Was private respondent a regular employee at the time his employment was terminated?

Asserting their right to terminate the contract with private respondent per the “Kasunduan” with him, petitioners pointed to the provision thereof stating that he was being employed    only on a ‘’por viaje’’ basis and that his employment would be terminated at the end of the trip for which he was being hired, to wit:

NA, kami ay sumasang-ayon na MAGLINGKOD at GUMAWA ng mga gawaing magmula sa pag-alis ng lantsa sa pondohan sa Navotas patungo sa palakayahan; pabalik sa pondohan ng lantsa sa Navotas hanggang sa  paghango ng mga kargang isda.

Petitioners lament that fixed-term employment contracts are recognized as valid under the law notwithstanding the provision of Article 280 of the Labor Code. Petitioners theorize that the Civil Code has always recognized the validity of contracts with a fixed and definite period, and imposes no restraints on the freedom of the parties to fix the duration of the contract, whatever its object, be it species, goods or services, except the general admonition against stipulations contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order and public policy.  Quoting Brent School Inc. v. Zamora, petitioners are hamstrung on their reasoning that under the Civil Code, fixed-term employment contracts are not limited, as they are under the present Labor Code, to those that by their nature are seasonal or for specific projects with pre-determined dates of completion as they also include those to which the parties by free choice have assigned a specific date of termination.  Hence, persons may enter into such contracts as long as they are capacitated to act, petitioners bemoan.

We are far from persuaded by petitioners’ ratiocination.

Petitioners’ construal of Brent School, Inc. v. Zamora, has certainly gone astray. The subject of scrutiny in the Brent case was the employment contract inked between the school and one engaged as its Athletic Director. The contract fixed a specific term of five years from the date of execution of the agreement. This Court upheld the validity of the contract between therein petitioner and private respondent, fixing the latter’s period of employment.  This Court laid down the following criteria for judging the validity of such fixed-term contracts, to wit:

Accordingly, and since the entire purpose behind the development of legislation culminating in the present Article 280 of the Labor Code clearly appears to have been, as already observed, to prevent circumvention of the employee’s right to be secure in his tenure, the clause in said article indiscriminately and completely ruling out all written or oral agreements conflicting with the concept of regular employment as defined therein should be construed to refer to the substantive evil that the Code itself has singled out:  agreements entered into precisely to circumvent security of tenure.  It should have no application to instances where a fixed period of employment was agreed upon knowingly and voluntarily by the parties, without any force, duress or improper pressure being brought to bear upon the employee and absent any other circumstances vitiating his consent, or where it satisfactorily appears that the employer and employee dealt with each other on more or less equal terms with no moral dominance whatever being exercised by the former over the latter.  Unless thus limited in its purview, the law would be made to apply to purposes other than those explicitly stated by its framers; it thus becomes pointless and arbitrary, unjust in its effects and apt to lead to absurd and unintended consequences. (Emphasis supplied.)

Brent cited some familiar examples of employment contracts which may neither be for seasonal work nor for specific projects, but to which a fixed term is an essential and natural appurtenance, i.e., overseas employment contracts, appointments to the positions of dean, assistant dean, college secretary, principal, and other administrative offices in educational institutions, which are by practice or tradition rotated among the faculty members, and where fixed terms are a necessity without which no reasonable rotation would be possible.  Thus, in Brent, the acid test in considering fixed-term contracts as valid is: if from the circumstances it is apparent that periods have been imposed to preclude acquisition of tenurial security by the employee, they should be disregarded for being contrary to public policy.

On the same tack as Brent, the Court in Pakistan International Airlines Corporation v. Ople, ruled in this wise:

It is apparent from Brent School that the critical consideration is the presence or absence of a substantial indication that the period specified in an employment agreement was designed to circumvent the security of tenure of regular employees which is provided for in Articles 280 and 281 of the Labor Code.  This indication must ordinarily rest upon some aspect of the agreement other than the mere specification of a fixed term of the employment agreement, or upon evidence aliunde of the intent to evade.

Consistent with the pronouncements in these two earlier cases, the Court, in Cielo v. National Labor Relations Commission, did not hesitate to nullify employment contracts stipulating a fixed term after finding that “the purpose behind these individual contracts was to evade the application of the labor laws.

In the case under consideration, the agreement has such an objective – to frustrate the security of tenure of private respondent- and fittingly, must be nullified. In this case, petitioners’ intent to evade the application of Article 280 of the Labor Code is unmistakable. In a span of 12 years, private respondent worked for petitioner company first as a Chief Mate, then Boat Captain, and later as Radio Operator. His job was directly related to the deep-sea fishing business of petitioner Poseidon.  His work was, therefore, necessary and important to the business of his employer.  Such being the scenario involved, private respondent is considered a regular employee of petitioner under Article 280 of the Labor Code, the law in point, which provides:

Art. 280. Regular and Casual Employment. – The provisions of written agreement to the contrary notwithstanding and regardless of the oral agreement of the parties, an employment shall be deemed to be regular where the employee has been engaged to perform activities which  are usually necessary or desirable in the usual business or trade of the employer, except where the employment has been fixed for a specific project or undertaking the completion or termination of which has been determined at the time of the engagement of the employee or where the work or services to be performed is seasonal in nature and the employment is for the duration of the season.

An employment shall be deemed to be casual if it is not covered by the preceding paragraph: Provided, That any employee who has rendered at least one year of service, whether such service is continuous or broken, shall be considered a regular employee with respect to the activity in which he is employed and his employment shall continue while such actually exists. (Emphasis supplied.)

Moreover, unlike in the Brent case where the period of the contract was fixed and clearly stated, note that in the case at bar, the terms of employment of private respondent as provided in the Kasunduan was not only vague, it also failed to provide an actual or specific date or period for the contract.  As adroitly observed by the Labor Arbiter:

There is nothing in the contract that says complainant, who happened to be the captain of said vessel, is a casual, seasonal or a project worker. The date July 1 to 31, 1998 under the heading “Pagdating” had been placed there merely to indicate the possible date of arrival of the vessel and is not an indication of the status of employment of the crew of the vessel.

Actually, the exception under Article 280 of the Labor Code in which the respondents have taken refuge to justify its position does not apply in the instant case. The proviso, “Except where the employment has been fixed for a specific project or undertaking the completion or determination of which has been determined at the time of the engagement of the employee or where the work or services to be performed is seasonal in nature and the employment is for the duration of the season.” (Article 280 Labor Code), is inapplicable because the very contract adduced by respondents is unclear and uncertain. The kasunduan does not specify the duration that complainant had been hired x x x. (Emphasis supplied.)

Furthermore, as petitioners themselves admitted in their petition before this Court, private respondent was repeatedly hired as part of the boat’s crew and he acted in various capacities onboard the vessel. In Integrated Contractor and Plumbing Works, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Commission, we held that the test to determine whether employment is regular or not is the reasonable connection between the particular activity performed by the employee in relation to the usual business or trade of the employer.  And, if the employee has been performing the job for at least one year, even if the performance is not continuous or merely intermittent, the law deems the repeated and continuing need for its performance as sufficient evidence of the necessity, if not indispensability of that activity to the business. 

In Bustamante v. National Labor Relations Commission, the Court expounded on what are regular employees under Article 280 of the Labor Code, viz:

It is undisputed that petitioners were illegally dismissed from employment. Article 280 of the Labor Code, states:

ART. 280. Regular and Casual Employment. – The provisions of written agreement to the contrary notwithstanding and regardless of the oral agreement of the parties, an employment shall be deemed to be regular where the employee has been engaged to perform activities which are usually necessary or desirable in the usual business or trade of the employer, except where the employment has been fixed for a specific project or undertaking the completion or termination of which has been determined at the time of the engagement of the employee or where the work or services to be performed is seasonal in nature and the employment is for the duration of the season.

An employment shall be deemed to be casual if it is not covered by the preceding paragraph: Provided, that, any employee who has rendered at least one year of service, whether such service is continuous or broken, shall be considered a regular employee with respect to the activity in which he is employed and his employment shall continue while such activity exists.

This provision draws a line between regular and casual employment, a distinction however often abused by employers.  The provision enumerates two (2) kinds of employees, the regular employees and the casual employees.  The regular employees consist of the following:

1) those engaged to perform activities which are usually necessary or desirable in the usual business or trade of the employer; and

2) those who have rendered at least one year of service whether such service is continuous or broken.

Ostensibly, in the case at bar, at different times, private respondent occupied the position of Chief Mate, Boat Captain, and Radio Operator. In petitioners’ interpretation, however, this act of hiring and re-hiring actually highlight private respondent’s contractual status saying that for every engagement, a fresh contract was entered into by the parties at the outset as the conditions of employment changed when the private respondent filled in a different position.  But to this Court, the act of hiring and re-hiring in various capacities is a mere gambit employed by petitioner to thwart the tenurial protection of private respondent.  Such pattern of re-hiring and the recurring need for his services are testament to the necessity and indispensability of such services to petitioners’ business or trade.

Petitioners would brush off private respondent’s length of service by stating that he had worked for the company merely for several years and that in those times, his services were not exclusive to petitioners.  On the other hand, to prove his claim that he had continuously worked for petitioners from 1988 to 2000, private respondent submitted a copy of his payroll from 30 May 1988 to October 1988 and a copy of his SSS Employees Contributions as of the year 2000.  These documents were submitted by private respondent in order to benchmark his claim of 12 years of service.   Petitioners, however, failed to submit the pertinent employee files, payrolls, records, remittances and other similar documents  which  would show that private respondent’s work was not continuous and for less than 12 years.  Inasmuch as these documents are not in private respondent’s possession but in the custody and absolute control of petitioners, their failure to refute private respondent’s evidence or even categorically deny private respondent’s allegations lead us to no other conclusion than that private respondent was hired in 1988 and had been continuously in its employ since then. Indeed, petitioners’ failure to submit the necessary documents, which as employers are in their possession, gives rise to the presumption that their presentation is prejudicial to its cause.

To recapitulate, it was after 12 long years of having private respondent under its wings when petitioners, possibly sensing a brewing brush with the law as far as private respondent’s employment is concerned, finally found a loophole to kick private respondent out when the latter failed to properly record a 7:25 a.m. call.  Capitalizing on this faux pas, petitioner summarily dismissed private respondent. On this note, we disagree with the finding of the NLRC that private respondent was negligent on account of his failure to properly record a call in the log book.  A review of the records would ineluctably show that there is no basis to deduct six months’ worth of salary from the total separation pay that private respondent is entitled to. We note further that the NLRC’s finding clashes with that of the Labor Arbiter which found no such negligence and that such inadvertence on the part of private respondent, at best, constitutes simple negligence punishable only with admonition or suspension for a day or two.

As the records bear out, private respondent himself seasonably realized his oversight and in no time recorded the 7:25 a.m. call after the 7:30 a.m. call. Gross negligence under Article 282 of the Labor Code,  as amended, connotes want of care in the performance of one’s duties, while habitual neglect implies repeated failure to perform one’s duties for a period of time, depending upon the circumstances.  Here, it is not disputed that private respondent corrected straight away the recording of the call and petitioners failed to prove the damage or injury that such inadvertence caused the company. We find, as the Labor Arbiter had found, that there is no sufficient evidence on record to prove private respondent’s negligence, gross or simple for that matter, in the performance of his duties to warrant a reduction of six months salary from private respondent’s separation pay.  Moreover, respondent missed to properly record, not two or three calls, but just a single call. It was also a first infraction on the part of private respondent, not to mention that the gaffe, if at all, proved to be innocuous. Thus, we find such slip to be within tolerable range. After all, is it not a rule that in carrying out and interpreting the provisions of the Labor Code and its implementing regulations, the workingman’s welfare should be primordial?

Petitioners next assert that deep-sea fishing is a seasonal industry because catching of fish could only be undertaken for a limited duration or seasonal within a given year. Thus, according to petitioners, private respondent was a seasonal or project employee.

We are not won over.

As correctly pointed out by the Court of Appeals, the “activity of catching fish is a continuous process and could hardly be considered as seasonal in nature.”  In Philex Mining Corp. v. National Labor Relations Commission, we defined project employees as those workers hired (1) for a specific project or undertaking, and (2) the completion or termination of such project has been determined at the time of the engagement of the employee. The principal test for determining whether particular employees are “project employees” as distinguished from “regular employees,” is whether or not the “project employees” were assigned to carry out a “specific project or undertaking,” the duration and scope of which were specified at the time the employees were engaged for that project.  In this case, petitioners have not shown that private respondent was informed that he will be assigned to a “specific project or undertaking.”  As earlier noted, neither has it been established that he was informed of the duration and scope of such project or undertaking at the time of their engagement.

More to the point, in Maraguinot, Jr. v. National Labor Relations Commission, we ruled that once a project or work pool employee has been: (1) continuously, as opposed to intermittently, re-hired by the same employer for the same tasks or nature of tasks; and (2) these tasks are vital, necessary and indispensable to the usual business or trade of the employer, then the employee must be deemed a regular employee.

In fine, inasmuch as private respondent’s functions as described above are no doubt “usually necessary or desirable in the usual business or trade” of petitioner fishing company and he was hired continuously for 12 years for the same nature of tasks, we are constrained to say that he belongs to the ilk of regular employee.  Being one, private respondent’s dismissal without valid cause was illegal. And, where illegal dismissal is proven, the worker is entitled to back wages and other similar benefits without deductions or conditions.

