the court,
much less payment of the docket fee based on amount in the amended pleading. (Manchester
Development Corporation vs. Court of Appeals, 149 SCRA 562.)
——o0o——

In the present case, a more liberal interpretation of the rules is called for considering that, unlike
Manchester, private respondent demonstrated his willingness to abide by the rules by paying the
additional docket fees as required. The promulgation of the decision in Manchester must have
had that sobering influence on private respondent who thus paid the additional docket fee as
ordered by the respondent court. It triggered his change of stance by manifesting his willingness
to pay such additional docket fee as may be ordered.
Nevertheless, petitioners contend that the docket fee that was paid is still insufficient
considering the total amount of the claim. This is a matter which the clerk of court of the lower
court and/or his duly authorized docket clerk or clerk in-charge should determine and,
thereafter, if any amount is found due, he must require the private respondent to pay the same.
Thus, the Court rules as follows:
6 1. It is not simply the filing of the complaint or appropriate initiatory pleading, but the
payment of the prescribed docket fee, that vests a trial court with jurisdiction over the
subject-matter or nature of the action. Where the filing of the initiatory pleading is not
accompanied by payment of the docket fee, the court may allow payment of the fee
within a reasonable time but in no case beyond the applicable prescriptive or
reglementary period.
7 2. The same rule applies to permissive counterclaims, third-party claims and similar
pleadings, which shall not be considered filed until and unless the filing fee
prescribed therefor is paid. The court may also allow payment of said fee within a
reasonable time but also in no case beyond its applicable prescriptive or reglementary
period.
8 3. Where the trial court acquires jurisdiction over a claim by the filing of the appropriate
pleading and payment of the prescribed filing fee but, subsequently, the judgment
awards a claim not specified in the pleading, or if specified the same has been left for
determination by the court, the additional filing fee therefor shall constitute a lien on
51

G.R. Nos. 88075-77. December 20, 1989.*
MAXIMO TACAY, PONCIANO PANES and ANTONIA NOEL, petitioners, vs. REGIONAL
TRIAL COURT OF TAGUM, Davao del Norte, Branches 1 and 2, Presided by Hon. Marcial
Fernandez and Hon. Jesus Matas, respectively, PATSITA GAMUTAN, Clerk of Court, and
GODOFREDO PINEDA, respondents.
Remedial Law; Civil Procedure; Judgment; Dismissal of petition for failure to comply with Circular No.
1-88; Copies of challenged orders were not certified by the clerk of court or his duly authorized
representative but by petitioner’s counsel which is not allowed.—It should be dismissed for failure to
comply with this Court’s Circular No. 1-88 (effective January 1, 1989). The copies of the
challenged Orders thereto attached were not certified by the proper Clerk of Court or his duly
authorized representative. Certification was made by the petitioners’ counsel, which is not
allowed.
Same; Same; Actions; Jurisdiction; Determinative of the court’s jurisdiction in actions for recovery of
possession of real property is the nature thereof, not the amount of the damages allegedly arising from or
connected with the issue of title or possession, and regardless of the value of the property.—It is true that
the complaints do not state the amounts being claimed as actual, moral and nominal damages. It
is also true, however, that the actions are not basically for the recovery of sums of money. They
are principally for recovery of possession of real property, in the nature of an accion publiciana.
Determinative of the court’s jurisdiction in this type of actions is the nature thereof, not the
amount of the damages allegedly arising from or connected with the issue of title or possession,
and regardless of the value of the property. Quite obviously, an action for recovery of possession
of real property (such as an accion plenaria de posesion) or the title thereof, or for partition or
condemnation of, or the foreclosure of a mortgage on, said real property—in other words, a real
action—may be commenced and prosecuted without an accompanying claim for actual, moral,
nominal or exemplary damages; and such an action would fall within the exclusive, original
jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Jurisdiction of Regional Trial Courts under B.P. 129; Application of the rule.—
Batas Pambansa Bilang 129 provides that Regional Trial Courts shall exercise exclusive original
jurisdiction inter alia over “all civil actions which involve the title to, or possession of, real
property, or any interest therein, except actions for forcible entry into and unlawful detainer of
lands or buildings, original jurisdiction over which is conferred upon Metropolitan Trial Courts,
Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts.” The rule applies regardless of the
value of the real property involved, whether it be worth more than P20,000.00 or not, infra. The
rule also applies even where the complaint involving realty also prays for an award of damages;
the amount of those damages would be immaterial to the question of the Court’s jurisdiction.
The rule is unlike that in other cases—e.g., actions simply for recovery of money or of personal
property, or actions in admiralty and maritime jurisdiction—in which the amount claimed, or
the value of the personal property, is determinative of jurisdiction; i.e., the value of the personal
property or the amount claimed should exceed twenty thousand pesos (P20,000.00) in order to
be cognizable by the Regional Trial Court.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Filing Fees; Circular No. 7ofthe Supreme Court cannot be invoked as authority
for dismissal of the actions at bar; Circular was avowedly inspired by the Manchester ruling.—Circular
No. 7 of this Court, dated March 24, 1988, cannot thus be invoked, as the petitioner does, as
authority for the dismissal of the actions at bar. That circular, avowedly inspired by the doctrine
laid down in Manchester Development Corporation v. Court of Appeals, 149 SCRA 562 (May 7, 1987),
has but limited application to said actions, as shall presently be discussed. Moreover, the rules
therein laid down have since been clarified and amplified by the Court’s subsequent decision in
Sun Insurance Office, Ltd. (SIOL) v. Asuncion, et al., G.R. Nos..79937-38, February 13, 1989.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; Purpose of Circular No. 7.—Circular No. 7 was aimed at the practice
of certain parties who omit from the prayer of their complaints “any specification of the amount

