Você está na página 1de 181

1

LETICIA B. AGBAYANI, PEtitioner, - versus -COURT OF APPEALS, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE and LOIDA MARCELINA J.GENABE,Respondents. DECISION REYES, J.: On petition for review under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Court is the Decision[1] dated March 27, 2008 of the Court of Appeals (CA) dismissing the petition for certiorariand the Resolution[2] dated July 3, 2008 denying the motion for reconsideration thereof in CA-G.R. SP No. 99626. Petitioner Leticia B. Agbayani (Agbayani) assails the resolution of the Department of Justice (DOJ) which directed the withdrawal of her complaint for grave oral defamation filed against respondent Loida Marcelina J. Genabe (Genabe).

Antecedent Facts Agbayani and Genabe were both employees of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 275 of Las Pias City, working as Court Stenographer and Legal Researcher II, respectively. On December 29, 2006, Agbayani filed a criminal complaint for grave oral defamation against Genabe before the Office of the City Prosecutor of Las Pias City, docketed as I.S. No. 07-0013, for allegedly uttering against her, in the presence of their fellow court employees and while she was going about her usual duties at work, the following statements, to wit: ANG GALING MO LETY, SINABI MO NA TINAPOS MO YUNG MARVILLA CASE, ANG GALING MO. FEELING LAWYER KA KASI, BAKIT DI KA MAGDUTY NA LANG, STENOGRAPHER KA

MAGSTENO KA NA LANG, ANG GALING MO, FEELING LAWYER KA TALAGA. NAGBEBENTA KA NG KASO, TIRADOR KA NG JUDGE. SIGE HIGH BLOOD DIN KA, MAMATAY KA SANA SA HIGH BLOOD MO.[3] In a Resolution[4] rendered on February 12, 2007, the Office of the City Prosecutor of Las Pias City[5] found probable cause for the filing of the Information for grave oral defamation against Genabe. However, upon a petition for review filed by Genabe, the DOJ Undersecretary Ernesto L. Pineda (Pineda) found that:

After careful evaluation and consideration of the evidence on record, we find merit in the instant petition. Contrary to the findings in the assailed resolution, we find that the subject utterances of respondent constitute only slight oral defamation. As alleged by the [petitioner] in paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 of her complaint-affidavit, respondent uttered the remarks subject matter of the instant case in the heat of anger. This was also the tenor of the sworn statements of the witnesses for complainant. The Supreme Court, in the case of Cruz vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. Nos. L-56224-26, November 25, 1982, x x x held that although abusive remarks may ordinarily be considered as serious defamation, under the environmental circumstances

of the case, there having been provocation on complainants part, and the utterances complained of having been made in the heat of unrestrained anger and obfuscation, such utterances constitute only the crime of slight oral defamation. Notwithstanding the foregoing, we believe that the instant case should nonetheless be dismissed for non-compliance with the provisions of Book III, Title I, Chapter 7 (Katarungang Pambarangay), of Republic Act No. 7160 (The Local Government Code of 1991). As shown by the records, the parties herein are residents of Las Pias City. x x x

The complaint-affidavit, however, failed to show that the instant case was previously referred to the barangay for conciliation in compliance with Sections 408 and 409, paragraph (d), of the Local Government Code, which provides: Section 408. Subject Matter for Amicable Settlement; Exception Thereto. The lupon of each barangay shall have authority to bring together the parties actually residing in the same city or municipality for amicable settlement of all disputes except: xxx Section 409. Venue. x x x (d) Those arising at the workplace where the contending parties are employed or xxx shall be brought in the barangay where such workplace or institution is located.

The records of the case likewise show that the instant case is not one of the exceptions enumerated under Section 408 of the Local Government Code. Hence, the dismissal of the instant petition is proper. It is well-noted that the Supreme Court held that where the case is covered by P.D. 1508 (Katarungang Pambarangay Law), the compulsory process of arbitration required therein is a precondition for filing a complaint in court. Where the complaint (a) did not state that it is one of the excepted cases, or (b) it did not allege prior availment of said conciliation process, or (c) did not have a certification that no conciliation or settlement had been reached by the parties, the case should be dismissed x x x. While the foregoing doctrine is handed down in civil cases, it is submitted that the

same should apply to criminal cases covered by, but filed without complying with, the provisions of P.D. 1508 x x x.[6] Thus, in a Resolution[7] dated May 17, 2007, the DOJ disposed, to wit: WHEREFORE, premises considered, the assailed resolution is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Accordingly, the City Prosecutor of Las Pias City is directed to move for the withdrawal of the information for grave oral defamation filed against respondent Loida Marcelina J. Genabe, and report the action taken thereon within ten (10) days from receipt hereof.

SO ORDERED.[8] The petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration, which was denied in a Resolution[9] dated June 25, 2007. Consequently, Agbayani filed a petition for certiorari with the CA alleging that the DOJ committed grave abuse of discretion in setting aside the Resolution dated February 12, 2007 of the City Prosecutor of Las Pias City in I.S. Case No. 07-0013. She averred that the respondents petition for review filed with the DOJ did not comply with Sections 5 and 6 of DOJ Circular No. 70, or the 2000

National Prosecution Service (NPS) Rules on Appeal, and maintained that her evidence supported a finding of probable cause for grave oral defamation against respondent Genabe. On March 27, 2008, the CA dismissed the petition after finding no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the DOJ. Citing Punzalan v. Dela Pea,[10] the CA stated that for grave abuse of discretion to exist, the complained act must constitute a capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment as it is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction, or when the power is exercised in an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility, and it must be so patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of positive duty enjoined or to act at all in contemplation of law. It is not sufficient that a tribunal, in the exercise of its power, abused its discretion; such abuse must be grave.

On motion for reconsideration by the petitioner, the CA denied the same in its Resolution [11] dated July 3, 2008. Hence, the instant petition.

I. RESPONDENT COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE RESPONDENT DOJ DID NOT ABUSE ITS DISCRETION WHEN THE LATTER REVERSED AND SET ASIDE THE RESOLUTION OF THE CITY PROSECUTOR OF LAS PIAS CITY. II. RESPONDENT COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN AFFIRMING RESPONDENT DOJ'S FINDING THAT WHAT PRIVATE RESPONDENT COMMITTED WAS ONLY SLIGHT ORAL DEFAMATION. III. RESPONDENT COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN AFFIRMING RESPONDENT DOJ'S DISMISSAL OF THE COMPLAINT DUE TO NON-COMPLIANCE WITH THE PROVISIONS OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE OF 1991.

Assignment of Errors Maintaining her stance, Agbayani raised the following, to wit:

IV. RESPONDENT COURT GRAVELY ERRED WHEN IT HELD THAT THE REQUIREMENTS UNDER DOJ CIRCULAR NO. 70 (2000 NPS Rule on Appeal) ARE NOT MANDATORY. [12] Ruling and Discussions The petition is bereft of merit. We shall first tackle Agbayani's arguments on the first two issues raised in the instant petition.

1. Petitioner Agbayani alleged that Undersecretary Pineda unfairly heeded only to the arguments interposed by respondent Genabe in her comment; and the CA, in turn, took his findings and reasoning as gospel truth. Agbayanis comment was completely disregarded and suppressed in the records of the DOJ. Agbayani discovered this when she went to the DOJ to examine the records, as soon as she received a copy of the DOJ Resolution of her motion for reconsideration. 2. Further, petitioner Agbayani maintained that respondent Genabes Petition for Review [13] should have been dismissed outright, since it failed to state the name and address of the petitioner, nor did it show proof of service to her, pursuant to Sections 5 and 6 of DOJ Circular No. 70. Also, the petition was not accompanied with the required attachments, i.e. certified copies of the complaint, affidavits of witnesses, petitioner's reply to respondent's counter-affidavit, and documentary

evidences of petitioner. Thus, a grave irregularity was committed by the DOJ in allowing the surreptitious insertion of these and many other documents in the records of the case, after the petition had been filed. In particular, petitioner Agbayani alleged that when the petition was filed on March 22, 2007, only five (5) documents were attached thereto, namely: (a) the Resolution of the City Prosecutor; (b) the respondent's Counter-affidavit; (c) Letter of the staff dated January 2, 2005; (d) her Answer; and (e) the Information filed against respondent Genabe with the Office of the City Prosecutor of Las Pias City. However, at the time the Resolution of the DOJ was issued, a total of forty-one (41) documents[14] formed part of the records of the petition. Besides, respondent Genabe's Motion to Defer Arraignment (Document No. 40) and the court order relative to the granting of the same

(Document No. 41) were both dated March 23, 2007, or a day after the petition was filed. Agbayani asserted that these thirty-six (36) documents were surreptitiously and illegally attached to the records of the case, an act constituting extrinsic fraud and grave misconduct.[15] At the very least, the DOJ should have required respondent Genabe to formalize the insertion of the said documents. Petitioner Agbayani reiterated that her version of the incident was corroborated by several witnesses (officemates of Agbayani and Genabe), while that of Genabe was not. And since the crime committed by respondent Genabe consisted of her exact utterances, the DOJ erred in downgrading the same to slight oral defamation, completely disregarding the finding by the Investigating Prosecutor of probable cause for the greater offense of grave oral defamation. She denied that she gave provocation to

respondent Genabe, insisting that the latter committed the offense with malice aforethought and not in the heat of anger. We find no merit in the above arguments. It is well to be reminded, first of all, that the rules of procedure should be viewed as mere instruments designed to facilitate the attainment of justice. They are not to be applied with severity and rigidity when such application would clearly defeat the very rationale for their conception and existence. Even the Rules of Court reflects this principle.[16]

Anent the charge of non-compliance with the rules on appeal, Sections 5 and 6 of the aforesaid DOJ Circular provide: SECTION 5. Contents of petition. - The petition shall contain or state: (a) the names and addresses of the parties; (b) the Investigation Slip number (I.S. No.) and criminal case number, if any, and title of the case, including the offense charged in the complaint; (c) the venue of the preliminary investigation; (d) the specific material dates showing that it was filed on time; (e) a clear and concise statement of the facts, the assignment of errors, and the reasons or arguments relied upon for the allowance of the appeal; and (f) proof of service of a copy of the petition to the adverse party and the Prosecution Office concerned.

10

The petition shall be accompanied by legible duplicate original or certified true copy of the resolution appealed from together with legible true copies of the complaint, affidavits/sworn statements and other evidence submitted by the parties during the preliminary investigation/ reinvestigation. If an information has been filed in court pursuant to the appealed resolution, a copy of the motion to defer proceedings filed in court must also accompany the petition. The investigating/reviewing/approving prosecutor shall not be impleaded as party respondent in the petition. The party taking the appeal shall be referred to in the petition as either "ComplainantAppellant" or "Respondent-Appellant."

SECTION 6. Effect of failure to comply with the requirements. The failure of petitioner to comply WITH ANY of the foregoing requirements shall constitute sufficient ground for the dismissal of the petition. Contrary to petitioner Agbayani's claim, there was substantial compliance with the rules. Respondent Genabe actually mentioned on page 2 of her petition for review to the DOJ the name of the petitioner as the private complainant, as well as indicated the latters address on the last page thereof as RTC Branch 275, Las Pias City. The CA also noted that there was proper service of the petition as required by the rules since the petitioner was able to file her comment thereon. A copy thereof, attached as Annex L in the instant petition, bears a mark that the comment was duly received by the

11

Prosecution Staff, Docket Section of the DOJ. Moreover, a computer verification requested by the petitioner showed that the prosecutor assigned to the case had received a copy of the petitioners comment.[17] As to the charge of extrinsic fraud, which consists of the alleged suppression of Agbayani's Comment and the unauthorized insertion of documents in the records of the case with the DOJ, we agree with the CA that this is a serious charge, especially if made against the Undersecretary of Justice; and in order for it to prosper, it must be supported by clear and convincing evidence. However, petitioner Agbayani's only proof is her bare claim that she personally checked the records and found that her Comment was missing and 36 new documents had been inserted. This matter was readily brought to

the attention of Undersecretary Pineda by petitioner Agbayani in her motion for reconsideration, who however must surely have found such contention without merit, and thus denied the motion.[18] Section 5 of the 2000 NPS Rules on Appeal also provides that the petition for review must be accompanied by a legible duplicate original or certified true copy of the resolution appealed from, together with legible true copies of the complaint, affidavits or sworn statements and other evidence submitted by the parties during the preliminary investigation or reinvestigation. Petitioner Agbayani does not claim that she was never furnished, during the preliminary investigation, with copies of the alleged inserted documents, or that any of these documents were fabricated. In fact, at least seven (7) of these documents were copies of her own submissions to the investigating prosecutor. [19] Presumably, the DOJ required respondent Genabe to submit additional documents produced at

12

the preliminary investigation, along with Document Nos. 40 and 41, for a fuller consideration of her petition for review. As for Document Nos. 40 and 41, which were dated a day after the filing of the petition, Section 5 of the 2000 NPS Rules on Appeal provides that if an Information has been filed in court pursuant to the appealed resolution, a copy of the Motion to Defer Proceedings must also accompany the petition. Section 3 of the above Rules states that an appeal to the DOJ must be taken within fifteen (15) days from receipt of the resolution or of the denial of the motion for reconsideration. While it may be presumed that the motion to defer arraignment accompanying the petition should also be filed within the appeal period, respondent Genabe can not actually be faulted if the resolution thereof was made after the lapse of the period to appeal.

In Guy vs. Asia United Bank,[20] a motion for reconsideration from the resolution of the Secretary of Justice, which was filed four (4) days beyond the non-extendible period of ten (10) days, was allowed under Section 13 of the 2000 NPS Rules on Appeal. The Supreme Court held that the authority of the Secretary of Justice to review and order the withdrawal of an Information in instances where he finds the absence of a prima facie case is not time-barred, albeit subject to the approval of the court, if its jurisdiction over the accused has meanwhile attached. [21] We further explained: [I]t is not prudent or even permissible for a court to compel the Secretary of Justice or the fiscal, as the case may be, to prosecute a proceeding originally initiated by him on an information, if he finds that the evidence relied upon by him is insufficient for conviction. Now, then, if the Secretary of

13

Justice possesses sufficient latitude of discretion in his determination of what constitutes probable cause and can legally order a reinvestigation even in those extreme instances where an information has already been filed in court, is it not just logical and valid to assume that he can take cognizance of and competently act on a motion for reconsideration, belatedly filed it might have been, dealing with probable cause? And is it not a grievous error on the part of the CA if it virtually orders the filing of an information, as here, despite a categorical statement from the Secretary of Justice about the lack of evidence to proceed with the prosecution of the petitioner? The answer to both posers should be in the affirmative. As we said inSantos v. Go: [C]ourts cannot interfere with the discretion of the public prosecutor in evaluating the offense charged. He may dismiss the complaint forthwith, if he finds the charge insufficient in form or

substance, or without any ground. Or, he may proceed with the investigation if the complaint in his view is sufficient and in proper form. The decision whether to dismiss a complaint or not, is dependent upon the sound discretion of the prosecuting fiscal and, ultimately, that of the Secretary of Justice. Findings of the Secretary of Justice are not subject to review unless made with grave abuse of discretion. xxx [T]o strike down the April 20, 2006 DOJ Secretary's Resolution as absolutely void and without effect whatsoever, as the assailed CA decision did, for having been issued after the Secretary had supposedly lost jurisdiction over the motion for reconsideration subject of the resolution may be

14

reading into the aforequoted provision a sense not intended. For, the irresistible thrust of the assailed CA decision is that the DOJ Secretary is peremptorily barred from taking a second hard look at his decision and, in appropriate cases, reverse or modify the same unless and until a motion for reconsideration is timely interposed and pursued. The Court cannot accord cogency to the posture assumed by the CA under the premises which, needless to stress, would deny the DOJ the authority to motu proprioundertake a review of his own decision with the end in view of protecting, in line with his oath of office, innocent persons from groundless, false or malicious prosecution. As the Court pointed out in Torres, Jr. v. Aguinaldo, the Secretary of Justice would be committing a serious dereliction of duty if he orders or sanctions the filing of an information based upon a complaint where he is not convinced that the evidence warrants the filing of the action in court.[22] (Citations omitted and underscoring supplied)

The Court further stated in Guy that when the DOJ Secretary took cognizance of the petitioner's motion for reconsideration, he effectively excepted such motion from the operation of the aforequoted Section 13 of DOJ Circular No. 70, s. 2000. This show of liberality is, to us, within the competence of the DOJ Secretary to make. The Court is not inclined to disturb the same absent compelling proof, that he acted out of whim and that petitioner was out to delay the proceedings to the prejudice of respondent in filing the motion for reconsideration.[23] The case of First Women's Credit Corporation v. Perez,[24] succinctly summarizes the general rules relative to criminal prosecution: that criminal prosecution may not be restrained or stayed by

15

injunction, preliminary or final, albeit in extreme cases, exceptional circumstances have been recognized; that courts follow the policy of non-interference in the conduct of preliminary investigations by the DOJ, and of leaving to the investigating prosecutor sufficient latitude of discretion in the determination of what constitutes sufficient evidence as will establish probable cause for the filing of an information against a supposed offender; and, that the court's duty in an appropriate case is confined to a determination of whether the assailed executive or judicial determination of probable cause was done without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to want of jurisdiction. But while prosecutors are given sufficient latitude of discretion in the determination of probable cause, their findings are still subject to review by the Secretary of Justice. Surely, this power of the Secretary

of Justice to review includes the discretion to accept additional evidence from the investigating prosecutor or from herein respondent Genabe, evidence which nonetheless appears to have already been submitted to the investigating prosecutor but inadvertently omitted by her when she filed her petition. 3. Coming now to the DOJ's finding that the complaint fails to state a cause of action, the CA held that the DOJ committed no grave abuse of discretion in causing the dismissal thereof on the ground of non-compliance with the provisions of the Local Government Code of 1991, on the Katarungang Pambarangay conciliation procedure.

16

Undeniably, both petitioner Agbayani and respondent Genabe are residents of Las Pias City and both work at the RTC, and the incident which is the subject matter of the case happened in their workplace.[25] Agbayanis complaint should have undergone the mandatory barangay conciliation for possible amicable settlement with respondent Genabe, pursuant to Sections 408 and 409 of Republic Act No. 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991 which provide: Sec. 408. Subject Matter for Amicable Settlement; Exception thereto. The lupon of each barangay shall have authority to bring together the parties actually residing in the same city or municipality for amicable settlement of all disputes, except: x x x

Sec. 409. Venue. x x x (d) Those arising at the workplace where the contending parties are employed or x x x shall be brought in the barangay where such workplace or institution is located. Administrative Circular No. 14-93,[26] issued by the Supreme Court on July 15, 1993 states that: xxx I. All disputes are subject to Barangay conciliation pursuant to the Revised Katarungang Pambarangay Law [formerly P.D. 1508, repealed and now replaced by Secs. 399-422, Chapter VII, Title I, Book III, and Sec. 515, Title I, Book IV, R.A. 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government

17

Code of 1991], and prior recourse thereto is a pre-condition before filing a complaint in court or any government offices, except in the following disputes: [1] Where one party is the government, or any subdivision or instrumentality thereof; [2] Where one party is a public officer or employee and the dispute relates to the performance of his official functions; [3] Where the dispute involves real properties located in different cities and municipalities, unless the parties thereto agree to submit their difference to amicable settlement by an appropriate Lupon;

[4] Any complaint by or against corporations, partnerships or juridical entities, since only individuals shall be parties to Barangay conciliation proceedings either as complainants or respondents [Sec. 1, Rule VI, Katarungang Pambarangay Rules]; [5] Disputes involving parties who actually reside in barangays of different cities or municipalities, except where such barangay units adjoin each other and the parties thereto agree to submit their differences to amicable settlement by an appropriate Lupon; [6] Offenses for which the law prescribes a maximum penalty of imprisonment exceeding one [1] year or a fine of over five thousand pesos ([P]5,000.00);

18

[7] Offenses where there is no private offended party; [8] Disputes where urgent legal action is necessary to prevent injustice from being committed or further continued, specifically the following: [a] Criminal cases where accused is under police custody or detention [See Sec. 412(b)(1), Revised Katarungang Pambarangay Law]; [b] Petitions for habeas corpus by a person illegally deprived of his rightful custody over another or a person illegally deprived of or on acting in his behalf;

[c] Actions coupled with provisional remedies such as preliminary injunction, attachment, delivery of personal property and support during the pendency of the action; and [d] Actions which may be barred by the Statute of Limitations. [9] Any class of disputes which the President may determine in the interest of justice or upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Justice; [10] Where the dispute arises from the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) [Secs. 46 & 47, R. A. 6657];

19

[11] Labor disputes or controversies arising from employer-employee relations [Montoya vs. Escayo, 171 SCRA 442; Art. 226, Labor Code, as amended, which grants original and exclusive jurisdiction over conciliation and mediation of disputes, grievances or problems to certain offices of the Department of Labor and Employment]; [12] Actions to annul judgment upon a compromise which may be filed directly in court [See Sanchez vs. [Judge] Tupaz, 158 SCRA 459]. xxx

The compulsory process of arbitration is a pre-condition for the filing of the complaint in court. Where the complaint (a) did not state that it is one of excepted cases, or (b) it did not allege prior availment of said conciliation process, or (c) did not have a certification that no conciliation had been reached by the parties, the case should be dismissed.[27] Here, petitioner Agbayani failed to show that the instant case is not one of the exceptions enumerated above. Neither has she shown that the oral defamation caused on her was so grave as to merit a penalty of more than one year. Oral defamation under Article 358 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, is penalized as follows:

20

Article 358. Slander. Oral defamation shall be punished by arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period if it is of a serious and insulting nature; otherwise, the penalty shall be arresto menor or a fine not exceeding 200 pesos. Apparently, the DOJ found probable cause only for slight oral defamation. As defined in Villanueva v. People,[28] oral defamation or slander is the speaking of base and defamatory words which tend to prejudice another in his reputation, office, trade, business or means of livelihood. It is grave slander when it is of a serious and insulting nature. The gravity depends upon: (1) the expressions used; (2) the personal relations of the accused and the offended party; and (3) the special circumstances of the case, the antecedents or relationship between the offended party and the offender, which may tend to

prove the intention of the offender at the time. In particular, it is a rule that uttering defamatory words in the heat of anger, with some provocation on the part of the offended party constitutes only a light felony.[29] We recall that in the morning of December 27, 2006 when the alleged utterances were made, Genabe was about to punch in her time in her card when she was informed that she had been suspended for failing to meet her deadline in a case, and that it was Agbayani who informed the presiding judge that she had missed her deadline when she left to attend a convention in Baguio City, leaving Agbayani to finish the task herself. According to Undersecretary Pineda, the confluence of these circumstances was the immediate cause of respondent Genabe's emotional and psychological distress. We rule that his determination that the defamation was uttered while the respondent was in

21

extreme excitement or in a state of passion and obfuscation, rendering her offense of lesser gravity than if it had been made with cold and calculating deliberation, is beyond the ambit of our review.[30] The CA concurred that the complained utterances constituted only slight oral defamation, having been said in the heat of anger and with perceived provocation from Agbayani. Respondent Genabe was of a highly volatile personality prone to throw fits (sumpongs), who thus shared a hostile working environment with her co-employees, particularly with her superiors, Agbayani and Hon. Bonifacio Sanz Maceda, the Presiding Judge of Branch 275, whom she claimed had committed against her grievous acts that outrage moral and social conduct. That there had been a long-standing animosity between Agbayani and Genabe is not denied.

4. Lastly, petitioner Agbayani insists that the DOJ should have dismissed respondent Genabe's petition for review outright pursuant to Sections 5 and 6 of DOJ Circular No. 70. It is true that the general rule in statutory construction is that the words shall, must, ought, or should are words of mandatory character in common parlance and in their in ordinary signification,[31] yet, it is also wellrecognized in law and equity as a not absolute and inflexible criterion.[32] Moreover, it is well to be reminded that DOJ Circular No. 70 is a mere tool designed to facilitate, not obstruct, the attainment of justice through appeals taken with the National Prosecution Service. Thus, technical rules of procedure like those under Sections 5 and 6 thereof should be interpreted in such a way to promote, not frustrate, justice.

22

Besides, Sections 7 and 10 of DOJ Circular No. 70 clearly give the Secretary of Justice, or the Undersecretary in his place, wide latitude of discretion whether or not to dismiss a petition. Section 6 of DOJ Circular No. 70, invoked by petitioner Agbayani, is clearly encompassed within this authority, as shown by a cursory reading of Sections 7 and 10, to wit: SECTION 7. Action on the petition. The Secretary of Justice may dismiss the petition outright if he finds the same to be patently without merit or manifestly intended for delay, or when the issues raised therein are too unsubstantial to require consideration.

SECTION 12. Disposition of the appeal. The Secretary may reverse, affirm or modify the appealed resolution. He may, motu proprio or upon motion, dismiss the petition for review on any of the following grounds: That the petition was filed beyond the period prescribed in Section 3 hereof; That the procedure or any of the requirements herein provided has not been complied with; That there is no showing of any reversible error; That the appealed resolution is interlocutory in nature, except when it suspends the proceedings based on the alleged existence of a prejudicial question; That the accused had already been arraigned when the appeal was taken; That the offense has already prescribed; and

23

That other legal or factual grounds exist to warrant a dismissal.

his complaint or defense rather than for him to lose life, liberty, honor or property on mere technicalities.[34] (Citations omitted) All told, we find that the CA did not commit reversible error in upholding the Resolution dated May 17, 2007 of the DOJ as we, likewise, find the same to be in accordance with law and jurisprudence. WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition for review is hereby DENIED. Accordingly, the Decision dated March 27, 2008 and the Resolution dated July 3, 2008 of the Court of Appeals in CAG.R. SP No. 99626 are AFFIRMED in toto.

We reiterate what we have stated in Yao v. Court of Appeals[33] that: In the interest of substantial justice, procedural rules of the most mandatory character in terms of compliance, may be relaxed. In other words, if strict adherence to the letter of the law would result in absurdity and manifest injustice, or where the merit of a party's cause is apparent and outweighs consideration of non-compliance with certain formal requirements, procedural rules should definitely be liberally construed. A party-litigant is to be given the fullest opportunity to establish the merits of

24

SO ORDERED. April 27, 1954 G.R. No. L-5387 In the matter of the Adoption of the minors MARIA LUALHATI MAGPAYO and AMADA MAGPAYO. CLYDE E. MCGEE, petitioner-appellee, vs. REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES , oppositor-appellant. Quijano, Alidio and Azores for appellee. Assistant Solicitor General Guillermo E. Torres and Solicitor Estrella Abad Santos for appellant. Montemayor, J.:

MARIA LUALHATI MAGPAYO. CLYDE E MCGEE vs. REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES Republic of the PhilippinesSUPREME COURTManila EN BANC G.R. No. L-5387 &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp April 27, 1954 In the matter of the Adoption of the minors MARIA LUALHATI MAGPAYO and AMADA MAGPAYO. CLYDE E. MCGEE, petitioner-appellee, vs. REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, oppositor-appellant. Quijano, Alidio and Azores for appellee. Assistant Solicitor General Guillermo E. Torres and Solicitor Estrella Abad Santos for appellant. MONTEMAYOR, J.:

25

Appellee Clyde E. McGee, an American citizen is married to Leonardo S. Crisostomo by whom he has one child. The minors Maria and Amada, both surnamed Magpayo are Leonardas children by her first husband Ernesto Magpayo who was killed by the Japanese during the occupation. McGee filed a petition in the Court of First Instance of Manila to adopt his two minor step-children Maria and Amada. At the hearing, the Government filed its opposition to the petition on the ground that petitioner has a legitimate child and consequently, is disqualified to adopt under article 335, paragraph 1, of the new Civil Code which provides: ART. 335. The following cannot adopt: (1) Those who have legitimate, legitimated, acknowledged natural children, or natural children by legal fiction;

ART. 338. The following may be adopted: xxxxxxxxx (3) A step-child, by the step-father or step-mother. The Government is appealing from that decision. Only recently (December 21, 1953), and during the pendency of the present appeal, we have had occasion to decide a similar case wherein the same question was involved,1 namely, whether a husband having a legitimate child may adopt a step-child. Applying the provisions of article 335, we held that it cannot be done for the reason that although article 338 of the new Civil Code permits the adoption of a step-child by the step-father or the stepmother, nevertheless, because of the negative provisions of article 335, said permission is confined to those step-fathers and step-mothers who have no children of their own.

26

With the doctrine laid down in the Ball vs. Republic case, we could stop right here and sustain the appeal of the Government in the present case. However, it may not be unprofitable to further elaborate on the relation between the two articles 335 and 338, new Civil Code. The strongest argument of the trial court and of the appellee in support of the decision granting the adoption is that to hold that a step-father having a legitimate child may not adopt a step-child would be to render article 338, paragraph 3, meaningless and a surplusage inasmuch as without said article 338, a husband without a legitimate child may adopt a step-child anyway; or worse, article 338 contradicts article 335. At first blush, that is a formidable argument because the Legislature in enacting a law is supposed and presumed not to insert any section or provision which is unnecessary and a mere surplusage; that all provisions contained in a law should be given effect, and that contradictions are to be avoided. Futhermore, it is contended by appellee that article 335 prohibiting adoption by a parent

who already has a child of his own should not be considered exclusively but rather in relation with article 338 so as to regard the latter as an exception to an exception. To meet and dispose of this argument we have to go into the philosophy of adoption. The purpose of adoption is to establish a relationship of paternity and filiation where none existed before. Where therefore the relationship of parent and child already exists whether by blood or by affinity as in the case of illegitimate and step-children, it would be unnecessary and superfluous to establish and superimpose another relationship of parent and child through adoption. Consequently, an express authorization of law like article 338 is necessary, if not to render it proper and legal, at least, to remove any and all doubt on the subject-matter. Under this view, article 338 may not be regarded as a surplusage. That may have been the reason why in the old Code of Civil Procedure, particularly its provisions regarding adoption, authority to adopt a step-child by a step-father was

27

provided in section 766 notwithstanding the general authorization in section 765 extended to any inhabitant of the Philippines to adopt a minor child. The same argument of surplusage could plausibly have been advanced as regards section 766, that is to say, section 766 was unnecessary and superfluous because without it a step-father could adopt a minor step-child anyway. However, the insertion of section 766 was not entirely without reason. The Code of Civil Procedure was of common law origin. It seems to be an established principle in American jurisprudence that a person may not adopt his own relative, the reason being that it is unnecessary to establish a relationship where such already exists (the same philosophy underlying our codal provisions on adoption). So, some states have special laws authorizing the adoption of relatives such as a grandfather adopting a grandchild and a father adopting his illegitimate or natural child.

Another possible reason for the insertion of section 766 in the Code of Civil Procedure and article 338, paragraph 3, in the new Civil Code, authorizing the adoption of a step-child by the step-father or step-mother is that without said express legal sanction, there might be some doubt as to the propriety and advisability of said adoption due to the possibility, if not probability, of pressure brought to bear upon the adopting step-father or mother by the legitimate and natural parent. One additional reason for holding that article 338 of the new Civil Code should be subordinated and made subject to the provisions of article 335 so as to limit the permission to adopt granted in article 338, to parents who have no children of their own, is that the terms of article 335 are phrased in a negative manner the following cannot be adopted, while the phraseology of article 338 is only affirmative the following may be adopted. Under the rule of statutory construction, negative words and phrases are to be regarded as mandatory while those in the affirmative are merely directory.

