Banco Español Filipino vs Palanca (37 Phil 921)

Banco Español Filipino vs Palanca
37 Phil 921 [GR No. L-11390 March 26, 1918]

Facts: This action was instituted upon March 31, 1908, by “El Banco Espanol-Filipino” to foreclose a mortgage upon various parcels of real property situated in the city of Manila. The mortgage in question is dated June 16, 1906, and was executed by the original defendant herein, Engracio Palanca Tanquinyeng y Limquingco, as security for a debt owing by him to the bank. Upon March 31, 1906, the debt amounted to P218,294.10 and was drawing interest at the rate of 8 per centum per annum, payable at the end of each quarter. It appears that the parties to this mortgage at that time estimated the value of the property in question at P292,558, which was about P75,000 in excess of the indebtedness. After the execution of this instrument by the mortgagor, he returned to China which appears to have been his native country; and he there died, upon January 29, 1810, without again returning to the Philippine Islands. As the defendant was a nonresident at the time of the institution of the present action, it was necessary for the plaintiff in the foreclosure proceeding to give notice to the defendant by publication pursuant to section 399 of the Code of Civil Procedure. An order for publication was accordingly obtained from the court, and publication was made in due form in a newspaper of the city of Manila. At the same time that the order of the court should deposit in the post office in a stamped envelope a copy of the summons and complaint directed to the defendant at his last place of residence, to wit, the city of Amoy, in the Empire of China. This order was made pursuant to the following provision contained in section 399 of the Code of Civil Procedure. Whether the clerk complied with this order does not affirmatively appear. There is, however, among the papers pertaining to this case, an affidavit, dated April 4, 1908, signed by Bernardo Chan y Garcia, an employee of the attorneys of the bank, showing that upon that date he had deposited in the Manila post-office a registered letter, addressed to Engracio Palanca Tanquinyeng, at Manila, containing copies of the complaint, the plaintiff’s affidavit, the summons, and the order of the court directing publication as aforesaid. It appears from the postmaster’s receipt that Bernardo probably used an envelope obtained from the clerk’s office, as the receipt purports to show that the letter emanated from the office. The cause proceeded in usual course in the Court of First Instance; and the defendant not having appeared, judgment was, upon July 2, 1908, taken against him by default. Upon July 3, 1908, a decision was rendered in favor of the plaintiff. In this decision it was recited that publication had been properly made in a periodical, but nothing was said about this notice having been given mail. The court, upon this occasion, found that the indebtedness of the defendant amounted to P249,355. 32, with interest from March 31, 1908. Accordingly it was ordered that the defendant should, on or before July 6, 1908, deliver said amount to the clerk of the court to be applied to the satisfaction of the judgment, and it was declared that in case of the failure of the defendant to satisfy the judgment within such period, the mortgage property located in the city of Manila should be exposed to public sale. The payment contemplated in said order was never made; and upon July 8, 1908, the court ordered the sale of the property. The sale took place upon July 30, 1908, and the property was bought in by the bank for the sum of P110,200. Upon August 7, 1908, this sale was confirmed by the court. About seven years after the confirmation of this sale, or to the precise, upon June 25, 1915, a motion was made in this cause by Vicente Palanca, as administrator of the estate of the original defendant, Engracio Palanca Tanquinyeng y Limquingco, wherein the applicant requested the court to set aside the order of default of July 2, 1908, and the judgment rendered upon July 3, 1908, and to vacate all the proceedings subsequent thereto. The basis of this application, as set forth in the motion itself, was that the order of default and the judgment rendered thereon were void because the court had never acquired jurisdiction over the defendant or over the subject of the action.

Issue: Whether the court acquired the necessary jurisdiction to enable it to proceed with the foreclosure of the mortgage.

Held: Yes. Jurisdiction over the person is acquired by the voluntary appearance of a party in court and his submission to its authority, or it is acquired by the coercive power of legal process exerted over the person.

Jurisdiction over the property which is the subject of the litigation may result either from a seizure of the property under legal process, whereby it is brought into the actual custody of the law, or it may result from the institution of legal proceedings wherein, under special provisions of law, the power of the court over the property is recognized and made effective. In the latter case the property, though at all times within the potential power of the court, may never be taken into actual custody at all. An illustration of the jurisdiction acquired by actual seizure is found in attachment proceedings, where the property is seized at the beginning of the action, or some subsequent stage of its progress, and held to abide the final event of the litigation. An illustration of what we term potential jurisdiction over the res, is found in the proceeding to register the title of land under our system for the registration of land. Here the court, without taking actual physical control over the property assumes, at the instance of some person claiming to be owner, to exercise a jurisdiction in rem over the property and to adjudicate the title in favor of the petitioner against all the world.

