Case Brief: Sevilla vs People

G.R. No. 194390 August 13, 2014
VENANCIO M. SEVILLA, Petitioner,
vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

Facts:

Sevilla, a former councilor of Malabon City, was charged with the felony of falsification of public document, penalized under Article 171(4) of the RPC, after he stated in his C.S. Form 212 or Personal Data Sheet, both official documents which were submitted to the Office of the Secretariat, Malabon City Council, that he “had no criminal case pending against him”, when in fact, he knew fully well that he is an accused in a pending criminal case entitled People vs Sevilla for the crime of assault upon an agent of a person in authority.

On the other hand, Sevilla admitted that he indeed marked the box corresponding to the “no” answer vis-à-vis the question on whether he has any pending criminal case. However, he averred that he did not intend to falsify his PDS. He claimed that it was a member of his staff, who actually prepared his PDS. He instructed Mendoza to copy the entries in the previous copy of his PDS which he filed with the personnel office. After the PDS was filled up and delivered to him by Mendoza, Sevilla claims that he just signed the same without checking the veracity of the entries therein. That he failed to notice that, in answer to the question of whether he has any pending criminal case, Mendoza checked the box corresponding to the “no” answer.

Sandiganbayan opined that Sevilla cannot be convicted of falsification of public document under Article 171(4) of the RPC since he did not act with malicious intent to falsify the aforementioned entry in his PDS. However, considering that Sevilla’s PDS was haphazardly and recklessly done, which resulted in the false entry therein, the Sandiganbayan convicted Sevilla of falsification of public document through reckless imprudence under Article 365 of the RPC.

Issue:

Whether or not Sevilla can be convicted of falsification of public document through reckless imprudence, notwithstanding that the charge against him in the Information was for the intentional felony of falsification of public document under Article 171(4) of the RPC.
Held: NO. The proper designation of the felony should be reckless imprudence resulting to falsification of public documents, and not falsification of public documents through reckless imprudence.

The designation of “falsification of public document through reckless imprudence” implies that reckless imprudence is not a crime in itself but simply a modality of committing it. This is incorrect. Quasi-offenses under Art. 365 are distinct and separate crimes and not a mere modality in the commission of the crime. In explaining why this is so, SC explained:

The proposition (inferred from Art. 3 of the Revised Penal Code) that “reckless imprudence” is not a crime in itself but simply a way of committing it and merely determines a lower degree of criminal liability is too broad to deserve unqualified assent. There are crimes that by their structure cannot be committed through imprudence: murder, treason, robbery, malicious mischief, etc. In truth, criminal negligence in our Revised Penal Code is treated as a mere quasi offense, and dealt with separately from willful offenses. It is not a mere question of classification or terminology. In intentional crimes, the act itself is punished; in negligence or imprudence, what is principally penalized is the mental attitude or condition behind the act, the dangerous recklessness, lack of care or foresight, the imprudencia punible.x x x
Were criminal negligence is but a modality in the commission of felonies, operating only to reduce the penalty therefor, then it would be absorbed in the mitigating circumstances of Art. 13, specially the lack of intent to commit so grave a wrong as the one actually committed. Furthermore, the theory would require that the corresponding penalty should be fixed in proportion to the penalty prescribed for each crime when committed willfully. For each penalty for the willful offense, there would then be a corresponding penalty for the negligent variety. But instead, our Revised Penal Code (Art. 365) fixes the penalty for reckless imprudence at arresto mayor maximum, to prision correccional, if the willful act would constitute a grave felony, notwithstanding that the penalty for the latter could range all the way from prision mayor to death, according to the case. It can be seen that the actual penalty for criminal negligence bears no relation to the individual willful crime, but is set in relation to a whole class, or series, of crimes.

Anent the imposable penalty, under Article 365 of the RPC, reckless imprudence resulting in falsification of public document is punishable by arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its medium period. In this case, taking into account the pertinent provisions of Indeterminate Sentence Law, the Sandiganbayan correctly imposed upon Sevilla the penalty of four ( 4) months of arresto mayor as minimum to two (2) years ten ( 10) months and twenty one (21) days of prision correccional as maximum.

Issue #2:

Whether or not Sevilla’s claim that his constitutional right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him was violated when the Sandiganbayan convicted him of reckless imprudence resulting to falsification of public documents, when the Information only charged the intentional felony of falsification of public documents, has merit.

Held #2: NO.

The rules on variance between allegation and proof are laid down under Sections 4 and 5, Rule 120 of the Rules of Court.

