On 20 may 1994, after the prosecution in the criminal case for violation of B.P. Blg. 22 rested its case, the defense asked orally for leave of court to file a written demurrer to evidence. Trial court judge made inferences to both the prosecution and defense and ruled to deny the demurrer; that if the defense would insist to file a written demurrer, they waive their right to present evidence, otherwise it will be dilatory; and if the defense will not present their evidence in that same day, their right to present evidence is deemed waived. Petitioner Bernardo filed the instant petition for review on certiorari of the decision of the Court of Appeals on the ground that when it refused to allow petitioner to demur to the evidence the appellate court decided the matter not in accordance with law and applicable decisions of this Court. Petitioner submits that when her counsel moved for leave to file a demurrer to evidence on 20 May 1994 this meant that she intended to make a written demurrer after extensive research and with proper authorities to support the same; that when the trial court denied her motion, it was in effect a denial only of the motion for leave to file demurrer to evidence and not the demurrer to evidence itself and, therefore, the order of respondent appellate court allowing petitioner to present her evidence was premature. The Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the petitioner.
ISSUE: Can the petitioner be allowed to present evidence to support its demurrer to evidence after her motion for leave to admit such demurrer was denied?
[T]he new rule on demurrer to evidence the accused has the right to file a demurrer to evidence after the prosecution has rested its case. If the accused obtained prior leave of court before filing his demurrer, he can still present evidence if his demurrer is denied. However, if he demurs without prior leave of court, or after his motion for leave is denied, he waives his right to present evidence and submits the case for decision on the basis of the evidence for the prosecution. This power to grant leave to the accused to file a demurrer is addressed to the sound discretion of the trial court. The purpose is to determine whether the accused in filing his demurrer is merely stalling the proceedings.
In the case at bar, petitioner admits that in the hearing of 20 May 1994 the trial court denied her motion for leave to file a demurrer to evidence. In such case, the only right petitioner has under Sec. 15, Rule 119, of the Rules of Court after having been denied leave to submit a demurrer is to adduce evidence in her defense. However, even without express leave of the trial court, nay, after her motion for leave was denied, petitioner insisted on filing a demurrer instead of presenting evidence in her defense.
Judicial action to grant prior leave to file demurrer to evidence is discretionary upon the trial court. But to allow the accused to present evidence after he was denied prior leave to file demurrer is not discretionary. Once prior leave is denied and the accused still files his demurrer to evidence or motion to dismiss, the court no longer has discretion to allow the accused to present evidence. The only recourse left for the court is to decide the case on the basis of the evidence presented by the prosecution. And, unless there is grave abuse thereof amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, which is not present in the instant case, the trial court’s denial of prior leave to file demurrer to evidence or motion to dismiss may not be disturbed. However, any judgment of conviction by a trial court may still be elevated by the accused to the appellate court.
[DEL CASTILLO, J.]
Petitioners’ Complaint for Annulment of Titles and Specific Performance was decided by the RTC against their favor on August 30, 1999. Without any appeal, the Decision became final and executory. On December 11, 2001, the RTC issued a Writ of Execution but was not implemented. On July 8, 2005, respondent filed an Ex-parte Motion praying that the RTC issue a “Break-Open and Demolition Order” in order to compel the petitioners to vacate his property. But since more than five years have elapsed from the time the Writ of Execution should have been enforced, the RTC denied the Motion in its Order dated August 16, 2005. This prompted respondent to file with the RTC a Petition for Revival of Judgment, which was granted.
On July 13, 2006, petitioners filed a Notice of Appeal via LBC, which was opposed by respondent on the ground that the Decision dated August 30, 1999 has long become final and executory. Petitioners, in turn, moved for the transmittal of the original records of the case to the CA, insisting that respondent’s opposition is without merit. Finding the appeal barred by prescription, the RTC denied the Notice of Appeal in its Order dated October 10, 2006. Feeling aggrieved, petitioners filed a Petition for Mandamus with the CA praying that their Notice of Appeal be given due course, but was denied on June 14, 2007 for being filed out of time. Petitioners assert that an action to revive judgment is appealable, and that their appeal was perfected on time. They insist that the Notice of Appeal, which they filed on the 15th day via LBC, was seasonably filed since the law does not require a specific mode of service for filing a notice of appeal. Besides, even if their appeal was belatedly filed, it should still be given due course in the interest of justice, considering that their counsel had to brave the storm and the floods caused by typhoon “Florita” just to file their Notice of Appeal on time.