Indeed, it behooves this Court to be ever vigilant in checking the unscrupulous efforts of some of our entrepreneurs, primarily aimed at maximizing their return on investments at the expense of the lowly workingman.

WHEREFORE, the present petition is hereby DENIED.  The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated 14 March 2005 in CA-G.R. SP No. 81140 is hereby AFFIRMED WITH MODIFICATION by deleting the reduction of an amount equivalent to six months of pay from private respondent’s separation pay.  The case is remanded to the Labor Arbiter for further proceedings solely for the purpose of determining the monetary liabilities of petitioners in accordance with the decision. The Labor Arbiter is ORDERED to submit his compliance thereon within thirty (30) days from notice of this decision, with copies furnished to the parties.  Costs against petitioners.

SO ORDERED.

SOURCE: [ G.R. NO. 168052, February 20, 2006 ]POSEIDON FISHING/TERRY DE JESUS, PETITIONERS, VS. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION AND JIMMY S. ESTOQUIA, RESPONDENTS. TAGS: conversion hearing trial illegal drugs trial lawyer business corporate lawyer labor lawyer immigration law bureau of immigration cebu 9g visa search warrant warrant of arrest motion to quash information complaint police officers buy bust physical suffering shocked horrified mental anguish fright serious anxiety besmirched reputation sleepless nights wounded feelings moral shock social humiliation similar injuries Real Estate Broker nominal damages Sales Agent Properties for Sale Looking for Buyers Design Build House and Lot for Sale for Rent Talisay City Mandaue City Lapu Lapu Lapu-Lapu City Yncierto Sesante Villanueva Ruz Jan Edmond Marc Tim Timothy temperate damages Luz liquidated damages Kristin tct transfer certificate of title tax declaration birth certificate relocation survey surveying judicial titling administrative titling patent title denr cenro foreshore lease ecc environmental compliance certificate design build architect cebu engineer interior design designer residential commercial cebu property warehouse for rent for lease marc Christian yncierto ruz jan Edmond yncierto ruz Kristin Villanueva ruz Edmond mabalot ruz marriage certificate timber land forest land watershed agricultural lot land use Alcantara Alcoy moral damages Alegria actual damages Aloguinsan Argao Asturias Badian Balamban Bantayan Barili Boljoon Borbon Carmen Catmon Compostela Consolacion Cordova Daanbantayan Dumaguete Bais Sibulan Tampi Bacong Negros Bacolod Separation pay Resign Resignation Back wages Backwages Length of service pay benefit employee employer relationship Silay Kabankalan Daan Bantayan Dalaguete Dumanjug Ginatilan Liloan compensatory damages Madridejos Malabuyoc Medellin Minglanilla Moalboal Oslob Pilar Pinamungajan Poro Ronda Samboan San Fernando San Francisco San Remigio Sante Fe Santander Sibonga Sogod Tabogon Tabuelan Tuburan attorney’s fees Tudela exemplary damages Camotes General Luna Siargao Cagayan Davao Kidapawan Attorney Abogado Lawyer Architect

Whether the trial court has jurisdiction over respondents’ application for registration of a parcel of land.

Section 2 of Presidential Decree (PD) 1529 partly provides:

Sec. 2. Nature of registration proceedings; jurisdiction of courts. – Judicial proceedings for the registration of lands throughout the Philippines shall be in rem, and shall be based on the generally accepted principles underlying the Torrens System.

Courts of First Instance shall have exclusive jurisdiction over all applications for original registration of title to lands, including improvements and interests therein, and over all petitions filed after original registration of title, with power to hear and determine all questions arising upon such applications or petitions.  x x x   

Pursuant to the above provisions, the Regional Trial Court (formerly Court of First Instance) has the authority to act, not only on applications for original registration of title to land, but also on all petitions filed after the original registration of title.  Thus, it has the authority and power to hear and determine all questions arising from such applications or petitions.

The Court of Appeals, therefore, erred in ruling that the Regional Trial Court, Branch 255, Las Piñas City has no jurisdiction over LRC Case   No. M-228 on the ground that the land subject of respondents’ application for registration was already registered in the Registry of Deeds of Las Piñas City.

Significantly, even respondents themselves admit in their comment on the instant petition that what they should have filed was a complaint for nullity of petitioners’ titles.      

Likewise, Section 48 of PD 1529 provides:

Sec. 48.  Certificate not subject to collateral attack. – A certificate of title shall not be subject to collateral attack.  It cannot be altered, modified, or cancelled except in a direct proceeding in accordance with law. (Underscoring ours) 

Respondents’ application for registration of a parcel of land already covered by a Torrens title is actually a collateral attack against petitioners’ title not permitted under the principle of indefeasibility of a Torrens title. It is well settled that a Torrens title cannot be collaterally attacked; the issue on the validity of title, i.e., whether or not it was fraudulently issued, can only be raised in an action expressly instituted for the purpose.  Hence, whether or not respondents have the right to claim title over the property in question is beyond the province of the instant proceeding. That should be threshed out in a proper action.   It has been invariably stated that the real purpose of the Torrens System is to quiet title to land and to stop forever any question as to its legality.   Once a title is registered, the owner may rest secure, without the necessity of waiting in the portals of the court, or sitting on the “mirador su casa” to avoid the possibility of losing his land.         

In Ramos v. Rodriguez,  we held:

It must be noted that petitioners failed to rebut the LRA report and only alleged that the title of the Payatas Estate was spurious, without offering any proof to substantiate this claim.  TCT No. 8816, however, having been issued under the Torrens System, enjoys the conclusive presumption of validity.  As we declared in an earlier case (Reyes and Nadres vs. Borbon and Director of Lands, 50 Phil. 791), “(t)he very purpose of the Torrens system would be destroyed if the same land may be subsequently brought under a second action for registration.”  The application for registration of the petitioners in this case would, under the circumstances, appear to be a collateral attack of TCT No. 8816 which is not allowed under Section 48 of P.D. 1529.  (underscoring ours)    

  Corollarily, Section 32 of the same law states:

Sec. 32.  Review of decree of registration; Innocent purchaser for value. – The decree of registration shall not be reopened or revised by reason  of absence, minority, or other disability of any person adversely affected thereby, nor by any proceeding in any court for reversing judgment, subject, however, to the right of any person, including the government and the branches thereof, deprived of land or of any estate or interest therein by such adjudication or confirmation of title obtained by actual fraud, to file in the proper Court of First Instance a petition for reopening and review of the decree of registration not later than one year from and after the date of the entry of such decree of registration, but in no case shall such petition be entertained by the court where an innocent purchaser for value has acquired the land or an interest therein whose rights may be prejudiced.  Whenever the phrase “innocent purchaser for value” or an equivalent phrase occurs in this Decree, it shall be deemed to include an innocent lessee, mortgagee, or other encumbrancer for value.

Upon the expiration of said period of one year, the decree of registration and the certificate of title issued shall become incontrovertible.  Any person aggrieved by such decree of registration in any case may pursue his remedy by action for damages against the applicant or any other person responsible for the fraud.  (underscoring ours)     

 A decree of registration that has become final shall be deemed conclusive not only on the questions actually contested and determined, but also upon all matters that might be litigated or decided in the land registration proceedings.  

As per records of the Registry of Deeds of Las Piñas City, TCT No. T-9182 was registered in petitioners’ name as early as April 28, 1989, or five (5) years before the filing of respondents’ application for registration.   Thus, it is too late for them (respondents) to question petitioners’ titles considering that the Certificates of Title issued to the latter have become incontrovertible after the lapse of one year from the decree of registration.   

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED.   The assailed Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 40263 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE.  Respondents’ application for registration of land in LRC Case No. M-228 pending before the Regional Trial Court, Branch 255, Las Piñas City is ordered DISMISSED with prejudice.

SO ORDERED. 
   

SOURCE: [ G. R. NO. 130871, February 17, 2006 ]FIL-ESTATE MANAGEMENT INC., MEGATOP REALTY DEVELOPMENT, INC., PEAKSUN ENTERPRISES AND EXPORT CORP., ARTURO DY, AND ELENA DY JAO, PETITIONERS, VS. GEORGE H. TRONO, MA. TERESA TRONO, MA. VIRGINIA TRONO, JESSE TRONO, MA. CRISTINA TRONO, PATRICIA TRONO, MA. DIVINA TRONO, INOCENCIO TRONO, JR., CARMEN TRONO, AND ZENAIDA TRONO, RESPONDENTS. TAGS: Remigio Sante Fe Santander Sibonga Sogod Tabogon Tabuelan Tuburan attorney’s fees Tudela exemplary damages Camotes General Luna Siargao Cagayan Davao Kidapawan Attorney Abogado Lawyer Architect Real Estate Broker nominal damages Sales Agent Properties for Sale Looking for Buyers Design Build House and Lot for Sale for Rent Talisay City Mandaue City Lapu Lapu Lapu-Lapu City Yncierto Sesante Villanueva Ruz Jan Edmond Marc Tim Timothy temperate damages Luz liquidated damages Kristin tct transfer certificate of title tax declaration birth certificate relocation survey surveying judicial titling administrative titling patent title denr cenro foreshore lease ecc environmental compliance certificate design build architect cebu engineer interior design designer residential commercial cebu property warehouse for rent for lease marc Christian yncierto ruz jan Edmond yncierto ruz Kristin Villanueva ruz Edmond mabalot ruz marriage certificate timber land forest land watershed agricultural lot land use conversion hearing trial illegal drugs trial lawyer business corporate lawyer labor lawyer immigration law bureau of immigration cebu 9g visa search warrant warrant of arrest motion to quash information complaint police officers buy bust physical suffering shocked horrified mental anguish fright serious anxiety besmirched reputation sleepless nights wounded feelings moral shock social humiliation similar injuries Alcantara Alcoy moral damages Alegria actual damages Aloguinsan Argao Asturias Badian Balamban Bantayan Barili Boljoon Borbon Carmen Catmon Compostela Consolacion Cordova Daanbantayan Dumaguete Bais Sibulan Tampi Bacong Negros Bacolod Separation pay Resign Resignation Back wages Backwages Length of service pay benefit employee employer relationship Silay Kabankalan Daan Bantayan Dalaguete Dumanjug Ginatilan Liloan compensatory damages Madridejos Malabuyoc Medellin Minglanilla Moalboal Oslob Pilar Pinamungajan Poro Ronda Samboan San Fernando San Francisco San

WHETHER OR NOT THE COMMISSION ON AUDIT IN ISSUING DECISION NOS. 2002-010 AND 2003-106 DATED 08 JANUARY 2002 AND 17 JULY 2003, RESPECTIVELY, ACTED WITHOUT OR IN EXCESS OF ITS JURISDICTION, OR WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION.

Petitioners aver that the grant of hazard duty pay to PPA employees is authorized by PPA Special Order No. 407-97, which was issued pursuant to PPA Memorandum Circular No. 34-95 dated June 26, 1995 implementing DBM National Compensation Circular No. 76, series of 1995.  Hence, they assert that there is legal basis for the grant of the disallowed benefit   since the presidential veto covers only the proposal to pay hazard duty pay under the 1997 budget.  They contend that the presidential veto cannot be made to operate retrospectively since the PPA employees have acquired a vested right to the hazard duty pay covering the first semester of 1997.  

The contention is untenable.  

Indeed, DBM National Compensation Circular No. 76 dated March 31, 1995 provided the guidelines on the grant of hazard duty pay under the annual General Appropriations Act. However, on February 12, 1997, President Fidel V. Ramos vetoed the provision granting hazard duty pay in RA No. 8250 or the General Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 1997.  DBM Circular Letter No. 13-97 dated December 15, 1997 informed government entities of the presidential veto, thus:

1. Section 44 of the General Provisions of [Republic Act No.]  8250 or the FY 1997 General Appropriations Act which authorizes the grant of hazard duty pay to government personnel assigned in certain posts or work areas has been vetoed by the President.  Government entities have no authority therefore to grant in 1997 hazard duty pay to their personnel except those agencies specifically authorized to pay such benefit under special laws like [Republic Act No.] 4670 or “The Magna Carta for Public School Teachers” and Republic Act No. 7305 or  “The Magna Carta of Public Health Workers.”

The presidential veto and the subsequent issuance of DBM Circular Letter No. 13-97 clearly show that the grant of hazard duty pay in 1997 to the personnel of government entities, including PPA, was disallowed.   Hence, the continued payment of the benefit had no more legal basis.

As regards petitioners’ contention that they have acquired a vested right on the grant of hazard duty pay, it has been ruled that the erroneous application and enforcement of the law by public officers do not estop the Government from making a subsequent correction of such errors.  Practice, without more, no matter how long continued, cannot give rise to any vested right if it is contrary to law.
 
Next, petitioners contend that the grant of the birthday cash gift was pursuant to the recommendation of the PPA’s Employees Suggestion and Incentive Awards Committee and was duly approved by the General Manager per PPA Memorandum Circular No. 22-97 dated May 28, 1997 and confirmed by the PPA Board of Directors through Resolution No. 1161.  Petitioners allege that the grant did not require the approval of the Civil Service Commission because it is a welfare benefit and is not based on the employees’ performance.

