Remedial

People vs Eyam (GR No. 184056 November 26, 2012)

People of the Philippines vs Eyam
GR No. 184056 November 26, 2012

Facts: An information for illegal possession of methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu was filed on July 17, 2003 against accused-appellant George Eyam Y Watang to which upon arraignment he pleaded not guilty. After evaluating the evidence for the prosecution and the defense, the trial court, in its Decision dated March 8, 2006, found appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of Section 11, Article II of RA No. 9165 and sentenced him to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and to pay a fine of P400,000.00. The honorable court of appeals affirmed in toto the trial court’s decision.

Issue: Whether or not the the identity of the illegal drug was properly identified despite the failure to present the forensic chemist. 

Held: Yes. Appellant wittingly overlooked the fact that during the pre-trial, the prosecution and the defense stipulated that the specimen submitted for examination was positive for Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride, a dangerous drug, per Physical Science Report No. D-925-03S.  This was the very reason why the testimony of the forensic chemist was dispensed with during the trial.  Stipulation of facts at the pre-trial constitutes judicial admissions which are binding and conclusive upon the parties.

Regarding the chain of custody rule, records reveal that after S/G Sahid confiscated and marked with GEW the plastic sachet containing the substance seized from appellant, S/G Sahid, together with his OIC Ruben Geronimo, then immediately brought the appellant and the plastic sachet to Police Community Precinct 2 from whence the incident was referred to the DEU for investigation.  PO3 Mapili thereafter received the plastic sachet and made a request for laboratory examination of its contents.  When the prosecution presented the marked specimen in court, these witnesses positively identified it to be the same plastic sachet seized from the appellant.  Thus, the prosecution had indubitably established the crucial links in the chain of custody as the evidence clearly show that the integrity and evidentiary value of the confiscated substance have been preserved.  This is the clear import of the chain of custody rule to ensure the preservation of the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized item as it would determine the guilt or innocence of the accused.

Significantly, in no instance did appellant manifest or at least intimate before the trial court that there were lapses in the handling and safekeeping of the seized item that might affect its admissibility, integrity and evidentiary value.  When a party desires the court to reject the evidence offered, he must so state in the form of objection.  Without such objection, he cannot raise the question for the first time on appeal as we ruled in People v. Sta. Maria and reiterated in People v. Hernandez.

In People v. Sembrano, we ruled that “for illegal possession of regulated or prohibited drugs, the prosecution must establish the following elements: (1) the accused is in possession of an item or object, which is identified to be a prohibited drug; (2) such possession is not authorized by law; and, (3) the accused freely and consciously possessed the drug.”  All the foregoing elements were duly established by the prosecution in this case.  Appellant was caught in possession of shabu, a dangerous drug.  He failed to show that he was authorized to possess the same.  Lastly, by his mere possession of the drug, there is already a prima facie evidence of knowledge, which he failed to rebut.  All told, we sustain the conviction of appellant.

In the absence of palpable error or grave abuse of discretion on the part of the trial court, its evaluation of the credibility of witnesses will not be disturbed on appeal.  And “in cases involving violations of Dangerous Drugs Act, credence should be given to the narration of the incident by the prosecution witnesses especially when they are police officers who are presumed to have performed their duties in a regular manner unless there is evidence to the contrary.” We cannot find anything to justify a deviation from the said rules.

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People vs Robelo (GR No. 184181 November 26, 2012)

People of the Philippines vs Robelo
GR No. 184181 November 26, 2012

Facts: At about 10:00 a.m. of March 26, 2004,  the Station of Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operation Task Force (SAID),  Police Station 2 in  Moriones, Tondo, Manila received information from a civilian  informer that a certain alias “Kalbo” (appellant) is involved in the sale of illegal drugs in Parola Compound.  Forthwith, the Chief of SAID organized  a team composed of  eight  police officers to conduct a “buy-bust” operation to entrap appellant.  PO2 Arnel Tubbali (PO2 Tubbali) was designated as the  poseur-buyer and was thus handed a 100 peso bill which he marked with his initials.  The rest of  the team were to  serve as back-ups. During investigation it was found positive that the confiscated items were shabu. On arraignment, accused-appellant pleaded not guilty and invoking his alibi that at the time of said sale, he was at his mother’s house.

