Sunday, July 31, 2011

Murder; conspiracy appreciated - G.R. No. 175926

G.R. No. 175926


"To summarize, Milan’s and Chua’s arguments focus on the lack of direct evidence showing that they conspired with Carandang during the latter’s act of shooting the three victims. However, as we have held in People v. Sumalpong, [42] conspiracy may also be proven by other means:

Conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a felony and decide to commit it. Evidence need not establish the actual agreement among the conspirators showing a preconceived plan or motive for the commission of the crime. Proof of concerted action before, during and after the crime, which demonstrates their unity of design and objective, is sufficient. When conspiracy is established, the act of one is the act of all regardless of the degree of participation of each.[43]

In the case at bar, the conclusion that Milan and Chua conspired with Carandang was established by their acts (1) before Carandang shot the victims (Milan’s closing the door when the police officers introduced themselves, allowing Carandang to wait in ambush), and (2) after the shooting (Chua’s directive to Milan to attack SPO1 Montecalvo and Milan’s following such instruction). Contrary to the suppositions of appellants, these facts are not meant to prove that Chua is a principal by inducement, or that Milan’s act of attacking SPO1 Montecalvo was what made him a principal by direct participation. Instead, these facts are convincing circumstantial evidence of the unity of purpose in the minds of the three. As co-conspirators, all three are considered principals by direct participation.

Appellants’ attempt to instill doubts in our minds that Chua shouted “sugurin mo na” to Milan, who then ran towards SPO1 Montecalvo, must fail. SPO1 Estores’s positive testimony[44] on this matter prevails over the plain denials of Milan and Chua. SPO1 Estores has no reason to lie about the events he witnessed on April 5, 2001. As part of the team that was attacked on that day, it could even be expected that he is interested in having only the real perpetrators punished.

Furthermore, we have time and again ruled that factual findings of the trial court, especially those affirmed by the Court of Appeals, are conclusive on this Court when supported by the evidence on record.[45] It was the trial court that was able to observe the demeanors of the witnesses, and is consequently in a better position to determine which of the witnesses are telling the truth. Thus, this Court, as a general rule, would not review the factual findings of the courts a quo, except in certain instances such as when: (1) the conclusion is grounded on speculations, surmises or conjectures; (2) the inference is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible; (3) there is grave abuse of discretion; (4) the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts; (5) the findings of fact are conflicting; (6) there is no citation of specific evidence on which the factual findings are based; (7) the finding of absence of facts is contradicted by the presence of evidence on record; (8) the findings of the Court of Appeals are contrary to the findings of the trial court; (9) the Court of Appeals manifestly overlooked certain relevant and undisputed facts that, if properly considered, would justify a different conclusion; (10) the findings of the Court of Appeals are beyond the issues of the case; and (11) such findings are contrary to the admissions of both parties.[46]

Neither can the rapid turn of events be considered to negate a finding of conspiracy. Unlike evident premeditation, there is no requirement for conspiracy to exist that there be a sufficient period of time to elapse to afford full opportunity for meditation and reflection. Instead, conspiracy arises on the very moment the plotters agree, expressly or impliedly, to commit the subject felony.[47]

As held by the trial court and the Court of Appeals, Milan’s act of closing the door facilitated the commission of the crime, allowing Carandang to wait in ambush. The sudden gunshots when the police officers pushed the door open illustrate the intention of appellants and Carandang to prevent any chance for the police officers to defend themselves. Treachery is thus present in the case at bar, as what is decisive for this qualifying circumstance is that the execution of the attack made it impossible for the victims to defend themselves or to retaliate.[48]"

In pari delicto doctrine in labor cases - G.R. No. 160138

G.R. No. 160138


"The in pari delicto doctrine in labor cases is not novel to us. It has been applied in the case of Philippines Inter-Fashion, Inc. v NLRC,[20] where the Court held:

The Solicitor General has correctly stated in his comment that "from these facts are derived the following conclusions which are likewise undisputed: that petitioner engaged in an illegal lockout while the NAFLU engaged in an illegal strike; that the unconditional offer of the 150 striking employees to return to work and to withdraw their complaint of illegal lockout against petitioner constitutes condonation of the illegal lock-out; and that the unqualified acceptance of the offer of the 150 striking employees by petitioner likewise constitutes condonation of the illegal strike insofar as the reinstated employees are concerned."