28

. . . negative (prohibitory and exclusive words or terms are indicative of the legislative intent that the statute is to be mandatory, . . . (Crawford, Statutory Construction, sec. 263, p. 523.) Ordinarily the word may is directory, . . . (Crawford, op. cit., sec. 262, p. 519.) Prohibitive or negative words can rarely, if ever, be directory, or, as it has been aptly stated, there is but one way to obey the command thou shalt not, and that is to completely refrain from doing the forbidden act. And this is so, even though the statute provides no penalty for disobedience. (Crawford, op. cit., sec. 263, p. 523.) The principal reason behind article 335, paragraph 1 denying adoption to those who already have children is that adoption would not only create conflicts within the family but it would also materially affect or diminish the successional rights of the child already had. This objection may not appear as formidable and real when the child had by the adopting parent is by the very spouse whose child is to

be adopted, because in that case, the legitimate child and the adopted one would be half-brothers or half-sisters, would not be total strangers to each other, and the blood relationship though half may soften and absorb the loss of successional rights and the possible diminution of the attention and affection previously enjoyed. But as not infrequently happens, the step-father or step-mother adopting a child of his or her second wife or husband already may have a child of his or her own by a previous marriage, in which case, said child and the adopted one would be complete strangers to each other, with no family ties whatsoever to bind them, in which event, there would be nothing to soften and reconcile the objection and resentment, natural to the legitimate child. In conclusion, we hold that pursuant to the provisions of article 335, paragraph 1, a step-father who already has a child may not adopt a step-child regardless of the provisions of article 338, paragraph 3 of the same Code, the latter provisions being confined and applicable to those step-fathers and step-

29

mothers who have no children of their own. The decision appealed from is hereby reversed, and the petition for adoption is denied. No pronouncement as to costs. Paras, C.J., Pablo, Bengzon, Reyes, Jugo, Bautista Angelo, Labrador, and Concepcion, JJ., concur. Footnotes 1 In re application of Norman H. Ball to adopt the minor George William York, Jr., Norman H. Ball vs. Republic of the Philippines, supra, p. 106. G.R. No. 79094 June 22, 1988

MANOLO P. FULE, petitioner, vs. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, respondent. Balagtas P. Ilagan for petitioner. The Solicitor General for respondent. MELENCIO-HERRERA, J.: This is a Petition for Review on certiorari of the Decision of respondent Appellate Court, which affirmed the judgment of the Regional Trial Court, Lucena City, Branch LIV, convicting petitioner (the accused-appellant) of Violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 (The Bouncing Checks Law) on the basis

30

of the Stipulation of Facts entered into between the prosecution and the defense during the pre-trial conference in the Trial Court. The facts stipulated upon read: a) That this Court has jurisdiction over the person and subject matter of this case; b) That the accused was an agent of the Towers Assurance Corporation on or before January 21, 1981; c) That on January 21, 1981, the accused issued and made out check No. 26741, dated January 24, 1981 in the sum of P2,541.05; d) That the said check was drawn in favor of the complaining witness, Roy Nadera; e) That the check was drawn in favor of the complaining witness in remittance of collection; f) That the said check was presented for payment on January 24, 1981 but the same was dishonored for the reason that the said checking account was already closed;

g) That the accused Manolo Fule has been properly Identified as the accused party in this case. At the hearing of August 23, 1985, only the prosecution presented its evidence consisting of Exhibits "A," "B" and "C." At the subsequent hearing on September 17, 1985, petitioner-appellant waived the right to present evidence and, in lieu thereof, submitted a Memorandum confirming the Stipulation of Facts. The Trial Court convicted petitioner-appellant. On appeal, respondent Appellate Court upheld the Stipulation of Facts and affirmed the judgment of conviction. 1 Hence, this recourse, with petitioner-appellant contending that: The Honorable Respondent Court of Appeals erred in the decision of the Regional Trial Court convicting the petitioner of the offense charged, despite the cold fact that the basis of the conviction

31

was based solely on the stipulation of facts made during the pre-trial on August 8, 1985, which was not signed by the petitioner, nor by his counsel. Finding the petition meritorious, we resolved to give due course. The 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure, which became effective on January 1, 1985, applicable to this case since the pre-trial was held on August 8, 1985, provides: SEC. 4. Pre-trial agreements must be signed. No agreement or admission made or entered during the pre-trial conference shall be used in evidence against the accused unless reduced to writing and signed by him and his counsel. (Rule 118) [Emphasis supplied] By its very language, the Rule is mandatory. Under the rule of statutory construction, negative words and phrases are to be regarded as mandatory while those in the affirmative are merely directory (McGee vs. Republic, 94 Phil. 820 [1954]). The use of the term "shall" further emphasizes its

mandatory character and means that it is imperative, operating to impose a duty which may be enforced (Bersabal vs. Salvador, No. L-35910, July 21, 1978, 84 SCRA 176). And more importantly, penal statutes whether substantive and remedial or procedural are, by consecrated rule, to be strictly applied against the government and liberally in favor of the accused (People vs. Terrado No. L23625, November 25, 1983, 125 SCRA 648). The conclusion is inevitable, therefore, that the omission of the signature of the accused and his counsel, as mandatorily required by the Rules, renders the Stipulation of Facts inadmissible in evidence. The fact that the lawyer of the accused, in his memorandum, confirmed the Stipulation of Facts does not cure the defect because Rule 118 requires both the accused and his counsel to sign the Stipulation of Facts. What the prosecution should have done, upon discovering that the accused did not sign the Stipulation of Facts, as required by Rule 118, was to submit evidence to establish the

32

elements of the crime, instead of relying solely on the supposed admission of the accused in the Stipulation of Facts. Without said evidence independent of the admission, the guilt of the accused cannot be deemed established beyond reasonable doubt. Consequently, under the circumstances obtaining in this case, the ends of justice require that evidence be presented to determine the culpability of the accused. When a judgment has been entered by consent of an attorney without special authority, it will sometimes be set aside or reopened (Natividad vs. Natividad, 51 Phil. 613 [1928]). WHEREFORE, the judgment of respondent Appellate Court is REVERSED and this case is hereby ordered RE-OPENED and REMANDED to the appropriate Branch of the Regional Trial Court of Lucena City, for further reception of evidence. SO ORDERED.

Yap, C.J., Fernan, Narvasa, Cruz, Feliciano, Gancayco, Padilla, Bidin, Sarmiento, Cortes, GrioAquino and Medialdea, JJ., concur. Paras, J., took no part. Gutierrez, Jr., J., is on leave. G.R. No. 119976 September 18, 1995 IMELDA ROMUALDEZ-MARCOS, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and CIRILO ROY MONTEJO, respondents. KAPUNAN, J.:

33

A constitutional provision should be construed as to give it effective operation and suppress the mischief at which it is aimed. 1 The 1987 Constitution mandates that an aspirant for election to the House of Representatives be "a registered voter in the district in which he shall be elected, and a resident thereof for a period of not less than one year immediately preceding the election." 2 The mischief which this provision reproduced verbatim from the 1973 Constitution seeks to prevent is the possibility of a "stranger or newcomer unacquainted with the conditions and needs of a community and not identified with the latter, from an elective office to serve that community." 3 Petitioner Imelda Romualdez-Marcos filed her Certificate of Candidacy for the position of Representative of the First District of Leyte with the Provincial Election Supervisor on March 8, 1995, providing the following information in item no. 8: 4

RESIDENCE IN THE CONSTITUENCY WHERE I SEEK TO BE ELECTED IMMEDIATELY PRECEDING THE ELECTION: __________ Years and seven Months. On March 23, 1995, private respondent Cirilo Roy Montejo, the incumbent Representative of the First District of Leyte and a candidate for the same position, filed a "Petition for Cancellation and Disqualification" 5 with the Commission on Elections alleging that petitioner did not meet the constitutional requirement for residency. In his petition, private respondent contended that Mrs. Marcos lacked the Constitution's one year residency requirement for candidates for the House of Representatives on the evidence of declarations made by her in Voter Registration Record 94-No. 3349772 6 and in her Certificate of Candidacy. He prayed that "an order be issued declaring (petitioner) disqualified and canceling the certificate of candidacy." 7

34

On March 29, 1995, petitioner filed an Amended/Corrected Certificate of Candidacy, changing the entry "seven" months to "since childhood" in item no. 8 of the amended certificate. 8 On the same day, the Provincial Election Supervisor of Leyte informed petitioner that: [T]his office cannot receive or accept the aforementioned Certificate of Candidacy on the ground that it is filed out of time, the deadline for the filing of the same having already lapsed on March 20, 1995. The Corrected/Amended Certificate of Candidacy should have been filed on or before the March 20, 1995 deadline.9 Consequently, petitioner filed the Amended/Corrected Certificate of Candidacy with the COMELEC's Head Office in Intramuros, Manila on March 31, 1995. Her Answer to private respondent's petition in SPA No. 95-009 was likewise filed with the head office on the same day. In said Answer, petitioner averred that the entry of the word

"seven" in her original Certificate of Candidacy was the result of an "honest misinterpretation" 10 which she sought to rectify by adding the words "since childhood" in her Amended/Corrected Certificate of Candidacy and that "she has always maintained Tacloban City as her domicile or residence. 11 Impugning respondent's motive in filing the petition seeking her disqualification, she noted that: When respondent (petitioner herein) announced that she was intending to register as a voter in Tacloban City and run for Congress in the First District of Leyte, petitioner immediately opposed her intended registration by writing a letter stating that "she is not a resident of said city but of Barangay Olot, Tolosa, Leyte. After respondent had registered as a voter in Tolosa following completion of her six month actual residence therein, petitioner filed a petition with the COMELEC to transfer the town of Tolosa from the First District to the Second District and pursued such a move up to the Supreme

35

Court, his purpose being to remove respondent as petitioner's opponent in the congressional election in the First District. He also filed a bill, along with other Leyte Congressmen, seeking the creation of another legislative district to remove the town of Tolosa out of the First District, to achieve his purpose. However, such bill did not pass the Senate. Having failed on such moves, petitioner now filed the instant petition for the same objective, as it is obvious that he is afraid to submit along with respondent for the judgment and verdict of the electorate of the First District of Leyte in an honest, orderly, peaceful, free and clean elections on May 8, 1995. 12 On April 24, 1995, the Second Division of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), by a vote of 2 to 1, 13 came up with a Resolution 1) finding private respondent's Petition for Disqualification in SPA 95-009 meritorious; 2) striking off petitioner's Corrected/Amended Certificate of Candidacy of March 31, 1995; and 3) canceling her original Certificate of Candidacy. 14 Dealing with two primary issues,

namely, the validity of amending the original Certificate of Candidacy after the lapse of the deadline for filing certificates of candidacy, and petitioner's compliance with the one year residency requirement, the Second Division held: Respondent raised the affirmative defense in her Answer that the printed word "Seven" (months) was a result of an "honest misinterpretation or honest mistake" on her part and, therefore, an amendment should subsequently be allowed. She averred that she thought that what was asked was her "actual and physical" presence in Tolosa and not residence of origin or domicile in the First Legislative District, to which she could have responded "since childhood." In an accompanying affidavit, she stated that her domicile is Tacloban City, a component of the First District, to which she always intended to return whenever absent and which she has never abandoned. Furthermore, in her memorandum, she tried to discredit petitioner's theory of disqualification by alleging that she has

36

been a resident of the First Legislative District of Leyte since childhood, although she only became a resident of the Municipality of Tolosa for seven months. She asserts that she has always been a resident of Tacloban City, a component of the First District, before coming to the Municipality of Tolosa. Along this point, it is interesting to note that prior to her registration in Tolosa, respondent announced that she would be registering in Tacloban City so that she can be a candidate for the District. However, this intention was rebuffed when petitioner wrote the Election Officer of Tacloban not to allow respondent since she is a resident of Tolosa and not Tacloban. She never disputed this claim and instead implicitly acceded to it by registering in Tolosa. This incident belies respondent's claim of "honest misinterpretation or honest mistake." Besides, the Certificate of Candidacy only asks for RESIDENCE. Since on the basis of her Answer, she was quite

aware of "residence of origin" which she interprets to be Tacloban City, it is curious why she did not cite Tacloban City in her Certificate of Candidacy. Her explanation that she thought what was asked was her actual and physical presence in Tolosa is not easy to believe because there is none in the question that insinuates about Tolosa. In fact, item no. 8 in the Certificate of Candidacy speaks clearly of "Residency in the CONSTITUENCY where I seek to be elected immediately preceding the election." Thus, the explanation of respondent fails to be persuasive. From the foregoing, respondent's defense of an honest mistake or misinterpretation, therefore, is devoid of merit. To further buttress respondent's contention that an amendment may be made, she cited the case ofAlialy v. COMELEC (2 SCRA 957). The reliance of respondent on the case of Alialy is misplaced. The case only applies to the "inconsequential deviations which cannot affect the result of the election,

37

or deviations from provisions intended primarily to secure timely and orderly conduct of elections." The Supreme Court in that case considered the amendment only as a matter of form. But in the instant case, the amendment cannot be considered as a matter of form or an inconsequential deviation. The change in the number of years of residence in the place where respondent seeks to be elected is a substantial matter which determines her qualification as a candidacy, specially those intended to suppress, accurate material representation in the original certificate which adversely affects the filer. To admit the amended certificate is to condone the evils brought by the shifting minds of manipulating candidate, of the detriment of the integrity of the election. Moreover, to allow respondent to change the seven (7) month period of her residency in order to prolong it by claiming it was "since childhood" is to allow an untruthfulness to be committed before this Commission. The arithmetical accuracy of the 7 months residency the respondent indicated in

her certificate of candidacy can be gleaned from her entry in her Voter's Registration Record accomplished on January 28, 1995 which reflects that she is a resident of Brgy. Olot, Tolosa, Leyte for 6 months at the time of the said registration (Annex A, Petition). Said accuracy is further buttressed by her letter to the election officer of San Juan, Metro Manila, dated August 24, 1994, requesting for the cancellation of her registration in the Permanent List of Voters thereat so that she can be re-registered or transferred to Brgy. Olot, Tolosa, Leyte. The dates of these three (3) different documents show the respondent's consistent conviction that she has transferred her residence to Olot, Tolosa, Leyte from Metro Manila only for such limited period of time, starting in the last week of August 1994 which on March 8, 1995 will only sum up to 7 months. The Commission, therefore, cannot be persuaded to believe in the respondent's contention that it was an error. xxx xxx xxx

38

Based on these reasons the Amended/Corrected Certificate of Candidacy cannot be admitted by this Commission. xxx xxx xxx Anent the second issue, and based on the foregoing discussion, it is clear that respondent has not complied with the one year residency requirement of the Constitution. In election cases, the term "residence" has always been considered as synonymous with "domicile" which imports not only the intention to reside in a fixed place but also personal presence in-that place, coupled with conduct indicative of such intention. Domicile denotes a fixed permanent residence to which when absent for business or pleasure, or for like reasons, one intends to return. (Perfecto Faypon vs. Eliseo Quirino, 96 Phil 294; Romualdez vs. RTC-Tacloban, 226 SCRA 408). In respondent's case, when she returned to the Philippines in 1991, the residence she chose was not

Tacloban but San Juan, Metro Manila. Thus, her animus revertendi is pointed to Metro Manila and not Tacloban. This Division is aware that her claim that she has been a resident of the First District since childhood is nothing more than to give her a color of qualification where she is otherwise constitutionally disqualified. It cannot hold ground in the face of the facts admitted by the respondent in her affidavit. Except for the time that she studied and worked for some years after graduation in Tacloban City, she continuously lived in Manila. In 1959, after her husband was elected Senator, she lived and resided in San Juan, Metro Manila where she was a registered voter. In 1965, she lived in San Miguel, Manila where she was again a registered voter. In 1978, she served as member of the Batasang Pambansa as the representative of the City of Manila and later on served as the Governor of Metro Manila. She could not have served these positions if she had not been a resident of the City of Manila.

39

Furthermore, when she filed her certificate of candidacy for the office of the President in 1992, she claimed to be a resident of San Juan, Metro Manila. As a matter of fact on August 24, 1994, respondent wrote a letter with the election officer of San Juan, Metro Manila requesting for the cancellation of her registration in the permanent list of voters that she may be re-registered or transferred to Barangay Olot, Tolosa, Leyte. These facts manifest that she could not have been a resident of Tacloban City since childhood up to the time she filed her certificate of candidacy because she became a resident of many places, including Metro Manila. This debunks her claim that prior to her residence in Tolosa, Leyte, she was a resident of the First Legislative District of Leyte since childhood. In this case, respondent's conduct reveals her lack of intention to make Tacloban her domicile. She registered as a voter in different places and on several occasions declared that she was a resident of

Manila. Although she spent her school days in Tacloban, she is considered to have abandoned such place when she chose to stay and reside in other different places. In the case of Romualdez vs. RTC(226 SCRA 408) the Court explained how one acquires a new domicile by choice. There must concur: (1) residence or bodily presence in the new locality; (2) intention to remain there; and (3) intention to abandon the old domicile. In other words there must basically be animus manendi with animus non revertendi. When respondent chose to stay in Ilocos and later on in Manila, coupled with her intention to stay there by registering as a voter there and expressly declaring that she is a resident of that place, she is deemed to have abandoned Tacloban City, where she spent her childhood and school days, as her place of domicile. Pure intention to reside in that place is not sufficient, there must likewise be conduct indicative of such intention. Respondent's statements to the effect that she has always intended to return to

40

Tacloban, without the accompanying conduct to prove that intention, is not conclusive of her choice of residence. Respondent has not presented any evidence to show that her conduct, one year prior the election, showed intention to reside in Tacloban. Worse, what was evident was that prior to her residence in Tolosa, she had been a resident of Manila. It is evident from these circumstances that she was not a resident of the First District of Leyte "since childhood." To further support the assertion that she could have not been a resident of the First District of Leyte for more than one year, petitioner correctly pointed out that on January 28, 1995 respondent registered as a voter at precinct No. 18-A of Olot, Tolosa, Leyte. In doing so, she placed in her Voter Registration Record that she resided in the municipality of Tolosa for a period of six months. This may be inconsequential as argued by the respondent since it refers only to her residence in Tolosa, Leyte.

But her failure to prove that she was a resident of the First District of Leyte prior to her residence in Tolosa leaves nothing but a convincing proof that she had been a resident of the district for six months only. 15 In a Resolution promulgated a day before the May 8, 1995 elections, the COMELEC en banc denied petitioner's Motion for Reconsideration 16 of the April 24, 1995 Resolution declaring her not qualified to run for the position of Member of the House of Representatives for the First Legislative District of Leyte. 17 The Resolution tersely stated: After deliberating on the Motion for Reconsideration, the Commission RESOLVED to DENY it, no new substantial matters having been raised therein to warrant re-examination of the resolution granting the petition for disqualification. 18

41

On May 11, 1995, the COMELEC issued a Resolution allowing petitioner's proclamation should the results of the canvass show that she obtained the highest number of votes in the congressional elections in the First District of Leyte. On the same day, however, the COMELEC reversed itself and issued a second Resolution directing that the proclamation of petitioner be suspended in the event that she obtains the highest number of votes. 19 In a Supplemental Petition dated 25 May 1995, petitioner averred that she was the overwhelming winner of the elections for the congressional seat in the First District of Leyte held May 8, 1995 based on the canvass completed by the Provincial Board of Canvassers on May 14, 1995. Petitioner alleged that the canvass showed that she obtained a total of 70,471 votes compared to the 36,833 votes received by Respondent Montejo. A copy of said Certificate of Canvass was annexed to the Supplemental Petition.

On account of the Resolutions disqualifying petitioner from running for the congressional seat of the First District of Leyte and the public respondent's Resolution suspending her proclamation, petitioner comes to this court for relief. Petitioner raises several issues in her Original and Supplemental Petitions. The principal issues may be classified into two general areas: I. The issue of Petitioner's qualifications Whether or not petitioner was a resident, for election purposes, of the First District of Leyte for a period of one year at the time of the May 9, 1995 elections. II. The Jurisdictional Issue a) Prior to the elections

42

Whether or not the COMELEC properly exercised its jurisdiction in disqualifying petitioner outside the period mandated by the Omnibus Election Code for disqualification cases under Article 78 of the said Code. b) After the Elections Whether or not the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal assumed exclusive jurisdiction over the question of petitioner's qualifications after the May 8, 1995 elections. I. Petitioner's qualification A perusal of the Resolution of the COMELEC's Second Division reveals a startling confusion in the application of settled concepts of "Domicile" and "Residence" in election law. While the COMELEC seems to be in agreement with the general proposition that for the purposes of election law, residence is synonymous with domicile, the Resolution reveals a tendency to substitute or mistake

the concept of domicile for actual residence, a conception not intended for the purpose of determining a candidate's qualifications for election to the House of Representatives as required by the 1987 Constitution. As it were, residence, for the purpose of meeting the qualification for an elective position, has a settled meaning in our jurisdiction. Article 50 of the Civil Code decrees that "[f]or the exercise of civil rights and the fulfillment of civil obligations, the domicile of natural persons is their place of habitual residence." In Ong vs. Republic 20 this court took the concept of domicile to mean an individual's "permanent home", "a place to which, whenever absent for business or for pleasure, one intends to return, and depends on facts and circumstances in the sense that they disclose intent."21 Based on the foregoing, domicile includes the twin elements of "the fact of residing or physical presence in a fixed place" and animus manendi, or the intention of returning there permanently.

43

Residence, in its ordinary conception, implies the factual relationship of an individual to a certain place. It is the physical presence of a person in a given area, community or country. The essential distinction between residence and domicile in law is that residence involves the intent to leave when the purpose for which the resident has taken up his abode ends. One may seek a place for purposes such as pleasure, business, or health. If a person's intent be to remain, it becomes his domicile; if his intent is to leave as soon as his purpose is established it is residence.22 It is thus, quite perfectly normal for an individual to have different residences in various places. However, a person can only have a single domicile, unless, for various reasons, he successfully abandons his domicile in favor of another domicile of choice. In Uytengsu vs. Republic, 23 we laid this distinction quite clearly: There is a difference between domicile and residence. "Residence" is used to indicate a place of abode, whether permanent or temporary; "domicile" denotes a fixed permanent residence to which,

when absent, one has the intention of returning. A man may have a residence in one place and a domicile in another. Residence is not domicile, but domicile is residence coupled with the intention to remain for an unlimited time. A man can have but one domicile for the same purpose at any time, but he may have numerous places of residence. His place of residence is generally his place of domicile, but it is not by any means necessarily so since no length of residence without intention of remaining will constitute domicile. For political purposes the concepts of residence and domicile are dictated by the peculiar criteria of political laws. As these concepts have evolved in our election law, what has clearly and unequivocally emerged is the fact that residence for election purposes is used synonymously with domicile. In Nuval vs. Guray, 24 the Court held that "the term residence. . . is synonymous with domicile which imports not only intention to reside in a fixed place, but also personal presence in that place, coupled

44

with conduct indicative of such intention." 25 Larena vs. Teves 26 reiterated the same doctrine in a case involving the qualifications of the respondent therein to the post of Municipal President of Dumaguete, Negros Oriental. Faypon vs. Quirino, 27 held that the absence from residence to pursue studies or practice a profession or registration as a voter other than in the place where one is elected does not constitute loss of residence. 28 So settled is the concept (of domicile) in our election law that in these and other election law cases, this Court has stated that the mere absence of an individual from his permanent residence without the intention to abandon it does not result in a loss or change of domicile. The deliberations of the 1987 Constitution on the residence qualification for certain elective positions have placed beyond doubt the principle that when the Constitution speaks of "residence" in election law, it actually means only "domicile" to wit:

Mr. Nolledo: With respect to Section 5, I remember that in the 1971 Constitutional Convention, there was an attempt to require residence in the place not less than one year immediately preceding the day of the elections. So my question is: What is the Committee's concept of residence of a candidate for the legislature? Is it actual residence or is it the concept of domicile or constructive residence? Mr. Davide: Madame President, insofar as the regular members of the National Assembly are concerned, the proposed section merely provides, among others, "and a resident thereof", that is, in the district for a period of not less than one year preceding the day of the election. This was in effect lifted from the 1973 Constitution, the interpretation given to it was domicile. 29 xxx xxx xxx

45

Mrs. Rosario Braid: The next question is on Section 7, page 2. I think Commissioner Nolledo has raised the same point that "resident" has been interpreted at times as a matter of intention rather than actual residence. Mr. De los Reyes: Domicile. Ms. Rosario Braid: Yes, So, would the gentleman consider at the proper time to go back to actual residence rather than mere intention to reside? Mr. De los Reyes: But we might encounter some difficulty especially considering that a provision in the Constitution in the Article on Suffrage says that Filipinos living abroad may vote as enacted by law. So, we have to stick to the original concept that it should be by domicile and not physical residence. 30

In Co vs. Electoral Tribunal of the House of Representatives, 31 this Court concluded that the framers of the 1987 Constitution obviously adhered to the definition given to the term residence in election law, regarding it as having the same meaning as domicile. 32 In the light of the principles just discussed, has petitioner Imelda Romualdez Marcos satisfied the residency requirement mandated by Article VI, Sec. 6 of the 1987 Constitution? Of what significance is the questioned entry in petitioner's Certificate of Candidacy stating her residence in the First Legislative District of Leyte as seven (7) months? It is the fact of residence, not a statement in a certificate of candidacy which ought to be decisive in determining whether or not and individual has satisfied the constitution's residency qualification requirement. The said statement becomes material only when there is or appears to be a deliberate attempt to mislead, misinform, or hide a fact which would otherwise render a candidate ineligible. It

46

would be plainly ridiculous for a candidate to deliberately and knowingly make a statement in a certificate of candidacy which would lead to his or her disqualification. It stands to reason therefore, that petitioner merely committed an honest mistake in jotting the word "seven" in the space provided for the residency qualification requirement. The circumstances leading to her filing the questioned entry obviously resulted in the subsequent confusion which prompted petitioner to write down the period of her actual stay in Tolosa, Leyte instead of her period of residence in the First district, which was "since childhood" in the space provided. These circumstances and events are amply detailed in the COMELEC's Second Division's questioned resolution, albeit with a different interpretation. For instance, when herein petitioner announced that she would be registering in Tacloban City to make her eligible to run in the First District, private respondent Montejo opposed the same, claiming that petitioner was a resident of Tolosa, not

Tacloban City. Petitioner then registered in her place of actual residence in the First District, which is Tolosa, Leyte, a fact which she subsequently noted down in her Certificate of Candidacy. A close look at said certificate would reveal the possible source of the confusion: the entry for residence (Item No. 7) is followed immediately by the entry for residence in the constituency where a candidate seeks election thus: 7. RESIDENCE (complete Address): Brgy. Olot, Tolosa, Leyte POST OFFICE ADDRESS FOR ELECTION PURPOSES: Brgy. Olot, Tolosa, Leyte 8. RESIDENCE IN THE CONSTITUENCY WHERE I SEEK TO BE ELECTED IMMEDIATELY PRECEDING THE ELECTION:_________ Years and Seven Months. Having been forced by private respondent to register in her place of actual residence in Leyte instead of petitioner's claimed domicile, it appears that petitioner had jotted down her period of stay in her

47

legal residence or domicile. The juxtaposition of entries in Item 7 and Item 8 the first requiring actual residence and the second requiring domicile coupled with the circumstances surrounding petitioner's registration as a voter in Tolosa obviously led to her writing down an unintended entry for which she could be disqualified. This honest mistake should not, however, be allowed to negate the fact of residence in the First District if such fact were established by means more convincing than a mere entry on a piece of paper. We now proceed to the matter of petitioner's domicile. In support of its asseveration that petitioner's domicile could not possibly be in the First District of Leyte, the Second Division of the COMELEC, in its assailed Resolution of April 24,1995 maintains that "except for the time when (petitioner) studied and worked for some years after graduation in Tacloban City, she continuously lived in Manila." The Resolution additionally cites certain facts as

indicative of the fact that petitioner's domicile ought to be any place where she lived in the last few decades except Tacloban, Leyte. First, according to the Resolution, petitioner, in 1959, resided in San Juan, Metro Manila where she was also registered voter. Then, in 1965, following the election of her husband to the Philippine presidency, she lived in San Miguel, Manila where she as a voter. In 1978 and thereafter, she served as a member of the Batasang Pambansa and Governor of Metro Manila. "She could not, have served these positions if she had not been a resident of Metro Manila," the COMELEC stressed. Here is where the confusion lies. We have stated, many times in the past, that an individual does not lose his domicile even if he has lived and maintained residences in different places. Residence, it bears repeating, implies a factual relationship to a given place for various purposes. The absence from legal residence or domicile to pursue a profession, to study or to do other things of a temporary or semi-permanent nature does not

48

constitute loss of residence. Thus, the assertion by the COMELEC that "she could not have been a resident of Tacloban City since childhood up to the time she filed her certificate of candidacy because she became a resident of many places" flies in the face of settled jurisprudence in which this Court carefully made distinctions between (actual) residence and domicile for election law purposes. In Larena vs. Teves, 33 supra, we stressed: [T]his court is of the opinion and so holds that a person who has his own house wherein he lives with his family in a municipality without having ever had the intention of abandoning it, and without having lived either alone or with his family in another municipality, has his residence in the former municipality, notwithstanding his having registered as an elector in the other municipality in question and having been a candidate for various insular and provincial positions, stating every time that he is a resident of the latter municipality.

More significantly, in Faypon vs. Quirino, 34 We explained that: A citizen may leave the place of his birth to look for "greener pastures," as the saying goes, to improve his lot, and that, of course includes study in other places, practice of his avocation, or engaging in business. When an election is to be held, the citizen who left his birthplace to improve his lot may desire to return to his native town to cast his ballot but for professional or business reasons, or for any other reason, he may not absent himself from his professional or business activities; so there he registers himself as voter as he has the qualifications to be one and is not willing to give up or lose the opportunity to choose the officials who are to run the government especially in national elections. Despite such registration, the animus revertendi to his home, to his domicile or residence of origin has not forsaken him. This may be the explanation why the registration of a voter in a place other than his residence of origin has not been deemed sufficient to constitute abandonment or loss

49

of such residence. It finds justification in the natural desire and longing of every person to return to his place of birth. This strong feeling of attachment to the place of one's birth must be overcome by positive proof of abandonment for another. From the foregoing, it can be concluded that in its above-cited statements supporting its proposition that petitioner was ineligible to run for the position of Representative of the First District of Leyte, the COMELEC was obviously referring to petitioner's various places of (actual) residence, not her domicile. In doing so, it not only ignored settled jurisprudence on residence in election law and the deliberations of the constitutional commission but also the provisions of the Omnibus Election Code (B.P. 881). 35 What is undeniable, however, are the following set of facts which establish the fact of petitioner's domicile, which we lift verbatim from the COMELEC's Second Division's assailed Resolution: 36

In or about 1938 when respondent was a little over 8 years old, she established her domicile in Tacloban, Leyte (Tacloban City). She studied in the Holy Infant Academy in Tacloban from 1938 to 1949 when she graduated from high school. She pursued her college studies in St. Paul's College, now Divine Word University in Tacloban, where she earned her degree in Education. Thereafter, she taught in the Leyte Chinese School, still in Tacloban City. In 1952 she went to Manila to work with her cousin, the late speaker Daniel Z. Romualdez in his office in the House of Representatives. In 1954, she married ex-President Ferdinand E. Marcos when he was still a congressman of Ilocos Norte and registered there as a voter. When her husband was elected Senator of the Republic in 1959, she and her husband lived together in San Juan, Rizal where she registered as a voter. In 1965, when her husband was elected President of the Republic of the Philippines, she lived with him in Malacanang Palace and registered as a voter in San Miguel, Manila.

50

[I]n February 1986 (she claimed that) she and her family were abducted and kidnapped to Honolulu, Hawaii. In November 1991, she came home to Manila. In 1992, respondent ran for election as President of the Philippines and filed her Certificate of Candidacy wherein she indicated that she is a resident and registered voter of San Juan, Metro Manila. Applying the principles discussed to the facts found by COMELEC, what is inescapable is that petitioner held various residences for different purposes during the last four decades. None of these purposes unequivocally point to an intention to abandon her domicile of origin in Tacloban, Leyte. Moreover, while petitioner was born in Manila, as a minor she naturally followed the domicile of her parents. She grew up in Tacloban, reached her adulthood there and eventually established residence in different parts of the country for various reasons. Even during her husband's presidency, at the height of the Marcos Regime's powers, petitioner kept her close ties to her domicile of origin by

establishing residences in Tacloban, celebrating her birthdays and other important personal milestones in her home province, instituting well-publicized projects for the benefit of her province and hometown, and establishing a political power base where her siblings and close relatives held positions of power either through the ballot or by appointment, always with either her influence or consent. These well-publicized ties to her domicile of origin are part of the history and lore of the quarter century of Marcos power in our country. Either they were entirely ignored in the COMELEC'S Resolutions, or the majority of the COMELEC did not know what the rest of the country always knew: the fact of petitioner's domicile in Tacloban, Leyte. Private respondent in his Comment, contends that Tacloban was not petitioner's domicile of origin because she did not live there until she was eight years old. He avers that after leaving the place in

51

1952, she "abandoned her residency (sic) therein for many years and . . . (could not) re-establish her domicile in said place by merely expressing her intention to live there again." We do not agree. First, minor follows the domicile of his parents. As domicile, once acquired is retained until a new one is gained, it follows that in spite of the fact of petitioner's being born in Manila, Tacloban, Leyte was her domicile of origin by operation of law. This domicile was not established only when her father brought his family back to Leyte contrary to private respondent's averments. Second, domicile of origin is not easily lost. To successfully effect a change of domicile, one must demonstrate: 37 1. An actual removal or an actual change of domicile; 2. A bona fide intention of abandoning the former place of residence and establishing a new one; and 3. Acts which correspond with the purpose.

