What to know about Court Summons

Philamlife vs. Hon. Augusto Breva (GR 147937)

We agree with the CA. It is not pertinent whether the summons is designated as an original or an alias summons as long as it has adequately served its purpose. What is essential is that the summons complies with the requirements under the Rules of Court and it has been duly served on the defendant together with the prevailing complaint. In this case, the alias summons satisfies the requirements under the Rules, both as to its content and the manner of service. It contains all the information required under the rules, and it was served on the persons authorized to receive the summons on behalf of the petitioner at its principal office in Manila. Moreover, the second summons was technically not an alias summons but more of a new summons on the amended complaint. It was not a continuation of the first summons considering that it particularly referred to the amended complaint and not to the original complaint.

Pascual vs. Pascual (GR 171916)

Petitioner further states that the presumption of regularity in the performance of official functions must be applied to the present case. He expounds on the fact that as between the process server’s return of substituted service, which carries with it the presumption of regularity and the respondent’s self-serving assertion that she only came to know of the case against her when she received a copy of the petitioner’s motion to declare her in default, the process server’s return is undoubtedly more deserving of credit. The said argument, however, is only meritorious, provided that there was a strict compliance with the procedure for serving a summons. In the absence of even the barest compliance with the procedure for a substituted service of summons outlined in the Rules of Court, the presumption of regularity in the performance of public functions does not apply.

Applying the above disquisitions, the jurisdiction over the person of the respondent was never vested with the RTC, because the manner of substituted service by the process server was apparently invalid and ineffective. As such, there was a violation of due process. Jurisdiction over the defendant is acquired either upon a valid service of summons or the defendants voluntary appearance in court. When the defendant does not voluntarily submit to the courts jurisdiction or when there is no valid service of summons, any judgment of the court which has no jurisdiction over the person of the defendant is null and void.

Palma vs. Hon. Galvez (GR 165273)

In Montefalcon v. Vasquez, we said that because Section 16 of Rule 14 uses the words may and also, it is not mandatory. Other methods of service of summons allowed under the Rules may also be availed of by the serving officer on a defendant-resident who is temporarily out of the Philippines. Thus, if a resident defendant is temporarily out of the country, any of the following modes of service may be resorted to: (1) substituted service set forth in section 7 ( formerly Section 8), Rule 14; (2) personal service outside the country, with leave of court; (3) service by publication, also with leave of court; or (4) in any other manner the court may deem sufficient.

Regner vs. Logarta (GR 168747)

Being an action in personam, the general rule requires the personal service of summons on Cynthia within the Philippines, but this is not possible in the present case because Cynthia is a non-resident and is not found within the Philippines.

As Cynthia is a nonresident who is not found in the Philippines, service of summons on her must be in accordance with Section 15, Rule 14 of the Rules of Court. Such service, to be effective outside the Philippines, must be made either (1) by personal service; (2) by publication in a newspaper of general circulation in such places and for such time as the court may order, in which case a copy of the summons and order of the court should be sent by registered mail to the last known address of the defendant; or (3) in any other manner which the court may deem sufficient. The third mode, like the first two, must be made outside the Philippines, such as through the Philippine Embassy in the foreign country where Cynthia resides.

Since in the case at bar, the service of summons upon Cynthia was not done by any of the authorized modes, the trial court was correct in dismissing petitioners complaint.

Pacaa-Gonzales vs. CA (GR 150908)

Petitioners appeal for liberality in the application of the rules, technicalities not being permitted to sway the broader interest of justice, does not lie. Modes of service of summons must be strictly followed in order that the court may acquire jurisdiction over the person of the defendant. The purpose of this is to afford the defendant an opportunity to be heard on the claim against him. The summons intended for Phua being invalid, the trial court did not acquire jurisdiction over him and could not as it did not render a valid judgment against him.

Robinson vs. Miralles (GR 163584)

Petitioner contends that the service of summons upon the subdivision security guard is not in compliance with Section 7, Rule 14 since he is not related to her or staying at her residence. Moreover, he is not duly authorized to receive summons for the residents of the village. Hence, the substituted service of summons is not valid and that the trial court never acquired jurisdiction over her person.

We have ruled that the statutory requirements of substituted service must be followed strictly, faithfully, and fully and any substituted service other than that authorized by the Rules is considered ineffective. However, we frown upon an overly strict application of the Rules. It is the spirit, rather than the letter of the procedural rules, that governs.

In his Return, Sheriff Potente declared that he was refused entry by the security guard in Alabang Hills twice. The latter informed him that petitioner prohibits him from allowing anybody to proceed to her residence whenever she is out. Obviously, it was impossible for the sheriff to effect personal or substituted service of summons upon petitioner. We note that she failed to controvert the sheriffs declaration. Nor did she deny having received the summons through the security guard.

Considering her strict instruction to the security guard, she must bear its consequences. Thus, we agree with the trial court that summons has been properly served upon petitioner and that it has acquired jurisdiction over her.

Manotoc vs. CA (GR 130974)

Due to non-compliance with the prerequisites for valid substituted service, the proceedings held before the trial court perforce must be annulled.

The court a quo heavily relied on the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty. It reasons out that [t]he certificate of service by the proper officer is prima facie evidence of the facts set out herein, and to overcome the presumption arising from said certificate, the evidence must be clear and convincing.