The issues at bar arise, however, from respondent commission's approval of its commissioner's conclusions that (1) petitioner must be deemed to have waived its right to pursue the case of illegal strike against the 114 employees who were not reinstated and who pursued their illegal lockout claim against petitioner; and (2) the said 114 employees are entitled to reinstatement with three months' backwages.

The Court approves the stand taken by the Solicitor General that there was no clear and unequivocal waiver on the part of petitioner and on the contrary the record shows that it tenaciously pursued its application for their dismissal, but nevertheless in view of the undisputed findings of illegal strike on the part of the 114 employees and illegal lockout on petitioner's part, both parties are in pari delicto and such situation warrants the restoration of the status quo ante and bringing the parties back to the respective positions before the illegal strike and illegal lockout through the reinstatement of the said 114 employees, as follows:

The Bisaya case (102 Phil. 438) is inapplicable to the present case, because in the former, there were only two strikers involved who were both reinstated by their employer upon their request to return to work. However, in the present case, there were more than 200 strikers involved, of which 150 who desired to return to work were reinstated. The rest were not reinstated because they did not signify their intention to return to work. Thus, the ruling cited in the Bisaya case that the employer waives his defense of illegality of the strike upon reinstatement of strikers is applicable only to strikers who signified their intention to return to work and were accepted back ...

Truly, it is more logical and reasonable for condonation to apply only to strikers who signified their intention to return and did return to work. The reason is obvious. These strikers took the initiative in normalizing relations with their employer and thus helped promote industrial peace. However, as regards the strikers who decided to pursue with the case, as in the case of the 114 strikers herein, the employer could not be deemed to have condoned their strike, because they had not shown any willingness to normalize relations with it. So, if petitioner really had any intention to pardon the 114 strikers, it would have included them in its motion to withdraw on November 17, 1980. The fact that it did not, but instead continued to pursue the case to the end, simply means that it did not pardon the 114 strikers.

xxx xxx xxx

The finding of illegal strike was not disputed. Therefore, the 114 strikers employees who participated therein are liable for termination (Liberal Labor Union v. Phil. Can Co., 91 Phil. 72; Insurefco Employees Union v. Insurefco, 95 Phil. 761). On the other hard, the finding of illegal lockout was likewise not disputed. Therefore, the 114 employees affected by the lockout are also subject to reinstatement. Petitioner, however, contends that the application for readmission to work by the 150 strikers constitutes condonation of the lockout which should likewise bind the 114 remaining strikers. Suffice it to say that the 150 strikers acted for themselves, not on behalf of the 114 remaining strikers, and therefore the latter could not be deemed to have condoned petitioner's lockout.

The findings show that both petitioner and the 114 strikers are in pari delicto, a situation which warrants the maintenance of the status quo. This means that the contending parties must be brought back to their respective positions before the controversy; that is, before the strike. Therefore, the order reinstating the 114 employees is proper.

With such restoration of the status quo ante it necessarily follows, as likewise submitted by the Solicitor General, that the petition must be granted insofar as it seeks the setting aside of the award of three months' backwages to the 114 employees ordered reinstated on the basis of the general rule that strikers are not entitled to backwages (with some exceptions not herein applicable, such as where the employer is guilty of oppression and union-busting activities and strikers ordered reinstated are denied such reinstatement and therefore are declared entitled to backwages from the date of such denial). More so, is the principle of "no work, no pay" applicable to the case at bar, in view of the undisputed finding of illegality of the strike.

Likewise, the in pari delicto doctrine was applied in the case of First City Interlink Transportation Co. Inc. v The Honorable Secretary,[21] thus:

3) Petitioner substantially complied with the Return to Work Order. The medical examination, NBI, Police and Barangay Clearances as well as the driver's and conductor's/conductress licenses and photographs required as conditions for reinstatement were reasonable management prerogatives. However, the other requirements imposed as condition for reinstatement were unreasonable considering that the employees were not being hired for the first time, although the imposition of such requirements did not amount to refusal on the part of the employer to comply with the Return to Work Order or constitute illegal lockout so as to warrant payment of backwages to the strikers. If at all, it is the employees' refusal to return to work that may be deemed a refusal to comply with the Return to Work Order resulting in loss of their employment status. As both the employer and the employees were, in a sense, at fault or in pari delicto, the nonreturning employees, provided they did not participate in illegal acts; should be considered entitled to reinstatement. But since reinstatement is no longer feasible, they should be given separation pay computed up to March 8, 1988 (the date set for the return of the employees) in lieu of reinstatement. [Emphases and underscoring supplied]

In the case at bar, since both AER and the union are at fault or in pari delicto, they should be restored to their respective positions prior to the illegal strike and illegal lockout. Nonetheless, if reinstatement is no longer feasible, the concerned employees should be given separation pay up to the date set for the return of the complaining employees in lieu of reinstatement."