In the absence of clear and positive proof based on these criteria, the residence of origin should be deemed to continue. Only with evidence showing concurrence of all three requirements can the presumption of continuity or residence be rebutted, for a change of residence requires an actual and deliberate abandonment, and one cannot have two legal residences at the same time. 38 In the case at bench, the evidence adduced by private respondent plainly lacks the degree of persuasiveness required to convince this court that an abandonment of domicile of origin in favor of a domicile of choice indeed occurred. To effect an abandonment requires the voluntary act of relinquishing petitioner's former domicile with an intent to supplant the former domicile with one of her own choosing (domicilium voluntarium). In this connection, it cannot be correctly argued that petitioner lost her domicile of origin by operation of law as a result of her marriage to the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos in 1952. For there is a

52

clearly established distinction between the Civil Code concepts of "domicile" and "residence." 39 The presumption that the wife automatically gains the husband's domicile by operation of law upon marriage cannot be inferred from the use of the term "residence" in Article 110 of the Civil Code because the Civil Code is one area where the two concepts are well delineated. Dr. Arturo Tolentino, writing on this specific area explains: In the Civil Code, there is an obvious difference between domicile and residence. Both terms imply relations between a person and a place; but in residence, the relation is one of fact while in domicile it is legal or juridical, independent of the necessity of physical presence. 40 Article 110 of the Civil Code provides: Art. 110. The husband shall fix the residence of the family. But the court may exempt the wife from living with the husband if he should live abroad unless in the service of the Republic.

A survey of jurisprudence relating to Article 110 or to the concepts of domicile or residence as they affect the female spouse upon marriage yields nothing which would suggest that the female spouse automatically loses her domicile of origin in favor of the husband's choice of residence upon marriage. Article 110 is a virtual restatement of Article 58 of the Spanish Civil Code of 1889 which states: La mujer esta obligada a seguir a su marido donde quiera que fije su residencia. Los Tribunales, sin embargo, podran con justa causa eximirla de esta obligacion cuando el marido transende su residencia a ultramar o' a pais extranjero. Note the use of the phrase "donde quiera su fije de residencia" in the aforequoted article, which means wherever (the husband) wishes to establish residence. This part of the article clearly contemplates only actual residence because it refers to a positive act of fixing a family home or

53

residence. Moreover, this interpretation is further strengthened by the phrase " cuando el marido translade su residencia" in the same provision which means, "when the husband shall transfer his residence," referring to another positive act of relocating the family to another home or place of actual residence. The article obviously cannot be understood to refer to domicile which is a fixed, fairly-permanent concept when it plainly connotes the possibility of transferring from one place to another not only once, but as often as the husband may deem fit to move his family, a circumstance more consistent with the concept of actual residence. The right of the husband to fix the actual residence is in harmony with the intention of the law to strengthen and unify the family, recognizing the fact that the husband and the wife bring into the marriage different domiciles (of origin). This difference could, for the sake of family unity, be reconciled only by allowing the husband to fix a single place of actual residence.

Very significantly, Article 110 of the Civil Code is found under Title V under the heading: RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS BETWEEN HUSBAND AND WIFE. Immediately preceding Article 110 is Article 109 which obliges the husband and wife to live together, thus: Art. 109. The husband and wife are obligated to live together, observe mutual respect and fidelity and render mutual help and support. The duty to live together can only be fulfilled if the husband and wife are physically together. This takes into account the situations where the couple has many residences (as in the case of the petitioner). If the husband has to stay in or transfer to any one of their residences, the wife should necessarily be with him in order that they may "live together." Hence, it is illogical to conclude that Art. 110 refers to "domicile" and not to "residence." Otherwise, we shall be faced with a situation where

54

the wife is left in the domicile while the husband, for professional or other reasons, stays in one of their (various) residences. As Dr. Tolentino further explains: Residence and Domicile Whether the word "residence" as used with reference to particular matters is synonymous with "domicile" is a question of some difficulty, and the ultimate decision must be made from a consideration of the purpose and intent with which the word is used. Sometimes they are used synonymously, at other times they are distinguished from one another. xxx xxx xxx Residence in the civil law is a material fact, referring to the physical presence of a person in a place. A person can have two or more residences, such as a country residence and a city residence. Residence is acquired by living in place; on the other hand, domicile can exist without actually living in the place. The important thing for domicile is that, once residence has been established in one

place, there be an intention to stay there permanently, even if residence is also established in some other place. 41 In fact, even the matter of a common residence between the husband and the wife during the marriage is not an iron-clad principle; In cases applying the Civil Code on the question of a common matrimonial residence, our jurisprudence has recognized certain situations 42 where the spouses could not be compelled to live with each other such that the wife is either allowed to maintain a residence different from that of her husband or, for obviously practical reasons, revert to her original domicile (apart from being allowed to opt for a new one). In De la Vina vs. Villareal 43 this Court held that "[a] married woman may acquire a residence or domicile separate from that of her husband during the existence of the marriage where the husband has given cause for divorce." 44 Note that the

55

Court allowed the wife either to obtain new residence or to choose a new domicile in such an event. In instances where the wife actually opts, .under the Civil Code, to live separately from her husband either by taking new residence or reverting to her domicile of origin, the Court has held that the wife could not be compelled to live with her husband on pain of contempt. In Arroyo vs. Vasques de Arroyo 45 the Court held that: Upon examination of the authorities, we are convinced that it is not within the province of the courts of this country to attempt to compel one of the spouses to cohabit with, and render conjugal rights to, the other. Of course where the property rights of one of the pair are invaded, an action for restitution of such rights can be maintained. But we are disinclined to sanction the doctrine that an order, enforcible (sic) by process of contempt, may be entered to compel the restitution of the purely personal right of consortium. At best such an order can be effective for no other purpose than to

compel the spouses to live under the same roof; and he experience of those countries where the courts of justice have assumed to compel the cohabitation of married people shows that the policy of the practice is extremely questionable. Thus in England, formerly the Ecclesiastical Court entertained suits for the restitution of conjugal rights at the instance of either husband or wife; and if the facts were found to warrant it, that court would make a mandatory decree, enforceable by process of contempt in case of disobedience, requiring the delinquent party to live with the other and render conjugal rights. Yet this practice was sometimes criticized even by the judges who felt bound to enforce such orders, and in Weldon v. Weldon (9 P.D. 52), decided in 1883, Sir James Hannen, President in the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division of the High Court of Justice, expressed his regret that the English law on the subject was not the same as that which prevailed in Scotland, where a decree of adherence, equivalent to the decree for the restitution of conjugal rights in

56

England, could be obtained by the injured spouse, but could not be enforced by imprisonment. Accordingly, in obedience to the growing sentiment against the practice, the Matrimonial Causes Act (1884) abolished the remedy of imprisonment; though a decree for the restitution of conjugal rights can still be procured, and in case of disobedience may serve in appropriate cases as the basis of an order for the periodical payment of a stipend in the character of alimony. In the voluminous jurisprudence of the United States, only one court, so far as we can discover, has ever attempted to make a preemptory order requiring one of the spouses to live with the other; and that was in a case where a wife was ordered to follow and live with her husband, who had changed his domicile to the City of New Orleans. The decision referred to (Bahn v. Darby, 36 La. Ann., 70) was based on a provision of the Civil Code of Louisiana similar to article 56 of the Spanish Civil Code. It was decided many years ago, and the doctrine evidently has not been fruitful even in the State of

Louisiana. In other states of the American Union the idea of enforcing cohabitation by process of contempt is rejected. (21 Cyc., 1148). In a decision of January 2, 1909, the Supreme Court of Spain appears to have affirmed an order of the Audiencia Territorial de Valladolid requiring a wife to return to the marital domicile, and in the alternative, upon her failure to do so, to make a particular disposition of certain money and effects then in her possession and to deliver to her husband, as administrator of the ganancial property, all income, rents, and interest which might accrue to her from the property which she had brought to the marriage. (113 Jur. Civ., pp. 1, 11) But it does not appear that this order for the return of the wife to the marital domicile was sanctioned by any other penalty than the consequences that would be visited upon her in respect to the use and control of her property; and it does not appear that her disobedience to that order would necessarily have been followed by imprisonment for contempt.

57

Parenthetically when Petitioner was married to then Congressman Marcos, in 1954, petitioner was obliged by virtue of Article 110 of the Civil Code to follow her husband's actual place of residence fixed by him. The problem here is that at that time, Mr. Marcos had several places of residence, among which were San Juan, Rizal and Batac, Ilocos Norte. There is no showing which of these places Mr. Marcos did fix as his family's residence. But assuming that Mr. Marcos had fixed any of these places as the conjugal residence, what petitioner gained upon marriage was actual residence. She did not lose her domicile of origin. On the other hand, the common law concept of "matrimonial domicile" appears to have been incorporated, as a result of our jurisprudential experiences after the drafting of the Civil Code of 1950, into the New Family Code. To underscore the difference between the intentions of the Civil Code and the Family Code drafters, the term residence has been supplanted by the term domicile in an entirely

new provision (Art. 69) distinctly different in meaning and spirit from that found in Article 110. The provision recognizes revolutionary changes in the concept of women's rights in the intervening years by making the choice of domicile a product of mutual agreement between the spouses. 46 Without as much belaboring the point, the term residence may mean one thing in civil law (or under the Civil Code) and quite another thing in political law. What stands clear is that insofar as the Civil Code is concerned-affecting the rights and obligations of husband and wife the term residence should only be interpreted to mean "actual residence." The inescapable conclusion derived from this unambiguous civil law delineation therefore, is that when petitioner married the former President in 1954, she kept her domicile of origin and merely gained a new home, not a domicilium necessarium. Even assuming for the sake of argument that petitioner gained a new "domicile" after her marriage and only acquired a right to choose a new one after her husband died, petitioner's acts following her

58

return to the country clearly indicate that she not only impliedly but expressly chose her domicile of origin (assuming this was lost by operation of law) as her domicile. This "choice" was unequivocally expressed in her letters to the Chairman of the PCGG when petitioner sought the PCGG's permission to "rehabilitate (our) ancestral house in Tacloban and Farm in Olot, Leyte. . . to make them livable for the Marcos family to have a home in our homeland." 47 Furthermore, petitioner obtained her residence certificate in 1992 in Tacloban, Leyte, while living in her brother's house, an act which supports the domiciliary intention clearly manifested in her letters to the PCGG Chairman. She could not have gone straight to her home in San Juan, as it was in a state of disrepair, having been previously looted by vandals. Her "homes" and "residences" following her arrival in various parts of Metro Manila merely qualified as temporary or "actual residences," not domicile. Moreover, and proceeding from our discussion pointing out specific situations where the female spouse either reverts to her domicile

of origin or chooses a new one during the subsistence of the marriage, it would be highly illogical for us to assume that she cannot regain her original domicile upon the death of her husband absent a positive act of selecting a new one where situations exist within the subsistence of the marriage itself where the wife gains a domicile different from her husband. In the light of all the principles relating to residence and domicile enunciated by this court up to this point, we are persuaded that the facts established by the parties weigh heavily in favor of a conclusion supporting petitioner's claim of legal residence or domicile in the First District of Leyte. II. The jurisdictional issue Petitioner alleges that the jurisdiction of the COMELEC had already lapsed considering that the assailed resolutions were rendered on April 24, 1995, fourteen (14) days before the election in violation of Section 78 of the Omnibus Election Code. 48 Moreover, petitioner contends that it is the

59

House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal and not the COMELEC which has jurisdiction over the election of members of the House of Representatives in accordance with Article VI Sec. 17 of the Constitution. This is untenable. It is a settled doctrine that a statute requiring rendition of judgment within a specified time is generally construed to be merely directory, 49 "so that non-compliance with them does not invalidate the judgment on the theory that if the statute had intended such result it would have clearly indicated it." 50 The difference between a mandatory and a directory provision is often made on grounds of necessity. Adopting the same view held by several American authorities, this court in Marcelino vs. Cruz held that: 51

The difference between a mandatory and directory provision is often determined on grounds of expediency, the reason being that less injury results to the general public by disregarding than enforcing the letter of the law. In Trapp v. Mc Cormick, a case calling for the interpretation of a statute containing a limitation of thirty (30) days within which a decree may be entered without the consent of counsel, it was held that "the statutory provisions which may be thus departed from with impunity, without affecting the validity of statutory proceedings, are usually those which relate to the mode or time of doing that which is essential to effect the aim and purpose of the Legislature or some incident of the essential act." Thus, in said case, the statute under examination was construed merely to be directory. The mischief in petitioner's contending that the COMELEC should have abstained from rendering a decision after the period stated in the Omnibus Election Code because it lacked jurisdiction, lies in the

60

fact that our courts and other quasi-judicial bodies would then refuse to render judgments merely on the ground of having failed to reach a decision within a given or prescribed period. In any event, with the enactment of Sections 6 and 7 of R.A. 6646 in relation to Section 78 of B.P. 881, 52 it is evident that the respondent Commission does not lose jurisdiction to hear and decide a pending disqualification case under Section 78 of B.P. 881 even after the elections. As to the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal's supposed assumption of jurisdiction over the issue of petitioner's qualifications after the May 8, 1995 elections, suffice it to say that HRET's jurisdiction as the sole judge of all contests relating to the elections, returns and qualifications of members of Congress begins only after a candidate has become a member of the House of Representatives. 53 Petitioner not being a member of the House of Representatives, it is obvious that the HRET at this point has no jurisdiction over the question.

It would be an abdication of many of the ideals enshrined in the 1987 Constitution for us to either to ignore or deliberately make distinctions in law solely on the basis of the personality of a petitioner in a case. Obviously a distinction was made on such a ground here. Surely, many established principles of law, even of election laws were flouted for the sake perpetuating power during the pre-EDSA regime. We renege on these sacred ideals, including the meaning and spirit of EDSA ourselves bending established principles of principles of law to deny an individual what he or she justly deserves in law. Moreover, in doing so, we condemn ourselves to repeat the mistakes of the past. WHEREFORE, having determined that petitioner possesses the necessary residence qualifications to run for a seat in the House of Representatives in the First District of Leyte, the COMELEC's questioned Resolutions dated April 24, May 7, May 11, and May 25, 1995 are hereby SET ASIDE.

61

Respondent COMELEC is hereby directed to order the Provincial Board of Canvassers to proclaim petitioner as the duly elected Representative of the First District of Leyte. SO ORDERED. Feliciano, J., is on leave. G.R. No. L-35910 July 21, 1978 PURITA BERSABAL, petitioner, vs. HONORABLE JUDGE SERAFIN SALVADOR, as Judge of the Court of First Instance of Caloocan City, Branch XIV, TAN THAT and ONG PIN TEE, respondents. MAKASIAR, J.:

On March 23, 1972, petitioner Purita Bersabal seeks to annul the orders of respondent Judge of August 4, 1971, October 30, 1971 and March 15, 1972 and to compel said respondent Judge to decide petitioner's perfected appeal on the basis of the evidence and records of the case submitted by the City Court of Caloocan City plus the memorandum already submitted by the petitioner and respondents. Since only questions of law were raised therein, the Court of Appeals, on October 13, 1972, issued a resolution certifying said case to this Court pursuant to Section 17, paragraph (4) of the Judiciary Act of 1948, as amended. As found by the Court of Appeals, the facts of this case are as follows: It appears that private respondents Tan That and Ong Pin Tee filed an ejectment suit, docketed as Civil Case No. 6926 in the City Court of Caloocan City, against the petitioner. A decision was

62

rendered by said Court on November 25, 1970, which decision was appealed by the petitioner to the respondent Court and docketed therein as Civil Case No. C-2036. During the pendency of the appeal the respondent court issued on March 23, 1971 an order which reads: Pursuant to the provisions of Rep. Act No. 6031, the Clerk of Court of Caloocan City, is hereby directed to transmit to this Court within fifteen (15) days from receipt hereof the transcripts of stenographic notes taken down during the hearing of this case before the City Court of Caloocan City, and likewise, counsels for both parties are given thirty (30) days from receipt of this order within which to file their respective memoranda, and thereafter, this case shall be deemed submitted for decision by this Court. which order was apparently received by petitioner on April 17, 1971.

The transcript of stenographic notes not having yet been forwarded to the respondent court, petitioner filed on May 5, 1971 a 'MOTION EX-PARTE TO SUBMIT MEMORANDUM WITHIN 30 DAYS FROM RECEIPT OF NOTICE OF SUBMISSION OF THE TRANSCRIPT OF STENOGRAPHIC NOTES TAKEN DURING THE HEARING OF THE CASE BEFORE THE CITY COURT OF CALOOCAN CITY' which was granted by respondent court on May 7, 1971. However, before the petitioner could receive any such notice from the respondent court, the respondent Judge issued an order on August 4, 1971 which says: For failure of the defendant-appellant to prosecute her appeal the same is hereby ordered DISMISSED with costs against her. Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration of the order on September 28, 1971, citing as a ground the granting of his ex-parte motion to submit memorandum within 30 days from notice of the

63

submission of the stenographic notes taken before the City Court. Private respondents filed their opposition to the motion on September 30,1971. In the meantime, on October 20,1971, petitioner filed her memorandum dated October 18, 1971. On October 30, 1971 the respondent Court denied the motion for reconsideration. Then on January 25, 1972, petitioner filed a motion for leave to file second motion for reconsideration which was likewise denied by the respondent court on March 15, 1972. Hence this petition. The sole inquiry in the case at bar can be stated thus: Whether, in the light of the provisions of the second paragraph of Section 45 of Republic Act No. 296, as amended by R.A. No. 6031, the mere failure of an appellant to submit on nine the memorandum mentioned in the same paragraph would empower the Court of First Instance to dismiss the appeal on the ground of failure to Prosecute; or, whether it is mandatory upon said Court to proceed to decide the appealed case on the basis of the

evidence and records transmitted to it, the failure of the appellant to submit a memorandum on time notwithstanding. The second paragraph of Section 45 of R.A. No. 296, otherwise known as the Philippine Judiciary Act of 1948, as amended by R.A. No. 6031 provides, in part, as follows: Courts of First Instance shall decide such appealed cases on the basis of the evidence and records transmitted from the city or municipal courts: Provided, That the parties may submit memoranda and/or brief with oral argument if so requested ... . (Emphasis supplied). The foregoing provision is clear and leaves no room for doubt. It cannot be interpreted otherwise than that the submission of memoranda is optional on the part of the parties. Being optional on the part of the parties, the latter may so choose to waive submission of the memoranda. And as a logical concomitant of the choice given to the Parties, the Court cannot dismiss the appeal of the party

64

waiving the submission of said memorandum the appellant so chooses not to submit the memorandum, the Court of First Instance is left with no alternative but to decide the case on the basis of the evidence and records transmitted from the city or municipal courts. In other words, the Court is not empowered by law to dismiss the appeal on the mere failure of an appellant to submit his memorandum, but rather it is the Court's mandatory duty to decide the case on the basis of the available evidence and records transmitted to it. As a general rule, the word "may" when used in a statute is permissive only and operates to confer discretion; while the word "shall" is imperative, operating to impose a duty which may be enforced (Dizon vs. Encarnacion, L-18615, Dec. 24, 1963, 9 SCRA 714, 716-717). The implication is that the Court is left with no choice but to decide the appealed case either on the basis of the evidence and

records transmitted to it, or on the basis of the latter plus memoranda and/or brief with oral argument duly submitted and/or made on request. Moreover, memoranda, briefs and oral arguments are not essential requirements. They may be submitted and/or made only if so requested. Finally, a contrary interpretation would be unjust and dangerous as it may defeat the litigant's right to appeal granted to him by law. In the case of Republic vs. Rodriguez (L-26056, May 29, 1969, 28 SCRA 378) this Court underscored "the need of proceeding with caution so that a party may not be deprived of its right to appeal except for weighty reasons." Courts should heed the rule inMunicipality of Tiwi, Albay vs. Cirujales (L-37520, Dec. 26, 1973, 54 SCRA 390, 395), thus:

65

The appellate court's summary dismissal of the appeal even before receipt of the records of the appealed case as ordered by it in a prior mandamus case must be set aside as having been issued precipitously and without an opportunity to consider and appreciate unavoidable circumstances of record not attributable to petitioners that caused the delay in the elevation of the records of the case on appeal. In the instant case, no notice was received by petitioner about the submission of the transcript of the stenographic notes, so that his 30-day period to submit his memorandum would commence to run. Only after the expiration of such period can the respondent Judge act on the case by deciding it on the merits, not by dismissing the appeal of petitioner. WHEREFORE, THE CHALLENGED ORDERS OF RESPONDENT JUDGE DATED AUGUST 4, 1971, OCTOBER 30, 1971 AND MARCH 15, 1971 ARE HEREBY SET ASIDE AS NULL AND VOID

AND THE RESPONDENT COURT IS HEREBY DIRECTED TO DECIDE CIVIL CASE NO. C-2036 ON THE MERITS. NO COSTS. Muoz Palma, Fernandez and Guerrero, JJ., concur. Separate Opinions TEEHANKEE, J, concurring: I concur with the setting aside of the questioned dismissal of petitioner's appeal on the ground that the record shows quite clearly that there was no failure on part of petitioner-appellant to prosecute her appeal in respondent judge's court. Petitioner had been granted in respondent judge's Order of May

66

7, 1971, 30 days from notice of submission of the transcripts within which to file her memorandum on appeal, yet her appeal was dismissed per his Order of August 4, 1971 for alleged failure to prosecute (by failure to file the memorandum) even before she had received any such notice. Upon receipt of the dismissal order, petitioner had promptly moved for reconsideration and filed her memorandum on appeal. I am not prepared at this stage to concur with the ratio decidendi of the decision penned by Mr. Justice Makasiar that the Court is not empowered by law to dismiss the appeal on the mere failure of an appellant to submit his memorandum, but rather it is the Court's mandatory duty to decide the case on the basis of the available evidence and records transmitted to it." I entertain serious doubts about such pronouncement, once when the court of first instance "requests" the party-appellant to submit a memorandum or brief on appeal under the provisions of Republic Act No. 6031 amending

section 45 of Republic Act No. 296, such "request" is tantamount to a requirement for the proper prosecution of the appeal; thus, when the appellant willfuly fails to file such memorandum or brief, the judge should be empowered to dismiss the appeal, applying suppletorily the analogous provisions of Rule 50, section 1 for dismissal of appeal by the higher appellate courts and taking into account that Rule 40, section 9 of the Rules of Court now expressly authorizes the court of first instance to dismiss an appeal before it "for failure to prosecute." Separate Opinions TEEHANKEE, J, Concurring: I concur with the setting aside of the questioned dismissal of petitioner's appeal on the ground that the record shows quite clearly that there was no failure on part of petitioner-appellant to prosecute her

67

appeal in respondent judge's court. Petitioner had been granted in respondent judge's Order of May 7, 1971, 30 days from notice of submission of the transcripts within which to file her memorandum on appeal, yet her appeal was dismissed per his Order of August 4, 1971 for alleged failure to prosecute (by failure to file the memorandum) even before she had received any such notice. Upon receipt of the dismissal order, petitioner had promptly moved for reconsideration and filed her memorandum on appeal. I am not prepared at this stage to concur with the ratio decidendi of the decision penned by Mr. Justice Makasiar that the Court is not empowered by law to dismiss the appeal on the mere failure of an appellant to submit his memorandum, but rather it is the Court's mandatory duty to decide the case on the basis of the available evidence and records transmitted to it." I entertain serious doubts about such pronouncement, once when the court of first instance "requests" the party-appellant to

submit a memorandum or brief on appeal under the provisions of Republic Act No. 6031 amending section 45 of Republic Act No. 296, such "request" is tantamount to a requirement for the proper prosecution of the appeal; thus, when the appellant willfuly fails to file such memorandum or brief, the judge should be empowered to dismiss the appeal, applying suppletorily the analogous provisions of Rule 50, section 1 for dismissal of appeal by the higher appellate courts and taking into account that Rule 40, section 9 of the Rules of Court now expressly authorizes the court of first instance to dismiss an appeal before it "for failure to prosecute." G.R. No. 116695 June 20, 1997 VICTORIA G. GACHON and ALEX GUEVARA, petitioners, vs. HON. NORBERTO C. DEVERA, JR., Presiding Judge, Branch XXIV, RTC, Iloilo City; HON. JOSE

68

R. ASTORGA, Presiding Judge, Branch I, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Iloilo City; and SUSANA GUEVARA, represented by her attorney-in-fact, ROSALIE GUEVARA, respondents. PANGANIBAN, J.: May the Rule on Summary Procedure be interpreted liberally to allow the admission of an answer filed out of time due to alleged "oversight"? This is the main legal question raised in this petition for review assailing the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Iloilo City, Branch 24, 1 which dismissed a special civil action for certiorari and injunction filed by herein petitioners. The dispositive portion of the assailed RTC Decision reads: 2 WHEREFORE premises considered, the prayer for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction is denied and, with respect to the merits, the instant case is hereby ordered dismissed.

Double costs against petitioners. Facts The factual antecedents of this case as found by the Regional Trial Court are undisputed and admitted as correct by the parties. A complaint for forcible entry 3 was filed by Private Respondent Susana Guevara against Patricio Guevara and Petitioners Victoria Gachon and Alex Guevara before the Municipal Trial Court for Cities (MTCC) of Iloilo City. Summons was served on and received by petitioners on August 25, 1993, directing them to file an answer within the reglementary period of ten (10) days. Patricio Guevara was abroad at that time; hence, the MTCC did not acquire jurisdiction over him. On September 4, 1993, petitioners filed with the MTCC an urgent motion for extension of time to file an answer. 4 On September 7, 1993, the MTCC denied the motion on the ground that it was a prohibited pleading under the Rule on Summary Procedure. 5 On September 8, 1993, or more

69

than ten days from their receipt of the summons, petitioner submitted an urgent motion praying for the admission of their answer, 6 which was attached thereto. Two days later, petitioners filed another motion pleading for the admission of an amended answer. On September 23, 1993, the MTCC denied the motions and considered the case submitted for resolution. 7 On October 27, 1993, the MTCC also denied the petitioners' motion for reconsideration. 8 Thereafter, on November 26, 1993, the MTCC 9 issued a decision 10 resolving the complaint for forcible entry in favor of herein private respondents. Instead of filing an appeal, petitioners filed a petition for certiorari and injunction before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Iloilo City, 11 Branch 24, praying mainly that the MTCC be ordered to admit the amended answer and to conduct further proceedings in the civil case for forcible entry. As prayed for, a temporary restraining order was issued by the RTC.

Thereafter, the RTC issued the assailed Decision 12 dismissing the petition. Respondent Judge Norberto E. Devera, Jr. ratiocinated: 13 Section 36 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, otherwise known as The Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980 provides, among others, as follows: Sec. 36 Summary Procedures in Special Cases . . . The Supreme Court shall adoptspecial rules or procedures applicable to such cases in order to achieve an expeditions (sic) and inexpensive determination thereof without regard to technical rules. Such simplified procedures may provide that affidavits and counter-affidavits may be admitted in lieu of oral testimony and that the periods for filing pleadings shall be non-extendible.

70

Pursuant to the aforequoted legislative mandate, the Supreme Court promulgated the Rule on Summary Procedure, the pertinent provisions of which, as related to the issues raised in this case, are hereunder set forth II Civil Cases Sec. 3. Pleadings A. (P)leadings allowed The only pleadings allowed to be filed are the complaints, compulsory counter-claims and cross-claims pleaded in the answer, and the answers thereto xxx xxx xxx Sec. 5. Answer Within ten (10) days from service of summons, the defendant shall file his answer to the complaint and serve a copy thereof on the plaintiff . . .

Sec. 6. Effect of Failure to answer Should the defendant fail to answer the complaint within the period above provided, the Court, motu proprio, or on motion of the plaintiff, shall render judgment as may be warranted by the facts alleged in the complaint and limited to what is prayed for therein: . . . xxx xxx xxx Sec. 19. Prohibited Pleadings and Motions The following pleadings, motions, or petitions shall not be allowed in the cases covered by this Rule: (a) Motion for extension of time to file pleadings, affidavits or any other paper. xxx xxx xxx The foregoing should underscore quite clearly the reality that the ten-day-period to file an answer reckoned from the date of the receipt of the summons is mandatory and no reason of any kind is acceptable to operate as an excuse. The rule is explicit. It is addressed more, being one of

71

procedure, to counsels than to litigants. Counsels, therefore cannot assert the validity of their client's cause to evade the mandate of the law. Accordingly, the Court cannot fault the respondent judge [referring to Judge Jose R. Astorga] in acting the way he did in Civil Case No. 130 (93) taking into account the admitted facts and circumstances. Hence, this petition directly filed before this Court. The Issues Petitioners submit for resolution the following questions of law: 14 I. Are the provisions of the Rules on Summary Procedure on the period of pleadings to be applied STRICTLY or LIBERALLY. II. What is the legal effect of a belated answer under the Rules on Summary Procedure.

Petitioners argue that the "technical rules of procedure must yield to the higher interest of justice." Petitioners explain that they filed the motion for extension of time to file an answer, a prohibited pleading under the Rule on Summary Procedure, because of "oversight. That was why immediately upon receipt of the denial of that motion, petitioners filed their motion to admit answer which was later verified and had to be amended. All these (actions) were done in a period of five (5) days from the lapse of the reglementary period to file an answer." 15Furthermore, petitioners contend that "no prejudice to private respondent has been claimed or alleged by reason of the delay" in filing an answer. 16 Petitioners also argue that their defense in the action for forcible entry is based on substantial grounds, because they "were in prior physical possession of the premises subject of the action and that their houses have long been standing on the land in question because the land on which said houses are standing are (sic) the common properties of the parties."

