remedial law

SICI vs Cuenca (G.R. No. 173297 March 6, 2013)

Stronghold Insurance Company Inc. vs Cuenca
G.R. No. 173297 March 6, 2013

Facts: On January 19, 1998, Marañon filed a complaint in the RTC against the Cuencas for the collection of a sum of money and damages. His complaint, docketed as Civil Case No. 98-023, included an application for the issuance of a writ of preliminary attachment. On January 26, 1998, the RTC granted the application for the issuance of the writ of preliminary attachment conditioned upon the posting of a bond of P1,000,000.00 executed in favor of the Cuencas. Less than a month later, Marañon amended the complaint to implead Tayactac as a defendant. On February 11, 1998, Marañon posted SICI Bond No. 68427 JCL (4) No. 02370 in the amount of P1,000,000.00 issued by Stronghold Insurance. Two days later, the RTC issued the writ of preliminary attachment. The sheriff served the writ, the summons and a copy of the complaint on the Cuencas on the same day. The service of the writ, summons and copy of the complaint were made on Tayactac on February 16, 1998.

Issue: Whether or not the respondents have the legal standing to sue petitioner for the recovery of the attached properties and damages.

Held: No. To ensure the observance of the mandate of the Constitution, Section 2, Rule 3 of the Rules of Court requires that unless otherwise authorized by law or the Rules of Court every action must be prosecuted or defended in the name of the real party in interest. Under the same rule, a real party in interest is one who stands to be benefited or injured by the judgment in the suit, or one who is entitled to the avails of the suit. Accordingly, a person , to be a real party in interest in whose name an action must be prosecuted, should appear to be the present real owner of the right sought to be enforced, that is, his interest must be a present substantial interest, not a mere expectancy, or a future, contingent, subordinate, or consequential interest.

Where the plaintiff is not the real party in interest, the ground for the motion to dismiss is lack of cause of action. The reason for this is that the courts ought not to pass upon questions not derived from any actual controversy. Truly, a person having no material interest to protect cannot invoke the jurisdiction of the court as the plaintiff in an action. Nor does a court acquire jurisdiction over a case where the real party in interest is not present or impleaded.

The purposes of the requirement for the real party in interest prosecuting or defending an action at law are: (a) to prevent the prosecution of actions by persons without any right, title or interest in the case; (b) to require that the actual party entitled to legal relief be the one to prosecute the action; (c) to avoid a multiplicity of suits; and (d) to discourage litigation and keep it within certain bounds, pursuant to sound public policy. Indeed, considering that all civil actions must be based on a cause of action, defined as the act or omission by which a party violates the right of another, the former as the defendant must be allowed to insist upon being opposed by the real party in interest so that he is protected from further suits regarding the same claim. Under this rationale, the requirement benefits the defendant because “the defendant can insist upon a plaintiff who will afford him a setup providing good res judicata protection if the struggle is carried through on the merits to the end.”

The rule on real party in interest ensures, therefore, that the party with the legal right to sue brings the action, and this interest ends when a judgment involving the nominal plaintiff will protect the defendant from a subsequent identical action. Such a rule is intended to bring before the court the party rightfully interested in the litigation so that only real controversies will be presented and the judgment, when entered, will be binding and conclusive and the defendant will be saved from further harassment and vexation at the hands of other claimants to the same demand.

But the real party in interest need not be the person who ultimately will benefit from the successful prosecution of the action. Hence, to aid itself in the proper identification of the real party in interest, the court should first ascertain the nature of the substantive right being asserted, and then must determine whether the party asserting that right is recognized as the real party in interest under the rules of procedure. Truly, that a party stands to gain from the litigation is not necessarily controlling.

Given the separate and distinct legal personality of Arc Cuisine, Inc., the Cuenca’s and Tayactac lacked the legal personality to claim the damages sustained from the levy of the former’s properties. According to Asset Privatization Trust v. Court of Appeals,  even when the foreclosure on the assets of the corporation was wrongful and done in bad faith the stockholders had no standing to recover for themselves moral damages; otherwise, they would be appropriating and distributing part of the corporation’s assets prior to the dissolution of the corporation and the liquidation of its debts and liabilities. Moreover, in Evangelista v. Santos, the Court, resolving whether or not the minority stockholders had the right to bring an action for damages against the principal officers of the corporation for their own benefit.

Bongalon vs People (G.R. No. 169533 March 20, 2013)