Further, petitioners assert that PPA can grant its employees birthday cash gift  and hazard duty pay,  despite the presidential veto of the latter benefit, on the basis of its corporate autonomy under  EO No. 159, thus: 

SECTION 1. Any provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding, all revenues of the Philippine Ports Authority generated from the administration of its port or port-oriented services and from whatever sources shall be utilized exclusively for the operations of the Philippine Ports Authority as well as for the maintenance, improvement and development of its port facilities, upon the approval of the Philippine  Ports Authority Board of Directors of its budgetary requirements, as exemptions to   Presidential Decree No. 1234 and the budgetary processes provided in Presidential Decree No. 1177, as amended.

Petitioners argue that the operation and development of ports require the expertise of its manpower so that expenses thereon such as salaries and other fringe benefits, which necessarily include hazard duty pay and birthday cash gift, have to be included in the budget.  Accordingly, the hazard duty pay and birthday cash gift granted to PPA employees in the first semester of 1997 and in 1998, respectively, were integrated in the budget of PPA and approved by the Board of Directors in accordance with EO No. 159.  Hence, the grant of said benefits is legal and the disallowance by COA is in violation of PPA’s exercise of its corporate prerogatives.  

Petitioners’ arguments lack merit.  

The pertinent provisions of EO No. 159 are as follows:

x x x


WHEREAS,  there is a need to ensure and hasten the continuing growth and development of the government ports directly administered and maintained by the Philippine Ports Authority in order to cater to the over-increasing needs of water-borne commerce, and to effectively serve as vital links in the overall transport system in the country;

WHEREAS, certain laws issued by the past administration adver[sely] affected the coordinated programming, operations, financing and budgetary requirements of ports or the port system under the Philippine Ports Authority, and unduly jeopardized its corporate autonomy, all to the detriment of public service

NOW, THEREFORE, I, CORAZON C. AQUINO, President of the Philippines, do hereby order:

SECTION 1.  Any provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding, all revenues of the Philippine Ports Authority generated from the administration of its port or port-oriented services and from whatever sources shall be utilized exclusively for the operations of the Philippine Ports Authority as well as for the maintenance, improvement and development of its port facilities, upon the approval of the Philippine  Ports Authority Board of Directors of its budgetary requirements, as exemptions to  Presidential Decree No. 1234 and the budgetary processes provided in Presidential Decree No. 1177, as amended.

SEC. 2.  Letter of Instructions No. 734 dated September 1, 1978 is hereby repealed.  Henceforth, the Philippine Ports Authority Board of Directors is hereby authorized to program and approve all capital investments and expenditures on all projects of the Philippine Ports Authority before the same are implemented.

SEC. 3.  Any provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding, the Philippine Ports Authority shall be responsible for the planning, detailed engineering, construction, expansion, rehabilitation and capital dredging of all ports under its port system.

SEC. 4. All laws, orders, issuances, rules and regulations, or parts thereof inconsistent with this Executive Order are hereby repealed or modified accordingly.

What is clear from Section 1, which is cited by petitioners as legal basis of their claim, is that “all revenues of the Philippine Ports Authority generated from the administration of its port or port-oriented services and from whatever sources shall be utilized exclusively for the operations of the Philippine Ports Authority as well as for the maintenance, improvement and development of its port facilities.”

Nowhere in the above provisions can it be found that the PPA   Board of Directors is authorized to grant additional compensation, allowances or benefits to the employees of PPA. Neither does PD No. 857, otherwise known as the “Revised Charter of the Philippine Ports Authority,” authorize PPA or its Board of Directors to grant additional compensation, allowances or benefits to PPA employees.  Hence, PPA’s grant of birthday cash gift in 1998 per PPA Memorandum Circular No. 22-97 is without legal basis. Petitioners also cannot use PPA’s corporate autonomy under EO No. 159 to justify PPA’s grant of hazard duty pay in the first semester of 1997. 

We note that President Fidel V. Ramos vetoed the provision granting hazard duty pay in the General Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 1997 only on February 2, 1997.  Moreover, it was at the end of 1997 or on December 15, 1997 that the DBM issued DBM Circular Letter No. 13-97 apprising government entities of the presidential veto and, therefore, of their lack of authority to grant in 1997 hazard duty pay to their personnel except for those agencies specifically authorized to pay that benefit.  Apparently, when PPA granted hazard duty pay to its employees from January to June 1997, it had no knowledge that it was no longer authorized to grant the benefit. 

In regard to the refund of  the disallowed benefits, this Court  holds that petitioners  need not refund the benefits received by them based on our rulings in Blaquera v. Alcala, De Jesus v. Commission on Audit and Kapisanan ng mga Manggagawa sa Government Service Insurance System (KMG) v. Commission on Audit.

In Blaquera, the petitioners, who were officials and employees of several government departments and agencies, were paid incentive benefits pursuant to EO No. 292 and the Omnibus Rules Implementing Book V of EO No. 292.  On January 3, 1993, then President Fidel V. Ramos issued Administrative Order (AO) No. 29 authorizing the grant of productivity incentive benefits for the year 1992 in the maximum amount of P1,000. Section 4 of AO No. 29 directed all departments, offices and agencies which authorized payment of CY 1992 Productivity Incentive Bonus in excess of P1,000  to immediately cause the refund of the excess.  Respondent heads of the departments or agencies of the government concerned caused the deduction from petitioners’ salaries or allowances of the amounts needed to cover the overpayments.  Petitioners therein filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition before this Court to prevent respondents therein from making further deductions from their salaries or allowances.  The Court ruled against the refund, thus: 

Considering, however, that all the parties here acted in good faith, we cannot countenance the refund of subject incentive benefits for the year 1992, which amounts the petitioners have already received.  Indeed, no indicia of bad faith can be detected under the attendant facts and circumstances. The officials and chiefs of offices concerned disbursed such incentive benefits in the honest belief that the amounts given were due to the recipients and the latter accepted the same with gratitude, confident that they richly deserve such benefits.

The said ruling in Blaquera was applied in De Jesus.   

 In De Jesus, COA disallowed the payment of allowances and bonuses consisting of representation and transportation allowance, rice allowance, productivity incentive bonus, anniversary bonus, year-end bonus and cash gifts to members of the interim Board of Directors of the Catbalogan Water District. This Court affirmed the disallowance because petitioners therein were not entitled to other compensation except for payment of per diem under PD No. 198. However, the Court ruled against the refund of the allowances and bonuses received by petitioners, thus:

This ruling in Blaquera applies to the instant case.  Petitioners here received the additional allowances and bonuses in good faith under the honest belief that LWUA Board Resolution No. 313 authorized such payment.  At the time petitioners received the additional allowances and bonuses, the Court had not yet decided Baybay Water District.  Petitioners had no knowledge that such payment was without legal basis.  Thus, being in good faith, petitioners need not refund the allowances and bonuses they received but disallowed by the COA.

Further, in KMG, this Court applied the ruling   in  Blaquera  and  De Jesus  in  holding that the Social Insurance Group (SIG) personnel of the Government Service Insurance System need not refund the hazard pay received by them although said benefit was correctly disallowed by COA.  The Court ruled:

The Court however finds that the DOH and GSIS officials concerned who granted hazard pay under R.A. No. 7305 to the SIG personnel acted in good faith, in the honest belief that there was legal basis for such grant.  The SIG personnel in turn accepted the hazard pay benefits likewise believing that they were entitled to such benefit.  At that time, neither the concerned DOH and GSIS officials nor the SIG personnel knew that the grant of hazard pay to the latter is not sanctioned by law.  Thus, following the rulings of the Court in De Jesus v. Commission on Audit, and Blaquera v. Alcala, the SIG personnel who previously received hazard pay under  R.A. No. 7305 need not refund such benefits.

In the same vein, the rulings in Blaquera, De Jesus and KMG apply to this case. Petitioners received the hazard duty pay and birthday cash gift in good faith since the benefits were authorized by PPA Special Order No. 407-97 issued pursuant to PPA Memorandum Circular No. 34-95 implementing DBM National Compensation Circular No. 76, series of 1995, and PPA Memorandum Circular No. 22-97, respectively.  Petitioners at that time had no knowledge that the payment of said benefits lacked legal basis.  Being in good faith, petitioners need not refund the benefits they received.

WHEREFORE, the Commission on Audit Decision No. 2002-010 dated January 8, 2002 and COA Decision No. 2003-106 dated July 17, 2003 are AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. Petitioners need not refund the hazard duty pay received per Philippine Ports Authority Memorandum Circular No. 34-95 dated June 26, 1995 covering the period from January 1 to June 30, 1997, and the birthday cash gift received per PPA Memorandum Circular No. 22-97 dated May 28, 1997. 

No pronouncement as to costs. 

SO ORDERED.

SOURCE: [ G.R. NO. 159200, February 16, 2006 ]PHILIPPINE PORTS AUTHORITY AND JUAN O. PEÑA, ARTURO S. BERNARDINO, AND VICENTE D. RAMOS, FOR THEIR OWN AND IN BEHALF OF THE PPA OFFICIALS AND EMPLOYEES, PETITIONERS, VS. COMMISSION ON AUDIT AND ARTHUR HINAL, RESPONDENTS. TAGS: Alcantara Alcoy moral damages Alegria actual damages Aloguinsan Argao Asturias Badian Balamban Bantayan Barili Boljoon Borbon Carmen Catmon Compostela Consolacion Cordova Daanbantayan Dumaguete Bais Sibulan Tampi Bacong Negros Bacolod Separation pay Resign Resignation Back wages Backwages Length of service pay benefit employee employer relationship Silay Kabankalan Daan Bantayan Dalaguete Dumanjug Ginatilan Liloan compensatory damages Madridejos Malabuyoc Medellin Minglanilla Moalboal Oslob Pilar Pinamungajan Poro Ronda Samboan San Fernando San Francisco San Remigio Sante Fe Santander Sibonga Sogod Tabogon Tabuelan Tuburan attorney’s fees Tudela exemplary damages Camotes General Luna Siargao Cagayan Davao Kidapawan Attorney Abogado Lawyer Architect Real Estate Broker nominal damages Sales Agent Properties for Sale Looking for Buyers Design Build House and Lot for Sale for Rent Talisay City Mandaue City Lapu Lapu Lapu-Lapu City Yncierto Sesante Villanueva Ruz Jan Edmond Marc Tim Timothy temperate damages Luz liquidated damages Kristin tct transfer certificate of title tax declaration birth certificate relocation survey surveying judicial titling administrative titling patent title denr cenro foreshore lease ecc environmental compliance certificate design build architect cebu engineer interior design designer residential commercial cebu property warehouse for rent for lease marc Christian yncierto ruz jan Edmond yncierto ruz Kristin Villanueva ruz Edmond mabalot ruz marriage certificate timber land forest land watershed agricultural lot land use conversion hearing trial illegal drugs trial lawyer business corporate lawyer labor lawyer immigration law bureau of immigration cebu 9g visa search warrant warrant of arrest motion to quash information complaint police officers buy bust physical suffering shocked horrified mental anguish fright serious anxiety besmirched reputation sleepless nights wounded feelings moral shock social humiliation similar injuries

WHETHER OR NOT THE RESPONDENT IS THE RIGHTFUL HOLDER OF THE POSITION OF DEPUTY SECRETARY GENERAL, PUBLIC RELATIONS AND INFORMATION DEPARTMENT UNTIL 31 JULY 2001.

By Decision of October 28, 2004, the appellate court found that the position of Deputy Secretary General, PRID pertains to the non-career service;  respondent held a primarily confidential position and her tenure was thus coterminous with and subject to the pleasure of the appointing authority, and her termination could be justified only on the ground of loss of confidence;  and respondent’s removal was without cause, as petitioner itself made no pretense about the absence of said ground.

The appellate court thus affirmed CSC Resolution Nos. 021103 and 030065 with modification in that it declared the removal of Loanzon and the appointment of Emmanuel Albano in her place null and void.

Hence, the present petition submitting that the appellate court gravely erred in:

I


x x x CLASSIFYING THE POSITION OF DEPUTY SECRETARY GENERAL, PUBLIC RELATIONS AND INFORMATION DEPARTMENT AS A PRIMARILY CONFIDENTIAL POSITION BELONGING TO THE NON-CAREER SERVICE.

II


x x x HOLDING THAT RESPONDENT’S TERMINATION OF HER TEMPORARY APPOINTMENT AS DEPUTY SECRETARY GENERAL, PUBLIC RELATIONS AND INFORMATION DEPARTMENT IS IL[L]EGAL AND THE APPOINTMENT OF MR. EMMANUEL ALBANO IN HER PLACE, NULL AND VOID.

Petitioner contends that contrary to the appellate court’s ruling, the position of Deputy Secretary General, PRID belongs to the career service, as the appointee to said position is chosen only if he or she meets the qualification standards for the position including eligibility requirement;  and respondent’s appointment was made on the basis of the usual test of merit and fitness for the career service because she was required to have either Career Service Executive (CSE) or Career Executive Service (CES) eligibility, which explains why her appointment was denominated permanent with a colatilla, however, that she did not have security of tenure until she obtained a CES eligibility.