72

Citing Section 2, Rule 1 17 of the Rules of Court, petitioners pray that the provisions in the Rule on Summary Procedure regarding prohibited pleadings and the period for filing an answer be given liberal interpretation. Petitioners concede that said provisions appear to be couched in mandatory language. They contend, however, that other similarly worded provisions in the Rules of Court have nonetheless been liberally applied by this Court to promote substantial justice. 18 Private respondent, on the other hand, submits that the provisions in question have to be strictly construed in order to avoid delay, considering that the Rule on Summary Procedure is aimed at inexpensive, expeditious and summary determination of cases. 19 Private respondent adds that the petition can also be dismissed on the ground of violation of Revised Circular 28-91 on forum shopping, because three (3) months after the rendition of the assailed Decision, a "petition for quieting of title and partition, and damages, involving the same parcel of residential land (Cadastral

Lot No. 709 . . . ), was filed . . . docketed as Civil Case No. 21618, by (Petitioner) Victoria GuevaraGachon (. . .), Patricio Guevara (father of Petitioner Alex Guevara), Lilia Guevara-Doreza and Fe GuevaraBurgos against herein private respondent." Private respondent contends that the subsequent case is the appropriate forum where ownership of the property in question may be threshed out. 20 As observed at the outset, the issue to be resolved is whether, under the undisputed facts of this case, the Rule on Summary Procedure may be liberally construed in order to allow the admission of petitioners' answer which unquestionably was filed beyond the reglementary period. Preliminary Matter It bears noting that petitioners filed directly before this Court a petition for review assailing the RTC Decision. This remedy is allowed under paragraph 2 of Circular 2-90 21 which provides:

73

Sec. 2. Appeals from Regional Trial Courts to the Supreme Court. Except in criminal cases where the penalty imposed is life imprisonment or reclusion perpetua, judgments of regional trial courts may be appealed to the Supreme Court only by petition for review on certiorari in accordance with Rule 45 of the Rules of Court in relation to Section 17 of the Judiciary Act of 1948, as amended, 22 this being the clear intendment of the provision of the Interim Rules that "(a)ppeals to the Supreme Court shall be taken by petition for certiorari which shall be governed by Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. Petitioners ask the Court to interpret a provision of the Rule on Summary Procedure. This is a pure question of law that may be properly raised in this petition for review. The Court's Ruling The petition has no merit. First Issue: Interpretation of the Period

The pertinent provisions of the Rule on Summary Procedure are as follows: Sec. 5. Answer. Within ten (10) days from service of summons, the defendant shall file his answer to the complaint and serve a copy thereof on the plaintiff . . . Sec. 6. Effect of failure to answer. Should the defendant fail to answer the complaint within the period above provided, the Court, motu proprio, or on motion of the plaintiff, shall render judgment as may be warranted by the facts alleged in the complaint and limited to what is prayed for therein: . . . xxx xxx xxx Sec. 19. Prohibited pleadings and motions. The following pleadings, motions, or petitions shall not be allowed in the cases covered by this Rule: (a) Motion for extension of time to file pleadings, affidavits or any other paper. xxx xxx xxx

74

(Emphasis supplied.) The word "shall" ordinarily connotes an imperative and indicates the mandatory character of a statute. 23 This, however, is not an absolute rule in statutory construction. The import of the word ultimately depends upon a consideration of the entire provision, its nature, object and the consequences that would follow from construing it one way or the other. 24 As a general principle, rules prescribing the time within which certain acts must be done, or certain proceedings taken, are considered absolutely indispensable to the prevention of needless delays and to the orderly and speedy discharge of judicial business. By their very nature, these rules are regarded as mandatory. 25 The Rule on Summary Procedure, in particular, was promulgated for the purpose of achieving "an expeditious and inexpensive determination of cases." 26 For this reason,

the Rule frowns upon delays and prohibits altogether the filing of motions for extension of time. Consistent with this reasoning is Section 6 of the Rule which allows the trial court to render judgment, even motu proprio, upon the failure of a defendant to file an answer within the reglementary period. Indeed, the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980, mandating the promulgation of the Rule on Summary Procedure, authorizes the Court to stipulate that the period for filing pleadings in cases covered by the Rule on Summary Procedure shall be "non-extendible." 27 Furthermore, speedy resolution of unlawful detainer cases is a matter of public policy, 28 and this rule should equally apply with full force in forcible entry cases where the possession of the premises at the start is already illegal. From the foregoing, it is clear that the use of the word "shall" in the Rule on Summary Procedure underscores the mandatory character of the challenged provisions. Giving the provisions a directory

75

application would subvert the nature of the Rule on Summary Procedure and defeat its objective of expediting the adjudication of suits. Indeed, to admit a late answer, as petitioners suggest, is to put premium on dilatory maneuvers the very mischief that the Rule seeks to redress. In this light, petitioners' invocation of the general principle in Rule 1, Section 2 of the Rules of Court is misplaced. Other than a plea for the liberal interpretation of the Rule on Summary Procedure, petitioners do not provide an adequate justification for the admission of their late answer. "Oversight," which they candidly cite as the reason for their filing a motion for extension of time to file an answer, is not a justification. Oversight, at best, implies negligence; at worst, ignorance. The negligence displayed by petitioners is clearly inexcusable; ignorance of so basic a rule, on the other hand, can never be condoned. In either case, the directory application of the questioned provision is not warranted.

Petitioners also cite Rosales vs. Court of Appeals 29 and Co Keng Kian vs. Intermediate Appellate Court, 30 but these cases do not support their position. In Rosales vs. Court of Appeals, 31 this Court applied the Rule on Summary Procedure liberally when the defendant, instead of filing an answer, filed within the reglementary period a pleading labeled as a motion to dismiss. In treating the motion to dismiss as an answer, the Court ruled: 32 Parenthetically, petitioner argues in the present petition that, notwithstanding its being labeled as a motion to dismiss, said pleading should have been considered as his answer pursuant to the liberal interpretation accorded the rules and inasmuch as the grounds involved therein also qualify as defenses proper in an answer. In this instance the Court agrees. Indeed, the rule on summary procedure was conceptualized to facilitate the immediate resolution of cases such as the present one. Well-settled is the rule that forcible entry and detainer cases being summary in nature and involving

76

disturbance of social order, procedural technicalities should be carefully avoided and should not be allowed to override substantial justice. With this premise in mind and having insisted, however erroneously, on its jurisdiction over the case, it certainly would have been more prudent for the lower court to have treated the motion to dismiss as the answer of petitioner and examined the case on its merits. As will be shown shortly, the long drawn out proceedings that took place would have been avoided. Furthermore, the said case did not involve the question of extension in the period for filing pleadings under the Rule on Summary Procedure. In Co Keng Kian vs. Intermediate Appellate Court, 33 this Court allowed the notice to vacate, served upon the tenant, by registered mail instead of personal service as required by the Rules of Court. We thus ruled: 34

At this juncture it bears repeating that actions for forcible entry and unlawful detainer are summary in nature because they involve a disturbance a social order which must be abated as promptly as possible without any undue reliance on technical and procedural rules which only cause delays. In the ultimate analysis, it matters not how the notice to vacate was conveyed, so long as the lessee or his agent has personally received the written demand, whether handed to him by the lessor, his attorney, a messenger or even a postman. The undisputed facts in the instant case show that the Manila Times Publishing Company, through its manager, had informed petitioner that Plaza Arcade Inc. was the new owner of the subject building; that on October 18, 1979, a demand letter was sent to petitioner advising him to leave the premises but petitioner refused to receive the letter; that a second demand on January 12, 1981 elicited the same reaction; that a final demand dated November 16, 1981 was sent to petitioner by registered mail which he again refused. And even on the supposition that there

77

was no personal service as claimed by petitioner, this could only be due to petitioner's blatant attempts at evasion which compelled the new landlord to resort to registered mail. The Court cannot countenance an unfair situation where the plaintiff in an eviction case suffers further injustice by the unwarranted delay resulting from the obstinate refusal of the defendant to acknowledge the existence of a valid demand. In both cases, there was substantial compliance with the law, something that cannot be said of herein petitioners. Second Issue: Forum-Shopping Private respondent assails petitioners for engaging in forum-shopping by pursuing the present ejectment suit, notwithstanding the pendency of an action for quieting of title involving the same property and parties. We are unable to find basis for this charge.

For forum-shopping to exist, both actions must involve the same transactions, essential facts and circumstances; and the actions must raise identical causes of action, subject matter, and issues. 35 Suffice it to say that an action for quieting of title and partition has a different cause of action than that in an ejectment suit. As private respondent herself contended, ownership of a certain portion of the property which is determined in a case of partition does not necessarily mean that the successful litigant has the right to possess the property adjudged in his favor. In ejectment cases, the only issue for resolution is physical or material possession of the property involved, independent of any claim of ownership set forth by any of the party litigants. Anyone of them who can prove prior possession de facto may recover such possession even from the owner himself. This rule holds true regardless of the character of a party's possession, provided that he has in his favor priority of time which entitles him to stay on the property until he is lawfully ejected by a person having a better right

78

by either accion publicianaor accion reivindicatoria. 36 It has even been ruled that the institution of a separate action for quieting of title is not a valid reason for defeating the execution of the summary remedy of ejectment. 37 WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the petition is DENIED and the assailed Decision is AFFIRMED in toto. Double costs against petitioners. SO ORDERED. Narvasa, C.J., Davide, Jr. and Melo, JJ., concur. Francisco, J., is on leave. G.R. No. L-24583 October 29, 1966 MAGDALENA SIBULO VDA. DE MESA, widow of the late Francisco de Mesa, JUAN GILBUENA, DR. PEDRO MOLERA, DEMETRIO PRESNEDI and LUCIO VICTA, as Officers and in

representation of the Local Chapter of the Liberal Party in Muntinlupa, Rizal, and DEMETRIO R. LORESCA, petitioners, vs. HON. EULOGIO MENCIAS and/or Judge of the Court of First Instance of Rizal, MAXIMINO A. ARGANA, the CHIEF OF POLICE, and the MUNICIPAL TREASURER, both of Muntinlupa, Rizal, respondents. Jovito R. Salonga and Neptali A. Gonzales for petitioners. Jose W. Diokno for respondents. CASTRO, J.: In this petition for certiorari with preliminary injunction, the petitioners ask this Court to review a threeto-two decision rendered by a special division of the Court of Appeals on March 26, 1965 in C.A.

79

35019-R, sustaining the validity of the proceedings had and taken by the Court of First Instance of Rizal in election case 7924 before it (Maximino A. Argana, protestant vs. Francisco De Mesa, protestee). The issue of nullity of the judgment promulgated in the said election case was elevated to the Court of Appeals on a petition for certiorari andmandamus, upon the contention that the said court of first instance illegally and incorrectly did not allow the substitution of the present petitioners as parties for De Mesa, after the latter's death, and thereafter denied due course to their appeal from the said judgment. The antecedent facts are not complicated. Opponents for the mayoralty of Muntinlupa, Rizal in the 1963 elections were Francisco De Mesa and Maximino A. Argana. The electorate's choice, as tallied by the local board of canvassers, was De

Mesa. Elected vice-mayor with him was Demetrio R. Loresca. Duly, proclaimed elected, these two qualified and assumed their respective positions upon the commencement of their term of office. Meanwhile and in due season, defeated candidate Argana, charging the perpetration of frauds, terrorism and other irregularities in certain precincts, protested the election of De Mesa, which protest was docketed as election case 7924, supra, in the Court of First Instance of Rizal, the Honorable Eulogio Mencias presiding. In his return to the protest, De Mesa traversed the charges, and, in a counter-protest incorporated therein, sought to shift responsibility for irregularities to the protestant and his followers, impugning in view thereof the results in some thirteen precincts. On March 18, 1964, however, an assassin's bullet felled De Mesa, and, forthwith, vice-mayor Loresca was, by operation of law, duly installed as his successor. Notice of De Mesa's demise was given on April 22, 1964 to the court a quo thru a "Constancia" filed by the decedent's counsel of record, in

80

which they also indicated their belief that, by reason of said death, their authority as such counsel was terminated. In the election case, meanwhile, the protestant Argana moved for the constitution of committees on revision of ballots. Expressly to hear protestee's view thereon and to afford him a chance to propose his commissioners, this motion was set for hearing but, quite understandably, no appearance was entered for the deceased protestee. Accordingly, on May 6, 1964, the court a quo required the protestee's widow and children to appear within fifteen days from notice in order to be substituted for said protestee, if they so desired. They did not, however, comply. Taking no further action in the premises, the trial court left the matter at that. Then proceeding ex parte, on June 11, 1964, the protestant Argana reiterated his move for the appointment of commissioners on revision of ballots, but this time without proposing any provision for

representation for the protestee whose widow and children he sought to be declared "non-suited." On June 23, 1964, without notice to the protestee and/or his legal representative as indeed none had thus far been named the trial court granted the motion aforesaid. With the constitution of the committee on revision of ballots in which, incidentally, Ramon Antilon Jr. was motu proprio named and then served as commissioner for the deceased protestee, the completion of the proceedings on revision, and the submission of the report thereon, the trial court, in its decision of August 10, 1964, adjudged the protestant Maximino A. Argana as the duly elected mayor of Muntinlupa, Rizal in the 1963 elections, and taxed the costs and expenses of the protest against the estate of the deceased protestee Francisco De Mesa. On August 17, 1964, within the reglementary period for the finality of the decision aforesaid, a threepronged move was taken by De Mesa's widow, Magdalena Sibulo Vda. de De Mesa, and the local

81

chapter of the Liberal Party of which the deceased protestee was a member, thru its president and secretary. First, they sought leave to represent the deceased protestee, invoking specifically said protestee's interest to keep his political opponent out of the contested office in order to maintain his successor therein, which interest was not abated by his death; second, they moved for the reconsideration of the August 10, 1964 decision and/or for new trial based, inter alia, upon the ground that, for failure to order the protestant to procure the appointment of a legal representative of the deceased protestee after his widow and children had failed to appear, pursuant to the applicable provisions of the Rules of Court, it was legally improper for the trial court to have proceeded ex parte with the election case; and third, they filed a "Cautionary Notice of Appeal" in anticipation of the possible denial of their said motion for reconsideration and new trial.

Pleading lack of personality both of De Mesa's widow and the local Liberal Party Chapter to intervene in the case, as well as the absence of any ground for a new trial, the protestant opposed the foregoing moves. To the opposition, the movant below filed their reply. On September 25, 1964 the court a quo, subscribing to the position taken by the protestant, denied the movants' petition for leave to represent the deceased protestee, and order stricken from the record their motion for reconsideration and new trial and their cautionary notice of appeal. On October 6, 1964 Argana qualified as mayor and assumed office. Forthwith, on October 7, 1964 the movants aforesaid gave notice of their intention to take the matter on appeal to the Court of Appeals. This was met with the protestant's motion to strike out their notice of appeal, grounded on the trial court's finding of movants' want of personality to appear in the case, and consequently to appeal the decision a quo.

82

In the meantime, Demetrio R. Loresca made common cause with De Mesa's widow and the local Liberal Party Chapter, and moved for leave to be added to and/or substituted as party-protestee, claiming a legal and continuing interest in the outcome of the election protest as successor to De Mesa. On November 10, 1964 the trial court dictated twin order (1) granting the protestant's motion to strike out the notice of appeal heretofore adverted to; and (2) denying Loresca's motion to be substituted a party-protestee. This development sent the herein petitioners to the Court of Appeals on a petition for certiorari and mandamus, with preliminary injunction (CA 35019-R), to nullify for lack of jurisdiction the proceedings taken by the trial court in the election case aforesaid without allowing the intervention and/or the inclusion of a legal representative of the deceased protestee; or, in the alternative, to

compel the trial court to give due course to the petitioners' appeal from the decision in said case. Upon bond duly filed and approved, the Court of Appeals issued the writ of preliminary injunction prayed for. However, upon respondents' motion and over the opposition of the petitioners, the effect of said writ was temporarily suspended until the case was finally decided by the Court of Appeals. Appropriate proceedings having been had in the case, the latter court, besides finding the inapplicability to election cases of the provisions of Section 17, Rule 3 of the Rules of Court on substitution of parties in case of death, opined that the petitioners likewise lacked the legal standing and/or capacity to appear in election case 7924 aforesaid and/or to appeal from the decision rendered therein, and that furthermore while the petitioner Loresca may have had such personality he nevertheless failed to timely invoke the same to protect his interests. Accordingly, it denied the

83

petition for certiorari and mandamus and consequently permanently dissolved the writ of preliminary injunction theretofore issued. Hence, the present recourse. The vital issue, to which all other issues appear to be subsidiary, is the determination of the legal effect of the proceedings taken by the trial court in the election contest before it subsequent to the demise of the protestee De Mesa. As we approach this question, certain postulates project themselves to the fore. It is axiomatic that an election contest, involving as it does not only the adjudication and settlement of the private interests of the rival candidates but also the paramount need of dispelling once and for all the uncertainty that beclouds the real choice of the electorate with respect to who shall discharge the prerogatives of the offices within their gift, is a proceeding imbued with public interest which raises it onto a plane over

and above ordinary civil actions. For this reason, broad perspectives of public policy impose upon courts the imperative duty to ascertain by all means within their command who is the real candidate elected in as expeditious a manner as possible, without being fettered by technicalities and procedural barriers to the end that the will of the people may not be frustrated (Ibasco vs. Ilao, et al., G.R. L-17512, December 29, 1960; Reforma vs. De Luna, G.R. L-13242, July 31, 1958). So inextricably intertwined are the interests of the contestants and those of the public that there can be no gainsaying the logic of the proposition that even the voluntary cessation in office of the protestee not only does not ipso facto divest him of the character of an adversary in the contest inasmuch as he retains a party interest to keep his political opponent out of the office and maintain therein his successor, but also does not in any manner impair or detract from the jurisdiction of the court to

84

pursue the proceeding to its final conclusion (De Los Angeles vs. Rodriguez, 46 Phil. 595, 597; Salcedo vs. Hernandez, 62 Phil. 584, 587; Galves vs. Maramba, G.R. L-13206). Upon the same principle, the death of the protestee De Mesa did not abate the proceedings in the election protest filed against him, and it may be stated as a rule that an election contest survives and must be prosecuted to final judgment despite the death of the protestee. With the death of De Mesa, however, a contingency not expressly provided for by the Revised Election Code was ushered in. Nevertheless, the, hiatus in the special law posed no impediment to the course of the proceedings because, precisely by express mandate of Rule 134 of the Rules of Court, said rules, though not generally applicable to election cases, may however be applied "by analogy or in a suppletory character and whenever practicable and convenient." For the eventuality here involved, the Rules specifically plot the course of action to be taken, in the following language:

SEC. 17. Death of party.After a party dies and the claim is not thereby extinguished, the court shall order, upon proper notice, the legal representative of the deceased to appear and to be substituted for the deceased, within a period of thirty (30) days, or within such time as may be granted. If the legal representative fails to appear within said time, the court may order the opposing party to procure the appointment of a legal representative of the deceased within a time to be specified by the court, and the representative shall immediately appear for and on behalf of the interest of the deceased. . . . (Rule 3.) That the applicability of the foregoing precept to the election contest below was initially conceded is borne out by the proceedings on record. The trial court, it will be recalled in its order of May 6, 1964, required the widow and children of the deceased protestee to appear and be substituted for and on his behalf and to protect his interest in the case. But when they failed to comply mainly because of

85

the shock and agony that followed in the wake of the violent death of the protestee the trial court took no further steps in the premises and, instead, at the instance of the protestant, declared said widow and children non-suited, proceeded with the case ex parte, and effectively blocked all attempts at intervention and/or substitution in behalf of the deceased protestee. In these moves, the trial court did not only merit the unqualified sanction of the Court of Appeals but the latter, taking an even more radical of the matter, actually held that the rule relied upon has no application to election cases. We cannot give our imprimatur to the foregoing view. All reasonable intendments deducible from the law and the essential nature of the case involved, to our mind, unerringly tend to the contrary. All the very least, nothing extant in the Revised Election Code either expressly or by implication renders inappropriate the application of said principle of substitution in case of death to proceedings thereunder. On the contrary, because of its clear failure to meet the contingency in question, the need

to supplement the deficiency becomes imperative. Then the exertion of judicial power to hear and determine a cause implicitly presupposes in the trial court, amongst other essentials, jurisdiction over the persons of the parties. That jurisdiction was inevitably impaired upon the death of the protestee pending the proceedings below such that unless and until a legal representative is for him duly named and within the jurisdiction of the trial court, no adjudication in the cause could have been accorded any validity or binding effect upon any party, in representation of the deceased, without trenching upon the fundamental right to a day in court which is the very essence of the constitutionally enshrined guarantee of due process. As cogently synthesized in Cupples vs. Castro, 137 P. 2d., 755 Where contestant was declared elected and contestee appealed after which contestant died, rights of parties could not be determined in absence of contestant and his legal representative and submission

86

would be set aside and cause taken from calendar to be heard only after representative for contestant should have been substituted. (Francisco, The Revised Election Code, 1957 ed., p. 583). If this be the case with the contestant, a fortiori no less can be said of the contestee whose rights as well as those of his successor by operation of law would be at hazard in an ex parte proceeding. Further still, the fundamental purpose of the Revised Election Code, it has been recognized, is to protect the integrity of elections and suppress all evils that may vitiate their purity and defeat the popular will. Judicial experience teaches that more often than not frauds and irregularities committed during the voting come to light only when the ballot boxes are opened and their contents examined. At no time then in the course of an election contest is the need for vigilance more to be insisted upon than during that critical stage when the ballot boxes are opened and the ballots themselves are revised. To deny a party to the contest the representation that the law allows him at this juncture is

virtually to take away one of the most effective measures designed for the approximation of the primordial objective election laws are intended to achieve. In the light of the foregoing, it is our considered view that Section 17, Rule 3 of the Rules of Court applies to election contests to the same extent and with the same force and effect as it does in ordinary civil actions. And we declare that unless and until the procedure therein detailed is strictly adhered to, proceedings taken by a court in the absence of a duly appointed legal representative of the deceased protestee must be stricken down as null and void. Considering that, in the case at bar, the trial court failed to order the protestant to procure the appointment of a legal representative of the deceased protestee after the latter's widow and children had failed to comply with the court order requiring their appearance to be substituted in lieu of their predecessor, but instead in derogation of the precepts of the Rule in question and in the total absence of a legal representative of the

87

deceased protestee proceeded ex parte with the election case, said court not only acted with grave abuse of discretion but actually committed a clear extra-limitation of its lawful jurisdiction which, perforce, tainted all its proceedings with the indelible stigma of nullity (Barrameda, et al. vs. Barbara, 90 Phil. 718, 722, 723; Ferreria vs. Ibarra Vda. de Gonzales, et al., 55 O.G. No. 8, 1358, 136263; Sarmiento, etc., et al. vs. Ortiz, et al., G.R. L-18583, January 31, 1964; Caisip vs. Cabangon, G.R. L14684-14686, August 26, 1960). It is no argument against this conclusion to contend that the requirement for the procurement of a legal representative of a deceased litigant is couched in the permissive term "may" instead of the mandatory word "shall." While the ordinary acceptations of these terms may indeed be resorted to as guides in the ascertainment of the mandatory or directory character of statutory provisions, they are in no wise absolute and inflexible criteria in the vast areas of law and equity. Depending upon a

consideration of the entire provision, its nature, its object and the consequences that would follow from construing it one way or the other, the convertibility of said terms either as mandatory or permissive is a standard recourse in statutory construction. Thus, Black is authority for the rule that "Where the statute provides for the doing of some act which is required by justice or public duty, or where it invests a public body, municipality or public officer with power and authority to take some action which concerns the public interest or rights of individuals, the permissive language will be construed as mandatory and the execution of the power may be insisted upon as a duty" (Black, Interpretation of Laws, pp. 540-543). The matter here involved not only concerns public interest but also goes into the jurisdiction of the trial court and is of the essence of the proceedings taken thereon. On this point, there is authority to the effect that in statutes relating to procedure, as is the one now under consideration, every act which is jurisdictional, or of the essence of the proceedings, or is

88

prescribed for the protection or benefit of the party affected, is mandatory (Gonzaga, Statutes and their Construction, p. 98, citing: Estate of Naval, G.R. No. L-6736, May 4, 1954). The present case is well within the purview of this doctrine. Nor may the motu proprio appointment by the trial court of Ramon Antilon Jr. as commissioner for the deceased protestee in the revision proceedings be decreed a substantial compliance with the legal requirement. As aptly observed in the dissent to the decision under review, said commissioner was not the legal representative contemplated by the Rules to be substituted for the deceased protestee. Said commissioner was not supposed to represent the protestee as a party litigant. His appointment as such was made exclusively upon the initiative of the trial court and is authorized by the law. Section 175, Revised Election Code, merely as a time-saving device for the convenience of the court and the parties in the purely mechanical operation of opening the ballots and tabulating the count and

in the interest of a speedy and expeditious revision and recount of the contested ballots (Hontiveros vs. Altavas, 24 Phil. 632, 649-650; Raymundo vs. Gonzales, 80 Phil. 719, 721). For all legal intents and purposes, while said commissioner's appointment may be proposed by the contestants themselves, he is nevertheless exclusively an officer or an agent of the court under its direct control and supervision. Equally unacceptable is the proposition that, because time is of the essence in an election contest, recourse to the appointment of a legal representative of a deceased protestee which can only protract and delay the progress of the case is but a finical matter of procedure which can justifiably be dispensed with. The validity of the injunction for the prompt disposal of election controversies as repeatedly postulated in a consistent array of jurisprudence is not open to debate. The terms of office of elective officials are relatively brief. To dissipate within the shortest time possible any aura of doubt

89

upon the true result of elections is a much sought-after desideratum. But, salutary though the precept may be, it is no justification for cutting procedural corners or taking legal short cuts not warranted in a system of procedure where the rule of law is still held paramount over and above all considerations of mere convenience and expediency. We would be the last to advocate a departure from the policy of early settlement of electoral disputes, but we are not prepared to lend our approval to a course of action which would tend to achieve one object of desire at the expense of the orderly administration of justice and with the sacrifice of the fundamental right of litigants to due process of law. Otherwise, the speedy trial required by the law would be converted into a denial of justice (Querubin vs. Court of Appeals, 82 Phil. 226, 230). In law as in any other sphere of human relations the end very seldom, if at all, justifies the means. And, in the case at bar, the admittedly imperative demand for a speedy disposition of the controversy cannot deter our hand from striking down illegality in the

proceedings therein and remanding the case for new trial, despite the concomitant delay that may be occasioned thereby, since that is the only course open if the ends of justice are to be subserved (Salcedo vs. Hernandez, 62 Phil. 584, 587). Consequent to the conclusion we have just reached, we confront the issue of who is the legal representative of the deceased protestee entitled to be substituted in his stead. As the record of the case reveals, three different aspirants vied for that legal representation: Demetrio R. Loresca, the vice-mayor who succeeded to the position of mayor upon the protestee's demise; Magdalena Sibulo Vda. de De Mesa, the protestee's widow; and the local chapter of the Liberal Party at Muntinlupa, Rizal, to which the deceased protestee belonged, as represented by its officers who are co-petitioners herein. An examination of the countervailing interests of these parties seems in order.

90

By virtue of Section 7 of the Local Autonomy Act, Republic Act 2264, the vice-mayor stands next in line of succession to the mayor in case of a permanent vacancy in the latter's position. Upon the death of the protestee mayor in the case at bar, Loresca as then incumbent vice-mayor succeeded by operation of law to the vacated office and, as a matter of right, is entitled to occupy the same for the unexpired term thereof or until the protest against his predecessor is decided adversely against the latter. The outcome of that contest thus bears directly upon his right to his present position and, amongst all, he is the person most keenly concerned and interested in the fair and regular conduct thereof in order that the true will of the electorate will be upheld. His status as a real party in interest in the continuation of the proceedings a fact conceded by the decision under review itself cannot thus be disputed.

It is not correct to subject Loresca, as the Court of Appeals did, respecting his interest in the controversy to the operation of the equitable principle of laches. The initiative to cause his substitution in lieu of the deceased protestee was not Loresca's. It was the trial court's as well as the protestant's duty, upon being apprised of the protestee's death, to cause the appointment of his legal representative according to the procedure delineated in the Rules. Failing in this duty, it never became the obligation of Loresca to take it upon himself to be appointed as such legal representative, as in fact, he was not even duly and seasonably notified, much less ordered, to appear and be so substituted. In this posture, and particularly because, as above held, the trial court did not even acquire jurisdiction over him, no room exists for the operation of the rule on laches against him. His intervention should not have been denied.

91

The same cannot, however, be said of the protestee's widow or of the local Liberal Party chapter of Muntinlupa. The protestee's claim to the contested office is not in any sense a right transmissible to this widow or heirs. Said widow's only remaining interest in the outcome of the case is limited to no more than the possible award of costs against the deceased protestee. Besides not being such an interest as would justify her substitution for her deceased husband as an indispensable legal representative, the right to such an award if eventually made has already been waived by the protestant Argana. This effectively withdraws the widow from the picture altogether. Much less has the local Liberal Party Chapter any claim to substitution. Not being duly incorporated as a juridical person, it can have no personality to sue or be sued as such. And while it conceivably may derive some indirect benefit consequent to the resolution of the contest in favor of the deceased protestee, neither the chapter itself nor the officers thereof would become entitled thereby to any right to the

contested office in case of a favorable judgment, nor, for that matter, do they stand to sustain any direct prejudice in case of an adverse one. No basis therefore exists upon which to predicate their claim to substitution. The foregoing views render academic the alternative issue raised by the petitioners regarding the propriety of their appeal from the trial court's decision in the main case. ACCORDINGLY, the judgment under review is reversed and in lieu thereof, another is rendered (1) Declaring null and void the judgment of the Court of First Instance of Rizal in election case 7924 thereof, dated August 10, 1964, which proclaimed the protestant Maximino A. Argana the duly elected mayor of Muntinlupa, Rizal in the 1963 elections, for having been rendered without jurisdiction over the person of the legal representative of the deceased protestee Francisco de Mesa and all other proceedings taken by said court in said election case subsequent to the death of the said protestee;

92

(2) Ordering the protestant Maximino A. Argana, without delay, to vacate the office of the mayor of Muntinlupa, Rizal and to relinquish the same in favor of Demetrio R. Loresca; and (3) Ordering the Court of First Instance of Rizal to forthwith appoint the petitioner Demetrio R. Loresca as the legal representative of the deceased protestee Francisco de Mesa and allow his appearance as such in substitution of the said deceased for purposes of said election case 7924 of said court, to conduct a new trial in said election case, and thereafter to render judgment therein as the evidence may warrant. No pronouncement as to costs. Concepcion, C.J., Reyes, J.B.L., Dizon, Regala, Makalintal, Bengzon, J.P., Zaldivar and Sanchez, JJ., concurs. Barrera, J., is on leave.

G.R. No. 117188 August 7, 1997 LOYOLA GRAND VILLAS HOMEOWNERS (SOUTH) ASSOCIATION, INC., petitioner, vs. HON. COURT OF APPEALS, HOME INSURANCE AND GUARANTY CORPORATION, EMDEN ENCARNACION and HORATIO AYCARDO, respondents. ROMERO, J.:

93

May the failure of a corporation to file its by-laws within one month from the date of its incorporation, as mandated by Section 46 of the Corporation Code, result in its automatic dissolution? This is the issue raised in this petition for review on certiorari of the Decision 1 of the Court of Appeals affirming the decision of the Home Insurance and Guaranty Corporation (HIGC). This quasi-judicial body recognized Loyola Grand Villas Homeowners Association (LGVHA) as the sole homeowners' association in Loyola Grand Villas, a duly registered subdivision in Quezon City and Marikina City that was owned and developed by Solid Homes, Inc. It revoked the certificates of registration issued to Loyola Grand Villas homeowners (North) Association Incorporated (the North Association for brevity) and Loyola Grand Villas Homeowners (South) Association Incorporated (the South Association). LGVHAI was organized on February 8, 1983 as the association of homeowners and residents of the Loyola Grand Villas. It was registered with the Home Financing Corporation, the predecessor of

herein respondent HIGC, as the sole homeowners' organization in the said subdivision under Certificate of Registration No. 04-197. It was organized by the developer of the subdivision and its first president was Victorio V. Soliven, himself the owner of the developer. For unknown reasons, however, LGVHAI did not file its corporate by-laws. Sometime in 1988, the officers of the LGVHAI tried to register its by-laws. They failed to do so. 2 To the officers' consternation, they discovered that there were two other organizations within the subdivision the North Association and the South Association. According to private respondents, a non-resident and Soliven himself, respectively headed these associations. They also discovered that these associations had five (5) registered homeowners each who were also the incorporators, directors and officers thereof. None of the members of the LGVHAI was listed as member of the North Association while three (3) members of LGVHAI were listed as members of the South

94

Association. 3 The North Association was registered with the HIGC on February 13, 1989 under Certificate of Registration No. 04-1160 covering Phases West II, East III, West III and East IV. It submitted its by-laws on December 20, 1988. In July, 1989, when Soliven inquired about the status of LGVHAI, Atty. Joaquin A. Bautista, the head of the legal department of the HIGC, informed him that LGVHAI had been automatically dissolved for two reasons. First, it did not submit its by-laws within the period required by the Corporation Code and, second, there was non-user of corporate charter because HIGC had not received any report on the association's activities. Apparently, this information resulted in the registration of the South Association with the HIGC on July 27, 1989 covering Phases West I, East I and East II. It filed its bylaws on July 26, 1989.