Bongalon vs People of the Philippines
G.R. No. 169533 March 20, 2013

Facts: The Prosecution showed that on May 11, 2002, Jayson Dela Cruz (Jayson) and Roldan, his older brother, both minors, joined the evening procession for the Santo Niño at Oro Site in Legazpi City; that when the procession passed in front of the petitioner’s house, the latter’s daughter Mary Ann Rose, also a minor, threw stones at Jayson and called him “sissy”; that the petitioner confronted Jayson and Roldan and called them names like “strangers” and “animals”; that the petitioner struck Jayson at the back with his hand, and slapped Jayson on the face; that the petitioner then went to the brothers’ house and challenged Rolando dela Cruz, their father, to a fight, but Rolando did not come out of the house to take on the petitioner; that Rolando later brought Jayson to the Legazpi City Police Station and reported the incident; that Jayson also underwent medical treatment at the Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital; that the doctors who examined Jayson issued two medical certificates attesting that Jayson suffered the following contusions, to wit: (1) contusion .5 x 2.5 scapular area, left; and (2) +1×1 cm. contusion left zygomatic area and contusion .5 x 2.33 cm. scapular area, left. On his part, the petitioner denied having physically abused or maltreated Jayson. He explained that he only talked with Jayson and Roldan after Mary Ann Rose and Cherrylyn, his minor daughters, had told him about Jayson and Roldan’s throwing stones at them and about Jayson’s burning Cherrylyn’s hair. He denied shouting invectives at and challenging Rolando to a fight, insisting that he only told Rolando to restrain his sons from harming his daughters. To corroborate the petitioner’s testimony, Mary Ann Rose testified that her father did not hit or slap but only confronted Jayson, asking why Jayson had called her daughters “Kimi” and why he had burned Cherrlyn’s hair. Mary Ann Rose denied throwing stones at Jayson and calling him a “sissy.” She insisted that it was instead Jayson who had pelted her with stones during the procession. She described the petitioner as a loving and protective father.

Issues: Whether or not the proper remedy of the petitioner is via a petition for certiorari.

Whether or not petitioner is liable for child abuse.

Held: No. The special civil action for certiorari 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. As observed in Land Bank of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals, et al. “the special civil action for certiorari is a remedy designed for the correction of errors of jurisdiction and not errors of judgment. The raison d’etre for the rule is when a court exercises its jurisdiction, an error committed while so engaged does not deprived it of the jurisdiction being exercised when the error is committed. If it did, every error committed by a court would deprive it of its jurisdiction and every erroneous judgment would be a void judgment. In such a scenario, the administration of justice would not survive. Hence, where the issue or question involved affects the wisdom or legal soundness of the decision–not the jurisdiction of the court to render said decision–the same is beyond the province of a special civil action for certiorari. The proper recourse of the aggrieved party from a decision of the Court of Appeals is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court.

Section 10. Other Acts of Neglect, Abuse, Cruelty or Exploitation and other Conditions Prejudicial to the Child’s Development. – (a) Any person who shall commit any other acts of child abuse, cruelty or exploitation or be responsible for other conditions prejudicial to the child’s development including those covered by Article 59 of Presidential Decree No. 603, as amended, but not covered by the Revised Penal Code, as amended, shall suffer the penalty of prision mayor in its minimum period.  x x x x

Child abuse, the crime charged, is defined by Section 3 (b) of Republic Act No. 7610, as follows:

Section 3. Definition of terms. – x x x x (b) “Child Abuse” refers to the maltreatment, whether habitual or not, of the child which includes any of the following: (1) Psychological and physical abuse, neglect, cruelty, sexual abuse and emotional maltreatment; (2) Any act by deeds or words which debases, degrades or demeans the intrinsic worth and dignity of a child as a human being; (3) Unreasonable deprivation of his basic needs for survival, such as food and shelter; or (4) Failure to immediately give medical treatment to an injured child resulting in serious impairment of his growth and development or in his permanent incapacity or death.

The records did not establish beyond reasonable doubt that his laying of hands on Jayson had been intended to debase the “intrinsic worth and dignity” of Jayson as a human being, or that he had thereby intended to humiliate or embarrass Jayson. The records showed the laying of hands on Jayson to have been done at the spur of the moment and in anger, indicative of his being then overwhelmed by his fatherly concern for the personal safety of his own minor daughters who had just suffered harm at the hands of Jayson and Roldan. With the loss of his self-control, he lacked that specific intent to debase, degrade or demean the intrinsic worth and dignity of a child as a human being that was so essential in the crime of child abuse.

Claridad vs Esteban (G.R. No. 191567 March 20, 2013)