To stress, reckless imprudence resulting to falsification of public documents is an offense that is necessarily included in the willful act of falsification of public documents, the latter being the greater offense. As such, he can be convicted of reckless imprudence resulting to falsification of public documents notwithstanding that the Information only charged the willful act of falsification of public documents.

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Case Brief: Santiago vs Garchitorena

G.R. No. 109266 December 2, 1993
MIRIAM DEFENSOR SANTIAGO, petitioner,
vs.
HON. JUSTICE FRANCIS GARCHITORENA, SANDIGANBAYAN (First Division) and PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents.

Facts:

Petitioner was charged in the Sandiganbayan with violation of Sec. 3(e) of RA 3019, Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, allegedly committed by her favoring “unqualified” aliens with the benefits of the Alien Legalization Program. Petitioner filed this case to enjoin Sandiganbayan from proceeding with the case, on the ground that it was intended solely to harass her as she was then a presidential candidate. After her petition was dismissed, she then filed a motion for inhibition of Presiding Justice Garchitorena.

[A lot of procedural issues and controversies were discussed, but for the purpose of limiting this digest to Criminal Law 1, the author did not include it.]

Petitioner next claims that the Amended Informations did not charge any offense punishable under Section 3 (e) of R.A. No. 3019 because the official acts complained of therein were authorized under Executive Order No. 324 and that the Board of Commissioners of the Bureau of Investigation adopted the policy of approving applications for legalization of spouses and unmarried, minor children of “qualified aliens” even though they had arrived in the Philippines after December 31, 1983. She concludes that the Sandiganbayan erred in not granting her motion to quash the informations.

In a motion to quash, the accused admits hypothetically the allegations of fact in the Information. Therefore, petitioner admitted hypothetically in her motion that: 1) she was a public officer; 2) she approved the application for legalization of the stay of aliens, who arrived in the Philippines after January 1, 1984; 3) those aliens were disqualified; 4) she was cognizant of such fact; and 5) she acted in evident bad faith and manifest partiality in the execution of her official functions; thereby constituting the elements of the offense defined in Sec. 3(e) of RA 3019.

It bears noting that the public prosecutors filed a total of 32 Informations against the petitioner for the violation of such law.

Issue:
How is the violation of Sec. 3(e) of RA 3019 committed?

Held:
There are two ways of violating Section 3 (e) of R.A. No. 3019. These are: (a) by causing undue injury to any party, including the Government; and (b) by giving any private party any unwarranted benefit, advantage or preference.

Issue #2:
Whether or not the filing of 32 Amended Informations against petitioner was proper.

Held #2: NO.

Only one crime was committed in petitioner’s case, and hence, there should only be one Information to be filed against her.

The 32 Amended Informations charge what is known as delito continuado or “continued crime” and sometimes referred to as “continuous crime.” A delito continuado consists of several crimes but in reality there is only one crime in the mind of the perpetrator. See full text for the discussion and examples of delito continuado as discussed by SC.

In the case at bench, the original information charged petitioner with performing a single criminal act — that of her approving the application for legalization of aliens not qualified under the law to enjoy such privilege. The original information also averred that the criminal act : (i) committed by petitioner was in violation of a law — Executive Order No. 324 dated April 13, 1988, (ii) caused an undue injury to one offended party, the Government, and (iii) was done on a single day, i.e., on or about October 17, 1988. The 32 Amended Informations reproduced in verbatim the allegation of the original information, except that instead of the word “aliens” in the original information each amended information states the name of the individual whose stay was legalized.

The 32 Amended Informations aver that the offenses were committed on the same period of time, i.e., on or about October 17, 1988. The strong probability even exists that the approval of the application or the legalization of the stay of the 32 aliens was done by a single stroke of the pen, as when the approval was embodied in the same document. Likewise, the public prosecutors manifested at the hearing the motion for a bill of particulars that the Government suffered a single harm or injury.

SC ordered the Ombudsman to consolidated the 32 Amended Informations into one Information charging only one offense.

Case Brief: People vs Campuhan

[G.R. No. 129433. March 30, 2000]
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff,
vs.
PRIMO CAMPUHAN Y BELLO, accused.

Facts:

Campuhan was a helper in the business of the family of the victim, a 4-year-old girl. One time, the mother of the victim heard the latter cry, “Ayoko!”, prompting her to rush upstairs. There, she saw Campuhan kneeling before the victim, whose pajamas and pany were already removed, while his short pants were down to his knees. Campuhan was apprehended. Physical examination of the victim yielded negative results. No evident sign of extra-genital physical injury was noted. Her hymen was intact and its orifice was only .5 cm in diameter.

