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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)

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Lessons from martial rule

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Addressing a gathering of young human rights advocates from different parts of Mindanao at the Ateneo de Davao University on September 22, Atty. Samuel Matunog, one of the founders of the Philippine Section of Amnesty International, recalled his journey as a lawyer handling urban poor cases and those of victims of human rights violations. Knowledge and courage and faith in the capacity of the youth to seek genuine change are necessary ingredients in the continuing struggle for human rights around the world.

Cybercrime Forum

On the first day of the effectivity of the Philippines’ law against cybercrimes, the law firm of Torres Matunog Gevieso Montero & Associates facilitated an ICT industry forum attended by more than 30 industry leaders. Atty. Samuel R. Matunog was the main presentor. Among the resolutions adopted were to form a special committee to draft recommendations on the law’s implementing rules and regulations and to pursue a dialogue with law enforcement agencies and the Judiciary. Sponsoring the events were Davao City’s DTI and ICT Davao, Inc.

Rule 45 petitions to raise only questions of law; exceptions

At the outset, the Court notes that the issues raised in the present petition are essentially questions of fact. It is fundamental that a petition for review on certiorari filed with this Court under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court shall, as a general rule, raise only questions of law and that this Court is not duty-bound to analyze again and weigh the evidence introduced in and considered by the tribunals below.11 However, there are recognized exceptions to this rule, to wit:

 (a) When the findings are grounded entirely on speculation, surmises, or conjectures;

(b) When the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd, or impossible;

(c) When there is grave abuse of discretion;

(d) When the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts;

(eWhen the findings of facts are conflicting;

(f) When in making its findings the CA went beyond the issues of the case, or its findings are contrary to the admissions of both the appellant and the appellee;

(gWhen the CA’s findings are contrary to those by the trial court;

(h) When the findings are conclusions without citation of specific evidence on which they are based;

(i) When the facts set forth in the petition as well as in the petitioner’s main and reply briefs are not disputed by the respondent;

(j) When the findings of fact are premised on the supposed absence of evidence and contradicted by the evidence on record; or

(k) When the CA manifestly overlooked certain relevant facts not disputed by the parties, which, if properly considered, would justify a different conclusion.

Ferraren v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 159328, October 5, 2011 (Third Division)

Ferraren v. Court of Appeals

Award of attorney’s fees must have basis in the body of decision; exception

Although attorney’s fees are not allowed in the absence of stipulation, the court can award the same when the defendant’s act or omission has compelled the plaintiff to incur expenses to protect his interest or where the defendant acted in gross and evident bad faith in refusing to satisfy the plaintiff’s plainly valid, just, and demandable claim.

Still, the award of attorney’s fees to the winning party lies within the discretion of the court, taking into account the circumstances of each case.  This means that such an award should have factual, legal, and equitable basis, not founded on pure speculation and conjecture.  Further, the court should state the reason for the award of attorney’s fees in the body of the decision.  Its unheralded appearance in the dispositive portion is, as a rule, not allowed.

Here, however, although the RTC did not specifically discuss in the body of its decision its basis for awarding attorney’s fees, its findings of fact clearly support such an award.  For instance, the RTC found, based on the record, that Bongar persistently and clearly violated the terms of its contract with Alcatel.  It failed to finish the works by October 29, 1991, the stipulated date.  It sought on December 1, 1991, more than a month after it was in violation, to finish its job by May 31, 1992, an extra seven months for just a three-month project.  Worse, when Alcatel had to take over the job to save its own undertaking to PLDT, Bongar refused to return to Alcatel the uninstalled materials that it provided for the works.[3]  Alcatel was forced to litigate to protect its interest.

Alcatel v. Bongar, G.R. No. 182946, October 5, 2011 (Third Division)

Accusing a judge in a pleading of improper behavior without proof is direct contempt

In a proceeding for the abatement of a public nuisance, the trial court ruled against the petitioner on the ground that the civil proceeding for the abatement of a public nuisance must be commenced by the city or municipal mayor in accordance with Art. 701 of the Civil Code. In his motion for reconsideration, the petitioner accused the presiding judge of communicating with the defendant ex parte, a charge which the court took as contumacious. During the hearing on the motion for reconsideration, the petitioner did not appear. So the presiding judge issued an order requiring the petitioner to show cause why he should not be cited in direct contempt. In his compliance, the petitioner failed to present evidence to support his remark or to withdraw the same. Consequently, the petitioner was cited in direct contempt and ordered imprisoned for two days and to pay a fine of P 2,000, and with it an order of arrest.

