ONLY THE STATE, THROUGH ITS APPELLATE COUNSEL, THE OFFICE OF THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (OSG),WHO HAS THE SOLE RIGHT AND AUTHORITY TO INSTITUTE PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE COURT OF APPEALS OR THE SUPREME COURT.

The purpose of a criminal action, in its purest sense, is to determine the penal liability of the accused for having outraged the state with his crime and, if he be found guilty, to punish him for it. In this sense, the parties to the action are the People of the Philippines and the accused. (Hun Hyung Park v. Eung Won Choi, supra note 16, at 514).  The offended party is regarded merely as a witness for the state.

Also in this wise, only the state, through its appellate counsel, the OSG, (ADMINISTRATIVE CODE OF 1987, Book IV, Title III, Chapter 12, Section 35 (1); Macasaet v. People, 492 Phil. 355, 375 (2005); Cariño v. De Castro, G.R. No. 176084, April 30, 2008, 553 SCRA 688, 696; People v. Puig, G.R. Nos. 173654-765, August 28, 2008, 563 SCRA 564, 575) who has the sole right and authority to institute proceedings before the CA or the Supreme Court. (Cariño v. De Castro, supra note 24).

                As a general rule, the mandate or authority to represent the state lies only in the OSG. Thus:

                 It is patent that the intent of the lawmaker was to give the designated official, the Solicitor General, in this case, the unequivocal mandate to appear for the government in legal proceedings. Spread out in the laws creating the office is the discernible intent which may be gathered from the term “shall” x x x  

                  The Court is firmly convinced that considering the spirit and the letter of the law, there can be no other logical interpretation of Sec. 35 of the Administrative Code than that it is, indeed, mandatory upon the OSG to “represent the Government of the Philippines, its agencies and instrumentalities and its officials and agents in any litigation, proceeding, investigation or matter requiring the services of a lawyer. (Gonzales v. Chavez, G.R. No. 97351, February 4, 1992, 205 SCRA 816, 832; Cooperative Development Authority v. Dolefil Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative, Inc., supra note 12, at 307).

For the above reason, actions essentially involving the interest of the state, if not initiated by the Solicitor General, are, as a rule, (Perez v. Hagonoy Rural Bank, Inc., supra note 20, at 334) summarily dismissed (Cooperative Development Authority v. Dolefil Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative, Inc., supra note 12, at 306). (BURGOS vs. CA, G.R. No. 169711, February 08, 2010, ABAD, J.).

 

 

 

 

 

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JUSTICE ROBERTO ABAD: A SUMMARY JUDGMENT IS APT WHEN THE ESSENTIAL FACTS OF THE CASE ARE UNCONTESTED OR THE PARTIES DO NOT RAISE ANY GENUINE ISSUE OF FACT.

                  A summary judgment is apt when the essential facts of the case are uncontested or the parties do not raise any genuine issue of fact.(Rivera v. Solidbank Corporation, G.R. No. 163269, April 19, 2006, 487 SCRA 512, 535, cited in Bitanga v. Pyramid Construction Engineering Corporation, G.R. No. 173526, August 28, 2008, 563 SCRA 544, 560).

                  In Bank of Philippine Islands vs. Spouses Norman and Angelina Yu, the Supreme Court explained that to resolve the issue of the excessive charges allegedly incorporated into the auction bid price, the RTC simply had to look at a) the pleadings of the parties; b) the loan agreements, the promissory note, and the real estate mortgages between them; c) the foreclosure and bidding documents; and d) the admissions and other disclosures between the parties during pre-trial. Since the parties admitted not only the existence, authenticity, and genuine execution of these documents but also what they stated, the trial court did not need to hold a trial for the reception of the evidence of the parties.

                  Be that as it may, BPI contends that a summary judgment was not proper given the following issues that the parties raised: 1) whether or not the loan agreements between them were valid and enforceable; 2) whether or not the Yus have a cause of action against BPI; 3) whether or not the Yus are proper parties in interest; 4) whether or not the Yus are estopped from questioning the foreclosure proceeding after entering into a compromise agreement with Magnacraft; 5) whether or not the penalty charges and fees and expenses of litigation and publication are excessive; and 6) whether or not BPI violated the Truth in Lending Act.(RULES OF COURT, Rule 35, Section 5).

