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AMENDED & SUPPLEMENTAL PLEADINGS

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RULE 10 - AMENDED AND SUPPLEMENTAL PLEADINGS

May the proscription against multiplicity of suits be properly invoked to allow the filing of a supplemental complaint involving basically the same parties as those in the original complaint but with a cause of action arising from a transaction distinct from that sued upon in the original complaint?

THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN ADMITTING THE SUPPLEMENTAL COMPLAINT IT BEING VIOLATIVE OF THE -

A) RULE ON VENUE OF REAL ACTION (Rule 4, Sec. 2-A, Revised Rules of Court)

B) RULE ON JOINDER OF CAUSES OF ACTION (Rule 2, Sec. 5, Revised Rules of Court)

C) RULE ON MATTERS SUBJECT OF SUPPLEMENTAL PLEADINGS (Rule 10, Sec. 6, Revised Rules of Court)


At the time the supplemental complaint was filed in Civil Case No. 10387, the pertinent provision of Rule 10 of the Rules of Court provided:

"Sec. 6. Matters subject of supplemental pleadings. - Upon motion of a party the court may, upon reasonable notice and upon such terms as are just, permit him to serve a supplemental pleading setting forth transactions, occurrences or events which have happened since the date of the pleading sought to be supplemented. If the court deems it advisable that the adverse party should plead thereto, it shall so order, specifying the time therefor."24 [Under the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure the last sentence of this rule has been changed to: "The adverse party may plead thereto within ten (10) days from notice of the order admitting the supplemental pleading."]

Under the aforecited rule, a supplemental pleading is meant to supply deficiencies in aid of the original pleading and not to dispense with or substitute the latter.25 [Shoemart, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, GR. No. 86956, October 1, 1990, 190 SCRA 189, 196 citing Pasay City Government v. CFI of Manila, Branch X, L-32162, September 28, 1984, 132 SCRA 156, 169 and British Traders’ Insurance Co., Ltd. v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, L-20501, April 30, 1965, 13 SCRA 719.] It is not like an amended pleading which is a substitute for the original one. It does not supersede the original, but assumes that the original pleading is to stand. The issues joined under the original pleading remain as issues to be tried in the action.26 [Delbros Hotel Corporation v. Intermediate Appellate Court, G.R. No. 72566, April 12, 1988, 159 SCRA 533, 543 citing 61 Am. Jur. 2d 286.]

In Leobrera v. Court of Appeals 27 [G.R. No. 80001, February 27, 1989, 170 SCRA 711.] the Court ruled that when the cause of action stated in the supplemental complaint is different from the cause of action mentioned in the original complaint, the court should not admit the supplemental complaint. In that case, the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) granted Carlos Leobrera an P800,000.00 credit facility that was secured by two (2) real estate mortgages. The credit facility was later converted into "a revolving promissory note line" the last of which was renewed on March 21, 1986 through two (2) ninety-day promissory notes. Upon maturity of the notes, Leobrera and BPI negotiated for renewal thereof but they failed to agree. Consequently, BPI demanded full payment of the 90-day loans. Because Leobrera failed to pay the loans, BPI prepared to foreclose the mortgages. However, before BPI could institute the foreclosure proceedings, Leobrera filed a complaint for damages with a prayer for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction to enjoin BPI from foreclosing the mortgages. The trial court issued the writ applied for. Sclaw

It appeared, however, that apart from the P800,000.00 credit facility, BPI also granted Leobrera a three-year term loan of P500,000.00 secured by a real estate mortgage. After Leobrera had defaulted in his amortization payments, BPI called the entire loan due and demandable. Leobrera failed to pay but before BPI could foreclose the mortgage, Leobrera filed with the trial court a "Motion to File Supplemental Complaint" with the supplemental complaint attached thereto. The trial court granted Leobrera’s motion but the Court of Appeals nullified that order of the trial court. Leobrera thus filed a petition for review on certiorari with this Court which, in due course, denied Leobrera’s petition; this Court ratiocinating:

"As to the supplemental complaint, what likewise militates against its admission is the fact that the matters involved therein are entirely different from the causes of action mentioned in the original complaint.

