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Remedial Law

SC Issues Efficient Use of Paper Rule

Promoting a paper-less Judiciary to protect the environment, the Supreme Court En Banc has recently issued the Efficient Use of Paper Rule, which will maximize the use of every sheet of paper in rulings to be issued by the court and in the pleadings to be filed by parties.

In promulgating the Rule, the Court noted that there is a need to cut the judicial system’s use of excessive quantities of costly paper, save our forests, avoid landslides, and mitigate the worsening effects of climate change that the world is experiencing.

To take effect on January 1 next year after its publication two newspapers of general circulation, the Rule shall apply to all courts and quasi-judicial bodies under the administrative supervision of the Supreme Court,

Under AM No. 11-9-4-SC (the Efficient Use of Paper Rule), the Court, under Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno, has required that all pleadings, motions, and similar papers intended for the consideration of all courts and quasi-judicial bodies under the supervision of the Supreme Court shall be written in single space with a one-and-a-half space between paragraphs, using an easily readable font style of the party’s choice, of 14-size font, and on a 13-inch by 8.5-inch white bond paper.

All decisions, resolutions, and orders issued by courts and quasi-judicial bodies under the administrative supervision of the High Tribunal, as well as reports submitted to the courts and transcripts of stenographic notes, shall comply with the said requirements.

All court-bound papers to be submitted by every party shall likewise maintain a left hand margin of 1.5 inches from the edge; an upper margin of 1.2 inches from the edge; a right hand margin of one inch from the edge; and a lower margin of one inch from the edge. Every page must be consecutively numbered.

The Rule also specified the number of court-bound papers in a particular court that a party is required or desires to file unless otherwise directed by the court.

In the Supreme Court for instance, parties are required to file one original (properly marked) and four copies, unless the case is referred to the Court En Banc, in which event, the parties shall file 10 additional copies. For the En Banc, the parties need to submit only two sets of annexes, one attached to the original and one extra copy. For the Division, the parties need to submit also two sets of annexes, one attached to the original, as well as an extra copy. All members of the Court shall share the extra copies of annexes in the interest of economy of paper.

In preparation for the eventual establishment of an e-filing paperless system in the Judiciary, the parties to cases before the Supreme Court are further required to submit, simultaneously with their court-bound papers, soft or electronic copies of the same and their annexes (the latter in PDF format) either by email to the Court’s e-mail address or by compact disc. This additional requirement will be on a voluntary basis for the first six months following the effectivity of the said Rule and compulsorily afterwards unless the period is extended.

In the Court of Appeals and the Sandiganbayan, parties are required to submit one original (properly marked) and two copies with their annexes; and in the Court of Tax Appeals, one original (properly marked) and two copies with annexes, and on appeal to the En Banc, one original (properly marked) and eight copies with annexes.

Parties before the trial courts are required to submit one original (properly marked) with the stated annexes attached to it.

Also, a party required by the rules to serve a copy of his or her court-bound paper on the adverse party need not enclose copies of those annexes that, based on the records of the court, show said party already has such. In the event a party requests a set of the annexes actually filed with the court, the party who filed the paper shall comply with the request within five days from receipt of such. (AM No. 11-9-4-SC, Efficient Use of Paper Rule, November 13, 2012, and based on the article written by J.B. Rempillo: http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/pio/news/2012/11/11291201.php)

Restatement of compliance requirements re verification and forum-shopping

For the guidance of the bench and bar, the Court restates in capsule form the jurisprudential pronouncements already reflected above respecting non-compliance with the requirements on, or submission of defective, verification and certification against forum shopping:

1)         A distinction must be made between non-compliance with the requirement on or submission of defective verification, and non-compliance with the requirement on or submission of defective certification against forum shopping.

2)        As to verification, non-compliance therewith or a defect therein does not necessarily render the pleading fatally defective. The Court may order its submission or correction or act on the pleading if the attending circumstances are such that strict compliance with the Rule may be dispensed with in order that the ends of justice may be served thereby.

3)        Verification is deemed substantially complied with when one who has ample knowledge to swear to the truth of the allegations in the complaint or petition signs the verification, and when matters alleged in the petition have been made in good faith or are true and correct.

4)        As to certification against forum shopping, non-compliance therewith or a defect therein, unlike in verification, is generally not curable by its subsequent submission or correction thereof, unless there is a need to relax the Rule on the ground of “substantial compliance” or presence of “special circumstances or compelling reasons.”

5)         The certification against forum shopping must be signed by all the plaintiffs or petitioners in a case; otherwise, those who did not sign will be dropped as parties to the case. Under reasonable or justifiable circumstances, however, as when all the plaintiffs or petitioners share a common interest and invoke a common cause of action or defense, the signature of only one of them in the certification against forum shopping substantially complies with the Rule.

6)        Finally, the certification against forum shopping must be executed by the party-pleader, not by his counsel. If, however, for reasonable or justifiable reasons, the party-pleader is unable to sign, he must execute a Special Power of Attorney designating his counsel of record to sign on his behalf.