of damages,” the omission being “clearly intended for no other purpose than to evade the
payment of the correct filing fees if not to mislead the docket clerk, in the assessment of the
filing fee.”
Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; Requirement in Circular No. 7 that complaints, etc. should specify the
amount of damages being prayed for not only in the body of the pleading but also in the prayer has not
been altered; New rule that trial courts are now authorized to allow payment of the fee within a reasonable
time but not beyond the prescriptive or reglementary period; For damages arising after the filing of the
complaint or similar pleading, the additional filing fee shall constitute a lien on the judgment.—As will
be noted, the requirement in Circular No. 7 that complaints, petitions, answers, and similar
pleadings should specify the amount of damages being prayed for not only in the body of the
pleading but also in the prayer, has not been altered. What has been revised is the rule that
subsequent “amendment of the complaint or similar pleading will not thereby vest jurisdiction
in the Court, much less the payment of the docket fee based on the amount sought in the
amended pleading,” the trial court now being authorized to allow payment of the fee within a
reasonable time but in no case beyond the applicable prescriptive or reglementary period.
Moreover, a new rule has been added, governing awards of claims not specified in the
pleading—i.e., damages arising after the filing of the complaint or similar pleading—as to which
the additional filing fee therefor shall constitute a lien on the judgment.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; Where the action is purely for recovery of money or damages, the docket
fees are assessed on the basis of the aggregate amount claimed, exclusive only of interests and costs.—
Where the action is purely for the recovery of money or damages, the docket fees are assessed
on the basis of the aggregate amount claimed, exclusive only of interests and costs. In this case,
the complaint or similar pleading should, according to Circular No. 7 of this Court, “specify the
amount of damages being prayed for not only in the body of the pleading but also in the prayer,
and said damages shall be considered in the assessment of the filing fees in any case.”
Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; Rules to be applied where the complaint or similar pleading sets
out a claim purely for money or damages, and there is no precise statement of the amounts being claimed,
or where the pleading specifies the amount of every claim, but the fees paid are insufficient.—Two
situations may arise. One is where the complaint or similar pleading sets out a claim purely for
money or damages and there is no precise statement of the amounts being claimed. In this event
the rule is that the pleading will “not be accepted nor admitted, or shall otherwise be expunged
from the record.” In other words, the complaint or pleading may be dismissed, or the claims as
to which the amounts are unspecified may be expunged, although as aforestated the Court may,
on motion, permit amendment of the complaint and payment of the fees provided the claim has
not in the meantime become time-barred. The other is where the pleading does specify the
amount of every claim, but the fees paid are insufficient; and here again, the rule now is that the
court may allow a reasonable time for the payment of the prescribed fees, or the balance thereof,
and upon such payment, the defect is cured and the court may properly take cognizance of the
action, unless in the meantime prescription has set in and consequently barred the right of
action.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; Where the action involves real property and a related claim for damages,
the legal fees shall be assessed on the basis of both the value of the property and the total amount of related
damages sought; Rule where no amounts of the damages are specified.—Where the action involves real
property and a related claim for damages as well, the legal fees shall be assessed on the basis of
both (a) the value of the property and (b) the total amount of related damages sought. The Court
acquires jurisdiction over the action if the filing of the initiatory pleading is accompanied by the
payment of the requisite fees, or, if the fees are not paid at the time of the filing of the pleading,
as of the time of full payment of the fees within such reasonable time as the court may grant,
unless, of course, prescription has set in in the meantime. But where—as in the case at bar—the
fees prescribed for an action involving real property have been paid, but the amounts of certain
of the related damages (actual, moral and nominal) being demanded are unspecified, the action
may not be dismissed. The Court undeniably has jurisdiction over the action involving the real
52

property, acquiring it upon the filing of the complaint or similar pleading and payment of the
prescribed fee. And it is not divested of that authority by the circumstance that it may not have
acquired jurisdiction over the accompanying claims for damages because of lack of specification
thereof. What should be done is simply to expunge those claims for damages as to which no
amounts are stated, which is what the respondent Courts did, or allow, on motion, a reasonable
time for the amendment of the complaints so as to allege the precise amount of each item of
damages and accept payment of the requisite fees therefor within the relevant prescriptive
period.
JOINT PETITION for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus to review the orders of the Regional
Trial Court of Tagum, Davao del Norte, Br. 1 and 2.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.
Eduardo C. De Vera for petitioners.
RESOLUTION
NARVASA, J.:
In the Regional Trial Court at Tagum, Davao del Norte,1 three (3) actions for recovery of
possession (acciones publicianas2) were separately instituted by Godofredo Pineda against three
(3) defendants, docketed as follows:
16 1) vs. Antonia Noel Civil Case No. 2209
17 2) vs. Ponciano Panes Civil Case No. 2210
18 3) vs. Maximo Tacay Civil Case No. 2211.
Civil Cases Numbered 2209 and 2211 were raffled to Branch I of the Trial Court, presided over
by Judge Marcial Hernandez. Civil No. 2210 was assigned to Branch 2, presided over by Judge
Jesus Matas.
The complaints3 all alleged the same essential facts: (1) Pineda was the owner of a parcel of land
measuring 790 square meters, his ownership being evidenced by TCT No. T-46560; (2) the
previous owner had allowed the defendants to occupy portions of the land by mere tolerance;
(3) having himself need to use the property, Pineda had made demands on the defendants to
vacate the property and pay reasonable rentals therefor, but these demands had been refused;
and (4) the last demand had been made more than a year prior to the commencement of suit.
The complaints prayed for the same reliefs, to wit:
9 1) that plaintiff be declared owner of the areas occupied by the defendants;
10 2) that defendants and their “privies and allies” be ordered to vacate and deliver the portions
of the land usurped by them;
11 3) that each defendant be ordered to pay:
10 1) P2,000 as monthly rents from February, 1987;
11 2) “Actual damages, as proven;”
12 3) “Moral and nominal damages as the Honorable Court may fix;”4
13 4) “P30,000.00, “as attorney’s fees, and representation fees of P5,000.00 per day of
appearance;”
and
10 4) that he (Pineda) be granted such “further relief and remedies x x just and equitable in the
premises.”

The prayer of each complaint contained a handwritten notation (evidently made by plaintiffs
counsel) reading, “P5,000.00 as and for,” immediately above the typewritten words, “Actual
damages, as proven,” the intention apparently being to make the entire phrase read, “5,000.00 as
and for actual damages as proven.”5
Motions to dismiss were filed in behalf of each of the defendants by common counsel.6 Every
motion alleged that the Trial Court had not acquired jurisdiction of the case—
“. . . for the reason that the x x complaint violates the mandatory and clear provision of Circular
No. 7 of the x x Supreme Court dated March 24, 1988, by failing to specify all the amounts of
damages which plaintiff is claiming from defendant;” and
“. . . for x x failure (of the complaint) to even allege the basic requirement as to the assessed
value of the subject lot in dispute.”
Judge Matas denied the motion to dismiss filed in Civil Case No. 2210 but ordered the
expunction of the “allegations in paragraph 11 of the x x complaint regarding moral as well as
nominal damages.”7 On motion of defendant Panes, Judge Matas later ordered the striking out,
too, of the “handwritten amount of ‘P5,000.00 as and for,’ including the typewritten words
‘actual damages as proven’ x x in sub-paragraph b of paragraph 4 in the conclusion and prayer
of the complaint x x.”8
The motions to dismiss submitted in Civil Cases Numbered 2211 and 2209 were also denied in
separate orders promulgated by Judge Marcial Fernandez.9 His Order in Case No. 2209 dated
March 15, 1989 (a) declared that since the “action at bar is for Reivindicatoria, Damages and
Attorney’s fees x x (d)efinitely this Court has the exclusive jurisdiction,” (b) that the claims for
actual, moral and nominal damages “are only one aspect of the cause of action,” and (c) because
of absence of specification of the amounts claimed as moral, nominal and actual damages, they
should be “expunged from the records.”
Ascribing grave abuse of discretion to both Judges Matas and Fernandez in the rendition of the
Orders above described, the defendants in all three (3) actions have filed with this Court a “Joint
Petition” for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus, with prayer for temporary restraining order
and/or writ of preliminary prohibitory injunction,” praying essentially that said orders be
annulled and respondent judges directed to dismiss all the complaints “without prejudice to
private respondent Pineda’s re-filing a similar complaint that complies with Circular No. 7.” The
joint petition (a) re-asserted the proposition that because the complaints had failed to state the
amounts being claimed as actual, moral and nominal damages, the Trial Courts aquo had not
acquired jurisdiction over the three (3) actions in question—indeed, the respondent Clerk of
Court should not have accepted the complaints which initiated said suits, and (b) it was not
proper merely to expunge the claims for damages and allow “the so-called cause of action for
‘reivindicatoria’ to remain for trial” by itself.10
The joint petition should be, as it is hereby, dismissed. It should be dismissed for failure to
comply with this Court’s Circular No. 1-88 (effective January 1, 1989). The copies of the
challenged Orders thereto attached11 were not certified by the proper Clerk of Court or his duly
authorized representative. Certification was made by the petitioners’ counsel, which is not
allowed.
The petition should be dismissed, too, for another equally important reason. It fails to
demonstrate any grave abuse of discretion on the part of the respondent Judges in rendering the
Orders complained of or, for that matter, the existence of any proper cause for the issuance of
the writ of mandamus. On the contrary, the orders appear to have correctly applied the law to the
admitted facts.
It is true that the complaints do not state the amounts being claimed as actual, moral and
nominal damages. It is also true, however, that the actions are not basically for the recovery of
53