These developments prompted the officers of the LGVHAI to lodge a complaint with the HIGC. They questioned the revocation of LGVHAI's certificate of registration without due notice and hearing and concomitantly prayed for the cancellation of the certificates of registration of the North and South Associations by reason of the earlier issuance of a certificate of registration in favor of LGVHAI. On January 26, 1993, after due notice and hearing, private respondents obtained a favorable ruling from HIGC Hearing Officer Danilo C. Javier who disposed of HIGC Case No. RRM-5-89 as follows: WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered recognizing the Loyola Grand Villas Homeowners Association, Inc., under Certificate of Registration No. 04-197 as the duly registered and existing homeowners association for Loyola Grand Villas homeowners, and declaring the Certificates of Registration of Loyola Grand Villas Homeowners (North) Association, Inc. and Loyola Grand Villas Homeowners (South) Association, Inc. as hereby revoked or cancelled; that the receivership be

95

terminated and the Receiver is hereby ordered to render an accounting and turn-over to Loyola Grand Villas Homeowners Association, Inc., all assets and records of the Association now under his custody and possession. The South Association appealed to the Appeals Board of the HIGC. In its Resolution of September 8, 1993, the Board 4 dismissed the appeal for lack of merit. Rebuffed, the South Association in turn appealed to the Court of Appeals, raising two issues. First, whether or not LGVHAI's failure to file its by-laws within the period prescribed by Section 46 of the Corporation Code resulted in the automatic dissolution of LGVHAI. Second, whether or not two homeowners' associations may be authorized by the HIGC in one "sprawling subdivision." However, in the Decision of August 23, 1994 being assailed here, the Court of Appeals affirmed the Resolution of the HIGC Appeals Board.

In resolving the first issue, the Court of Appeals held that under the Corporation Code, a private corporation commences to have corporate existence and juridical personality from the date the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issues a certificate of incorporation under its official seal. The requirement for the filing of by-laws under Section 46 of the Corporation Code within one month from official notice of the issuance of the certificate of incorporation presupposes that it is already incorporated, although it may file its by-laws with its articles of incorporation. Elucidating on the effect of a delayed filing of by-laws, the Court of Appeals said: We also find nothing in the provisions cited by the petitioner, i.e., Section 46 and 22, Corporation Code, or in any other provision of the Code and other laws which provide or at least imply that failure to file the by-laws results in an automatic dissolution of the corporation. While Section 46, in prescribing that by-laws must be adopted within the period prescribed therein, may be interpreted as

96

a mandatory provision, particularly because of the use of the word "must," its meaning cannot be stretched to support the argument that automatic dissolution results from non-compliance. We realize that Section 46 or other provisions of the Corporation Code are silent on the result of the failure to adopt and file the by-laws within the required period. Thus, Section 46 and other related provisions of the Corporation Code are to be construed with Section 6 (1) of P.D. 902-A. This section empowers the SEC to suspend or revoke certificates of registration on the grounds listed therein. Among the grounds stated is the failure to file by-laws (see also II Campos: The Corporation Code, 1990 ed., pp. 124-125). Such suspension or revocation, the same section provides, should be made upon proper notice and hearing. Although P.D. 902-A refers to the SEC, the same principles and procedures apply to the public respondent HIGC as it exercises its power to revoke or suspend the

certificates of registration or homeowners association. (Section 2 [a], E.O. 535, series 1979, transferred the powers and authorities of the SEC over homeowners associations to the HIGC.) We also do not agree with the petitioner's interpretation that Section 46, Corporation Code prevails over Section 6, P.D. 902-A and that the latter is invalid because it contravenes the former. There is no basis for such interpretation considering that these two provisions are not inconsistent with each other. They are, in fact, complementary to each other so that one cannot be considered as invalidating the other. The Court of Appeals added that, as there was no showing that the registration of LGVHAI had been validly revoked, it continued to be the duly registered homeowners' association in the Loyola Grand Villas. More importantly, the South Association did not dispute the fact that LGVHAI had been organized and that, thereafter, it transacted business within the period prescribed by law.

97

On the second issue, the Court of Appeals reiterated its previous ruling 5 that the HIGC has the authority to order the holding of a referendum to determine which of two contending associations should represent the entire community, village or subdivision. Undaunted, the South Association filed the instant petition for review on certiorari. It elevates as sole issue for resolution the first issue it had raised before the Court of Appeals, i.e., whether or not the LGVHAI's failure to file its by-laws within the period prescribed by Section 46 of the Corporation Code had the effect of automatically dissolving the said corporation. Petitioner contends that, since Section 46 uses the word "must" with respect to the filing of by-laws, noncompliance therewith would result in "self-extinction" either due to non-occurrence of a suspensive condition or the occurrence of a resolutory condition "under the hypothesis that (by) the issuance of the certificate of registration alone the corporate personality is deemed already formed." It

asserts that the Corporation Code provides for a "gradation of violations of requirements." Hence, Section 22 mandates that the corporation must be formally organized and should commence transaction within two years from date of incorporation. Otherwise, the corporation would be deemed dissolved. On the other hand, if the corporation commences operations but becomes continuously inoperative for five years, then it may be suspended or its corporate franchise revoked. Petitioner concedes that Section 46 and the other provisions of the Corporation Code do not provide for sanctions for non-filing of the by-laws. However, it insists that no sanction need be provided "because the mandatory nature of the provision is so clear that there can be no doubt about its being an essential attribute of corporate birth." To petitioner, its submission is buttressed by the facts that the period for compliance is "spelled out distinctly;" that the certification of the SEC/HIGC must show that the by-laws are not inconsistent with the Code, and that a copy of the by-laws "has to be

98

attached to the articles of incorporation." Moreover, no sanction is provided for because "in the first place, no corporate identity has been completed." Petitioner asserts that "non-provision for remedy or sanction is itself the tacit proclamation that non-compliance is fatal and no corporate existence had yet evolved," and therefore, there was "no need to proclaim its demise." 6 In a bid to convince the Court of its arguments, petitioner stresses that: . . . the word MUST is used in Sec. 46 in its universal literal meaning and corollary human implication its compulsion is integrated in its very essence MUST is always enforceable by the inevitable consequence that is, "OR ELSE". The use of the word MUST in Sec. 46 is no exception it means file the by-laws within one month after notice of issuance of certificate of registration OR ELSE. The OR ELSE, though not specified, is inextricably a part ofMUST . Do this or if you do not you are "Kaput". The importance of the by-laws to corporate existence compels such meaning for as

decreed the by-laws is "the government" of the corporation. Indeed, how can the corporation do any lawful act as such without by-laws. Surely, no law is indeed to create chaos. 7 Petitioner asserts that P.D. No. 902-A cannot exceed the scope and power of the Corporation Code which itself does not provide sanctions for non-filing of by-laws. For the petitioner, it is "not proper to assess the true meaning of Sec. 46 . . . on an unauthorized provision on such matter contained in the said decree." In their comment on the petition, private respondents counter that the requirement of adoption of bylaws is not mandatory. They point to P.D. No. 902-A as having resolved the issue of whether said requirement is mandatory or merely directory. Citing Chung Ka Bio v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 8 private respondents contend that Section 6(I) of that decree provides that non-filing of bylaws is only a ground for suspension or revocation of the certificate of registration of corporations and,

99

therefore, it may not result in automatic dissolution of the corporation. Moreover, the adoption and filing of by-laws is a condition subsequent which does not affect the corporate personality of a corporation like the LGVHAI. This is so because Section 9 of the Corporation Code provides that the corporate existence and juridical personality of a corporation begins from the date the SEC issues a certificate of incorporation under its official seal. Consequently, even if the by-laws have not yet been filed, a corporation may be considered a de facto corporation. To emphasize the fact the LGVHAI was registered as the sole homeowners' association in the Loyola Grand Villas, private respondents point out that membership in the LGVHAI was an "unconditional restriction in the deeds of sale signed by lot buyers." In its reply to private respondents' comment on the petition, petitioner reiterates its argument that the word " must" in Section 46 of the Corporation Code is mandatory. It adds that, before the ruling

in Chung Ka Bio v. Intermediate Appellate Court could be applied to this case, this Court must first resolve the issue of whether or not the provisions of P.D. No. 902-A prescribing the rules and regulations to implement the Corporation Code can "rise above and change" the substantive provisions of the Code. The pertinent provision of the Corporation Code that is the focal point of controversy in this case states: Sec. 46. Adoption of by-laws. Every corporation formed under this Code, must within one (1) month after receipt of official notice of the issuance of its certificate of incorporation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, adopt a code of by-laws for its government not inconsistent with this Code. For the adoption of by-laws by the corporation, the affirmative vote of the stockholders representing at least a majority of the outstanding capital stock, or of at least a majority of the

100

members, in the case of non-stock corporations, shall be necessary. The by-laws shall be signed by the stockholders or members voting for them and shall be kept in the principal office of the corporation, subject to the stockholders or members voting for them and shall be kept in the principal office of the corporation, subject to inspection of the stockholders or members during office hours; and a copy thereof, shall be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission which shall be attached to the original articles of incorporation. Notwithstanding the provisions of the preceding paragraph, by-laws may be adopted and filed prior to incorporation; in such case, such by-laws shall be approved and signed by all the incorporators and submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission, together with the articles of incorporation. In all cases, by-laws shall be effective only upon the issuance by the Securities and Exchange Commission of a certification that the by-laws are not inconsistent with this Code.

The Securities and Exchange Commission shall not accept for filing the by-laws or any amendment thereto of any bank, banking institution, building and loan association, trust company, insurance company, public utility, educational institution or other special corporations governed by special laws, unless accompanied by a certificate of the appropriate government agency to the effect that such bylaws or amendments are in accordance with law. As correctly postulated by the petitioner, interpretation of this provision of law begins with the determination of the meaning and import of the word "must" in this section Ordinarily, the word "must" connotes an imperative act or operates to impose a duty which may be enforced. 9 It is synonymous with "ought" which connotes compulsion or mandatoriness. 10 However, the word "must" in a statute, like "shall," is not always imperative. It may be consistent with an exercise of discretion. In this jurisdiction, the tendency has been to interpret "shall" as the context or a reasonable construction of

101

the statute in which it is used demands or requires. 11 This is equally true as regards the word "must." Thus, if the languages of a statute considered as a whole and with due regard to its nature and object reveals that the legislature intended to use the words "shall" and "must" to be directory, they should be given that meaning. 12 In this respect, the following portions of the deliberations of the Batasang Pambansa No. 68 are illuminating: MR. FUENTEBELLA. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. On page 34, referring to the adoption of by-laws, are we made to understand here, Mr. Speaker, that by-laws must immediately be filed within one month after the issuance? In other words, would this be mandatory or directory in character? MR. MENDOZA. This is mandatory.

MR. FUENTEBELLA. It being mandatory, Mr. Speaker, what would be the effect of the failure of the corporation to file these by-laws within one month? MR. MENDOZA. There is a provision in the latter part of the Code which identifies and describes the consequences of violations of any provision of this Code. One such consequences is the dissolution of the corporation for its inability, or perhaps, incurring certain penalties. MR. FUENTEBELLA. But it will not automatically amount to a dissolution of the corporation by merely failing to file the by-laws within one month. Supposing the corporation was late, say, five days, what would be the mandatory penalty? MR. MENDOZA. I do not think it will necessarily result in the automatic or ipso facto dissolution of the corporation. Perhaps, as in the case, as you suggested, in the case of El Hogar Filipino where a quo warranto action is brought, one takes into account the gravity of the violation committed. If the by-

102

laws were late the filing of the by-laws were late by, perhaps, a day or two, I would suppose that might be a tolerable delay, but if they are delayed over a period of months as is happening now because of the absence of a clear requirement that by-laws must be completed within a specified period of time, the corporation must suffer certain consequences. 13 This exchange of views demonstrates clearly that automatic corporate dissolution for failure to file the by-laws on time was never the intention of the legislature. Moreover, even without resorting to the records of deliberations of the Batasang Pambansa, the law itself provides the answer to the issue propounded by petitioner. Taken as a whole and under the principle that the best interpreter of a statute is the statute itself (optima statuli interpretatix est ipsum statutum), 14 Section 46 aforequoted reveals the legislative intent to attach a directory, and not mandatory, meaning for the word "must" in the first sentence

thereof. Note should be taken of the second paragraph of the law which allows the filing of the bylaws even prior to incorporation. This provision in the same section of the Code rules out mandatory compliance with the requirement of filing the by-laws "within one (1) month after receipt of official notice of the issuance of its certificate of incorporation by the Securities and Exchange Commission." It necessarily follows that failure to file the by-laws within that period does not imply the "demise" of the corporation. By-laws may be necessary for the "government" of the corporation but these are subordinate to the articles of incorporation as well as to the Corporation Code and related statutes. 15 There are in fact cases where by-laws are unnecessary to corporate existence or to the valid exercise of corporate powers, thus: In the absence of charter or statutory provisions to the contrary, by-laws are not necessary either to the existence of a corporation or to the valid exercise of the powers conferred upon it, certainly in all

103

cases where the charter sufficiently provides for the government of the body; and even where the governing statute in express terms confers upon the corporation the power to adopt by-laws, the failure to exercise the power will be ascribed to mere nonaction which will not render void any acts of the corporation which would otherwise be valid. 16 (Emphasis supplied.) As Fletcher aptly puts it: It has been said that the by-laws of a corporation are the rule of its life, and that until by-laws have been adopted the corporation may not be able to act for the purposes of its creation, and that the first and most important duty of the members is to adopt them. This would seem to follow as a matter of principle from the office and functions of by-laws. Viewed in this light, the adoption of by-laws is a matter of practical, if not one of legal, necessity. Moreover, the peculiar circumstances attending the formation of a corporation may impose the obligation to adopt certain by-laws, as in the case of a

close corporation organized for specific purposes. And the statute or general laws from which the corporation derives its corporate existence may expressly require it to make and adopt by-laws and specify to some extent what they shall contain and the manner of their adoption. The mere fact, however, of the existence of power in the corporation to adopt by-laws does not ordinarily and of necessity make the exercise of such power essential to its corporate life, or to the validity of any of its acts. 17 Although the Corporation Code requires the filing of by-laws, it does not expressly provide for the consequences of the non-filing of the same within the period provided for in Section 46. However, such omission has been rectified by Presidential Decree No. 902-A, the pertinent provisions on the jurisdiction of the SEC of which state:

104

Sec. 6. In order to effectively exercise such jurisdiction, the Commission shall possess the following powers: xxx xxx xxx (1) To suspend, or revoke, after proper notice and hearing, the franchise or certificate of registration of corporations, partnerships or associations, upon any of the grounds provided by law, including the following: xxx xxx xxx 5. Failure to file by-laws within the required period; xxx xxx xxx In the exercise of the foregoing authority and jurisdiction of the Commission or by a Commissioner or by such other bodies, boards, committees and/or any officer as may be created or designated by the

Commission for the purpose. The decision, ruling or order of any such Commissioner, bodies, boards, committees and/or officer may be appealed to the Commission sitting en banc within thirty (30) days after receipt by the appellant of notice of such decision, ruling or order. The Commission shall promulgate rules of procedures to govern the proceedings, hearings and appeals of cases falling with its jurisdiction. The aggrieved party may appeal the order, decision or ruling of the Commission sitting en banc to the Supreme Court by petition for review in accordance with the pertinent provisions of the Rules of Court. Even under the foregoing express grant of power and authority, there can be no automatic corporate dissolutionsimply because the incorporators failed to abide by the required filing of by-laws embodied in Section 46 of the Corporation Code. There is no outright "demise" of corporate existence. Proper

105

notice and hearing are cardinal components of due process in any democratic institution, agency or society. In other words, the incorporators must be given the chance to explain their neglect or omission and remedy the same. That the failure to file by-laws is not provided for by the Corporation Code but in another law is of no moment. P.D. No. 902-A, which took effect immediately after its promulgation on March 11, 1976, is very much apposite to the Code. Accordingly, the provisions abovequoted supply the law governing the situation in the case at bar, inasmuch as the Corporation Code and P.D. No. 902-A are statutes in pari materia. Interpretare et concordare legibus est optimus interpretandi. Every statute must be so construed and harmonized with other statutes as to form a uniform system of jurisprudence. 18 As the "rules and regulations or private laws enacted by the corporation to regulate, govern and control its own actions, affairs and concerns and its stockholders or members and directors and

officers with relation thereto and among themselves in their relation to it," 19 by-laws are indispensable to corporations in this jurisdiction. These may not be essential to corporate birth but certainly, these are required by law for an orderly governance and management of corporations. Nonetheless, failure to file them within the period required by law by no means tolls the automatic dissolution of a corporation. In this regard, private respondents are correct in relying on the pronouncements of this Court in Chung Ka Bio v.Intermediate Appellate Court, 20 as follows: . . . . Moreover, failure to file the by-laws does not automatically operate to dissolve a corporation but is now considered only a ground for such dissolution. Section 19 of the Corporation Law, part of which is now Section 22 of the Corporation Code, provided that the powers of the corporation would cease if it did not formally organize and commence the

106

transaction of its business or the continuation of its works within two years from date of its incorporation. Section 20, which has been reproduced with some modifications in Section 46 of the Corporation Code, expressly declared that "every corporation formed under this Act, must within one month after the filing of the articles of incorporation with the Securities and Exchange Commission, adopt a code of by-laws." Whether this provision should be given mandatory or only directory effect remained a controversial question until it became academic with the adoption of PD 902-A. Under this decree, it is now clear that the failure to file by-laws within the required period is only a ground for suspension or revocation of the certificate of registration of corporations. Non-filing of the by-laws will not result in automatic dissolution of the corporation. Under Section 6(I) of PD 902-A, the SEC is empowered to "suspend or revoke, after proper notice and hearing, the franchise or certificate of registration of a corporation" on the ground inter alia of "failure to file by-

laws within the required period." It is clear from this provision that there must first of all be a hearing to determine the existence of the ground, and secondly, assuming such finding, the penalty is not necessarily revocation but may be only suspension of the charter. In fact, under the rules and regulations of the SEC, failure to file the by-laws on time may be penalized merely with the imposition of an administrative fine without affecting the corporate existence of the erring firm. It should be stressed in this connection that substantial compliance with conditions subsequent will suffice to perfect corporate personality. Organization and commencement of transaction of corporate business are but conditions subsequent and not prerequisites for acquisition of corporate personality. The adoption and filing of by-laws is also a condition subsequent. Under Section 19 of the Corporation Code, a Corporation commences its corporate existence and juridical personality and is deemed incorporated from the date the Securities and Exchange Commission issues certificate of

107

incorporation under its official seal. This may be done even before the filing of the by-laws, which under Section 46 of the Corporation Code, must be adopted "within one month after receipt of official notice of the issuance of its certificate of incorporation." 21 That the corporation involved herein is under the supervision of the HIGC does not alter the result of this case. The HIGC has taken over the specialized functions of the former Home Financing Corporation by virtue of Executive Order No. 90 dated December 17, 1989. 22 With respect to homeowners associations, the HIGC shall "exercise all the powers, authorities and responsibilities that are vested on the Securities and Exchange Commission . . . , the provision of Act 1459, as amended by P.D. 902-A, to the contrary notwithstanding." 23

WHEREFORE, the instant petition for review on certiorari is hereby DENIED and the questioned Decision of the Court of Appeals AFFIRMED. This Decision is immediately executory. Costs against petitioner. SO ORDERED. Regalado, Puno and Mendoza, JJ., concur. Torres, Jr., J., is on leave. G.R. No. L-4495 June 6, 1951 ALFONSO C. SALCEDO and PASCUAL IGNACIO, petitioner, vs. DIOSDADO M. CARPIO and GERMANIC CARREON, respondents.

108

Jose M. Aruego for petitioners. Office of the Solicitor General Pompeyo Diaz Martiniano P. Vivo, Quintin Paredes and Taada, Pelaez and Teehankee for respondents. FERIA, J.: This is a special civil action of quo warranto instituted by the petitioners against the respondents. The petitioners Dr. Alfonso C. Salcedo and Dr. Pascual Ignacio were appointed, together with Dr. Gervasio Eraa, as chairman, on July 16, 1949, members of the Board of Dental Examiners by the Acting Secretary of Health, under the provisions of Sections 2 and 5 of Republic Act No. 417. Dr. Gervasio Eraa designated as chairman of the Board was to hold office for one year from July 18, 1949, to July 18 1950; Dr. Alfonso C. Salcedo for two years from July 18, 1949 to July 18, 1951, and Dr. Pascual Ignacio for three years from July 18 1949, to July 18, 1952.

On June 17, 1950, Republic Act No. 546 was approved, and Section 1 thereof amended Section 10 of the Reorganization Act No. 4007 by making the Commissioner of Civil Service an Executive Officer of all the Boards of Examiners therein after named, who shall conduct the examinations given by said Boards according to the rules and regulations promulgated by him and approved by the President, and all other Boards of Examiners "shall be appointed by the President of the Philippines, upon recommendation of the said Commissioner of Civil Service , among such persons of recognized standing in their profession as may be certified as having practiced at least ten years, academically and morally fully qualified by their respective bona fide professional organizations; who shall serve for a period of three years, and who shall receive compensation not to exceed ten pesos per capita of the candidates examined or without examination, provided that the first Boards to be appointed after

109

the approval of this Act shall hold office for the following terms: Chairman for three years, one member for two years, and one member for three year." Under the above-quoted provisions of Republic Act No. 546, on November 23, 1950, a Board of Dental Examiners was , upon the recommendation of the Director of Civil Service, appointed by the President, composed of Dr. Gervasio Eraa as Chairman for a term of three years expiring November 27, 1953, and Dr. Diosdado M. Carpio member for a term of one year expiring November 27, 1951. The petitioners filed this action on January 20, 1951, to oust the respondents Dr. Germancio Carreon and Dr. Diosdado M. Carpio on the ground that, as the petitioners term of office have not yet expired and they have not either been removed from office for causes provided for in Section 8 of Republic Act No. 417, or abandoned their office or forfeited it by operation of some provisions of law, the

appointment of the said respondents to their respective position was null and void, and the latter are unlawfully holding the office of members of the Board of Dental Examiners. Whether or not the petitioners in the present case have been removed form their office for causes provided for in Section 8 Republic Act No. 417 is immaterial. It is also a well established rule that Congress may by law terminate the term of office of the petitioners at any time and even while the office is occupied by the incumbent, because there is no prohibition contained in the constitution. (Eraa vs. Vergel de Dios, 47 Off. Gaz., 2302). The only question for this Court to determine is whether it was the intention of Congress, in enacting Republic Act No. 546, to abolish all the preexisting Boards of Examiners existing after the time of the enactment thereof. If it were, the appointment of the respondents is valid and the petitioners have no right of action. Otherwise, the appointment of the respondents is invalid and they have no right to continue in office.

110

After a due consideration of this case, we are of the opinion, so hold, that the appointment of the respondent as members of the Board of Dental Examiners is valid. Although there is no express provisions in Republic Act No. 546 abolishing the pre-existing Board of Dental Examiner and other boards of examiners, created under Sections 785 and 787 of the Revised Administrative Code, as amended by Act No. 4007, and Republic Act No. 417, it is obvious that it was the intention of Congress to do so, because the provisions of said Republic Act are inconsistent with those of the Revised Administrative Code as amended by said Act No. 4007 and Republic Act No. 417. The last paragraph of Section 1 of said Republic Act No. 546 provides that "except as modified by this Act, all laws governing examinations given by the above-mentioned boards shall continue in force." In the case of Eraa vs. Vergel de Dios, this Court held that, because Sections 785 to 787 of the Revised Administrative Code as modified by Act No. 4007, and the Republic Act No. 417 contain

inconsistent provisions as to qualifications and tenure of office, and compensation, "transparent is the intention of the law maker to replace the pre-existing board with the new board created by Republic Act No. 417." Applying this ruling in that case to the present, a fortiori we have to conclude that it was the intention of Congress to replace all the pre-existing boards with the new boards created by Republic Act No. 546; because not only the qualifications for appointment of members of the board were raised, 10 years practice of the particular profession involved now being required instead of 5 years required under Republic Act No. 417, but the tenure of the office is fixed for a period of three years for all members of all Boards of Examiners, and their appointments under Republic Act No. 546 shall be made by the President upon the recommendation of the Commissioner of Civil Service, and the chairman of the respective Boards shall be appointed by the President and not merely designated by the respective Department heads; and because said Republic Act No. 546 now fixes a general and

111

uniforms pattern of composition and tenure of office of all government examining boards in order to create a continuing body, like the composition of the Philippine Senate. The petitioners main contention is that the inference made by this Court of Eraa vs. Vergel de Dios, supra, and reiterated now in the present case, cannot be made from the forgoing facts, because it would be contrary to the general principle of law, affirmed time and again in judicial decisions, to the effect that unless otherwise provided therein the provisions of law should be applied prospectively. We are sorry to say that this contention is not correct. To apply the provision of Republic Act No. 546 to the petitioners is not to apply it retrospectively, because to do so is to make said Act merely effective, not before, but after the date it was approved or became effective, and it will affect their continuance in office, not before but after the approval of Republic Act No. 546. The fact that they have been appointed prior thereto does not make said Act of retroactive effect. In the case

of Camacho vs. Court of Industrial Relations1 it was held that it is a well established rule recognized by all authorities without exception, that a retrospective or retroactive law is that which creates a new obligation, imposes a new duty or attaches a new disability in respect to a transaction already past;but that status is not made retrospective because it draws on antecedent facts for its operation, or in other words part of the requirements for its action and application is drawn from a time antedating its passage (See cases cited in 37 Words and Phrases, pp. 530- 533." But even if it were the intention of Congress to apply Republic Act No. 546 to the petitioners, let us say several months before the approval of Republic Act No. 546, so as to abolish them the Board of which they were members it would not make said Act unconstitutional and void, because it would not deprived them of any vested rights as already stated. In the same of Camacho vs. Court of Industrial Relations, supra, we also held the following : "But even if to apply Republic Act No. 34 to the tenancy

112

relations in agricultural year 1946-1947 between the parties would be tantamount to giving said Act retroactive or retrospective effect, our Constitution does not in terms prohibit the enactment of retrospective laws which do not impair the obligations of contract or deprived a person of property without due process of law, that is which do not divest rights of property and vested rights." Besides, the second paragraph, Section 10, of Republic Act No. 546, provides that all sixteen Boards of Examiners, including expressly the Board of Examiners, including expressly the Board of Dental Examiners, "shall each be composed of chairman and two members who shall be appointed by the President of the Philippines upon the recommendation of the Commissioner of Civil Service, . . . who shall serve for a period of three years . . . provided that the members of the first board to be appointed after the approval of this Act shall hold office for the following terms: chairman for three years, one member for two years, and one member for one year. "It is true that this, as a proviso, is

an exception to the general provision to the effect that the chairman and the two members of each Board of Examiners shall serve for a period of three years; and as it does not operate s a substantive enactment, it cannot alone or in itself be construed as a sufficient authority for the abolition of the preexisting boards at the time of the approval of Republic Act No. 546. But it may certainly be taken into consideration together with the other provisions of said Act in support of our opinion. Unless the preexisting Boards of Examiners including the Board of Dental Examiners be deemed abolished upon the approval of said Act, the abovequoted proviso could not be carried out, because the President of the Philippines can not, after the approval of Republic Act No. 546, appoint a new Board of Dental Examiners composed of three members, one for the term of three years as Chairman, one for the term of two years and another for one year. The most that the President could appoint, under the petitioners theory, is one member of the Board of Dental Examiners each year.

113

In view of the foregoing, the petitioners' action of quo warranto is dismissed with costs against them. So ordered. Paras, C.J., Pablo, Bengzon, Padilla, Tuason, Montemayor, Jugo, Reyes and Bautista Angelo, JJ., concur. G.R. No. L-34586 April 2, 1984 HOSPICIO NILO, petitioner, vs. HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS and ALMARIO GATCHALIAN, respondents. G.R. No. L-36625 April 2, 1984

FORTUNATO CASTRO, petitioner, vs. JUAN CASTRO, respondent. Lavides Law Office for petitioner. The Solicitor General for respondents. GUTIERREZ, JR., J.:+.wph!1 Under Section 36 (1) of Republic Act No. 3844, the Agricultural Land Reform Code, a landowner may eject an agricultural lessee or tenant on the ground that the owner shall personally cultivate the land himself. On September 10, 1971, Republic Act No. 6389, in amending Republic Act No. 3844, eliminated personal cultivation as a ground for the ejectment of the tenant or leaseholder. The issue

114

in these cases is whether or not the amendment in R.A. 6389 should be given retroactive effect to cover cases that were filed during the effectivity of the repealed provision. G.R. NO. L-34586 This is a petition for review on certiorari of the Court of Appeals' decision ruling that Republic Act No. 6389 has no retroactive effect. Respondent Almario Gatchalian is the owner of a parcel of riceland at Barrio San Roque, San Rafael, Bulacan with an area of two (2) hectares covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-76791 of the Registry of Deeds of Bulacan. Petitioner Hospicio Nilo has been the agricultural share-tenant of Gatchalian since agricultural year 1964-65. On February 22, 1967, petitioner filed a petition in C.A.R. Case No. 1676 with the Court of Agrarian Relations electing the leasehold system. On March 7, 1968, Gatchalian flied an ejectment suit against

petitioner on the ground of personal cultivation under Sec. 36 (1) of Republic Act No. 3844 which provides:t.hqw SEC. 36. Possession of Landholding, Exceptions. Notwithstanding any agreement as to the period or future surrender of the land, an agricultural lessee shall continue in the enjoyment and possession of his landholding except when his dispossession has been authorized by the Court in a judgment that is final and executory if after due hearing it is shown that: (1) The agricultural lessor-owner or a member of the immediate family will personally cultivate the landholding or will convert the landholding, if suitably located, into residential factory, hospital or school site or other useful non-agricultural purposes ... Nilo alleged by way of affirmative defense that the ejectment suit was but an act of reprisal and retaliation because he elected the leasehold system,

115

The two cases were heard jointly since they involved Identical landholding and parties. The Court of Agrarian Relations found that there was a bona fide intention to cultivate the land personally. The petitioner appealed to the respondent Court of Appeals which affirmed the decision of the Court of Agrarian Relations. The Court found no justification to unduly interfere with the desire of Gatchalian to personally cultivate his own land. The petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration contending that "personal cultivation as a ground for ejectment of an agricultural lessee has been eliminated under Republic Act No. 6389". The latter law which took effect on September 10, 1971 now provides:t.hqw (1) The landholding is declared by the department head upon recommendation of the National Planning Commission to be suited for residential commercial, industrial or some other urban purposes ....

