Special Civil Actions Initiated by Complaint: Contempt

Lorenzo Shipping Corp. vs. Distribution Management Association of the Philippines (GR 155849)

Contempt of Court: Concept and Classes

Justice Bersamin:

Contempt of court has been defined as a willful disregard or disobedience of a public authority. In its broad sense, contempt is a disregard of, or disobedience to, the rules or orders of a legislative or judicial body or an interruption of its proceedings by disorderly behavior or insolent language in its presence or so near thereto as to disturb its proceedings or to impair the respect due to such a body. In its restricted and more usual sense, contempt comprehends a despising of the authority, justice, or dignity of a court. The phrase contempt of court is generic, embracing within its legal signification a variety of different acts.

The power to punish for contempt is inherent in all courts, and need not be specifically granted by statute. It lies at the core of the administration of a judicial system. Indeed, there ought to be no question that courts have the power by virtue of their very creation to impose silence, respect, and decorum in their presence, submission to their lawful mandates, and to preserve themselves and their officers from the approach and insults of pollution. The power to punish for contempt essentially exists for the preservation of order in judicial proceedings and for the enforcement of judgments, orders, and mandates of the courts, and, consequently, for the due administration of justice. The reason behind the power to punish for contempt is that respect of the courts guarantees the stability of their institution; without such guarantee, the institution of the courts would be resting on a very shaky foundation.

Contempt of court is of two kinds, namely: direct contempt, which is committed in the presence of or so near the judge as to obstruct him in the administration of justice; and constructive or indirect contempt, which consists of willful disobedience of the lawful process or order of the court.

The punishment for the first is generally summary and immediate, and no process or evidence is necessary because the act is committed in facie curiae. The inherent power of courts to punish contempt of court committed in the presence of the courts without further proof of facts and without aid of a trial is not open to question, considering that this power is essential to preserve their authority and to prevent the administration of justice from falling into disrepute; such summary conviction and punishment accord with due process of law. There is authority for the view, however, that an act, to constitute direct contempt punishable by summary proceeding, need not be committed in the immediate presence of the court, if it tends to obstruct justice or to interfere with the actions of the court in the courtroom itself. Also, contemptuous acts committed out of the presence of the court, if admitted by the contemnor in open court, may be punished summarily as a direct contempt, although it is advisable to proceed by requiring the person charged to appear and show cause why he should not be punished when the judge is without personal knowledge of the misbehavior and is informed of it only by a confession of the contemnor or by testimony under oath of other persons.

In contrast, the second usually requires proceedings less summary than the first. The proceedings for the punishment of the contumacious act committed outside the personal knowledge of the judge generally need the observance of all the elements of due process of law, that is, notice, written charges, and an opportunity to deny and to defend such charges before guilt is adjudged and sentence imposed.

Plainly, therefore, the word summary with respect to the punishment for contempt refers not to the timing of the action with reference to the offense but to the procedure that dispenses with the formality, delay, and digression that result from the issuance of process, service of complaint and answer, holding hearings, taking evidence, listening to arguments, awaiting briefs, submission of findings, and all that goes with a conventional court trial.

A distinction between in-court contempts, which disrupt court proceedings and for which a hearing and formal presentation of evidence are dispensed with, and out-of-court contempts, which require normal adversary procedures, is drawn for the purpose of prescribing what procedures must attend the exercise of a courts authority to deal with contempt. The distinction does not limit the ability of courts to initiate contempt prosecutions to the summary punishment of in-court contempts that interfere with the judicial process.

The court may proceed upon its own knowledge of the facts without further proof and without issue or trial in any form to punish a contempt

committed directly under its eye or within its view. But there must be adequate facts to support a summary order for contempt in the presence of the court. The exercise of the summary power to imprison for contempt is a delicate one and care is needed to avoid arbitrary or oppressive conclusions. The reason for the extraordinary power to punish criminal contempt in summary proceedings is that the necessities of the administration of justice require such summary dealing with obstructions to it, being a mode of vindicating the majesty of the law, in its active manifestation, against obstruction and outrage.

Proceedings for contempt are sui generis, in nature criminal, but may be resorted to in civil as well as criminal actions, and independently of any action. They are of two classes, the criminal or punitive, and the civil or remedial. A criminal contempt consists in conduct that is directed against the authority and dignity of a court or of a judge acting judicially, as in unlawfully assailing or discrediting the authority and dignity of the court or judge, or in doing a duly forbidden act. A civil contempt consists in the failure to do something ordered to be done by a court or judge in a civil case for the benefit of the opposing party therein. It is at times difficult to determine whether the proceedings are civil or criminal. In general, the character of the contempt of whether it is criminal or civil is determined by the nature of the contempt involved, regardless of the cause in which the contempt arose, and by the relief sought or dominant purpose.

