Borthwick vs Bartolome (152 SCRA 229)

Borthwick vs Bartolome
152 SCRA 229 [GR No. L-57338 July 23, 1987]

Facts: By action commenced in the Circuit Court of the First Circuit, State of Hawaii, U.S.A., Joseph E. Scallon sought to Compel payment by William B. Borthwick on four (4) promissory notes in the amounts of $32,408.95, $29,584.94, $2,832.59 and $40,000.00, plus stipulated interest. Scallon’s complaint alleged, inter alia, that Borthwick, an American citizen living in the Philippines, owned real property interests in Hawaii where he last resided and transacted business therein; that business dealings which transpired in Honolulu, Hawaii had given rise to the promissory notes sued upon, and Borthwick had failed to pay the sums thereunder owing upon maturity and despite demand. Attached to the complaint were the promissory notes, which although uniformly specifying the city of Palos Verdes, Los Angeles, California as the place of payment. Borthwick being then in Monterey, California, summons was served upon him personally in that place, pursuant to Hawaiian law allowing service of process on a person outside the territorial confines of the State, if he had otherwise submitted himself to the jurisdiction of its courts as to causes of action arising from, among others, the act of transacting any business within Hawaii — alleged to consist as to Borthwick in the negotiation and dealings regarding the promissory notes. Borthwick ignored the summons. Default was entered against him, and in due course a default judgment was rendered. However, Scallon’s attempts to have the judgment executed in Hawaii and California failed, because no assets of Borthwick could be found in those states. Scallon and his wife, Jewell, then came to the Philippines and on March 15, 1980 brought suit against Borthwick in the Court of First Instance of Makati, seeking enforcement of the default judgment of the Hawaii Court and asserting two other alternative causes of action.

Issue: Whether or not the court of Hawaii acquired jurisdiction over the case rendering the default judgement valid.

Held: Yes. It is true that a foreign judgment against a person is merely “presumptive evidence of a right as between the parties,” and rejection thereof may be justified, among others, by “evidence of a want of jurisdiction” of the issuing authority, under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court.In the case at bar, the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court of Hawaii hinged entirely on the existence of either of two facts in accordance with its State laws, i.e., either Borthwick owned real property in Hawaii, or the promissory notes sued upon resulted from his business transactions therein. Scallon’s complaint clearly alleged both facts. Borthwick was accorded opportunity to answer the complaint and impugn those facts, but he failed to appear and was in consequence declared in default. There thus exists no evidence in the record of the Hawaii case upon which to lay a conclusion of lack of jurisdiction, as Borthwick now urges.

The opportunity to negate the foreign court’s competence by proving the non-existence of said jurisdictional facts established in the original action, was again afforded to Borthwick in the Court of First Instance of Makati, where enforcement of the Hawaii judgment was sought. This time it was the summons of the domestic court which Borthwick chose to ignore, but with the same result: he was declared in default. And in the default judgment subsequently promulgated, the Court a quo decreed enforcement of the judgment affirming among others the jurisdictional facts, that Borthwick owned real property in Hawaii and transacted business therein.

It is not for this Court to disturb the express finding of the Court of First Instance that Daniel was Borthwick’s resident domestic houseboy, and of sufficient age and discretion to accept substituted service of summons for Borthwick. Under Rule 42 of the Rules of Court, a party appealling from the Courts of First Instance (now the Regional Trial Courts) to the Supreme Court may “raise only questions of law (and) no other question,”23 and is thus precluded from impugning the factual findings of the trial court, being deemed to have admitted the correctness of such findings24 and waived his right to open them to question.

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