The respondent Court of Appeals denied the motion resolving that Republic Act No. 6389 has no retroactive application. G.R. NO. L-36625 This is an appeal raised by petitioner Fortunato Castro to the Court of Appeals from the decision of the Court of Agrarian Relations dismissing his complaint for the ejectment of his tenant, respondent Juan Castro, on the ground of personal cultivation. The landowner wants to personally cultivate the land owned by him located in Pulilan, Bulacan with an area of 6,941 square meters. Petitioner Fortunato Castro questioned the constitutionality of Section 7 of Republic Act No. 6389 which amended Section 36(l) of Republic Act No. 3844. The Court of Appeals certified the appeal to this Court on the ground that the issue of the constitutionality of Republic Act No. 6389 fails squarely within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

116

The complaint in this case was filed by the petitioner with the Court of Agrarian Relations. The petitioner asked for the ejectment of his tenant Juan Castro. The latter in his answer alleged that the petitioner was not the owner of the landholding in question and that assuming the petitioner was the owner, he is nevertheless not qualified and fit to personally cultivate said landholding as he spends most of his time in mahjong sessions and in cockpits. After the enactment of Republic Act No. 6389 on September 10, 1971, the respondent moved for the dismissal of petitioner's complaint on the ground that the new law eliminated personal cultivation by the landowmer as a ground for the ejectment of an agricultural tenant. The Court of Agrarian Relations dismissed the complaint. A motion for reconsideration was denied. The petitioner appealed to the Court of Appeals alleging that: (1) the trial court erred in considering that Sec. 7 of Republic Act No. 6389 which amended Sec. 36 (1) of Republic Act No. 3844 has a retroactive effect on an cases

for ejectment of an agricultural lessee 'from his landholding on the ground of personal cultivation even if the said cases were filed long before the approval of the said Act; and (2) the trial court erred in not considering that Sec. 7 of Republic Act No. 6389 is unconstitutional which point was raised by appellant in his opposition to appellee's motion to dismiss the complaint and his motion for reconsideration of the order dated December 17, 1971. Since both cases involve the same issue of retroactivity, we shall resolve them together. The issue of whether or not Section 7 of Republic Act No. 6389 which amended Section 36 (1) of Republic Act No. 3844, repealing as a consequence "personal cultivation" as a cause for dispossession, should be given retroactive effect has spawned controversy. In Arambulo v. Conicon (CA-G.R. No. 46727-R, January 6, 1972) andPalpalatoc v. Pescador (CA-G.R. No. SP00089-R, February 22, 1972), the Court of Appeals held that the deletion of personal cultivation as a

117

cause for ejectment has retroactive application affecting even those cases pending in courts. The Arambulo case was elevated to the Supreme Court on certiorari but was denied in a minute resolution "for lack of merit" (G.R. No. L-34816, March 14, 1972). In other cases, however, the Court of Appeals held that Republic Act No. 6389 has no retroactive effect. InLorenzo v. Lorenzo (CA-G.R. No. 46842-R, September 4, 1971), the Court made a categorical statement that Republic Act No. 6389 has no retroactive effect. There are other cases where the appellate court split into two camps. In resolving the controversy, we first apply established rules of statutory construction. Article 3 of the old Civil Code (now Article 4 of the New Civil Code) provides that: "Laws shall not have a retroactive effect unless therein otherwise provided." According to this provision of law, in order that a law may have retroactive effect it is necessary that an express provision to this effect be

made in the law, otherwise nothing should be understood which is not embodied in the law. Furthermore, it must be borne in mind that a law is a rule established to guide our actions with no binding effect until it is enacted, wherefore, it has no application to past times but only to future time, and that is why it is said that the law looks to the future only and has no retroactive effect unless the legislator may have formally given that effect to some legal provisions (Lopez and Lopez v. Crow, 40 Phil. 997). As early as 1913, this Court with Justice Moreland as ponente announced:t.hqw The Act contains, as is seen, no express words giving it a retrospective or retroactive effect, nor is there anything found therein which indicates an intention to give it such an effect. Its effect is, rather, by clear intendment, prospective.

118

It is a rule of statutory construction that all statutes are to be construed as having only a prospective operation unless the purpose and intention of the Legislature to give them a retrospective effect is expressly declared or is necessarily implied from the language used. In every case of doubt, the doubt must be solved against the retrospective effect. The cases supporting this rule are almost without number. In the case of Reynold v. M'Arthur (2 Pet., 416, 434), it was said that It is a principle which has always been held sacred in the United States, that laws by which human action is to be regulated, look forward not backward; and are never to be construed retrospectively, unless the language of the Act shall render such construction indispensable. In the case of Leate v. St. Louis State Bank (115 Mo., 184), it was held that

In construing statutes in regard to whether their action is to be prospective or retrospective, all the adjudicated cases and all the text-writers with unbroken uniformity unite in declaring 'that they are to operate prospectively and not otherwise unless the intent that they are to operate in such an unusual way, to wit, retrospectively, is manifested on the face of the statute in a manner altogether free from ambiguity. The case of Berdan v. Van Riper (16 N.J.L., 7) holds that where a statute is susceptible of construction as both prospective and retrospective, the former construction will be adopted, but especially if the retrospective operation will work injustice to anyone. ... (de Montilla v. La Corporacion de PP. Agustinos; Ancajas v. Jakosalem, 24 Phil. 220). The doctrine of non-retroactivity was reiterated in the case of Segovia v. Noel (47 Phil. 543). Thus t.hqw

119

A sound canon of statutory construction is that a statute operates prospectively only and never retroactively, unless the legislative intent to the contrary is made manifest either by the express terms of the statute or by necessary implication. Following the lead of the United States Supreme Court and putting the rule more strongly, a statute ought not to receive a construction making it act retroactively, unless the words used are so clear, strong, and imperative that no other meaning can be annexed to them, or unless the intention of the legislature cannot be otherwise satisfied. No court will hold a statute to be retroactive when the legislature has not said so. ... (Farrel v. Pingree (1888), 5 Utah, 443; 16 Pac., 843; Greer v. City of Asheville [1894], 114 N. C., 495; United States Fidelity & Guaranty Co. v. Struthers Wells Co. [1907], 209 U.S., 306;) An earlier opinion to the same effect is In re Will of Riosa (39 Phil. 23). This is still the rule and it has stood the test of time (Asiatic Petroleum Co. v. Llanes, 49 Phil. 466; De Mesa v. Collector of Internal

Revenue, 53 Phil. 342; Hosana v. Diomano, 56 Phil. 741; China Insurance & Surety Co. v. Judge of lst Inst. of Manila, 63 Phil. 320; La Paz Ice Plant & Cold Storage Co., Inc. v. Bordman and Iloilo Commercial & Ice Co., 65 Phil. 401; The Manila Trading & Supply Co. v. Santos, 66 Phil. 237; La Previsora Filipina v. Ledda, 66 Phil. 573; Tolentino v. Alzate, 98 Phil. 781; Tolentino v. Angeles, 99 Phil. 309; Tamayo v. Manila Hotel Co., 101 Phil. 810; Valencia v. Hon. Jose T. Surtida, 2 SCRA 622; Buyco v. PNB, 2 SCRA 682; Billiones v. Court of Industrial Relations and Villardo v. Court of Industrial Relations, 14 SCRA 676; Lazaro v. Commissioner of Customs, 17 SCRA 36; Universal Corn Products, Inc. v. Rice and Corn Board, 20 SCRA 1048; Cebu Portland Cement Co. v. Collector of Internal Revenue, 25 SCRA 789). A restatement of the doctrine was made in the case of Espiritu v. Cipriano (55 SCRA 533.) Thus t.hqw

120

xxx xxx xxx ... Well-settled is the principle that while the Legislature has the power to pass retroactive laws which do not impair the obligation of contracts, or affect injuriously vested rights, it is equally true that statutes are not to be construed as intended to have a retroactive effect so as to affect pending proceedings, unless such intent is expressly declared or clearly and necessary implied from the language of the enactment. ... (Jones v. Summers, 105 Cal. App. 51, 286 Pac. 1093; U.S. v. Whyel 28 F (2d) 30.) The general rule therefore, is that statutes have no retroactive effect unless otherwise provided therein (Philippine Virginia Tobacco Administration v. Gonzales, 92 SCRA 172). To exemplify this doctrine, in Salcedo v. Court of Appeals (81 SCRA 408), we held that Republic Act No. 2260 or the Civil Service Act of 1959 has no retroactive effect. In Padasas v. Court of Appeals (82 SCRA 250),

we held that the Agricultural Land Reform Code or Republic Act No. 3844 must be enforced prospectively and not retroactively and therefore, the rights created, granted, or recognized therein such as the right of redemption accrued upon the enactment of said legislation and may be exercised thereafter in appropriate cases. In Jacinto v. Court of Appeals (87 SCRA 263) reiterated in Castro v. Court of Appeals (99 SCRA 722) and in Baltazar v. Court of Appeals (104 SCRA 619), we held that Presidential Decrees Nos. 27, 316, and 946 cannot be applied retroactively. More important than resort to statutory construction in determining the issue of retroactivity is the ascertainment of the objectives sought to be realized by the Code of Agrarian Reforms. In the declaration of policy in Republic Act No. 6389, the applicable objectives are:t.hqw xxx xxx xxx

121

(2) To achieve a dignified existence for the sman farmers free from pernicious institutional restraints and practices; xxx xxx xxx (6) To make the small farmers more independent, self-reliant and responsible citizens and a source of genuine strength in our democratic society. It is the legislature which determines the policy objectives of reform legislation. This Court would be thwarting and not promoting the objectives of Congress if we rule against the small landowners in this case. The national goal of having independent and self reliant farmers tilling their own small landholdings would not be achieved if persons who own only two hectares or 6,941 square meters of land as in the instant cases cannot be allowed to work their land themselves but must be compelled to perpetuate a lessor-lessee relationship. The desire of Congress to achieve a

"dignified existence for the small farmers" is not served if two families one landowner and one tenant must share the measly produce from 6,941 square meters of land. Land reform and agrarian reform were intended to equalize opportunities for land ownership, to enable a diffusion and sharing of wealth and not a sharing of poverty or a fragmentation of tenanted farms into noneconomic sizes. We are aware of the deliberations and debates in Congress on Republic Act No. 6389. We stated in Aisporna v. Court of Appeals (108 SCRA 481).t.hqw That it was the intention of the legislature in amending paragraph (1), sec. 36 of R.A. 3844 to deprive the landowner of the right to eject his tenant on the ground that the former would personally cultivate the land and also to abate cases brought by the landowner to eject the tenant on the same grounds which were still pending at the time of the passage of the amendatory act, is clear and evident from

122

the deliberations and debate of Congress when Republic Act 6389 was being deliberated, as published in the Senate Journal .... This Aisporna case is, however, notably distinct from the two cases now before us. In Aisporna, the court ordered the petitioner tenant ejected on the ground of personal cultivation by the landowner. The court order became final and executory. One year after his ejectment, Aisporna availed himself of his remedies under the law and filed a case for reinstatement with damages alleging that the owner failed to cultivate the land himself. The trial court ruled in favor of Aisporna. However, on appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed the decision stating that during the pendency of the action for reinstatement, the law was amended and personal cultivation as a ground to eject a tenant was removed. The appellate court opined that with the abolition of personal cultivation as a basis for ejectment, the corollary proviso on reinstatement:t.hqw

... Provided, further, That should the landholder not cultivate the land himself for three years or fail to substantially carry out such conversion within one year after the dispossession of the tenant, it shall be presumed that he acted in bad faith and the tenant shall have the right to demand possession of the land and recover damages for any loss incurred by him because of said dispossession. was also eliminated. The issue in Aisporna was the right of the tenant to recover his status vis-a-vis the landholding from whence he was ejected. To sustain the appellate decision would have resulted in a plain case of injustice to the tenant and a condonation of bad faith. Our pronouncements on retroactivity dealt with this issue alone and to the extent that theAisporna decision may be interpreted as covering factual situations similar to the two cases now before us, to that extent we make it clear that it does not do so.

123

It is true that during the debates on the bill which was later enacted into Republic Act No. 3844, there were statements on the floor that "the owner will lose the right to eject after the enactment of this measure" even in cases where the owner has not really succeeded yet in ejecting the tenants (Senate Journal, Nos. 43 and 44, March 30 and 31, 1971, 2nd Regular Session 7th Congress). Nonetheless and inspite of these remarks, Congress failed to express an intention to make Republic Act No. 6389 retroactive and to cover ejectment cases on the ground of personal cultivation then pending adjudication by the courts.t.hqw ... In the interpretation of a legal document, especially a statute, unlike in the interpretation of an ordinary written document, it is not enough to obtain information as to the intention or meaning of the author or authors, but also to see whether the intention or meaning has been expressed in such a way as to give it legal effect and validity. In short, the purpose of the inquiry, is not only to know what

the author meant by the language he used, but also to see that the language used sufficiently expresses that meaning. The legal act, so to speak, is made up of two elements-an internal and an external one; it originates in intention and is perfected by expression. Failure of the latter may defeat the former. (59 C.J.S. 1017; Manila Jockey Club, Inc. v. Games and Amusement Board, 107 Phil. 151). In the case of Manila Jockey Club, Inc. v. Games and Amusements Board, supra, we held that legislative debates are expressive of the views and motives of individual members and are not always safe guides and, hence, may not be resorted to, in ascertaining the meaning and purpose of the lawmaking body. It is impossible to determine with certainty what construction was put upon an act by the members of the legislative body that passed the bill, by resorting to the speeches of the members thereof. Those who did not speak, may not have agreed with those who did; and those who spoke,

124

might differ from each other (Sutherland on Statutory Construction, 499-501; Ramos vs. Alverez, 97 Phil. 844). There have been cases in the past where we adhered to this doctrine. Thus, we held that individual statements made by Senators on the floor of the Senate do not necessarily reflect the view of the Senate. Much less do they indicate the intent of the House of Representatives (Casco Phil. Chem. Co., Inc. v. Gimenez, 7 SCRA 347; Resins, Inc. v. Auditor General, 25 SCRA 754). Accordingly, they are not controlling in the interpretation of the law in question (Phil. Assn. of Government Retirees, Inc. v. GSIS, 14 SCRA 610). Some statements may be deemed to be a mere personal opinion of the legislator (Mayon Motors, Inc. vs. Acting Com. of Internal Revenue, 1 SCRA 918).

The interpretation of statutes is for the courts. And the courts are not necessarily bound by one legislator's opinion, expressed in Congressional debates, concerning the apPlication of existing laws (Song Kiat Chocolate Factory vs. Central Bank of the Phils., 102 Phil. 477). The petitioner-tenant in G.R. No. L-34586 contends that since Republic Act No. 6389 is a social legislation and passed under the police power of the State, it should be liberally interpreted in favor of the tenants. We agree with the petitioner-tenant that the law in question is social legislation. But social justice is not for tenants alone. The disputed land in L-36625 is only 6,941 square meters. The area of the land in L-34586 is slightly bigger, about two (2) hectares. A person with only one or two hectares of land to his name is equally deserving of social justice.

125

A majority of the landowners affected by the appeal of personal cultivation" as a ground for the ejectment of a tenant own small landholdings. The records of Senate Bill No. 478 which eventually became Republic Act No. 6389 reveal that the repeal has affected an estimated 75% of landowners in the country who own tenanted lands of less than 3 hectares, 40% of those who own 5 hectares or less and 96% of landowners who own an area of less than 10 hectares each. Many of these landowners who filed actions for ejectment on this ground are retirees who have opted to leave the stresses and strains of city life and to return to their home towns to personally cultivate their small landholdings. They are teachers, clerks, nurses, and other hardworking and frugal people who in a lifetime of sacrifice gathered their pitiful little savings and purchased small farms to supplement the inadequate pensions from the Government Service Insurance System or the Social Security System. The owners of the lots in these cases had the bona fideintention to personally

cultivate their lands as proven and found by the trial courts. To hold that they can no longer eject their tenants because of Republic Act No. 6389 would deprive them of their right to enjoy their property which they had already asserted before the statute was passed. Precisely, the legislators, in providing "personal cultivation" as a ground to eject tenants intended to encourage and attract the landowners to go to their respective provinces and till their own lands. Unfortunately, the ground of "personal cultivation" was abused and used as a pretext to eject the tenant and this led to the amendatory law. This unfortunate consequence should not work an injustice upon those small landowners proven to have the bona fide intention to personally cultivate their lands. In Gonzales v. GSIS (107 SCRA 492), we held that:t.hqw It should also be borne in mind that Republic Act No. 3844, then known as the Agricultural land Reform Code, is a social legislation whose implementation has been made more imperative by

126

Section 6, Article 11 of the 1973 Constitution. It is designed to promote economic and social Stability. It must be interpreted liberally to give full force and effect to its clear intent. This liberality in interpretation, however, should not accrue solely in favor of actual tillers of the land, the tenantfarmers, but should extend to landowners as well, especially those owning ,"small landholdings", by which is meant landholdings of 24 hectares and less than 24 hectares. These landowners constitute part of the economic Middle class which the Government is trying to build. They deserve as much consideration as the tenants themselves in order not to create an economic dislocation, were tenants solely favored but this particular group of landowners impoverished. (See "Whereas", clauses of LOI No. 143). In Cabatan v. Court of Appeals (95 SCRA 323), we similarly held that:t.hqw

... the reliance by the tenants-lessees on"social justice"as a reason to support the continuance of an unjust and inequitable rental rate is not only improper but would countenance and perpetuate an injustice against the landholder-lessor. This, the constitutional precept of "social justice" was never meant to do. xxx xxx xxx Social justice as thus defined and in its true meaning is not meant to countenance, much less perpetuate, an injustice against any group-not even as against landholders. For the landholders as a component unit or element in our agro-industrial society are entitled to 'equal justice under law' which our courts are, above everything else, under mandate of the Constitution to dispense fairly, without fear nor favor. xxx xxx xxx

127

... A cursory study of the long line of decisions on social justice will readily reveal, however, that the concept has been fleshed out-the principle, conceptualized as Justice Laurel enjoined in the celebrated case of Calalang vs. Williams not thru mistaken sympathy for or misplaced antipathy against any group whether labor or capital, landlord or tenant but evenhandedly and fairly, thru the observance of the principle of "equal justice under law," for all and each and every element of the body politic." (Eg. Calalang vs. Williams, 70 Phil. 726 (1940) cited, supra; Guido vs. Rural Progress Administration, 47 O.G. 1848, (1949) 84 Phil. 847, a reconciliation between conflicting claims of social justice and protection to property and rights; Militona Estate Inc. vs. De Guzman, et al., No. L-11912 (1959), 105 Phil. 1296 (unreported). In Dequito v. Llamas, (66 SCRA 504) we ruled that the petitioner-tenant ought to know that if he has rights to protection as a tenant, the landowner has also rights under the law. The protective mantle of

social justice cannot be utilized as an instrument to hoodwink courts of justice and undermine the rights of landowners on the plea of helplessness and heartless exploitation of the tenant by the landowner. Our decision to deny retroactive effect to the amendatory provision gains added strength from later developments. Under the 1973 Constitution, it is even more emphasized that property ownership is impressed with a social function. This means that the owner has the obligation to use his property not only to benefit himself but society as well. Hence, the Constitution provides under Section 6 of Article II that in the promotion of social justice, the State "shall regulate the acquisition, ownership, use, enjoyment, and disposition of private property, and equitably diffuse property ownership and profits." The Constitution also ensures that the worker shall have a just and living wage which should assure for himself and his

128

family an existence worthy of human dignity and give him opportunities for a better life (Sections 7 and 9, Article II) (Alfanta vs, Noe, 53 SCRA 76; Almeda vs. Court of Appeals, 78 SCRA 194). In line with the above mandates, this Court upheld the constitutionality of Presidential Decree No. 27, which decrees the emancipation of tenants from the bondage of the soil and transferred to them the ownership of the land they till, in Gonzales v. Estrella (91 SCRA 294). We noted the imperative need for such a decree in Chavez v. Zobel (55 SCRA 26). We held in the latter case that "on this vital policy question, one of the utmost concern, the need for what for some is a radical solution in its pristine sense, one that goes at the root, was apparent. Presidential Decree No. 27 was thus conceived. ... There is no doubt then, as set forth expressly therein, that the goal is emancipation. What is more, the decree is now part and parcel of the law of the land according to the present Constitution."

Significantly, P.D. No. 27, which decrees the emancipation of the tenant from the bondage of the soil, transfers to him the ownership of the land he tills, and provides instruments and mechanisms therefor, has recognized personal cultivation as a ground for retention and, therefore, exemption from the land transfer decree. Personal cultivation cannot be effected unless the tenant gives up the land to the owner. Presidential Decree No. 27 provides:t.hqw In all cases, the landowner may retain an area of not more than seven (7) hectares if such landowner is cultivating such area or will now cultivate it. The redistribution of land, restructuring of property ownership, democratization of political power, and implementation of social justice do not require that a landowner should be deprived of everything he owns and that even small parcels as in these two cases now before us may not be worked by the

129

owner himself. The evil sought to be remedied by agrarian reform is the ancient anachronism where one person owns the land while another works on it. The evil is not present in cases of personal cultivation by the owner. Taking over by the landowner is subject to strict requirements. In addition to proof of ownership and the required notices to the tenant, the bona-fide intention to cultivate must be proved to the satisfaction of the court. And as earlier stated, the tenant is Protected in case the owner fails to cultivate the land within one year or to work the land himself for three years. The seven hectares retention under P.D. No. 27 is applicable only to landowners who do not own other agricultural lands containing an aggregate of more than seven hectares or lands used for residential commercial industry or other urban purposes where they derive adequate income to support themselves and their families. (Letter of Instruction No. 472 dated October 21, 1976).

To Support his petition, Fortunate Castro in L-36625 asserts that Section 7 of Republic Act No. 6389 is unconstitutional The amended provision reads:t.hqw xxx xxx xxx (1) The landholding is declared by the department head upon rommendation of the National Planning Commission to be suited for residential commercial industrial or some other urban purposes: Provided, That the agricultural lessee shag be entitled to disturbance compensation equivalent to five times the average of the gross harvests on his landholding during the last five preceding calendar years. . There appears to be nothing unconstitutional in the above provision. If Mr. Castro is challenging agrarian reform itself, then his challenge is puerile if not hopeless. We ruled in Vda, de Genuino v.

130

Court of Agrarian Relations (22 SCRA 792) that the Agricultural Land Reform Code is valid and justified. In Paulo v. Court of Appeals (54 SCRA 253) we ruled:t.hqw ... Land Reform which is now transforming the rural existence of the farmers, has become more imperative in view of the provisions of the New Constitution. Thus Section 6, Article II thereof directs that 'the State shag promote social justice to insure the dignity, welfare and security of all the people,' and for the attainment of this end, directs that 'the State shall regulate the acquisition, ownership, use, enjoyment, and diffuse of private property, and equitably diffuse ownership and profits.' Section 6, Article XVII of the Transitory Provisions provides that the implementation of declared agrarian reforms' shall be given priority. There is no question that the massive overhaul of the system of land ownership by the transfer to the tenants of the ownership of the land they till and the grant to them of

the instruments and mechanisms to increase their land's productivity will decisively improve the people's livelihood and promote political and social stability. And, of course, Section 12 of Article XIV specifically mandates that "the State shad formulate and implement an agrarian reform program aimed at emancipating the tenant from the bondage of the soil and achieving the goals enunciated in this Constitution." At any rate, there is no need to pass upon the constitutional issue for the purpose of resolving the narrow question of retroactivity of the questioned provision. WHEREFORE, the petition in G.R. No. L-34586 is denied for lack of merit and the questioned decision of the Court of Appeals is aimed. In G.R. No. L-36625, the questioned order of the lower court is set aside and the case is remanded to the Regional Trial Court of Bulacan for trial on the merits.

131

SO ORDERED.1wph1.t Makasiar, Actg. C.J., Concepcion, Jr., Guerrero, De Castro, Melencio-Herrera, Plana, Escolin, Relova and De la Fuente, JJ., concur. Abad Santos, J., concur in the result. Aquino, J., took no part. Fernando, C.J. , and Teehankee, J., are on leave. G.R. No. L-7140 December 22, 1955 THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. ESTEBAN ZETA, defendant-appellant.

Quimbo, Mendiola & Quimbo for appellant. Office of the Solicitor General Querube Makalintal and Solicitor Ramon L. Avancena for appellee. LABRADOR, J.: This is an appeal from the judgment of the Court of First Instance of Samar, finding Esteban Zeta guilty of a violation of Republic Act No. 145 (which took effect on June 14, 1947), for having solicited, charged demanded and collected a fee or compensation of P300 for assisting on Eugenio Albiza in the preparation, presentation and prosecution of his claim for benefits under the laws of the United States. Eugenio Albiza, an enlisted man of the Philippine Army and later of the United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE), suffered disability in the course of rendering services for the army in

132

Aparri, Cagayan in the year 1942. On November 6, 1946, he promised to pay Mr. Esteban Zeta 5 per cent of any mount he may receive as a result of his claim for backpay, insurance or any other privileges granted by law (Exhibit 1). Zeta prepared the necessary papers for disability compensation and as a result Albiza received the sum of P5,919 from the United States Veterans Administration. In pursuance of the contract, Albiza paid Zeta the sums of P200 on June 7, 1951 and P100 on June 11, 1951. The law in force at the time of the execution of that agreement (Exhibit 1) was Commonwealth Act No. 675, section 11 of which provides as follows: No attorney, agent, or other person in charge of the preparation, filing, or pursuing of any claim for arrears in pay and allowances under this Act shall demand or charge for his services fees more than five per centum of the total money value of such arrears in pay and allowances, and said fees shall

become due and demandable only after the payment of the said arrears in pay and allowances is received by the widow or orplan entitled thereto. The retention or deduction of any amount from any such arrears in pay and allowances for the payment of fees for such services is prohibited A violation of any provision of this section shall be punished by imprisonment of from 6 months to 1 year, or by a fine of from six hundred to one thousand pesos, or by both such imprisonment and fine, But on June 14, 1947, Republic Act No. 145 was passed. It provides: Any person assisting a claimant in the preparation, presentation and prosecution of his claim for benefits under the laws of the United States administered by the United States Veterans Administration who shall, directly or indirectly, solicit, contract for, charge, or receive,m or who shall attempt to solicit, contract for, charge, or receive any fee or compensation exceeding twenty pesos in any one claim, or who shall collect his fee before the claim is actually paid to a beneficiary or

133

claimant, shall be deemed guilty of an offense and upon conviction therof shall for every offense be fined not exceeding one thousand pesos or imprisonment not exceeding two years or both, in the discretion of the court.lawphi1.net The trial court held that upon the passage of Republic Act No. 145, the agreement for the payment of a 5 per cent fee on the amount collected was voided and compliance therewith became illegal; so it sentenced the defendant-appellant to pay a fine of P200, to indemnify Eugenio Albiza in the sum of P280, or suffer subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency, and to pay the costs. On this appeal, defendant-appellant's counsel contends that the application of Republic Act No. 145 to the defendant-appellant for having charged and collected the fee of 5 per cent is an infringement of the constitutional prohibition against ex post facto laws. And the case of U.S. vs. Diaz Conde, et al., 42 Phil., 766, is cited for the principle that law impairing the obligations of a contract is null and void;

that a law must be construed prospectively, not retroactively, so that if it is legal at its inceptionit can not be declared illegal by subsequent legislation, otherwise the sanctity of contracts will be impaired in violation of the organic law. In this case the defendant-appellant had collected interest in the years 1915 and 1916 at the rate of 5 per cent per month, an interest in excess of that authorized by the Usury Law (Act No. 2655), which took effect In May, 1916, and the court held that the collection of the said interest was legal at the time it was made and that it cannot be declared illegal by any subsequent legislation. This case is not exactly in point, because when the Usury Law was passed the interest had already been collected; whereas in the case at bar the collection of the fee was effected after Republic Act No. 145 had been passed. The claim that said Act is an ex post facto law is not fully justified because although the services were rendered before the Act took effect, collection for said services did not take place until after the law became effective.

134

In defense of the judgment of conviction, the Solicitor General argues that contracts are not beyond the reach of legislation by Congress in the proper exercise of the police power of the State, and as Republic Act No. 145 was enacted in pursuance thereto, its applicability to the appellant must be sustained; that the rights of defendant-appellant under the contract, Exhibit 1, had not become absolute at the time of the enactment of Republic Act No. 154, because the agreed fee had not been collected, so that the non-impairment of contracts clause of the Constitution is not applicable thereto. Without passing upon the above arguments of both parties, we note that it does not appear from the language of the law itself, or from any other circumstances, that the Legislature had intended to give its provisions any retroactive effect such as to affect contracts entered into under the sanction of the previous law (Commonwealth Act No. 675). We must, therefor, consider it prospective, not retroactive.

. . . The presumption, however, is that all laws operate prospectively only and only when the legislative has clearly indicated its intention that the law operate retroactively will the courts so apply it. Retroactive operation will more readily be ascribed to legislation that is curative or legalizing than to legislation which may disadvantageously, though legally, effect past relations and transactions. (2 Sutherland Statutory Construction, p. 243.). . . . Beginning with Kent's dictum in Dash vs. Van Kleeck, it has been continuously reaffirmed that 'The rule is that statutes are prospective, and will not be construed to have retroactive operation, unless the language employed in the enactment is so clear it will admit of no other construction.( Id., p. 135.). Besides, it should not be interpreted in a manner that would render its application violative of a constitutional inhibition.

135

Strict construction to prevent retroactive operation has often been applied in order that the statute would not violate contract obligations or interfere with vested rights. The principal explanation offered by the courts, however, is that the statute must be construed so as to sustain its constitutionality and thus prospective operation will be presumed where a retroactive operation would produce invalidity. (2 Sutherland Statutory Construction, supra, p. 135.).lawphi1.net It is also argued that the right of appellant to collect the 5 per cent fee was contingent merely and did not become absolute, complete and unconditional until the compensation benefits had been collected and said right is not protected by the non-impairment clause of the Constitution. A renowned authority on statutory construction, however states that the distinction between vested and absolute rights is not helpful, and that "a better way to handle the problem" is "to declare those statutes attempting to affect rights which the court finds to be unalterable, invalid as arbitrary and unreasonable, thus

lacking in due process" some courts having recognized that the real issue in the reasonableness of the particular enactment (Sutherland Statutory Construction, Vol. 2, pp. 121-122). The 5 per cent fee fixed in Commonwealth Act No. 675 is to Us not unreasonable. Services were rendered thereunder to complainant's benefit. The right to the fees accrued upon such rendition. Only the payment of the fee was contingent upon the approval of the claim; therefore, the right was not contingent. For a right to accrue is one thing; enforcement thereof by actual payment is another. The subsequent law enacted after the rendition of the services should not as a matter of simple justice affect the agreement, which was entered into voluntarily by the parties as expressly directed in the previous law. To apply the new law to the case of the defendant-appellant such as to deprive him of the agreed fee would be arbitrary and unreasonable as destructive of the inviolability of contracts, and therefore invalid as lacking in

136

due process; to penalize him for collecting such fees, repugnant to our sense of justice. Such could not have been the legislative intent in the enactment of Republic Act 145. In resume, we hold that Republic Act No. 145 must be given prostective application only, and may not be given retroactive effect such as to affect rights that had accrued under a contract expressly sanctioned by a previous law (C. A. 675). The judgment appealed from is hereby reversed and the defendant-appellant, acquitted, with costs de oficio. So ordered. Paras, C. J., Bengzon, Padilla, Montemayor, Reyes, A., Jugo, Bautista Angelo, Concepcion, and Reyes, J. B. L., JJ., concur. G.R. No. 122641 January 20, 1997

BAYANI SUBIDO, JR. and RENE PARINA, petitioners, vs. THE HONORABLE SANDIGANBAYAN and THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents. DAVIDE, JR., J.: In this petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, the petitioners seek to set aside, on ground of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction, the following acts of the respondent Sandiganbayan in Criminal Case No. 22825: (a) the Resolution 1 of 25 October 1995 which denied the petitioners' Motion to Quash of 28 August 1995 and Supplementary Motion to Quash of 7 October 1995; (b) the Order 2 of 10 November 1995 which denied the petitioners' motion

137

for reconsideration; and (c) the Orders 3 of 10 November 1995 which entered a plea of not guilty for the petitioners and set pre-trial on 12 January 1996. In Criminal Case No. 22825, the petitioners were charged with Arbitrary Detention, defined and penalized by Article 124 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), under an information dated 17 July 1995 (but filed on 28 July 1995), the accusatory portion of which reads as follows: That on or about June 25, 1992, or sometime subsequent thereto, in Mandaluyong, Metro Manila, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, Bayani Subido, Jr., being then a Commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID) and accused Rene Parina, being then a BID Special Agent, while in the performance of their official functions, and conspiring and confederating with each other, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously cause the issuance and implementation of a warrant of arrest dated June 25, 1992

against James J. Maksimuk, said accused knowing fully well that the BID Decision dated June 6, 1991, requiring Maksimuk's deportation has not as yet become final and executory considering the pendency of a Motion for Reconsideration, resulting in the detention of the latter for a period of fortythree (43) days and, thus, causing him undue injury. CONTRARY TO LAW. 4 The arraignment was originally set for 28 August 1995. 5 On 28 August 1995, however, the petitioners filed a Motion to Quash, 6 contending that in view of the effectivity of R.A. No. 7975 7 on 6 May 1995, amending 4 of P.D. No. 1606, 8 the Sandiganbayan had no jurisdiction over both the offense charged and the persons of the accused. They argued that: (1) Arbitrary Detention did not fall within Chapter II, 2, Title VII of the RPC, but within 1, Chapter 1, Title II (Crimes Against the Fundamental Laws of the State), hence, not covered by R.A. No. 7975

138

and, therefore, the case should have been filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila; (2) R.A. No. 7975 should be given prospective application and at the time the case was filed, petitioner Subido was already a private person since he was separated from the service on 28 February 1995; while petitioner Parina did not hold a position corresponding to salary grade "27"; and (3) penal laws must be strictly construed against the State. In compliance with the order of the Sandiganbayan, the prosecution filed its Opposition to the Motion to Quash 9on 28 September 1995. It contended that it was clear from 4(b) of R.A. No. 7975 that the Sandiganbayan had jurisdiction over both the offense charged and the persons of the accused considering that "the basis of its jurisdiction . . . is the position of the accused in the government service when the offense charged was committed and not the nature of the offense charged, provided

the said offense committed by the accused was in the exercise of his duties and in relation to his office." The fact then that accused Subido was already a private individual was of no moment. In a Supplement to the Motion to Quash 10 filed on 9 October 1995, the petitioners further asserted that: (1) the allegations in the information were vague; (2) under 1, Rule VIII of Memorandum Order (MO) No. 04-92 (Rules of Procedure to Govern Deportation Proceedings), the grant or denial of bail to an alien in a deportation proceeding was discretionary upon the Commissioner, hence could not be subject to a charge of arbitrary detention; (3) petitioner Subido was separated from the service before the effectivity of R.A. No. 7975, hence retroactive application thereof would be prejudicial to him; and (4) at the time the information was filed, petitioner Parina was not occupying a position corresponding to salary grade "27" or higher, as prescribed by R.A. No. 6758. 11

139

In its Rejoinder 12 filed on 20 October 1995, the prosecution maintained that with 4 of MO No. 0492, Salazar v.Achacoso, 13 and Gatchalian v. CID, 14 the only instance when an alien facing deportation proceedings could be arrested by virtue of a warrant of arrest was when the Commissioner issued the warrant to carry out a final order of deportation, which was absent in this case due to the pendency of the motion for reconsideration timely filed. It further reiterated that the basis of the Sandiganbayan's jurisdiction over the case was the position of the accused when the crime was committed, not when the information was filed; in any event, petitioner Subido's position as a Commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration was classified even higher than grade "27" under the Compensation and Classification Act of 1989. In its Resolution 15 of 25 October 1995, the Sandiganbayan denied the petitioners' Motion to Quash and the Supplement thereto, ruling:

1. [T]he jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan remains not only over the specific offenses enumerated in Sec. 4 of P.D. 1606 as Amended by R.A. 7975 but over offenses committed in relation to their office, regardless of the penalty provided that the salary of the accused is at Grade 27 under [R.A. 6758] or that he is occupying any of the position described in Sec. 4(a)e of the law, which includes the position of Deputy Commissioner. 2. [A]t this time the position of the prosecution in response to this Court's misgivings stated in its Order of August 28, 1995, appears to be that aliens may not be arrested except upon execution of a deportation order, a matter which can be taken up at further proceedings after the arraignment of the accused. It likewise set arraignment on 10 November 1995. To abort arraignment, the petitioners filed on 9 November 1995 a motion for reconsideration 16 and submitted that under the vast power of the

140

Commissioner of the Department of Immigration, he could authorize the arrest and detention of an alien even though a deportation order had not yet become final, in light of the preventive, not penal, nature of a deportation order. 17 On 10 November 1995, the Sandiganbayan issued an Order 18 denying the petitioners' motion for reconsideration, and a second Order 19 entering a plea of not guilty in favor of the petitioners since they objected to arraignment, setting pre-trial on 12 January 1996, and making of record that arraignment was conducted with the reservation of the petitioners to seek redress with this Court from the denial of their motion for reconsideration. Hence, this special civil action, where the parties, in the main, reiterate the arguments they raised before the Sandiganbayan. In due time, we resolved to give clue course to the petition and required the parties to file their respective memoranda, which they subsequently complied with.