Petitioner also asseverates that respondent’s tenure cannot be considered coterminous with the appointing authority as she held the same position under Speakers Villar, Fuentebella and Belmonte, all of the Eleventh Congress, and was even allowed to serve under the Twelfth Congress. If respondent’s appointment was highly confidential and coterminous, then, concludes petitioner, her term should have ended when Speaker Villar ceased to hold the speakership.

Petitioner further contends that although respondent’s appointment was denominated as permanent, it was in reality temporary because of the express qualification that she did not have security of tenure unless she obtained a CES eligibility;  and that following the Revised Administrative Code of 1987 which provides that temporary appointments shall not exceed twelve months, respondent’s appointment ceased on March 8, 2000, citing Pangilinan v. Maglaya.

The petition is impressed with merit.

Paragraph 6 of CSC Resolution No. 967961 furnishes the qualification standards for Deputy Secretary General of the House of Representatives, thus:

6. DEPUTY SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES (SG – 30)

Education    :    Bachelor’s degree
Experience  :    3 years supervisory experience
Training       :    None required
Eligibility   :    Career Service Executive (CSE)
                        Career Executive Service (CES)

                        (Emphasis supplied)


Clearly, the position of Deputy Secretary General of the House of Representatives belongs to the career service which is, so the Civil Service Law provides, characterized, among other things, by entrance based on merit and fitness to be determined as far as practicable by competitive examinations, or based on highly technical qualifications and security of tenure.  The holder of the position can only enjoy security of tenure if he or she possesses the qualifications and eligibility prescribed for it.

In respondent’s case, although respondent’s appointment was denominated as “permanent,” it having been “proposed as permanent,” it was in reality temporary for, so her CSC appointment paper clearly stated, she did not enjoy security tenure as she lacked the eligibility requirement for the position.  Thus the Revised Administrative Code of 1987 provides:

Section 27. Employment Status. – Appointment in the career service shall be permanent or temporary.

(1) Permanent status. – A permanent appointment shall be issued to a person who meets all the requirements for the position to which he is being appointed, including the appropriate eligibility prescribed, in accordance with the provisions of law, rules and standards promulgated in pursuance thereof.

(2) Temporary appointment. – In the absence of appropriate eligibles and it becomes necessary in the public interest to fill a vacancy, a temporary appointment shall be issued to a person who meets all the requirements for the position to which he is being appointed except the appropriate civil service eligibility: Provided, That such temporary appointment shall not exceed twelve months, but the appointee may be replaced sooner if a qualified civil service eligible becomes available.  (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

In fine, respondent’s appointment was merely temporary, not to exceed twelve months.  Since she was appointed on March 8, 1999, it was effective only for one year or up to March 8, 2000.  Having continued, however, to hold on to her position up to July 25, 2001 when Albano was appointed by Speaker de Venecia, she did so in a hold-over capacity.

Respondent argues that Albano too does not possess CES eligibility and his appointment in her stead is thus legally untenable.  The case of General v. Roco instructs otherwise.  Roco was appointed in August 1996 by then President Ramos as Land Transportation Office (LTO) Regional Director, a position equivalent to CES rank level V.  He was subsequently appointed to the same position by President Estrada in February 1999.  In August 1999, he was conferred CES eligibility, but still did not possess the appropriate CES rank level V for his position.  General, who was not a CES eligible, was subsequently appointed by President Estrada to the same position occupied by Roco.

On a petition for quo warranto filed by Roco, the Court of Appeals nullified General’s appointment.

When the case reached this Court, this Court, ruling in favor of General, held that the law allows the appointment of those who are not CES eligible, subject to the obtention of said eligibility, in the same manner that the appointment of Roco, who did not possess the required CES rank level V for the position of LTO Regional Director, was allowed in a temporary capacity.

Even if Albano then did not possess the required eligibility, following General, his appointment was not legally infirm.

CSC Resolution No. 021103 which subsequently held that Speaker De Venecia should not have issued an appointment to Albano on July 25, 2001 until after the expiration on July 31, 2001 of respondent’s detail on the Quezon City Mayor’s Office does not thus lie.  As correctly pleaded by petitioner before the appellate court, when Nazareno approved Mayor Belmonte’s request for respondent’s detail until July 31, 2001, Speaker de Venecia had not yet been elected and assumed office as speaker.  With Speaker de Venecia’s subsequent election and assumption of office as speaker, Nazareno’s action as secretary-general became subject to supervision and control, hence, it could be revoked anytime.

By thus appointing Albano on July 25, 2001, Speaker de Venecia impliedly revoked or modified Nazareno’s action by shortening the period of the approved detail.

As for the Speaker’s approval on October 25, 2001 of Mayor Belmonte’s second request for respondent’s detail to his office effective August 1, 2001, the same may be taken as mere oversight on the part of the Speaker.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The challenged Court of Appeals Decision and Resolution are SET ASIDE.  Civil Service Commission Resolution No. 02-0224 dated February 14, 2002 is REINSTATED.

SO ORDERED.

SOURCE: [ G.R. NO. 168267, February 16, 2006 ]HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AS REPRESENTED BY ITS SECRETARY GENERAL, ROBERTO P. NAZARENO, PETITIONER, VS. ATTY. VICTORIA V. LOANZON, RESPONDENT. Tags: property warehouse for rent for lease marc Christian yncierto ruz jan Edmond yncierto ruz Kristin Villanueva ruz Edmond mabalot ruz marriage certificate timber land forest land watershed agricultural lot land use Alcantara Alcoy moral damages Alegria actual damages Aloguinsan Argao Asturias Badian Balamban Bantayan Barili Boljoon Borbon Carmen Catmon Compostela Consolacion Cordova Daanbantayan Dumaguete Bais Sibulan Tampi Bacong Negros Bacolod Separation pay Resign Resignation conversion hearing trial illegal drugs trial lawyer business corporate lawyer labor lawyer immigration law bureau of immigration cebu 9g visa search warrant warrant of arrest motion to quash information complaint police officers buy bust physical suffering shocked horrified mental anguish fright serious anxiety besmirched reputation sleepless nights wounded feelings moral shock social humiliation similar injuries Real Estate Broker nominal damages Sales Agent Properties for Sale Looking for Buyers Design Build House and Lot for Sale for Rent Talisay City Mandaue City Lapu Lapu Lapu-Lapu City Yncierto Sesante Villanueva Ruz Jan Edmond Marc Tim Timothy temperate damages Luz liquidated damages Kristin tct transfer certificate of title tax declaration birth certificate relocation survey surveying judicial titling administrative titling patent title denr cenro foreshore lease ecc environmental compliance certificate design build architect cebu engineer interior design designer residential commercial cebu Back wages Backwages Length of service pay benefit employee employer relationship Silay Kabankalan Daan Bantayan Dalaguete Dumanjug Ginatilan Liloan compensatory damages Madridejos Malabuyoc Medellin Minglanilla Moalboal Oslob Pilar Pinamungajan Poro Ronda Samboan San Fernando San Francisco San Remigio Sante Fe Santander Sibonga Sogod Tabogon Tabuelan Tuburan attorney’s fees Tudela exemplary damages Camotes General Luna Siargao Cagayan Davao Kidapawan Attorney Abogado Lawyer Architect

Whether the defendant-appellant is bound under the Compromise Agreement entered into by Security Bank Corporation and defendants.

Anent the first two issues, Limpo takes for the negative. He maintains that the Compromise Agreement was executed without his participation and so the trial court’s judgment based on compromise, by obvious consequence, did not and could not have included him as a judgment debtor. Under this circumstance, there would be no basis to include him as a defendant in a complaint for revival of judgment.
 
With respect to the second issue, Limpo answers in the affirmative. He avers that an action based on the promissory note, being a written contract, prescribes in ten years. Continuing from this premise, he computes that the right of action under the promissory note accrued when it became due and demandable on September 19, 1979 and was suspended upon institution of the action to collect on the note on November 11, 1980. By then, one year, one month and twenty-three days had elapsed. The period began to run again on March 22, 1983, when the judgment approving the Compromise Agreement was issued, and was tolled upon the filing of the complaint for revival of judgment on July 22, 1992. This next interval adds up to approximately nine years and four months. Add this to the first interval, the total period that had run would already be ten years and five months, making any suit on the promissory note barred by prescription. 

The Court finds the petition meritorious. 

It is settled that a compromise agreement cannot bind persons who are not parties to it This rule is based on Article 1311(1) of the Civil Code which provides that “contracts take effect only between the parties, their assigns and heirs x x x.”  The sound reason for the exclusion of non-parties to an agreement is the absence of a vinculum or juridical tie which is the efficient cause for the establishment of an obligation. In the Compromise Agreement that was presented to the trial court, there is no question that only the spouses Uy and the Bank were parties. Limpo did not participate in its execution and there was no reference to him in any of its provisions. He cannot be bound by the Compromise Agreement.
 
What happens then if the court approves a compromise agreement that fails to include all of the defendants? In approving a compromise agreement, no court can impose upon the parties a judgment different from their real agreement or against the very terms and conditions of the amicable settlement entered into. The principle of autonomy of contracts must be respected. These being said, considering that the Compromise Agreement imposed no obligation upon Limpo, it follows that the judgment rendered by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Pasig, based on the Compromise Agreement, could likewise not impose any obligation upon him. The duty of the court is confined to the interpretation of the agreement that the contracting parties have made for themselves without regard to its wisdom or folly as the court cannot supply material stipulations or read into the contract words which it does not contain. Consequently, the contention of Limpo is correct. The terms and conditions set forth in the Compromise Agreement, as approved by the court, are controlling and, therefore, there is no basis to include him in reviving the judgment. 

However, there remains the question of whether the Bank may still continue the proceedings against Limpo in Civil Case No. 62226, as concluded by the Court of Appeals.  

The Court of Appeals gives the following reason:  

x x x If the spouses Uy would become insolvent and could not pay their obligation under the Compromise Agreement, the SBTC [the Bank] could collect the whole amount of the obligation from defendant Rolando Limpo. A judgment, therefore, against Rolando Limpo would not be incompatible with the existence of the Compromise Agreement for in such a situation SBTC could exercise its option to secure execution of judgment against either or both the Uys and Limpo. The only limitation is that SBTC could not collect more than the total amount of indebtedness.

The sound reasoning of the Court of Appeals as to the liabilities of a solidary debtor is correct. However, it failed to consider two important incidents that make this case distinct: 1) a judgment had been rendered excluding Limpo; and 2) such judgment had become final.

A compromise agreement once approved by order of the court becomes immediately final and executory with the force of res judicata.  The court’s sanction imbues it with the same effect as any other judgment.  No doubt that as to the spouses Uy, there was a clear declaration of liability. Debate arises with respect to Limpo who was never mentioned in both the agreement and the judgment despite that fact that he was impleaded as a defendant. How should this omission affect him?

Judicial precedent as to the implication of a judgment approving a compromise agreement that fails to expressly mention or include all the defendants is found in Bopis v. Provincial Sheriff of Camarines Norte, the facts of which are akin to those of this case.  There, four defendants, Camino, Eco, Guadalupe and Bopis, were sued by the plaintiff for recovery of possession of real property. Later, a compromise agreement was executed among Camino, Eco and the plaintiff, whereby Camino and Eco agreed to pay the plaintiff a sum of money. The compromise agreement was later approved by the trial court. Camino and Eco, however, failed to pay the entire amount and, as a result, a writ of execution was issued against all four defendants. Guadalupe and Bopis questioned their inclusion in the writ of execution since the judgment approving the agreement did not include them. This Court found their contention meritorious and declared the writ of execution null and void with respect to Guadalupe and Bopis.  Quoting from the Decision:

As will be seen, only Rufina Camino and Pasto Eco were adjudged to pay Alfonso Ortega the amount of P140.00 on February 28, 1951. Although they were included as party defendants, the spouses Fermin Bopis and Emilia Guadalupe were not ordered to pay Alfonso Ortega. Obviously, they were absolved from liability. Accordingly, as to them, there was nothing to execute since they have been absolved from liability.

The Court, in that case, ostensibly concluded that a decision that fails to expressly mention the liability of one of the defendants will be taken to mean that he has been absolved in that case. From this pronouncement, the failure to mention Limpo in the judgment of the RTC of Pasig will correspondingly mean his absence of liability to the Bank. As this implied declaration became final with the approval of the Compromise Agreement, the Court of Appeals’ instructions to continue the proceedings against Limpo in Civil Case No. 62226 amount to an alteration of a matter that is already res judicata.  

Since Limpo is no longer liable to the Bank, the issue of prescription is not necessary to resolve. 

WHEREFORE
, the resolutions of the Court of Appeals dated April 5, 2000 and August 30, 2000 in CA-G.R. CV No. 45821 are hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Rolando Limpo is ordered DROPPED as a defendant in Civil Case No. 62226. No pronouncement as to costs. 

SO ORDERED.       