Was the Notice of Appeal filed on the 15th day via private courier like LBC considered to be belatedly filed?
It is basic and elementary that a Notice of Appeal should be filed “within fifteen (15) days from notice of the judgment or final order appealed from.Under Section 3, Rule 13 of the Rules of Court, pleadings may be filed in court either personally or by registered mail. In the first case, the date of filing is the date of receipt. In the second case, the date of mailing is the date of receipt. In this case, however, the counsel for petitioners filed the Notice of Appeal via a private courier, a mode of filing not provided in the Rules. Though not prohibited by the Rules, we cannot consider the filing of petitioners’ Notice of Appeal via LBC timely filed. It is established jurisprudence that “the date of delivery of pleadings to a private letter-forwarding agency is not to be considered as the date of filing thereof in court;” instead, “the date of actual receipt by the court x x x is deemed the date of filing of that pleading.” Records show that the Notice of Appeal was mailed on the 15th day and was received by the court on the 16th day or one day beyond the reglementary period. Thus, the CA correctly ruled that the Notice of Appeal was filed out of time.
Neither can petitioners use typhoon “Florita” as an excuse for the belated filing of the Notice of Appeal because work in government offices in Metro Manila was not suspended on July 13, 2006, the day petitioners’ Notice of Appeal was mailed via LBC. And even if we, in the interest of justice, give due course to the appeal despite its late filing, the result would still be the same. The appeal would still be denied for lack of merit. The Decision dated August 30, 1999 is already final and executory
[DEL CASTILLO, J.]
In an action for specific performance/sum of money with damages and prayer for the issuance of writs of preliminary attachment and preliminary injunction, the RTC rendered a decision in favor of plaintiff-petitioner Palileo dated July 15, 2006 and received by Palileo on July 17, 2006. Defendant-respondent PDB filed by private courier service – specifically LBC – an Omnibus Motion for Reconsideration and for New Trial, arguing therein that the trial court’s Decision was based on speculation and inadmissible and selfserving pieces of evidence; that it was declared in default after its counsel failed to attend the pre-trial conference on account of the distance involved and difficulty in booking a flight to General Santos City. Petitioners’ copy of the Omnibus Motion for Reconsideration and for New Trial was likewise sent courier service through LBC, but in their address of record – Tupi, South Cotabato – there was no LBC service at the time. On August 2, 2006, PDB filed with the RTC another copy of the Omnibus Motion for Reconsideration and for New Trial via registered mail; another copy thereof was simultaneously sent to petitioners by registered mail as well. Meanwhile, petitioners moved for the execution of the Decision pending appeal. In a petition for certiorari, the CA affirms the trial court decision but reversed itself upon MR, relaxing the Rules in favor of PDB.
Was the CA correct in relaxing the Rules notwithstanding that PBD’s late filing and improper service of its omnibus motion for reconsideration?
The proceedings in the instant case would have been greatly abbreviated if the court a quo and the CA did not overlook the fact that PDB’s Omnibus Motion for Reconsideration and for New Trial was filed one day too late. The bank received a copy of the trial court’s June 15, 2006 Decision on July 17, 2006; thus, it had 15 days – or up to August 1, 2006 – within which to file a notice of appeal, motion for reconsideration, or a motion for new trial, pursuant to the Rules of Court. Yet, it filed the omnibus motion for reconsideration and new trial only on August 2, 2006.
Indeed, its filing or service of a copy thereof to petitioners by courier service cannot be trivialized. Service and filing of pleadings by courier service is a mode not provided in the Rules. This is not to mention that PDB sent a copy of its omnibus motion to an address or area which was not covered by LBC courier service at the time. Realizing its mistake, PDB re-filed and re-sent the omnibus motion by registered mail, which is the proper mode of service under the circumstances. By then, however, the 15-day period had expired.