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Best evidence rule; secondary evidence - G.R. No. 165487

G.R. No. 165487


"Under the best evidence rule, the original document must be produced whenever its contents are the subject of inquiry.[25]The rule is encapsulated in Section 3, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court, as follow:

Sec. 3. Original document must be produced; exceptions. — When the subject of inquiry is the contents of a documents, no evidence shall be admissible other than the original document itself, except in the following cases:

(a) When the original has been lost or destroyed, or cannot be produced in court, without bad faith on the part of the offeror;

(b) When the original is in the custody or under the control of the party against whom the evidence is offered, and the latter fails to produce it after reasonable notice;

(c) When the original consists of numerous accounts or other documents which cannot be examined in court without great loss of time and the fact sought to be established from them is only the general result of the whole; and

(d) When the original is a public record in the custody of a public officer or is recorded in a public office.[26]

A photocopy, being a mere secondary evidence, is not admissible unless it is shown that the original is unavailable.[27] Section 5, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court states:

SEC.5 When original document is unavailable. — When the original document has been lost or destroyed, or cannot be produced in court, the offeror, upon proof of its execution or existence and the cause of its unavailability without bad faith on his part, may prove its contents by a copy, or by a recital of its contents in some authentic document, or by the testimony of witnesses in the order stated.

Before a party is allowed to adduce secondary evidence to prove the contents of the original, the offeror must prove the following: (1) the existence or due execution of the original; (2) the loss and destruction of the original or the reason for its non-production in court; and (3) on the part of the offeror, the absence of bad faith to which the unavailability of the original can be attributed. The correct order of proof is as follows: existence, execution, loss, and contents.[28]

In the case at bar, Lagman mentioned during the direct examination that there are actually four (4) duplicate originals of the 1990 Bond: the first is kept by the NFA, the second is with the Loan Officer of the NFA in Tarlac, the third is with Country Bankers and the fourth was in his possession.[29] A party must first present to the court proof of loss or other satisfactory explanation for the non-production of the original instrument.[30] When more than one original copy exists, it must appear that all of them have been lost, destroyed, or cannot be produced in court before secondary evidence can be given of any one. A photocopy may not be used without accounting for the other originals.[31]

Despite knowledge of the existence and whereabouts of these duplicate originals, Lagman merely presented a photocopy. He admitted that he kept a copy of the 1990 Bond but he could no longer produce it because he had already severed his ties with Country Bankers. However, he did not explain why severance of ties is by itself reason enough for the non-availability of his copy of the bond considering that, as it appears from the 1989 Bonds, Lagman himself is a bondsman. Neither did Lagman explain why he failed to secure the original from any of the three other custodians he mentioned in his testimony. While he apparently was able to find the original with the NFA Loan Officer, he was merely contented with producing its photocopy. Clearly, Lagman failed to exert diligent efforts to produce the original."

Novation not present - G.R. No. 165487

G.R. No. 165487


"Having discounted the existence and/or validity of the 1990 Bond, there can be no novation to speak of. Novation is the extinguishment of an obligation by the substitution or change of the obligation by a subsequent one which extinguishes or modifies the first, either by changing the object or principal conditions, or by substituting another in place of the debtor, or by subrogating a third person in the rights of the creditor. For novation to take place, the following requisites must concur: 1) There must be a previous valid obligation; 2) The parties concerned must agree to a new contract; 3) The old contract must be extinguished; and 4) There must be a valid new contract.[33]

In this case, only the first element of novation exists. Indeed, there is a previous valid obligation, i.e., the 1989 Bonds. There is however neither a valid new contract nor a clear agreement between the parties to a new contract since the very existence of the 1990 Bond has been rendered dubious. Without the new contract, the old contract is not extinguished.

Implied novation necessitates a new obligation with which the old is in total incompatibility such that the old obligation is completely superseded by the new one.[34] Quite obviously, neither can there be implied novation. In this case, there is no new obligation.