The proceedings are to be regarded as criminal when the purpose is primarily punishment, and civil when the purpose is primarily compensatory or remedial. Where the dominant purpose is to enforce compliance with an order of a court for the benefit of a party in whose favor the order runs, the contempt is civil; where the dominant purpose is to vindicate the dignity and authority of the court, and to protect the interests of the general public, the contempt is criminal.  Indeed, the criminal proceedings vindicate the dignity of the courts, but the civil proceedings protect, preserve, and enforce the rights of private parties and compel obedience to orders, judgments and decrees made to enforce such rights.

Aquino vs. Ng (GR 155631)

The records do not bear any indication that petitioner was afforded an opportunity to rebut the charges against him when he was first charged by respondent with contempt. While petitioner was able to oppose respondent’s motion, inasmuch as an indirect contempt charge partakes of the nature of a criminal charge, conviction cannot be had merely on the basis of written pleadings. There is no question that petitioner’s disobedience to the RTC’s lawful order constitutes indirect contempt of court. This, however, was not a license for the RTC to disregard petitioner’s rights. It should have held a hearing in order to provide petitioner with the opportunity to state his defense and explain his side. A hearing affords the contemner the opportunity to adduce before the court documentary or testimonial evidence in his behalf. The hearing will also allow the court a more thorough evaluation of the defense of the contemner, including the chance to observe the accused present his side in open court and subject his defense to interrogation from the complainants or the court itself.

Soriano vs. CA (GR 128938)

he proceedings for punishment of indirect contempt are criminal in nature. The modes of procedure and rules of evidence adopted in contempt proceedings are similar in nature to those used in criminal prosecutions.  Thus, any liberal construction of the rules governing contempt proceedings should favor the accused. It can be argued that Soriano has essentially been afforded the right to be heard, as he did comment on the charge of indirect contempt against him. Yet, since an indirect contempt charge partakes the nature of a criminal charge, conviction cannot be had merely on the basis of written pleadings. The contemner is assured of his or her day in court. If thecontemner is served a notice of hearing, but fails to appear anyway, then that is a different matter. A hearing affords the contemner the opportunity to adduce before the court documentary or testimonial evidence in his behalf. The hearing will also allow the court a more thorough evaluation of the defense of the contemner, including the chance to observe the accused present his side in open court and subject his defense to interrogation from the complainants or the court itself.

Landbank of the Phils. vs. Listana, SR. (GR 152611)

Evidently, quasi-judicial agencies that have the power to cite persons for indirect contempt pursuant to Rule 71 of the Rules of Court can only do so by initiating them in the proper Regional Trial Court. It is not within their jurisdiction and competence to decide the indirect contempt cases. These matters are still within the province of the Regional Trial Courts. In the present case, the indirect contempt charge was filed, not with the Regional Trial Court, but with the PARAD, and it was the PARAD that cited Mr. Lorayes with indirect contempt.

Remman Enterprises vs. CA (GR 107671)

In general, criminal contempt proceedings should be conducted in accordance with the principles and rules applicable to criminal cases, in so far as such procedure is consistent with the summary nature of contempt proceedings. Strict rules that govern criminal prosecutions apply to a prosecution for criminal contempt; the accused is to be afforded many of the protections provided in regular criminal cases; and proceedings under statutes governing them are to be strictly construed. However, criminal proceedings are not required to take any particular form so long as the substantial rights of the accused are preserved.

Civil contempt proceedings, on the other hand, are generally held to be remedial and civil in nature; that is, for the enforcement of some duty, and essentially a remedy resorted to, to preserve and enforce the rights of a private party to an action and to compel obedience to a judgment or decree intended to benefit such a party litigant. The rules of procedure governing criminal contempt proceedings, or criminal prosecutions, ordinarily are inapplicable to civil contempt proceedings.

Regalado vs. Go (GR 167988)

Even if the contempt proceedings stemmed from the main case over which the court already acquired jurisdiction, the Rules direct that the petition for contempt be treated independently of the principal action. Consequently, the necessary prerequisites for the filing of initiatory pleadings, such as the filing of a verified petition, attachment of a certification on non-forum shopping, and the payment of the necessary docket fees, must be faithfully observed.

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Special Civil Actions Initiated by Petition: Quo Warranto (Rule 66)

Topacio vs. Hon. Ong SandiganBayan (GR 179895)

A quo warranto proceeding is the proper legal remedy to determine the right or title to the contested public office and to oust the holder from its enjoyment. It is brought against the person who is alleged to have usurped, intruded into, or unlawfully held or exercised the public office, and may be commenced by the Solicitor General or a public prosecutor, as the case may be, or by any person claiming to be entitled to the public office or position usurped or unlawfully held or exercised by another.

