Case Brief: Drilon vs. Gaurana

G.R. No. L-35482 April 30, 1987

MANUEL DRILON, petitioner,

vs.

LUIS GAURANA and Honorable VALERIO ROVIRA, as Judge of the Court of First Instance of Iloilo, Branch IV, respondents.

 

Facts:

A parcel of agricultural land in Iloilo is covered by Free Patent No. 455943 in the name of Manuel Drilon, who was then issued Original Certificate of Title by the Register of Deeds.

In 1970, respondent Gaurana filed a case for annulment of free patent involving the same land, alleging that he purchased the land from Evangeline Gaurana, wife of the respondent. Gaurana filed another case for “Forcible Entry” in the same land, alleging that Drilon “by means of stealth, force, and strategy,” took possession of the south-east portion of the same land.

Drilon’s motion focused on two grounds: lack of jurisdiction, since the cause of action of respondent Luis Gaumna was one for recovery of ownership and possession of real property and not merely one of “forcible entry;” and (b) pendency of another action for the same cause. Both motions were dismissed, as “plaintiff did not split his cause of action and the alleged act of dispossession occurred subsequent to the filing of the complaint, and therefore, the only issue before him was the question of de facto possession.” Drilon was then declared in default by the court, and was ejected from the property.

Drilon then filed a motion, praying that the court had no jurisdiction to try the case of forcible entry), which was denied as well. Hence, the appeal.

 

Issues:

Whether or not the lower court erred in holding that there was no splitting of a single cause of action.

Whether or not the lower court was correct in dismissing the motions due to the pendency of another action between the same parties.

 

Held:

It is true that a party may not institute more than one suit for a single cause of action (Rule 2, Sec. 3, Revised Rules of Court) and if two or more complaints are brought for different parts of a single cause of action, the firing of the first may be pleaded in abatement of the other (Rule 2, Sec. 4. Revised Rules of Court). However, a forcible entry or unlawful detainer action has an entirely different subject from that of an action for reconveyance of title. What is involved in a forcible entry case is merely the issue of material possession or possession de facto; whereas in an action for reconveyance, ownership is the issue. So much so that the pendency of an action for reconveyance of title over the same property does not divest the city or municipal court of its jurisdiction to try the forcible entry or unlawful detainer case, nor preclude or bar execution of judgment in the ejectment case where the only issue involved is material possession or possession de facto.

It must be stated that the purpose of an action of forcible entry and detainer is that, regardless of the actual condition of the title to the property, the party in peaceable quiet possession shall not be turned out by strong hand, violence or terror. In affording this remedy of restitution the object of the statute is to prevent breaches of the peace and criminal disorder which would ensue from the withdrawal of the remedy, and the reasonable hope such withdrawal would create that some advantage must accrue to those persons who, believing themselves entitled to the possession of property, resort to force to gain possession rather than to some appropriate action in the courts to assert their claims. This is the philosophy at the foundation of all these actions of forcible entry and detainer which are designed to compel the party out of possession to respect and resort to the law alone to obtain what he claims is his.

With respect to the second assignment of error, while there may be Identity of parties and subject matter in the forcible entry case and Civil Case No. 8323, for annulment of free patent and/or reconveyance, the rights asserted and the relief prayed for in the said cases are not the same. In the former case, the legal right claimed is possession, while in the latter case, the legal right asserted is ownership. SC cannot assent to the proposition that the motion to dismiss the forcible entry case in view of the pendency of an action for quieting of title and recovery of possession of the same parcel of land since the causes of action in the two cases are distinct from each other.

Case Brief: Ramiscal vs. Sandiganbayan

G.R. Nos. 140576-99. December 13, 2004
JOSE S. RAMISCAL, JR., petitioner,
vs.
HONORABLE SANDIGANBAYAN (Fourth Division), ALBANO & ASSOCIATES and the ASSOCIATION OF GENERALS & FLAG OFFICERS, INC., respondents.