A supplemental complaint should, as the name implies, supply only deficiencies in aid of an original complaint [British Traders Insurance Company v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, G.R. No. L-20501, April 30, 1965, 13 SCRA 728]. It should contain only causes of action relevant and material to the plaintiff’s right and which help or aid the plaintiff’s right or defense [De la Rama Steamship Co., Inc. v. National Development Company, G.R. No. L-15659, November 30, 1962, 6 SCRA 775]. The supplemental complaint must be based on matters arising subsequent to the original complaint related to the claim or defense presented therein, and founded on the same cause of action. It cannot be used to try a new matter or a new cause of action [See Randolph v. Missouri-Kansas-Texas R. Co., D.C. Mo. 1948, 78 F. Supp. 727, Berssenbrugge v. Luce Mfg. Co., D.C. Mo. 1939, 30 F. Supp. 101.]

While petitioner would persuade this Court that the causes of action are interrelated, the record reveals otherwise. The record shows that petitioner’s main cause of action in the original complaint filed in Civil Case No. 15644 concerned BPI’s threat to foreclose two real estate mortgages securing the two 90-day promissory notes executed by petitioner in 1986. Petitioner alleges that this threatened foreclosure violated the terms of the 1980 amicable settlement between BPI and petitioner.

The supplemental complaint on the other hand alleged facts of harassment committed by BPI in unreasonably opting to declare petitioner in default and in demanding full liquidation of the 1985 three-year term loan. This three-year term loan, as previously mentioned, was entirely distinct and separate from the two promissory notes. It was independent of the 1980 amicable settlement between petitioner and BPI which gave rise to the credit facility subject of the original complaint. Although there is identity in the remedies asked for in the original and supplemental complaints, i.e., injunction, petitioner’s subsequent cause of action giving rise to the claim for damages in the supplemental complaint is unrelated to the amicable settlement which brought about the grant of the credit facilities, the breach of which settlement is alleged to be the basis of the original complaint. Petitioner himself in his supplemental complaint admits this. xxx.

xxx xxx xxx

The two causes of action being entirely different, the latter one could not be successfully pleaded by supplemental complaint."28 [Ibid., pp. 718-721.]

The facts of the Leobrera cases are not very different from those in the case under scrutiny. However, private respondent SIM attempts to impress upon the Court that the facts alleged in the original complaint are connected with those in the supplemental complaint because the DBP’s act of initiating foreclosure proceedings as regards the mortgaged plant in Agusan del Sur was in violation of the May 15, 1985 writ of preliminary injunction. Nevertheless, a closer look at the facts reveals that the original complaint was based on a cause of action that is entirely different from that stated in the supplemental complaint which arose out of a different set of facts. Sclex

A cause of action is the fact or combination of facts which affords a party a right to judicial interference in his behalf. It is the reason why the litigation has come about; it is the act or omission of defendant resulting in the violation of someone’s right. Its existence is determined upon consideration of the statements or allegations in the complaint.29 [Navoa v. Court of Appeals, 321 Phil. 938, 947-948 (1995).]

In the original complaint in Civil Case No. 10387, what private respondents sought to prevent by their prayer for an injunction was the DBP’s intention to go after private respondents for the deficiency of P2,700,960,412.60 resulting from the foreclosure of the mortgages in June 1984 of seven (7) vessels of Galleon. On the other hand, the cause of action stated in the supplemental complaint was the DBP’s initial act of posing security guards in SIM’s Agusan del Norte plant preparatory to the foreclosure of the mortgage of the same plant, allegedly in contravention of the writ of preliminary injunction issued by the trial court in Civil Case No. 10387. The supplemental complaint, however, states a fact that is entirely distinct from those in the original complaint. It alleges that the DBP’s taking over the Agusan del Sur plant of SIM could not have been in pursuance of any agreement between SIM and the DBP because the mortgaged dated November 8, 1984 that was entered into between those parties "does not provide extrajudicial and forcible taking over of the mortgaged properties by defendant DBP."30 [Rollo, p. 210.] Although the thrust of the allegations in the supplemental complaint was to create a connection or relation between it and the original complaint, the same allegations reveal the fact that its filing was impelled by the imminence of the foreclosure of the November 8, 1984 mortgage, that is different from and outside of the subject matter of the original complaint.