Nothing is more settled than the principle, which goes back to the 1905 case of Acosta v. Flor, reiterated in the recent 2008 case of Feliciano v. Villasin, that for a quo warranto petition to be successful, the private person suing must show a clear right to the contested office. In fact, not even a mere preferential right to be appointed thereto can lend a modicum of legal ground to proceed with the action.

In the present case, petitioner presented no sufficient proof of a clear and indubitable franchise to the office of an Associate Justice of the Sandiganbayan. He in fact concedes that he was never entitled to assume the office of an Associate Justice of the Sandiganbayan.

Calleja vs. Panday (GR 168696)

Therefore, actions of quo warranto against persons who usurp an office in a corporation, which were formerly cognizable by the Securities and Exchange Commission under PD 902-A, have been transferred to the courts of general jurisdiction. But, this does not change the fact that Rule 66 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure does not apply to quo warranto cases against persons who usurp an office in a private corporation.

Defensor-Santiago vs. Guingona (GR 134577)

A quo warranto proceeding is the proper legal remedy to determine the right or title to the contested public office and to oust the holder from its enjoyment. The action may be brought by the solicitor general or a public prosecutor or any person claiming to be entitled to the public office or position usurped or unlawfully held or exercised by another. The action shall be brought against the person who allegedly usurped, intruded into or is unlawfully holding or exercising such office.

In order for a quo warranto proceeding to be successful, the person suing must show that he or she has a clear right to the contested office or to use or exercise the functions of the office allegedly usurped or unlawfully held by the respondent. In this case, petitioners present no sufficient proof of a clear and indubitable franchise to the office of the Senate minority leader.

Dumayas vs. Comelec (GR 141952-53)

The allegations contained in Betitas petition before the regular court do not present any proper issue for either an election protest or a quo warranto case under the Omnibus Election Code. Spl. Civil Action No. 98-141 appears to be in the nature of an action for usurpation of public office brought by Betita to assert his right to the position of Mayor pursuant to the rules on succession of local government officials contained in the Local Government Code. Although said petition is also denominated as a quo warranto petition under Rule 66 of the Rules of Court, it is different in nature from the quo warranto provided for in the Omnibus Election Code where the only issue proper for determination is either disloyalty or ineligibility of respondent therein. Neither can it be considered as an election protest since what was put forth as an issue in said petition was petitioners alleged unlawful assumption of the office of Mayor by virtue of his alleged illegal proclamation as the winning candidate in the election.

Liban vs. Gordon (GR 175352)

Quo warranto is generally commenced by the Government as the proper party plaintiff. However, under Section 5, Rule 66 of the Rules of Court, an individual may commence such an action if he claims to be entitled to the public office allegedly usurped by another, in which case he can bring the action in his own name. The person instituting quo warranto proceedings in his own behalf must claim and be able to show that he is entitled to the office in dispute, otherwise the action may be dismissed at any stage.  In the present case, petitioners do not claim to be entitled to the Senate office of respondent. Clearly, petitioners have no standing to file the present petition.

Even if the Court disregards the infirmities of the petition and treats it as a taxpayers suit, the petition would still fail on the merits.

 

 

Special Civil Actions Initiated by Petition: Certiorari, Prohibition, Mandamus (Rule 65)

Tagle vs. Equitable-PCI Bank (GR 172299)

A special civil action for Certiorari, or simply a Petition for Certiorari, under Rule 65 of the Revised Rules of Court is intended for the correction of errors of jurisdiction only or grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. Its principal office is only to keep the inferior court within the parameters of its jurisdiction or to prevent it from committing such a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.

A writ of certiorari may be issued only for the correction of errors of jurisdiction or grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. Such cannot be used for any other purpose, as its function is limited to keeping the inferior court within the bounds of its jurisdiction.

For a petition for certiorari to prosper, the essential requisites that have to concur are: (1) the writ is directed against a tribunal, a board or any officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions; (2) such tribunal, board or officer has acted without or in excess of jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction; and (3) there is no appeal or any plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.

Ysidoro vs. People (GR 171513)

While an assailed judgment elevated by way of ordinary appeal or a Rule 45 petition is considered an intrinsically valid, albeit erroneous, judgment, a judgment assailed under Rule 65 is characterized as an invalid judgment because of defect in the trial courts authority to rule. Also, an ordinary appeal and a Rule 45 petition tackle errors committed by the trial court in the appreciation of the evidence and/or the application of law. In contrast, a Rule 65 petition resolves jurisdictional errors committed in the proceedings in the principal case. In other words, errors of judgment are the proper subjects of an ordinary appeal and in a Rule 45 petition; errors of jurisdiction are addressed in a Rule 65 petition.

As applied to judgments rendered in criminal cases, unlike a review via a Rule 65 petition, only judgments of conviction can be reviewed in an ordinary appeal or a Rule 45 petition.