The liability of Lagman is expressed in Indemnity Agreements executed in consideration of the 1989 Bonds which we have considered as continuing contracts. Under both Indemnity Agreements, Lagman, as co-signor, together with Santos, Ban Lee Lim and Reguine, bound themselves jointly and severally to Country Bankers to indemnify it for any damage or loss sustained on the account of the execution of the bond, among others. The pertinent identical stipulations of the Indemnity Agreements state:

INDEMNITY: ─ To indemnify and make good to the COMPANY jointly and severally, any damages, prejudice, loss, costs, payments advances and expenses of whatever kind and nature, including attorney’s fees and legal costs, which the COMPANY may, at any time, sustain or incur, as well as to reimburse to said COMPANY all sums and amounts of money which the COMPANY or its representatives shall or may pay or cause to be paid or become liable to pay, on account of or arising from the execution of the above-mentioned BOND or any extension, renewal, alteration or substitution thereof made at the instance of the undersigned or anyone of them.[35]

Moreover, the Indemnity Agreements also contained identical Incontestability Clauses which provide:

INCONTESTABILITY OF PAYMENTS MADE BY THE COMPANY: ─ Any payment or disbursement made by the COMPANY on account of the above-mentioned Bond, its renewals, extensions, alterations or substitutions either in the belief that the COMPANY was obligated to make such payment or in the belief that said payment was necessary or expedient in order to avoid greater losses or obligations for which the COMPANY might be liable by virtue of the terms of the above-mentioned Bond, its renewals, extensions, alterations, or substitutions, shall be final and shall not be disputed by the undersigned, who hereby jointly and severally bind themselves to indemnify [Country Bankers] of any and all such payments, as stated in the preceding clauses.

In case the COMPANY shall have paid[,] settled or compromised any liability, loss, costs, damages, attorney’s fees, expenses, claims[,] demands, suits, or judgments as above-stated, arising out of or in connection with said bond, an itemized statement thereof, signed by an officer of the COMPANY and other evidence to show said payment, settlement or compromise, shall be prima facie evidence of said payment, settlement or compromise, as well as the liability of the undersigned in any and all suits and claims against the undersigned arising out of said bond or this bond application.[36]

Lagman is bound by these Indemnity Agreements. Payments made by Country Bankers by virtue of the 1989 Bonds gave rise to Lagman’s obligation to reimburse it under the Indemnity Agreements. Lagman, being a solidary debtor, is liable for the entire obligation. "

Civil liability arising from delict - G.R. No. 175091

G.R. No. 175091


"As correctly pointed out by the public respondent, the subject civil case does not fall within the purview of Section 4 of R.A. No. 8249 as the latter part of this provision contemplates only two (2) situations. These were correctly pointed out by the public respondent as follows: First, a criminal action has been instituted before the Sandiganbayan or the appropriate courts after the requisite preliminary investigation, and the corresponding civil liability must be simultaneously instituted with it; and Second, the civil case, filed ahead of the criminal case, is still pending upon the filing of the criminal action, in which case, the civil case should be transferred to the court trying the criminal case for consolidation and joint determination.

Evidently, Section 4 of R.A. No. 8249 finds no application in this case. No criminal action has been filed before the Sandiganbayan or any appropriate court. Thus, there is no appropriate court to which the subject civil case can be transferred or consolidated as mandated by the said provision.

It is also illogical to consider the civil case as abandoned simply because the criminal cases against petitioners were dismissed at the preliminary stage. A reading of the latter part of Section 4 of R.A. No. 8294 suggests that the civil case will only be considered abandoned if there is a pending criminal case and the civil case was not transferred to the court trying the criminal case for joint determination.

The criminal charges against petitioners might have been dismissed at the preliminary stage for lack of probable cause, but itdoes not mean that the civil case instituted prior to the filing of the criminal complaints is already baseless as the complainants can prove their cause of action in the civil case by mere preponderance of evidence.

While the dismissal of the criminal cases against them for Violation of R.A. No. 7438 (Acts Defining Rights of Persons Under Custodial Investigation) and unlawful arrest and the conviction of the complainants for Violation of City Ordinance No. 265 (Drinking Liquor in Public Place),[19] might be factors that can be considered in their favor, the petitioners should have proceeded with the trial of the civil case pending before the public respondent instead of filing this petition.