sums of money. They are principally for recovery of possession of real property, in the nature of
an accion publiciana. Determinative of the court’s jurisdiction in this type of actions is the nature
thereof, not the amount of the damages allegedly arising from or connected with the issue of
title or possession, and regardless of the value of the property. Quite obviously, an action for
recovery of possession of real property (such as an accion plenaria de posesion) or the title
thereof,12 or for partition or condemnation of, or the foreclosure of a mortgage on, said real
property13—in other words, a real action—may be commenced and prosecuted without an
accompanying claim for actual, moral, nominal or exemplary damages; and such an action
would fall within the exclusive, original jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court.
Batas Pambansa Bilang 129 provides that Regional Trial Courts shall exercise exclusive
original jurisdiction inter alia over “all civil actions which involve the title to, or possession of,
real property, or any interest therein, except actions for forcible entry into and unlawful detainer
of lands or buildings, original jurisdiction over which is conferred upon Metropolitan Trial
Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts.”14 The rule applies
regardless of the value of the real property involved, whether it be worth more than P20,000.00
or not, infra. The rule also applies even where the complaint involving realty also prays for an
award of damages; the amount of those damages would be immaterial to the question of the
Court’s jurisdiction. The rule is unlike that in other cases—e.g., actions simply for recovery of
money or of personal property,15 or actions in admiralty and maritime jurisdiction16—in which
the amount claimed,17 or the value of the personal property, is determinative of jurisdiction; i.e.,
the value of the personal property or the amount claimed should exceed twenty thousand pesos
(P20,000.00) in order to be cognizable by the Regional Trial Court.
Circular No. 7 of this Court, dated March 24, 1988, cannot thus be invoked, as the petitioner
does, as authority for the dismissal of the actions at bar. That circular, avowedly inspired by the
doctrine laid down in Manchester Development Corporation v. Court of Appeals, 149 SCRA 562 (May
7, 1987), has but limited application to said actions, as shall presently be discussed. Moreover,
the rules therein laid down have since been clarified and amplified by the Court’s subsequent
decision in Sun Insurance Office, Ltd. (SIOL) v. Asuncion, et al., G.R. Nos. 79937-38, February 13,
1989.
Circular No. 7 was aimed at the practice of certain parties who omit from the prayer of their
complaints “any specification of the amount of damages,” the omission being “clearly intended
for no other purposes than to evade the payment of the correct filing fees if not to mislead the
docket clerk, in the assessment of the filing fee.” The following rules were therefore set down:
1. All complaints, petitions, answers, and similar pleadings should specify the amount of
damages being prayed for not only in the body of the pleading but also in the prayer, and said
damages shall be considered in the assessment of the filing fees in any case.
2. Any pleading that fails to comply with this requirement shall not be accepted nor admitted, or
shall otherwise be expunged from the record.
3. The Court acquires jurisdiction over any case only upon the payment of the prescribed docket
fee. An amendment of the complaint or similar pleading will not thereby vest jurisdiction in the
Court, much less the payment of the docket fee based on the amount sought in the amended
pleading.
The clarificatory and additional rules laid down in Sun Insurance Office, Ltd. v. Asuncion, supra,
read as follows:
1. It is not simply the filing of the complaint or appropriate initiatory pleading, but (also) the
payment of the prescribed docket fee that vests a trial court with jurisdiction over the subjectmatter or nature of the action. Where the filing of the initiatory pleading is not accompanied by
payment of the docket fee, the court may allow payment of

the fee within a reasonable time but in no case beyond the applicable prescriptive or
reglementary period.
2. The same rule applies to permissive counterclaims, third-party claims and similar pleadings,
which shall not be considered filed until and unless the filing fee prescribed therefor is paid. The
court may also allow payment of said fee within a reasonable time but also in no case beyond its
applicable prescriptive or reglementary period.
3. Where the trial court acquires jurisdiction over a claim by the filing of the appropriate
pleading and payment of the prescribed filing fee but, subsequently, the judgment awards a
claim not specified in the pleading, or if specified, the same has been left for determination by
the court, the additional filing fee therefor shall constitute a lien on the judgment. It shall be the
responsibility of the Clerk of Court or his duly authorized deputy to enforce said lien and assess
and collect the additional fee.”
As will be noted, the requirement in Circular No. 7 that complaints, petitions, answers, and
similar pleadings should specify the amount of damages being prayed for not only in the body
of the pleading but also in the prayer, has not been altered. What has been revised is the rule
that subsequent “amendment of the complaint or similar pleading will not thereby vest
jurisdiction in the Court, much less the payment of the docket fee based on the amount sought
in the amended pleading,” the trial court now being authorized to allow payment of the fee
within a reasonable time but in no case beyond the applicable prescriptive or reglementary
period. Moreover, a new rule has been added, governing awards of claims not specified in the
pleading—i.e., damages arising after the filing of the complaint or similar pleading—as to which
the additional filing fee therefor shall constitute a lien on the judgment.
Now, under the Rules of Court, docket or filing fees are assessed on the basis of the “sum
claimed,” on the one hand, or the “value of the property in litigation or the value of the estate,”
on the other.18 There are, in other words, as already above intimated, actions or proceedings
involving real property, in which the value of the property is immaterial to the court’s
jurisdiction, account thereof being taken merely for assessment of the legal fees; and there are
actions or proceedings, involving personal property or the recovery of money and/or damages,
in which the value of the property or the amount of the demand is decisive of the trial court’s
competence (aside from being the basis for fixing the corresponding docket fees).19
Where the action is purely for the recovery of money or damages, the docket fees are assessed
on the basis of the aggregate amount claimed, exclusive only of interests and costs. In this case,
the complaint or similar pleading should, according to Circular No. 7 of this Court, “specify the
amount of damages being prayed for not only in the body of the pleading but also in the prayer,
and said damages shall be considered in the assessment of the filing fees in any case.”
Two situations may arise. One is where the complaint or similar pleading sets out a claim purely
for money or damages and there is no precise statement of the amounts being claimed. In this
event the rule is that the pleading will “not be accepted nor admitted, or shall otherwise be
expunged from the record.” In other words, the complaint or pleading may be dismissed, or the
claims as to which the amounts are unspecified may be expunged, although as aforestated the
Court may, on motion, permit amendment of the complaint and payment of the fees provided
the claim has not in the meantime become time-barred. The other is where the pleading does
specify the amount of every claim, but the fees paid are insufficient; and here again, the rule
now is that the court may allow a reasonable time for the payment of the prescribed fees, or the
balance thereof, and upon such payment, the defect is cured and the court may properly take
cognizance of the action, unless in the meantime prescription has set in and consequently barred
the right of action. Where the action involves real property and a related claim for damages as
well, the legal fees shall be assessed on the basis of both (a) the value of the property and (b) the
total amount of related damages sought. The Court acquires jurisdiction over the action if the
filing of the initiatory pleading is accompanied by the payment of the requisite fees, or, if the
54