Pahila-Garrido vs. Tortogo (GR 156358)

The remedy against an interlocutory order not subject of an appeal is an appropriate special civil action under Rule 65, provided that the interlocutory order is rendered without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion. Then is certiorari under Rule 65 allowed to be resorted to.

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Did the petitioners failure to first make a motion for reconsideration in the RTC preclude treating her petition as a petition for certiorari?

The answer is in the negative. That the petitioner did not file a motion for reconsideration in the RTC before coming to this Court did not preclude treating her petition as one for certiorari. The requirement under Section 1 of Rule 65 that there must be no appeal, or any plain or adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law admits exceptions. In Francisco Motors Corporation v. Court of Appeals, the Court has recognized exceptions to the requirement, such as: (a) when it is necessary to prevent irreparable damages and injury to a party; (b) where the trial judge capriciously and whimsically exercised his judgment; (c) where there may be danger of a failure of justice; (d) where an appeal would be slow, inadequate, and insufficient; (e) where the issue raised is one purely of law; (f) where public interest is involved; and (g) in case of urgency. The allegations of the petition definitely placed the petitioners recourse under most, if not all, of the exceptions.

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We also observe that the rule that a petition should have been brought under Rule 65 instead of under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court (or vice versa) is not inflexible or rigid. The inflexibility or rigidity of application of the rules of procedure is eschewed in order to serve the higher ends of justice. Thus, substance is given primacy over form, for it is paramount that the rules of procedure are not applied in a very rigid technical sense, but used only to help secure, not override, substantial justice.

Mid-Islands Power Generation Corp. vs. CA (GR 189191)

As a final note, we convey our strong disapproval over the failure of Power Ones lawyers to file the Petition within the reglementary period. The amendments under A.M. No. 07-7-12-SC were meant to be implemented strictly, with a view in mind that the 60-day period to file is a reasonable and sufficient time to prepare a Rule 65 petition. Workload and resignation of the lawyer handling the case are insufficient reasons to justify the relaxation of the procedural rules. He should not have left his client with this very critical piece of work hanging in midair. Were it not for the exceptional nature of the case and the strong public interest involved herein, we would have overturned the approval by the CA of the Motion to extend the period to file a Rule 65 Petition.

Uy Kiao Eng vs. Lee (GR 176831)

On Mandamus:

Recognized further in this jurisdiction is the principle that mandamus cannot be used to enforce contractual obligations. Generally, mandamus will not lie to enforce purely private contract rights, and will not lie against an individual unless some obligation in the nature of a public or quasi-public duty is imposed. The writ is not appropriate to enforce a private right against an individual. The writ of mandamuslies to enforce the execution of an act, when, otherwise, justice would be obstructed; and, regularly, issues only in cases relating to the public and to the government; hence, it is called a prerogative writ. To preserve its prerogative character, mandamus is not used for the redress of private wrongs, but only in matters relating to the public.

Moreover, an important principle followed in the issuance of the writ is that there should be no plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law other than the remedy of mandamus being invoked. In other words, mandamus can be issued only in cases where the usual modes of procedure and forms of remedy are powerless to afford relief. Although classified as a legal remedy, mandamus is equitable in its nature and its issuance is generally controlled by equitable principles.  Indeed, the grant of the writ of mandamus lies in the sound discretion of the court.

Manalo vs. PAIC Savings Bank (GR 146531)

We hold that mandamus is not the proper recourse to enforce petitioners alleged right of redemption. To begin with, mandamus applies as a remedy only where petitioners right is founded clearly in law and not when it is doubtful. In varying language, the principle echoed and reechoed is that legal rights may be enforced by mandamus only if those rights are well-defined, clear and certain.

GSIS Board of Trustees vs. Velasco (GR 170643)

The petition for prohibition filed by respondents is a special civil action which may be filed in the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, the Sandiganbayan or the regional trial court, as the case may be. It is also a personal action because it does not affect the title to, or possession of real property, or interest therein. Thus, it may be commenced and tried where the plaintiff or any of the principal plaintiffs resides, or where the defendant or any of the principal defendants resides, at the election of the plaintiff. Since respondent Velasco, plaintiff before the trial court, is a resident of the City of Manila, the petition could properly be filed in the City of Manila.  The choice of venue is sanctioned by Section 2, Rule 4 of the Rules of Court.

Ongsuko vs. Hon. Malones (GR 182065)

Difference between Mandamus and Prohibition:

In a petition for prohibition against any tribunal, corporation, board, or person whether exercising judicial, quasi-judicial, or ministerial functions, who has acted without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion, the petitioner prays that judgment be rendered, commanding the respondent to desist from further proceeding in the action or matter specified in the petition. On the other hand, the remedy of mandamus lies to compel performance of a ministerial duty. The petitioner for such a writ should have a well-defined, clear and certain legal right to the performance of the act, and it must be the clear and imperative duty of respondent to do the act required to be done.