The rule is that an order denying a motion to dismiss is merely interlocutory and, therefore, not appealable,[20] “even on pure questions of law.[21] Neither can it be subject of a petition for review on certiorari. Such order may only be reviewed in the ordinary course of law by an appeal from the judgment after trial. The rule is founded on considerations of orderly procedure, to forestall useless appeals and avoid undue inconvenience to the appealing party by having to assail orders as they are promulgated by the court, when all such orders may be contested in a single appeal.[22]

All told, the Court finds that the public respondent committed no grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in issuing the assailed orders."

Motion to dismiss - G.R. No. 175091

G.R. No. 175091

"The rule is that an order denying a motion to dismiss is merely interlocutory and, therefore, not appealable,[20] “even on pure questions of law.[21] Neither can it be subject of a petition for review on certiorari. Such order may only be reviewed in the ordinary course of law by an appeal from the judgment after trial. The rule is founded on considerations of orderly procedure, to forestall useless appeals and avoid undue inconvenience to the appealing party by having to assail orders as they are promulgated by the court, when all such orders may be contested in a single appeal.[22]"

Rescission of contract defined and classified - G.R. No. 185440

G.R. No. 185440


"Second. Invoking the RTC ruling, the Lalicons claim that under Article 1389 of the Civil Code the “action to claim rescission must be commenced within four years” from the time of the commission of the cause for it.

But an action for rescission can proceed from either Article 1191 or Article 1381. It has been held that Article 1191 speaks of rescission in reciprocal obligations within the context of Article 1124 of the Old Civil Code which uses the term “resolution.” Resolution applies only to reciprocal obligations such that a breach on the part of one party constitutes an implied resolutory condition which entitles the other party to rescission. Resolution grants the injured party the option to pursue, as principal actions, either a rescission or specific performance of the obligation, with payment of damages in either case.

Rescission under Article 1381, on the other hand, was taken from Article 1291 of the Old Civil Code, which is a subsidiary action, not based on a party’s breach of obligation.[4] The four-year prescriptive period provided in Article 1389 applies to rescissions under Article 1381.


Here, the NHA sought annulment of the Alfaros’ sale to Victor because they violated the five-year restriction against such sale provided in their contract. Thus, the CA correctly ruled that such violation comes under Article 1191 where the applicable prescriptive period is that provided in Article 1144 which is 10 years from the time the right of action accrues. The NHA’s right of action accrued on February 18, 1992 when it learned of the Alfaros’ forbidden sale of the property to Victor. Since the NHA filed its action for annulment of sale on April 10, 1998, it did so well within the 10-year prescriptive period.

Third. The Court also agrees with the CA that the Lalicons and Chua were not buyers in good faith. Since the five-year prohibition against alienation without the NHA’s written consent was annotated on the property’s title, the Lalicons very well knew that the Alfaros’ sale of the property to their father, Victor, even before the release of the mortgage violated that prohibition.

As regards Chua, she and a few others with her took the property by way of mortgage from Victor in 1995, well within the prohibited period. Chua knew, therefore, based on the annotated restriction on the property, that Victor had no right to mortgage the property to her group considering that the Alfaros could not yet sell the same to him without the NHA’s consent. Consequently, although Victor later sold the property to Chua after the five-year restriction had lapsed, Chua cannot claim lack of awareness of the illegality of Victor’s acquisition of the property from the Alfaros.

Lastly, since mutual restitution is required in cases involving rescission under Article 1191,[5] the NHA must return the full amount of the amortizations it received for the property, plus the value of the improvements introduced on the same, with 6% interestper annum from the time of the finality of this judgment. The Court will no longer dwell on the matter as to who has a better right to receive the amount from the NHA: the Lalicons, who paid the amortizations and occupied the property, or Chua, who bought the subject lot from Victor and obtained for herself a title to the same, as this matter was not raised as one of the issues in this case. Chua’s appeal to the Court in a separate case[6] having been denied due course and NHA failing to file its own petition for review, the CA decision ordering the restitution in favor of the Lalicons has now become final and binding against them."

Illegal dismissal; moral damages; separation pay awarded in lieu of reinstatement - G.R. No. 153982

G.R. No. 153982


"A final word. Moral damages are awarded in termination cases where the employee’s dismissal was attended by bad faith, malice or fraud, or where it constitutes an act oppressive to labor, or where it was done in a manner contrary to morals, good customs or public policy [55] In Gucaban’s case, the said bases indeed obtain when she was fraudulently induced to resign and accede to a quitclaim upon the false representation of an impending and genuine reorganization as well as on the pretext that such option would be the most beneficial. This, coupled with the subsequent oppression that immediately preceded her involuntary resignation, deserves an award of moral damages consistent with the Court of Appeals’ ruling. Accordingly, Gucaban is likewise entitled to exemplary damages as decreed by the Court of Appeals.