                 But, the Supreme Court held that these are issues that could be readily resolved based on the facts established by the pleadings and the admissions of the parties.(A.M. No. 03-1-09-SC, Guidelines to be Observed by Trial Court Judges and Clerks of Court in Conduct of Pre-trial and Use of Deposition-Discovery Measures, August 16, 2004).  Indeed, BPI has failed to name any document or item of fact that it would have wanted to adduce at the trial of the case. A trial would have been such a great waste of time and resources. Otherwise stated, a summary judgment is apt when the essential facts of the case are uncontested or the parties do not raise any genuine issue of fact.(BANK OF THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS, INC., vs. SPS. NORMAN AND ANGELINA YU, G.R. No. 184122, January 20, 2010, ABAD, J.).

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JUSTICE ROBERTO ABAD: FILIAL PRIVILEGE RULE APPLIES ONLY TO “DIRECT” ASCENDANTS AND DESCENDANTS, A FAMILY TIE CONNECTED BY A COMMON ANCESTRY – A STEPDAUGHTER HAS NO COMMON ANCESTRY BY HER STEPMOTHER.

Under Section 25, Rule 130 of the Rules of Evidence “No person may be compelled to testify against his parents, other direct ascendants, children or other direct descendants.”

              The afore-quoted rule is an adaptation from a similar provision in Article 315 of the Civil Code that applies only in criminal cases. But those who revised the Rules of Civil Procedure chose to extend the prohibition to all kinds of actions, whether civil, criminal, or administrative, filed against parents and other direct ascendants or descendants.

              In Emma Lee vs. Court of Appeals, the person (TIU) who invokes the filial privilege, claims that she is the stepmother of petitioner Emma Lee. The Supreme Court declared that the privilege cannot apply to them because the rule applies only to “direct” ascendants and descendants, a family tie connected by a common ancestry.  A stepdaughter has no common ancestry by her stepmother.

               Relative thereto, Article 965 of the New Civil Code provides: “The direct line is either descending or ascending. The former unites the head of the family with those who descend from him. The latter binds a person with those from whom he descends.” Consequently, Tiu can be compelled to testify against petitioner Emma Lee. (EMMA K. LEE vs. COURT OF APPEALS, G.R. No. 177861, July 13, 2010, ABAD, J.).

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JUSTICE ROBERTO ABAD: IT IS NOT NECESSARY THAT THE PERSON IN CHARGE OF THE DEFENDANT’S REGULAR PLACE OF BUSINESS BE SPECIFICALLY AUTHORIZED TO RECEIVE THE SUMMONS. IT IS ENOUGH THAT HE APPEARS TO BE IN CHARGE (EXCEPTION TO THE RULE ON SUBSTITUTED SERVICE OF SUMMONS)

                 In Gentle Supreme Philippines, Inc. vs. Ricardo Consulta, the Supreme Court explained that in order to have a valid substituted service of summons, it is not necessary that the person in charge of the defendant’s regular place of business be specifically authorized to receive the summons. It is enough that he appears to be in charge. Thus:

                  There was valid substituted service of summons on Mr. Consulta at his place of business with some competent person in charge thereof. According to the sheriff’s return, which is prima facie evidence of the facts it states, he served a copy of the complaint on Canave, an authorized representative of both Consulta and Sarayba. Besides Consulta’s bare allegations, he did not present evidence to rebut the presumption of regularity on the manner that the sheriff performed his official duty. Nor did Consulta present clear and convincing evidence that Canave was not competent to receive the summons and the attached documents for him (Guanzon v. Arradaza, G.R. No. 155392, December 6, 2006, 510 SCRA 309, 318, citing Aboitiz International Forwarders, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 142272, May 2, 2006, 488 SCRA 492, 506-507; Rubia v. Government Service Insurance System, 476 Phil. 623, 635 (2004); Spouses Madrigal v. Court of Appeals, 377 Phil. 345, 352 (1999).

                    In fact, in his petition for annulment of judgment, Consulta said that CTC had been apprised of the civil action through Canave. In other words, Canave was a person charged with authority to receive court documents for the company as well as its officers who held office in that company. Absent contrary evidence, the veracity of the return’s content and its effectiveness stand. In fine, the Supreme Court has ruled that “it is not necessary that the person in charge of the defendant’s regular place of business be specifically authorized to receive the summons. It is enough that he appears to be in charge (Guanzon v. Arradaza, supra note 19, citing Gochangco v. CFI of Negros Occidental, 241 Phil. 48, 61 (1988).

                  In this case, Canave, a secretary whose job description necessarily includes receiving documents and other correspondence, would have the semblance of authority to accept the court documents.