Facts:
Jose S. Ramiscal Jr., Julian Alzaga, Manuel Satuito, Elizabeth Liang and Jesus Garcia were charged with Malversation through Falsification of Public Documents before the Sandiganbayan. The Information alleged that Ramiscal, et. al. misappropriated and converted the amount of P250,318,200.00 for their personal use from the funds of AFP-RSBS.
Ramiscal filed with the Sandiganbayan an “Urgent Motion to Declare Nullity of Information and to Defer Issuance of Warrant of Arrest.” He argued, that the Sandiganbayan had no jurisdiction over the case because the AFP-RSBS is a private entity. The said Urgent Motion was later adopted by Alzaga and Satuito. The Urgent Motion was denied by the Sandiganbayan. Ramiscal, et. al. filed a Motion for Reconsideration. In a Resolution issued, the Sandiganbayan sustained Ramiscal, et. al.’s contention that the AFP-RSBS is a private entity. Hence, it reconsidered its earlier Resolution and ordered the dismissal of their criminal case. Upon denial of its Motion for Reconsideration, the prosecution filed the present special civil action for certiorari with the Supreme Court.

Issue:
Whether or not the AFP-RSBS is not a government entity.

Held:
No, the AFP-RSBS is a government entity. It was created by Presidential Decree 361. Its purpose and functions are akin to those of the GSIS and the SSS, as in fact it is the system that manages the retirement and pension funds of those in the military service. Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police are expressly excluded from the coverage of The GSIS Act of 1997. Therefore, soldiers and military personnel, who are incidentally employees of the Government, rely on the administration of the AFP-RSBS for their retirement, pension and separation benefits. Its enabling law further mandates that the System shall be administered by the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines through an agency, group, committee or board, which may be created and organized by him and subject to such rules and regulations governing the same as he may, subject to the approval of the Secretary of National Defense, promulgate from time to time. Moreover, the investment of funds of the System shall be decided by the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines with the approval of the Secretary of National Defense. The funds of the AFP-RSBS, except for the initial seed money, come entirely from contributions and that no part thereof come from appropriations. While it may be true that there have been no appropriations for the contribution of funds to the AFP-RSBS, the Government is not precluded from later on adding to the funds in order to provide additional benefits to them. The above considerations indicate that the character and operations of the AFP-RSBS are imbued with public interest. As such, we hold that the same is a government entity and its funds are in the nature of public funds.

Case Brief: Serana vs. Sandiganbayan

G.R. No. 162059, January 22, 2008
HANNAH EUNICE D. SERANA, Petitioner,
vs
SANDIGANBAYAN and PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondents.

Facts:
Hannah Serana was appointed by former President Estrada as a student regent of UP Cebu, to serve a one-year term. President Estrada gave P15,000,000.00 to the Office of the Student Regent Foundation, Inc as financial assistance for the proposed renovation. The renovation of Vinzons Hall Annex failed to materialize. The Ombudsman filed estafa case against her before the Sandiganbayan. She moved to quash the information. She claimed that the Sandiganbayan does not have any jurisdiction over the offense charged or over her person, in her capacity as UP student regent because the Sandiganbayan has no jurisdiction over estafa; the petitioner is not a public officer with Salary Grade 27; the offense charged was not committed in relation to her office; and the funds in question personally came from President Estrada, not from the government. As to jurisdiction over her person, she contends that as a UP student regent, she is not a public officer who held the position in an ex officio capacity.
The Sandiganbayan denied her motion for lack of merit.

Issue:
Whether or not the Sandiganbayan has no jurisdiction over Serana’s case.

Held:
No, Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction over this case. In Geduspan v. People, the SC held that while the first part of Sec. 4(A) covers only officials with Salary grade 27 and higher but who are by express provisions of law placed under the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan as she is placed there by express provisions of law. Sec. 4(A)(1)(g) of PD No. 1606 explicitly vested the Sandiganbayan with jurisdiction over Presidents, directors and trustees, or manager of government-owned or controlled corporations, state universities, or educational foundations. Petitioner falls under this category. As the Sandiganbayan pointed out, the Board of Regents performs functions similar to those of a board of trustee of a non-stock corporation. By express mandate of law, petitioner is, indeed, a public officer as contemplated by PD No. 1606. Thus, her position as a board of regent (UP student regent) is among those enumerated and the Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction over her.