fees are not paid at the time of the filing of the pleading, as of the time of full payment of the fees
within such reasonable time as the court may grant, unless, of course, prescription has set in in
the meantime. But where—as in the case at bar—the fees prescribed for an action involving real
property have been paid, but the amounts of certain of the related damages (actual, moral and
nominal) being demanded are unspecified, the action may not be dismissed. The Court
undeniably has jurisdiction over the action involving the real property, acquiring it upon the
filing of the complaint or similar pleading and payment of the prescribed fee. And it is not
divested of that authority by the circumstance that it may not have acquired jurisdiction over the
accompanying claims for damages because of lack of specification thereof. What should be done
is simply to expunge those claims for damages as to which no amounts are stated, which is what
the respondent Courts did, or allow, on motion, a reasonable time for the amendment of the
complaints so as to allege the precise amount of each item of damages and accept payment of
the requisite fees therefor within the relevant prescriptive period.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED, without pronouncement as to costs.
Fernan (C.J.), Melencio-Herrera, Gutierrez, Jr., Cruz, Paras, Feliciano, Gancayco, Padilla,
Bidin, Sarmiento, Cortés, Griño-Aquino, Medialdea and Regalado, JJ., concur.
Petition dismissed.
Notes.—Jurisdiction is determined by the law in force at the time of the commencement of
the action. (Lee vs. Municipal Trial Court of Legaspi, 145 SCRA 408.)
There is no rule authorizing a court personnel or branch clerk of court to issue a “notice of
case status.” (Koh vs. Intermediate Appellate Court, 144 SCRA 259.)
——o0o——

G.R. No. 88421. January 30, 1990.*
AYALA CORPORATION, LAS PIÑAS VENTURES, INC., AND FILIPINAS LIFE ASSURANCE
COMPANY, INC., petitioners, vs. THE HONORABLE JOB B. MADAYAG, PRESIDING JUDGE,
REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, NATIONAL CAPITAL JUDICIAL REGION, BRANCH 145 and
THE SPOUSES CAMILO AND MA. MARLENE SABIO, respondents.
Civil Procedure; Docket Fees; Amount of docket fees to be paid should be computed on the basis of the
amount of damages stated in the complaint.—In Manchester Development Corporation vs. Court of
Appeals a similar case involving an action for specific performance with damages, this Court
held that the docket fee should be assessed by considering the amount of damages as alleged in
the original complaint. However, the contention of petitioners is that since the action concerns
real estate, the assessed value thereof should be considered in computing the fees pursuant to
Section 5, Rule 141 of the Rules of Court. Such rule cannot apply to this case which is an action
for specific performance with damages although it is in relation to a transaction involving real
estate. Pursuant to Manchester, the amount of the docket fees to be paid should be computed on
the basis of the amount of damages stated in the complaint.
Same; Same; Damages; Amount of any claim for damages arising on or before the filing of the complaint
or any pleading should be specified.___In the latest case of Tacay vs. Regional Trial Court of Tagum,
this Court had occasion to make the clarification that the phrase “awards of claims not specified
in the pleading” refers only to “damages arising after the filing of the complaint or similar
pleading xxxx as to which the additional filing fee therefor shall constitute a lien on the
judgment.” The amount of any claim for damages, therefore, arising on or before the filing of the
complaint or any pleading should be specified. While it is true that the determination of certain
damages as exemplary or corrective damages is left to the sound discretion of the court, it is the
duty of the parties claiming such damages to specify the amount sought on the basis of which
the court may make a proper determination, and for the proper assessment of the appropriate
docket fees. The exception contemplated as to claims not specified or to claims although
specified are left for determination of the court is limited only to any damages that may arise
after the filing of the complaint or similar pleading for then it will not be possible for the
claimant to specify nor speculate as to the amount thereof.
Same; Same; Same; Same; A complaint which fails to specify the amount of damages being claimed suffers
from a material defect. Trial court may either order said claim to be expunged from the record or order the
amendment of the complaint within a reasonable time.—The amended and supplemental complaint
in the present case, therefore, suffers from the material defect in failing to state the amount of
exemplary damages prayed for. As ruled in Tacay the trial court may either order said claim to
be expunged from the record as it did not acquire jurisdiction over the same or on motion, it
may allow, within a reasonable time, the amendment of the amended and supplemental
complaint so as to state the precise amount of the exemplary damages sought and require the
payment of the requisite fees therefor within the relevant prescriptive period.
PETITION for prohibition to review the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Makati, Br. 145.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.
Renato L. De la Fuente for petitioners.
Camilo L. Sabio for private respondents.
GANCAYCO, J.:
Once more the issue relating to the payment of filing fees in an action for specific performance
with damages is presented by this petition for prohibition.
Private respondents filed against petitioners an action for specific performance with damages in
the Regional Trial Court of Makati. Petitioners filed a motion to dismiss on the ground that the
55