                  It is true that this Court emphasized the importance of strict and faithful compliance in effecting substituted service. (See Robinson v. Miralles, G.R. No. 163584, December 12, 2006, 510 SCRA 678, 684, citing Paluwagan ng Bayan Savings Bank v. King, 254 Phil. 56, 58 (1989), [citing Arevalo v. Quilatan, 202 Phil. 256, 261 (1982) and Keister v. Judge Navarro, supra note 12, at 573]).

                    It must, however, be reiterated that when the rigid application of rules becomes a conduit for escaping one’s responsibility, the Court will intervene to set things right according to the rules (Robinson v. Miralles; Arevalo v. Quilatan; and Keister v. Judge Navarro).

                     Further, Consulta does not deny a) that summons had been properly served on Sarayba, his vice-president, through Canave at the company’s office; b) that the summons on him was served on the same occasion also through Canave; c) that the sheriff had succeeded in garnishing his company’s bank deposits; and d) that his company subsequently made an offer to settle the judgment against it. The Court is not dumb as to believe that Consulta became aware of the suit only when the sheriff served a notice of execution sale covering his house and lot. (GENTLE SUPREME PHILIPPINES, INC., VS. RICARDO F. CONSULTA, G.R. NO. 183182, SEPTEMBER 1, 2010, ABAD, J.).

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JUSTICE ROBERTO ABAD: Statements of mere conclusions of law expose the complaint to a motion to dismiss on the ground of failure to state a cause of action

                A cause of action is understood to be the delict or wrongful act or omission committed by the defendant in violation of the primary rights of the plaintiff (CHUA VS. METROPOLITAN BANK & TRUST CO. G.R. NO. 182311, AUGUST 19, 2009, THIRD DIVISION, CHICO-NAZARIO, J.).

                And judgment would be right only if the facts he alleges constitute a cause of action that consists of three elements: (1) the plaintiff’s legal right in the matter; (2) the defendant’s corresponding obligation to honor or respect such right; and (3) the defendant’s subsequent violation of the right. Absent any of these, the complaint would have failed to state a cause of action. The test of sufficiency of a complaint is whether or not, assuming the truth of the facts that plaintiff alleges in it, the court can render judgment granting him the judicial assistance he seeks.

                    Essentially, however, in the case of Arthur Del Rosario, et. al., vs. Hellenor Donato,Jr. et. al., all that the Del Rosarios allege is that respondents NBI agents used an unlawfully obtained search warrant against them, evidenced by the fact that, contrary to the sworn statements used to get such warrant, the NBI agents found no fake Marlboro cigarettes in petitioner Alexander del Rosario’s premises.

                  But a judicially ordered search that fails to yield the described illicit article does not of itself render the court’s order “unlawful.” The Del Rosarios did not allege that respondents NBI agents violated their right by fabricating testimonies to convince the RTC of Angeles City to issue the search warrant. Their allegation that the NBI agents used an unlawfully obtained search warrant is a mere conclusion of law. While a motion to dismiss assumes as true the facts alleged in the complaint, such admission does not extend to conclusions of law. (Drilon v. Court of Appeals, 409 Phil. 14, 28 (2001). Statements of mere conclusions of law expose the complaint to a motion to dismiss on ground of failure to state a cause of action. (Philippine National Bank v. Encina, G.R. No. 174055, February 12, 2008, 544 SCRA 608, 620).

               Further, the allegation that the search warrant in this case was served in a malicious manner is also not sufficient. Allegations of bad faith, malice, and other related words without ultimate facts to support the same are mere conclusions of law (Drilon v. Court of Appeals, supra).

                The Del Rosarios’ broad assertion in their complaint that the search was conducted “in full and plain view of members of the community” does not likewise support their claim that such search was maliciously enforced. There is nothing inherently wrong with search warrants being enforced in full view of neighbors. In fact, when the respondent or his representative is not present during the search, the rules require that it be done in the presence of two residents of the same locality. These safeguards exist to protect persons from possible abuses that may occur if searches were done surreptitiously or clandestinely. Accordingly, statements of mere conclusions of law expose the complaint to a motion to dismiss on ground of failure to state a cause of action. (ARTHUR DEL ROSARIO, ET AL. VS. HELLENOR D. DONATO, JR. ET AL. MARCH 5, 2010, G.R. NO.180595, SECOND DIVISION, ABAD, J.).