Callo-Claridad vs Esteban
G.R. No. 191567 March 20, 2013

Facts: Around 5:30 p.m. of February 27, 2007, Chase returned home from visiting his girlfriend, Ramonna Liza “Monnel” Hernandez. Around 7:00 p.m., Chase’s sister Ariane was sitting at the porch of their house when she noticed a white Honda Civic car parked along the street. Recognizing the driver to be Philip, Ariane waved her hand at him. Philip appeared nonchalant and did not acknowledge her gesture. Ariane decided to stay behind and leave with their house helpers, Marivic Guray and Michelle Corpus, only after Chase had left on board the white Honda Civic car. Marivic Rodriguez, a house helper of Shellane Yukoko, the resident of No. 9 Cedar Place, Ferndale Homes, was with her co-employee nanny Jennylyn Buri and the latter’s ward, Joei Yukoko, when they heard somebody crying coming from the crime scene: Help! Help! This was at about 7:30 p.m. Even so, neither of them bothered to check who had been crying for help. It was noted, however, that No. 10 Cedar Place, which was owned by one Mrs. Howard, was uninhabited at the time. Based on the initial investigation report of the Megaforce Security and Allied Services, Inc., the Estebans were illegally parking their cars at Mrs. Howard’s carport. The initial investigation report stated that the SGs would regularly remind the Estebans to use their own parking garage, which reminders had resulted in heated discussions and altercations. The SGs kept records of all the illegal parking incidents, and maintained that only the Estebans used the carport of No. 10 Cedar Place. Around 7:45 p.m., respondent Teodora Alyn Esteban (Teodora) arrived at Ferndale Homes on board a vehicle bearing plate XPN 733, as recorded in the subdivision SG’s logbook. At that time, three cars were parked at the carport of No. 10 Cedar place, to wit: a Honda CRV with plate ZAE 135 parked parallel to the Honda Civic with plate CRD 999, and another Honda Civic with plate JTG 333, the car frequently used by Philip, then parked diagonally behind the two cars. Some witnesses alleged that prior to the discovery of the Chase’s body, they had noticed a male and female inside the car bearing plate JTG 333 engaged in a discussion. At around 7:50 p.m., SG Abelardo Sarmiento Jr., while patrolling around the village, noticed that the side of the Honda Civic with plate JTG 333 had red streaks, which prompted him to move towards the parked cars. He inspected the then empty vehicle and noticed that its radio was still turned on. He checked the cars and discovered that the rear and side of the Honda Civic with plate CRD 999 were smeared with blood. He saw on the passenger seat a cellular phone covered with blood. It was then that he found the bloodied and lifeless body of Chase lying between the parallel cars. The body was naked from the waist up, with a crumpled bloodied shirt on the chest, and with only the socks on. SG Sarmiento called for back-up. SG Rene Fabe immediately barricaded the crime scene. Around 7:55 p.m., SG Solis received a phone call from an unidentified person who reported that a “kid” had met an accident at Cedar Place. SG Solis later identified and confirmed the caller to be “Mr. Esteban Larry” when the latter entered the village gate and inquired whether the “kid” who had met an accident had been attended to. Moreover, when SG Fabe and SG Sarmiento were securing the scene of the crime, they overheard from the radio that somebody had reported about a “kid” who had been involved in an accident at Cedar Place. SG Fabe thereafter searched the village premises but did not find any such accident. When SG Fabe got back, there were already several onlookers at the crime scene.

Issue: Whether or not the evidence is sufficient to charge the respondents of murder.

Held:
No. For circumstantial evidence to be sufficient to support a conviction, all the circumstances must be consistent with one another and must constitute an unbroken chain leading to one fair and reasonable conclusion that a crime has been committed and that the respondents are probably guilty thereof. The pieces of evidence must be consistent with the hypothesis that the respondents were probably guilty of the crime and at the same time inconsistent with the hypothesis that they were innocent, and with every rational hypothesis except that of guilt. Circumstantial evidence is sufficient, therefore, if: (a) there is more than one circumstance, (b) the facts from which the inferences are derived have been proven, and (c) the combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt.

The records show that the circumstantial evidence linking Philip to the killing of Chase derived from the bare recollections of Ariane (sister of Chase), and of Guray and Corpus (respectively, the househelp and nanny in the household of a resident of the subdivision) about seeing Chase board the white Honda Civic at around 7:00 p.m. of February 27, 2007, and about Philip being the driver of the Honda Civic. But there was nothing else after that, because the circumstances revealed by the other witnesses could not even be regarded as circumstantial evidence against Philip. To be sure, some of the affidavits were unsworn. The statements subscribed and sworn to before the officers of the Philippine National Police (PNP) having the authority to administer oaths upon matters connected with the performance of their official duties undeniably lacked the requisite certifications to the effect that such administering officers had personally examined the affiants, and that such administering officers were satisfied that the affiants had voluntarily executed and understood their affidavits.

Thus, it is imperative that the circumstantial evidence that the victim was last seen in the company of respondent Philip must be established by competent evidence required by the rules in preliminary investigation. Here, it was allegedly Chase’s sister, Ariane, and their two household helpers, Marivic Guray and Michelle Corpus, who saw respondent Philip pick up Chase at around 7:00 o’clock in the evening of February 27, 2007. Yet, such fact from which the inference is derived was not duly proven. The statements of Marivic and Michelle both executed on February 28, 2007 were not sworn to before the proper officer.

Neither was the affidavit dated July 3, 2009 of Ariane Claridad duly notarized nor is there any explanation why the same was belatedly executed.

Ombudsman vs De Leon (G.R. No. 154083 February 27, 2013)