In this case, petitioners primary intention is to prevent respondent from implementing Municipal Ordinance No. 98-01, i.e., by collecting the goodwill fees from petitioners and barring them from occupying the stalls at the municipal public market. Obviously, the writ petitioners seek is more in the nature of prohibition (commanding desistance), rather than mandamus (compelling performance).

For a writ of prohibition, the requisites are: (1) the impugned act must be that of a tribunal, corporation, board, officer, or person, whether exercising judicial, quasi-judicial or ministerial functions; and (2) there is no plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.

Special Civil Actions Initiated by Petition: Review of COA and COMELEC Decisions (Rule 64)

Tomas Osmena vs. COA (GR 188818)

Rule 64 of the Rules of Court governs the procedure for the review of judgments and final orders or resolutions of the Commission on Elections and the COA. Section 3 of the same Rule provides for a 30-day period, counted from the notice of the judgment or final order or resolution sought to be reviewed, to file the petition for certiorari. The Rule further states that the filing of a motion for reconsideration of the said judgment or final order or resolution interrupts the 30-day period.

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Osmea cites the mandatory medical check-ups he had to undergo in Houston, Texas after his cancer surgery in April 2009 as reason for the delay in filing his petition for certiorari. Due to his weakened state of health, he claims that he could not very well be expected to be bothered by the affairs of his office and had to focus only on his medical treatment. He could not require his office to attend to the case as he was being charged in his personal capacity.

We find Osmeas reasons sufficient to justify a relaxation of the Rules. Although the service of the June 8, 2009 Resolution of the COA was validly made on June 29, 2009 through the notice sent to the Office of the Mayor of Cebu City, we consider July 15, 2009 the date he reported back to office as the effective date when he was actually notified of the resolution, and the reckoning date of the period to appeal. If we were to rule otherwise, we would be denying Osmea of his right to appeal the Decision of the COA, despite the merits of his case.

Lokin vs. Comelec (GR 179431-32)

Lokin has correctly brought this special civil action for certiorari against the COMELEC to seek the review of the September 14, 2007 resolution of the COMELEC in accordance with Section 7 of Article IX-A of the 1987 Constitution, notwithstanding the oath and assumption of office by Cruz-Gonzales. The constitutional mandate is now implemented by Rule 64 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides for the review of the judgments, final orders or resolutions of the COMELEC and the Commission on Audit. As Rule 64 states, the mode of review is by a petition for certiorari in accordance with Rule 65 to be filed in the Supreme Court within a limited period of 30 days. Undoubtedly, the Court has original and exclusive jurisdiction over Lokins petitions for certiorari and for mandamus against the COMELEC.

Reyna vs. COA (GR 167219)

In the absence of grave abuse of discretion, questions of fact cannot be raised in a petition for certiorari, under Rule 64 of the Rules of Court. The office of the petition for certiorari is not to correct simple errors of judgment; any resort to the said petition under Rule 64, in relation to Rule 65, of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure is limited to the resolution of jurisdictional issues. Accordingly, since the validity of the prepayment scheme is inherently a question of fact, the same should no longer be looked into by this Court.

Reyes vs. COA (GR 125129)

To begin with, Article IX-A, Section 7 of the Constitution provides that decision, orders of rulings of the Commission on Audit may be brought to the Supreme Court on certiorari by the aggrieved party. Under Rule 64, Section 2, 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, judgment or final order of the Commission on Audit may be brought by an aggrieved party to this Court on certiorari under Rule 65.

However, the petition in this case was filed on June 17, 1996, prior to the effectivity of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. Nevertheless, the mode of elevating cases decided by the Commission on Audit to this Court was only by petition for certiorari under Rule 65, as provided by the 1987 Constitution. The judgments and final orders of the Commission on Audit are not reviewable by ordinary writ of error or appeal via certiorari to this Court. Only when the Commission on Audit acted without or in excess of jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, may this Court entertain a petition for certiorari under Rule 65. Hence, a petition for review on certiorari or appeal by certiorari to the Supreme Court under Rule 44 or 45 of the 1964 Revised Rules of Court is not allowed from any order, ruling or decision of the Commission on Audit.

 

Special Civil Actions Initiated by Petition: Declaratory Relief (Rule 63)

Commissioner of Customs vs. Hypermix Feeds Corp. (GR 179579)

The requirements of an action for declaratory relief are as follows: (1) there must be a justiciable controversy; (2) the controversy must be between persons whose interests are adverse; (3) the party seeking declaratory relief must have a legal interest in the controversy; and (4) the issue involved must be ripe for judicial determination.

CJH Development Corp. vs. BIR (GR 172457)

One of the requisites of a declaratory relief is that the issue must be ripe for judicial determination. This means that litigation is inevitable or there is no adequate relief available in any other form or proceeding.