SOURCE: [ G.R. NO. 144732, February 13, 2006 ]ROLANDO LIMPO, PETITIONER, VS. COURT OF APPEALS AND SECURITY BANK AND TRUST COMPANY, RESPONDENTS. Tags: conversion hearing trial illegal drugs trial lawyer business corporate lawyer labor lawyer immigration law bureau of immigration cebu 9g visa search warrant warrant of arrest motion to quash information complaint police officers buy bust physical suffering shocked horrified mental anguish fright serious anxiety besmirched reputation sleepless nights wounded feelings moral shock social humiliation similar injuries Real Estate Broker nominal damages Sales Agent Properties for Sale Looking for Buyers Design Build House and Lot for Sale for Rent Talisay City Mandaue City Lapu Lapu Lapu-Lapu City Yncierto Sesante Villanueva Ruz Jan Edmond Marc Tim Timothy temperate damages Luz liquidated damages Kristin tct transfer certificate of title tax declaration birth certificate relocation survey surveying judicial titling administrative titling patent title denr cenro foreshore lease ecc environmental compliance certificate design build architect cebu engineer interior design designer residential commercial cebu property warehouse for rent for lease marc Christian yncierto ruz jan Edmond yncierto ruz Kristin Villanueva ruz Edmond mabalot ruz marriage certificate timber land forest land watershed agricultural lot land use Alcantara Alcoy moral damages Alegria actual damages Aloguinsan Argao Asturias Badian Balamban Bantayan Barili Boljoon Borbon Carmen Catmon Compostela Consolacion Cordova Daanbantayan Dumaguete Bais Sibulan Tampi Bacong Negros Bacolod Separation pay Resign Resignation Back wages Backwages Length of service pay benefit employee employer relationship Silay Kabankalan Daan Bantayan Dalaguete Dumanjug Ginatilan Liloan compensatory damages Madridejos Malabuyoc Medellin Minglanilla Moalboal Oslob Pilar Pinamungajan Poro Ronda Samboan San Fernando San Francisco San Remigio Sante Fe Santander Sibonga Sogod Tabogon Tabuelan Tuburan attorney’s fees Tudela exemplary damages Camotes General Luna Siargao Cagayan Davao Kidapawan Attorney Abogado Lawyer Architect

Whether any of the co-owners may bring an action in ejectment?

The CA is correct in overruling the RTC.  The latter court held that in Arcelona v. Court of Appeals, we held that a co-owner cannot maintain an action in ejectment without joining all the other co-owners, the latter being indispensable parties.

In reversing the ruling of the RTC, the CA pointed out that the RTC relied on the uncorrected Arcelona decision.  The RTC overlooked the fact that the decision has been corrected by an “ERRATA for pages 38-39” appearing on the second leaf of volume 280 of the SCRA.  Thus, the CA held:

Formerly, Article 487 of the old Civil Code provided that “any one of the co-owners may bring an action in ejectment.”  It was subsequently held that a co-owner could not maintain an action in ejectment without joining all the other co-owners.

The foregoing statement was deleted and replaced with the following:

In the past, a co-owner could not even maintain an action in ejectment without joining all the other co-owners. . .

While Article 487 of the Civil Code now provides that “any one of the co-owners may bring an action in ejectment,” former Chief Justice Moran also stressed that all of them are necessary and proper parties . . .

We reiterate the Arcelona ruling that the controlling law is Article 487 of the Civil Code which categorically states:  

Any one of the co-owners may bring an action in ejectment. (n)

Article 487 is a departure from the rule laid down in the case of Palarca v. Baguis which held that an action for ejectment must be brought by all the co-owners.  As explained by Tolentino, the law now allows a co-owner to bring an action for ejectment, which covers all kinds of actions for the recovery of possession, including forcible entry and unlawful detainer, without the necessity of joining all the other co-owners as co-plaintiffs, because the suit is deemed to be instituted for the benefit of all.  

We also reject petitioners’ second and third assignment of errors.  Petitioners claim that Juanito Coronel, attorney-in-fact of Maria Coronel, one of the co-owners of the lots in dispute is not authorized to file the ejectment suit.  They insist that he should have obtained the authority and consent of all the co-owners.  But since Article 487 of the Civil Code authorizes any one of the co-owners to bring an action for ejectment and the suit is deemed to be instituted for the benefit of all, without the other co-owners actually giving consent to the suit, it follows that an attorney-in-fact of the plaintiff co-owner does not need authority from all the co-owners.  He needs authority only from the co-owner instituting the ejectment suit.

We likewise hold that the execution of the certification against forum shopping by the attorney-in-fact in the case at bar is not a violation of the requirement that the parties must personally sign the same.  The attorney-in-fact, who has authority to file, and who actually filed the complaint as the representative of the plaintiff co-owner, pursuant to a Special Power of Attorney, is a party to the ejectment suit.  In fact, Section 1, Rule 70 of the Rules of Court includes the representative of the owner in an ejectment suit as one of the parties authorized to institute the proceedings.  

IN VIEW WHEREOF, petitioners’ appeal is DENIED.  The Court of Appeals’ May 30, 2002 Decision in CA-G.R. SP No. 67157 and November 12, 2002 Resolution, reversing the September 17, 2001 Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Malolos, Bulacan in Civil Case No. 458-M-2001 and reviving the May 29, 2001 Decision of the Municipal Trial Court of Hagonoy, Bulacan in Civil Case No. 1308, are AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

SOURCE: [ G.R. NO. 156402, February 13, 2006 ]SPS. ALFREDO MENDOZA AND ROSARIO F. MENDOZA, PETITIONERS, VS. MARIA CORONEL, REPRESENTED BY JUANITO CORONEL, RESPONDENT. Tags: Remigio Sante Fe Santander Sibonga Sogod Tabogon Tabuelan Tuburan attorney’s fees Tudela exemplary damages Camotes General Luna Siargao Cagayan Davao Kidapawan Attorney Abogado Lawyer Architect Real Estate Broker nominal damages Sales Agent Properties for Sale Looking for Buyers Design Build House and Lot for Sale for Rent Talisay City Mandaue City Lapu Lapu Lapu-Lapu City Yncierto Sesante Villanueva Ruz Jan Edmond Marc Tim Timothy temperate damages Luz liquidated damages Kristin tct transfer certificate of title tax declaration birth certificate relocation survey surveying judicial titling administrative titling patent title denr cenro foreshore lease ecc environmental compliance certificate design build architect cebu engineer interior design designer residential commercial cebu property warehouse for rent for lease marc Christian yncierto ruz jan Edmond yncierto ruz Kristin Villanueva ruz Edmond mabalot ruz marriage certificate timber land forest land watershed agricultural lot land use conversion hearing trial illegal drugs trial lawyer business corporate lawyer labor lawyer immigration law bureau of immigration cebu 9g visa search warrant warrant of arrest motion to quash information complaint police officers buy bust physical suffering shocked horrified mental anguish fright serious anxiety besmirched reputation sleepless nights wounded feelings moral shock social humiliation similar injuries Alcantara Alcoy moral damages Alegria actual damages Aloguinsan Argao Asturias Badian Balamban Bantayan Barili Boljoon Borbon Carmen Catmon Compostela Consolacion Cordova Daanbantayan Dumaguete Bais Sibulan Tampi Bacong Negros Bacolod Separation pay Resign Resignation Back wages Backwages Length of service pay benefit employee employer relationship Silay Kabankalan Daan Bantayan Dalaguete Dumanjug Ginatilan Liloan compensatory damages Madridejos Malabuyoc Medellin Minglanilla Moalboal Oslob Pilar Pinamungajan Poro Ronda Samboan San Fernando San Francisco San

THE COURT OF APPEALS ACTED WITH MANIFEST PARTIALITY, ARBITRARILY, AND IN GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION IN ISSUING THE QUESTIONED ORDER.

The Ruling of the Court 


The petition is without merit. 

Petitioners allege that Mayor Vargas should have filed with the Court of Appeals a petition for review under Rule 43 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure and not a special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65. Furthermore, Mayor Vargas filed the action for certiorari even while her motion for reconsideration was still pending resolution before the Office of the President. According to petitioners, the Court of Appeals acted with manifest bias and partiality when it issued the writ of preliminary injunction against petitioners despite the filing of a wrong remedy and the non-exhaustion of administrative remedies. 

 Under Section 1, Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, the writ of certiorari is proper when the following requisites are present: 

  1. It is directed against any tribunal, board or officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions;
  2. Such tribunal, board or officer has acted without or in excess of its or his jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of its or his jurisdiction; and
  3. There is no appeal or any plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.

Mayor Vargas filed with the Court of Appeals a special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65 alleging grave abuse of discretion on the part of Secretary Gaite. Thus, in a Resolution dated 14 August 2003, the Court of Appeals stated:


To question the foregoing Resolution of respondent Executive Secretary, petitioner interposed the instant petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, essentially posing the following issues: (1) was it proper for respondent Executive Secretary to have ruled that petitioner is considered in default pursuant to Article 126, Rule XIX of the Rules Implementing the Local Government Code of 1991; (2) can the civil case filed by petitioner before the Cabanatuan RTC for annulment of falsified minutes of session and appropriation ordinance with damages be considered a prejudicial question which warrants the suspension of the proceedings in the administrative case; (3) has the respondent Sanggunian[g] Panlalawigan jurisdiction to hear the administrative case filed against herein petitioner, when the relief  sought therein is her removal from office.

At first blush, the assailed resolution having being issued by the Office of the President, through the Executive Secretary, it would seem that the proper remedy is an appeal via a petition for review under Rule 43 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.  A perusal of the instant petition for certiorari would, however, reveal that petitioner is alleging that the challenged resolution was issued with grave abuse of discretion and beyond respondents’ jurisdiction, hence, the appropriate remedy is certiorari under Rule 65.  Moreover, assuming arguendo that the proper remedy is a petition for review under Rule 43, the Supreme Court has oftentimes ruled that, in accordance with the liberal spirit pervading the Rules of Court and in the interest of justice, a petition for certiorari may be treated as having been filed under Rule 43, in which case this Court chooses to do so, in view of the gravity and seriousness of the issues involved herein (Emphasis supplied)



The Court finds no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the appellate court in assuming jurisdiction over the case.  The special civil action of certiorari is proper to correct errors of jurisdiction including the commission of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. All the issues submitted for resolution in the Court of Appeals involve questions of law which are reviewable on certiorari.

Exception to the Application of Exhaustion of
Administrative Remedies


Under the doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies, a litigant cannot go to court without first pursuing his administrative remedies, otherwise his action is premature and his case is not ripe for judicial determination. A litigant should first exhaust the administrative remedies provided by law before seeking judicial intervention in order to give the administrative agency an opportunity to decide correctly the matter and prevent unnecessary and premature resort to the court.

However, the Court recognizes some exceptions to the rule of exhaustion of administrative remedies. As held in Paat v. Court of Appeals:

x x x  However, we are not amiss to reiterate that the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies as tested by a battery of cases is not an ironclad rule. This doctrine is a relative one and its flexibility is called upon by the peculiarity and uniqueness of the factual and circumstantial settings of a case.  Hence, it is disregarded (1) when there is a violation of due process, (2) when the issue involved is purely a legal question, (3) when the administrative action is patently illegal amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, (4) when there is estoppel on the part of the administrative agency concerned, (5) when there is irreparable injury,    (6) when the respondent is a department secretary whose acts as an alter ego of the President bears the implied and assumed approval of the latter, (7) when to require exhaustion of administrative remedies would be unreasonable, (8) when it would amount to a nullification of a claim, (9) when the subject matter is a private land in land case proceedings,   (10) when the rule does not provide a plain, speedy and adequate remedy, and (11) when there are circumstances indicating the urgency of judicial intervention.

The requirement of prior exhaustion of administrative remedies may likewise be dispensed with in the following instances: (1) when the claim involved is small; (2) when strong public interest is involved; and (3) in quo warranto proceedings.

In this case, Mayor Vargas filed the petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals alleging that Secretary Gaite issued the Resolution dated   8 July 2003 with grave abuse of discretion. Mayor Vargas raised the following issues: (1) whether it was proper for Secretary Gaite to have ruled that Mayor Vargas is considered in default pursuant to Article 126, Rule XIX of the Rules Implementing the Local Government Code of 1991;  (2) whether the civil case filed by Mayor Vargas before the Cabanatuan RTC for annulment of falsified minutes of session and appropriation ordinance with damages is a prejudicial question which warrants the suspension of the proceedings in the administrative case; (3) whether the Sangguniang Panlalawigan has jurisdiction to hear the administrative case filed against Mayor Vargas, when the relief  sought is her removal from office.  

The issues raised are questions of law which involve the interpretation and application of laws.  Resolution of such questions constitutes essentially an exercise of judicial power which is exclusively allocated to the Supreme Court and such courts as the Legislature may establish. Since the issues involve purely legal questions which the court may review, exhaustion of administrative remedies may be dispensed with.  

 Propriety of the Preventive Suspension Order


Under Section 63 of the Local Government Code, preventive suspension may be imposed (a) after the issues are joined; (b) when the evidence of guilt is strong; and (c) given the gravity of the offense, there is great probability that the continuance in office of the respondent could influence the witnesses or pose a threat to the safety and integrity of the records and other evidence. Issues are considered joined when the complaint has been answered and there are no longer any substantial preliminary issues that remain to be threshed out.