Since no appeal is allowed in contempt proceedings, the petitioner filed a motion to post bond and to quash the warrant of arrest on the ground that he has already filed a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court. The motion was denied by the trial court on the ground that no copy of the petition was attached to the motion showing that indeed such a petition was filed with the Supreme Court consistent with Sec. 2, Rule 71, Rules of Court.

In resolving the petition, the Supreme Court ruled:

(a) A pleading containing derogatory, offensive and malicious statements submitted to the court or judge wherein proceedings are pending is considered direct contempt.

(b) Denial of the ex parte motion to post bond and quash warrant of arrest is proper because the petitioner failed to show proof that he has indeed filed the petition with the Supreme Court, and the records show that the ex parte motion was filed ahead of the petition for certiorari. The presiding judge therefore did not abuse his authority in denying the motion.

(c) Litigants should observe the hierarchy of court in petitions for extraordinary writs. The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to issue writs of certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, habeas corpus and injunction is concurrent with the Regional Trial Court and the Court of Appeals. Recourse to the Supreme Court is one of last resort, and special or compelling reason mus be alleged to warrant direct recourse.

Ferdinand A. Cruz v. Judge Henrick F. Gingoyon, et al., G.R. No. 170404, First Division, September 28, 2011.

 

 

Expert testimony required to prove lack of informed consent

The element of ethical duty to disclose material risks in the proposed medical treatment cannot thus be reduced to one simplistic formula applicable in all instances.  Further, in a medical malpractice action based on lack of informed consent, “the plaintiff must prove both the duty and the breach of that duty through expert testimony.  Such expert testimony must show the customary standard of care of physicians in the same practice as that of the defendant doctor.

In this case, the testimony of Dr. Balmaceda who is not an oncologist but a Medical Specialist of the DOH’s Operational and Management Services charged with receiving complaints against hospitals, does not qualify as expert testimony to establish the standard of care in obtaining consent for chemotherapy treatment.  In the absence of expert testimony in this regard, the Court feels hesitant in defining the scope of mandatory disclosure in cases of malpractice based on lack of informed consent, much less set a standard of disclosure that, even in foreign jurisdictions, has been noted to be an evolving one.

Li v. Soliman, 165279, June 11, 2011 (En Banc)

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 

Doctrine of operative fact explained

A seaman was illegally dismissed and awarded by the Labor Arbiter his salaries for the unexpired portion of his contract for a period of nine months. On appeal, the NLRC modified the award to only three months following RA 8042, but on reconsideration it was restored to nine months. The Court of Appeals modified the decision of the NLRC and reverted the award to only three months following RA 8042. While the case was pending with the Supreme Court, the high tribunal ruled in Serrano v. Gallant Maritime Services, Inc., G.R. No. 167614, March 24, 2009, 582 SCRA 254, that the 5th paragraph of Sec. 10, RA 8042 is null and void for being contrary to Sec. 1, Art. III, and Sec. 3, Art. XIII of the Constitution. What then is the effect of Serrano to this case? The Supreme Court ruled:

“We have already spoken. Thus, this case should not be different from Serrano.

“As a general rule, an unconstitutional act is not a law; it confers no rights; it imposes no duties; it affords no protection; it creates no office; it is inoperative as if it has not been passed at all. The general rule is supported by Article 7 of the Civil Code, which provides: Art. 7.   Laws are repealed only by subsequent ones, and their violation or non-observance shall not be excused by disuse or custom or practice to the contrary.

“The doctrine of operative fact serves as an exception to the aforementioned general rule. In Planters Products, Inc. v. Fertiphil Corporation, we held: ‘The doctrine of operative fact, as an exception to the general rule, only applies as a matter of equity and fair play. It nullifies the effects of an unconstitutional law by recognizing that the existence of a statute prior to a determination of unconstitutionality is an operative fact and may have consequences which cannot always be ignored. The past cannot always be erased by a new judicial declaration.’

“The doctrine is applicable when a declaration of unconstitutionality will impose an undue burden on those who have relied on the invalid law. Thus, it was applied to a criminal case when a declaration of unconstitutionality would put the accused in double jeopardy or would put in limbo the acts done by a municipality in reliance upon a law creating it.

“Following Serrano, we hold that this case should not be included in the aforementioned exception. After all, it was not the fault of petitioner that he lost his job due to an act of illegal dismissal committed by respondents. To rule otherwise would be iniquitous to petitioner and other OFWs, and would, in effect, send a wrong signal that principals/employers and recruitment/manning agencies may violate an OFW’s security of tenure which an employment contract embodies and actually profit from such violation based on an unconstitutional provision of law.”

Yap v. Thenamaris Ship’s Management and Intermare Maritime Agencies, Inc., G.R. No. 179532, May 30, 2011

 

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