In the terminology of American law the action to foreclose a mortgage is said to be a proceeding quasi in rem, by which is expressed the idea that while it is not strictly speaking an action in rem yet it partakes of that nature and is substantially such. The expression “action in rem” is, in its narrow application, used only with reference to certain proceedings in courts of admiralty wherein the property alone is treated as responsible for the claim or obligation upon which the proceedings are based. The action quasi rem differs from the true action in rem in the circumstance that in the former an individual is named as defendant, and the purpose of the proceeding is to subject his interest therein to the obligation or lien burdening the property. All proceedings having for their sole object the sale or other disposition of the property of the defendant, whether by attachment, foreclosure, or other form of remedy, are in a general way thus designated. The judgment entered in these proceedings is conclusive only between the parties.

Passing now to a consideration of the jurisdiction of the Court of First Instance in a mortgage foreclosure, it is evident that the court derives its authority to entertain the action primarily from the statutes organizing the court. The jurisdiction of the court, in this most general sense, over the cause of action is obvious and requires no comment. Jurisdiction over the person of the defendant, if acquired at all in such an action, is obtained by the voluntary submission of the defendant or by the personal service of process upon him within the territory where the process is valid. If, however, the defendant is a nonresident and, remaining beyond the range of the personal process of the court, refuses to come in voluntarily, the court never acquires jurisdiction over the person at all. Here the property itself is in fact the sole thing which is impleaded and is the responsible object which is the subject of the exercise of judicial power. It follows that the jurisdiction of the court in such case is based exclusively on the power which, under the law, it possesses over the property; and any discussion relative to the jurisdiction of the court over the person of the defendant is entirely apart from the case. The jurisdiction of the court over the property, considered as the exclusive object of such action, is evidently based upon the following conditions and considerations, namely: (1) that the property is located within the district; (2) that the purpose of the litigation is to subject the property by sale to an obligation fixed upon it by the mortgage; and (3) that the court at a proper stage of the proceedings takes the property into custody, if necessary, and expose it to sale for the purpose of satisfying the mortgage debt. An obvious corollary is that no other relief can be granted in this proceeding than such as can be enforced against the property.

It is, of course universally recognized that the statutory provisions relative to publication or other form of notice against a nonresident owner should be complied with; and in respect to the publication of notice in the newspaper it may be stated that strict compliance with the requirements of the law has been held to be essential.

With respect to the provisions of our own statute, relative to the sending of notice by mail, the requirement is that the judge shall direct that the notice be deposited in the mail by the clerk of the court, and it is not in terms declared that the notice must be deposited in the mail. We consider this to be of some significance; and it seems to us that, having due regard to the principles upon which the giving of such notice is required, the absent owner of the mortgaged property must, so far as the due process of law is concerned, take the risk incident to the possible failure of the clerk to perform his duty, somewhat as he takes the risk that the mail clerk or the mail carrier might possibly lose or destroy the parcel or envelope containing the notice before it should reach its destination and be delivered to him. This idea seems to be strengthened by the consideration that placing upon the clerk the duty of sending notice by mail, the performance of that act is put effectually beyond the control of the plaintiff in the litigation. At any rate it is obvious that so much of section 399 of the Code of Civil Procedure as relates to the sending of notice by mail was complied with when the court made the order. The question as to what may be the consequences of the failure of the record to show the proof of compliance with that requirement will be discussed by us further on.

In the progress of this discussion we have stated the two conclusions; (1) that the failure of the clerk to send the notice to the defendant by mail did not destroy the jurisdiction of the court and (2) that such irregularity did not infringe the requirement of due process of law. As a consequence of these conclusions the irregularity in question is in some measure short of its potency. It is still necessary, however, to consider its effect considered as a simple irregularity of procedure; and it would be idle to pretend that even in this aspect the irregularity is not grave enough. From this point of view, however, it is obvious that any motion to vacate the judgment on the ground of the irregularity in question must fail unless it shows that the defendant was prejudiced by that irregularity. The least, therefore, that can be required of the proponent of such a motion is to show that he had a good defense against the action to foreclose the mortgage. Nothing of the kind is, however, shown either in the motion or in the affidavit which accompanies the motion.

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