Trial court found him guilty of statutory rape and sentenced him to death.

Issue:

Whether or not Campuhan is guilty of statutory rape.

Held: NO.

The gravamen of the offense of statutory rape is carnal knowledge of woman below 12 as provided in RPC 335(3). The victim was only 4 years old when the molestation took place, thus raising the penalty from “reclusion perpetua to death” to the single indivisible penalty of death under RA 7659 Sec. 11, the offended party being below 7 years old. In concluding that carnal knowledge took place, full penetration of the vaginal orifice is not an essential ingredient, nor is the rupture of hymen necessary; the mere touching of external genitalia by the penis capable of consummating the sexual act is sufficient to constitute carnal knowledge. But the act of touching should be understood as inherently part of the entry of penis into the labias of the female organ, and not mere touching alone of the mons pubis or the pudendum (the part instantly visible within the surface).

Absent any showing of the slightest penetration of the female organ, i.e., touching of either labia by the penis, there can be no consummated rape; at most, it can only be attempted rape, if not acts of lasciviousness.

Here, the prosecution failed to discharge its onus of proving that Campuhan’s penis was able to penetrate the victim’s vagina however slight. Also, there were no external signs of physical injuries on the victim’s body to conclude that penetration had taken place.

Issue #2:

What crime did Campuhan commit?

Held #2: ATTEMPTED RAPE.

Under RPC 6 in relation to RPC 335, rape is attempted when the offender commences the commission of rape directly by overt acts, and does not perform all acts of execution which should produce the crime of rape by reason of some cause or accident other than his own spontaneous desistance. All the elements of attempted rape are present in this case.

The penalty of attempted rape is 2 degrees lower than the imposable penalty of death for the crime of statutory rape of minor below 7 years. Two degrees lower is reclusion temporal, which is 12 years 1 day to 20 years.

Applying ISLAW, and in the absence of aggravating or mitigating circumstance, the maximum penalty shall be medium period of reclusion temporal (14 years 8 months 1 day to 17 years 4 months), while the minimum is the penalty next lower in degree – prision mayor (6 years 1 day to 12 years).

Issue #3:

May there be a crime of frustrated rape?

Held #3: NO.

In People vs Orita, SC finally did away with frustrated rape. Rape was consummated from the moment the offender had carnal knowledge of the victim. All elements of the offense were already present and nothing more was left for the offender to do. Perfect penetration was not essential; any penetration of the female organ by the male organ, however slight, was sufficient.

For attempted rape, there was no penetration of the female organ because not all acts of execution were performed or the offender merely commenced the commission of the felony directly by overt acts.

Case Brief – Saludaga vs FEU

JOSEPH SALUDAGA, petitioner,
vs.
FAR EASTERN UNIVERSITY and EDILBERTO C. DE JESUS in his capacity as President of FEU, respondents.
G.R. No. 179337 April 30, 2008

Facts:
Petitioner Joseph Saludaga was a sophomore law student of respondent Far Eastern University (FEU) when he was shot by Alejandro Rosete (Rosete), one of the security guards on duty at the school premises.

Petitioner thereafter filed a complaint for damages against respondents on the ground that they breached their obligation to provide students with a safe and secure environment and an atmosphere conducive to learning. Respondents, in turn, filed a Third-Party Complaint against Galaxy Development and Management Corporation (Galaxy), the agency contracted by respondent FEU to provide security services within its premises to indemnify them for whatever would be adjudged in favor of petitioner.

RTC: FEU and its President was ordered to pay jointly and severally Saludaga damages. Galaxy and its President was ordered to indemnify jointly and severally FEU for such amount.

CA: Dismissed, ruling that: a) the incident was a fortuitous event; b) that respondents are not liable for damages for the injury suffered by the petitioner from the hands of their own security guard in violation of their built-in contractual obligation to petitioner, being their law student at the time, to provide him with a safe and secure educational environment; c) that Rosete, who shot petitioner, was not FEU’s employee by virtue of the contract for security services between Galaxy and FEU, notwithstanding the fact that petitioner, not being a party to it, is not bound by the same under the principle of relativity of contracts; and, d) FEU exercised due diligence in selecting Galaxy as the agency which would provide security services within the respondent FEU.