Case Brief: Laguna Lake Development Authority v CA

G.R. Nos. 120865-71   December 7, 1995

LAGUNA LAKE DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY, petitioner,
vs.
COURT OF APPEALS; HON. JUDGE HERCULANO TECH, PRESIDING JUDGE, BRANCH 70, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF BINANGONAN RIZAL; FLEET DEVELOPMENT, INC. and CARLITO ARROYO; THE MUNICIPALITY OF BINANGONAN and/or MAYOR ISIDRO B. PACIS, respondents.

LAGUNA LAKE DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY, petitioner,
vs.
COURT OF APPEALS; HON. JUDGE AURELIO C. TRAMPE, PRESIDING JUDGE, BRANCH 163, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF PASIG; MANILA MARINE LIFE BUSINESS RESOURCES, INC. represented by, MR. TOBIAS REYNALD M. TIANGCO; MUNICIPALITY OF TAGUIG, METRO MANILA and/or MAYOR RICARDO D. PAPA, JR., respondents.

LAGUNA LAKE DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY, petitioner,
vs.
COURT OF APPEALS; HON. JUDGE ALEJANDRO A. MARQUEZ, PRESIDING JUDGE, BRANCH 79, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF MORONG, RIZAL; GREENFIELD VENTURES INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION and R. J. ORION DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION; MUNICIPALITY OF JALA-JALA and/or MAYOR WALFREDO M. DE LA VEGA, respondents.

LAGUNA LAKE DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY, petitioner,
vs.
COURT OF APPEALS; HON. JUDGE MANUEL S. PADOLINA, PRESIDING JUDGE, BRANCH 162, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF PASIG, METRO MANILA; IRMA FISHING & TRADING CORP.; ARTM FISHING CORP.; BDR CORPORATION, MIRT CORPORATION and TRIM CORPORATION; MUNICIPALITY OF BINANGONAN and/or MAYOR ISIDRO B. PACIS, respondents.

LAGUNA LAKE DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY, petitioner,
vs.
COURT OF APPEALS; HON. JUDGE ARTURO A. MARAVE, PRESIDING JUDGE, BRANCH 78, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF MORONG, RIZAL; BLUE LAGOON FISHING CORP. and ALCRIS CHICKEN GROWERS, INC.; MUNICIPALITY OF JALA-JALA and/or MAYOR WALFREDO M. DE LA VEGA, respondents.

LAGUNA LAKE DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY, petitioner,
vs.
COURT OF APPEALS; HON. JUDGE ARTURO A. MARAVE, PRESIDING JUDGE, BRANCH 78, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF MORONG, RIZAL; AGP FISH VENTURES, INC., represented by its PRESIDENT ALFONSO PUYAT; MUNICIPALITY OF JALA-JALA and/or MAYOR WALFREDO M. DE LA VEGA, respondents.

LAGUNA LAKE DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY, petitioner,
vs.
COURT OF APPEALS; HON. JUDGE EUGENIO S. LABITORIA, PRESIDING JUDGE, BRANCH 161, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF PASIG, METRO MANILA; SEA MAR TRADING CO. INC.; EASTERN LAGOON FISHING CORP.; MINAMAR FISHING CORP.; MUNICIPALITY OF BINANGONAN and/or MAYOR ISIDRO B. PACIS, respondents.

Facts:

The Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) was created through RA No. 4850 in order to execute the policy towards environmental protection and sustainable development so as to accelerate the development and balanced growth of the Laguna Lake area and the surrounding provinces and towns.

Upon implementation of RA 7160 (Local Government Code of 1991), the municipalities assumed exclusive jurisdiction & authority to issue fishing privileges within their municipal waters since Sec.149 thereof provides: “Municipal corporations shall have the authority to grant fishery privileges in the municipal waters and impose rental fees or charges therefore…” Big fishpen operators took advantage of the occasion to establish fishpens & fish cages to the consternation of the LLDA.