lower court has not acquired jurisdiction over the case as private respondents failed to pay the
prescribed docket fee and to specify the amount of exemplary damages both in the body and
prayer of the amended and supplemental complaint. The trial court denied the motion in an
order dated April 5, 1989. A motion for reconsideration filed by petitioners was likewise denied
in an order dated May 18, 1989. Hence this petition.
The main thrust of the petition is that private respondent paid only the total amount of P1,616.00
as docket fees instead of the amount of P13,061.35 based on the assessed value of the real
properties involved as evidenced by its tax declaration. Further, petitioners contend that private
respondents failed to specify the amount of exemplary damages sought both in the body and the
prayer of the amended and supplemental complaint.
In Manchester Development Corporation vs. Court of Appeals1 a similar case involving an action for
specific performance with damages, this Court held that the docket fee should be assessed by
considering the amount of damages as alleged in the original complaint.
However, the contention of petitioners is that since the action concerns real estate, the assessed
value thereof should be considered in computing the fees pursuant to Section 5, Rule 141 of the
Rules of Court. Such rule cannot apply to this case which is an action for specific performance
with damages although it is in relation to a transaction involving real estate. Pursuant to
Manchester, the amount of the docket fees to be paid should be computed on the basis of the
amount of damages stated in the complaint.
Petitioners also allege that because of the failure of the private respondents to state the amount
of exemplary damages being sought, the complaint must nevertheless be dismissed in
accordance to Manchester. The trial court denied the motion stating that the determination of the
exemplary damages is within the sound discretion of the court and that it would be
unwarrantedly presumptuous on the part of the private respondents to fix the amount of
exemplary damages being prayed for. The trial court cited the subsequent case of Sun Insurance
vs. Judge Asuncion2 in support of its ruling.
The clarificatory and additional rules laid down in Sun Insurance are as follows:
1. It is not simply the filing of the complaint or appropriate initiatory pleading, but (also) the
payment of the prescribed docket fee that vests a trial court with jurisdiction over the subjectmatter or nature of the action. Where the filing of the initiatory pleading is not accompanied by
payment of the docket fee, the court may allow payment of the fee within a reasonable time but
in no case beyond the applicable prescriptive or reglementary period.
2. The same rule applies to permissive counterclaims, third-party claims and similar pleadings,
which shall not be considered filed until and unless the filing fee prescribed therefor is paid. The
court may also allow payment of said fee within a reasonable time but also in no case beyond its
applicable prescriptive or reglementary period.

and that any award thereafter shall constitute a lien on the judgment.
In the latest case of Tacay vs. Regional Trial Court of Tagum,3 this Court had occasion to make the
clarification that the phrase “awards of claims not specified in the pleading” refers only to
“damages arising after the filing of the complaint or similar pleading x x x x as to which the
additional filing fee therefor shall constitute a lien on the judgment.” The amount of any claim
for damages, therefore, arising on or before the filing of the complaint or any pleading should be
specified. While it is true that the determination of certain damages as exemplary or corrective
damages is left to the sound discretion of the court, it is the duty of the parties claiming such
damages to specify the amount sought on the basis of which the court may make a proper
determination, and for the proper assessment of the appropriate docket fees. The exception
contemplated as to claims not specified or to claims although specified are left for determination
of the court is limited only to any damages that may arise after the filing of the complaint or
similar pleading for then it will not be possible for the claimant to specify nor speculate as to the
amount thereof.
The amended and supplemental complaint in the present case, therefore, suffers from the
material defect in failing to state the amount of exemplary damages prayed for.
As ruled in Tacay the trial court may either order said claim to be expunged from the record as it
did not acquire jurisdiction over the same or on motion, it may allow, within a reasonable time,
the amendment of the amended and supplemental complaint so as to state the precise amount of
the exemplary damages sought and require the payment of the requisite fees therefor within the
relevant prescriptive period.4
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The trial court is directed either to expunge
from the record the claim for exemplary damages in the amended and supplemental complaint,
the amount of which is not specified, or it may otherwise, upon motion, give reasonable time to
private respondents to amend their pleading by specifying its amount and paying the
corresponding docketing fees within the appropriate reglementary or prescriptive period. No
costs.
SO ORDERED.
Narvasa, Cruz, Griño-Aquino and Medialdea, JJ., concur.
Petition granted.
Note.—Docket fee should be assessed by considering the amount of damages as alleged in
the original complaint. (Manchester Dev’t. Corp. vs. Court of Appeals, 149 SCRA 562.)
——o0o——

3. Where the trial court acquires jurisdiction over a claim by the filing of the appropriate
pleading and payment of the prescribed filing fee but, subsequently, the judgment awards a
claim not specified in the pleading, or if specified, the same has been left for determination by
the court, the additional filing fee therefor shall constitute a lien on the judgment. It shall be the
responsibility of the Clerk of Court or his duly authorized deputy to enforce said lien and assess
and collect the additional fee.”
Apparently, the trial court misinterpreted paragraph 3 of the above ruling of this Court wherein
it is stated that “where the judgment awards a claim not specified in the pleading, or if specified,
the same has been left for the determination of the court, the additional filing fee therefor shall
constitute a lien on the judgment” by considering it to mean that where in the body and prayer
of the complaint there is a prayer, say for exemplary or corrective damages, the amount of
which is left to the discretion of the Court, there is no need to specify the amount being sought,
56

G.R. No. 179878. December 24, 2008.*
NEGROS ORIENTAL PLANTERS ASSOCIATION, INC. (NOPA), petitioner, vs. HON.
PRESIDING JUDGE OF RTC-NEGROS OCCIDENTAL, BRANCH 52, BACOLOD CITY, and
ANICETO MANOJO CAMPOS, respondents.
Remedial Law; Civil Procedure; Pleadings and Practice; Verification; A party’s knowledge must
be specifically alleged under oath to be either personal knowledge or at least based on authentic records.—
The amendment was introduced in order to make the verification requirement stricter, such that
the party cannot now merely state under oath that he believes the statements made in the
pleading. He cannot even merely state under oath that he has knowledge that such statements are
true and correct. His knowledge must be specifically alleged under oath to be either personal
knowledge or at least based on authentic records.
Same; Same; Same; Same; The effect of the failure to properly verify a pleading is that the
pleading shall be treated as unsigned.— The requirement for a Certification against Forum
Shopping in Section 5, wherein failure to comply with the requirements is not curable by
amendment of the complaint or other initiatory pleading, Section 4 of Rule 7, as amended, states
that the effect of the failure to properly verify a pleading is that the pleading shall be treated as
unsigned: A pleading required to be verified which contains a verification based on
“information and belief,” or upon “knowledge, information and belief,” or lacks a proper
verification, shall be treated as an unsigned pleading.
Same; Same; Same; Same; A pleading wherein the verification is merely based on the party’s
knowledge and belief produces no legal effect, subject to the discretion of the court to allow the deficiency
to be remedied.—A pleading, therefore, wherein the Verification is merely based on the party’s
knowledge and belief produces no legal effect, subject to the discretion of the court to allow the
deficiency to be remedied. In the case at bar, the Court of Appeals, in the exercise of this
discretion, refused to allow the deficiency in the Verification to be remedied, by denying
NOPA’s Motion for Reconsideration with attached Amended Petition for Certiorari.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Appellate court can reverse the exercise of discretion by a lower court
but only in exceptional cases when there is grave abuse of discretion or adverse effect on the substantial
rights of a litigant.—May an appellate court reverse the exercise of discretion by a lower court?
The old case of Lino Luna v. Arcenas, 34 Phil. 80 (1916), states that it can, but only in exceptional
cases when there is grave abuse of this discretion or adverse effect on the substantial rights of a
litigant.
Same; Same; Same; Same; A party cannot expect its opponent to comply with the technical rules of
procedure while, at the same time, hoping for the relaxation of the technicalities in its favor.—There is
therefore no substantive right that will be prejudiced by the Court of Appeals’ exercise of
discretion in the case at bar. While the payment of docket fees is jurisdictional, it is nevertheless
unmistakably also a technicality. Ironically, in seeking the leniency of this Court on the basis of
substantial justice, NOPA is ultimately praying for a Writ of Certiorari enjoining the action for
breach of contract from being decided on the merits. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the
gander. A party cannot expect its opponent to comply with the technical rules of procedure
while, at the same time, hoping for the relaxation of the technicalities in its favor.
Same; Same; Docket Fees; Where the initiatory pleading is not accompanied by the payment of
the docket fee, the court may allow payment of the fee within a reasonable period of time, but in no case
beyond the applicable prescriptive or reglementary period.—In denying NOPA’s Motion to Dismiss,
the RTC cited Sun Insurance Office, Ltd. (SIOL) v. Asuncion, 170 SCRA 274 (1989), wherein we
modified our ruling in Manchester and decreed that where the initiatory pleading is not
accompanied by the payment of the docket fee, the court may allow payment of the fee within a
reasonable period of time, but in no case beyond the applicable prescriptive or reglementary
period. The aforesaid ruling was made on the justification that, unlike in Manchester, the private
respondent in Sun Insurance Office, Ltd. (SIOL) demonstrated his willingness to abide by the