Issue: Whether or not accused-appellant is liable for the crime charged.

Held: Yes. A buy-bust operation has been proven  to be an effective mode of apprehending drug pushers.  In this regard, police authorities are given a wide latitude in employing their  own ways of trapping or apprehending drug dealers in flagrante delicto.  There is no prescribed method on how the  operation is to be conducted.  As ruled in  People v. Garcia,  the absence of a prior surveillance or test-buy does not affect the legality of  the buy-bust operation as there is no textbook method of conducting the  same.  As long as  the constitutional rights of the suspected drug dealer are not  violated, the regularity of  the operation will always be upheld.  Thus, in  People v. Salazar,  we ruled that “if carried out with  due regard to constitutional and  legal safeguards,  buy-bust operation deserves judicial sanction.” 

Neither impressive  is appellant’s contention that it is contrary to human nature to sell the illegal stuff to a complete  stranger.  The law does not prescribe as an element of the crime that the vendor and the vendee  be familiar with  each other.  As aptly held by the CA, peddlers of illicit drugs have been known with ever increasing casualness and recklessness to offer and sell their wares for the right price to anybody, be they strangers or not.

Conspiracy may be inferred from the acts of the  accused before, during and after the commission  of the crime suggesting concerted action and unity of purpose among them.  In this  case, the testimony of  the poseur-buyer clearly shows a unity of mind  between appellant  and Umali in selling the illegal drugs to him.  Hence, applying  the basic principle in conspiracy that the “act of one is the act of all” appellant is guilty  as a co-conspirator and regardless of his participation, is liable as co-principal.  Appellant’s silence when the poseur-buyer was introduced to him as an  interested buyer of  shabu  is  non-sequitur.

Time and again,  we  have  stressed virtually to the point of repletion that alibi is one of the weakest defenses that an accused can  invoke because it is easy to fabricate.  In order to be  given full faith and credit,  an alibi must be clearly established and must not leave any doubt as  to its plausibility and veracity.  Here, appellant’s claim that  he was at his mother’s house  at the time of  the incident cannot stand against  the clear and positive  identification of him  by the prosecution witnesses.  As aptly held by the RTC, “the  portrayal  put forward by [appellant] remained uncorroborated.  The testimonies of the  witnesses presented by the defense do not jibe with one another and  that of the  claim of  the [appellant] himself. x x x  Lastly,  the demand for money worth P10,000.00 remained unsubstantiated. x x x  If indeed [appellant] is innocent he  or his family who were his witnesses should have filed a case of planting of evidence against the police which is now punishable  by life imprisonment.”

The general rule is that findings of the trial court on the credibility of witnesses deserve  great weight, and are generally not disturbed, on  appeal.  We find no reason to  depart from such old-age rule as there are no  compelling  reasons which would  warrant the reversal of the verdict.

Moreover, “non-compliance with  Section 21 does not render an accused’s arrest illegal or the items seized/confiscated from him  inadmissible.  What is essential is the ‘preservation  of the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items as the same would be  utilized in the determination of the guilt or innocence of the accused.’”   The records  reveal that at  no instance did appellant hint a doubt on the integrity of  the seized items. 

Undoubtedly, therefore, the suspected illegal drugs  confiscated from appellant were the very same substance presented and identified  in court.  This Court, thus, upholds the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duties by the apprehending police officers. 