The Court acknowledges that this ruling is still a valid doctrine. However, for the presumption to apply, the Sheriffs Return must show that serious efforts or attempts were exerted to personally serve the summons and that said efforts failed. These facts must be specifically narrated in the Return. To reiterate, it must clearly show that the substituted service must be made on a person of suitable age and discretion living in the dwelling or residence of defendant. Otherwise, the Return is flawed and the presumption cannot be availed of. As previously explained, the Return of Sheriff Caelas did not comply with the stringent requirements of Rule 14, Section 8 on substituted service.

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Bill of Particulars

Heide M. Estandarte (GR156851-55)

While the Bill of Particulars is not allowed under the Rules of Procedure of the Office of the Ombudsman and therefore should not be the basis for determining what specific criminal charges should be filed against herein petitioner, it behooves the Ombudsman to accord the petitioner her basic rights to due process in the conduct of the preliminary investigation.

Virata vs. Sandiganbayan (114331)

A bill of particulars is a complementary procedural document consisting of an amplification or more particularized outline of a pleading, and being in the nature of a more specific allegation of the facts recited in the pleading. It is the office of the bill of particulars to inform the opposite party and the court of the precise nature and character of the cause of action or defense which the pleader has attempted to set forth and thereby to guide his adversary in his preparations for trial, and reasonably to protect him against surprise at the trial.

Domondon vs. Sandiganbayan (GR 166606)

While the Speedy Trial Act of 1998 sets the time limit for the arraignment and trial of a case, these however do not preclude justifiable postponements and delay when so warranted by the situation. Section 2 of SC Circular 38-98 provides that the period of the pendency of a motion to quash, or for a bill of particulars, or other causes justifying suspension of arraignment, shall be excluded.

Thus in People v. Tee, we held that the right to a speedy trial is deemed violated only when: 1) the proceedings are attended by vexatious, capricious, and oppressive delays; 2) when unjustified postponements are asked for and secured; 3) when without cause or justifiable motive a long period of time is allowed to elapse without the party having his case tried.

Baritua vs Mercader (GR 136048)

Petitioners argue that the Court of Appeals erred when it passed sub silencio on the trial courts failure to rule frontally on their plea for a bill of particulars.

We are not impressed. It must be noted that petitioners counsel manifested in open court his desire to file a motion for a bill of particulars. The RTC gave him ten days from March 12, 1985 within which to do so. He, however, filed the aforesaid motion only on April 2, 1985 or eleven days past the deadline set by the trial court. Moreover, such motion was already moot and academic because, prior to its filing, petitioners had already filed their answer and several other pleadings to the amended Complaint.

 

Venue of Actions

Auction in Malinta, Inc. vs Lubayen (GR 173979)

The sole issue is whether the stipulation in the parties Bidders Application and Registration Bidding Agreement effectively limited the venue of the instant case exclusively to the proper court of Valenzuela City.

The Court rules in the negative.

The general rule on the venue of personal actions, as in the instant case for damages filed by respondent, is embodied in Section 2, Rule 4 of the Rules of Court. It provides:

Sec. 2. Venue of personal actions. All other actions may be commenced and tried where the plaintiff or any of the principal plaintiffs resides, or where the defendant or any of the principal defendants resides, or in the case of a nonresident defendant, where he may be found, at the election of the plaintiff.

The afore-quoted rule, however, finds no application where the parties, before the filing of the action, have validly agreed in writing on an exclusive venue. But the mere stipulation on the venue of an action is not enough to preclude parties from bringing a case in other venues. It must be shown that such stipulation is exclusive. In the absence of qualifying or restrictive words, such as exclusively and waiving for this purpose any other venue, shall only preceding the designation of venue, to the exclusion of the other courts, or words of similar import, the stipulation should be deemed as merely an agreement on an additional forum, not as limiting venue to the specified place.

This has been the rule since the 1969 case of Polytrade Corporation v. Blanco. It was held therein that the clause [t]he parties agree to sue and be sued in the Courts of Manila, does not preclude the filing of suits in the court which has jurisdiction over the place of residence of the plaintiff or the defendant. The plain meaning of the said provision is that the parties merely consented to be sued in Manila considering that there are no qualifying or restrictive words which would indicate that Manila, and Manila alone, is the agreed venue. It simply is permissive and the parties did not waive their right to pursue remedy in the courts specifically mentioned in Section 2 of Rule 4 of the Rules of Court.

Paglaum Management and Development corp vs Union Bank (GR 179018)

The sole issue to be resolved is whether Makati City is the proper venue to assail the foreclosure of the subject real estate mortgage. This Court rules in the affirmative.

According to the Rules, real actions shall be commenced and tried in the court that has jurisdiction over the area where the property is situated. In this case, all the mortgaged properties are located in the Province of Cebu. Thus, following the general rule, PAGLAUM and HealthTech should have filed their case in Cebu, and not in Makati.

However, the Rules provide an exception, in that real actions can be commenced and tried in a court other than where the property is situated in instances where the parties have previously and validly agreed in writing on the exclusive venue thereof. In the case at bar, the parties claim that such an agreement exists. The only dispute is whether the venue that should be followed is that contained in the Real Estate Mortgages, as contended by Union Bank, or that in the Restructuring Agreement, as posited by PAGLAUM and HealthTech. This Court rules that the venue stipulation in the Restructuring Agreement should be controlling.