In his appeal, petitioner sued respondents for damages based on the alleged breach of student-school contract for a safe learning environment. Respondents aver that the shooting incident was a fortuitous event because they could not have reasonably foreseen nor avoided the accident caused by Rosete as he was not their employee; and that they complied with their obligation to ensure a safe learning environment for their students by having exercised due diligence in selecting the security services of Galaxy.

Issue #1:
Whether or not there is a contractual obligation between Saludaga and FEU.

Held #1: YES.
It is undisputed that petitioner was enrolled as a sophomore law student in respondent FEU. As such, there was created a contractual obligation between the two parties. On petitioner’s part, he was obliged to comply with the rules and regulations of the school. On the other hand, respondent FEU, as a learning institution is mandated to impart knowledge and equip its students with the necessary skills to pursue higher education or a profession. At the same time, it is obliged to ensure and take adequate steps to maintain peace and order within the campus.

Issue #2:
Whether or not FEU is guilty of culpa contractual.

Held #2: YES.
It is settled that in culpa contractual, the mere proof of the existence of the contract and the failure of its compliance justify, prima facie, a corresponding right of relief.

Here, petitioner was shot inside the campus by no less the security guard who was hired to maintain peace and secure the premises, there is a prima facie showing that respondents failed to comply with its obligation to provide a safe and secure environment to its students. Also, respondents failed to prove that they ensured that the guards assigned in the campus met the requirements stipulated in the Security Service Agreement. No evidence as to the qualifications of Rosete as security guard was presented. Respondents also failed to show that they undertook steps to ascertain and confirm that the security guards assigned to them actually possess the qualifications required in the Security Service Agreement.

Issue #3:
Whether or not the presence of force majeure may absolve FEU from liability.

Held #3: NO.
In order for force majeure to be considered, respondents must show that no negligence or misconduct was committed that may have occasioned the loss. An act of God cannot be invoked to protect a person who has failed to take steps to forestall the possible adverse consequences of such a loss. One’s negligence may have concurred with an act of God in producing damage and injury to another; nonetheless, showing that the immediate or proximate cause of the damage or injury was a fortuitous event would not exempt one from liability. When the effect is found to be partly the result of a person’s participation – whether by active intervention, neglect or failure to act – the whole occurrence is humanized and removed from the rules applicable to acts of God.

Issue #4:
Whether or not the petitioner is entitled to indemnification for damages.

Held #4: YES. Petitioner is entitled to actual damages, moral damages, temperate damages, attorney’s fees, and litigation expenses. The petitioner is not entitled to exemplary damages.

Article 1170 of the Civil Code provides that those who are negligent in the performance of their obligations are liable for damages. Accordingly, for breach of contract due to negligence in providing a safe learning environment, FEU is liable to petitioner for damages. It is essential in the award of damages that the claimant must have satisfactorily proven during the trial the existence of the factual basis of the damages and its causal connection to defendant’s acts.

Petitioner spent expenses for his hospitalization and medical expenses. Since the case involved an obligation arising from a contract and not a loan or forbearance of money, the proper rate of legal interest is 6% per annum of the amount demanded. The interest shall continue to run from the filing of the complaint until the finality of the Decision. After the decision becomes final and executory, the applicable rate shall be 12% per annum until its satisfaction. Also, transportation expenses and those incurred in the hiring of a personal assistant while recuperating were not however supported by receipts. In the absence thereof, no actual damages may be awarded.

Nonetheless, Art. 2224 of the Civil Code states that temperate damages may be recovered where it has been shown that the claimant suffered some pecuniary loss but the amount thereof cannot be proved with certainty.

SC awarded petitioner moral damages for the “physical suffering, mental anguish, fright, serious anxiety, and moral shock resulting from the shooting incident”. SC stressed that the moral damages are in the category of an award designed to compensate the claimant for actual injury suffered and not to impose a penalty on the wrongdoer.

Attorney’s fees and litigation expenses were also reasonable in view of Art. 2208 of Civil Code.

However, the award of exemplary damages is deleted considering the absence of proof that the respondents acted in a wanton, fraudulent, reckless, oppressive, or malevolent manner.

Issue #5:
Whether or not the FEU President himself is vicariously liable.

Held: NO.
FEU President cannot be held liable for damages under Art. 2180 of CC because respondents are not employers of Rosete. The latter was employed by Galaxy. The instructions issued by respondents’ Security Consultant to Galaxy and its security guards are ordinarily no more than requests commonly envisaged in the contract for services entered into by a principal and a security agency. They cannot be construed as the element of control as to treat respondents as the employers of Rosete. Where the security agency recruits, hires and assigns the works of its watchmen or security guards to a client, the employer of such guards or watchmen is such agency, and not the client, since the latter has no hand in selecting the security guards. Thus, the duty to observe the diligence of a good father of a family cannot be demanded from the said client.