The implementation of separate independent policies in fish cages & fish pen operation and the indiscriminate grant of fishpen permits by the lakeshore municipalities have saturated the lake with fishpens, thereby aggravating the current environmental problems and ecological stress of Laguna Lake.

The LLDA then served notice to the general public that:

(1) fishpens, cages & other aqua-culture structures unregistered with the LLDA as of March 31, 1993 are declared illegal;

(2) those declared illegal shall be subject to demolition by the Presidential Task Force for Illegal Fishpen and Illegal Fishing; and

(3) owners of those declared illegal shall be criminally charged with violation of Sec.39-A of RA 4850 as amended by PD 813.

A month later, the LLDA sent notices advising the owners of the illegally constructed fishpens, fishcages and other aqua-culture structures advising them to dismantle their respective structures otherwise demolition shall be effected.

 

Issue

Which agency of the Government — the Laguna Lake Development Authority or the towns and municipalities comprising the region — should exercise jurisdiction over the Laguna Lake and its environs insofar as the issuance of permits for fishery privileges is concerned?

 

Held

LLDA has jurisdiction over such matters because the charter of the LLDA prevails over the Local Government Code of 1991.

The said charter constitutes a special law, while the latter is a general law.

The Local Government Code of 1991, has not repealed the provisions of the charter of the Laguna Lake Development Authority, Republic Act No. 4850, as amended.

Thus, the Authority has the exclusive jurisdiction to issue permits for the enjoyment of fishery privileges in Laguna de Bay to the exclusion of municipalities situated therein and the authority to exercise such powers as are by its charter vested on it.

In addition, the charter of the LLDA embodies a valid exercise of police power for the purpose of protecting and developing the Laguna Lake region, as opposed to the Local Government Code, which grants powers to municipalities to issue fishing permits for revenue purposes.

Thus, it has to be concluded that the charter of the LLDA should prevail over the Local Government Code of 1991 on matters affecting Laguna de Bay.

 

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Case Brief: Baez v Valdevilla & Oro Marketing

Q: Whether or not the Labor Arbiter can award damages arising from tortious acts.

A: I qualify.  Generally, the Labor Arbiter cannot award damages arising from tortious acts. It is the RTC which has jurisdiction thereto. This is also true when the employer-employee relationship is merely incidental, and the cause of action comes from a different source of obligation.
However, if the damages arise directly from employer-employee relationship, Labor Arbiter can award damages arising therefrom.

GR No. 128024  May 9, 2000

Baez

v.

Valdevilla and Oro Marketing, Inc

Facts:
Baez was the sales operations manager of Oro Marketing Inc. In 1993, Oro Marketing indefinitely suspended Baez, prompting Baez to file for illegal dismissal. Labor Arbiter ruled in favor of Baez. Since Oro Marketing failed to timely file the appeal, both NLRC and SC dismissed the same.

Oro Marketing filed a complaint for damages before the RTC for loss of profit, cost of supplies, litigation expenses, and attorney’s fees. It alleged that due to Baez’ modus operandi, its sales decreased and reduced its profits.

Baez filed a motion to dismiss, interposing that the action for damages, having arisen from employer-employee relationship, was squarely under the exclusive original jurisdiction of NLRC under Art. 217(a) par. 4 of Labor Code, and is barred by reason of the final judgment in labor case. As such, he accused Oro Marketing of splitting causes of action, and that the latter should have included the claim in its counterclaim before the Labor Arbiter.

The respondent RTC Judge Valdevilla ruled that it had jurisdiction over the subject matter, since the complaint did not ask for any relief under the Labor Code, but rather to recover damages as redress for Baez’s nefarious activities, causing damage and prejudice to Oro Marketing. Since this there was a breach of contractual obligation, which is within the realm of civil law, the jurisdiction belongs to the regular courts.

Issue:
Whether or not RTC has jurisdiction over the claim for damages filed by Oro Marketing against Baez.
Held:
No. RTC had no jurisdiction over Oro Marketing’s complaint for damages.