Formoso v. PNB, G.R. No. 154704, June 1, 2011 (Second Division), citing Oldarico S. Traveno v. Bobongon Banana Growers Multi-Purpose Cooperative, G.R. No. 164205, September 3, 2009, 598 SCRA 27 

Executive policy is beyond the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court

A barangay captain filed a petition and sought injunction to enjoin a government agency from constructing a road extension affecting his barangay. The Supreme Court ruled that the “determination of where, as between two possible routes, to construct a road extension is obviously not within the province of this Court. Such determination belongs to the Executive branch. Moreover, in this case the DPWH still has to conduct the proper study to determine whether a road can be safely constructed on land beneath which runs the aqueducts. Without such study, the MWSS, which owns the land, cannot decide whether to allow the DPWH to construct the road. Absent such DPWH study and MWSS decision, no grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction can be alleged against or attributed to respondents warranting the exercise of this Court’s extraordinary certiorari power.”

Torrecampo v. MWSS, G.R. No. 188296, May 30, 2011

Ownership is not an issue in a reconstitution proceeding

The trial court nullified a decision reconstituting eleven transfer certificates of title after copies thereof were presented by the buyer of the properties. The registered owner questioned the nullification on the ground that it in effect vests ownership to the possessors of the certificates of titles. In sustaining the trial court, the Supreme Court ruled: “the trial court does not have jurisdiction to declare respondents as the “new owners” of the properties because this is not an issue in a petition for relief from judgment. In Strait Times, Inc. v. Court of Appeals [356 Phil. 217 (1998)] we stated: ‘It is judicially settled that a trial court does not acquire jurisdiction over a petition for the issuance of a new owner’s duplicate certificate of title, if the original is in fact not lost but is in the possession of an alleged buyer.Corollarily, such reconstituted certificate is itself void once the existence of the original is unquestionably demonstrated. Nonetheless, the nullity of the reconstituted certificate does not by itself settle the issue of ownership or title over the property; much less does it vest such title upon the holder of the original certificate. The issue of ownership must be litigated in appropriate proceedings. It cannot be determined in an action for the issuance of a new owner’s duplicate certificate of title or in proceedings to annul such newly issued duplicate.'”

In this case, respondents’ possession of the eleven TCTs is not necessarily equivalent to ownership of the lands covered by the TCTs. The certificate of title, by itself, does not vest ownership; it is merely an evidence of title over a particular property. Again, the issue of ownership of the eleven properties must be litigated in the appropriate proceedings.”

Espino v. Bulut, G.R. No. 183811, May 30, 2011

Fax notice sufficient in an administrative proceeding

A national government agency requires the filing with its regional office, within 72 hours, of a notice of its application for mineral exploration. The applicant complied by sending fax copies of the application to the regional office. A claimant asserting priority opposed on the ground that fax copies are insufficient to prove compliance.
In sustaining the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court ruled:
“Newmont in fact furnished the MGB-CAR Regional Office with copies of its FTAA applications, through fax transmission, within 72 hours from filing of the FTAA applications. Considering the distance between Quezon City and Baguio City where the MGB-CAR Regional Office is located, and the requirement to furnish the proper Regional Office (some of which are located in Visayas and Mindanao) a copy of the FTAA application within a short period of 72 hours, a fax machine copy is a reasonable and sufficient mode of serving a copy of the FTAA application to the proper Regional Office. We note that Section 8 of DAO 63 does not specify how a copy of the FTAA application should be furnished to the proper Regional Office.
“Newmont clearly satisfied the requirements for the acceptance and evaluation of its FTAA applications with the MGB. Being the first to file its FTAA applications ahead of Diamond Drilling’s MPSA application, and having furnished copies of its FTAA applications to the MGB-CAR Regional Office within 72 hours from filing, Newmont must be given preferential right to utilize the area included in its FTAA applications.”
Diamond Drilling Corporation of the Philippines v. Newmont Philippines, Incorporated, G.R. No. 183576, May 30, 2011

Petition for review is the proper mode of appeal in SAC cases

Decisions of the Regional Trial Court sitting as Special Agrarian Court (SAC) in eminent domain cases may be appealed to the Court of Appeals by means of a petition for review, rather than ordinary appeal, because of the need for absolute dispatch in the determination of just compensation. Unlike an ordinary appeal, a petition for review dispenses with the filing of a notice of appeal or completion of records as requisites before any pleading is submitted. On the other hand, a petition for review hastens the award of fair recompense to deprived landowners for the government-acquired property, an end not foreseeable in an ordinary appeal. This is the rule adopted in Land Bank of the Philippines v. De Leon,   G.R. No. 143275, September 10, 2002, 388 SCRA 537.

Land Bank of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 190660, April 11, 2011, Third Division

Court of Appeals can admit new evidence in certiorari cases

In Maralit v. Philippine National Bank, where petitioner Maralit questioned the appellate court’s admission and appreciation of a belatedly submitted documentary evidence, the Court held that “[i]n a special civil action for certiorari, the Court of Appeals has ample authority to receive new evidence and perform any act necessary to resolve factual issues.” The Court explained further:

Section 9 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, as amended, states that, “The Court of Appeals shall have the power to try cases and conduct hearings, receive evidence and perform any and all acts necessary to resolve factual issues raised in cases falling within its original and appellate jurisdiction, including the power to grant and conduct new trials or further proceedings.”

