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Tamano v. Judge Ortiz, G.R. No.

126603, June 29, 1998

FACTS: Sen. Tamano and Zorayda Tamano married in civil rites. Before Sen. Tamano died, he
married Estrellita in civil rites too. A year after Sen. Tamano’s death, Zorayda and her son filed a
complaint for declaration of nullity of marriage of her husband and Estrellita on the ground that
it was bigamous. Zorayda further claimed that her husband claimed to be divorces and Estrellita
as single, hence, their marriage was fraudulent. Estrellita filed a motion to dismiss alleging that
QC RTC has no jurisdiction because only a party to a marriage could file an action for annulment
against the other spouse. Estrellita also contended that since Tamano and Zorayda were both
Muslims and married in Muslim rites, the jurisdiction to hear and try the case is vested in Sharia
courts pursuant to Art 155 of Code of Muslim. RTC denied the petition and ruled it has
jurisdiction since Estrellita and Tamano were married in accordance with the Civil Code. Motion
for reconsideration was also denied. Petitioner referred to SC which ruled that it should be
referred to CA first. The CA ruled that the case would fall under the exclusive jurisdiction of
sharia courts only when filed in places where there are sharia courts. But in places where there
are no sharia courts, the instant petition could be at RTC. Hence, this petition.

ISSUE: W/N Sharia courts and not the RTC has jurisdiction over the subject case and the nature
of action.

HELD: SC held that RTC has jurisdiction over all actions involving the contract of marriage and
marital relations. In this case, both petitioner and the deceased were married through a civil
wedding. And whether or not they were likewise married in a Muslim wedding, sharia courts
are still not vested with original jurisdiction over marriages married under civil and Muslim law.
FILOMENA DOMAGAS vs. VIVIAN LAYNO JENSEN

Petitioner FilomenaDomagas filed a complaint for forcible entry against respondent Vivian
Jensen before the MTC alleging that 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 depriving the petitioner of a 68-square meter portion of her
property along the boundary line.

The summons and the complaint were not served on the respondent because the latter was
apparently out of the country. The Sheriff left the summons and complaint with Oscar Layno
(respondent's brother), who received the same.

The court rendered judgment against the respondent.The respondent failed to appeal the
decision. Consequently, a writ of execution was issued.

The respondent then filed a complaint against the petitioner before the RTC for the annulment
of the decision of the MTC 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. Respondent claimed she was a resident 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. She avers further that Oscar Layno was never authorized to
receive the summons and the complaint for and in her behalf.

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 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.

After due proceedings, the RTC rendered a decision in favor of the respondent. The trial court
declared that there was no valid service of the complaint and summons on the respondent
considering that she left the Philippines 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 affirmed the appealed decision with
modifications. The CA ruled that the complaint 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 for review on certiorari.

ISSUES:

Whether or not there was a valid service of the summons and complaint on the respondent.
Whether or not the action of the petitioner in the MTC against the respondent herein is an
action in personam or quasi in rem.

RULING:

The ruling of the CA that the petitioner’s complaint for forcible entry of the petitioner against
the respondent is an action quasi in rem, is erroneous. The action of the petitioner for forcible
entry is a real action and one 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.

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.

On the issue of whether the respondent was validly served with the summons and complaint by
the Sheriff:

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.

Thus, any judgment of the court which has no jurisdiction over the person of the defendant is
null and void.

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.
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
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. As the Court held in Hamilton v. Levy :

… 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.

In Keister v. Narcereo, 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.

As gleaned from the service return, there is no showing that 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.

The Voter’s Registration Record of Oscar Layno 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 OrlandoMacasalda 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.

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.

IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the petition is DENIED for lack of merit. No costs.
ERNESTO V. YU and ELSIE O. YU, Petitioners, vs.BALTAZAR PACLEB

NATURE OF THE CASE: This petition was filed to set aside the decision made by the Court of
Appeals in ruling that the respondent has the better right over the subject property and is the
true owner thereof.