RTC was incorrect in saying that the resolution of the issues presented by the complaint did not entail application of the Labor Code or other labor laws; the dispute was intrinsically civil. Article 217(a) of the Labor Code, as amended, clearly bestows upon the Labor Arbiter original and exclusive jurisdiction over claims for damages arising from employer-employee relations —in other words, the Labor Arbiter has jurisdiction to award not only the reliefs provided by labor laws, but also damages governed by the Civil Code.

It is clear that under Art. 217(a) par. 4 of Labor Code, the Labor Arbiter and NLRC have original and exclusive jurisdiction claims for actual, moral, exemplary and other forms of damages arising from the employer-employee relations. This provision is the result of the amendment by Section 9 of Republic Act (“R.A.”) No. 6715, which took effect on March 21, 1989, and which put to rest the earlier confusion as to who between Labor Arbiters and regular courts had jurisdiction over claims for damages as between employers and employees.

It will be recalled that years prior to R.A. 6715, jurisdiction over all money claims of workers, including claims for damages, was originally lodged with the Labor Arbiters and the NLRC by Article 217 of the Labor Code. On May 1, 1979, however, Presidential Decree (“P.D.”) No. 1367 amended said Article 217 to the effect that “Regional Directors shall not indorse and Labor Arbiters shall not entertain claims for moral or other forms of damages.” This limitation in jurisdiction, however, lasted only briefly since on May 1, 1980, P.D. No. 1691 nullified P.D. No. 1367 and restored Article 217 of the Labor Code almost to its original form. Presently, and as amended by R.A. 6715, the jurisdiction of Labor Arbiters and the NLRC in Article 217 is comprehensive enough to include claims for all forms of damages “arising from the employer-employee relations”.

By the designating clause “arising from the employer-employee relations”, Art. 217 should also apply with equal force to the claim of an employer for actual damages against its dismissed employee, where the basis for the claim arises from or is necessarily connected with the fact of termination, and should be entered as a counterclaim in the illegal dismissal case.

In this case, Oro Marketing’s claim against Baez for actual damages arose from a prior employer-employee relationship. In the first place, Oro Marketing’s would not have taken issue with Baez’s “doing business of his own” had the latter not been concurrently its employee. Thus, the damages alleged in the complaint were: first, those amounting to lost profits and earnings due to Baez’s abandonment or neglect of his duties as sales manager, having been otherwise preoccupied by his unauthorized installment sale scheme; and second, those equivalent to the value of Oro Marketing’s property and supplies which Baez used in conducting his “business”.

Second, contrary to Oro Marketing’s allegations, no business losses may be attributed to Baez as in fact, it was by reason of Baez’s sales operations that the sales reached its highest record level, and that the installment scheme was in fact with the knowledge of the management of Oro Marketing. In other words, the issue of actual damages has been settled in the labor case, which is now final and executory.

This is, of course, to distinguish from cases of actions for damages where the employer-employee relationship is merely incidental and the cause of action proceeds from a different source of obligation. Thus, the jurisdiction of regular courts was upheld where the damages, claimed for were based on tort, malicious prosecution, or breach of contract, as when the claimant seeks to recover a debt from a former employee or seeks liquidated damages in enforcement of a prior employment contract.

Case Brief: Manchester v CA

To put a stop to this irregularity, henceforth all complaints, petitions, answers and other similar pleadings should specify the amount of damages being prayed for not only in the body of the pleading but also in the prayer, and said damages shall be considered in the assessment of the filing fees in any case. Any pleading that fails to comply with this requirement shall not be accepted nor admitted, or shall otherwise be expunged from the record.

G.R. No. 75919 May 7, 1987
MANCHESTER DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, ET AL., petitioners,
vs.
COURT OF APPEALS, CITY LAND DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, STEPHEN ROXAS, ANDREW LUISON, GRACE LUISON and JOSE DE MAISIP, respondents.