Office of the Ombudsman vs De Leon
G.R. No. 154083 February 27, 2013

Facts: Acting on a report of illegal quarrying being committed in the Municipality of Baras, Rizal, Graft Investigation Officer Dante D. Tornilla of the Fact Finding Investigation Bureau (FFIB) of the Office of the Ombudsman conducted an investigation pursuant to a mission order dated April 17, 1998. On June 8, 1998, Tornilla filed his report to Ombudsman Aniano Desierto, through Assistant Ombudsman Abelardo L. Aportadera, Jr. and Director Agapito B. Rosales, confirming the illegal quarrying. Tornilla recommended that a preliminary investigation be conducted against  Baras  Municipal Mayor Roberto Ferrera, Baras Municipal Planning and Coordinator Jonathan Llagas, and property owner Venancio Javier for the probable violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act); and that administrative proceedings for violations of the Civil Service Rules be also undertaken. In his report and recommendation dated July 13, 1998, DILG Resident Ombudsman Rudiger G. Falcis II sought the inclusion in the investigation of De Leon as the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer (PENRO) and as concurrently the Chairman of the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) of Rizal. After the preliminary investigation, Graft Investigation Officer II Edgardo V. Geraldez of the FFIB, Office of the Ombudsman, issued a decision dated April 29, 1999, dismissing the complaint against all the respondents for lack of substantial evidence. However, Assistant Ombudsman Aportadera, Jr. recommended the disapproval of the said decision.  Ombudsman Desierto approved the recommendation of Assistant Ombudsman Aportadera, Jr. The case was then referred to Atty. Sabino M. Cruz, Resident Ombudsman for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), who ultimately submitted a memorandum on October 20, 1999,  duly approved by the Ombudsman, finding De Leon liable for gross neglect of duty.

Issues: Whether or not respondent is liable for gross neglect of duty.

Whether or not the decisions of the Ombudsman is final and immediately executory.

Held: Yes. Gross neglect of duty or gross negligence “refers to negligence characterized by the want of even slight care, or by acting or omitting to act in a situation where there is a duty to act, not inadvertently but wilfully and intentionally, with a conscious indifference to the consequences, insofar as other persons may be affected. It is the omission of that care that even inattentive and thoughtless men never fail to give to their own property.” It denotes a flagrant and culpable refusal or unwillingness of a person to perform a duty. In cases involving public officials, gross negligence occurs when a breach of duty is flagrant and palpable.

In contrast, simple neglect of duty means the failure of an employee or official to give proper attention to a task expected of him or her, signifying a “disregard of a duty resulting from carelessness or indifference.

Conformably with these concepts, De Leon, given his rank and level of responsibility, was guilty of gross neglect in not performing the act expected of him as the PENRO under the circumstances obtaining. He was precisely assigned to perform tasks that imposed on him the obligation to do everything reasonably necessarily and permissible under the law in order to achieve the objectives of environmental protection. He could not feign ignorance of the Government’s current efforts to control or prevent environmental deterioration from all hazards, including uncontrolled mining and unregulated illegal quarrying, but he chose to be passive despite clear indications of the illegal quarrying activities that had been first brought to his official attention as early as in 1997 by Teresita Fabian of the Provincial Tourism Office of Rizal. The most that he did on the complaint was to dispatch two of his subordinates to verify the report of quarrying. After the subordinates returned with the information that there were no quarrying activities at the site, he was apparently content with their report. He was not even spurred into further action by the subordinates’ simultaneous report on having observed at the site the presence of earthmoving equipment (specifically, a backhoe and a payloader). Had he been conscientious, the presence of the earth moving equipment would have quickly alerted him to the high probability of their being used in quarrying activities at the site. We presume that he was not too obtuse to sense such high probability. The seriousness of the matter should have prodded him to take further actions, including personally inspecting the site himself either to confirm the findings of the subordinates or to satisfy himself that the earthmoving equipment was not being used for quarrying. By merely denying having granted any permit or unwarranted benefit to any quarry operator, he seemingly considered the report of his subordinates satisfactory.

Yes. An appeal shall not stop the decision from being executory. In case the penalty is suspension or removal and the respondent wins such appeal, he shall be considered as having been under preventive suspension and shall be paid the salary and such other emoluments that he did not receive by reason of the suspension or removal.

On 15 September 2003, AO 17 was issued, amending Rule III of the  Rules of Procedure of the Office of the Ombudsman. Thus, Section 7, Rule III of the Rules of Procedure of the Office of the Ombudsman was further amended and now reads:

Section 7. Finality and execution of decision. – Where the respondent is absolved of the charge, and in case of conviction where the penalty imposed is public censure or reprimand, suspension of not more than one month, or a fine equivalent to one month salary, the decision shall be final, executory and unappealable. In all other cases, the decision may be appealed to the Court of Appeals on a verified petition for review under the requirements and conditions set forth in Rule 43 of the Rules of Court, within fifteen (15) days from the receipt of the written Notice of the Decision or Order denying the Motion for Reconsideration.

Bordomeo vs CA (G.R. No. 161596 February 20, 2013)

Bordomeo etal vs Court of Appeals
G.R. No. 161596 February 20, 2013

Facts: In 1989, the IPI Employees Union-Associated Labor Union (Union), representing the workers, had a bargaining deadlock with the IPI management. This deadlock resulted in the Union staging a strike and IPI ordering a lockout. On December 26, 1990, after assuming jurisdiction over the dispute, DOLE Secretary Ruben D. Torres rendered hid decision reinstating the illegally dismissed employees with full backwages reckoning from December 8, 1989 and declaring the IPI Employees Union-ALU as the exclusive bargaining agent further directing the parties to enter into a new CBA. A motion for writ of execution was filed. Motion for partial reconsideration was filed by herein petitioners for amendatory/clarifications on the assailed order by DOLE Secretary Torres. Ultimately, on July 4, 2001, DOLE Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas issued her Order37 affirming the order issued on March 27, 1998, and declaring that the full execution of the order of March 27, 1998 “completely CLOSED and TERMINATED this case.” Only herein petitioners Roberto Bordomeo, Anecito Cupta, Jaime Sarmiento and Virgilio Saragena assailed the July 4, 2001 order of Secretary Sto. Tomas by petition for certiorari in the CA.