Issue #6:
Whether or not Galaxy and its President were liable for damages.

Held #6: YES.
For the acts of negligence and for having supplied respondent FEU with an unqualified security guard, which resulted to the latter’s breach of obligation to petitioner, it is proper to hold Galaxy liable to respondent FEU for such damages equivalent to the above-mentioned amounts awarded to petitioner.

Also, unlike the FEU President, SC deemed Galaxy President to be solidarily liable with Galaxy for being grossly negligent in directing the affairs of the security agency. It was the Galaxy President who assured petitioner that his medical expenses will be shouldered by Galaxy, but said representations were not fulfilled because they presumed that petitioner and his family were no longer interested in filing a formal complaint against them.

Case Brief: Katon vs Palanca

[G.R. No. 151149. September 7, 2004]
GEORGE KATON, petitioner,
vs.
MANUEL PALANCA JR., LORENZO AGUSTIN, JESUS GAPILANGO and JUAN FRESNILLO, respondents.

FACTS:

On August 2, 1963, petitioner Katon filed a request with the District Office of the Bureau of Forestry for the re-classification of a piece of real property known as Sombrero Island in Palawan for the purpose of eventual conversion or reclassification from forest to agricultural land, and thereafter for Katon to apply for homestead patent.

Then, in 1965, the Director of Forestry informed the Director of Lands, that since the subject land was no longer needed for forest purposes, the same is therefore certified and released as agricultural land for disposition under the Public Land Act.
However, there were also several favorable endorsements that were made to survey the island under the request of herein respondents. Then, the records show that, on November 8, 1996, one of the respondents Juan Fresnillo filed a homestead patent application for the portion of the island consisiting of 8.5 hectares and the respondent Jesus Gapilango filed a homestead application on June 8, 1972. The respondent Manuel Palanca, Jr. was issued a Homestead Patent No. 14527 and OCT No. G-7098 on March 3, 1875 with an area of 6.84 hectares of Sombrero Island.

Petitioner assails the validity of the homestead patents and original certificates of title covering certain portions of Sombrero Island issued in favor of respondents on the ground that the same were obtained through fraud. Petitioner prays for the reconveyance of the whole island in his favor. The petitioner claims that he has the exclusive right to file an application for homestead patent over the whole island since it was he who requested for its conversion from forest land to agricultural land.

Respondents aver that they are all bona fide and lawful possessors of their respective portions and have declared said portions for taxation purposes and that they have been faithfully paying taxes thereon for twenty years. Respondents contend that the petitioner has no legal capacity to sue insofar as the island is concerned because an action for reconveyance can only be brought by the owner and not a mere homestead applicant and that petitioner is guilty of estoppel by laches for his failure to assert his right over the land for an unreasonable and unexplained period of time.

Timeline:
June 30, 1999. Respondents filed a Motion to Dimiss on the ground of the alleged
defiance by petitioner of the trial court’s Order to amend his Complaint so he could thus effect a substitution by the legal heirs of the deceased Respondent Gapilango.
July 29, 1999. RTC granted the Motion to Dismiss.
December 17, 1999: RTC denied petitioner’s Motion for Reconsideration of the July 29, 1999 order for being a third and prohibited motion.

In his Petition for Certiorari before the CA, petitioner charged the trial court with grave abuse of discretion on the ground that the denied Motion was his first and only Motion for Reconsideration of the aforesaid Order.

Court of Appeals dismissed the complaint because of prescription invoking residual prerogative.

ISSUE:
Whether or not it is correct for the CA to invoke its alleged residual prerogative under Sec. 1, Rule 9 in resolving the petition on an issue not raised in the petition.

HELD: YES.

Petitioner next submits that the CA erroneously invoked its residual prerogatives under Section 1 of Rule 9 of the Rules of Court when it motu proprio dismissed the Petition for lack of jurisdiction and prescription. According to him, residual prerogative refers to the power that the trial court, in the exercise of its original jurisdiction, may still validly exercise even after perfection of an appeal. It follows that such powers are not possessed by an appellate court.

Petitioner has confused what the CA adverted to as its residual prerogatives under Section 1 of Rule 9 of the Rules of Court with the residual jurisdiction of trial courts over cases appealed to the CA.