Facts:
Manchester contended that the filing fee must be assessed on the basis of the amended complaint, citing the case of Magaspi v. Ramolete. The environmental facts of Magaspi as compared to the current Manchester case were as follows:

Magaspi v. Ramolete

Manchester v. CA

Action for recovery of ownership and possession of parcel of land with damages. Action for torts and damages and specific performance, with prayer for temporary restraining order
Seeks not only the annulment of title of defendant to property, the declaration of ownership and delivery of possession to Magaspi;

But also for the payment of A/M/E damages and attorney’s fees arising therefrom with the amounts specified therein

Prayer is for the issuance of writ of preliminary prohibitory injunction during the pendency of action against defendant’s announced forfeiture of P3M paid by Manchester for the property in question;

To attach such property of defendant that may be sufficient to satisfy any judgment that may be rendered;

And after hearing, order defendants to execute contract of purchase and sale of property and annul defendant’s illegal forfeiture of Manchester’s money;

Ordering them to pay A/C/E damages and attorney’s fees;

And declaring the tender of payment of purchase price of Manchester valid and producing the effect of payment and to make injunction permanent.;

The amount of damages sought is not specified in the prayer, although the body of the complaint alleges the total amount of P78M as damages.

There was an honest difference of opinion as to nature of action. The complaint was considered an action for recovery of ownership and possession of parcel of land. Damages were treated as merely to the main cause of action. Thus, docket fee of P60 and P10 for sherrif’s fee were paid. No such honest difference of opinion.   As per complaint, it is both an action for damages and specific performance;

Docket fee paid upon filing of complaint P410 because the action is merely one for specific performance where the amount involved is not capable of pecuniary estimation is wrong, because the body of complaint totaling P78M should be the basis of assessment of filing fee.

RTC ordered Magaspi to pay P3k as filing fee covering the damages alleged in the original complaint, as it did not consider the damages to be merely an or incidental to the action for recovery of ownership and possession of real property;

The amended complaint was filed by Magaspi with leave of court to include the State as defendant and reducing the amount of damages and attorney’s fees to P100k. Such amendment was admitted.

When the under-reassessment of the filing fee in Manchester was brought to the attention of SC together with other similar cases, an investigation was immediately ordered by the Court.

Manchester, thru another counsel and with leave of court, filed an amended complaint for the inclusion of Philips Wire and Cable Corporation as co-plaintiff, and by emanating any mention of the amount of damages in the body of complaint.

RTC directed Manchester to rectify the amended complaint by stating the amounts which they are asking for. It was only then that Manchester specified the amount of damages in the body of complaint in the reduced amount of P10M.

Still, no amount of damages were specified in the prayer. Such amendment was admitted.

Action was not only one for recovery of ownership but also for damages, so that the filing fee for damages should be the basis of assessment.

Although docket fee of P60 was insufficient, SC held that the payment was the result of an honest difference of opinion as to the correct amount to be paid as docket fee.   As such, the court had acquired jurisdiction over the case, and the proceedings thereafter were proper and regular.

Hence, as amended complaint superseded the original complaint, the allegations of damages in the amended complaint should be the basis of the computation of filing fee.

No such honest difference of opinion is possible as the allegations of the complaint, the designation, and the prayer showed clearly that it is an action for damages and specific performance.

The docket fee should be assessed by considering the amount of damages as alleged in the original complaint.

Issue:
In relation to docket fees as applied in Manchester case:
a) Must it be based in original complaint or in the amended complaint?
b) In which part of the pleading must the amount of damages being prayed for stated?
c) Is the court devoid of jurisdiction for failure to pay the correct docket fees?

Held:

1.a) It must be based in the original complaint (as compared from Magaspic case where the docket fee was based from amended complaint due to honest difference of opinion.
1.b) The amount of damages being prayed for must be stated in both the body of the pleading and the prayer. Such amount will be the basis of the filing fees.
1.c) Yes

In Magaspi case, SC declared that a case is deemed filed only upon payment of docket fee regardless of the actual date of filing in court. As such, in Manchester, the trial court did not acquire jurisdiction over the case by payment of only P410 as docket fee. Neither the amendment of complaint vested jurisdiction upon the court because in essence, there was no such original complained that was duly filed which could be amended. The orders admitting the amended complaint and all subsequent proceedings and actions taken by the RTC are null and void.

CA was correct in ruling that the basis of assessment of docket fee should be the amount of damages sought in the original complaint and not in the amended complaint.