However, CJH is not left without recourse. The Tariff and Customs Code (TCC) provides for the administrative and judicial remedies available to a taxpayer who is minded to contest an assessment, subject of course to certain reglementary periods.

Reyes vs. Hon. Ortiz (GR137794),

Sps. Embores vs Hon. Vallega (GR 149664)

In the instant case, petitioners Erlinda Reyes and Rosemarie Matienzo assailed via Declaratory Relief under Rule 63 of the Rules of Court, the orders of the trial courts denying their motions to suspend proceedings. This recourse by petitioners, unfortunately, cannot be countenanced since a court order is not one of those subjects to be examined under Rule 63.

The proper remedy that petitioner Erlinda Reyes could have utilized from the denial of her motion to suspend proceedings in the Caloocan City MeTC was to file a motion for reconsideration and, if it is denied, to file a petition for certiorari before the RTC pursuant to Rule 65 of the Rules of Court.

Jumamil vs. Cafe (GR 144570)

The CA held that petitioner had no standing to challenge the two resolutions/ordinances because he suffered no wrong under their terms. It also concluded that the issue (was) not the ordinances themselves but the award of the market stalls to the private respondents on the strength of the contracts individually executed by them with Mayor Cafe. Consequently, it ruled that petitioner, who was not a party to the lease contracts, had no standing to file the petition for declaratory relief and seek judicial interpretation of the agreements.

We do not agree. Petitioner brought the petition in his capacity as taxpayer of the Municipality of Panabo, Davao del Norte and not in his personal capacity. He was questioning the official acts of the public respondents in passing the ordinances and entering into the lease contracts with private respondents. A taxpayer need not be a party to the contract to challenge its validity.

Martelino vs. NHMFC (GR 160208)

We cannot agree with the RTCs ruling that the vagueness of the petition furnished additional justification for its dismissal. If the petition for declaratory relief and prohibition was vague, dismissal is not proper because the respondents may ask for more particulars.

Almeda vs. Bathala Marketing Industries Inc. (GR 150806)

It is true that in Panganiban v. Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation we held that the petition for declaratory relief should be dismissed in view of the pendency of a separate action for unlawful detainer.However, we cannot apply the same ruling to the instant case. In Panganiban, the unlawful detainer case had already been resolved by the trial court before the dismissal of the declaratory relief case; and it was petitioner in that case who insisted that the action for declaratory relief be preferred over the action for unlawful detainer. Conversely, in the case at bench, the trial court had not yet resolved the rescission/ejectment case during the pendency of the declaratory relief petition. In fact, the trial court, where the rescission case was on appeal, itself initiated the suspension of the proceedings pending the resolution of the action for declaratory relief.

Bayan Telecommunications vs. Rep0ublic (GR 161140)

For such an action for declaratory relief before a trial court to prosper, it must be shown that (a) there is a justiciable controversy, (b) the controversy is between persons whose interests are adverse, (c) the party seeking the relief has a legal interest in the controversy, and (d) the issue invoked is ripe for judicial determination. Respondents contest the presence of the first and last requisites insofar as petitioners case is concerned.

A justiciable controversy is a definite and concrete dispute touching on the legal relations of parties having adverse legal interests, which may be resolved by a court of law through the application of a law. In the case at bar, petitioner fears the risk of possible sanctions. However, a mere apprehension of an administrative sanction does not give rise to a justiciable controversy. Rep. Act No. 7925 does not provide for a penalty for noncompliance with Section 21, and as correctly pointed out by the Solicitor General, there are yet no implementing rules or guidelines to carry into effect the requirement imposed by the said provision. Whatever sanctions petitioner fears are merely hypothetical.

An issue is ripe for judicial determination when litigation is inevitable, or when administrative remedies have been exhausted. There is no showing of either in the present case. Instead, petitioner asserts that this case falls within the exceptions to the rule on exhaustion of administrative remedies, specifically when there is no administrative review provided by law or when the questions involved are essentially judicial. To our mind, petitioner should have first raised its concerns with the NTC, the agency authorized to implement Rep. Act No. 7925. Only after a categorical denial of its claim of exemption from or deferment of compliance with Section 21 can petitioner proceed to court. As it is now, we agree with the trial and appellate courts that petitioner has no cause of action.

 

Special Civil Actions Initiated by Complaint: Forcible Entry and Unlawful Detainer (Rule 70)

Del Rosario vs. Gerry Roxas Foundation (GR 170575)

In forcible entry, one is deprived of physical possession of any land or building by means of force, intimidation, threat, strategy, or stealth.  Where the defendants possession of the property is illegal ab initio, the summary action for forcible entry (detentacion) is the remedy to recover possession.