Union Bank vs. People of the Phils (GR 192565)

The case presents to us the issue of what the proper venue of perjury under Article 183 of the RPC should be Makati City, where the Certificate against Forum Shopping was notarized, or Pasay City, where the Certification was presented to the trial court.

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Under the circumstances, Article 183 of the RPC is indeed the applicable provision; thus, jurisdiction and venue should be determined on the basis of this article which penalizes one who make[s] an affidavit, upon any material matter before a competent person authorized to administer an oath in cases in which the law so requires. The constitutive act of the offense is the making of an affidavit; thus, the criminal act is consummated when the statement containing a falsity is subscribed and sworn before a duly authorized person.

Baritua vs. CA (GR 100748)

It is fundamental that the situs for bringing real and personal civil actions is fixed by the rules to attain the greatest convenience possible to parties litigants and their witnesses by affording them maximum accessibility to the courts of justice. The choice of venue is given to the plaintiff but is not left to his caprice. It cannot unduly deprive a resident defendant of the rights conferred upon him by the Rules of Court.

When the complaint was filed in Rosales, Pangasinan, not one of the parties was a resident of the town. Private respondent was a resident of Los Angeles, California while his attorney-in-fact was a resident of Cubao, Quezon City. Petitioners business address according to private respondent is in Pasay City, although petitioner claims he resides in Gubat, Sorsogon. The venue in Rosales, Pangasinan was indeed improperly laid.

 

 

Cases about Court Jurisdiction part 2

Hilario vs. Salvador (GR 160384)

The jurisdiction of the court over an action involving title to or possession of land is now determined by the assessed value of the said property and not the market value thereof. The assessed value of real property is the fair market value of the real property multiplied by the assessment level. It is synonymous to taxable value. The fair market value is the price at which a property may be sold by a seller, who is not compelled to sell, and bought by a buyer, who is not compelled to buy.

Heirs of Sps Teofilo and Elisa Reterta vs. Sps. Lorenzo More and Virginia Lopez (GR 159941)

The original and exclusive jurisdiction over a complaint for quieting of title and reconveyance involving friar land belongs to either the Regional Trial Court (RTC) or the Municipal Trial Court (MTC). Hence, the dismissal of such a complaint on the ground of lack of jurisdiction due to the land in litis being friar land under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Land Management Bureau (LMB) amounts to manifest grave abuse of discretion that can be corrected through certiorari.

Radio communications of the Phils. vs CA (GR 136109)

It is settled that a breach of contract is a cause of action either for specific performance or rescission of contracts. In Manufacturers Distributors, Inc. v. Siu Liong, the Court held that actions for specific performance are incapable of pecuniary estimation and therefore fall under the jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court. Here, the averments in the complaint reveal that the suit filed by private respondent was primarily one for specific performance as it was aimed to enforce their three-year lease contract which would incidentally entitle him to monetary awards if the court should find that the subject contract of lease was breached. As alleged therein, petitioners failure to pay rentals due for the period from January to March 1997, constituted a violation of their contract which had the effect of accelerating the payment of monthly rentals for the years 1997 and 1998.

The same complaint likewise implied a premature and unilateral termination of the term of the lease with the closure of and removal all communication equipment in the leased premises. Under the circumstances, the court has to scrutinize the facts and the applicable laws in order to determine whether there was indeed a violation of their lease agreement that would justify the award of rentals and damages. The prayer, therefore, for the payment of unpaid rentals in the amount of P84,000.00 plus damages consequent to the breach is merely incidental to the main action for specific performance.

Mendoza vs. Teh (GR 122646)

An action for reconveyance, which involves title title to property worth millions of pesos, such as the lots subject of this case, is cognizable by the RTC. Likewise falling within its jurisdiction are actions incapable of pecuniary estimation, such as the appointment of an administratrix for an estate. Even the Rules on venue of estate proceedings (Section 1 of Rule 73) impliedly recognizes the jurisdiction of the RTC over petitions for granting of letters of administration.

On the other hand, probate proceedings for the settlement of estate are within the ambit of either the RTC or MTC depending on the net worth of the estate. By arguing that the allegation seeking such appointment as administratrix ousted the RTC of its jurisdiction, both public and private respondents confuses jurisdiction with venue. Section 2 of Rule 4 as revised by Circular 13-95 provides that actions involving title to property shall be tried in the province where the property is located, in this case, – Batangas. The mere fact that petitioners deceased husband resides in Quezon City at the time of his death affects only the venue but not the jurisdiction of the Court.

Irene Sante and Reynaldo Sante vs. Hon. Judge Clavarall GR 173915)

In the instant case, the complaint filed in Civil Case No. 5794-R is for the recovery of damages for the alleged malicious acts of petitioners. The complaint principally sought an award of moral and exemplary damages, as well as attorneys fees and litigation expenses, for the alleged shame and injury suffered by respondent by reason of petitioners utterance while they were at a police station in Pangasinan. It is settled that jurisdiction is conferred by law based on the facts alleged in the complaint since the latter comprises a concise statement of the ultimate facts constituting the plaintiffs causes of action. It is clear, based on the allegations of the complaint, that respondents main action is for damages. Hence, the other forms of damages being claimed by respondent, e.g., exemplary damages, attorneys fees and litigation expenses, are not merely incidental to or consequences of the main action but constitute the primary relief prayed for in the complaint.