rules by paying the additional docket fees required. NOPA claims that Sun is not applicable to
the case at bar, since Campos deliberately concealed his claim for damages in the prayer.
Same; Same; Same; Where the party does not deliberately intend to defraud the court in payment
of docket fees, and manifests its willingness to abide by the rules by paying additional docket fees when
required by the court, the liberal doctrine enumerated in Sun Insurance and not the strict regulation set in
Manchester will apply.—The rule is clear and simple. In case where the party does not
deliberately intend to defraud the court in payment of docket fees, and manifests its willingness
to abide by the rules by paying additional docket fees when required by the court, the liberal
doctrine enunciated in Sun Insurance and not the strict regulations set in Manchester will apply.
PETITION for review on certiorari of the resolutions of the Court of Appeals.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.
Moya Law Office for petitioner.
A. Florian O. Alcantara co-counsel for petitioner.
William N. Mirano for respondent.
CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:
What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari seeking the reversal of the Resolutions1 of the Court of
Appeals dated 23 May 2007 and 16 August 2007, respectively, in CA-G.R. SP No. 02651
outrightly dismissing the Petition for Certiorari filed by petitioner Negros Oriental Planters
Association, Inc. (NOPA) against private respondent Aniceto Manojo Campos (Campos).
On 17 March 1999, Campos filed a Complaint for Breach of Contract with Damages, docketed as
Civil Case No. 99-10773, against NOPA before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Negros
Occidental, Bacolod City. According to the Complaint, Campos and NOPA entered into two
separate contracts denominated as Molasses Sales Agreement. Campos allegedly paid the
consideration of the Molasses Sales Agreement in full, but was only able to receive a partial
delivery of the molasses because of a disagreement as to the quality of the products being
delivered.
On 17 August 2005, more than six years after NOPA filed its Answer, NOPA filed a Motion to
Dismiss on the ground of an alleged failure of Campos to file the correct filing fee. According to
NOPA, Campos deliberately concealed in his Complaint the exact amount of actual damages by
opting to estimate the value of the unwithdrawn molasses in order to escape the payment of the
proper docket fees.
On 30 June 2006, the RTC issued an Order denying the Motion to Dismiss. NOPA received this
Order on 17 July 2006.
On 1 August 2006, NOPA filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the 30 June 2006 Order. On 5
January 2007, the RTC issued an Order denying NOPA’s Motion for Reconsideration.
On 2 April 2007, NOPA filed a Petition for Certiorari before the Court of Appeals assailing the
Orders of the RTC dated 30 June 2006 and 5 January 2007.
On 23 May 2007, the Court of Appeals issued the first assailed Resolution dismissing the
Petition for Certiorari on the following grounds:
1. Failure of the Petitioner to state in its Verification that the allegations in the petition are
“based on authentic records,” in violation of Section 4, Rule 7, of the 1997 Rules of Civil
Procedure, as amended by A.M. No. 00-2-10-SC (May 1, 2000), which provides:
57

“—x x x—A pleading is verified by an affidavit that the affiant has read the pleading
and that the allegations therein are true and correct of his personal knowledge or based on
authentic records.
A pleading required to be verified which contains a verification based on “information
and belief,” or lacks a proper verification, shall be treated as an unsigned pleading.”
2. Failure of the petitioner to append to the petition relevant pleadings and
documents, which would aid in the resolution of the instant petition, in violation of
Section 1, Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, such as:

ERROR WHEN IT RULED THAT THERE WAS NO SUBSTANTIAL COMPLIANCE WITH THE
PROCEDURAL REQUIREMENTS WHEN PETITIONER FAILED TO ALLEGE IN ITS
VERIFICATION THAT THE ALLEGATIONS THEREIN ARE TRUE AND CORRECT OF HIS
PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE OR BASED ON AUTHENTIC RECORDS AND FAILURE TO
ATTACH THE NECESSARY DOCUMENTS ON ITS PLEADINGS AS REQUIRED BY SECTION
1, RULE 65 OF THE 1997 RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE.3
ARGUMENTS
1.

a. Ex-parte Motion to Set the Case for Pre-Trial dated July 27, 1999;
b. Notice of Pre-Trial;
c. Motion for Leave to File Third Party Complaint;
d. Orders dated July 31, 2000, March 20 2001, November 17, 2004, and May 17,
2005, respectively;

2.

3.

e. Motion to Suspend the Proceedings dated August 10, 2003;
f. Motion to Dismiss for Failure to Prosecute; and
g. Motion for Reconsideration to the Order dated May 12, 2005.
Section 1, Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, provides:

4.