Issues: Whether or not the the special civil action of certiorari is the proper remedy for the petitioners.

Whether or not the petitioners are entitled to separation pay and backwages.

Held: No. Even so, Rule 65 of the Rules of Court still requires the petition for certiorari to comply with the following requisites, namely:  (1) the writ of certiorari is directed against a tribunal, a board, or an 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.

Jurisprudence recognizes certain situations when the extraordinary remedy of certiorari may be deemed proper, 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. Yet, a reading of the petition for certiorari and its annexes reveals that the petition does not come under any of the situations. Specifically, the petitioners have not shown that the grant of the writ of certiorari will be necessary to prevent a substantial wrong or to do substantial justice to them.

In a special civil action for certiorari brought against a court with jurisdiction over a case, the petitioner carries the burden to prove that the respondent tribunal committed not a merely reversible error but a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in issuing the impugned order. Showing mere abuse of discretion is not enough, for the abuse must be shown to be grave.  Grave abuse of discretion means either that the judicial or quasi-judicial power was exercised in an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility, or that the respondent judge, tribunal or board evaded a positive duty, or virtually refused to perform the duty enjoined or to act in contemplation of law, such as when such judge, tribunal or board exercising judicial or quasi-judicial powers acted in a capricious or whimsical manner as to be equivalent to lack of jurisdiction. Under the circumstances, the CA committed no abuse of discretion, least of all grave, because its justifications were supported by the history of the dispute and borne out by the applicable laws and jurisprudence.

Yes. Under the circumstances, the employment of the 15 employees or the possibility of their reinstatement terminated by March 15, 1995. Thereafter, their claim for separation pay and backwages beyond March 15, 1995 would be unwarranted. The computation of separation pay and backwages due to illegally dismissed employees should not go beyond the date when they were deemed to have been actually separated from their employment, or beyond the date when their reinstatement was rendered impossible. Anent this, the Court has observed in Golden Ace Builders v. Talde:

The basis for the payment of backwages is different from that for the award of separation pay. Separation pay is granted where reinstatement is no longer advisable because of strained relations between the employee and the employer.  Backwages represent compensation that should have been earned but were not collected because of the unjust dismissal.  The basis for computing backwages is usually the length of the employee’s service while that for separation pay is the actual period when the employee was unlawfully prevented from working.

Clearly then, respondent is entitled to backwages and separation pay as his reinstatement has been rendered impossible due to strained relations. As correctly held by the appellate court, the backwages due respondent must be computed from the time he was unjustly dismissed until his actual reinstatement, or from February 1999 until June 30, 2005 when his reinstatement was rendered impossible without fault on his part.

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.

People vs PO2 Valdez (G.R. No. 175602 February 13, 2013)

People of the Philippines vs PO2 Valdez
G.R. No. 175602 February 13, 2013

Facts: The two accused were tried for three counts of murder by the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 86, in Quezon City. On January 20, 2005, after trial, the RTC convicted them as charged, prescribed on each of them the penalty of reclusion perpetua for each count, and ordered them to pay to the heirs of each victim P93,000.00 as actual damages, P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, and P50,000.00 as moral damages. The Court of Appeals (CA) upheld the RTC on July 18, 2006, subject to the modification that each of the accused pay to the heirs of each victim P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, P50,000.00 as moral damages, P25,000.00 as temperate damages, and P25,000.00 as exemplary damages, plus costs of suit. The two accused then came to the Court on final appeal, but on May 9, 2007, Edwin Valdez filed a motion to withdraw appeal, which the Court granted on October 10, 2007, thereby deeming Edwin’s appeal closed and terminated. On January 18, 2012, the Court promulgated its judgment on the appeal of PO2 Eduardo Valdez, finding him guilty of three counts of homicide, instead of three counts of murder, and meting on him for each count of homicide the indeterminate sentence of 10 years of prision mayor as minimum to 17 years of reclusion temporal as maximum. Subsequently, Edwin sent to the Court Administrator a self- explanatory letter dated March 12, 2012, where he pleaded for the application to him of the judgment promulgated on January 18, 2012 on the ground that the judgment would be beneficial to him as an accused.

Issue: Whether or not the judgement by the appellate court downgrading the penalty of Edwin’s co-accused is applicable to him.

Held: Yes. On his part, Edwin cannot be barred from seeking the application to him of the downgrading of the crimes committed (and the resultant lighter penalties) despite the finality of his convictions for three counts of murder due to his withdrawal of his appeal. The downgrading of the crimes committed would definitely be favorable to him. Worth pointing out is that to deny to him the benefit of the lessened criminal responsibilities would be highly unfair, considering that this Court had found the two accused to have acted in concert in their deadly assault against the victims, warranting their equal liabiliy under the principle of conspiracy.

We grant Edwin’s plea based on Section 11(a), Rule 122 of the Rules of Court, which relevantly provides:

Section 11. Effect of appeal by any of several accused. – (a) An appeal taken by one or more of several accused shall not affect those who did not appeal, except insofar as the judgment of the appellate court is favorable and applicable to the latter.