Under Section 1 of Rule 9 of the Rules of Court, defenses and objections not pleaded either in a motion to dismiss or in the answer are deemed waived, except when (1) lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter, (2) litis pendentia, (3) res judicata and (4) prescription are evident from the pleadings or the evidence on record. In the four excepted instances, the court shall motu proprio dismiss the claim or action.

The motu proprio dismissal of a case was traditionally limited to instances when the court clearly had no jurisdiction over the subject matter and when the plaintiff did not appear during trial, failed to prosecute his action for an unreasonable length of time or neglected to comply with the rules or with any order of the court. Outside of
these instances, any motu proprio dismissal would amount to a violation of the right of the plaintiff to be heard.

Under the new rules, a court may motu proprio dismiss a claim when it appears from the pleadings or evidence on record that it has no jurisdiction over the subject matter; when there is another cause of action pending between the same parties for the same cause, or where the action is barred by a prior judgment or by statute of limitations.

On the other hand, “residual jurisdiction” is embodied in Section 9 of Rule 41 of the Rules of Court, as follows:

SEC. 9. Perfection of appeal; effect thereof. – A party’s appeal by notice of appeal is deemed perfected as to him upon the filing of the notice of appeal in due time.

A party’s appeal by record on appeal is deemed perfected as to him with respect to the subject matter thereof upon the approval of the record on appeal filed in due time.

In appeals by notice of appeal, the court loses jurisdiction over the case upon the perfection of the appeals filed in due time and the expiration of the time to appeal of the other parties.

In appeals by record on appeal, the court loses jurisdiction only over the subject matter thereof upon the approval of the records on appeal filed in due time and the expiration of the time to appeal of the other parties.

In either case, prior to the transmittal of the original record or the record on appeal, the court may issue orders for the protection and preservation of the rights of the parties which do not involve any matter litigated by the appeal, approve compromises, permit appeals of indigent litigants, order execution pending appeal in accordance with Section 2 of Rule 39, and allow withdrawal of the appeal.

The residual jurisdiction of trial courts is available at a stage in which the court is normally deemed to have lost jurisdiction over the case or the subject matter involved in the appeal. This stage is reached upon the perfection of the appeals by the parties or upon the approval of the records on appeal, but prior to the transmittal of the original records or the records on appeal. In either instance, the trial court still retains its so-called residual jurisdiction to issue protective orders, approve compromises, permit appeals of indigent litigants, order execution pending appeal, and allow the withdrawal of the appeal.

The CAs motu proprio dismissal of petitioners’ Complaint could not have been based, therefore, on residual jurisdiction under Rule 41. Undeniably, such order of dismissal was not one for the protection and preservation of the rights of the parties, pending the disposition of the case on appeal. What the CA referred to as residual prerogatives were the general residual powers of the courts to dismiss an action motu proprio upon the grounds mentioned in Section 1 of Rule 9 of the Rules of Court and under authority of Section 2 of Rule 14 of the same rules.

Sidenote: SC dismissed the petitioner’s complaint due to lack of jurisdiction and lack of cause of action (Sec. 2, Rule 3). Petitioner is not a proper party in the case because the contested land was not privately owned by him prior to the issuance of the assailed certificate of title to the defendant. He had never been privately titled in his name. A mere homestead applicant, not being the real party in interest, has no cause of action in a suit for reconveyance.

Case Brief: Figueroa vs People

GR No. 147406  July 14, 2008
Venancio Figueroa y Cervantes, petitioner
vs
People of the Philippines, respondent

Facts:

On August 19, 1998, RTC convicted the petitioner of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide. In his appeal before the CA, the petitioner questioned for the first time the RTC’s jurisdiction.

CA, however, considered the petitioner to have actively participated in the trial and to have belatedly attacked the jurisdiction of RTC; thus, he was already estopped by laches from asserting the RTC’s lack of jurisdiction. CA affirmed RTC’s decision.

[Sidenote: While not an issue, the SC clarified that the jurisdiction of the court to hear and decide a case is conferred by the law in force at the time of the institution of the action, unless such statute provides for a retroactive application thereof. In this case, at the time the criminal information for reckless imprudence resulting in homicide with violation of the Automobile Law (now Land Transportation and Traffic Code) was filed, Section 32(2) of Batas Pambansa (B.P.) Blg. 129 had already been amended by Republic Act No. 7691. And so as the imposable penalty for the crime charged is prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods (imprisonment for 2 years 4 months and 1 day, to 6 years), jurisdiction to hear and try the same is conferred on MTC. Therefore, the RTC does not have jurisdiction over the case.]