In Mendoza v. Soriano, it was held that in cases where the claim for damages is the main cause of action, or one of the causes of action, the amount of such claim shall be considered in determining the jurisdiction of the court. In the said case, the respondents claim of P929,000.06 in damages and P25,000 attorneys fees plus P500 per court appearance was held to represent the monetary equivalent for compensation of the alleged injury. The Court therein held that the total amount of monetary claims including the claims for damages was the basis to determine the jurisdictional amount.

Office of the Ombudsman vs. Rodriguez (GR 172700)

The facts in the present case are analogous to those in Laxina, Sr. v. Ombudsman, which likewise involved identical administrative complaints filed in both the Ombudsman and the sangguniang panlungsod against a punong barangay for grave misconduct. The Court held therein that the rule against forum shopping applied only to judicial cases or proceedings, not to administrative cases. Thus, even if complainants filed in the Ombudsman and the sangguniang bayan identical complaints against private respondent, they did not violate the rule against forum shopping because their complaint was in the nature of an administrative case.

In administrative cases involving the concurrent jurisdiction of two or more disciplining authorities, the body in which the complaint is filed first, and which opts to take cognizance of the case, acquires jurisdiction to the exclusion of other tribunals exercising concurrent jurisdiction. In this case, since the complaint was filed first in the Ombudsman, and the Ombudsman opted to assume jurisdiction over the complaint, the Ombudsmans exercise of jurisdiction is to the exclusion of the sangguniang bayan exercising concurrent jurisdiction.

It is a hornbook rule that jurisdiction is a matter of law. Jurisdiction, once acquired, is not lost upon the instance of the parties but continues until the case is terminated. When herein complainants first filed the complaint in the Ombudsman, jurisdiction was already vested on the latter. Jurisdiction could no longer be transferred to the sangguniang bayan by virtue of a subsequent complaint filed by the same complainants.

Union Bank of the Phils. vs. PP (GR 192565)

The case presents to us the issue of what the proper venue of perjury under Article 183 of the RPC should be Makati City, where the Certificate against Forum Shopping was notarized, or Pasay City, where the Certification was presented to the trial court.

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We hold that our ruling in Sy Tiong is more in accord with Article 183 of the RPC and Section 15(a), Rule 110 of the 2000 Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure. To reiterate for the guidance of the Bar and the Bench, the crime of perjury committed through the making of a false affidavit under Article 183 of the RPC is committed at the time the affiant subscribes and swears to his or her affidavit since it is at that time that all the elements of the crime of perjury are executed. When the crime is committed through false testimony under oath in a proceeding that is neither criminal nor civil, venue is at the place where the testimony under oath is given.

If in lieu of or as supplement to the actual testimony made in a proceeding that is neither criminal nor civil, a written sworn statement is submitted, venue may either be at the place where the sworn statement is submitted or where the oath was taken as the taking of the oath and the submission are both material ingredients of the crime committed. In all cases, determination of venue shall be based on the acts alleged in the Information to be constitutive of the crime committed.

Organo vs. Sandiganbayan (GR 136916)

Does the Respondent Court, the Honorable Sandiganbayan, have jurisdiction over a case of plunder when none of the accused occupy Salary Grade 27 or higher as provided under Republic Act No. 6758 ?

The Sandiganbayans jurisdiction over petitioners mother and the other accused in Criminal Case No. 24100 has been resolved by the Supreme Court in Lilia B. Organo v. Sandiganbayan. In that case, we ruled that the Sandiganbayan has no jurisdiction over the crime of plunder unless committed by public officials and employees occupying the positions with Salary Grade 27 or higher, under the Compensation and Position Classification Act of 1989 (Republic Act No. 6758) in relation to their office.The Court explained that the crime of plunder defined in Republic Act No. 7080, as amended by Republic Act No. 7659, was provisionally placed within the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan until otherwise provided by law. Republic Act No. 8249, enacted on February 5, 1997, is the special law that provided for the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan otherwise than that prescribed in Republic Act No. 7080.

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The apparent intendment of these amendments is to ease the dockets of the Sandiganbayan and to allow the Anti-Graft Court to focus its efforts on the trial of those occupying higher positions in government, the proverbial big fish. Section 4, as amended, freed the Sandiganbayan from the task of trying cases involving lower-raking government officials, imposing such duty upon the regular courts instead. The present structure is also intended to benefit these officials of lower rank, especially those residing outside Metro Manila, charged with crimes related to their office, who can ill-afford the expenses of a trial in Metro Manila.

Ronilo Sorreda vs. Cambridge Electronics corp (GR172927)

This case rests on the issue of whether the labor arbiter had the jurisdiction.

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A labor arbiter may only take cognizance of a case and award damages where the claim for such damages arises out of an employer-employee relationship.