A literal interpretation of the phrase “did not appeal,” as espoused by private respondent, will not give justice to the purpose of the provision.

It should be read in its entirety and should not be myopically construed so as to defeat its reason, i.e., to benefit an accused who did not join in the appeal of his co-accused in case where the appellate judgment is favorable. In fact, several cases rendered by the Court applied the foregoing provision without regard as to the filing or non-filing of an appeal by a co- accused, so long as the judgment was favorable to him.

Dare Adventure Farm Corp vs CA (G.R. No. 161122 September 24, 2012)

Dare Adventure Farm Corporation vs CA
G.R. No. 161122 September 24, 2012

Facts: The petitioner acquired a parcel of land with an area of 65,100 square meters situated in San Roque, Lilo-an, Metro Cebu known as lot 7531-part (the property) through a deed of absolute sale executed on July 28, 1994 between the petitioner, as vendee, and Agripina R. Goc-ong (a respondent herein), Porferio Goc-ong, Diosdado Goc-ong, Crisostomo Goc-ong, Tranquilino Goc-ong, Naciancena Goc-ong and Avelino Goc-ong (collectively, the Goc-ongs), as vendors. The petitioner later on discovered the joint affidavit executed on June 19, 1990 by the Goc-ongs, whereby the Goc-ongs declared that they were the owners of the property, and that they were mortgaging the property to Felix Ng, married to Nenita N. Ng, and Martin T. Ng, married to Azucena S. Ng (collectively, the Ngs) to secure their obligation amounting to P 648,000.00, subject to the condition that should they not pay the stipulated 36-monthly installments, the Ngs would automatically become the owners of the property. With the Goc-ongs apparently failing to pay their obligation to the Ngs as stipulated, the latter brought on January 16, 1997 a complaint for the recovery of a sum of money, or, in the alternative, for the foreclosure of mortgage in the Regional Trial Court, Branch 56, in Mandaue City (RTC) only against respondent Agripina R. Goc-ong.4 The action was docketed as Civil Case No. MAN-2838.

Issue: Whether or not annulment of judgement if the proper remedy for the petitioner.

Held: No. A petition for annulment of judgment is a remedy in equity so exceptional in nature that it may be availed of only when other remedies are wanting, and only if the judgment, final order or final resolution sought to be annulled was rendered by a court lacking jurisdiction or through extrinsic fraud. Yet, the remedy, being exceptional in character, is not allowed to be so easily and readily abused by parties aggrieved by the final judgments, orders or resolutions. The Court has thus instituted safeguards by limiting the grounds for the annulment to lack of jurisdiction and extrinsic fraud, and by prescribing in Section 1 of Rule 47 of the Rules of Court that the petitioner should show that the ordinary remedies of new trial, appeal, petition for relief or other appropriate remedies are no longer available through no fault of the petitioner. A petition for annulment that ignores or disregards any of the safeguards cannot prosper.

It is elementary that a judgment of a court is conclusive and binding only upon the parties and those who are their successors in interest by title after the commencement of the action in court.

Section 47(b) of Rule 39 of the Rules of Court explicitly so provides, to wit:

Section 47. Effect of judgments or final orders —The effect of a judgment or final order rendered by a court of the Philippines, having jurisdiction to pronounce the judgment or final order, may be as follows:

xxx

(b) In other cases, the judgment or final order is, with respect to the matter directly adjudged or as to any other matter that could have been raised in relation thereto, conclusive between the parties and their successors in interest by title subsequent to the commencement of the action or special proceeding, litigating for the same thing and under the same title and in the same capacity;

xxx

The principle that a person cannot be prejudiced by a ruling rendered in an action or proceeding in which he has not been made a party conforms to the constitutional guarantee of due process of law. The operation of this principle was illustrated in Muñoz v. Yabut, Jr., where the Court declared that a person not impleaded and given the opportunity to take part in the proceedings was not bound by the decision declaring as null and void the title from which his title to the property had been derived. We said there that the effect of a judgment could not be extended to non-parties by simply issuing an alias writ of execution against them, for no man should be prejudiced by any proceeding to which he was a stranger. In the same manner, a writ of execution could be issued only against a party, not against a person who did not have his day in court.

Moreover, Section 1 of Rule 47 extends the remedy of annulment only to a party in whose favor the remedies of new trial, reconsideration, appeal, and petition for relief from judgment are no longer available through no fault of said party. As such, the petitioner, being a non-party in Civil Case No. MAN-2838, could not bring the action for annulment of judgment due to unavailability to it of the remedies of new trial, reconsideration, appeal, or setting the judgment aside through a petition for relief.