Chung vs Mondragon (GR No. 179754 November 21, 2012)

Chung vs Mondragon
GR No. 179754 November 21, 2012

Facts: Petitioners Joaquin G.  Chung, Jr., Paz Royeras-Soler, and Mansueto Maceda are descendants of Rafael Mondragon (Rafael) by his first wife, Eleuteria Calunia (Eleuteria),  while respondent Jack Daniel Mondragon (Jack Daniel) is Rafael’s descendant by his second  wife, Andrea Baldos (Andrea). Original Certificate  of Title (OCT) No. 224476  is registered  in the name of “Heirs of Andrea Baldos represented by  Teofila G. Maceda” and covers 16,177 square meters of land in Macrohon, Southern Leyte (the land). Petitioners claim that from  1921 up to  2000, Rafael appeared as owner of the land in its tax declaration,  and that a free patent was  issued in 1987 in the name of Andrea’s heirs upon application of  Teofila G.  Maceda (Teofila),  who is petitioners’ sister. On the other hand, respondents claim that Andrea is  the exclusive owner of the land, having inherited the same from  her father Blas Baldos. It was alleged that respondent Jack Daniel disposed an undivided portion of the subject parcel of land whereby it was questioned before the trial court whether he has authority to do so to which a favorable judgement was rendered for the former: 

After trial,  the  court  a quo  rendered its May 19, 2003 Decision dismissing the case.  It held  that with  the admission  that Jack  Daniel is an heir  of Andrea, he being the latter’s grandson and  therefore her heir, he  is thus a co-owner of the land which forms part of Andrea’s  estate, and thus possesses the right to dispose of his undivided share therein.   The trial court held that  petitioners’ remedy was to seek partition of the land in order to obtain  title to  determinate portions thereof. 

Issues: Whether or not the trial court in rendering its decision violated the constitutional mandate under Art VIII section 14.

Whether or not respondent is entitled to the relief granted by the court. 

Held: No. The constitutional requirement that every decision must state distinctly and clearly the factual and legal bases  therefor should indeed  be the primordial concern of courts and judges. Be that as  it may, there  should not be a mechanical reliance on this constitutional provision.  The courts and judges should be allowed to synthesize and to simplify their decisions considering that at present, courts are harassed by crowded dockets and time constraints.  Thus, the  Court held in  Del Mundo v. Court of  Appeals: 

It is understandable that  courts with heavy dockets and time constraints, often find  themselves  with  little to  spare in  the preparation of decisions to  the  extent  most desirable.  We  have thus  pointed  out that  judges  might learn to  synthesize and  to simplify their pronouncements.   Nevertheless,  concisely written  such as they  may  be,  decisions must still distinctly  and clearly  express  at least in  minimum  essence its  factual  and legal bases.  

The Court finds in this case no breach of the constitutional mandate that decisions must express clearly  and distinctly the facts  and the law on which they are based.  The trial court’s Decision is  complete, clear, and  concise.  Petitioners should be reminded that in making their  indictment that the  trial court’s Decision fails to express clearly  and distinctly the facts and the law on which it is based, they should not mistake brevity for levity.

Yes. The issues in a case for quieting of  title are fairly simple;  the plaintiff need to prove only two things, namely: “(1) the plaintiff or complainant has a legal or an equitable title to or interest  in the real property subject of  the action; and  (2)  that the deed, claim,  encumbrance or proceeding claimed to be casting a cloud on his title must be shown to be in fact  invalid or inoperative despite its  prima  facie appearance of validity or legal efficacy.  Stated  differently, the plaintiff must show that he  has a legal or at least an equitable title over the real property  in dispute, and that some deed or proceeding beclouds its validity or efficacy.”

It is evident from the title that the land  belongs to no other than  the heirs of Andrea Baldos, Rafael’s second wife.   The land could not  have belonged to Rafael, because he is not  even named in OCT No. 22447.   With greater reason may it be said that the  land could not belong to petitioners, who are Rafael’s children by his first wife  Eleuteria.   Unless Eleuteria and Andrea were related by blood – such fact is not borne out by the record – they could not  be heirs to each other.  And if indeed  Eleuteria and Andrea were blood relatives, then  petitioners would have so revealed at the very first opportunity.  Moreover, the fact that Rafael died  ahead of  Andrea, and that he is  not even named in  the title, give  the impression that the land  belonged solely to  the heirs of Andrea,  to the exclusion of Rafael.  If this were not true, then the  title should have as registered owners the “Heirs of Rafael and Andrea Mondragon”, in which case the  petitioners certainly would possess equitable title,  they being descendants-heirs of Rafael.  Yet OCT No. 22447 is not  so written. 