 

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JUSTICE ROBERTO ABAD: A SUPPLEMENTAL COMPLAINT IS LIKE ANY COMPLAINT AND THE RULE IS THAT THE FILING FEES DUE ON A COMPLAINT NEED TO BE PAID UPON ITS FILING

                  In Do-ALL Metals Industries vs. Security Bank, the Supreme Court observed that what the plaintiffs failed to pay merely was the filing fees for their supplemental complaint. Thus, the RTC acquired jurisdiction over plaintiffs’ action from the moment they filed their original complaint accompanied by the payment of the filing fees due on the same. In other words, the plaintiffs’ non-payment of the additional filing fees due on their additional claims did not divest the RTC of the jurisdiction it already had over the case (PNOC Shipping and Transport Corporation v. Court of Appeals, 358 Phil. 38, 62 (1998). x x x x x

                  However, as to the damages that plaintiffs claim under their supplemental complaint, their stand that the RTC committed no error in admitting the complaint even if they had not paid the filing fees due on it since such fees constituted a lien anyway on the judgment award is not correct. The Supreme Court clarified that the after-judgment lien, which implies that payment depends on a successful execution of the judgment, applies to cases where the filing fees were incorrectly assessed or paid or where the court has discretion to fix the amount of the award. (Rules of Court, Rule 141, Section 2 (Fees in Lien). None of these circumstances obtain in the case.

                  Here, the supplemental complaint specified from the beginning the actual damages that the plaintiffs sought against the Bank. Still plaintiffs paid no filing fees on the same. And, while petitioners claim that they were willing to pay the additional fees, they gave no reason for their omission nor offered to pay the same. They merely said that they did not yet pay the fees because the RTC had not assessed them for it. But a supplemental complaint is like any complaint and the rule is that the filing fees due on a complaint need to be paid upon its filing. (Section 1 (Payment of Fees) in relation to Section 7 (Fees collectible by the Clerks of Regional Trial Courts for filing an action). The rules do not require the court to make special assessments in cases of supplemental complaints.

                      To aggravate plaintiffs’ omission, although the Bank brought up the question of their failure to pay additional filing fees in its motion for reconsideration, plaintiffs made no effort to make at least a late payment before the case could be submitted for decision, assuming of course that the prescription of their action had not then set it in. Clearly, plaintiffs have no excuse for their continuous failure to pay the fees they owed the court. Consequently, the trial court should have treated their Supplemental Complaint as not filed. x x x x

                 Plaintiffs of course point out that the Bank itself raised the issue of non-payment of additional filing fees only after the RTC had rendered its decision in the case. The implication is that the Bank should be deemed to have waived its objection to such omission. But it is not for a party to the case or even for the trial court to waive the payment of the additional filing fees due on the supplemental complaint. Only the Supreme Court can grant exemptions to the payment of the fees due the courts and these exemptions are embodied in its rules (DO-ALL METALS INDUSTRIES VS. SECURITY BANK CORPORATION, G.R. NO. 176339, JANUARY 10, 2011, ABAD, J.).

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JUSTICE ROBERTO ABAD: THE OMBUDSMAN’S AUTHORITY TO CONDUCT PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION OF FORFEITURE CASES INVOLVING ILL-GOTTEN WEALTH

                 In Alfredo Romualdez vs. Sandiganbayan, the Supreme Court citing Republic vs. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No. 90529, August 16, 1991, 200 SCRA 667, 682-683 clarified that the Ombudsman has under its general investigatory powers the authority to investigate forfeiture cases where the alleged ill-gotten wealth had been amassed before February 25, 1986.  Thus

                   “While we do not discount the authority of the Ombudsman, we believe and so hold that the exercise of his correlative powers to both investigate and initiate the proper action for the recovery of ill-gotten and/or unexplained wealth is restricted only to cases for the recovery of ill-gotten and/or unexplained wealth which were amassed after February 25, 1986.

                  Prior to said date, the Ombudsman is without authority to initiate such forfeiture proceedings. We, however, uphold his authority to investigate cases for the forfeiture or recovery of such ill-gotten and/or unexplained wealth amassed even before the aforementioned date, pursuant to his general investigatory power under Section 15(1) of Republic Act No. 6770” (Republic v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No. 90529, August 16, 1991, 200 SCRA 667, 682-683).

                  Be that as it may, in the same case, the High Court observed that although it was the Ombudsman who conducted the preliminary investigation, it was the OSG that instituted the action in Civil Case 0167 in line with the Court’s ruling in the above-cited Republic and other cases that followed (ALFREDO T. ROMUALDEZ vs. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No. 16160, July 13, 2010, ABAD, J.).

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