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Petitioners likewise alleged in their Complaint that respondent took possession and occupancy of subject property in 1991. Considering that the action for forcible entry must be filed within one year from the time of dispossession, the action for forcible entry has already prescribed when petitioners filed their Complaint in 2003. As a consequence, the Complaint failed to state a valid cause of action against the respondent.

Corpuz vs Sps. Agustin (GR 183822)

One of the three kinds of action for the recovery of possession of real property is accion interdictal, or an ejectment proceeding … which may be either that for forcible entry (detentacion) or unlawful detainer (desahucio), which is a summary action for the recovery of physical possession where the dispossession has not lasted for more than one year, and should be brought in the proper inferior court. In ejectment proceedings, the courts resolve the basic question of who is entitled to physical possession of the premises, possession referring to possession de facto, and not possession de jure.

Dela Cruz vs. CA (GR 139442)

Thus exclusive, original jurisdiction over ejectment proceedings (accion interdictal) is lodged with the first level courts. This is clarified in Section 1, Rule 70 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure that embraces an action for forcible entry (detentacion), where one is deprived of physical possession of any land or building by means of force, intimidation, threat, strategy, or stealth. In actions for forcible entry, three (3) requisites have to be met for the municipal trial court to acquire jurisdiction. First, the plaintiffs must allege their prior physical possession of the property. Second, they must also assert that they were deprived of possession either by force, intimidation, threat, strategy, or stealth. Third, the action must be filed within one (1) year from the time the owners or legal possessors learned of their deprivation of physical possession of the land or building.

The other kind of ejectment proceeding is unlawful detainer (desahucio), where one unlawfully withholds possession of the subject property after the expiration or termination of the right to possess. Here, the issue of rightful possession is the one decisive; for in such action, the defendant is the party in actual possession and the plaintiffs cause of action is the termination of the defendants right to continue in possession. The essential requisites of unlawful detainer are: (1) the fact of lease by virtue of a contract express or implied; (2) the expiration or termination of the possessors right to hold possession; (3) withholding by the lessee of the possession of the land or building after expiration or termination of the right to possession; (4) letter of demand upon lessee to pay the rental or comply with the terms of the lease and vacate the premises; and (5) the action must be filed within one (1) year from date of last demand received by the defendant.

Sps. Valdez vs. CA (GR 132424)

Under existing law and jurisprudence, there are three kinds of actions available to recover possession of real property: (a) accion interdictal; (b) accion publiciana; and (c) accion reivindicatoria.

Accion interdictal comprises two distinct causes of action, namely, forcible entry (detentacion) and unlawful detainer (desahuico).  In forcible entry, one is deprived of physical possession of real property by means of force, intimidation, strategy, threats, or stealth whereas in unlawful detainer, one illegally withholds possession after the expiration or termination of his right to hold possession under any contract, express or implied.  The two are distinguished from each other in that in forcible entry, the possession of the defendant is illegal from the beginning, and that the issue is which party has prior de facto possession while in unlawful detainer, possession of the defendant is originally legal but became illegal due to the expiration or termination of the right to possess.

The jurisdiction of these two actions, which are summary in nature, lies in the proper municipal trial court or metropolitan trial court. Both actions must be brought within one year from the date of actual entry on the land, in case of forcible entry, and from the date of last demand, in case of unlawful detainer. The issue in said cases is the right to physical possession.

Accion publiciana is the plenary action to recover the right of possession which should be brought in the proper regional trial court when dispossession has lasted for more than one year.  It is an ordinary civil proceeding to determine the better right of possession of realty independently of title.  In other words, if at the time of the filing of the complaint more than one year had elapsed since defendant had turned plaintiff out of possession or defendants possession had become illegal, the action will be, not one of the forcible entry or illegal detainer, but an accion publiciana. On the other hand, accion reivindicatoria is an action to recover ownership also brought in the proper regional trial court in an ordinary civil proceeding.

To justify an action for unlawful detainer, it is essential that the plaintiffs supposed acts of tolerance must have been present right from the start of the possession which is later sought to be recovered. Otherwise, if the possession was unlawful from the start, an action for unlawful detainer would be an improper remedy.

David vs. Cordova (GR 152992)

Alleged public character of land does not deprive court of jurisdiction over forcible entry case. 

Next, the point that the property in dispute is public land. The matter is of no moment and does not operate to divest the lower court of its jurisdiction over actions for forcible entry involving such property. Indeed, the public character of the land does not preclude inferior courts from exercising jurisdiction over forcible entry cases. We have ruled in the case of Robles v. Zambales Chromite Mining Co., et al., that the land spoken of in Section 1, Rule 70 of the Rules of Court includes all kinds of land, whether agricultural or mineral. It is a well known maxim in statutory construction that where the law does not distinguish, we should not distinguish.