People vs Aneslag (GR No. 185386 November 21, 2012)

People of the Philippines vs Aneslag
GR No. 185386 November 21, 2012

Facts: Respondents were arrested during a buy bust operation for sale of illegal drugs (Shabu) in the city of Iligan, Philippines. During the proceedings before the trial court, the credibility of evidence was challenged by impugning the chain of custody which was allegedly broken and questionable. There are several bags of shabu presented before the honorable court to establish the sale and testimonies of the investigating officer together with the forensic chemist were also presented. It was find out that there are discrepancies in the weight of the subject evidence upon its presentment before the court, as well as inconsistencies in the testimonies of the prosecution’s witness, hence this appeal.

Issue: Whether or not the conviction is proper.

Held: Yes. Section 21(1), Article II  of R.A. No. 9165 provides  the procedure for the handling of seized or  confiscated illegal drugs: 

Section 21.  Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized, and/or Surrendered Dangerous Drugs, Plant  Sources of Dangerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors  and Essential Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or Laboratory Equipment. —  The  PDEA shall take  charge and have custody of all dangerous drugs, plant  sources of dangerous  drugs,  controlled precursors  and essential chemicals, as well as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment so  confiscated,  seized and/or  surrendered,  for proper disposition in the following manner: 

(1) The apprehending team  having initial custody and control of the drugs shall, immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically  inventory and photograph the same in the presence  of  the accused or the person/s from whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, or  his/her  representative or counsel,  a representative from the media and the Department of Justice  (DOJ), and any elected public  official who  shall be required to  sign the copies  of the inventory and be given a copy thereof; x x x  

However, non-compliance with Section 21 does not necessarily render the arrest illegal or the items seized  inadmissible.  What is essential is  that the integrity and  evidentiary  value of the seized items are  preserved which would be  utilized in the determination of the guilt or  innocence of the accused.   Thus, Section 21, Article II of the Implementing Rules  of R.A. No. 9165 provides – 

SECTION 21.  Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized and/or Surrendered Dangerous Drugs, Plant  Sources of Dangerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors  and Essential Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or Laboratory Equipment. —  The  PDEA shall take  charge and have custody of all dangerous drugs, plant  sources of dangerous  drugs,  controlled precursors  and essential chemicals, as well as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment so  confiscated,  seized and/or  surrendered,  for proper disposition in the following manner: 

(a) The apprehending officer/team  having initial custody and control of the drugs shall, immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically inventory and photograph the same in the presence  of the accused or the person/s from whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, or  his/her representative or counsel, a  representative  from the  media and the Department of  Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official who shall  be required to sign the  copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof;  Provided, that the physical inventory and photograph shall be conducted at the place where the  search warrant is served; or at the nearest police station or at the nearest office of the apprehending officer/ team,  whichever is practicable, in case of  warrantless seizures;  Provided, further, that non-compliance  with  these requirements under  justifiable grounds, as long as the integrity and evidentiary  value of the seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending officer/team, shall not render void and invalid such seizures of  and custody over said items. x x x (Emphasis supplied.) 

Section 1(b) of Dangerous Drugs Board Regulation No. 1,  Series of 2002, which implements R.A.  No. 9165, defines the chain of custody — 

b. “Chain of Custody” means the duly recorded authorized movements and custody of seized drugs or  controlled chemicals  or  plant sources  of dangerous drugs or laboratory equipment of each  stage, from  the time of seizure/ confiscation to  receipt  in the forensic laboratory to safekeeping to presentation in court for destruction. Such record of  movements and custody of seized item  shall include the identity and signature of  the person who held temporary custody of the seized item, the date and time when  such transfer of custody made in the course of  safekeeping and use in court  as evidence, and the  final disposition. 

In the case at bar, while the procedure under Section 21(1), Article II  of R.A. No. 9165 was not strictly  complied with, we  find that the  integrity and the evidentiary  value of the seized  shabu  was duly preserved consistent with the chain of custody rule.  As correctly  observed by the appellate court, from the time of the arrest of the appellants  and  the confiscation  of the subject  shabu  packs until their turnover for laboratory examination, SPO2 Salo was in  sole possession thereof.   During his testimony, he  identified the subject  shabu  packs and the markings that he had previously  made  thereon.