The requirement that a pleading be verified is merely formal and not jurisdictional. The
court may give due course to an unverified pleading where the material facts alleged are a
matter of record and the questions raised are mainly of law such as in a petition for
certiorari.4
Petitioner had attached to its Petition for Certiorari clearly legible and duplicate original or
a certified true copy of the judgment or final order or resolution of the court a quo and the
requisite number of plain copies thereof and such material portions of the record as would
support the petition.5
Substantial compliance of the rules, which was further supplied by the petitioner’s
subsequent full compliance demonstrates its good faith to abide by the procedural
requirements.6
The resolution of the important jurisdictional issue raised by the petitioner before the
PUBLIC RESPONDENT CA would justify a relaxation of the rules.7

The original Verification in the original Petition for Certiorari filed by NOPA states as follows:

“When any tribunal, board or officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions has
acted without or in excess of its or his jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion
amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, and there is no appeal, or any plain, speedy, and
adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law, a person aggrieved thereby may file a verified
petition in the proper court, alleging the facts with certainty and praying that judgment be
rendered annulling or modifying the proceedings of such tribunal, board or officer, and
granting such incidental reliefs as law and justice may require.

“1. That I am the President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Negros Oriental
Planters’ Association, Inc. (NOPA), the petitioner in this case, a domestic corporation duly
organized under Philippine Laws, with principal place of business at Central Bais, Bais City,
Philippines; that I am duly authorized by the Board of NOPA (Secretary’s Certificate attached as
Annex “A”) to cause the preparation of the foregoing petition; and that I hereby affirm and
confirm that all the allegations contained herein are true and correct to my own knowledge and
belief;”8

The petition shall be accompanied by a certified true copy of the judgment, order or resolution subject
thereof, copies of all pleadings and documents relevant and pertinent thereto, and a sworn certification of
non-forum shopping as provided in the paragraph of section 3, Rule 46.”

NOPA claims that this Court has in several cases allowed pleadings with a Verification that
contains the allegation “to the best of my knowledge” and the allegation “are true and correct,”
without the words “of his own knowledge,” citing Decano v. Edu,9 and Quimpo v. De la Victoria.10
NOPA claims that the allegations in these cases constitute substantial compliance with the Rules
of Court, and should likewise apply to the case at bar.

3. Failure of petitioner’s counsel to indicate in the petition his current IBP Official Receipt
Number, in violation of Bar Matter No. 1132 and/or A.M. No. 287, which reads as follows:
“The Court resolved, upon recommendation of the Office of the Bar Confidant, to GRANT the
request of the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Sanguniang
Panlalawigan of Ilocos Norte to require all lawyers to indicate their Roll of Attorneys Number in
all papers or pleadings submitted to the various judicial or quasi-judicial bodies in addition to
the requirement of indicating the current Professional Tax Receipt (PTR) and the IBP Official
Receipt or Lifetime Member Number.”2

NOPA is mistaken. NOPA cited cases promulgated before 1 May 2000, when Section 4 of Rule 7
was amended by A.M. No. 00-2-10. Before the amendment, said Section 4 stated:
“SEC. 4. Verification.—Except when otherwise specifically required by law or rule, pleadings
need not be under oath, verified or accompanied by affidavit.
A pleading is verified by an affidavit that the affiant has read the pleading and that the
allegations therein are true and correct of his knowledge and belief.

On 22 June 2007, NOPA filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the above Resolution, attaching
thereto an Amended Petition for Certiorari in compliance with the requirements of the Court of
Appeals deemed to have been violated by NOPA. The Court of Appeals denied the said Motion
in the second assailed Resolution dated 16 August 2007.

As amended, said Section 4 now states:

Hence, this Petition for Review on Certiorari, where NOPA raises the following issue and
arguments:

A pleading is verified by an affidavit that the affiant has read the pleading and that the
allegations therein are true and correct of his personal knowledge or based on authentic
records.”

ISSUE
WHETHER OR NOT THE PUBLIC RESPONDENT CA COMMITTED REVERSIBLE

SEC. 4. Verification.—Except when otherwise specifically required by law or rule, pleadings
need not be under oath, verified or accompanied by affidavit.

Clearly, the amendment was introduced in order to make the verification requirement stricter,
such that the party cannot now merely state under oath that he believes the statements made in
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the pleading. He cannot even merely state under oath that he has knowledge that such statements
are true and correct. His knowledge must be specifically alleged under oath to be either personal
knowledge or at least based on authentic records.
Unlike, however, the requirement for a Certification against Forum Shopping in Section 5,
wherein failure to comply with the requirements is not curable by amendment of the complaint
or other initiatory pleading,11 Section 4 of Rule 7, as amended, states that the effect of the failure
to properly verify a pleading is that the pleading shall be treated as unsigned:
“A pleading required to be verified which contains a verification based on “information and
belief,” or upon “knowledge, information and belief,” or lacks a proper verification, shall be
treated as an unsigned pleading.
Unsigned pleadings are discussed in the immediately preceding section of Rule 7:
“SEC. 3. Signature and address.—x x x.
xxxx
An unsigned pleading produces no legal effect. However, the court may, in its discretion, allow
such deficiency to be remedied if it shall appear that the same was due to mere inadvertence and
not intended for delay. Counsel who deliberately files an unsigned pleading, or signs a pleading
in violation of this Rule, or alleges scandalous or indecent matter therein, or fails to promptly
report to the court a change of his address, shall be subject to appropriate disciplinary action.”
(5a)
A pleading, therefore, wherein the Verification is merely based on the party’s knowledge and
belief produces no legal effect, subject to the discretion of the court to allow the deficiency to be
remedied. In the case at bar, the Court of Appeals, in the exercise of this discretion, refused to
allow the deficiency in the Verification to be remedied, by denying NOPA’s Motion for
Reconsideration with attached Amended Petition for Certiorari.
May an appellate court reverse the exercise of discretion by a lower court? The old case of Lino
Luna v. Arcenas12 states that it can, but only in exceptional cases when there is grave abuse of this
discretion or adverse effect on the substantial rights of a litigant:
“Discretionary power is generally exercised by trial judges in furtherance of the convenience of
the courts and the litigants, the expedition of business, and in the decision of interlocutory
matters on conflicting facts where one tribunal could not easily prescribe to another the
appropriate rule of procedure.
The general rule, therefore, and indeed one of the fundamental principles of appellate procedure
is that decisions of a trial court which “lie in discretion” will not be reviewed on appeal, whether
the case be civil or criminal at law or in equity.
We have seen that where such rulings have to do with minor matters, not affecting the
substantial rights of the parties, the prohibition of review in appellate proceedings is made
absolute by the express terms of the statute; but it would be a monstrous travesty on justice to
declare that where the exercise of discretionary power by an inferior court affects adversely the
substantial legal rights of a litigant, it is not subject to review on appeal in any case wherein a
clear and affirmative showing is made of an abuse of discretion, or of a total lack of its exercise,
or of conduct amounting to an abuse of discretion, such as its improper exercise under a
misapprehension of the law applicable to the facts upon which the ruling is based.
In its very nature, the discretionary control conferred upon the trial judge over the proceedings
had before him implies the absence of any hard-and-fast rule by which it is to be exercised, and
in accordance with which it may be reviewed. But the discretion conferred upon the courts is
not a willful, arbitrary, capricious and uncontrolled discretion. It is a sound, judicial discretion
which should always be exercised with due regard to the rights of the parties and the demands