The petition must be dismissed. Sections 2 and 7 of R.A. No. 7975 pertinently provide as follows: Sec. 2. Section 4 of [P.D. No. 1606] is hereby further amended to read as follows: Sec. 4. Jurisdiction. The Sandiganbayan shall exercise original jurisdiction in all cases involving: a. Violations of Republic Act No. 3019, as amended, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Republic Act No. 1379, and Chapter II, Section 2, Title VII of the Revised Penal Code, where one or more of the principal accused are officials occupying the following positions in the government, whether in a permanent, acting or interim capacity, at the time of the commission of the offense:

141

(1) Officials of the executive branch occupying the positions of regional director and higher, otherwise classified as grade 27 and higher, of the Compensation and Position Classification Act of 1989 (Republic Act No. 6758), specifically including: xxx xxx xxx (5) All other national and local officials classified as Grade "27" and higher under the Compensation and Position Classification Act of 1989. b. Other offenses or felonies committed by the public officials and employees mentioned in subsection (a) of this section in relation to their office. c. Civil and criminal cases filed pursuant to and in connection with Executive Order Nos. 1, 2, 14 and 14-A..

In cases where none of the principal accused are occupying positions corresponding to salary grade "27" or higher, as prescribed in said Republic Act No. 6758, or PNP officers occupying the rank of superintendent or higher, or their equivalent, exclusive jurisdiction thereof shall be vested in the proper Regional Trial Court, Metropolitan Trial Court, Municipal Trial Court, and Municipal Circuit Trial Court, as the case may be, pursuant to their respective jurisdiction as provided in Batas Pambansa Blg. 129. Sec. 7. Upon the effectivity of this Act, all criminal cases in which trial has not begun in the Sandiganbayan shall be referred to the proper courts. R.A. No. 7975 took effect on 16 May 1995, 20 or one year, ten months and twenty-one days after the alleged commission of the crime charged in Criminal Case No. 22825 before the Sandiganbayan. The provisions of 4 of P.D. No. 1606, as amended by E.O. No. 184, but prior to their further amendment

142

by R.A. No. 7975, are then the applicable provisions, 4 of P.D. No. 1606 then pertinently provided as follows: Sec. 4. Jurisdiction. The Sandiganbayan shall exercise: (a) Exclusive appellate jurisdiction in all cases involving: (1) violations of Republic Act No. 3019, as amended, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and practices Act, Republic Act No. 1379, and Chapter II, Section 2, Title VII of the Revised Penal Code; (2) other offenses or felonies committed by public officers and employees in relation to their office, including those employed in government-owned or controlled corporations, whether simple or complexed with other crimes, where the penalty prescribed by law is higher than prision correccionalor imprisonment for six (6) years, or a fine of P6,000.00: PROVIDED, HOWEVER, that offenses or felonies mentioned in this paragraph where the penalty prescribed by law does not

exceed prision correccional or imprisonment of six (6) years or a fine of P6,000.00 shall be tried by the proper Regional Trial Court, Metropolitan Trial Court, Municipal Trial Court and Municipal Circuit Trial Court. In Aguinaldo v. Domagas, 21 and subsequently in Sanchez v. Demetriou, 22 Natividad v. Felix, 23 and Republic v. Asuncion, 24 we ruled that for the Sandiganbayan to have exclusive original jurisdiction over offenses or felonies committed by public officers or employees under the aforementioned 4(a)(2), it was not enough that the penalty prescribed therefor was higher than prision correccional or imprisonment for six years, or a fine of P6,000.00; it was likewise necessary that the offenses or felonies were committed in relation to their office. 25 The information in Criminal Case No. 22825 before the Sandiganbayan charged the petitioners with the crime of arbitrary detention which was committed "while in the performance of their official

143

functions," or, evidently, in relation to their office. As the detention allegedly lasted for a period of 43 days, the prescribed penalty is prision mayor, 26 with a duration of six years and one day to twelve years. Indisputably, the Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction over the offense charged in Criminal Case No. 22825. The petitioners, however, urge us to apply 4 of P.D. No. 1606, as amended by R.A. No. 7975, the law in force at the time of the filing of the information in Criminal Case No. 22825. They submit that under the new law, the Sandiganbayan has no jurisdiction over the offense charged and their persons because at the time of the filing of the information, petitioner Subido was already a private individual, while the classification of petitioner Parina's position was lower than grade "27." We are not persuaded. The petitioners overlook the fact that for purposes of 4 of P.D. No. 1606, as amended, the reckoning point is the time of the commission of the crime. This is plain from the last

clause of the opening sentence of paragraph (a), 4 of P.D. No. 1606, as further amended by R.A. No. 7975. Petitioner Subido never denied the respondents' claim that as "commissioner of Immigration and Deportation [now Bureau of Immigration] at the time of the commission of the crime [he was] classified as having a position even higher than grade 27." 27 Both parties are, however, agreed that at such time petitioner Parina was holding a position with a classification much lower than salary grade "27." There can, therefore, be no doubt that the Sandiganbayan had jurisdiction over the crime allegedly committed by Subido. That petitioner Parina held a position with a salary grade of less than "27" at the time of the commission of the alleged arbitrary detention is of no moment. He is prosecuted as a co-conspirator

144

of petitioner Subido, a principal accused, who held a position higher than grade "27." The following provision of 4 of P.D. No. 1606, as amended by R.A. No. 7975, then applies: In cases where none of the principal accused are occupying the positions corresponding to salary grade "27" or higher, as prescribed in the said Republic Act No. 6758 . . . exclusive jurisdiction therefor shall be vested in the proper Regional Trial Court, Metropolitan Trial Court, Municipal Trial Court, and Municipal Circuit Trial Court, as the case may be, pursuant to their respective jurisdiction as provided in Batas Pambansa Blg. 129. Finally, the petitioners' invocation of the prohibition against the retroactivity of penal laws is misplaced. Simply put, R.A. No. 7975 is not a penal law. Penal laws or statutes are those acts of the Legislature which prohibit certain acts and establish penalties for their violation; 28 or those that define crimes, treat of their nature, and provide for their punishment. 29 R.A. No. 7975, in further amending

P.D. No. 1606 as regards the Sandiganbayan's jurisdiction, mode of appeal, and other procedural matters, is clearly a procedural law, i.e., one which prescribes rules and forms of procedure of enforcing rights or obtaining redress for their invasion, or those which refer to rules of procedure by which courts applying laws of all kinds can properly administer justice. 30 Moreover, the petitioners even suggest that it is likewise a curative or remedial statute: one which cures defects and adds to the means of enforcing existing obligations. 31 As noted by the petitioners, previous to the enactment of R.A. No. 7975: As before, not [sic] matter what kind of offense, so long as it is alleged that the crime is committed in relation to the office of the public official, the Sandiganbayan had jurisdiction to try and hear the case, such that in many cases accused persons even from the far away parts of the country, Mindanao,

145

Visayas and the northern parts of Luzon had to come personally to Manila to attend and appear for cases filed against them, considering that the Sandiganbayan has its office/court in Manila. The said R.A. No. 7975 changed this lamentable situation. For no as so provided in the said law, there ha[s] been a modification that benefits [the] accused . . . in the sense that now where none of the principal accused are occupying positions corresponding to salary grade "27" or higher as prescribed by Republic Act No. 6758 . . . exclusive jurisdiction there shall be vested now in the proper Regional Trial and Metropolitan Trial Court and Municipal Circuit Trial Court, as the case may be . . . 32 All told, as a procedural and curative statute, R.A. No. 7975 may validly be given retroactive effect, there being no impairment of contractual or vested rights. 33

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DISMISSED, and the questioned resolution and orders of the respondent Sandiganbayan are AFFIRMED. Costs against the petitioners. SO ORDERED. Narvasa, C.J., Melo, Francisco and Panganiban, JJ., concur. G.R. No. 95229 June 9, 1992 CORITO OCAMPO TAYAG, petitioner, vs. HON. COURT OF APPEALS and EMILIE DAYRIT CUYUGAN, respondent. REGALADO, J.:

146

The instant petition seeks to reverse and set aside the decision 1 of respondent Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 20222, entitled "Corito Ocampo Tayag vs. Hon. Norberto C. Ponce, Judge, Regional Trial Court of San Fernando, Pampanga and Emilde Dayrit Cuyugan," promulgated on May 10, 1990, and its resolution denying petitioner's motion for reconsideration. 2 Said decision, now before us for review, dismissed petitioner's Petition forCertiorari and Prohibition with Preliminary Injunction on the ground that the denial of the motion to dismiss Civil Case No. 7938 of the court a quo is an interlocutory order and cannot be the subject of the said special civil action, ordinary appeal in due time being petitioner's remedy. In said Civil Case No, 7938, herein private respondent, in her capacity as mother and legal guardian of minor Chad D. Cuyugan, filed on April 9, 1987 a complaint denominated "Claim for Inheritance"

against herein petitioner as the administratrix of the estate of the late Atty. Ricardo Ocampo. The operative allegations in said complaint are as follows: xxx xxx xxx 2. Plaintiff is the mother and legal guardian of her minor son, Chad Cuyugan, by the father of the defendant, the late Atty. Ricardo Ocampo; and the defendant is the known administratrix of the real and personal properties left by her deceased father, said Atty. Ocampo, who died intestate in Angeles City on September 28, 1983; 3. Plaintiff has been estranged from her husband, Jose Cuyugan, for several years now and during which time, plaintiff and Atty. Ricardo Ocampo had illicit amorous relationship with each other that, as a consequence thereof, they begot a child who was christened Chad Cuyugan in accordance with the ardent desire and behest of said Atty. Ocampo;

147

4. Chad, the son of plaintiff by the late Atty. Ricardo Ocampo, who was born in Angeles City on October 5, 1980 bad been sired, showered with exceptional affection, fervent love and care by his putative father for being his only son as can be gleaned from indubitable letters and documents of the late Atty. Ocampo to herein plaintiff, excerpts from some of which are hereunder reproduced; . . . Keep good keep faith keep Chad and yourself for me alone and for me all the time. As I have now I shall save my heart to you and to Chad. . . . Please take good care and pray to Sto. Nio for our sake and for the child sake. . . . Keep him. Take good care of him. . . . I'm proud that you are his mother. . . I'm proud of him and you. Let me bless him by my name and let me entitle him to all what I am and what I've got. . . . I have vowed to recognize him and be my heir.

. . . How is CHAD and you . . . . . . Why should we not start now to own him, jointly against the whole world. After all we love each other and CHAD is the product of our love. 5. The minor, Chad D. Cuyugan, although illegitimate is nevertheless entitled to a share in the intestate estate left by his deceased father, Atty. Ricardo Ocampo as one of the surviving heirs; 6. The deceased Atty. Ricardo Ocampo, at the time of his death was the owner of real and personal property, located in Baguio City, Angeles City and in the Province of Pampanga with approximate value of several millions of pesos; 7. The estate of the late Atty. Ocampo has not as yet been inventoried by the defendant and the inheritance of the surviving heirs including that of said Chad has not likewise been ascertained;

148

8. The only known surviving heirs of the deceased Atty. Ricardo Ocampo are his children, namely: Corito O. Tayag, Rivina O. Tayag, Evita O. Florendo, Felina Ocampo, and said minor Chad, for and in whose behalf this instant complaint is filed; 9. Plaintiff has no means of livelihood and she only depends on the charity of friends and relatives for the sustenance of her son, Chad, such that it is urgent, necessary and imperative that said child be extended financial support from the estate of his putative father, Atty. Ricardo Ocampo; 10. Several demands, verbal and written, have been made for defendant to grant Chad's lawful inheritance, but despite said demands, defendant failed and refused and still fails and refused and still fails and refuses to satisfy the claim for inheritance against the estate of the late Atty. Ocampo; 3 xxx xxx xxx

Plaintiff thereafter prays, among others, that judgment be rendered ordering defendant to render an inventory and accounting of the real and personal properties left by Atty. Ricardo Ocampo; to determine and deliver the share of the minor child Chad in the estate of the deceased; and to give him support pendente lite. Petitioner, as defendant therein, filed her answer with counterclaim on June 3, 1987, disputing the material allegations in the complaint. She maintained by way of affirmative defenses, inter alia, that the complaint states no cause of action; that the action is premature; that the suit as barred by prescription; that respondent Cuyugan has no legal and judicial personality to bring the suit; that the lower court was no jurisdiction over the nature of the action; and that there is improper joinder of causes of action. 4

149

After the hearing of the motion to dismiss on the grounds asserted as affirmative defenses, the trial court issued the following order on October 20, 1987: xxx xxx xxx The Court is of the considered opinion that there is a need of further proceedings to adduce evidence on the various claims of the parties so as to hear their respective sides WHEREFORE, resolution on the preliminary hearing which partakes of the nature of a motion to dismiss requiring additional evidence is in the meantime held in abeyance. The Motion to Dismiss is hereby denied and the case as set for pre-trial . . . 5 With the denial of her motion for reconsideration of said order on November 19, 1987, 6 petitioner filed on December 10, 1987 a petition for certiorari and prohibition before the Court of Appeals, docketed therein as CA-G.R. SP No. 13464, which was granted by the Sixth Division of respondent court on

August 2, 1989 and enjoined respondent judge to resolve petitioner's motion praying for the dismissal of the complaint based on the affirmative defenses within ten (10) days from notice thereof. 7 In compliance with said decision of respondent court, the trial court acted on and thereafter denied the motion to dismiss, which had been pleaded in the affirmative defenses in Civil Case No. 7938, in an order dated October 24, 1989, resolving the said motion in the following manner: xxx xxx xxx The Court now resolves: No. 1. The complaint sufficiently shows that a cause of action exists in favor of the plaintiff. A cause of action being the "primary right to redress a wrong" (Marquez vs. Valera, 48 OG 5272), which apparently on the face of the complaint, plaintiff has a right to enforce through this case. Defendant's protestation that there is no sufficient cause of action is therefore untenable.

150

No. 2. The present action. despite the claim of defendant is not premature. It is exactly filed in order to prove filiation, and then recognition. To go about the step by step procedure outlined by the defendant by filing one action after another is definitely violative of the prohibition against splitting a cause of action. No. 3. It is not the plaintiff that is now bringing the case before the Court. It is (her) spurious child that she represents as natural guardian that is instituting the action. No. 4. Prescription has not set in if we consider that a spurious child may file an action for recognition within four years from his attainment of majority (New Civil Code. Art, 285, No. 2). Whether the letters of the putative father, Atty. Ocampo, is evidence, that should be inquired into in a hearing on the merits.

No. 5. Several causes of action may be joined in one complaint as was done in this case. The defendant's claim that there was a misjoinder is untenable. No. 6. The Court being a court of general jurisdiction, and of special jurisdiction, such as a probate court has capacity to entertain a complaint such as the one now before it. The nature of the case "CLAIM FOR INHERITANCE" does not control the body of the complaint. From all the foregoing, the Court finds that the complaint is sufficient' in form and substance and, therefore, the motion to dismiss could not be granted until after trial on the merits in which it should be shown that the allegations of the complaint are unfounded or a special defense to the action exists. WHEREFORE, the Motion to Dismiss is hereby DENIED. 8 Petitioner's motion for reconsideration of said order was denied by the trial court on January 30, 1990. 9 As a consequence, another petition for certiorari and prohibition with preliminary injunction

151

was filed by petitioner on March 12, 1990 with respondent court, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 20222, praying that the orders dated October 24, 1989 and January 30, 1990 of the trial court be annulled and set aside for having been issued with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. On May 10, 1990, as earlier stated, respondent court promulgated its decision dismissing the petition, and likewise denied petitioner's motion for reconsideration in a resolution dated September 5, 1990, hence the present petition for review on certiorari. In elevating the case before us, petitioner relies on these grounds: a. The Honorable Respondent Court of Appeals dismissed Petitioner's Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition in UTTER DISREGARD OF APPLICABLE DECISIONS OF THIS HONORABLE COURT

providing clear exceptions to the general rule that interlocutory orders may not be elevated by way of the special civil action of certiorari; b. Respondent Court refused to resolve certain issues raised by Petitioner before the Regional Trial Court and before Respondent Court of Appeals involving QUESTIONS OF SUBSTANCE not theretofore determined by this Honorable Court, such as the interpretation and application of Art. 281 of the Civil Code requiring judicial approval when the recognition of an illegitimate minor child does not take place in a record of birth or in a will: of Art. 175, Par. 2, in relation to Art. 172, Par. 2 of the Family Code, providing for the prescriptive period with respect to the action to establish illegitimate filiation; and of Art. 285 of the Civil Code, providing for the prescriptive period with respect to the action for recognition of a natural child; and

152

c. Respondent Court has sanctioned a DEPARTURE by the Regional Trial Court from the accepted and usual course of judicial proceedings. 10 Petitioner contends that the action to claim for inheritance filed by herein private respondent in behalf of the minor child, Chad Cuyugan, is premature and the complaint states no cause of action, she submits that the recognition of the minor child, either voluntarily or by judicial action, by the alleged putative father must first be established before the former can invoke his right to succeed and participate in the estate of the latter. Petitioner asseverates that since there is no allegation of such recognition in the complaint denominated as "Claim for Inheritance," then there exists no basis for private respondent's aforesaid claim and, consequently, the complaint should be dismissed. The instant case is similar to the case of Paulino vs. Paulino, et al., 11 wherein the petitioner, as plaintiff, brought an action against the private respondents, as defendants, to compel them to give her

share of inheritance in the estate of the late Marcos Paulino, claiming and alleging, inter alia, that she is the illegitimate child of the deceased; that no proceedings for the settlement of the deceased's estate had been commenced in court; and that the defendants had refused and failed to deliver her share in the estate of the deceased. She accordingly prayed that the defendants therein be ordered to deliver her aforesaid share. The defendants moved for the dismissal of her complaint on the ground that it states no cause of action and that, even if it does, the same is barred by prescription. The only difference between the aforecited case and the case at bar is that at the time of the filing of the complaint therein, the petitioner in that case had already reached the age of majority, whereas the claimant in the present case is still a minor. In Paulino, we held that an illegitimate child, to be entitled to support and successional rights from the putative or presumed parent, must prove his filiation to the latter. We also said that it is necessary to allege in the complaint that the putative father had

153

acknowledged and recognized the illegitimate child because such acknowledgment is essential to and is the basis of the right to inherit. There being no allegation of such acknowledgment, the action becomes one to compel recognition which cannot be brought after the death of the putative father. The ratio decidendi in Paulino, therefore, is not the absence of a cause of action for failure of the petitioner to allege the fact of acknowledgment in the complaint, but the prescription of the action. Applying the foregoing principles to the case at bar, although petitioner contends that the complaint filed by herein private respondent merely alleges that the minor Chad Cuyugan is an illegitimate child of the deceased and is actually a claim for inheritance, from the allegations therein the same may be considered as one to compel recognition. Further that the two causes of action, one to compel recognition and the other to claim inheritance, may be joined in one complaint is not new in our jurisprudence.

As early as 1922, we had occasion to rule thereon in Briz vs. Briz, et al., 12 wherein we said: The question whether a person in the position of the present plaintiff can any event maintain a complex action to compel recognition as a natural child and at the same time to obtain ulterior relief in the character of heir, is one which, in the opinion of this court must be answered in the affirmative, provided always that the conditions justifying the joinder of the two distinct causes of action are present in the particular case. In, other words, there is no absolute necessity requiring that the action to compel acknowledgment should have been instituted and prosecuted to a successful conclusion prior to the action in which that same plaintiff seers additional relief in the character of heir. Certainly, there is nothing so peculiar to the action to compel acknowledgment as to require that a rule should be here applied different from that generally applicable in other cases. . .

154

The conclusion above stated, though not heretofore explicitly formulated by this court, is undoubtedly to some extent supported by our prior decisions. Thus, we have held in numerous cases, and the doctrine must be considered well settled, that a natural child having a right to compel acknowledgment, but who has not been in fact legally acknowledged, may maintain partition proceedings for the division of the inheritance against his co-heirs . . .; and the same person may intervene in proceedings for the distribution of the estate of his deceased natural father, or mother . . . In neither of these situations has it been thought necessary for the plaintiff to show a prior decree compelling acknowledgment. The obvious reason is that in partition suits and distribution proceedings the other persons who might take by inheritance are before the court; and the declaration of heirship is appropriate to such proceedings. The next question to be resolved is whether the action to compel recognition has prescribed.

Petitioner argues that assuming arguendo that the action is one to compel recognition, private respondent's cause of action has prescribed for the reason that since filiation is sought to be proved by means of a private handwritten instrument signed by the parent concerned, then under paragraph 2, Article 175 of the Family Code, the action to establish filiation of the illegitimate minor child must be brought during the lifetime of the alleged putative father. In the case at bar, considering that the complaint was filed after the death of the alleged parent, the action has prescribed and this is another ground for the dismissal of the complaint. Petitioner theorizes that Article 285 of the Civil Code is not applicable to the case at bar and, instead, paragraph 2, Article 175 of the Family Code should be given retroactive effect. The theory is premised on the supposition that the latter provision of law being merely procedural in nature, no vested rights are created, hence it can be made to apply retroactively.

155

Article 285 of the Civil Code provides: Art. 285. The action for the recognition of natural children may be brought only during the lifetime of the presumed parents, except in the following cases: (1) If the father or mother died during the minority of the child, in which case the latter may file the action before the expiration of four years from the attainment of his majority; xxx xxx xxx On the other hand, Article 175 of the Family Code reads: Art. 175. Illegitimate children may establish their illegitimate filiation in the same way and on the same evidence as legitimate children.

The action must be brought within the same period specified in Article 173, except when the action is based on the second paragraph of Article 172, in which case the action may be brought during the lifetime of the alleged parent. Under the last-quoted provision of law, therefore, if the action is based on the record of birth of the child, a final judgment, or an admission by the parent of the child's filiation in a public document or in a private handwritten signed instrument, then the action may be brought during the lifetime of the child. However, if the action is based on the open and continuous possession by the child of the status of an illegitimate child, or on other evidence allowed by the Rules of Court and special laws, the view has been expressed that the action must be brought during the lifetime of the alleged parent. 13

156

Petitioner submits that Article 175 of the Family Code applies in which case the complaint should have been filed during the lifetime of the putative father, failing which the same must be dismissed on the ground of prescription. Private respondent, however, insists that Article 285 of the Civil Code is controlling and, since the alleged parent died during the minority of the child, the action for filiation may be filed within four years from the attainment of majority of the minor child. Article 256 of the Family Code states that "[t]his Code shall have retroactive effect insofar as it does not prejudice or impair vested or acquired rights in accordance with the Civil Code or other laws." It becomes essential, therefore, to determine whether the right of the minor child to file an action for recognition is a vested right or not. Under the circumstances obtaining in the case at bar, we hold that the right of action of the minor child bas been vested by the filing of the complaint in court under the regime of the Civil Code and

prior to the effectivity of the Family Code. 14 We herein adopt our ruling in the recent case of Republic of the Philippines vs. Court of Appeals, et al. 15 where we held that the fact of filing of the petition already vested in the petitioner her right to file it and to have the same proceed to final adjudication in accordance with the law in force at the time, and such right can no longer be prejudiced or impaired by the enactment of a new law. Even assuming ex gratia argumenti that the provision of the Family Code in question is procedural in nature, the rule that a statutory change in matters of procedure may affect pending actions and proceedings, unless the language of the act excludes them from its operation, is not so pervasive that it may be used to validate or invalidate proceedings taken before it goes into effective, since procedure must be governed by the law regulating it at the time the question of procedure arises especially where vested rights may be prejudiced. Accordingly, Article 175 of the Family Code finds

157

no proper application to the instant case since it will ineluctably affect adversely a right of private respondent and, consequentially, of the mind child she represents, both of which have been vested with the filing of the complaint in court. The trial court is therefore, correct in applying the provisions of Article 285 of the Civil Code and in holding that private respondent's cause of action has not yet prescribed. Finally, we conform with the holding of the Court of Appeals that the questioned order of the court below denying the motion to dismiss is interlocutory and cannot be the subject of a petition for certiorari. The exceptions to this rule invoked by petitioner and allegedly obtaining in the case at bar, are obviously not present and may not be relied upon. WHEREFORE, the petition at bar is DENIED and the assailed decision and resolution of respondent Court of Appeals are hereby AFFIRMED in toto.

SO ORDERED. Narvasa, C.J., Paras and Padilla, JJ., concur. Nocon, J., is on leave. G.R. No. 103702 December 6, 1994 MUNICIPALITY OF SAN NARCISO, QUEZON; MAYOR JUAN K. UY; COUNCILORS: DEOGRACIAS R. ARGOSINO III, BENITO T. CAPIO, EMMANUEL R. CORTEZ, NORMANDO MONTILLA, LEONARDO C. UY, FIDEL C. AURELLANA, PEDRO C. CARABIT, LEONARDO D. AURELLANA, FABIAN M. MEDENILLA, TRINIDAD F. CORTEZ, SALVADOR M. MEDENILLA, CERELITO B. AUREADA and FRANCISCA A. BAMBA, petitioners, vs. HON. ANTONIO V. MENDEZ, SR., Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 62, 4th

158

Judicial Region, Gumaca, Quezon; MUNICIPALITY OF SAN ANDRES, QUEZON; MAYOR FRANCISCO DE LEON; COUNCILORS: FE LUPINAC, TOMAS AVERIA, MANUEL O. OSAS, WILFREDO O. FONTANIL, ENRICO U. NADRES, RODELITO LUZOIR, LENAC, JOSE L. CARABOT, DOMING AUSA, VIDAL BANQUELES and CORAZON M. MAXIMO, respondents. Manuel Laserna, Jr. for petitioners. Florante Pamfilo for private respondents. VITUG, J.: On 20 August 1959, President Carlos P. Garcia, issued, pursuant to the then Sections 68 and 2630 of the Revised Administrative Code, as amended, Executive Order No. 353 creating the municipal district of San Andres, Quezon, by segregating from the municipality of San Narciso of the same

province, the barrios of San Andres, Mangero, Alibijaban, Pansoy, Camflora and Tala along with their respective sitios. Executive Order No. 353 was issued upon the request, addressed to the President and coursed through the Provincial Board of Quezon, of the municipal council of San Narciso, Quezon, in its Resolution No. 8 of 24 May 1959. 1 By virtue of Executive Order No. 174, dated 05 October 1965, issued by President Diosdado Macapagal, the municipal district of San Andres was later officially recognized to have gained the status of a fifth class municipality beginning 01 July 1963 by operation of Section 2 of Republic Act No. 1515. 2 The executive order added that "(t)he conversion of this municipal district into (a) municipality as proposed in House Bill No. 4864 was approved by the House of Representatives."

159

On 05 June 1989, the Municipality of San Narciso filed a petition for quo warranto with the Regional Trial Court, Branch 62, in Gumaca, Quezon, against the officials of the Municipality of San Andres. Docketed Special Civil Action No. 2014-G, the petition sought the declaration of nullity of Executive Order No. 353 and prayed that the respondent local officials of the Municipality of San Andres be permanently ordered to refrain from performing the duties and functions of their respective offices. 3 Invoking the ruling of this Court in Pelaez v. Auditor General, 4the petitioning municipality contended that Executive Order No. 353, a presidential act, was a clear usurpation of the inherent powers of the legislature and in violation of the constitutional principle of separation of powers. Hence, petitioner municipality argued, the officials of the Municipality or Municipal District of San Andres had no right to exercise the duties and functions of their respective offices that righfully belonged to the corresponding officials of the Municipality of San Narciso.

In their answer, respondents asked for the dismissal of the petition, averring, by way of affirmative and special defenses, that since it was at the instance of petitioner municipality that the Municipality of San Andres was given life with the issuance of Executive Order No. 353, it (petitioner municipality) should be deemed estopped from questioning the creation of the new municipality; 5 that because the Municipality of San Andred had been in existence since 1959, its corporate personality could no longer be assailed; and that, considering the petition to be one for quo warranto, petitioner municipality was not the proper party to bring the action, that prerogative being reserved to the State acting through the Solicitor General. 6 On 18 July 1991, after the parties had submitted their respective pre-trial briefs, the trial court resolved to defer action on the motion to dismiss and to deny a judgment on the pleadings.

160

On 27 November 1991, the Municipality of San Andres filed anew a motion to dismiss alleging that the case had become moot and academic with the enactment of Republic Act No. 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1991, which took effect on 01 January 1991. The movant municipality cited Section 442(d) of the law, reading thusly: Sec. 442. Requisites for Creation. . . . (d) Municipalities existing as of the date of the effectivity of this Code shall continue to exist and operate as such. Existing municipal districts organized pursuant to presidential issuances or executive orders and which have their respective set of elective municipal officials holding office at the time of the effectivity of this Code shall henceforth be considered as regular municipalities.