FACTS: Respondent Baltazar Pacleb and his late first wife, Angelita Chan, are the owners of
parcel of land in Langcaan, Dasmarinas, Cavite covered by a transfer certificate of title.
Sometime in September 1992, Ruperto Javier offered the said land to spouses Ernesto and Elsie
Yu. Javier claimed that he purchased the property from Rebecca Del Rosario who bought it from
spouses Baltazar Pacleb and Angelita Chan. Despite the alleged sales being unregistered, the
spouses Yu accepted the offer and made a down payment and entered into an Agreement for
the sale of the property. After giving the amount, the spouses Yu discovered that a portion of
the property was tenanted by Ramon Pacleb, one of the respondent's sons. The petitioners
then demanded the cancellation of their agreement and the return of their initial payment.
Javier then made arrangements with Ramon to vacate the property and to pay Ramon for his
disturbance compensation. With that, Javier and the spouses YU proceeded to enter into a
Contract to Sell. But, Javier failed to comply with his obligations. So, on April 23, 1993, the
petitioners filed with the RTC a Complaint for specific performance and damages against Javier
to compel Javier to deliver to them ownership and possession, and the title to the property.
However, Javier did not appear in the proceedings and was declared in default, so, the
trial court rendered a decision in favor of the petitioners. The decision and its Certificate of
Finality were annotated in the title of the property.
On March 10, 1995, the petitioners and Ramon and his wife entered into an agreement
that the spouses will pay Ramon P500,000 in exchange for the waiver of his tenancy rights over
the land.
On October 12, 1995, the respondent filed a Complaint for annulment of deed of sale
and other documents arising from it claiming that the deed of sale supposedly executed
between him and his late first wife and Del Rosario was spurious and the signatures were
forged. He also moved for the summons to be served upon Del Rosario via publication since her
address cannot be found, but was denied. So, respondent moved to dismiss the case which was
granted by the trial court.
On November 23, 1995, the petitioners filed an action for forcible entry against the
respondent with the MTC. They contend that they had prior physical possession over the
property through their trustee Ramon Pacleb, until the respondent ousted them in September
1995. The MTC and the RTC ruled in favor of the petitioners, but the Court of Appeals set aside
the decisions of the lower courts. The CA decided that it was the respondent who had prior
physical possession of the property which was shown by his payment of real estate taxes
thereon.
On May 29, 1996, respondent filed an instant case for removal of cloud from title with
damages alleging that the deed of sale between him and his late first wife could not have been
executed on the date appearing thereon. He claimed that he was residing in the US at that time
and that his late first wife died 20 years ago.
On May 28, 1997, while the case was still pending, the respondent died, hence, he was
substituted by his surviving spouse and some of his children.
On December 27, 2002, the respondent's case was dismissed and the petitioners were
held to be purchasers in good faith. The trial court also held that the petitioners' action for
specific performance against Javier was already final, and the trial court also ordered the
respondents' heirs and all other persons claiming under them to surrender the possession of
the property to the petitioners. Upon appeal by the respondent, the CA reversed the trial
court's decision. Hence, this petition.

ISSUE: WON the action for specific performance filed by the petitioners against Javier is not
merely an action in personam, but an action in rem, and is thus, conclusive and binding upon
respondent even if he was not a party thereto since it involves a question of possession and
ownership of real property.

HELD: The action for specific performance and damages filed by petitioners against Javier to
compel him to perform his obligations under their Contract to Sell is an action in personam.
The purpose of the action is to compel Javier to accept the full payment of the purchase price,
and to execute a deed of absolute sale over the property in favor of the petitioners. The
obligations of Javier mentioned attach to Javier alone and do not burden the property. Thus,
the complaint filed by the petitioners is an action in personam and is binding only upon the
parties properly impleaded therein and duly heard or given an opportunity to be heard. So, the
action cannot bind the respondent since he was not a party therein and considering the fact
that his signature and that of his late first wife were forged in the deed of sale. Hence, the
petition is denied and the Court affirms the ruling of the CA finding the respondent having a
better right over the property as the true owner thereof.
Cabutihan v Landcenter

Facts:
Cabutihan filed an action for specific performance against Landcenter Construction and
Development Corporation with the RTC of Pasig.
According to Cabutihan, Landcenter Corporation did not comply with their obligation in a Deed
of Undertaking wherein they agreed that Cabutihan would facilitate and assist Landcenter
Corporation in recovering a parcel of land located in Paranaque in consideration of 20% of the
land to be recovered.
Thereafter, Landcenter Corporation filed a motion to dismiss on the ground of improper venue.
They contended that since the primary objective of Cabutihan was to recover a property, it is a
real action. Hence, the case should have been filed in the RTC of Paranaque where the land is
situated pursuant to the rules.
The RTC granted the motion to dismiss.
Cabutihan assailed the said order.

Issue: WON the action filed by Cabutihan is a real action. NO

Held:

The Supreme Court ruled that a breach of contract, two gives rise to two causes of action arise
namely: specific performance and rescission. In this case, Cabutihan sought for the payment of
the services she rendered in favor of Landcenter. The action was based on a contract – the
deed of undertaking.

Such action is for specific performance which is a personal action. Being a personal action, the
proper venue of the case is with the courts of the place where the plaintiff or the defendant
resides pursuant to Section 1 of Rule 4 of the Rules of Court.

Hence, the case was properly filed with the RTC of Pasig. It need not be filed with the RTC of
Paranaque, the place where the property is located.

On other issues:
Jurisdiction over subject matter: 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.[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.

Non-payment of docket fees. The relaxed rule was applied here. Sunlife Insurance case.
Section 1. Ordinary civil actions, basis of.
 Every ordinary civil action must be based on a cause
of action.
Sec. 2. Cause of action, defined.
 A cause of action is the act or omission by which a party
violates a right of another.