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While there was an employer-employee relationship between the parties under their five-month per-project contract of employment, the present dispute is neither rooted in the aforestated contract nor is it one inherently linked to it. Petitioner insists on a right to be employed again in respondent company and seeks a determination of the existence of a new and separate contract that established that right. As such, his case is within the jurisdiction not of the labor arbiter but of the regular courts. The NLRC and the CA were therefore correct in ruling that the labor arbiter erroneously took cognizance of the case.

Miranda vs. Tuliao (GR 158763)

Our pronouncement in Santiago shows a distinction between custody of the law and jurisdiction over the person. Custody of the law is required before the court can act upon the application for bail, but is not required for the adjudication of other reliefs sought by the defendant where the mere application therefor constitutes a waiver of the defense of lack of jurisdiction over the person of the accused.  Custody of the law is accomplished either by arrest or voluntary surrender, while jurisdiction over the person of the accused is acquired upon his arrest or voluntary appearance. One can be under the custody of the law but not yet subject to the jurisdiction of the court over his person, such as when a person arrested by virtue of a warrant files a motion before arraignment to quash the warrant. On the other hand, one can be subject to the jurisdiction of the court over his person, and yet not be in the custody of the law, such as when an accused escapes custody after his trial has commenced.  Being in the custody of the law signifies restraint on the person, who is thereby deprived of his own will and liberty, binding him to become obedient to the will of the law. Custody of the law is literally custody over the body of the accused. It includes, but is not limited to, detention.

 

Cases about Court Jurisdiction part 1

Victorino Quinagoran vs. CA (GR 155179)

The question posed in the present petition is not complicated, i.e., does the RTC have jurisdiction over all cases of recovery of possession regardless of the value of the property involved?

The answer is no. The doctrine on which the RTC anchored its denial of petitioner’s Motion to Dismiss, as affirmed by the CA — that all cases of recovery of possession or accion publiciana lies with the regional trial courts regardless of the value of the property — no longer holds true. As things now stand, a distinction must be made between those properties the assessed value of which is below P20,000.00, if outside Metro Manila; and P50,000.00, if within.

Republic Act No. 7691 which amended Batas Pambansa Blg. 129 and which was already in effect when respondents filed their complaint with the RTC on October 27, 1994, expressly provides:

SEC. 19. Jurisdiction in civil cases Regional Trial Courts shall exercise exclusive original jurisdiction:

x x x x

(2) In all civil actions which involve the title to or possession of, real property, or any interest therein, where the assessed value of the property involved exceeds Twenty thousand pesos (P20,000.00) or, for civil actions in Metro Manila, where such value exceeds Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) except for forcible entry into and unlawful detainer of lands or buildings, original jurisdiction over which is conferred upon the Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts.

x x x x

SEC. 33. Jurisdiction of Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts in Civil Cases. — Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts shall exercise:

x x x x

(3) Exclusive original jurisdiction in all civil actions which involve title to, or possession of , real property, or any interest therein where the assessed value of the property or interest therein does not exceed Twenty thousand pesos (P20,000.00) or, in civil actions in Metro Manila, where such assessed value does not exceed Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) exclusive of interest, damages or whatever kind, attorney’s fees, litigation expenses and costs:Provided That in cases of land not declared for taxation purposes, the value of such property shall be determined by the assessed value of the adjacent lots.

Jurisdiction of the court does not depend upon the answer of the defendant or even upon agreement, waiver or acquiescence of the parties.Indeed, the jurisdiction of the court over the nature of the action and the subject matter thereof cannot be made to depend upon the defenses set up in the court or upon a motion to dismiss for, otherwise, the question of jurisdiction would depend almost entirely on the defendant.

Considering that the respondents failed to allege in their complaint the assessed value of the subject property, the RTC seriously erred in denying the motion to dismiss. Consequently, all proceedings in the RTC are null and void, and the CA erred in affirming the RTC.

Cervantes vs. PP (GR 147406)

The general rule should, however, be, as it has always been, that the issue of jurisdiction may be raised at any stage of the proceedings, even on appeal, and is not lost by waiver or by estoppel.Estoppel by laches, to bar a litigant from asserting the courts absence or lack of jurisdiction, only supervenes in exceptional cases similar to the factual milieu of Tijam v. Sibonghanoy. Indeed, the fact that a person attempts to invoke unauthorized jurisdiction of a court does not estop him from thereafter challenging its jurisdiction over the subject matter, since such jurisdiction must arise by law and not by mere consent of the parties. This is especially true where the person seeking to invoke unauthorized jurisdiction of the court does not thereby secure any advantage or the adverse party does not suffer any harm.

Applying the said doctrine to the instant case, the petitioner is in no way estopped by laches in assailing the jurisdiction of the RTC, considering that he raised the lack thereof in his appeal before the appellate court. At that time, no considerable period had yet elapsed for laches to attach. True, delay alone, though unreasonable, will not sustain the defense of estoppel by laches unless it further appears that the party, knowing his rights, has not sought to enforce them until the condition of the party pleading laches has in good faith become so changed that he cannot be restored to his former state, if the rights be then enforced, due to loss of evidence, change of title, intervention of equities, and other causes.