SC frowns at the practice of counsel who filed the original complaint by omitting any specification of the amount of damages in the prayer, although the real amount is alleged in the body of the complaint. This is clearly intended for no other purpose than to evade the payment of correct filing fees or to mislead the docket clear in the assessment of filing fee. Such fraudulent practice was compounded when Manchester, through another counsel, filed an amended complaint, deleting all mention of the amount of damages being asked for in the body of complaint. It was only when in obedience to the order of the SC that the amount of damages be specified in the amended complaint, that Manchester wrote the damages in a reduced amount in the body of the complaint but not in the prayer thereof. The design to avoid payment of the required docket fee was obvious.

To put a stop to this irregularity, henceforth all complaints, petitions, answers and other similar pleadings should specify the amount of damages being prayed for not only in the body of the pleading but also in the prayer, and said damages shall be considered in the assessment of the filing fees in any case. Any pleading that fails to comply with this requirement shall not be accepted nor admitted, or shall otherwise be expunged from the record.

The Court acquires jurisdiction over any case only upon the payment of the prescribed docket fee. An amendment of the complaint or similar pleading will not thereby vest jurisdiction in the Court, much less the payment of the docket fee based on the amounts sought in the amended pleading. The ruling in the Magaspi case in so far as it is inconsistent with this pronouncement is overturned and reversed.

Case Brief: Bonifacio v. RTC of Makati, Br. 149

GR 184800     May 5, 2010

Bonifacio

v

RTC of Makati, Br. 149

Facts:

Petitioners Bonifacio et al were charged with the crime of libel after private respondent Gimenez, on behalf of Yuchengco family and Malayan Insurance Co., filed a criminal complaint before the Makati City Prosecutor for libel under Article 355 in relation to Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code .

The complaint alleged that petitioners, together with several John Does, publicly and maliciously with intention of attacking the honesty, virtue, honor and integrity, character and reputation of Malayan Insurance Co. Inc., and Yuchengco family for exposing them to public hatred and contempt, and published in the said website http://www.pepcoalition.com a defamatory article persuading the public to remove their investments and policies from the said company. This is after the petitioners filed to seek their redress for their pecuniary loss under the policies they obtained from the company. Makati City Prosecutor, after finding probable cause to indict the petitioners, filed separate information against them .

Petitioners filed before the respondent RTC of Makati a Motion to Quash on the grounds that it failed to vest jurisdiction on the Makati RTC; the acts complained of in the Information are not punishable by law since internet libel is not covered by Article 353 of the RPC. Petitioners maintained that the Information failed to allege a particular place within the trial courts jurisdiction where the subject article was printed and first published or that the offended parties resided in Makati at the time the alleged defamatory material was printed and first published, and the prosecution erroneously laid the venue of the case in the place where the offended party accessed the internet-published article.

Issue:

Whether petitioners’ Motion to Quash due to lack of jurisdiction is valid.

Held:

Yes. Venue is jurisdictional in criminal actions such that the place where the crime was committed determines not only the venue of the action but constitutes an essential element of jurisdiction. The venue of libel cases where the complainant is a private individual is limited to only either of two places, namely: 1) where the complainant actually resides at the time of the commission of the offense; or 2) where the alleged defamatory article was printed and first published.

The Amended Information in the case opted to lay the venue by stating that the offending article was first published and accessed by the private complainant in Makati City. In other words, it considered the phrase to be equivalent to the requisite allegation of printing and first publication. This is wrong. For the court to hold that the Amended Information sufficiently vested jurisdiction in the courts of Makati simply because the defamatory article was accessed therein would open the floodgates to the libel suit being filed in all other locations where the pepcoalition website is likewise accessed or capable of being accessed. This goes against the purpose as to why Republic Act No. 4363 was enacted. It lays down specific rules as to the venue of the criminal action so as to prevent the offended party in written defamation cases from inconveniencing the accused by means of out-of-town libel suits, meaning complaints filed in remote municipal courts (

IN FINE, the public respondent committed grave abuse of discretion in denying petitioners motion to quash the Amended Information.