In its Order dated 22 April 2003, the Office of the President stated that the facts of the case do not warrant a conclusion that issues are deemed joined. Furthermore, the Office of the President found no basis for the issuance of the preventive suspension. The Office of the President explained:

In the administrative case, it appears that petitioner did not file, so far, an answer to the complaint thus the issues could not have been considered joined. What she did was to file a Motion To Suspend Proceedings And/Or Motion To Dismiss which was treated by the sanggunian as her answer.  However, nothing in the records can be inferred that the petitioner intended the said motion to be her answer.  In fact, when the motion was denied on March 17, 2003 through SP Resolution No. 105-s-2003, she immediately appealed the said Resolution to this Office. 

In fine, no inference can be had that the motion filed was considered her answer otherwise, petitioner could have stated so therein.

Finally, even assuming that petitioner’s motion was already her answer and therefore, the issues have been joined, it is observed that the grounds cited by the sanggunian in recommending the assailed preventive suspension are general statements – mere verbatim reproduction of the provision of law, unsupported by any factual and substantial evidence.  There is no showing that the evidence of guilt is strong, with both parties charging each other with falsification of documents.  In fact, that is the subject of Civil Case No. 4442.  Moreover, it cannot be said that the continuance in office of respondent could influence the witnesses or pose a threat to the safety and integrity of the records and other evidence.  The recitals in SP Resolution No. 105 s. 2003 are unconvincing.

ACCORDINGLY, the instant motion is GRANTED and the undated Preventive Suspension Order against Mayor Elizabeth R. Vargas of the municipality of Aliaga, Nueva Ecija is hereby lifted and set aside. (Emphasis supplied)

It would thus appear that the grounds cited by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan for recommending the preventive suspension of Mayor Vargas were just general statements unsupported by any evidence. This is contrary to the requisites for a preventive suspension which require that evidence of guilt must be strong and that given the gravity of the offense, there is great probability that the continuance in office of the respondent could influence the witnesses or pose a threat to the safety and integrity of the records and other evidence. The haste in issuing the resolution recommending the preventive suspension of Mayor Vargas is unreasonable considering the gravity of the effects of such suspension. Suspension from office of an elective official would deprive the electorate of the services of the person they have voted into office. As held in Ganzon v. Court of  Appeals:

The plain truth is that this Court has been ill at ease with suspensions x x x because it is out of the ordinary to have a vacancy in  local government.  The sole objective of a suspension, as we have held, is simply “to prevent the accused from hampering the normal cause (sic) of the investigation with his influence and authority over possible witnesses” or to keep him off “the records and other evidence.”  It is a means, and no more, to assist prosecutors in firming up a case, if any, against an erring local official. Under the Local Government Code, it cannot exceed sixty days, which is to say that it need not be exactly sixty days long if a shorter period is otherwise sufficient, and which is also to say that it ought to be lifted if prosecutors have achieved their purpose in a shorter span.

However, upon motion of Governor Joson, the Office of the President reversed its previous order. Citing the case of Joson v. Torres,  the Office of the President held that Mayor Vargas’ failure to file her answer in ADM. CASE No. 02-S-2003 was deemed a waiver of her right to file answer and present evidence. As a consequence, the issues were deemed to have been joined.  

In the Joson case, this Court found inexcusable the failure of petitioner there to file an answer despite the grant of three extensions of the period to file an answer. It was only seven months later and after the lapse of all the extensions of time for filing an answer that petitioner there filed a motion to dismiss.  

In this case, Mayor Vargas moved for a 15-day extension to file an answer. Before the lapse of the period of extension, Mayor Vargas filed before the Cabanatuan RTC a civil case for annulment of Appropriation Ordinance No. 1 and the Minutes of the Session of 7 February 2002 which were the bases of the administrative charge against her.  Four days after the lapse of the period of extension, Mayor Vargas filed a Motion to Suspend Proceedings and/or Motion to Dismiss due to prejudicial question. Without resolving Mayor Vargas’ motion, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan issued a resolution recommending the preventive suspension of Mayor Vargas for a period of 60 days. Unlike the Joson case, there was no unreasonable delay employed by Mayor Vargas in filing an answer. Instead of an answer, Mayor Vargas filed a Motion to Suspend Proceedings and/or Motion to Dismiss because of a civil case which she had earlier filed seeking the annulment of the appropriation ordinance and the minutes of session.  The Joson case is therefore inapplicable to this case.            

Validity of appellate court’s order for petitioners to cease and desist from conducting proceedings in Administrative Case No. 02-S-2003


In a Resolution dated 13 October 2003, the Court of Appeals issued a preliminary injunction to further enjoin petitioners from conducting proceedings in the administrative case against Mayor Vargas in order to prevent injustice. The Court of Appeals explained:

In a Resolution dated August 14, 2003, in order not to render nugatory the resolution of the present petition by this Court, We issued a temporary restraining order temporarily enjoining the Provincial Governor and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of the Province of Nueva Ecija from conducting further proceedings in Administrative Case No. 02-S-2003, and from enforcing the assailed resolution of the Office of the President, which directed the reinstatement of the order for petitioner’s preventive suspension.

After taking into account the parties’ arguments for and against the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction in a hearing conducted on September 2, 2003, as well as respondents’ comment and opposition dated August 25, 2003, and considering that the present petition is still pending resolution before this Court, We deem it wise to issue a preliminary injunction to further enjoin and restrain public respondents Provincial Governor and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan from conducting proceedings in the administrative case against herein petitioner, particularly in imposing the order of preventive suspension, so as to prevent any injustice and irreparable injury that might inure to herein petitioner if it is adjudged by this Court that a reversal of the assailed resolution is warranted.

WHEREFORE, for the foregoing premises, petitioner’s prayer for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction is hereby GRANTED.  Petitioner is hereby required to post a bond in the amount of FIFTY THOUSAND PESOS (P50,000.00) for the issuance of said writ, as required by Section 4(b), Rule 58 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.  

SO ORDERED.

Petitioners allege that the only issue presented in CA-G.R. SP No. 78247 is the validity of the reinstatement of the preventive suspension order issued against Mayor Vargas as embodied in the Resolution dated 8 July 2003 of the Office of the President. According to petitioners, the Court of Appeals therefore acted arbitrarily and in grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in directing the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to cease and desist from conducting proceedings in Administrative Case No. 02-S-2003.

Petitioners’ contention is without merit. Two of the issues raised by Mayor Vargas in her petition to the Court of Appeals pertain to the proceedings in Administrative Case No. 02-S-2003, to wit:  (1) whether the civil case filed by Mayor Vargas before the Cabanatuan RTC for annulment of falsified minutes of session and appropriation ordinance with damages is  a prejudicial question which warrants the suspension of the proceedings in the administrative case, and  (2) whether the Sangguniang Panlalawigan has jurisdiction to hear the administrative case filed against Mayor Vargas, when the relief  sought is her removal from office. 

It is, therefore, apparent that the jurisdiction of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan in the administrative case is an issue in the certiorari case filed in the Court of Appeals. Mayor Vargas is questioning the propriety of the proceedings of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan despite the alleged prejudicial question in the civil case. Likewise, Mayor Vargas alleges that the Sangguniang Panlalawigan is bereft of jurisdiction over the administrative case which seeks her removal from office since under Section 60 of the Local Government Code, only the proper court may order the dismissal from public office of an elective local official.  

We find no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Court of Appeals in issuing the Resolution dated 13 October 2003.

WHEREFORE, we DISMISS the petition for lack of merit, and DENY the prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order or writ of preliminary injunction.

SO ORDERED.

SOURCE: [ G.R. NO. 160652, February 13, 2006 ]HON. TOMAS N. JOSON III, IN HIS CAPACITY AS GOVERNOR OF THE PROVINCE OF NUEVA ECIJA, AND THE SANGGUNIANG PANLALAWIGAN OF NUEVA ECIJA, PETITIONERS, VS. COURT OF APPEALS AND ELIZABETH R. VARGAS, RESPONDENT. Tags: Alcantara Alcoy moral damages Alegria actual damages Aloguinsan Argao Asturias Badian Balamban Bantayan Barili Boljoon Borbon Carmen Catmon Compostela Consolacion Cordova Daanbantayan Dumaguete Bais Sibulan Tampi Bacong Negros Bacolod Separation pay Resign Resignation Back wages Backwages Length of service pay benefit employee employer relationship Silay Kabankalan Daan Bantayan Dalaguete Dumanjug Ginatilan Liloan compensatory damages Madridejos Malabuyoc Medellin Minglanilla Moalboal Oslob Pilar Pinamungajan Poro Ronda Samboan San Fernando San Francisco San Remigio Sante Fe Santander Sibonga Sogod Tabogon Tabuelan Tuburan attorney’s fees Tudela exemplary damages Camotes General Luna Siargao Cagayan Davao Kidapawan Attorney Abogado Lawyer Architect Real Estate Broker nominal damages Sales Agent Properties for Sale Looking for Buyers Design Build House and Lot for Sale for Rent Talisay City Mandaue City Lapu Lapu Lapu-Lapu City Yncierto Sesante Villanueva Ruz Jan Edmond Marc Tim Timothy temperate damages Luz liquidated damages Kristin tct transfer certificate of title tax declaration birth certificate relocation survey surveying judicial titling administrative titling patent title denr cenro foreshore lease ecc environmental compliance certificate design build architect cebu engineer interior design designer residential commercial cebu property warehouse for rent for lease marc Christian yncierto ruz jan Edmond yncierto ruz Kristin Villanueva ruz Edmond mabalot ruz marriage certificate timber land forest land watershed agricultural lot land use conversion hearing trial illegal drugs trial lawyer business corporate lawyer labor lawyer immigration law bureau of immigration cebu 9g visa search warrant warrant of arrest motion to quash information complaint police officers buy bust physical suffering shocked horrified mental anguish fright serious anxiety besmirched reputation sleepless nights wounded feelings moral shock social humiliation similar injuries

Propriety of a Petition for Mandamus

Respondent maintains that mandamus is not the proper remedy, because he did not neglect his duties. Considering the above findings of inordinate delay, respondent’s contention evidently has no leg to stand on.   

It is established that a writ of mandamus may be issued to control the exercise of discretion when, in the performance of duty, there is undue delay that can be characterized as a grave abuse of discretion resulting in manifest injustice.  In view of our finding of unwarranted delays in the conduct of the arraignment of petitioner, he has indeed the right to demand — through a writ of mandamus — expeditious action from all officials tasked with the administration of justice.  Thus, he may not only demand that his arraignment be held but, ultimately, that the information against him be dismissed on the ground of the violation of his right to speedy trial.   

Mandamus is a proper recourse for citizens who seek to enforce a public right and to compel the performance of a public duty, most especially when the public right involved is mandated by the Constitution.  Besides, it has long been established in this jurisdiction that the writ of mandamus is available to the accused to compel a dismissal of the case.

Respondent argues for the dismissal of the instant Petition on the ground that petitioner did not move for a reconsideration of the trial court’s Order dated May 3, 2004. Respondent insists that a motion for reconsideration is a prerequisite to a mandamus petition, because the former remedy is plain, speedy, and adequate in the ordinary course of law. Indeed, his contention expresses the general rule, but is not impervious to exceptions.   

In the face of extraordinary and compelling reasons, it has been held that the availability of another remedy does not preclude a resort to a special civil action under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. These reasons arise when, among others, the assailed order issued with grave abuse of discretion is null, when the available remedy will not afford expeditious relief and when a motion for reconsideration will be useless. 

The instant case falls under these exceptional cases. To begin with, the numerous and unreasonable postponements displayed an abusive exercise of discretion.  The delays were ordered in total disregard of the constitutional right of petitioner.  In fact, the Orders denying his motions to dismiss did not even bother to explain the reasonableness of the bases for the postponements.  The Order dated February 20, 2004, contains only this general statement:

“Pending resolution of certain incidents as chronicled by the Court in open court, and given the Trial Prosecutor’s objections thereto lifted from the record as to why the arraignment and pre-trial conference of the

John Joseph Lumanlaw y Bolinao were not scheduled forwith (sic) as expected by counsel for the defense, the Court opted to DENY the ‘Urgent Motion to Dismiss’ dated December 17, 2003 in Criminal Case No. 02-208426.”

After enumerating all the causes for the postponements, the Second Urgent Motion to Dismiss was denied by respondent in the Order dated May 3, 2004, in words that were just as vague, as shown below:

“Based on the foregoing chronological backdrop, there were causes that justified the suspension of the arraignment that shall be excluded in computing the period for arraignment per Section 1 (g), Rule 116 of the 2000 Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure, thusly:

‘Unless a shorter period is provided by special law or Supreme Court circular, the arraignment shall be held within thirty (30) days from the date the court acquires jurisdiction over the person of the accused.  The time of the pendency of a motion to quash or for a bill of particulars or other causes justifying suspension of the arraignment shall be excluded in computing the period.’

“Accordingly, the Second Urgent Motion to Dismiss dated March 21, 2004 from defense counsel in Criminal Case No. 02-208426 must be and is hereby DENIED.  x x x.”

The Orders did not even discuss why the postponements were justified, or which of them could be excluded from the computation of the prescribed period.  Absent any discussion of these matters, baseless was the court a quo’s conclusion that there was no violation of petitioner’s right to speedy trial.  A veritable display of capriciousness cannot be countenanced when weighed against an immutable right protected by the Constitution.   