Bejar vs. Caluag (GR 171277)

In unlawful detainer and forcible entry cases, the only issue to be determined is who between the contending parties has better possession of the contested property.  Pursuant to Section 33 (2) of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, as amended by Section 3 of Republic Act No. 7691, it is the Municipal Trial Courts, Metropolitan Trial Courts in Cities, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts that exercise exclusive original jurisdiction over these cases. The proceedings are governed by the Rule on Summary Procedure, as amended.

By contrast, an accion publiciana, also known as accion plenaria de posesion, is a plenary action for recovery of possession in an ordinary civil proceeding in order to determine the better and legal right to possess, independently of title.

There are two distinctions between the summary ejectment suits (unlawful detainer and forcible entry) and accion publiciana. The first lies in the period within which each one can be instituted. Actions for unlawful detainer and forcible entry must be filed within one year from the date possession is lost, while an accion publiciana may be filed only after the expiration of that period but within the period prescribed in the statute of limitations. The second distinction involves jurisdiction. An accion publiciana may only be filed with the RTC, while a complaint for unlawful detainer or forcible entry may only be filed with the first level courts earlier mentioned.

 

Special Civil Actions Initiated by Complaint: Partition (Rule 69)

Dadizon vs. Bernadas (GR 172367)

There are two stages in every action for partition under Rule 69 of the Rules of Court.

The first stage is the determination of whether or not a co-ownership in fact exists and a partition is proper (i.e., not otherwise legally proscribed) and may be made by voluntary agreement of all the parties interested in the property.

The second stage commences when it appears that the parties are unable to agree upon the partition directed by the court. In that event, partition shall be done for the parties by the court with the assistance of not more than three (3) commissioners.

Quilatan vs. Heirs of Quilatan (GR 183059)

Respondents could not be blamed if they did not raise this issue in their Answer because in an action for partition of real estate, it is the plaintiff who is mandated by the Rules to implead all the indispensable parties, considering that the absence of one such party renders all subsequent actions of the court null and void for want of authority to act, not only as to the absent parties but even as to those present.

Patricio vs. Dario III (GR 170829)

Since the parties were unable to agree on a partition, the court a quo should have ordered a partition by commissioners pursuant to Section 3, Rule 69 of the Rules of Court. Not more than three competent and disinterested persons should be appointed as commissioners to make the partition, commanding them to set off to the plaintiff and to each party in interest such part and proportion of the property as the court shall direct.

When it is made to appear to the commissioners that the real estate, or a portion thereof, cannot be divided without great prejudice to the interest of the parties, the court may order it assigned to one of the parties willing to take the same, provided he pays to the other parties such sum or sums of money as the commissioners deem equitable, unless one of the parties interested ask that the property be sold instead of being so assigned, in which case the court shall order the commissioners to sell the real estate at public sale, and the commissioners shall sell the same accordingly.

Figuracion-Gerilla vs. Carolina Vda. De Figuracion (GR 154322)

In a situation where there remains an issue as to the expenses chargeable to the estate, partition is inappropriate. While petitioner points out that the estate is allegedly without any debt and she and respondents are Leandro Figuracions only legal heirs, she does not dispute the finding of the CA that certain expenses including those related to her fathers final illness and burial have not been properly settled.  Thus, the heirs (petitioner and respondents) have to submit their fathers estate to settlement because the determination of these expenses cannot be done in an action for partition.

Reillo vs. San Jose (GR 166393)

As the RTC nullified the Deed of Extrajudicial Settlement of Estate Among Heirs with Waiver of Rights executed by petitioners and the title issued in accordance therewith, the order of partition of the land subject of the settlement in accordance with the laws on intestate succession is proper as respondents action filed in the RTC and respondents prayer in their complaint asked for the partition of the subject property in accordance with intestate succession. The applicable law is Section 1, Rule 69 of the Rules of Court, which deals with action for partition, to wit:

SECTION 1. Complaint in action for partition of real estate. A person having the right to compel the partition of real estate may do so as provided in this Rule, setting forth in his complaint the nature and extent of his title and an adequate description of the real estate of which partition is demanded and joining as defendants all other persons interested in the property.

Heirs of Conti vs. CA (GR 118464)

Petitioners’ theory as to the requirement of publication would have been correct had the action been for the partition of the estate of Lourdes Sampayo, or if we were dealing with extrajudicial settlement by agreement between heirs and the summary settlement of estates of small value. But what private respondents are pursuing is the mere segregation of Lourdes’ one-half share which they inherited from her through intestate succession. This is a simple case of ordinary partition between co-owners. The applicable law in point is Sec. 1 of Rule 69 of the Rules of Court –

Sec. 1. Complaint in an action for partition of real estate. – A person having the right to compel the partition of real estate may do so as in this rule prescribed, setting forth in his complaint the nature and extent of his title and an adequate description of the real estate of which partition is demanded and joining as defendants all the other persons interested in the property.

And, under this law, there is no requirement for publication.