Cause of action:
1. Legal right – right to collect of Cabutihan
2. Obligation – to pay by Landcenter
3. Act or omission – non-payment

What is a personal action?


Action – an action where the issue is founded on a privity of contract or on quasi-delict

As to cause or foundation: Real, personal and mixed action


As to object: Action in personam, in rem and quasi in rem
Citizen’s Surety Insurance Co v Melencio-Herrera

Facts:

Citizens Surety and Insurance Co (Citizens) alleged that at the request of Santiago Dacanay, it
issued 2 surety bonds to guarantee payment of P5K promissory notes in favor Gregorio Fajardo
and Manufacturers Bank & Trust Co respectively. As security, the Santiago and Josefina
Dacanay executed an Indemnity Agreement to jointly indemnify Citizens for losses, costs and
expenses (with 12% annual interest) and a REM over a parcel of land in Baguio. The Dacanays
failed to pay the promissory notes compelling Citizens to pay. The Dacanays failed to reimburse
Citizens however, forcing the latter to cause the extrajudicial foreclosure of the mortgage and
file a case to recover the unsatisfied balance.

At petitioner’s request, the respondent Judge caused summons to be made by publication in


the Philippines Herald. But despite such publication and deposit of copy with the Manila post
office, the defendant did not appear within 60 days from the last publication.

Plaintiff sought the defendants to be declared in default, but the Judge eventually dismissed
the case, the suit being in personam and the defendants not having appeared.

Issue:

W/N summons made by publication is sufficient for the court to acquire jurisdiction
Held:

No. 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.

The proper recourse for the creditor is to locate properties, real or personal, of the resident
defendant debtor with unknown address and cause them two be attached, in which case, the
attachment converts the action into a proceeding in rem or quasi in rem and the summons by
publication may be valid.

Given the skill of debtors to conceal their properties however, the decision of the respondent
Judge should be set aside and held pending in the archives until petitioner tracks down the
whereabouts of the defendant’s person or properties.
Go vs UCPB

Facts: Petitioner Go, runs multiple business called Noah’s Ark International. Secured an
Omnibus Line Accommodation with respondents worth 900,000,000.00. The transaction were
secured by 2 Real Estate Mortgages over 2 parcels of lands located in Mandaluyong City.

The line accommodation was subsequently cancelled by the respondent. Instead of returning
the parcels of land, the respondents executed the forclosure of the said mortgages.

Petitioner seeked the cancellation of the Mortgage in the RTC of PASIG.


Respondent asked for a dismissal due to improper venue.

RTC sided with Petitioner


CA sided with Respondent

Petitioner Contends that cancellation of a mortgage is a personal action (in-personam).

Issue: Was there an improper venue?

Held: Yes. The Supreme Court Ruled that a case seeking to cancel a mortgage is a real action
dealing with real rights and real property.

Hence, Denied!
Gochan v Gochan

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 Resolution[2] 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
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:

1. Pesos: Two Hundred Million Pesos (P200M)

2. Two (2) hectares more or less of the fishpond in Gochan compound, Mabolo, Lot 4F-2-B

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

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

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

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, attorneys fees of
P14,000,000.00, and litigation expenses of P2,000,000.00.

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
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]

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]

Petitioners, thus, brought the present petition for review anchored on the following grounds:

I.

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

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 forum-
shopping 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
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 appellants 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) xxx

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.
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.

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.
Manchester v CA

149 SCRA 562 – Remedial Law – Civil Procedure – Payment of Docket Fees – Claimed Damages
must be Stated in the BODY and PRAYER of pleadings

A complaint for specific performance was filed by Manchester Development Corporation


against City Land Development Corporation to compel the latter to execute a deed of sale in
favor Manchester. Manchester also alleged that City Land forfeited the former’s tender of
payment for a certain transaction thereby causing damages to Manchester amounting to
P78,750,000.00. This amount was alleged in the BODY of their Complaint but it was not
reiterated in the PRAYER of same complaint. Manchester paid a docket fee of P410.00 only.
Said docket fee is premised on the allegation of Manchester that their action is primarily for
specific performance hence it is incapable of pecuniary estimation. The court ruled that there is
an under assessment of docket fees hence it ordered Manchester to amend its complaint.
Manchester complied but what it did was to lower the amount of claim for damages to P10M.
Said amount was however again not stated in the PRAYER.

ISSUE: Whether or not the amended complaint should be admitted.

HELD: No. The docket fee, its computation, should be based on the original complaint. A case is
deemed filed only upon payment of the appropriate docket fee regardless of the actual date of
filing in court. Here, since the proper docket fee was not paid for the original complaint, it’s as if
there is no complaint to speak of. As a consequence, there is no original complaint duly filed
which can be amended. So, any subsequent proceeding taken in consideration of the amended
complaint is void.

