REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, PETITIONER, VS. MARIA FE ESPINOSA CANTOR, RESPONDENT. EN BANC, G.R. No. 184621, December 10, 2013. - The Lawyer's Post
“x x x.
Court’s Judgment in the Judicial Proceedings for Declaration of Presumptive Death Is Final and Executory, Hence, Unappealable
The Family Code was explicit that the court’s judgment in summary proceedings, such as the declaration of presumptive death of an absent spouse under Article 41 of the Family Code, shall be immediately final and executory.
Article 41, in relation to Article 247, of the Family Code provides:
Art. 41. A marriage contracted by any person during subsistence of a previous marriage shall be null and void, unless before the celebration of the subsequent marriage, the prior spouse had been absent for four consecutive years and the spouse present has a well-founded belief that the absent spouse was already dead. In case of disappearance where there is danger of death under the circumstances set forth in the provisions of Article 391 of the Civil Code, an absence of only two years shall be sufficient.
For the purpose of contracting the subsequent marriage under the preceding paragraph the spouse present must institute a summary proceeding as provided in this Code for the declaration of presumptive death of the absentee, without prejudice to the effect of reappearance of the absent spouse.
Art. 247. The judgment of the court shall be immediately final and executory. [underscores ours]
With the judgment being final, it necessarily follows that it is no longer subject to an appeal, the dispositions and conclusions therein having become immutable and unalterable not only as against the parties but even as against the courts. Modification of the court’s ruling, no matter how erroneous is no longer permissible. The final and executory nature of this summary proceeding thus prohibits the resort to appeal. As explained in Republic of the Phils. v. Bermudez-Lorino, the right to appeal is not granted to parties because of the express mandate of Article 247 of the Family Code, to wit:
In Summary Judicial Proceedings under the Family Code, there is no reglementary period within which to perfect an appeal, precisely because judgments rendered thereunder, by express provision of [Article] 247, Family Code, supra, are “immediately final and executory.” It was erroneous, therefore, on the part of the RTC to give due course to the Republic’s appeal and order the transmittal of the entire records of the case to the Court of Appeals.
An appellate court acquires no jurisdiction to review a judgment which, by express provision of law, is immediately final and executory. As we have said in Veloria vs. Comelec, “the right to appeal is not a natural right nor is it a part of due process, for it is merely a statutory privilege.” Since, by express mandate of Article 247 of the Family Code, all judgments rendered in summary judicial proceedings in Family Law are “immediately final and executory,” the right to appeal was not granted to any of the parties therein. The Republic of the Philippines, as oppositor in the petition for declaration of presumptive death, should not be treated differently. It had no right to appeal the RTC decision of November 7, 2001. [emphases ours; italics supplied]
Certiorari Lies to Challenge the Decisions, Judgments or Final Orders of Trial Courts in a Summary Proceeding for the Declaration of Presumptive Death Under the Family Code
A losing party in this proceeding, however, is not entirely left without a remedy. While jurisprudence tells us that no appeal can be made from the trial court’s judgment, an aggrieved party may, nevertheless, file a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court to question any abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction that transpired.
As held in De los Santos v. Rodriguez, et al., the fact that a decision has become final does not automatically negate the original action of the CA to issue certiorari, prohibition and mandamus in connection with orders or processes issued by the trial court. Certiorari may be availed of where a court has acted without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion, and where the ordinary remedy of appeal is not available. Such a procedure finds support in the case of Republic v. Tango, wherein we held that:
This case presents an opportunity for us to settle the rule on appeal of judgments rendered in summary proceedings under the Family Code and accordingly, refine our previous decisions thereon.
Article 238 of the Family Code, under Title XI: SUMMARY JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS IN THE FAMILY LAW, establishes the rules that govern summary court proceedings in the Family Code:
“ART. 238. Until modified by the Supreme Court, the procedural rules in this Title shall apply in all cases provided for in this Code requiring summary court proceedings. Such cases shall be decided in an expeditious manner without regard to technical rules.”
In turn, Article 253 of the Family Code specifies the cases covered by the rules in chapters two and three of the same title. It states:
“ART. 253. The foregoing rules in Chapters 2 and 3 hereof shall likewise govern summary proceedings filed under Articles 41, 51, 69, 73, 96, 124 and 217, insofar as they are applicable.” (Emphasis supplied.)
In plain text, Article 247 in Chapter 2 of the same title reads:
“ART. 247. The judgment of the court shall be immediately final and executory.”
By express provision of law, the judgment of the court in a summary proceeding shall be immediately final and executory. As a matter of course, it follows that no appeal can be had of the trial court’s judgment in a summary proceeding for the declaration of presumptive death of an absent spouse under Article 41 of the Family Code. It goes without saying, however, that an aggrieved party may file a petition for certiorari to question abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction. Such petition should be filed in the Court of Appeals in accordance with the Doctrine of Hierarchy of Courts. To be sure, even if the Court’s original jurisdiction to issue a writ of certiorari is concurrent with the RTCs and the Court of Appeals in certain cases, such concurrence does not sanction an unrestricted freedom of choice of court forum. [emphasis ours]
Viewed in this light, we find that the petitioner’s resort to certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court to question the RTC’s order declaring Jerry presumptively dead was proper.
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