Sps Delos Santos vs Metrobank (GR No. G.R. No. 153852 October 24, 2012)

Sps Delos Santos vs Metropolitan Bank & Trust Company
G.R. No. 153852 October 24, 2012

Facts: From December 9, 1996 until March 20, 1998, the petitioners took out several loans totaling P12,000,000.00 from Metrobank, Davao City Branch, the proceeds of which they would use in constructing a hotel on their 305-square-meter parcel of land located in Davao City and covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. I-218079 of the Registry of Deeds of Davao City. They executed various promissory notes covering the loans, and constituted a mortgage over their parcel of land to secure the performance of their obligation. The stipulated interest rates were 15.75% per annum for the long term loans (maturing on December 9, 2006) and 22.204% per annum for a short term loan of P4,400,000.00 (maturing on March 12, 1999). The interest rates were fixed for the first year, subject to escalation or de-escalation in certain events without advance notice to them. The loan agreements further stipulated that the entire amount of the loans would become due and demandable upon default in the payment of any installment, interest or other charges. On December 27, 1999, Metrobank sought the extrajudicial foreclosure of the real estate mortgage after the petitioners defaulted in their installment payments. The petitioners were notified of the foreclosure and of the forced sale being scheduled on March 7, 2000. The notice of the sale stated that the total amount of the obligation was P16,414,801.36 as of October 26, 1999. On April 4, 2000, prior to the scheduled foreclosure sale (i.e., the original date of March 7, 2000 having been meanwhile reset to April 6, 2000), the petitioners filed in the RTC a complaint (later amended) for damages, fixing of interest rate, and application of excess payments (with prayer for a writ of preliminary injunction). They alleged therein that Metrobank had no right to foreclose the mortgage because they were not in default of their obligations; that Metrobank had imposed interest rates (i.e., 15.75% per annum for two long-term loans and 22.204% per annum for the short term loan) on three of their loans that were different from the rate of 14.75% per annum agreed upon; that Metrobank had increased the interest rates on some of their loans without any basis by invoking the escalation clause written in the loan agreement; that they had paid P2,561,557.87 instead of only P1,802,867.00 based on the stipulated interest rates, resulting in their excess payment of P758,690.87 as interest, which should then be applied to their accrued obligation; that they had requested the reduction of the escalated interest rates on several occasions because of its damaging effect on their hotel business, but Metrobank had denied their request; and that they were not yet in default because the long-term loans would become due and demandable on December 9, 2006 yet and they had been paying interest on the short-term loan in advance.

Issue: Whether or not injunction may issue pending extrajudicial foreclosure.

Held: Yes. No writ of preliminary injunction to enjoin an impending extrajudicial foreclosure sale should issue except upon a clear showing of a violation of the mortgagors’ unmistakable right to the injunction.

Injunction will not protect contingent, abstract or future rights whose existence is doubtful or disputed. Indeed, there must exist an actual right, because injunction will not be issued to protect a right not in esse and which may never arise, or to restrain an act which does not give rise to a cause of action. At any rate, an application for injunctive relief is strictly construed against the pleader.

Nor do we discern any substantial controversy that had any real bearing on Metrobank’s right to foreclose the mortgage. The mere possibility that the RTC would rule in the end in the petitioners’ favor by lowering the interest rates and directing the application of the excess payments to the accrued principal and interest did not diminish the fact that when Metrobank filed its application for extrajudicial foreclosure they were already in default as to their obligations and that their short-term loan of P4,400,000.00 had already matured. Under such circumstances, their application for the writ of preliminary injunction could not but be viewed as a futile attempt to deter or delay the forced sale of their property.

Escalation clauses are valid and do not contravene public policy. These clauses are common in credit agreements as means of maintaining fiscal stability and retaining the value of money on long-term contracts. To avoid any resulting one sided situation that escalation clauses may bring, we required in Banco Filipino the inclusion in the parties’ agreement of a de-escalation clause that would authorize a reduction in the interest rates corresponding to downward changes made by law or by the Monetary Board.

The validity of escalation clauses notwithstanding, we cautioned that these clauses do not give creditors the unbridled right to adjust interest rates unilaterally. As we said in the same Banco Filipino case, any increase in the rate of interest made pursuant to an escalation clause must be the result of an agreement between the parties. The minds of all the parties must meet on the proposed modification as this modification affects an important aspect of the agreement. There can be no contract in the true sense in the absence of the element of an agreement, i.e., the parties’ mutual consent. Thus, any change must be mutually agreed upon, otherwise, the change carries no binding effect. A stipulation on the validity or compliance with the contract that is left solely to the will of one of the parties is void; the stipulation goes against the principle of mutuality of contract under Article 1308 of the Civil Code.

As with all equitable remedies, injunction must be issued only at the instance of a party who possesses sufficient interest in or title to the right or the property sought to be protected. It is proper only when the applicant appears to be entitled to the relief demanded in the complaint, which must aver the existence of the right and the violation of the right, or whose averments must in the minimum constitute a prima facie showing of a right to the final relief sought. Accordingly, the conditions for the issuance of the injunctive writ are: (a) that the right to be protected exists prima facie; (b) that the act sought to be enjoined is violative of that right; and (c) that there is an urgent and paramount necessity for the writ to prevent serious damage. An injunction will not issue to protect a right not in esse, or a right which is merely contingent and may never arise; or to restrain an act which does not give rise to a cause of action; or to prevent the perpetration of an act prohibited by statute. Indeed, a right, to be protected by injunction, means a right clearly founded on or granted by law or is enforceable as a matter of law.