Respondent Mach Asia Trading Corporation is a corporation engaged in importing dump trucks and heavy equipments. Petitioner Sixto N. Chu purchased on installment one (1) Hitachi Excavator, one (1) motorgrader and one (1) payloader. Petitioner made down payments with the balance payable in 12 monthly installments through Land Bank postdated checks. However, upon presentment of the checks for encashment, they were dishonored by the bank either by reason of “closed account,” “drawn against insufficient funds,” or “payment stopped.” Respondent filed a complaint before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Cebu City for sum of money, replevin, attorney’s fees and damages against the petitioner. The RTC issued an Order allowing the issuance of a writ of replevin on the subject heavy equipments. Sheriff Cortes proceeded at petitioner’s given address for the purpose of serving the summons, together with the complaint, writ of replevin and bond. However, the Sheriff failed to serve the summons personally upon the petitioner, since the latter was not there. The Sheriff then resorted to substituted service by having the summons and the complaint received by a certain Rolando Bonayon, a security guard of the petitioner. Petitioner failed to file any responsive pleading. Upon motion the RTC issued an Order declaring defendant in default and, thereafter, allowed respondent to present its evidence ex parte. The RTC rendered a decision against the petitioner. On appeal, the CA affirmed the RTC Decision.
Was the substituted service of summons to the security guard considered to be a valid as to acquire jurisdiction over the person of petitioner Chu?
As a rule, summons should be personally served on the defendant. It is only when summons cannot be served personally within a reasonable period of time that substituted service may be resorted to. Section 7, Rule 14 of the Rules of Court provides:
“SEC. 7. Substituted service. – If, for justifiable causes, the defendant cannot be served within a reasonable time as provided in the preceding section, service may be effected (a) by leaving copies of the summons at the defendant’s residence with some person of suitable age and discretion then residing therein, or (b) by leaving the copies at defendant’s office or regular place of business with some competent person in charge thereof.”
It is to be noted that in case of substituted service, there should be a report indicating that the person who received the summons in the defendant’s behalf was one with whom the defendant had a relation of confidence, ensuring that the latter would actually receive the summon. Clearly, it was not shown that the security guard who received the summons in behalf of the petitioner was authorized and possessed a relation of confidence that petitioner would definitely receive the summons. This is not the kind of service contemplated by law. Thus, service on the security guard could not be considered as substantial compliance with the requirements of substituted service. The service of summons is a vital and indispensable ingredient of due process. As a rule, if defendants have not been validly summoned, the court acquires no jurisdiction over their person, and a judgment rendered against them is null and void. Since the RTC never acquired jurisdiction over the person of the petitioner, the judgment rendered by the court could not be considered binding upon him for being null and void.
Petitioner E.B. Villarosa & Partner Co., Ltd. is a limited partnership with principal office address at Davao City and with branch offices in Parañaque, Metro Manila and Cagayan de Oro City. Private respondent, as plaintiff, filed a Complaint for Breach of Contract and Damages against petitioner, as defendant, before the Regional Trial Court of Makati allegedly for failure of the latter to comply with its contractual obligation in that, other than a few unfinished low cost houses, there were no substantial developments therein. Summons, together with the complaint, were served upon the defendant, through its Branch Manager, but the Sheriff’s Return of Service stated that the summons was duly served “upon defendant E.B. Villarosa & Partner Co., Ltd. thru its Branch Manager Engr. WENDELL SALBULBERO. Defendant filed a Special Appearance with Motion to Dismiss alleging that summons intended for defendant” was served upon Engr. Wendell Sabulbero, an employee of defendant at its branch office at Cagayan de Oro City. Defendant prayed for the dismissal of the complaint on the ground of improper service of summons and for lack of jurisdiction over the person of the defendant. Defendant contends that the trial court did not acquire jurisdiction over its person since the summons was improperly served upon its employee in its branch office at Cagayan de Oro City who is not one of those persons named in Section 11, Rule 14 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure upon whom service of summons may be made. Defendant’s argument was not sustained.
Did the trial court acquire jurisdiction over the person of petitioner upon service of summons on its Branch Manager?