The motion was opposed by petitioner municipality, contending that the above provision of law was inapplicable to the Municipality of San Andres since the enactment referred to legally existing municipalities and not to those whose mode of creation had been void ab initio. 7 In its Order of 02 December 1991, the lower court 8 finally dismissed the petition 9 for lack of cause of action on what it felt was a matter that belonged to the State, adding that "whatever defects (were) present in the creation of municipal districts by the President pursuant to presidential issuances and executive orders, (were) cured by the enactment of R.A. 7160, otherwise known as Local Government Code of 1991." In an order, dated 17 January 1992, the same court denied petitioner municipality's motion for reconsideration. Hence, this petition "for review on certiorari." Petitioners 10 argue that in issuing the orders of 02 December 1991 and 17 January 1992, the lower court has "acted with grave abuse of discretion

161

amounting to lack of or in excess of jurisdiction." Petitioners assert that the existence of a municipality created by a null and void presidential order may be attacked either directly or even collaterally by anyone whose interests or rights are affected, and that an unconstitutional act is not a law, creates no office and is inoperative such as though its has never been passed. 11 Petitioners consider the instant petition to be one for "review on certiorari" under Rules 42 and 45 of the Rules of Court; at the same time, however, they question the orders of the lower court for having been issued with "grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of or in excess of jurisdiction, and that there is no other plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law available to petitioners to correct said Orders, to protect their rights and to secure a final and definitive interpretation of the legal issues involved." 12 Evidently, then, the petitioners intend to submit their case in this instance under Rule 65. We shall disregard the procedural incongruence.

The special civil action of quo warranto is a "prerogative writ by which the Government can call upon any person to show by what warrant he holds a public office or exercises a public franchise." 13 When the inquiry is focused on the legal existence of a body politic, the action is reserved to the State in a proceeding for quo warranto or any other credit proceeding. 14 It must be brought "in the name of the Republic of the Philippines" 15 and commenced by the Solicitor General or the fiscal "when directed by the President of the Philippines . . . ." 16 Such officers may, under certain circumstances, bring such an action "at the request and upon the relation of another person" with the permission of the court. 17 The Rules of Court also allows an individual to commence an action for quo warranto in his own name but this initiative can be done when he claims to be "entitled to a public office or position usurped or unlawfully held or exercised by another." 18 While the quo warranto proceedings filed below by petitioner municipality has so named only the officials of the Municipality of San Andres as

162

respondents, it is virtually, however, a denunciation of the authority of the Municipality or Municipal District of San Andres to exist and to act in that capacity. At any rate, in the interest of resolving any further doubt on the legal status of the Municipality of San Andres, the Court shall delve into the merits of the petition. While petitioners would grant that the enactment of Republic Act No. 7160 may have converted the Municipality of San Andres into a de facto municipality, they, however, contend that since the petition for quo warranto had been filed prior to the passage of said law, petitioner municipality had acquired a vested right to seek the nullification of Executive Order No. 353, and any attempt to apply Section 442 of Republic Act 7160 to the petition would perforce be violative of due process and the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

Petitioners' theory might perhaps be a point to consider had the case been seasonably brought. Executive Order No. 353 creating the municipal district of San Andres was issued on 20 August 1959 but it was only after almost thirty (30) years, or on 05 June 1989, that the municipality of San Narciso finally decided to challenge the legality of the executive order. In the meantime, the Municipal District, and later the Municipality, of San Andres, began and continued to exercise the powers and authority of a duly created local government unit. In the same manner that the failure of a public officer to question his ouster or the right of another to hold a position within a one-year period can abrogate an action belatedly filed, 19 so also, if not indeed with greatest imperativeness, must a quo warranto proceeding assailing the lawful authority of a political subdivision be timely raised. 20 Public interest demands it.

163

Granting the Executive Order No. 353 was a complete nullity for being the result of an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power, the peculiar circumstances obtaining in this case hardly could offer a choice other than to consider the Municipality of San Andres to have at least attained a status uniquely of its own closely approximating, if not in fact attaining, that of a de facto municipal corporation. Conventional wisdom cannot allow it to be otherwise. Created in 1959 by virtue of Executive Order No. 353, the Municipality of San Andres had been in existence for more than six years when, on 24 December 1965, Pelaez v. Auditor General was promulgated. The ruling could have sounded the call for a similar declaration of the unconstitutionality of Executive Order No. 353 but it was not to be the case. On the contrary, certain governmental acts all pointed to the State's recognition of the continued existence of the Municipality of San Andres. Thus, after more than five years as a municipal district, Executive Order No. 174 classified the Municipality of San Andres as a

fifth class municipality after having surpassed the income requirement laid out in Republic Act No. 1515. Section 31 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, otherwise known as the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980, constituted as municipal circuits, in the establishment of Municipal Circuit Trial Courts in the country, certain municipalities that comprised the municipal circuits organized under Administrative Order No. 33, dated 13 June 1978, issued by this Court pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 537. Under this administrative order, the Municipality of San Andres had been covered by the 10th Municipal Circuit Court of San Francisco-San Andres for the province of Quezon. At the present time, all doubts on the de jure standing of the municipality must be dispelled. Under the Ordinance (adopted on 15 October 1986) apportioning the seats of the House of Representatives, appended to the 1987 Constitution, the Municipality of San Andres has been considered to be one of the twelve (12) municipalities composing the Third District of the province of Quezon. Equally

164

significant is Section 442(d) of the Local Government Code to the effect that municipal districts "organized pursuant to presidential issuances or executive orders and which have their respective sets of elective municipal officials holding office at the time of the effectivity of (the) Code shall henceforth be considered as regular municipalities." No pretension of unconstitutionality per seof Section 442(d) of the Local Government Code is proferred. It is doubtful whether such a pretext, even if made, would succeed. The power to create political subdivisions is a function of the legislature. Congress did just that when it has incorporated Section 442(d) in the Code. Curative laws, which in essence are retrospective, 21 and aimed at giving "validity to acts done that would have been invalid under existing laws, as if existing laws have been complied with," are validly accepted in this jurisdiction, subject to the usual qualification against impairment of vested rights. 22

All considered, the de jure status of the Municipality of San Andres in the province of Quezon must now be conceded. WHEREFORE, the instant petition for certiorari is hereby DISMISSED. Costs against petitioners. SO ORDERED. Narvasa, C.J., Padilla, Bidin, Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Quiason, Puno, Kapunan and Mendoza, JJ. concur. Feliciano, J., is on leave. G.R. No. L-28774 February 28, 1980 DEVELOPMENT BANK OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs. THE COURT OF APPEALS, HON. HERMOGENES CALUAG, Judge of the Court of First

165

Instance of Rizal, and SPOUSES HONESTO G. NICANDRO and ELISA F. NICANDRO, respondents. ANTONIO, J.: Petition for certiorari to set aside the decision of the Court of Appeals, 1 dated February 29, 1968, in Honesto G. Nicandro, et al. v. Development Bank of the Philippines and People's Homesite and Housing Corporation (CA-G.R. No. 34518-R), affirming the decision of the trial court in Civil Case No. Q-6091. The facts are summarized as follows: On March 18, 1955, the Board of Governors of petitioner-appellant DBP (hereinafter referred to as petitioner or simply DBP for brevity and convenience), Under its Resolution No. 2004, appropriated

the sum of P1,204,000.00 to purchase land for a housing project for its employees. It was contemplated that the Bank itself will build houses on the land to be acquired and these will then be sold to employees who do not yet own homes and who shall pay for them in monthly installments over a period of twenty (20) years. 2 Pursuant thereto, on October 20, 1955, the DBP bought 91,188.30 square meters of land, consisting of 159 lots, in the proposed Diliman Estate Subdivision, West Triangle, Quezon City, of the People's Homesite and Housing Corporation (PHHC). Of the price of P802,155.56, the DBP paid the amount of P400,000.00 as down payment. The area sold was then part of a bigger parcel embraced under TCT No. 1356 and because the subdivision plan for the area (including the 159 lots sold to the DBP) was still pending approval by the Bureau of Lands, the sales agreement between the DBP and the

166

PHHC was not presented immediately for registration by the DBP. Lots 2 and 4, which form part of said 159 lots, are the properties involved in the instant litigation. 3 In a memorandum to the Auditor General dated December 6, 1955, Mr. Isidro Buag, the DBP Auditor, expressed his doubts as to whether the DBP could acquire the property in question for the intended purpose of a housing project in the light of the then Section 13 of Republic Act No. 85 (Exhibit 12A-DBP). The Auditor General endorsed the matter to the Office of the President, Malacaang, Manila, and on July 30, 1957 the Executive Secretary, in turn referred the question (re legality of the acquisition of the lots in question by the DBP) to the Secretary of Justice for opinion (Exhibit 13-DBP). Meanwhile, on June 24, 1957, without the knowledge of the DBP, a portion of the property covered by the master title, TCT No. 1356, including the 159 lots sold to the DBP, were segregated therefrom

and a separate certificate of title, TCT No. 36533, was issued for the segregated portion in the name of PHHC. However, the subdivision plan on which the segregation was based was not annotated on the master title, TCT No. 1356, nor was the fact that the latter was cancelled pro tanto by TCT No. 36533 as to the 159 lots (Exhibit 15-DBP). Atty. Roman Cariaga, Chief of the Sales Division of the PHHC, testified that on or before September 29, 1958, he was summoned by Benjamin Gray, Secretary to the Board of Directors of the PHHC, and, while in the latter's room was introduced to respondent-appellee, Honesto G. Nicandro. Gray then requested Cariaga to prepare the order of payment for Lots 2 and 4 in favor of Honesto G. Nicandro. Cariaga informed them (Gray and Nicandro) forthwith that both lots were part of those already sold to the DBP.

167

On September 29, 1958, Mr. Sergio Ortiz Luis, a PHHC Director, and, at the time, Acting Manager of the PHHC, wrote to the Chairman of the DBP that Lots 2 and 4, Block WT-21, had been inadvertently included among the lots sold to the DBP and for said reason requested that the two lots be excluded from the sale (Exhibit 1-DBP). In his reply letter dated October 16, 1958, Chairman Gregorio S. Licaros of the DBP refused to exclude Lots 2 and 4 as requested, insisting that they form part of the 159 lots sold to the DBP as shown in the Sales Agreement dated October 20, 1955 and for which DBP has made a partial payment of P400,000.00 (Exhibit 2-DBP). On October 14, 1958, Acting Manager Sergio Ortiz Luis, without waiting for the reply of DBP Chairman Licaros, approved the order of payment for Lots 2 and 4, Block WT-21, in favor of appellees Honesto G. Nicandro and Elisa F. Nicandro who paid the sum of P700.56 and P660.00 as down payment, representing 10% of the price of the lots.

On October 28, 1958, Mr. Angel G. de la Paz, Chairman of the DBP Housing Project Committee, also wrote to the Board of Directors of the PHHC, as follows: In connection with your inquiry whether this bank will proceed with the purchase of the employees housing project site in tile West Triangle Subdivision, Quezon City, please be advised that this Bank will definitely purchase the area allocated to it by that Corporation. During a convocation held yesterday, at which Mr. G.S. Licaros, our new Chairman, spoke, this question was brought by Chairman Licaros that this housing project will go through, to be financed either by this Bank or by other financial institutions in case the Secretary of Justice renders an adverse opinion as to its legality. (Exhibit 3-DBP). On October 31, 1958, without the knowledge of the DBP, Bernardo Torres, the General Manager of the PHHC, also approved the Order of Payment for 39 lots (comprised also in the 159 lots already

168

sold to the DBP) in favor of the so-called Garcia Group. Among these was an Order of Payment for Lot 2, Block WT-21 (which was already re-awarded to respondent-appellee Honesto G. Nicandro) in favor of Bernabe G. Garcia, who paid also the 10% down payment of P700.50 (Exhibits 7-DBP and 11-DBP ) On November 3, 1958, the PHHC accepted payment in full of Lots 2 and 4 from respondents spouses Honesto G. Nicandro and Elisa F. Nicandro (hereinafter referred to simply as respondent spouses). On November 6, 1958, Honesto G. Nicandro went to see Atty. Roman Cariaga, Chief of the Sales Division, PHHC, and demanded that the corresponding deeds of sale for Lots 2 and 4 be executed in their favor. Atty. Cariaga accompanied him to the General Manager, Bernardo Torres, and in the presence of Mr. Nicandro, the former asked Mr. Torres whether the deeds of sale for the two (2) lots

requested by Mr. Nicandro should be prepared considering that the DBP has not yet relinquished its right thereon. However, the General Manager told him to go ahead and prepare the deeds of sale. On November 7, 1958, a deed of sale over Lot 2 in favor of Honesto G. Nicandro and another deed of sale over Lot 4 in favor of his wife, Elisa F. Nicandro, were prepared by the Sales Division of the PHHC under Atty. Cariaga. On November 13, 1958, Mr. Bienvenido C. Olarte Homesite Management Chief, PHHC, wrote to the General Manager a memorandum which in part reads as follows: Respectfully forwarded to the Board of Directors PHHC, Quezon City, for its information and consideration. The memorandum was prepared in view of the sale of Lots 2 and 4, Block WT-21 to Honesto and Elisa Nicandro who have paid in full their purchase prices, and the acceptance from Gov. Garcia of

169

deposits for 10 lots in Block WT-21, 14 lots in WT-22, notwithstanding previous sale of all these lots to the DBP under conditional contract to sell. The DBP made initial payment of P400,000.00 on the 159 lots in the RFC (DBP) area, leaving an unpaid balance of P402,155.56. The employees of the DBP will definitely push through the purchase as confirmed in the letters of Messrs. Licaros, DBP Chairman and Angel de la Paz, DBP Housing Project Committee Chairman, both dated October 16 and 29, 1958, respectively. The deposits made for the 39 lots are subject to final arrangement of the purchase of the 159 lots by the DBP employees. However, as to the sale of Lots 2 and 4, Block WT-21, it is recommended that the execution of the final deeds of sale be suspended until after the aforestated arrangement shall have been determined (Exhibit 7- DBP. Emphasis supplied.)

Despite the aforesaid recommendation of Mr. Olarte, the deeds of sale for Lots 2 and 4 in favor of respondent spouses were prepared and submitted to the board of Directors of the PHHC on December 17, 1958. Thereafter, the General Manager, Mr. Bernardo Torres, signed the deeds of sale over Lots 2 and 4 in favor of respondent spouses. Notwithstanding this fact, however, the originals of said deeds of sale (Exhibits 10-DBP and 10-A-DBP) were retained at the PHHC and were never released to the respondent spouses. On January 15, 1959, the Sales Agreement dated October 20, 1955 between the PHHC and the DBP (covering the 159 lots including Lots 2 and 4 in question) was presented for registration to the Register of Deeds of Quezon City. It was entered in the day book and annotated on TCT No. 1356 as a "sale of an unsegregated portion" with the note "new titles to be issued upon presentation of the

170

corresponding subdivision plan and technical descriptions duly approved by the authorities." (Exhibit 15.) On January 20, 1959, pursuant to the Executive Secretary's reference of the matter to the Secretary of Justice for an opinion, as mentioned earlier, the latter issued Opinion No. 16, s. of 1959, holding that Premises considered, it is our opinion that the RFC (DBP) has no express or incidental power to undertake the housing project under consideration and that the same is incongruous with, if not a clear violation of, the prohibition contained in Section 13 of Republic Act No. 85. (Annex "A", Complaint.) On February 16, 1959, respondent Honesto G. Nicandro attempted to register the sale of Lots 2 and 4 in his favor by presenting copies of the deeds of sale in their favor (as mentioned earlier, the

originals were retained by the PHHC and were never released) before the Register of Deeds of Quezon City, but registration was denied because: (1) the deeds of sale were only photostatic copies; (2) the consent of the GSIS (to whom the whole property was mortgaged) to the sale is not shown therein; and (3) the deeds of sale lacked the necessary documentary stamps. On the following day, February 17, affidavits of adverse claims on Lots 2 and 4 were filed by the respondents and these were registered and annotated on TCT No. 36533 (Exhibit 15-DBP). On February 17, 1959, on the basis of the afore-mentioned Opinion No. 16, s. of 1959, of the Secretary of Justice, the Office of the President addressed a memorandum to the Board of Governors of the DBP directing it to revoke Resolution No. 2004 dated March 18, 1955. 4 On March 6, 1959, upon teaming that the required subdivision plan of the 159 lots sold to it were already submitted and duly recorded on TCT No. 36533, the DBP forthwith requested the annotation

171

of its sales agreement dated October 20, 1955 covering the lots in question on TCT No. 36533, and as a consequence, the Register of Deeds transferred the annotation of said sales agreement appearing on TCT No. 1356 to the new certificate of title, TCT No. 36533. 5 As the DBP's request for issuance of new certificates of title for Lots 2 and 4 was being opposed by the respondent spouse and unable to decide as to who should be issued certificates of title for the two lots, the Register of Deeds of Quezon City referred the matter on consulta to the Land Registration Commission, where it was docketed as In Re Consulta No. 250. In a resolution dated July 25, 1959, the Land Registration Commission held that respondent spouse Honesto G. Nicandro and Elisa F. Nicandro were better entitled to the issuance of certificates of title for Lots 2 and 4. After its motion for reconsideration of the resolution was denied, the DBP promptly appealed the decision to this Court.

On April 29, 1961, resolving DBP's appeal of In Re Consults No. 250, 6 this Court held that the annotation made on January 15, 1959 of the sales agreement in favor of the DBP on TCT No. 1356 constituted sufficient registration to bind third parties, thereby reversing the resolution of the Land Registration Commission of July 25, 1959, to the effect that the annotation on TCT No. 1356 of the sales agreement between the PHHC and the vendee DBP did not constitute sufficient registration to bind innocent third parties (referring to the Nicandros), in favor of the appellees. Meanwhile, prior to the aforesaid decision of this Court, on March 14, 1960, in reply to the query of the Board of Governors of the DBP whether the Bank can sell the 159 lots on a cash basis to its employees, the Secretary of Justice issued Opinion No. 40, holding that the deed of sale covering said lots is not only ultra vires but is also illegal and void and, for that reason, the DBP cannot sell the same to its employees even for cash.

172

On June 17, 1961, Republic Act No. 3147 was enacted, amending certain provisions of the DBP Charter (Republic Act No. 85), among which was Section 13 which, as Section 23 in the amended law, now reads as follows: No officer or employee of the bank nor any government official who may exercise executive or supervisory authority over the said bank either directly, or indirectly, for himself or as representative or agent of others shall,except when the same shall be in the form of advances appropriated or set aside by the Bank itself in order to provide for housing for the benefit of its officials and employees, borrow money from the Bank, nor shall become a guarantor, indorser or surety for loans from the said bank to the others, or in any manner be an obligor for moneys borrowed from the said Bank. Any such officer or employee who violates the provisions of this section shall be immediately removed by competent authority and said officer or employee shall be punished by imprisonment of

not less than one year nor exceeding five years and by a fine of not less than one thousand nor more than five thousand pesos. (Emphasis supplied.) 7 On November 10, 1961, respondent spouses then filed the case at bar against the DBP and the PHHC, to rescind the sale of Lots 2 and 4 by PHHC in favor of DBP, to cancel the transfer certificate of title that may have been issued covering the two lots to DBP, and to order DBP to pay damages to the plaintiffs. It was alleged that the acquisition of Lots 2 and 4 by the DBP is not only in excess of its corporate powers but also a violation of the express prohibition of Section 13 of its Charter, Republic Act No. 85, as amended. Against the PHHC, respondent spouses alleged that in the alternative event that the case against the DBP will not prosper, that PHHC be adjudged to pay to the plaintiff the "value which the said properties may have on the date of decision ...".

173

It is important to note that the PHHC alleged as defenses the actuations of the plaintiffs (Nicandro spouses) which have been characterized by bad faith. thus: (a) that notwithstanding the information given by the defendant to the plaintiffs that the question of legality of the acquisition by the DBP of lots has not been resolved, plaintiffs insisted in paying on November 3, 1958, the full purchase price of the lots in question; (b) that notwithstanding the understanding between the defendant and the plaintiffs that no final deed of sale over the lots in question will be executed until the question of legality of the acquisition of lots by the DBP is resolved, the plaintiffs insisted in the execution of the final deed of sale to which the defendant agreed with the understanding that the latter will be given until about December 12, 1959 to obtain a clearance from the GSIS of the mortgage on the lots in question, and that, in the meantime, the final deed of sale will not be presented to the Register of Deeds for registration; and

(c) that without a copy of the final deed of sale being officially released, the plaintiffs, one way or another, succeeded in obtaining a signed copy of the aforesaid deed of sale which they presented to the Register of Deeds for registration in violation of the understanding mentioned in the immediately preceeding paragraph (b) above. In its decision, the respondent Court of First Instance of Rizal held that the sale of Lots 2 and 4, Block WT-21 of the Diliman Estate Subdivision, to the DBP is null and void, for being in violation of Section 13 of the DBP Charter, ignoring in toto the other defenses. No provision at all was made for return of the price that was paid to PHHC for the two lots in question. A motion for reconsideration having been filed and denied, the DBP appealed said decision to the Court of Appeals. On February 29, 1968, the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court. In their brief, the DBP maintains:

174

(1) that the Court of Appeals erred in holding that the respondent spouses have legal personality to question the legality of the sale in question because: (a) the spouses have no relation to the contracting parties not to the property itself at the time the transaction took place; 8 (b) the question of whether or not a corporation has acted without authority or has abused its authority or has acted in contravention of law cannot be raised by one whose rights accrued subsequent to the transaction in question; 9 (c) rescission of contract requires mutual restitution. Hence, since the respondent spouses are neither principally nor subsidiarily bound under the sales agreement between the PHHC and the DBP, they are not in a position to make any restitution on the questioned contract and, consequently, they have no right to ask for its annulment; 10 and

(d) the respondent spouses, being second vendees of Lots 2 and 4, merely stepped into the shoes of the vendor, PHHC, and their right to question the transaction cannot rise above that of the PHHC. Since the contract between the PHHC and the DBP has been fully executed and the DBP's right thereto has been perfected by the registration of the sales agreement in its favor, the PHHC is now in estoppel to question the transaction. A fortiori the spouses are similarly bound from doing so; and (2) that when Congress amended Section 13 of its Charter on June 17, 1961, five (5) years after the questioned transaction, it in effect ratified the DBP acquisition of said lots from the PHHC, and dispelled whatever doubts existed as to the power of the DBP to acquire the lots in question, unless some interest or right which would be adversely affected has accrued in favor of third parties. On the latter question, the DBP claims that since the Supreme Court itself has recognized the rights of the

175

DBP over and above those of the respondent spouses over the two lots, the latter have no interest that will bring it out of the curative effects of the amendment. The general rule is that the action for the annulment of contracts can only be maintained by those who are bound either principally or subsidiarily by virtue thereof. 11 There is, however, an exception to the rule. This Court, inTeves v. People's Homesite and Housing Corporation, 12 held that "a person who is not obliged principally or subsidiarily in a contract may exercise an action for nullity of the contract if he is prejudiced in his rights with respect to one of the contracting parties, and can show the detriment which could positively result to him from the contract in which he had no intervention." We applied this exception to the rule in Yturralde v. Vagilidad, 13 De Santos v. City of Manila; 14 and Baez v. Court of Appeals. 15 It cannot be denied that respondent spouses stand to be prejudiced by reason of their payment in full of the purchase price for the same lots which had been

sold to the petitioner by virtue of the transaction in question. We, therefore, hold that respondent spouses have sufficient standing to institute the action in the case at bar. Since the case may be resolved on the issue of retroactivity of the amendment of Section 13 of Republic Act No. 85, by Republic Act No. 3147, this Court does not find it necessary to resolve whether or not the sale to the DBP was void, pursuant to Section 13 of Republic Act No. 85. Even assuming that the DBP had no authority initially to acquire the lots in question for the housing project of the corporation for its employees, the important issue is whether or not the Court of Appeals erred in not granting retroactive effect to Republic Act No. 3147 amending Republic Act No. 85. which authorizes the DBP to provide for housing for the benefit of its officials and employees. The Court of Appeals, in effect, held that the amendment "cannot validate the sale of Lots 2 and 4 in favor of the DBP because the rights of the plaintiffs have already accrued before its amendment" and section 13

176

as subsequently amended contains no express provision of retroactive application. It necessarily follows that such amended section cannot be given retroactive effect. It may be stated, as a general rule, that curative statutes are forms of "retrospective legislation which reach back on past events to correct errors or irregularities and to render valid and effective attempted acts which would be otherwise ineffective for the purpose the parties intended." They are intended to enable persons to carry into effect that which they have designed and intended, but which has failed of expected legal consequences by reason of some statutory disability or irregularity in their action. They thus make valid that which, before enactment of the statute, was invalid. 16 There cannot be any doubt that one of the purposes of Congress when it enacted Republic Act No. 3147, by amending Section 13 of Republic Act No. 85, was to erase any doubts regarding the legality of the acquisition by the DBP of the 159 lots from the PHHC for the housing project which it intended to

establish for its employees who did not yet have houses of their own. This is obvious from the fact that Republic Act No. 3147 was enacted on July 17, 1961, at a time when the legality of the acquisition of the lots by the DBP for its housing project was under question. It is, therefore, a curative statute to render valid the acquisition by the DBP of the 159 lots from the PHHC. Since such curative statute may not be given retroactive effect if vested rights are impaired thereby, the next question then is whether or not the respondent spouses have any vested right on the property which may be impaired by the statutory amendment. It is admitted in the partial stipulation of facts that after the second sale of Lots 2 and 4 to Honesto and Elisa Nicandro on November 7, 1958 by the PHHC, the question arose as to who between the DBP, which purchased three (3) years earlier the aforementioned lots on October 20, 1955, and the Nicandro spouses were better entitled to the issuance of

177

the certificates of title for Lots 2 and 4 on the basis of entries made on the day book and annotations on the old and new certificates of title covering the lots in question. In the decision of this Court of April 29, 1961, in Register of Deeds of Quezon City v. Nicandro, et al., 17 it held that: (a) the deed of sale of October 20, 1955 by the PHHC to the DBP of the 159 lots is "clearly, a registerable document"; and (b) that the annotation of the deed of sale in favor of the DBP on TCT No. 1356 on January 15, 1959 constituted sufficient registration to bind third parties and, consequently, ordered the Register of Deeds of Quezon City to issue the corresponding certificate of title in favor of appellant DBP. This Court further stated: Neither can it be claimed that the annotation of the deed of sale in favor of the DBP on TCT No. 1356, under date of January 15, 1959, does not constitute sufficient registration to bind third parties. True it may be that when the instrument was presented to the Register of Deeds for registration, and in fact it

was so inscribed in the day book, the 159 lots subject of the sale were already covered by separate certificate. of title, TCT No. 36533. It must be remembered, however, that on said date, January 15, 1959, TCT No. 1356 which originally covered the whole tract of land, including the 159 lots, was yet uncancelled nor any inscription appeared thereon to the effect that a new certificate was already issued in respect to the said 159 lots. Evidently, when the DBP presented the deed of sale for registration, there were two subsisting titles covering the 159 lots subject of the sale. As TCT No. 1356, being uncancelled, did, for all intents and purposes, still cover the 159 lots, the annotation thereon of the sale to the DBP is valid and effective. For this reason, the Register of Deeds acted correctly in transferring the inscription from TCT No. 1356 to TCT No. 36533 upon discovery that the subdivision plan had already been approved, submitted and annotated, and a new certificate of title issued. Even on this score alone, considering that the adverse claim of the Nicandros was annotated

178

on TCT No. 35633 only on February 17, 1959, whereas the sale to the DBP was registered as of January 15, 1959, the certificate of title on the two lots in controversy should be issued in favor of the first registrant, the DBP. There is, however, another reason why the Commissioner's ruling must be set aside. Although admittedly we have here a case of double sale, actually this is not an instance of double registration. As above stated, only the deed of sale in favor of appellant was inscribed on the certificate of title covering the lots in question. The Nicandros were not able to register their deeds of sale; instead, informed of the prior registration by the DBP, they sought to protect their right by filing adverse claims based on the said deeds of sale under Section 110 of Act 496, which provides: SEC. 110. Whoever claims any right or interest in registered land adverse to the registered owner, arising subsequent to the date of the original registration, may, if no other provision is made in this

Act for registering the same, make a statement in writing setting forth fully his alleged right or interest, and how or under whom acquired, and a reference to the volume and page of the certificate of title of the registered owner, and a description of the land in which the right or interest is claimed. ... It is clear from the above quotation that for this special remedy (adverse claim) to be availed of, it must be shown that there is no other provision in the law for registration of the claimant's alleged right or interest in the property. The herein claim of the Nicandros is based on a perfected contract of sale executed in their favor by the lawful owner of the land. Considering that the Land Registration Act specifically prescribes the procedure for registration of a vendee's right on a registered property, (Section 57, Act 496) the remedy provided in Section 110, which was resorted to and invoked by appellees, would be ineffective for the purpose of protecting their said right or interest on the two lots.

179

WHEREFORE, the Resolution appealed from is hereby set aside, and the Register of Deeds of Quezon City ordered to issue the corresponding certificate of title in favor of appellant DBP. Without costs. So ordered. (At pp. 1341-1342. Emphasis supplied.) There is evidence to the effect that prior to or during the preparation of the corresponding deeds of sale for lots 2 and 4 in their favor, the private respondents knew of the previous acquisition of said property by the DBP. Sometime in September 1958, the Chief of the Sales Division of the PHHC informed Honesto G. Nicandro. that Lots 2 and 4 were part of the 159 lots previously sold by the PHHC to the DBP, On November 6, 1958, when Nicandro. asked that the corresponding deeds of sale over Lots 2 and 4 be prepared, the same Chief of the Sales Division expressed his misgivings by telling the General Manager of the PHHC, in the presence of Nicandro, that the two lots that the Nicandros wanted to buy had already been sold to the DBP and the latter had not yet relinquished its

right over said property. 18 In any event, the Nicandros were not able to register their deeds of sale over Lots 2 and 4. Before the registration of a deed or instrument, a registered property is not bound thereby insofar as third persons are concerned. Registration is the means whereby the property is made subject to the terms of the instrument. It is the operative act that gives validity to the transfer or creates a lien upon the land. 19In Register of Deeds of Quezon City v. Nicandro, supra, this Court held that the registration of the sales agreement between the PHHC and the DBP and the annotation thereof on the old TCT No. 1365 constituted aprior valid registration of its rights to the properties sold. Under such circumstances, since under the Torrens system, registration is the operative act that gives validity to the transfer, 20 and it was the sale to the DBP that was registered and transfer certificate of title issued to the DBP, private respondents could not have, therefore, acquired any complete, absolute and unconditional right over the property. They had no vested rights on the

180

property at the time of the enactment of Republic Act No. 3147. A "vested right is one which is absolute, complete, and unconditional, to the exercise of which no obstacle exists, and which is immediate and perfect in itself and not dependent upon a contingency," 21 To be vested in its accurate legal sense, a right must be complete and consummated, and one of which the person to whom it belongs cannot be divested without his consent. 22 During the pendency of this case, the People's Homesite and Housing Corporation (PHHC) has been dissolved and its powers, functions, balance of appropriations, records, assets, rights and choses in action, subject to certain conditions, were transferred to the National Housing Authority. 23 Considering that this case has been pending in the courts since 1961, and the constitutional right of the parties to a speedy disposition of their case, the Court hereby renders judgment herein, without awaiting the substitution of the PHHC by the National Housing Authority.

WHEREFORE, in view hereof judgment is hereby rendered: (1) reversing the judgment of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. No. 34518-R, dated February 29, 1968, and dismissing the complaint filed by the respondent spouses for rescision of the sale"; and (2) ordering the Development Bank of the Philippines to reimburse to the Nicandro spouses the payments which they made to the PHHC in connection with said lots, with interest at the legal rate from November 6, 1958 until fully paid, which amount shall be deducted from the balance of the purchase price of the property. No special pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED. Barredo (Chairman) and Aquino, JJ., concur. Justice Hermogenes Concepcion, Jr., took no part. Justice Vicente Abad Santos is on leave.

181

Justices Pacifico P. de Castro and Ameurfina A. Melencio-Herrera, Members of the First Division were designated to sit in the Second Division.