Metrobank vs Sandoval (G.R. No. 169677 February 18, 2013)

Metrobank vs Sandoval
G.R. No. 169677 February 18, 2013

Facts: On July 17, 1987, the Republic brought a complaint for reversion, reconveyance, restitution, accounting and damages in the Sandiganbayan against Andres V. Genito, Jr., Ferdinand E. Marcos, Imelda R. Marcos and other defendants. The action was obviously to recover allegedly ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses, their nominees, dummies and agents. Among the properties subject of the action were two parcels of commercial land located in Tandang Sora (Old Balara), Quezon City, covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 266423 and TCT No. 266588 of the Registry of Deeds of Quezon City registered in the names of Spouses Andres V. Genito, Jr. and Ludivina L. Genito. On February 5, 2001, the Republic moved for the amendment of the complaint in order to implead Asian Bank as an additional defendant. The Sandiganbayan granted the motion. It appears that Asian Bank claimed ownership of the two parcels of land as the registered owner by virtue of TCT No. N-201383 and TCT No. N-201384 issued in its name by the Registry of Deeds of Quezon City. Asian Bank was also in possession of the properties by virtue of the writ of possession issued by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Quezon City. When the Republic was about to terminate its presentation of evidence against the original defendants in Civil Case No. 0004, it moved to hold a separate trial against Asian Bank.

Issue: Whether or not a motion for separate trial is proper.

Held: No. The rule on separate trials in civil actions is found in Section 2, Rule 31 of the Rules of Court, which reads:

Section 2. Separate trials. – The court, in furtherance of convenience or to avoid prejudice, may order a separate trial of any claim, crossclaim, counterclaim, or third-party complaint, or of any separate issue or of any number of claims, cross-claims, counterclaims, third-party complaints or issues.

The text of the rule grants to the trial court the discretion to determine if a separate trial of any claim, cross-claim, counterclaim, or third-party complaint, or of any separate issue or of any number of claims, cross-claims, counterclaims, third-party complaints or issues should be held, provided that the exercise of such discretion is in furtherance of convenience or to avoid prejudice to any party.

Further, Corpus Juris Secundum makes clear that neither party had an absolute right to have a separate trial of an issue; hence, the motion to that effect should be allowed only to avoid prejudice, further convenience, promote justice, and give a fair trial to all parties.

Exceptions to the general rule are permitted only when there are extraordinary grounds for conducting separate trials on different issues raised in the same case, or when separate trials of the issues will avoid prejudice, or when separate trials of the issues will further convenience, or when separate trials of the issues will promote justice, or when separate trials of the issues will give a fair trial to all parties. Otherwise, the general rule must apply.

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