Likewise, in VMC Rural Electric Service Cooperative, Inc. v. Court of Appeals,16 the Court held:

[I]t is already settled that under Section 9 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, as amended by Republic Act No. 7902 (An Act Expanding the Jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals, amending for the purpose of Section Nine of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129 as amended, known as the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980), the Court of Appeals — pursuant to the exercise of its original jurisdiction over Petitions for Certiorari — is specifically given the power to pass upon the evidence, if and when necessary, to resolve factual issues. As clearly stated in Section 9 of BatasPambansa Blg. 129, as amended by Republic Act 7902:

The Court of Appeals shall have the power to try cases and conduct hearings, receive evidence and perform any and all acts necessary to resolve factual issues raised in cases falling within its original and appellate jurisdiction, including the power to grant and conduct new trials or further proceedings. x x x.

Clearly, the Court of Appeals did not err in admitting the evidence showing LBC Bank’s express ratification of Milan’s consolidation of the title over the subject property. Further, the Court of Appeals did not err in admitting such evidence in resolving LBC Bank’s motion for reconsideration in a special civil action for certiorari. To rule otherwise will certainly defeat the ends of substantial justice.

Marcelo v. LBC Bank, G.R. No. 183575, April 11, 2011

A resolution is not expropriation

The Sangguniang Panglungsod of Mandaluyong City passed a resolution authorizing the city mayor to institute expropriation proceedings to develop a parcel of land for low-cost housing for the benefit of the less privileged but deserving constituents of the city. The landowner opposed and filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition. The Regional Trial Court ruled that the resolution is null and void because the landowner was not invited to the hearings on the resolution and thus denied their right to due process, and that the purpose for the expropriation was not for public use and the expropriation would not benefit the greater number of inhabitants.

Mandaluyong City appealed to the Court of Appeals. The CA reversed. The Supreme Court sustained the CA, on the following grounds: (a) the Sanguniang Panglungsod does not exercise judicial or quasi-judicial functions; and (b) the Local Government Code (RA 7160) requires the local government to issue an ordinance, not a resolution, in expropriation proceedings. Consequently, the remedies of certiorari and prohibition are both improper and unavailing.

Yusay v. CA, G.R. No. 156684, April 6, 2011, Third Division

No estoppel on tenant when lessor loses ownership after commencement of lease

Here is one case that should be given the widest dissemination to all first level courts.

Notwithstanding Borre v. Court of Appeals, 242 Phil 345, 352 (1988), where the Supreme Court ruled that estoppel against tenants is subject to a qualification, and that it does not apply if the landlord’s title has expired, or has been conveyed to another, or has been defeated by a title paramount, subsequent to the commencement of lessor-lessee relationship [VII Francisco, The Revised Rules of Court in the Philippines 87 (1973)], the conclusive presumption against the tenant in Sec. 2(b), Rule 131, Rules of Court, is often strictly applied without taking note of the qualification.

It is good that once more in  Santos v. NSO, G.R. No. 171129, April 6, 2011, the Supreme Court chose to emphasize the significance of the qualification. Santos owned a parcel of land which he leased to the National Statistics Office. On the third renewal of the lease, NSO refused to pay rentals and refused to vacate despite notice. Santos filed an unlawful detainer case. In its answer, NSO stated that the property of Santos was already foreclosed by China Bank and title was already consolidated in the name of the bank. Since Santos was neither the owner, co-owner, legal representative or assignee of China Bank, landlord or a person entitled to the physical possession of the subject property, he has no legal personality to institute the complaint.

The MTC ruled that NSO’s admission that it was a lessee who failed to pay rent effectively removed its right to question Santos’ title and ownership. On appeal, the Regional Trial Court sustained the MTC. However, the Court of Appeals reversed on review and ruled that Borre applies.

The Supreme Court sustained the CA. The NSO demonstrated by the following documentary exhibits: (1) the Promissory Note executed by petitioner and his spouse in favor of China Bank for a loan of P20 million and the (Real Estate) Mortgage over the subject property; (2) the Petition for Extrajudicial Foreclosure of said Real Estate Mortgage; (3) the Notice of Auction Sale By Notary Public, Certificate of Posting, Affidavit of Publication and Certificate of Sale in favor of China Bank, all in connection with the extrajudicial foreclosure sale of the leased premises; (4) the Affidavit of Consolidation executed by China Bank’s Vice-President to inform the Registry of Deeds of Meycauayan, Bulacan that the one-year period of redemption has expired without petitioner redeeming the property and to request said office to issue the corresponding TCT under the bank’s name; and (5) TCT No. T-370128 (M) issued on August 21, 2000 in the name of China Bank covering the leased property, that the owner of the property is no longer Santos but China Bank. Consequently, following Borre, the conclusive presumption in Sec. 2(b), Rule 131, Rules of Court, does not apply.

Santos v. NSO, G.R. No. 171129, April 6, 2011, First Division.

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