Lastly, reinstatement and payment of backwages, as the normal consequences of illegal dismissal, presuppose that the previous position from which the employee has been removed is still in existence or there is an unfilled position of a nature, more or less, similar to the one previously occupied by said employee.[56] Yet, it has been more than a decade since the incident which led to Gucaban’s involuntary resignation took place and, hence, with the changes in SMPI’s corporate structure through the years, the former position occupied by Gucaban, or an equivalent thereof, may no longer be existing or is currently occupied. Furthermore, there is the possibility that Gucaban’s rejoining SMPI’s workforce would only exacerbate the tension and strained relations which in the first place had given rise to this incident. This, considering that as project development manager she was holding a key position in the company founded on trust and confidence and, hence, there is also the possibility of compromising her efficiency and productivity on the job.[57] For these two reasons, the ruling of the Court of Appeals is modified in this respect. In lieu of reinstatement, an award of separation pay is in order, equivalent to one (1) month salary for every year of service.

WHEREFORE, the Petition is DENIED. The April 11, 2002 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 60135, as well as its June 14, 2002 Resolution, are hereby AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that petitioner San Miguel Properties Philippines, Inc. is DIRECTED to pay respondent Gwendellyn Rose S. Gucaban separation pay in lieu of reinstatement and backwages. The case is REMANDED to the Labor Arbiter for execution and for the proper determination of respondent’s separation pay, less any amount which she may have received as financial assistance.


Vicarious liability - Article 2180, Civil Code - G.R. No. 116121

G.R. No. 116121


"The Court likewise sustains the finding of the RTC that the truck owner, Guballa, failed to rebut the presumption of negligence in the hiring and supervision of his employee. Article 2176, in relation to Article 2180 of the Civil Code, provides:

Art. 2176. Whoever by act or omission causes damage to another, there being fault or negligence is obliged to pay for the damage done. Such fault or negligence, if there is no pre-existing contractual relation between the parties, is called a quasi-delict and is governed by the provisions of this Chapter.


Art. 2180. The obligation imposed by Art. 2176 is demandable not only for one’s own acts or omissions but also for those of persons for whom one is responsible.


Employers shall be liable for the damage caused by their employees and household helpers acting within the scope of their assigned tasks even though the former are not engaged in any business or industry.


The responsibility treated of in this article shall cease when the persons herein mentioned prove that they observed all the diligence of a good father of a family to prevent damage.

Whenever an employee’s negligence causes damage or injury to another, there instantly arises a presumption juris tantum that the employer failed to exercise diligentissimi patris families in the selection or supervision of his employee.[23] Thus, in the selection of prospective employees, employers are required to examine them as to their qualification, experience and service record. With respect to the supervision of employees, employers must formulate standard operating procedures, monitor their implementation, and impose disciplinary measures for breaches thereof. These facts must be shown by concrete proof, including documentary evidence.[24] Thus, the RTC committed no error in finding that the evidence presented by respondent Guballa was wanting. It ruled:

x x x. As expected, defendant Jose Guballa, attempted to overthrow this presumption of negligence by showing that he had exercised the due diligence required of him by seeing to it that the driver must check the vital parts of the vehicle he is assigned to before he leaves the compound like the oil, water, brakes, gasoline, horn (9 tsn, July 17, 1986); and that Geronimo had been driving for him sometime in 1976 until the collision in litigation came about (5-6 tsn, ibid); that whenever his trucks gets out of the compound to make deliveries, it is always accompanied with two (2) helpers (16-17 tsn, ibid). This was all which he considered as selection and supervision in compliance with the law to free himself from any responsibility. This Court then cannot consider the foregoing as equivalent to an exercise of all the care of a good father of a family in the selection and supervision of his driver Mariano Geronimo.”[25]"

Docket fees; liberal rule - G.R. No. 116121

G.R. No. 116121


"The Court finds merit in the petition.