Sps. Flores-Cruz vs. Sps Goli-Cruz (GR 172217)

It is axiomatic that the nature of the action on which depends the question of whether a suit is within the jurisdiction of the court is determined solely by the allegations in the complaint and the law at the time the action was commenced. Only facts alleged in the complaint can be the basis for determining the nature of the action and the courts competence to take cognizance of it.  One cannot advert to anything not set forth in the complaint, such as evidence adduced at the trial, to determine the nature of the action thereby initiated.

Manotoc vs. CA (GR 130974)

The courts jurisdiction over a defendant is founded on a valid service of summons. Without a valid service, the court cannot acquire jurisdiction over the defendant, unless the defendant voluntarily submits to it. The defendant must be properly apprised of a pending action against him and assured of the opportunity to present his defenses to the suit. Proper service of summons is used to protect ones right to due process.

PP vs. CA (GR 154557)

Where a court acquired jurisdiction over an action, its jurisdiction continues to the final conclusion of the case. Such jurisdiction is not affected by new legislation placing jurisdiction over such dispute in another court or tribunal unless the statute provides for retroactivity.

It is quite glaring from Sec. 7 of RA 7691 that said law has limited retroactivity only to civil cases. As such, the CA indeed committed grave abuse of discretion as it acted in an arbitrary and patently erroneous exercise of judgment equivalent to lack of jurisdiction. Hence, the use of Rule 65 is proper.

RP vs Bantigue Point Development Corp (GR 162322)

At the outset, we rule that petitioner Republic is not estopped from questioning the jurisdiction of the lower court, even if the former raised the jurisdictional question only on appeal. The rule is settled that lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter may be raised at any stage of the proceedings. Jurisdiction over the subject matter is conferred only by the Constitution or the law. It cannot be acquired through a waiver or enlarged by the omission of the parties or conferred by the acquiescence of the court. Consequently, questions of jurisdiction may be cognizable even if raised for the first time on appeal.

The ruling of the Court of Appeals that a party may be estopped from raising such [jurisdictional] question if he has actively taken part in the very proceeding which he questions, belatedly objecting to the courts jurisdiction in the event that the judgment or order subsequently rendered is adverse to him is based on the doctrine of estoppel by laches. We are aware of that doctrine first enunciated by this Court inTijam v. Sibonghanoy. In Tijam, the party-litigant actively participated in the proceedings before the lower court and filed pleadings therein. Only 15 years thereafter, and after receiving an adverse Decision on the merits from the appellate court, did the party-litigant question the lower courts jurisdiction. Considering the unique facts in that case, we held that estoppel by laches had already precluded the party-litigant from raising the question of lack of jurisdiction on appeal. In Figueroa v. People, we cautioned that Tijam must be construed as an exception to the general rule and applied only in the most exceptional cases whose factual milieu is similar to that in the latter case.

The facts are starkly different in this case, making the exceptional rule in Tijam inapplicable. Here, petitioner Republic filed its Opposition to the application for registration when the records were still with the RTC. At that point, petitioner could not have questioned the delegated jurisdiction of the MTC, simply because the case was not yet with that court. When the records were transferred to the MTC, petitioner neither filed pleadings nor requested affirmative relief from that court. On appeal, petitioner immediately raised the jurisdictional question in its Brief. Clearly, the exceptional doctrine of estoppel by laches is inapplicable to the instant appeal.

Laches has been defined as the failure or neglect, for an unreasonable and unexplained length of time, to do that which, by exercising due diligence, could or should have been done earlier; it is negligence or omission to assert a right within a reasonable time, warranting the presumption that the party entitled to assert it either has abandoned or declined to assert it. In this case, petitioner Republic has not displayed such unreasonable failure or neglect that would lead us to conclude that it has abandoned or declined to assert its right to question the lower court’s jurisdiction.

Katon vs. Palanca (GR 151149)

Where prescription, lack of jurisdiction or failure to state a cause of action clearly appear from the complaint filed with the trial court, the action may be dismissed motu proprio by the Court of Appeals, even if the case has been elevated for review on different grounds. Verily, the dismissal of such cases appropriately ends useless litigations.

Ortigas and Co. vs. CA (GR 129822)

The sole issue in this case is whether or not the CA erred in affirming the lower courts ruling that jurisdiction over the City’s action lies with the RTC, not with the HLURB.

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Ortigas maintains that the HLURB has jurisdiction over the complaint since a land developer’s failure to comply with its statutory obligation to provide open spaces constitutes unsound real estate business practice that Presidential Decree (P.D.) 1344 prohibits. Executive Order 648 empowers the HLURB to hear and decide claims of unsound real estate business practices against land developers.

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Obviously, the City had not bought a lot in the subject area from Ortigas which would give it a right to seek HLURB intervention in enforcing a local ordinance that regulates the use of private land within its jurisdiction in the interest of the general welfare. It has the right to bring such kind of action but only before a court of general jurisdiction such as the RTC.

 

Equal Protection of the Laws

Romarico J Mendoza vs. PP (GR 183891)

On the matter of equal protection, we stated in Tolentino v. Board of Accountancy, et al. that the guarantee simply means that no person or class of persons shall be denied the same protection of the laws which is enjoyed by other persons or other classes in the same place and in like circumstances. In People v. Cayat, we further summarized the jurisprudence on equal protection in this wise:

It is an established principle of constitutional law that the guaranty of the equal protection of the laws is not violated by a legislation based on reasonable classification. And the classification, to be reasonable, (1) must rest on substantial distinctions; (2) must be germane to the purposes of the law; (3) must not be limited to existing conditions only; and (4) must apply equally to all members of the same class.