Petitioner filed the instant petition for review on certiorari. While both the appellate court and the Solicitor General acknowledge the fact that RTC did not have jurisdiction, they nevertheless are of the position that the principle of estoppel by laches has already precluded the petitioner from questioning the jurisdiction of the RTC, the trial went on for 4 years with the petitioner actively participating therein and without him ever raising the jurisdictional infirmity. The petitioner, for his part, counters that the lack of jurisdiction of a court over the subject matter may be raised at any time even for the first time on appeal. As undue delay is further absent herein, the principle of laches will not be applicable.

Issue:

Whether or not the case should be dismissed on the ground of lack of jurisdiction on the part of the RTC, notwithstanding the fact that the petitioner failed to raise the issue during the trial and the alleged laches in relation to the doctrine in Tijam vs. Sibonghanoy.

Held: YES. SC dismissed the case without prejudice.

The ruling in Sibonghanoy on the matter of jurisdiction is the exception rather than the general rule. For it to be invoked, laches should clearly be present; that is, lack of jurisdiction must have been raised so belatedly as to warrant the presumption that the party entitled to assert it had abandoned or declined to assert it.

SC clarified that in its past decisions concerning the same issue, it wavered on when to apply the exceptional circumstance in Sibonghanoy and on when to apply the general rule enunciated as early as in De La Santa and expounded at length in Calimlim. The general rule should, however, be, as it has always been, that the issue of jurisdiction may be raised at any stage of the proceedings, even on appeal, and is not lost by waiver or by estoppel. Estoppel by laches, to bar a litigant from asserting the courts absence or lack of jurisdiction, only supervenes in exceptional cases similar to the factual milieu of Tijam v. Sibonghanoy. Indeed, the fact that a person attempts to invoke unauthorized jurisdiction of a court does not estop him from thereafter challenging its jurisdiction over the subject matter, since such jurisdiction must arise by law and not by mere consent of the parties. This is especially true where the person seeking to invoke unauthorized jurisdiction of the court does not thereby secure any advantage or the adverse party does not suffer any harm.

Applying the said doctrine to the instant case, the petitioner is in no way estopped by laches in assailing the jurisdiction of the RTC, considering that he raised the lack thereof in his appeal before the appellate court. At that time, no considerable period had yet elapsed for laches to attach. True, delay alone, though unreasonable, will not sustain the defense of estoppel by laches unless it further appears that the party, knowing his rights, has not sought to enforce them until the condition of the party pleading laches has in good faith become so changed that he cannot be restored to his former state, if the rights be then enforced, due to loss of evidence, change of title, intervention of equities, and other causes. In applying the principle of estoppel by laches in the exceptional case of Sibonghanoy, the Court therein considered the patent and revolting inequity and unfairness of having the judgment creditors go up their Calvary once more after more or less 15 years. The same, however, does not obtain in the instant case.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition for review on certiorari is GRANTED. Criminal Case No. 2235-M-94 is hereby DISMISSED without prejudice.

Case Brief: Asian Construction and Development Corporation vs CA and Monark Equipment Corporation

[G.R. No. 160242. May 17, 2005]
ASIAN CONSTRUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, petitioner,
vs.
COURT OF APPEALS and MONARK EQUIPMENT CORPORATION, respondents.

Facts:

Monark (MEC) filed a complaint for sum of money with damages against Asian Construction (ACDC), alleging that ACDC leased Caterpillar generator sets and Amida mobile floodlighting systems from MEC, but failed, despite demands, to pay the rentals therefor; that various equipment from MEC were leased by ACDC for the latter’s power plant; and, that ACDC also purchased and took custody of various equipment parts from MEC, which, despite demands, MEC failed to pay.

ACDC filed a motion to file and admit answer with third-party complaint against Becthel Overseas Corporation (Becthel). In its answer, ACDC admitted its indebtedness to MEC, but alleged the following special and affirmative defenses: that Becthel incurred an obligation with ACDC and refused to pay the overdue obligation; and that the equipment covered by the lease were all used in Becthel’s construction project.

MEC opposed the motion of ACDC to file a third-party complaint against Becthel on the ground that ACDC had already admitted its principal obligation to MEC; that the transaction between MEC and ACDC on one hand, and between ACDC and Becthel on the other, were independent transactions.

In addition, MEC filed a motion for summary judgment, alleging that there was no genuine issue as to ACDC’s obligation to MEC. ACDC opposed the motion, alleging that there was a genuine issue with respect to the amount being claimed by MEC, and that it had a third-party complaint against Becthel in connection with the reliefs sought against it which had to be litigated. In its reply, MEC alleged that the demand of ACDC in its special and affirmative defenses partook the nature of a negative pregnant, and that there was a need for the hearing on its claim for damages.