As further aggravation, respondent did not exert any effort to expedite the arraignment even after petitioner had filed two urgent motions to dismiss.  Indeed, there was basis for the latter’s belief that filing a motion for reconsideration would have been only an exercise in futility.  

Respondent also contends that the instant Petition should be dismissed for disregarding the hierarchy of courts.  This Court has full discretionary power to take cognizance of a petition filed directly with it.  In the interest of speedy justice, the Court deemed it best to take cognizance of the present Petition, notwithstanding the hierarchy of courts. Remanding the legal issues to the Court of Appeals would have only exacerbated the violation of petitioner’s rights.

It is the policy of this Court not to deny a writ of mandamus on purely technical matters, if a party would be deprived of substantive rights.  Procedural rules should not be strictly enforced when their enforcement would result in a miscarriage of justice.  This principle holds, especially when a petition is meritorious and the trial judge clearly violated petitioner’s constitutional right.  The protection of our people’s civil liberties overwhelms all rules of procedure.  These rules are mere tools for facilitating the attainment of justice. As explicitly provided in the Rules of Court itself, they “shall be liberally construed in order to promote their objective of securing a just, speedy, and inexpensive disposition of every action and proceeding.” 

Let it be known that this Court will not shirk from the responsibility — nay, the duty — to set aside all obstacles to the fortification of every citizen’s constitutionally enshrined rights. We will not condone or give our imprimatur to the sluggish pace of the proceedings below.  The Court has the duty to safeguard liberty; hence, it will always uphold the basic constitutional rights of our people, especially the weak and the marginalized. 

WHEREFORE, the Petition is GRANTED. Criminal Case No.  02-208425-26 pending before Branch 13 of the Manila Regional Trial Court is DISMISSED.  Petitioner is hereby ordered RELEASED from the Manila City Jail, where he is currently detained, unless he is being held for any other lawful cause. 

No pronouncement as to costs. 

SO ORDERED.

SOURCE: JOHN JOSEPH LUMANLAW Y BULINAO, PETITIONER, VS. HON. EDUARDO B. PERALTA JR., IN HIS CAPACITY AS ACTING PRESIDING JUDGE, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT (BRANCH 13), MANILA, RESPONDENT. Tags: conversion hearing trial illegal drugs trial lawyer business corporate lawyer labor lawyer immigration law bureau of immigration cebu 9g visa search warrant warrant of arrest motion to quash information complaint police officers buy bust physical suffering shocked horrified mental anguish fright serious anxiety besmirched reputation sleepless nights wounded feelings moral shock social humiliation similar injuries Real Estate Broker nominal damages Sales Agent Properties for Sale Looking for Buyers Design Build House and Lot for Sale for Rent Talisay City Mandaue City Lapu Lapu Lapu-Lapu City Yncierto Sesante Villanueva Ruz Jan Edmond Marc Tim Timothy temperate damages Luz liquidated damages Kristin tct transfer certificate of title tax declaration birth certificate relocation survey surveying judicial titling administrative titling patent title denr cenro foreshore lease ecc environmental compliance certificate design build architect cebu engineer interior design designer residential commercial cebu property warehouse for rent for lease marc Christian yncierto ruz jan Edmond yncierto ruz Kristin Villanueva ruz Edmond mabalot ruz marriage certificate timber land forest land watershed agricultural lot land use Alcantara Alcoy moral damages Alegria actual damages Aloguinsan Argao Asturias Badian Balamban Bantayan Barili Boljoon Borbon Carmen Catmon Compostela Consolacion Cordova Daanbantayan Dumaguete Bais Sibulan Tampi Bacong Negros Bacolod Separation pay Resign Resignation Back wages Backwages Length of service pay benefit employee employer relationship Silay Kabankalan Daan Bantayan Dalaguete Dumanjug Ginatilan Liloan compensatory damages Madridejos Malabuyoc Medellin Minglanilla Moalboal Oslob Pilar Pinamungajan Poro Ronda Samboan San Fernando San Francisco San Remigio Sante Fe Santander Sibonga Sogod Tabogon Tabuelan Tuburan attorney’s fees Tudela exemplary damages Camotes General Luna Siargao Cagayan Davao Kidapawan Attorney Abogado Lawyer Architect

WAS HIS RIGHT TO A SPEEDY TRIAL VIOLATED?

Arraignment is a vital stage in criminal proceedings in which the accused are formally informed of the charges against them. The proper conduct of the arraignment is provided in Rule 116 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure.  A perusal of the provision shows that arraignment is not a mere formality, but an integral part of due process. Particularly, it implements the constitutional right of the accused to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against them and their right to speedy trial.  

On this point, petitioner argues that, by respondent’s failure to act expeditiously on his arraignment, his right to speedy trial was violated.  He points out the fourteen postponements that resulted in his intolerable detention for almost two years.  Moreover, he cites Section 2 of Supreme Court Circular No. 38-98 (implementing Republic Act No. 8493, otherwise known as “The Speedy Trial Act of 1998”), which provides that arraignment shall be held within thirty days from the date the court acquired jurisdiction over the accused.  

On the other hand, respondent counters that there were no capricious and oppressive delays that would justify a dismissal of the Information.  The Office of the Solicitor General points to the participation of petitioner himself in the protracted proceedings, such as his filing of a Motion for Preliminary Investigation and his counsel’s absence from one of the scheduled hearings.

Speedy Trial Construed

The thirty-day period invoked by petitioner was construed in Solar Team Entertainment, Inc. v. How.  It was held in that case that the period was not absolute.  Certain delays were allowed by law and excluded from the computation of the time within which trial must commence.  The Court ruled that those exclusions should “reflect the fundamentally recognized principle that the concept of ‘speedy trial’ is a ‘relative term and must necessarily be a flexible concept.’” It held further that courts must strive to maintain a delicate balance between the demands of due process and the strictures of speedy trial, on the one hand; and, on the other, the right of the State to prosecute crimes and rid society of criminals.  

Indeed, judicial proceedings do not exist in a vacuum.  They must contend with the realities of everyday life.  Thus, a sensible assessment of their conduct must consider several factors, rather than a mere mathematical calculation of periods that have elapsed between stages.  Jurisprudence has set forth the following guidelines:

“x x x.  [T]he right to a speedy disposition of a case, like the right to speedy trial, is deemed violated only when the proceeding is attended by vexatious, capricious, and oppressive delays; or when unjustified postponements of the trial are asked for and secured, or when without cause or justifiable motive a long period of time is allowed to elapse without the party having his case tried.  Equally applicable is the balancing test used to determine whether a defendant has been denied his right to a speedy trial, or a speedy disposition of a case for that matter, in which the conduct of both the prosecution and the defendant are weighed, and such factors as length of the delay, reason for the delay, the defendant’s assertion or non-assertion of his right, and prejudice to the defendant resulting from the delay, are considered.”

Reasonable Postponements


It should be stressed that petitioner never acquiesced to the seemingly endless postponements of the arraignment.  He asserted his right to speedy trial twice, but was denied by respondent in both instances.  Considering that petitioner has been under detention since December 2002, we need not belabor the prejudice, distress, and anxiety he suffered as a result of the delayed arraignment.  

We concede that the bases for some of the delays were completely sound, such as the retirement of Judge Arranz and the manifestation of petitioner that the latter would be filing a Motion for Preliminary Investigation. Those matters were manifestly not intended to delay the proceedings in Criminal Case No. 02-208426.   

The delay caused by Judge Arranz’s retirement may be deemed a normal part of the ordinary conduct of court business and was not necessarily unreasonable.  The second ground was the right of the accused accorded by Section 7 of Rule 112 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure. Verily, petitioner’s request for a preliminary investigation before arraignment was well-advised, in view of the rule that failure to do so would constitute a waiver of the right.  Thus, it has been held that though the conduct of a preliminary investigation may hold back the progress of a case, such investigation is necessary so that the defendant’s right will not be compromised or sacrificed at the altar of expediency.

Unjustified Delay

This Court reviewed the other reasons for the postponements in this case, but finds them far from being reasonable.  There were fourteen postponements in all.  Going over the causes for the delays, we see the lack of earnest effort on the part of respondent to conduct the arraignment as soon as the court calendar would allow.  Most of the postponements could have easily been avoided if he had been more keen on respecting and upholding petitioner’s constitutional right to speedy trial and speedy disposition. 

Given the length and the unreasonableness of the majority of the delays, a violation of the right of petitioner to speedy trial becomes manifest.  Almost two year elapsed from the filing of the Information against him until the filing of this Petition; incredibly, he has not been arraigned.  An arraignment takes, at most, ten minutes of the court’s business and does not normally entail legal gymnastics.  It consists simply of reading to the accused the charges leveled against them, ensuring their understanding of those charges, and obtaining their plea to the charges.  A prudent and resolute judge can conduct an arraignment as soon as the accused are presented before the court.   

In fact, by fixing a period of only thirty days from the filing of the information to the conduct of an arraignment, RA 8493 recognizes that this fundamental right should and can be done with minimal delay.  For this reason alone, we are astonished that the court a quo could not complete such a simple but fundamental stage in the proceedings.  The protracted delay became all the more oppressive and vexatious when viewed from the perspective that the liberty of the accused was being curtailed for the entire duration.  

Postponement Due to
Absence of Counsel


It will be recalled that the arraignment set for August 6, 2003, was postponed by the trial court due to the absence of the counsel of petitioner.   The latter sought to proceed with the arraignment by requesting the assistance of the public defender as counsel de oficio, but the request was denied on the flimsy ground that the accused already had a counsel de parte.  We find no legal basis for the trial court’s action. 

The appointment of a counsel de oficio in the absence of the defendant’s counsel de parte is not prohibited, not even by the Constitution, especially when the accused themselves request that appointment.  In fact, the court has a mandatory duty to appoint a counsel de oficio when the accused have no counsel of choice at the time of their arraignment.  People v. Serzo held thus:

“x x x [A]n accused may exercise his right to counsel by electing to be represented either by a court-appointed lawyer or by one of his own choice. While his right to be represented by counsel is immutable, his option to secure the services of counsel de parte, however, is not absolute. The court is obliged to balance the privilege to retain a counsel of choice against the state’s and the offended party’s equally important right to speedy and adequate justice. Thus, the court may restrict the accused’s option to retain a counsel de parte if the accused insists on an attorney he cannot afford, or the chosen counsel is not a member of the bar, or the attorney declines to represent the accused for a valid reason, e.g. conflict of interest and the like.”

Like other personal rights, the right to a counsel de parte is waivable, so long as 1) the waiver is not contrary to law, public order, public policy, morals or good customs; or prejudicial to a third person with a right recognized by law; and 2) the waiver is unequivocally, knowingly and intelligently made.

Applying these principles, it would have been more prudent for respondent judge to have appointed a counsel de oficio for purposes of arraignment only.  This course of action became more compelling in the instant case when petitioner himself requested the appointment.  To be sure, he would not have been prejudiced by that action, provided there was a proper observance of Rule 116 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure.  Under Section 8 of this rule, before proceeding with the arraignment, the court is mandated to give the appointed counsel de oficio reasonable time to consult with the accused as to the latter’s plea. 

Clearly, respondent judge’s postponement of the arraignment on August 6, 2003, had no substantial basis.  Thus, the postponement, initially caused by the absence of petitioner’s counsel, became unreasonable and ultimately attributable to respondent’s inflexibility as regards contingencies.  

Responsibility of Judges
in Minimizing Delay


The foremost cause for the lengthy delay in this case was the repeated failure of the jail wardens to bring the accused to court.  No less than four court settings, spanning seven months, were postponed on this ground alone.  To be sure, this recurring circumstance was caused, in different instances, by the failure of the court personnel to issue the produce order on time and by the dereliction of the jail wardens.  Remarkably, although respondent judge was justified in deferring the arraignment until the accused was presented, the problem could have been easily averted by efficient court management.

In his role as administrator, respondent should have supervised his clerk of court to ensure a timely service of the produce order on the wardens of the Manila City Jail.  Judges must keep a watchful eye on the level of performance and conduct of the court personnel under their immediate supervision, who are primarily employed to aid in the administration of justice.  Judges who set the pace for greater efficiency, diligence and dedication, could prompt their personnel to be more diligent and efficient in the performance of official duties. For certain, leniency in the administrative supervision of court personnel must be avoided.

We stress the need to remind judges to exhibit more diligence and efficiency in the performance of their judicial duties to avoid loss of faith and confidence in the administration of justice. Rule 3.09 of Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct requires them to “organize and supervise the court personnel to ensure the prompt and efficient dispatch of business x x x.” Additionally, Section 5(d) of Rule 135 confers upon every court the power to control the conduct of its ministerial officers and of all other persons who in any manner are connected with a case before it.

Respondent did not exercise his prerogatives in administering speedy justice. Instead, he was content with issuing reminders that miserably failed to resolve the problem expeditiously.  We can only conclude from the distinct circumstances of the case that he failed to assert actively his authority to expedite the proceedings. 

Instead of being proactive and steering the course of the proceedings with deliberate dispatch, respondent tended to be passive and reactive by allowing the pace of the proceedings to be dictated by the listlessness of the parties, his staff, and the jail wardens.  Judges should be more deliberate in their actions and, within the bounds of law, make full use of their authority to expedite proceedings while continuing to respect the rights of parties to ventilate their respective causes fully.  