Ang Ladlad LGBT vs. Comelec (GR 190582)

Despite the absolutism of Article III, Section 1 of our Constitution, which provides nor shall any person be denied equal protection of the laws, courts have never interpreted the provision as an absolute prohibition on classification. Equality, said Aristotle, consists in the same treatment of similar persons. The equal protection clause guarantees that no person or class of persons shall be deprived of the same protection of laws which is enjoyed by other persons or other classes in the same place and in like circumstances.

From the standpoint of the political process, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender have the same interest in participating in the party-list system on the same basis as other political parties similarly situated. State intrusion in this case is equally burdensome. Hence, laws of general application should apply with equal force to LGBTs, and they deserve to participate in the party-list system on the same basis as other marginalized and under-represented sectors.

International School Alliance of Educators vs. Hon. Quisumbing (GR 128845)

That public policy abhors inequality and discrimination is beyond contention. Our Constitution and laws reflect the policy against these evils. The Constitution in the Article on Social Justice and Human Rights exhorts Congress to “give highest priority to the enactment of measures that protect and enhance the right of all people to human dignity, reduce social, economic, and political inequalities.” The very broad Article 19 of the Civil Code requires every person, “in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, [to] act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith.”

International law, which springs from general principles of law, likewise proscribes discrimination. General principles of law include principles of equity i.e., the general principles of fairness and justice, based on the test of what is reasonable. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,the Convention against Discrimination in Education, the Convention (No. 111) Concerning Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation – all embody the general principle against discrimination, the very antithesis of fairness and justice. The Philippines, through its Constitution, has incorporated this principle as part of its national laws.

Discrimination, particularly in terms of wages, is frowned upon by the Labor Code. Article 135, for example, prohibits and penalizes the payment of lesser compensation to a female employee as against a male employee for work of equal value. Article 248 declares it an unfair labor practice for an employer to discriminate in regard to wages in order to encourage or discourage membership in any labor organization.

British american Tobacco vs. DOF (GR 163583)

Petitioner argues that the classification freeze provision violates the equal protection and uniformity of taxation clauses because Annex D brands are taxed based on their 1996 net retail prices while new brands are taxed based on their present day net retail prices. Citing Ormoc Sugar Co. v. Treasurer of Ormoc City, petitioner asserts that the assailed provisions accord a special or privileged status to Annex D brands while at the same time discriminate against other brands.

These contentions are without merit and a rehash of petitioners previous arguments before this Court. As held in the assailed Decision, the instant case neither involves a suspect classification nor impinges on a fundamental right. Consequently, the rational basis test was properly applied to gauge the constitutionality of the assailed law in the face of an equal protection challenge. It has been held that in the areas of social and economic policy, a statutory classification that neither proceeds along suspect lines nor infringes constitutional rights must be upheld against equal protection challenge if there is any reasonably conceivable state of facts that could provide a rational basis for the classification. Under the rational basis test, it is sufficient that the legislative classification is rationally related to achieving some legitimate State interest.

NAPOCOR vs Pinatubo Commercial (GR 176006)

The equal protection clause means that no person or class of persons shall be deprived of the same protection of laws which is enjoyed by other persons or other classes in the same place and in like circumstances. The guaranty of the equal protection of the laws is not violated by a legislation based on a reasonable classification. The equal protection clause, therefore, does not preclude classification of individuals who may be accorded different treatment under the law as long as the classification is reasonable and not arbitrary.

Armando G. Yrasuegui vs. PAL (GR 168081)

To make his claim more believable, petitioner invokes the equal protection clause guaranty of the Constitution. However, in the absence of governmental interference, the liberties guaranteed by the Constitution cannot be invoked. Put differently, the Bill of Rights is not meant to be invoked against acts of private individuals. Indeed, the United States Supreme Court, in interpreting the Fourteenth Amendment, which is the source of our equal protection guarantee, is consistent in saying that the equal protection erects no shield against private conduct, however discriminatory or wrongful. Private actions, no matter how egregious, cannot violate the equal protection guarantee.

 

Police Power Cases

MMDA v. Trackworks Rail Transit Advertising, Vending and Promotions, Inc. 

It is futile for MMDA to simply invoke its legal mandate to justify the dismantling of Trackworks’ billboards, signages and other advertising media. MMDA simply had no power on its own to dismantle, remove, or destroy the billboards, signages and other advertising media installed on the MRT3 structure by Trackworks. In Metropolitan Manila Development Authority v. Bel-Air Village Association, Inc., Metropolitan Manila Development Authority v. Viron Transportation Co., Inc., and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority v. Garin, the Court had the occasion to rule that MMDA’s powers were limited to the formulation, coordination, regulation, implementation, preparation, management, monitoring, setting of policies, installing a system, and administration. Nothing in Republic Act No. 7924 granted MMDA police power, let alone legislative power.

MMDA VS. Hon. Alberto Romulo (GR 170656)

The authority of the President to order the implementation of the Project notwithstanding, the designation of the MMDA as the implementing agency for the Project may not be sustained. It is ultra vires, there being no legal basis therefor.