RTC denied the motion of ACDC for leave to file a third-party complaint, and granted the motion of MEC (which the RTC considered as a motion for a judgment on the pleadings). It ordered ACDC to pay MEC the amount alleged.

CA affirmed the ruling, adding that since MEC prayed for judgment on the pleadings, it waived its claim for damages other than the amount alleged; hence, there was no longer a genuine issue to be resolved by the court. It also held that the transaction between ACDC and Becthel did not arise out of the same transaction on which MEC’s claim was based.

Issue:
Whether or not a third-party complaint is proper.

Held: NO.

Sec. 11, Rule 6 of the Rules of Court provides the discussion on third-party complaint. Furthermore, Sec. 1, Rule 34 of the Rules of Court provides the instances where a court may render judgment on the pleadings.

The purpose of Section 11, Rule 6 of the Rules of Court is to permit a defendant to assert an independent claim against a third-party which he, otherwise, would assert in another action, thus preventing multiplicity of suits. All the rights of the parties concerned would then be adjudicated in one proceeding. This is a rule of procedure and does not create a substantial right. Neither does it abridge, enlarge, or nullify the substantial rights of any litigant. This right to file a third-party complaint against a third-party rests in the discretion of the trial court. The third-party complaint is actually independent of, separate and distinct from the plaintiff’s complaint, such that were it not for the rule, it would have to be filed separately from the original complaint.

The defendant may implead another as third-party defendant (a) on an allegation of liability of the latter to the defendant for contribution, indemnity, subrogation or any other relief; (b) on the ground of direct liability of the third-party defendant to the plaintiff; or (c) the liability of the third-party defendant to both the plaintiff and the defendant. There must be a causal connection between the claim of the plaintiff in his complaint and a claim for contribution, indemnity or other relief of the defendant against the third-party defendant. In Capayas v. Court of First Instance, the Court made out the following tests: (1) whether it arises out of the same transaction on which the plaintiff’s claim is based; or whether the third-party claim, although arising out of another or different contract or transaction, is connected with the plaintiffs claim; (2) whether the third-party defendant would be liable to the plaintiff or to the defendant for all or part of the plaintiffs claim against the original defendant, although the third-party defendants liability arises out of another transaction; and (3) whether the third-party defendant may assert any defenses which the third-party plaintiff has or may have to the plaintiffs claim.

The third-party complaint does not have to show with certainty that there will be recovery against the third-party defendant, and it is sufficient that pleadings show possibility of recovery. In determining the sufficiency of the third-party complaint, the allegations in the original complaint and the third-party complaint must be examined. A third-party complaint must allege facts which prima facie show that the defendant is entitled to contribution, indemnity, subrogation or other relief from the third-party defendant.

It bears stressing that common liability is the very essence for contribution. Contribution is a payment made by each, or by any of several having a common liability of his share in the damage suffered or in the money necessarily paid by one of the parties in behalf of the other or others. The rule on common liability is fundamental in the action for contribution. The test to determine whether the claim for indemnity in a third-party complaint is, whether it arises out of the same transaction on which the plaintiff’s claim is based, or the third-party plaintiff’s claim, although arising out of another or different contract or transaction, is connected with the plaintiff’s claim.

In this case, the claims of the MEC against ACDC arose out of the contracts of lease and sale; such transactions are different and separate from those between Becthel and the ACDC as third-party plaintiff for the construction of the latter’s. The controversy between the ACDC and MEC on one hand, and that between the ACDC and Becthel on the other, are thus entirely distinct from each other. There is no showing in the proposed third-party complaint that the MEC knew or approved the use of the leased equipment by the ACDC for the said project. Becthel cannot invoke any defense the ACDC had or may have against the claims of the MEC in its complaint, because ACDC had admitted its liabilities to the MEC for the amount of P5,075,335.86. The barefaced fact that the ACDC used the equipment it leased from MEC in connection with its project with Becthel does not provide a substantive basis for the filing of a third-party complaint against the latter. There is no causal connection between the claim of MEC for the rental and the balance of the purchase price of the equipment and parts sold and leased to the ACDC, and the failure of Becthel to pay the balance of its account to ACDC after the completion of the project.

Considering that the petitioner admitted its liability for the principal claim of the respondent in its Answer with Third-Party Complaint, the trial court did not err in rendering judgment on the pleadings against it.