[T]he service of summons upon the branch manager of petitioner at its branch office at Cagayan de Oro, instead of upon the general manager at its principal office at Davao City is improper. Consequently, the trial court did not acquire jurisdiction over the person of the petitioner.
The fact that defendant filed a belated motion to dismiss did not operate to confer jurisdiction upon its person. There is no question that the defendant’s voluntary appearance in the action is equivalent to service of summons. Before, the rule was that a party may challenge the jurisdiction of the court over his person by making a special appearance through a motion to dismiss and if in the same motion, the movant raised other grounds or invoked affirmative relief which necessarily involves the exercise of the jurisdiction of the court. This doctrine has been abandoned in the case of La Naval Drug Corporation vs. Court of Appeals, et al., which became the basis of the adoption of a new provision in the former Section 23, which is now Section 20 of Rule 14 of the 1997 Rules. Section 20 now provides that “the inclusion in a motion to dismiss of other grounds aside from lack of jurisdiction over the person of the defendant shall not be deemed a voluntary appearance.” The emplacement of this rule clearly underscores the purpose to enforce strict enforcement of the rules on summons. Accordingly, the filing of a motion to dismiss, whether or not belatedly filed by the defendant, his authorized agent or attorney, precisely objecting to the jurisdiction of the court over the person of the defendant can by no means be deemed a submission to the jurisdiction of the court. There being no proper service of summons, the trial court cannot take cognizance of a case for lack of jurisdiction over the person of the defendant. Any proceeding undertaken by the trial court will consequently be null and void.
In a collection suit filed by PBCOM against petitioners Tiu, et al., the former demanded from the latter the full payment of its secured loan obligation. PBCOM’s claim is supported by a Suretyship Agreement signed by all members of the Board of Directors of Asian Water Resources, Inc. (AWRI), including petitioners. This was controverted in petitioners’ Answer saying that the Surety Agreement was falsified to insert the wordings “IN THEIR OWN CAPACITY” without their consent, attaching a certified copy of the same document from the Records Management and Archives Office in Davao City. PBCOM then filed a Reply and Answer to Counterclaim with Motion for Leave of Court to Substitute Annex “A” of the Complaint, wherein it attached the duplicate original copy retrieved from the file of the notary public. PBCOM also admitted its mistake in making the insertion and explained that it was made without the knowledge and consent of the notary public. PBCOM maintained that the insertion was not a falsification, but was made only to speak the truth of the parties’ intentions. The trial court allowed the substitution of the altered document. Petitioners move for reconsideration but was denied. The case was elevated to the Court of Appeals in a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 but only to affirm in toto the trial court’s assailed order.
Is the Court of Appeals correct in affirming the trial court’s order allowing the substitution of the “falsified” actionable document, notwithstanding it appears to have substantially altered the cause of action?
[W]ith respect to PBCOM’s right to amend its complaint, including the documents annexed thereto, after petitioners have filed their answer, Section 3, Rule 10 of the Rules of Court specifically allows amendment by leave of court.
This Court has emphasized the import of Section 3, Rule 10 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure in Valenzuela v. Court of Appeals, thus:
“Interestingly, Section 3, Rule 10 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure amended the former rule in such manner that the phrase “or that the cause of action or defense is substantially altered” was stricken-off and not retained in the new rules. The clear import of such amendment in Section 3, Rule 10 is that under the new rules, “the amendment may (now) substantially alter the cause of action or defense.” This should only be true, however, when despite a substantial change or alteration in the cause of action or defense, the amendments sought to be made shall serve the higher interests of substantial justice, and prevent delay and equally promote the laudable objective of the rules which is to secure a “just, speedy and inexpensive disposition of every action and proceeding.”
The granting of leave to file amended pleading is a matter particularly addressed to the sound discretion of the trial court; and that discretion is broad, subject only to the limitations that the amendments should not substantially change the cause of action or alter the theory of the case, or that it was not made to delay the action. Nevertheless, as enunciated in Valenzuela, even if the amendment substantially alters the cause of action or defense, such amendment could still be allowed when it is sought to serve the higher interest of substantial justice; prevent delay; and secure a just, speedy and inexpensive disposition of actions and proceedings.