It bears stressing that under the provisions of E.O. No. 125, as amended, it is the DOTC, and not the MMDA, which is authorized to establish and implement a project such as the one subject of the cases at bar.Thus, the President, although authorized to establish or cause the implementation of the Project, must exercise the authority through the instrumentality of the DOTC which, by law, is the primary implementing and administrative entity in the promotion, development and regulation of networks of transportation, and the one so authorized to establish and implement a project such as the Project in question.

By designating the MMDA as the implementing agency of the Project, the President clearly overstepped the limits of the authority conferred by law, rendering E.O. No. 179 ultra vires.

In light of the administrative nature of its powers and functions, the MMDA is devoid of authority to implement the Project as envisioned by the E.O; hence, it could not have been validly designated by the President to undertake the Project. It follows that the MMDA cannot validly order the elimination of respondents terminals.

Even the MMDAs claimed authority under the police power must necessarily fail in consonance with the above-quoted ruling in MMDA v. Bel-Air Village Association, Inc. and this Courts subsequent ruling in Metropolitan Manila Development Authority v. Garin that the MMDA is not vested with police power.

Even assuming arguendo that police power was delegated to the MMDA, its exercise of such power does not satisfy the two tests of a valid police power measure, viz: (1) the interest of the public generally, as distinguished from that of a particular class, requires its exercise; and (2) the means employed are reasonably necessary for the accomplishment of the purpose and not unduly oppressive upon individuals. Stated differently, the police power legislation must be firmly grounded on public interest and welfare and a reasonable relation must exist between the purposes and the means.

City of Manila vs. Hon Judge Laguio, JR., Manila and Malate Tourust Deve’t Corp. (GR 118127)

To successfully invoke the exercise of police power as the rationale for the enactment of the Ordinance, and to free it from the imputation of constitutional infirmity, not only must it appear that the interests of the public generally, as distinguished from those of a particular class, require an interference with private rights, but the means adopted must be reasonably necessary for the accomplishment of the purpose and not unduly oppressive upon individuals. It must be evident that no other alternative for the accomplishment of the purpose less intrusive of private rights can work. A reasonable relation must exist between the purposes of the police measure and the means employed for its accomplishment, for even under the guise of protecting the public interest, personal rights and those pertaining to private property will not be permitted to be arbitrarily invaded.

Lacking a concurrence of these two requisites, the police measure shall be struck down as an arbitrary intrusion into private rights a violation of the due process clause.

The Ordinance disallows the operation of sauna parlors, massage parlors, karaoke bars, beerhouses, night clubs, day clubs, super clubs, discotheques, cabarets, dance halls, motels and inns in the Ermita-Malate area. In Section 3 thereof, owners and/or operators of the enumerated establishments are given three (3) months from the date of approval of the Ordinance within which to wind up business operations or to transfer to any place outside the Ermita-Malate area or convert said businesses to other kinds of business allowable within the area. Further, it states in Section 4 that in cases of subsequent violations of the provisions of the Ordinance, the premises of the erring establishment shall be closed and padlocked permanently.

It is readily apparent that the means employed by the Ordinance for the achievement of its purposes, the governmental interference itself, infringes on the constitutional guarantees of a persons fundamental right to liberty and property.

Liberty as guaranteed by the Constitution was defined by Justice Malcolm to include the right to exist and the right to be free from arbitrary restraint or servitude. The term cannot be dwarfed into mere freedom from physical restraint of the person of the citizen, but is deemed to embrace the right of man to enjoy the facilities with which he has been endowed by his Creator, subject only to such restraint as are necessary for the common welfare. In accordance with this case, the rights of the citizen to be free to use his faculties in all lawful ways; to live and work where he will; to earn his livelihood by any lawful calling; and to pursue any avocation are all deemed embraced in the concept of liberty.

Petitioners contend that the Ordinance enjoys the presumption of validity. While this may be the rule, it has already been held that although the presumption is always in favor of the validity or reasonableness of the ordinance, such presumption must nevertheless be set aside when the invalidity or unreasonableness appears on the face of the ordinance itself or is established by proper evidence. The exercise of police power by the local government is valid unless it contravenes the fundamental law of the land, or an act of the legislature, or unless it is against public policy or is unreasonable, oppressive, partial, discriminating or in derogation of a common right.

Conclusion

All considered, the Ordinance invades fundamental personal and property rights and impairs personal privileges. It is constitutionally infirm. The Ordinance contravenes statutes; it is discriminatory and unreasonable in its operation; it is not sufficiently detailed and explicit that abuses may attend the enforcement of its sanctions. And not to be forgotten, the City Council under the Code had no power to enact the Ordinance and is therefore ultra vires, null and void.

Concededly, the challenged Ordinance was enacted with the best of motives and shares the concern of the public for the cleansing of the Ermita-Malate area of its social sins. Police power legislation of such character deserves the full endorsement of the judiciary we reiterate our support for it. But inspite of its virtuous aims, the enactment of the Ordinance has no statutory or constitutional authority to stand on. Local legislative bodies, in this case, the City Council, cannot prohibit the operation of the enumerated establishments under Section 1 thereof or order their transfer or conversion without infringing the constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection of laws not even under the guise of police power.