Manchester’s defense that this case is primarily an action for specific performance is not
merited. The Supreme Court ruled that based on the allegations and the prayer of the
complaint, this case is an action for damages and for specific performance. Hence, it is capable
of pecuniary estimation.

Further, the amount for damages in the original complaint was already provided in the body of
the complaint. Its omission in the PRAYER clearly constitutes an attempt to evade the payment
of the proper filing fees. To stop the happenstance of similar irregularities in the future, the
Supreme Court ruled that from this case on, 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 bib
accepted nor admitted, or shall otherwise be expunged from the record.
Sun Insurance v Asuncion

G.R. Nos. 79937-38 February 13, 1989

Facts:
Petitioner Sun Insurance (or SIOL) files a complaint for the annulment of a decision on the
consignation of fire insurance policy. Subsequently, the Private Respondent (PR) files a
complaint for the refund of premiums and the issuance of a writ of preliminary attachment in a
civil case against SIOL. In addition, PR also claims for damages, attorney’s fees, litigation costs,
etc., however, the prayer did not state the amount of damages sought although from the body
of the complaint it can be inferred to be in amount of P 50 million. Hence, PR originally paid
only PhP 210.00 in docket fees.The complaint underwent a number of amendments to make
way for subsequent re-assessments of the amount of damages sought as well as the
corresponding docket fees. The respondent demonstrated his willingness to abide by the rules
by paying the additional docket fees as required.

Issue: Did the Court acquire jurisdiction over the case even if private respondent did not pay
the correct or sufficient docket fees?

YES.
It was 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. 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 reglamentary period.
Same rule goes for permissive counterclaims, third party claims and similar pleadings.

In herein case, obviously, there was the intent on the part of PR to defraud the government of
the docket fee due not only in the filing of the original complaint but also in the filing of the
second amended complaint. However, a more liberal interpretation of the rules is called for
considering that, unlike in Manchester, the private respondent demonstrated his willingness to
abide by the rules by paying the additional docket fees as required.

Where a trial court acquires jurisdiction in like manner, 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 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.
Tacay v Tagum

In the Regional Trial Court at Tagum, Davao del Norte,[1] three (3) actions for recovery of
possession (acciones publicianas[2]) were separately instituted by Godofredo Pineda against
three (3) defendants, docketed as follows:

1) vs. Antonia Noel


Civil Case No. 2209
2) vs. Ponciano Panes
Civil Case No. 2210
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 Case No. 2210 was assigned to Branch 2, presided over by
Judge Jesus Matas.

The complaints[1] 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:

1) that plaintiff be declared owner of the areas occupied by the defendants;


2) that defendants and their "privies and allies" be ordered to vacate and deliver the portions of
the land usurped by them;
3) that each defendant be ordered to pay:
1) P2,000 as monthly rents from February, 1987;
2) "Actual damages, as proven;"
3) "Moral and nominal damages as the Honorable Court may fix;"[2]
4) "P30,000.00, "as attorney's fees, and representation fees of P5,000.00 per day of
appearance;"
and
4) that he (Pineda) be granted such "further relief and remedies ** just and equitable in the
premises."
The prayer of each complaint contained a handwritten notation (evidently made by plaintiff's
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."[3]

Motions to dismiss were filed in behalf of each of the defendants by common counsel.[4] Every
motion alleged that the Trial Court had not acquired jurisdiction of the case -
" . . . for the reason that the ** complaint violates the mandatory and clear provision of Circular
No. 7 of the ** Supreme Court dated March 24, 1988, by failing to specify all the amounts of
damages which plaintiff is claiming from defendant;" and
" . . . for ** 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 ** complaint regarding moral as well as
nominal damages."[5] 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' ** in sub-paragraph b of paragraph 4 in the conclusion and prayer
of the complaint **."[1]

The motions to dismiss submitted in Civil Cases Numbered 2211 and 2209 were also denied in
separate orders promulgated by Judge Marcial Fernandez.[2] 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 ** (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 a quo 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.[3]

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 attached[4] 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
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,[1] or for partition or condemnation of, or the foreclosure of a mortgage on,
said real property2 -- 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."[3] 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,[4] or actions in admiralty and maritime jurisdiction[5] -- in which the
amount claimed,6 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 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." 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 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.
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.[1] 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).[2]

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 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 relevant prescriptive period.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED, without pronouncement as to costs.


Ayala v Madayag

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 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 Appeals[1] 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 Asuncion[2] 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 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.
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."

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, 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.
Negros Occidental Planters Assoc. vs Hon Presiding Judge of RTC-Negros

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 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 Appeals[1] 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 Asuncion[2] 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 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.
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."

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, 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.
Hinog v Melicor

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 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
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 so-called 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 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.