Indeed, judges are required to dispose of the court’s business expeditiously, in accordance with Rule 3.05 of Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which we quote:

“A judge shall dispose of the court’s business promptly and decide cases within the required period.”

This Court has constantly impressed upon judges the need to act promptly on their cases.  Delay in the disposition of cases erodes the faith and confidence of our people in the judiciary, lowers its standards, and brings it into disrepute.

In the light of the numerous and unreasonable delays in the arraignment of petitioner, the sought for dismissal of the Information filed against him is in order.    

SOURCE: JOHN JOSEPH LUMANLAW Y BULINAO, PETITIONER, VS. HON. EDUARDO B. PERALTA JR., IN HIS CAPACITY AS ACTING PRESIDING JUDGE, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT (BRANCH 13), MANILA, RESPONDENT. Tags: Remigio Sante Fe Santander Sibonga Sogod Tabogon Tabuelan Tuburan attorney’s fees Tudela exemplary damages Camotes General Luna Siargao Cagayan Davao Kidapawan Attorney Abogado Lawyer Architect Real Estate Broker nominal damages Sales Agent Properties for Sale Looking for Buyers Design Build House and Lot for Sale for Rent Talisay City Mandaue City Lapu Lapu Lapu-Lapu City Yncierto Sesante Villanueva Ruz Jan Edmond Marc Tim Timothy temperate damages Luz liquidated damages Kristin tct transfer certificate of title tax declaration birth certificate relocation survey surveying judicial titling administrative titling patent title denr cenro foreshore lease ecc environmental compliance certificate design build architect cebu engineer interior design designer residential commercial cebu property warehouse for rent for lease marc Christian yncierto ruz jan Edmond yncierto ruz Kristin Villanueva ruz Edmond mabalot ruz marriage certificate timber land forest land watershed agricultural lot land use conversion hearing trial illegal drugs trial lawyer business corporate lawyer labor lawyer immigration law bureau of immigration cebu 9g visa search warrant warrant of arrest motion to quash information complaint police officers buy bust physical suffering shocked horrified mental anguish fright serious anxiety besmirched reputation sleepless nights wounded feelings moral shock social humiliation similar injuries Alcantara Alcoy moral damages Alegria actual damages Aloguinsan Argao Asturias Badian Balamban Bantayan Barili Boljoon Borbon Carmen Catmon Compostela Consolacion Cordova Daanbantayan Dumaguete Bais Sibulan Tampi Bacong Negros Bacolod Separation pay Resign Resignation Back wages Backwages Length of service pay benefit employee employer relationship Silay Kabankalan Daan Bantayan Dalaguete Dumanjug Ginatilan Liloan compensatory damages Madridejos Malabuyoc Medellin Minglanilla Moalboal Oslob Pilar Pinamungajan Poro Ronda Samboan San Fernando San Francisco San

Whether all the charges filed against petitioners except one should be quashed for duplicity of charges and only the charge for Reckless Imprudence Resulting in Damage to Property should stand.

The Ruling of the Court

The petition has no merit. 

No Duplicity of Charges in the Present Case           


Duplicity of charges simply means a single complaint or information charges more than one offense, as Section 13 of Rule 110 of the 1985 Rules of Criminal Procedure clearly states:

Duplicity of offense. – A complaint or information must charge but one offense, except only in those cases in which existing laws prescribe a single punishment for various offenses.

In short, there is duplicity (or multiplicity) of charges when a single Information charges more than one offense.  

Under Section 3(e), Rule 117 of the 1985 Rules of Criminal Procedure, duplicity of offenses in a single information is a ground to quash the Information.  The Rules prohibit the filing of such Information to avoid confusing the accused in preparing his defense. Here, however, the prosecution charged each petitioner with four offenses, with each Information charging only one offense. Thus, petitioners erroneously invoke duplicity of charges as a ground to quash the Informations.  On this score alone, the petition deserves outright denial.  

The Filing of Several Charges is Proper 


Petitioners contend that they should be charged with one offense only — Reckless Imprudence Resulting in Damage to Property — because  (1) all the charges filed against them “proceed from and are based on a single act or incident of polluting the Boac and Makalupnit rivers thru dumping of mine tailings” and (2) the charge for violation of Article 365 of the RPC “absorbs” the other charges since the element of “ack of necessary or adequate protection, negligence, recklessness and imprudence” is common among them.  

The contention has no merit.

As early as the start of the last century, this Court had ruled that a single act or incident might offend against two or more entirely distinct and unrelated provisions of law thus justifying the prosecution of the accused for more than one offense.The only limit to this rule is the Constitutional prohibition that no person shall be twice put in jeopardy of punishment for “the same offense. In People v. Doriquez,  we held that two (or more) offenses arising from the same act are not “the same” — 

x x x if one provision [of law] requires proof of an additional fact or element which the other does not, x x x. Phrased elsewise, where two different laws (or articles of the same code) define two crimes, prior jeopardy as to one of them is no obstacle to a prosecution of the other, although both offenses arise from the same facts, if each crime involves some important act which is not an essential element of the other.  (Emphasis supplied)

Here, double jeopardy is not at issue because not all of its elements are present. However, for the limited purpose of controverting petitioners’ claim that they should be charged with one offense only, we quote with approval Branch 94’s comparative analysis of PD 1067, PD 984, RA 7942, and Article 365 of the RPC showing that in each of these laws on which petitioners were charged, there is one essential element not required of the others, thus:        

In P.D. 1067 (Philippines Water Code), the additional element to be established is the dumping of mine tailings into the Makulapnit River and the entire Boac River System without prior permit from the authorities concerned.  The gravamen of the offense here is the absence of the proper permit to dump said mine tailings.  This element is not indispensable in the prosecution for violation of PD 984 (Anti-Pollution Law), [RA] 7942 (Philippine Mining Act) and Art. 365 of the Revised Penal Code.  One can be validly prosecuted for violating the Water Code even in the absence of actual pollution, or even [if] it has complied with the terms of its Environmental Compliance Certificate, or further, even [if] it did take the necessary precautions to prevent damage to property. 

In P.D. 984 (Anti-Pollution Law), the additional fact that must be proved is the existence of actual pollution.  The gravamen is the pollution itself.  In the absence of any pollution, the accused must be exonerated under this law although there was unauthorized dumping of mine tailings or lack of precaution on its part to prevent damage to property.

In R.A. 7942 (Philippine Mining Act), the additional fact that must be established is the willful violation and gross neglect on the part of the accused to abide by the terms and conditions of the Environmental Compliance Certificate, particularly that the Marcopper should ensure the containment of run-off and silt materials from reaching the Mogpog and Boac Rivers.  If there was no violation or neglect, and that the accused satisfactorily  proved [sic] that Marcopper had done everything to ensure containment of the run-off and silt materials, they will not be liable.  It does not follow, however, that they cannot be prosecuted under the Water Code, Anti-Pollution Law and the Revised Penal Code because violation of the Environmental Compliance Certificate is not an essential element of these laws.

On the other hand, the additional element that must be established in Art. 365 of the Revised Penal Code is the lack of necessary or adequate precaution, negligence, recklessness and imprudence on the part of the accused to prevent damage to property.  This element is not required under the previous laws.  Unquestionably, it is different from dumping of mine tailings without permit, or causing pollution to the Boac river system, much more from violation or neglect to abide by the terms of the Environmental Compliance Certificate.  Moreover, the offenses punished by special law are mal[a] prohibita in contrast with those punished by the Revised Penal Code which are mala in se.

Consequently, the filing of the multiple charges against petitioners, although based on the same incident, is consistent with settled doctrine.
 
On petitioners’ claim that the charge for violation of Article 365 of the RPC “absorbs” the charges for violation of PD 1067, PD 984, and RA 7942, suffice it to say that a mala in se felony (such as Reckless Imprudence Resulting in Damage to Property) cannot absorb mala prohibita crimes (such as those violating PD 1067, PD 984, and RA 7942). What makes the former a felony is criminal intent (dolo) or negligence (culpa); what makes the latter crimes are the special laws enacting them. 

People v. Relova not in Point


Petitioners reiterate their contention in the Court of Appeals that their prosecution contravenes this Court’s ruling in People v. Relova. In particular, petitioners cite the Court’s statement in Relova that the law seeks to prevent harassment of the accused by “multiple prosecutions for offenses which though different from one another are nonetheless each constituted by a common set or overlapping sets of technical elements.”

This contention is also without merit.   

The issue in Relova is whether the act of the Batangas Acting City Fiscal in charging one Manuel Opulencia (“Opulencia”) with theft of electric power under the RPC, after the latter had been acquitted of violating a City Ordinance penalizing the unauthorized installation of electrical wiring, violated Opulencia’s right against double jeopardy.  We held that it did, not because the offenses punished by those two laws were the same but because the act giving rise to the charges was punished by an ordinance and a national statute, thus falling within the proscription against multiple prosecutions for the same act under the second sentence in Section 22, Article IV of the 1973 Constitution, now Section 21, Article III of the 1987 Constitution.  We held: 

The petitioner concludes that:

The unauthorized installation punished by the ordinance

is not the same as theft of electricity [under the Revised Penal Code]; that the second offense is not an attempt to commit the first or a frustration thereof and that the second offense is not necessarily included in the offense charged in the first information.

The above argument[ ] made by the petitioner [is] of course correct. This is clear both from the express terms of the constitutional provision involved – which reads as follows: 

“No person shall be twice put in jeopardy of punishment for the same offense. If an act is punished by a law and an ordinance, conviction or acquittal under either shall constitute a bar to another prosecution for the same act.”  x x x

and from our case law on this point. The basic difficulty with the petitioner’s position is that it must be examined, not under the terms of the first sentence of Article IV (22) of the 1973 Constitution, but rather under the second sentence of the same sectionThe first sentence of Article IV (22) sets forth the general rule: the constitutional protection against double jeopardy is not available where the second prosecution is for an offense that is different from the offense charged in the first or prior prosecution, although both the first and second offenses may be based upon the same act or set of acts. The second sentence of Article IV (22) embodies an exception to the general proposition: the constitutional protection, against double jeopardy is available although the prior offense charged under an ordinance be different from the offense charged subsequently under a national statute such as the Revised Penal Code, provided that both offenses spring from the same act or set of acts. x x x (Italicization in the original; boldfacing supplied)

Thus, Relova is no authority for petitioners’ claim against multiple prosecutions based on a single act not only because the question of double jeopardy is not at issue here, but also because, as the Court of Appeals held, petitioners are being prosecuted for an act or incident punished by four national statutes and not by an ordinance and a national statute. In short, petitioners, if ever, fall under the first sentence of  Section 21, Article III which prohibits multiple prosecution for the same offense, and  not, as in Relova, for offenses arising from the same incident.   

WHEREFORE, we DENY the petition. We AFFIRM the Decision dated 5 November 2001 and the Resolution dated 14 March 2002 of the Court of  Appeals. 

SO ORDERED.

SOURCE: JOHN ERIC LONEY, STEVEN PAUL REID AND PEDRO B. HERNANDEZ, PETITIONERS, VS. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, RESPONDENT. TAGS: Alcantara Alcoy moral damages Alegria actual damages Aloguinsan Argao Asturias Badian Balamban Bantayan Barili Boljoon Borbon Carmen Catmon Compostela Consolacion Cordova Daanbantayan Dumaguete Bais Sibulan Tampi Bacong Negros Bacolod Separation pay Resign Resignation Back wages Backwages Length of service pay benefit employee employer relationship Silay Kabankalan Daan Bantayan Dalaguete Dumanjug Ginatilan Liloan compensatory damages Madridejos Malabuyoc Medellin Minglanilla Moalboal Oslob Pilar Pinamungajan Poro Ronda Samboan San Fernando San Francisco San Remigio Sante Fe Santander Sibonga Sogod Tabogon Tabuelan Tuburan attorney’s fees Tudela exemplary damages Camotes General Luna Siargao Cagayan Davao Kidapawan Attorney Abogado Lawyer Architect Real Estate Broker nominal damages Sales Agent Properties for Sale Looking for Buyers Design Build House and Lot for Sale for Rent Talisay City Mandaue City Lapu Lapu Lapu-Lapu City Yncierto Sesante Villanueva Ruz Jan Edmond Marc Tim Timothy temperate damages Luz liquidated damages Kristin tct transfer certificate of title tax declaration birth certificate relocation survey surveying judicial titling administrative titling patent title denr cenro foreshore lease ecc environmental compliance certificate design build architect cebu engineer interior design designer residential commercial cebu property warehouse for rent for lease marc Christian yncierto ruz jan Edmond yncierto ruz Kristin Villanueva ruz Edmond mabalot ruz marriage certificate timber land forest land watershed agricultural lot land use conversion hearing trial illegal drugs trial lawyer business corporate lawyer labor lawyer immigration law bureau of immigration cebu 9g visa search warrant warrant of arrest motion to quash information complaint police officers buy bust physical suffering shocked horrified mental anguish fright serious anxiety besmirched reputation sleepless nights wounded feelings moral shock social humiliation similar injuries