The rule is that payment in full of the docket fees within the prescribed period is mandatory.[8] In Manchester v. Court of Appeals,[9] it was held that a court acquires jurisdiction over any case only upon the payment of the prescribed docket fee. The strict application of this rule was, however, relaxed two (2) years after in the case of Sun Insurance Office, Ltd. v. Asuncion,[10]wherein the Court decreed that where the initiatory pleading is not accompanied by the payment of the docket fee, the court may allow payment of the fee within a reasonable period of time, but in no case beyond the applicable prescriptive or reglementary period. This ruling was made on the premise that the plaintiff had demonstrated his willingness to abide by the rules by paying the additional docket fees required.[11] Thus, in the more recent case of United Overseas Bank v. Ros,[12] the Court explained that where the party does not deliberately intend to defraud the court in payment of docket fees, and manifests its willingness to abide by the rules by paying additional docket fees when required by the court, the liberal doctrine enunciated in Sun Insurance Office, Ltd., and not the strict regulations set in Manchester, will apply. It has been on record that the Court, in several instances, allowed the relaxation of the rule on non-payment of docket fees in order to afford the parties the opportunity to fully ventilate their cases on the merits. In the case of La Salette College v. Pilotin,[13] the Court stated:

Notwithstanding the mandatory nature of the requirement of payment of appellate docket fees, we also recognize that its strict application is qualified by the following: first, failure to pay those fees within the reglementary period allows only discretionary, not automatic, dismissal; second, such power should be used by the court in conjunction with its exercise of sound discretion in accordance with the tenets of justice and fair play, as well as with a great deal of circumspection in consideration of all attendant circumstances.[14]

While there is a crying need to unclog court dockets on the one hand, there is, on the other, a greater demand for resolving genuine disputes fairly and equitably,[15] for it is far better to dispose of a case on the merit which is a primordial end, rather than on a technicality that may result in injustice.

In this case, it cannot be denied that the case was litigated before the RTC and said trial court had already rendered a decision. While it was at that level, the matter of non-payment of docket fees was never an issue. It was only the CA which motu propio dismissed the case for said reason.

Considering the foregoing, there is a need to suspend the strict application of the rules so that the petitioners would be able to fully and finally prosecute their claim on the merits at the appellate level rather than fail to secure justice on a technicality, for, indeed, the general objective of procedure is to facilitate the application of justice to the rival claims of contending parties, bearing always in mind that procedure is not to hinder but to promote the administration of justice.[16]

The Court also takes into account the fact that the case was filed before the Manchester ruling came out. Even if said ruling could be applied retroactively, liberality should be accorded to the petitioners in view of the recency then of the ruling. Leniency because of recency was applied to the cases of Far Eastern Shipping Company v. Court of Appeals[17] and Spouses Jimmy and Patri Chan v. RTC of Zamboanga.[18] In the case of Mactan Cebu International Airport Authority v. Mangubat (Mactan),[19] it was stated that the “intent of the Court is clear to afford litigants full opportunity to comply with the new rules and to temper enforcement of sanctions in view of the recency of the changes introduced by the new rules.” In Mactan, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) also failed to pay the correct docket fees on time.

We held in another case:

x x x It bears stressing that the rules of procedure are merely tools designed to facilitate the attainment of justice. They were conceived and promulgated to effectively aid the court in the dispensation of justice. Courts are not slaves to or robots of technical rules, shorn of judicial discretion. In rendering justice, courts have always been, as they ought to be, conscientiously guided by the norm that, on the balance, technicalities take a backseat against substantive rights, and not the other way around. Thus, if the application of the Rules would tend to frustrate rather than promote justice, it is always within the power of the Court to suspend the Rules, or except a particular case from its operation.[20]

The petitioners, however, are liable for the difference between the actual fees paid and the correct payable docket fees to be assessed by the clerk of court which shall constitute a lien on the judgment pursuant to Section 2 of Rule 141 which provides:

SEC. 2. Fees in lien. – Where the court in its final judgment awards a claim not alleged, or a relief different from, or more than that claimed in the pleading, the party concerned shall pay the additional fees which shall constitute a lien on the judgment in satisfaction of said lien. The clerk of court shall assess and collect the corresponding fees.

As the Court has taken the position that it would be grossly unjust if petitioners’ claim would be dismissed on a strict application of the Manchester doctrine, the appropriate action, under ordinary circumstances, would be for the Court to remand the case to the CA. Considering, however, that the case at bench has been pending for more than 30 years and the records thereof are already before this Court, a remand of the case to the CA would only unnecessarily prolong its resolution. In the higher interest of substantial justice and to spare the parties from further delay, the Court will resolve the case on the merits."