Legend Hotel vs Realuyo (G.R. No. 153511 July 18, 2012)

Legend Hotel (Manila) vs Realuyo AKA Roa
G.R. No. 153511 July 18, 2012

Facts: Respondent averred that he had worked as a pianist at the Legend Hotel’s Tanglaw Restaurant from September 1992 with an initial rate of P400.00/night that was given to him after each night’s performance; that his rate had increased to P750.00/night; and that during his employment, he could not choose the time of performance, which had been fixed from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm for three to six times/week. He added that the Legend Hotel’s restaurant manager had required him to conform with the venue’s motif; that he had been subjected to the rules on employees’ representation checks and chits, a privilege granted to other employees; that on July 9, 1999, the management had notified him that as a cost-cutting measure his services as a pianist would no longer be required effective July 30, 1999; that he disputed the excuse, insisting that Legend Hotel had been lucratively operating as of the filing of his complaint; and that the loss of his employment made him bring his complaint.

Issues: 1. Whether or not petition for certiorari to the CA is proper.
2. Whether or not there is ER-EE relationship.

3. Whether or not retrenchment as a ground for respondent’s dismissal is valid.

Held: YES. There is no longer any doubt that a petition for certiorari brought to assail the decision of the NLRC may raise factual issues, and the CA may then review the decision of the NLRC and pass upon such factual issues in the process.8 The power of the CA to review factual issues in the exercise of its original jurisdiction to issue writs of certiorari is based on Section 9 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, which pertinently provides that the CA “shall have the power to try cases and conduct hearings, receive evidence and perform any and all acts necessary to resolve factual issues raised in cases falling within its original and appellate jurisdiction, including the power to grant and conduct new trials or further proceedings.”

YES. Petitioner actually wielded the power of selection at the time it entered into the service contract dated September 1, 1992 with respondent. This is true, notwithstanding petitioner’s insistence that respondent had only offered his services to provide live music at petitioner’s Tanglaw Restaurant, and despite petitioner’s position that what had really transpired was a negotiation of his rate and time of availability. The power of selection was firmly evidenced by, among others, the express written recommendation dated January 12, 1998 by Christine Velazco, petitioner’s restaurant manager, for the increase of his remuneration.

Respondent’s remuneration, albeit denominated as talent fees, was still considered as included in the term wage in the sense and context of the Labor Code, regardless of how petitioner chose to designate the remuneration. Anent this, Article 97(f) of the Labor Code clearly states:

xxx wage paid to any employee shall mean the remuneration or earnings, however designated, capable of being expressed in terms of money, whether fixed or ascertained on a time, task, piece, or commission basis, or other method of calculating the same, which is payable by an employer to an employee under a written or unwritten contract of employment for work done or to be done, or for services rendered or to be rendered, and includes the fair and reasonable value, as determined by the Secretary of Labor, of board, lodging, or other facilities customarily furnished by the employer to the employee.

That respondent worked for less than eight hours/day was of no consequence and did not detract from the CA’s finding on the existence of the employer-employee relationship. In providing that the “normal hours of work of any employee shall not exceed eight (8) hours a day,” Article 83 of the Labor Code only set a maximum of number of hours as “normal hours of work” but did not prohibit work of less than eight hours.

The power of the employer to control the work of the employee is considered the most significant determinant of the existence of an employer-employee relationship. This is the so-called control test, and is premised on whether the person for whom the services are performed reserves the right to control both the end achieved and the manner and means used to achieve that end.

A review of the records shows, however, that respondent performed his work as a pianist under petitioner’s supervision and control. Specifically, petitioner’s control of both the end achieved and the manner and means used to achieve that end was demonstrated by the following, to wit: a. He could not choose the time of his performance, which petitioners had fixed from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm, three to six times a week; b. He could not choose the place of his performance; c. The restaurant’s manager required him at certain times to perform only Tagalog songs or music, or to wear barong Tagalog to conform to the Filipiniana motif; and d. He was subjected to the rules on employees’ representation check and chits, a privilege granted to other employees. Relevantly, it is worth remembering that the employer need not actually supervise the performance of duties by the employee, for it sufficed that the employer has the right to wield that power.

NO. Retrenchment is one of the authorized causes for the dismissal of employees recognized by the Labor Code. It is a management prerogative resorted to by employers to avoid or to minimize business losses. On this matter, Article 283 of the Labor Code.

The Court has laid down the following standards that an employer should meet to justify retrenchment and to foil abuse, namely: (a) The expected losses should be substantial and not merely de minimis in extent; (b) The substantial losses apprehended must be reasonably imminent; (c) The retrenchment must be reasonably necessary and likely to effectively prevent the expected losses; and (d) The alleged losses, if already incurred, and the expected imminent losses sought to be forestalled must be proved by sufficient and convincing evidence.

Anent the last standard of sufficient and convincing evidence, it ought to be pointed out that a less exacting standard of proof would render too easy the abuse of retrenchment as a ground for termination of services of employees.

In termination cases, the burden of proving that the dismissal was for a valid or authorized cause rests upon the employer. Here, petitioner did not submit evidence of the losses to its business operations and the economic havoc it would thereby imminently sustain. It only claimed that respondent’s termination was due to its “present business/financial condition.” This bare statement fell short of the norm to show a valid retrenchment. Hence, we hold that there was no valid cause for the retrenchment of respondent.