We have  examined the testimonies of  the prosecution witnesses and we find that the alleged inconsistencies are minor or trivial which serve to strengthen, rather than destroy,  the credibility of  the said witnesses as  they erase doubts that the said testimonies  had been  coached or  rehearsed.

Neither law nor jurisprudence requires that the police must apply fluorescent powder to the buy-bust money to prove the commission of the offense. The same holds true  for the conduct of  finger print examination on the money used in the buy-bust operation. What is crucial is that the prosecution proves, as in this case, the delivery of  the prohibited drugs to the poseur-buyer and the presentation  of the confiscated drugs before the court.

Anent the claim that the Thin Layer Chromatography used by the forensic chemist in determining the presence of  shabu  in the six packs is unreliable, we find the same to  be  unsubstantiated.   Except for their bare allegation, the defense did not present clear and convincing evidence to prove  that the findings of the forensic chemist were erroneous. 

Spouses Magtoto vs CA (GR No. 175792 November 21, 2012)

Spouses Magtoto vs Court of Appeals
GR No. 175792 November 21, 2012

Facts: Private respondent Leonila sold her 3 parcels of land located in Pampanga to herein petitioners as evidenced by a deed of absolute sale which was paid by the latter partially in cash and the balance by postdated checks. Upon its due and presentment, said checks were dishonored by the bank which prompted Leonila to send demands to make good the same. However, no action was taken on the part of spouses Magtoto compelling private respondent to file a complaint before the Regional Trial Court. After receiving summons, petitioners failed to file their answer causing a court’s judgement by default.

Issue: Whether or not the default judgement is valid.

Held: Yes. The spouses Magtoto are unable to show  that their failure to timely  file an Answer was due to fraud,  accident,  mistake or  excusable negligence and,  more importantly, that they have  a meritorious defense  pursuant to Section 3(b), Rule 9 of the Rules of Court,  viz: 

(b)   Relief from order  of  default. –  A party declared  in default  may  at any time  after notice thereof and before judgment file a  motion under oath to set aside the order of default upon proper showing that his failure to answer was due to fraud, accident, mistake or excusable negligence  and  that he has a meritorious defense.  In such case,  the  order of  default  may  be set aside on such terms and conditions as the judge  may impose in the interest of  justice. 

Negligence to be excusable must be one which ordinary diligence and prudence could not have guarded against. Certainly, this is not the kind of negligence committed by the spouses Magtoto in this case. More significantly, a review of the records does not convince the court that the Spouses Magtoto have a meritorious defense. At most, the allegations in their answer and the attached affidavit of merit. To wit: that the agreed purchase price is only P10,000,000 that they provided financial support to Leonila for the settlement of the estate of the latter – the latter’s predecessor-in-interest and for the transfer of title in her name and that they already paid the total amount of P4,500,000 are mere allegations not supported by evidence they, at the outset supposed to present.

We agree with the CA that the RTC correctly declared the spouses Magtoto in default.  The records show that after receipt of the summons, the spouses Magtoto thrice requested for  extensions  of time to  file  their Answer.  The RTC granted these requests.  For their  final  request for extension,  the RTC gave  the spouses Magtoto until August 2,  2003 within which to file  their Answer.  But still, no Answer was filed.  Instead,  on August 4, 2003, or two  days after the deadline for filing their Answer,  the spouses Magtoto filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint.  Despite  its belated filing,  the RTC acted on  the  motion and resolved the same, albeit not in favor of the said spouses.  Thereafter, Atty. Canlas, petitioners’ former counsel,  filed  a motion to withdraw  his appearance since he could no longer effectively defend spouses Magtoto  because he had lost communication  with  them.  