of equity and justice. As was said in the case of The Styria vs. Morgan (186 U.S., 1, 9):
“The establishment of a clearly defined rule of action would be the end of discretion, and yet
discretion should not be a word for arbitrary will or inconsiderate action.” So in the case of
Goodwin vs. Prime (92 Me., 355), it was said that “discretion implies that in the absence of
positive law or fixed rule the judge is to decide by his view of expediency or by the demands of
equity and justice.”
There being no “positive law or fixed rule” to guide the judge in the court below in such cases,
there is no “positive law or fixed rule” to guide a court of appeal in reviewing his action in the
premises, and such courts will not therefore attempt to control the exercise of discretion by the
court below unless it plainly appears that there was “inconsiderate action” or the exercise of
mere “arbitrary will,” or in other words that his action in the premises amounted to “an abuse of
discretion.” But the right of an appellate court to review judicial acts which lie in the discretion
of inferior courts may properly be invoked upon a showing of a strong and clear case of abuse of
power to the prejudice of the appellant, or that the ruling objected to rested on an erroneous
principle of law not vested in discretion.”13
The case at bar demonstrates a situation in which there is no effect on the substantial rights of a
litigant. NOPA’s Petition for Certiorari is seeking the reversal of the Orders of the RTC denying
NOPA’s Motion to Dismiss on the ground of failure to pay the proper docket fees. The alleged
deficiency in the payment of docket fees by Campos, if there is any, would not inure to the
benefit of NOPA.
There is therefore no substantive right that will be prejudiced by the Court of Appeals’ exercise
of discretion in the case at bar. While the payment of docket fees is jurisdictional, it is
nevertheless unmistakably also a technicality. Ironically, in seeking the leniency of this Court on
the basis of substantial justice, NOPA is ultimately praying for a Writ of Certiorari enjoining the
action for breach of contract from being decided on the merits. What’s sauce for the goose is
sauce for the gander. A party cannot expect its opponent to comply with the technical rules of
procedure while, at the same time, hoping for the relaxation of the technicalities in its favor.
There was therefore no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Court of Appeals warranting
this Court’s reversal of the exercise of discretion by the former. However, even if we decide to
brush aside the lapses in technicalities on the part of NOPA in its Petition for Certiorari, we
nevertheless find that such Petition would still fail.
NOPA seeks in its Petition for Certiorari for the application of this Court’s ruling in Manchester
Development Corporation v. Court of Appeals,14 wherein we ruled that the court acquires
jurisdiction over any case only upon payment of the prescribed docket fee. An amendment of
the complaint or similar pleading will not thereby vest jurisdiction in the court, much less the
payment of the docket fee based on the amount sought in the amended pleading.
In denying15 NOPA’s Motion to Dismiss, the RTC cited Sun Insurance Office, Ltd. (SIOL) v.
Asuncion,16 wherein we modified our ruling in Manchester and decreed that where the initiatory
pleading is not accompanied by the payment of the docket fee, the court may allow payment of
the fee within a reasonable period of time, but in no case beyond the applicable prescriptive or
reglementary period. The aforesaid ruling was made on the justification that, unlike in
Manchester, the private respondent in Sun Insurance Office, Ltd. (SIOL) demonstrated his
willingness to abide by the rules by paying the additional docket fees required. NOPA claims
that Sun is not applicable to the case at bar, since Campos deliberately concealed his claim for
damages in the prayer.
In United Overseas Bank (formerly Westmont Bank) v. Ros,17 we discussed how Manchester was not
applicable to said case in view of the lack of deliberate intent to defraud manifested in the latter:
This Court wonders how the petitioner could possibly arrive at the conclusion that the private
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respondent was moved by fraudulent intent in omitting the amount of damages claimed in its
Second Amended Complaint, thus placing itself on the same footing as the complainant in
Manchester, when it is clear that the factual milieu of the instant case is far from that of
Manchester.
First, the complainant in Manchester paid the docket fee only in the amount of P410.00,
notwithstanding its claim for damages in the amount of P78,750,000.00, while in the present
case, the private respondent paid P42,000.00 as docket fees upon filing of the original complaint.
Second, complainant’s counsel in Manchester claimed, in the body of the complaint,
damages in the amount of P78,750.00 but omitted the same in its prayer in order to evade the
payment of docket fees. Such fraud-defining circumstance is absent in the instant petition.
Finally, when the court took cognizance of the issue of non-payment of docket fees in
Manchester, the complainant therein filed an amended complaint, this time omitting all mention
of the amount of damages being claimed in the body of the complaint; and when directed by the
court to specify the amount of damages in such amended complaint, it reduced the same from
P78,750,000.00 to P10,000,000.00, obviously to avoid payment of the required docket fee. Again,
this patent fraudulent scheme is wanting in the case at bar.
This Court is not inclined to adopt the petitioner’s piecemeal construction of our rulings in
Manchester and Sun Insurance. Its attempt to strip the said landmark cases of one or two lines
and use them to bolster its arguments and clothe its position with jurisprudential blessing must
be struck down by this Court.
All told, the rule is clear and simple. In case where the party does not deliberately intend to
defraud the court in payment of docket fees, and manifests its willingness to abide by the rules
by paying additional docket fees when required by the court, the liberal doctrine enunciated in
Sun Insurance and not the strict regulations set in Manchester will apply.”
In the case at bar, Campos filed an amount of P54,898.50 as docket fee, based on the amounts of
P10,000,000.00 representing the value of unwithdrawn molasses, P100,000.00 as storage fee,
P200,000.00 as moral damages, P100,000.00 as exemplary damages and P500,000.00 as attorney’s
fees. The total amount considered in computing the docket fee was P10,900,000.00. NOPA
alleges that Campos deliberately omitted a claim for unrealized profit of P100,000.00 and an
excess amount of storage fee in the amount of P502,875.98 in its prayer and, hence, the amount
that should have been considered in the payment of docket fees is P11,502,875.98. The amount
allegedly deliberately omitted was therefore only P602,875.98 out of P11,502,875.98, or merely
5.2% of said alleged total. Campos’s pleadings furthermore evince his willingness to abide by
the rules by paying the additional docket fees when required by the Court.
Since the circumstances of this case clearly show that there was no deliberate intent to defraud
the Court in the payment of docket fees, the case of Sun should be applied, and the Motion to
Dismiss by NOPA should be denied.
WHEREFORE, the Resolutions of the Court of Appeals dated 23 May 2007 and 16 August 2007,
respectively, in CA-G.R. SP No. 02651, outrightly dismissing the Petition for Certiorari filed by
petitioner Negros Oriental Planters Association, Inc. against private respondent Aniceto Manojo
Campos, are AFFIRMED. No costs.
SO ORDERED.
Ynares-Santiago (Chairperson), Austria-Martinez, Nachura and Reyes, JJ., concur.
Resolutions affirmed.

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