At the outset, it must be pointed out  that petitioners’ resort to a Petition for Certiorari  under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court is inappropriate.  Petitioners’ remedy from the adverse Decision  of the CA  lies in  Rule 45 which is a Petition for Review on  Certiorari.  As such, this petition should  have been dismissed outright for being a wrong mode of appeal.  Even if  the petition is to be  treated as filed under Rule 45, the same must still be denied for late filing and there being no reversible error on the part of the CA.   Records show  that petitioners received a copy of the CA Resolution denying their  Motion for Reconsideration on October 30, 2006.   They therefore had 15  days or until November  14, 2006 within which to file their Petition for Review on  Certiorari  before this Court.   However,  they filed  their Petition for  Certiorari  on December 29, 2006,  after the period  to file a Petition for Review on  Certiorari  under Rule 45 had expired.   Hence, this Petition for  Certiorari  under Rule 65 was resorted  to as a substitute for a lost appeal which is not allowed. 

Mananquil vs Moico (GR No. 180076 November 21, 2012)

Mananquil vs Moico
GR No. 180076 November 21, 2012

Facts: Lots 18 and 19 in Dagat-Dagatan, Navotas form  part  of the land previously expropriated by the National Housing Authority (NHA) and  placed under its Tondo Dagat-Dagatan Foreshore Development Project – where occupants, applicants or beneficiaries may purchase  lots on installment basis.  In October 1984, Lot 18 was awarded to  spouses Iluminardo and  Prescilla Mananquil under a Conditional Contract to Sell.  Lot 19, on the other hand, was sold to Prescilla in February 1980 by its occupant. When the spouses died, the heirs of Illuminardo filed for extrajudicial settlement of estates of the spouses over lots 18 and 19. They appropriated to themselves the properties by leasing it. However, herein respondent Moico  bought the properties from one Eulogio who is the alleged child of Prescilla from her first marriage who in turn evicted the tenants of the herein petitioners. Upon finding out the of the same, the Mananquils filed for an action to quiet the title against herein Moico claiming title over the said properties.

Issue: Whether or not petitioners have legal title over the subject lots entitling for the relief of quieting of title.

Held: No. An action  for quieting of title is  essentially a common law remedy grounded on equity. 

The competent court  is tasked to determine the respective rights of the complainant and other claimants, not only to place things in their proper place, to make the one who has no rights to said  immovable respect and not disturb the other, but also for the benefit of both, so that  he who has the right would see every cloud of  doubt over the property dissipated, and he could afterwards without fear introduce the improvements he may desire, to use, and even to  abuse the property as  he  deems best.  But “for an  action to quiet title to prosper, two indispensable  requisites must concur, namely: 

(1) the plaintiff or complainant has a legal or an equitable title  to or interest in the real property subject of the action; and 
(2) the deed, claim, encumbrance, or proceeding claimed to be casting cloud on his title  must be shown to be in fact invalid or inoperative despite its  prima  facie  appearance of validity or legal efficacy.”

Contrary to  petitioners’ stand,  the issue  relating to the grant of rights, title or award by the NHA determines whether the case for quieting of title may be maintained.  If the petitioners are legitimate successors to or beneficiaries of Iluminardo upon his death – under the certificate of title, award, or grant, or under the special law or specific terms of  the  NHA program/project – then they possess the requisite interest to  maintain suit; if not, then  Civil Case No. 2741-MN must necessarily be dismissed.

From  the evidence adduced below,  it appears that the petitioners have  failed to show their qualifications  or right to succeed Iluminardo in his rights under the NHA program/project.  They  failed to present any  title, award, grant, document or certification from the NHA  or proper government agency which would show that Iluminardo  and Prescilla have  become the registered owners/beneficiaries/ awardees of Lots 18 and 19, or that petitioners are qualified successors or beneficiaries under the Dagat-Dagatan program/project,  taking over Iluminardo’s rights after his death.  They  did not call to the witness  stand competent witnesses from  the NHA who can attest  to their rights as successors to or beneficiaries of Lots 18 and 19.  They  failed to present proof, at the very least, of the specific law, provisions, or terms that govern  the Tondo Dagat-Dagatan Foreshore Development Project which would indicate  a modicum of interest on their part.   For this reason, their rights  or interest in  the property  could not be established. 

VCP vs Municipality of Parañaque (GR No. 178431 November 12, 2012)

V.C. Ponce Company Inc. vs Municipality of Parañaque
GR No. 178431 November 12, 2012

Facts: On  October 5,  1987,  respondent  Municipality  (now  City)  of  Parañaque (municipality)  filed  a  complaint  against  petitioner  VCP  for  the  expropriation  of its  property,  which  is  located in the  municipality’s  Barrio San  Dionisio  and covered  by  Transfer  Certificate  of  Title  (TCT)  No.  116554. On August  23,  2002,  the  Regional  Trial  Court  (RTC)  of Parañaque,  Branch 274,    sustained  the  municipality’s  right  to  expropriate  the  said property  and to  a writ  of  possession.   The trial  court  also  informed  the  parties  in  the  same  Order of   the  reckoning period for the  determination  of  just  compensation. The  parties  did  not  file  any  objection  to the  above  Order and proceeded  to submit the  names of  their  respective  nominees  for  commissioner.   On  February 26,  2003,  the  trial  court  appointed three  commissioners to  assist in  ascertaining the  just compensation. The  trial  court  then  made  an independent  finding based on the evidence already on hand.   It  determined that  there  exists,  on record,  a  certification from  the Office  of the  City Assessor,  that  the  property’s  market  value  for the  years  1985 to 1993  (which  includes  the  year  the  complaint  was  filed)  was  P 1,366,400.00.    This value  roughly translates  to  P 75 per square  meter,  for a  total  of  P 1,372,350.00.  VCP moved for reconsideration which was denied by the trial court. Upon receipt of the order denying the motion for reconsideration, VCP filed a motion for extension of time to file a petition for certiorari on the trial court’s judgement.

Issue: Whether or not petition for certiorari is the proper remedy for the herein petitioner.

Held: No. A  court  with  appellate  jurisdiction  can  review  both  the  facts  and  the  law, including questions  of  jurisdiction.   It  can  set  aside an  erroneous  decision  and even nullify the  same,  if warranted.   Appeal  is  a  speedy remedy,  as  an adverse party  can file  its  appeal  from  a  final  decision  or order immediately  after receiving it.   A  party,  who  is  alleging  that  an  appeal  will not  promptly  relieve  it  of the injurious  effects of the judgment,  should establish facts  to show  how  the  appeal  is not  speedy  or adequate. VCP’s empty  protestations,  therefore,  fail to  impress.   There  is no  reason,  and VCP  cannot  explain,  why  an  appeal  would not  be  speedy and adequate  to address  its  assigned errors.  VCP cannot  complain of delay because  it  was  guilty  of  delay  itself,  and  it even  waited  until the  58th  day  of  its receipt  of  the  CA  Decision  before  taking  action.    Clearly,  petitioner  resorted  to certiorari  as a  substitute  for  its lost appeal.   The  CA  did  not  err in dismissing the same.   

Instead of filing  a  Motion for  Reconsideration  on April  25,  2007,  VCP filed a  MOTEX  on the  ground that  its  lawyer had withdrawn from  the  case  and it  was still  in  the  process  of retaining  a  new  counsel.   The  CA  was  correct  in  denying petitioner’s  MOTEX  because  the  period to file  a  Motion  for Reconsideration  is  not extendible.  The  Court  has  pronounced strict  adherence  to the  rule  laid down in Habaluyas  Enterprises,  Inc.  v.  Judge  Japson  that  “no  motion  for  extension  of time  to file  a  motion for new  trial  or reconsideration  may be  filed  with  the Metropolitan or Municipal  Trial  Courts,  the  Regional  Trial  Courts,  and the Intermediate  Appellate Court  (now  Court  of  Appeals).” Since  the  period to file a Motion  for  Reconsideration  is not extendible,  VCP’s  MOTEX  did  not toll  the reglementary period. Thus,  there  being no  Motion for Reconsideration  as  of April  25,  2007,  the  Decision of the  CA  dated  March  23,  2007 became  final  and executory  by operation of law. The  CA  was  correct  in  denying  the  Motion  for Reconsideration  that  VCP  had  belatedly  filed on  May  25,  2007  as  its  lateness  had rendered it  moot.