Furthermore, if the supplemental complaint "assumes the original pleading to stand," then there was no pint in naming only the SIM as the plaintiff in the supplemental complaint. That fact only proves that the other plaintiffs in the original complaint, namely, Cuenca and Tinio, have no cause of action against the DBP in the supplemental complaint as it is in reality based on an entirely different subject matter.

Granting that SIM’s purpose in filing the supplemental complaint was to effect a joinder of causes of action to avoid multiplicity of suits, it must fail just the same. The Rules of Court provide that causes of action may be joined provided that they arise out of the same contract, transaction or relation between the parties or are for demands for money or are of the same nature and character.31 [Section 5, Rule 2.] In Republic v. Hernandez,32 [323 Phil. 606, 626 (1996).] the Court held:

"The statutory intent behind the provisions on joinder of causes of action is to encourage joinder of actions which could reasonably be said to involve kindred rights and wrongs, although the courts have not succeeded in giving a standard definition of the terms used or in developing a rule of universal application. The dominant idea is to permit joinder of causes of action, legal or equitable, where there is some substantial unity between them. While the rule allows a plaintiff to join as many separate claims as he may have, there should nevertheless be some unity in the problems presented and a common question of law and fact involved, subject always to the restriction thereon regarding jurisdiction, venue and joinder of parties. Unlimited joinder is not authorized."

In this case, hardly do the original and supplemental complaints meet the required test of "unity in the problem presented" and "a common question of law and fact involved" as regards jurisdiction, venue and joinder of parties. The ultimate problem in the original complaint as far as private respondents are concerned is how to prevent the DBP from pursuing the amount of deficiency after an extrajudicial foreclosure sale of the mortgaged vessels. In the supplemental complaint, what private respondent SIM seeks to preempt is the foreclosure of the mortgage of its Agusan del Sur plant.

ASSET PRIVATIZATION TRUST, petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS, HON. JESUS F. GUERRERO, Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Makati, Branch 148, STA. INES MELALE FOREST PRODUCTS CORPORATION, RODOLFO M. CUENCA and MANUEL I. TINIO, respondents.

Petitioner, however, named as respondent the Register of Deeds of Pasay City, under the mistaken impression that it was still the custodian of the titles to lands in Parañaque.  Later, petitioner learned that a Register of Deeds for Parañaque City had taken over the record and custody of titles therein.  Petitioner, thus, promptly moved for leave of court to amend its petition.  This, to our mind, was justified.  In preparing its amended petition, petitioner likewise corrected its allegation on the location of the lands involved.

Before the amended petition was filed, the trial court had already dismissed the petition based on improper venue.  It relied on the allegation in the petition that the lands are located in Pasay City.  However, the titles of the land, copies of which were attached to the petition, plainly show that the lands involved are situated in Parañaque City.  The trial court should have considered these annexes, as these form an integral part of the pleading.

At the very least, the trial court should have allowed petitioner to amend its petition, for this was still a matter of right on its part.

Amendments as a matter of right. --- A party may amend his pleading once as a matter of right at any time before a responsive pleading is served or, in the case of a reply, at any time within ten (10) days after it is served. 7 [1997 RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE, Rule 10, Section 2.]

Amendments to pleadings are liberally allowed in furtherance of justice, in order that every case may so far as possible be determined on its real facts, and in order to speed the trial of cases or prevent the circuitry of action and unnecessary expense. 8 [iVentura v. Militante, G.R. No. 63145, October 5, 1999] The trial court, therefore, should have allowed the amendment proposed by petitioner for in so doing, it would have allowed the actual merits of the case to be speedily determined, without regard to technicalities, and in the most expeditious and inexpensive manner. 9 [1997 RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE, Rule 10, Section 1.]

The courts should be liberal in allowing amendments to pleadings to avoid multiplicity of suits and in order that the real controversies between the parties are presented, their rights determined and the case decided on the merits without unnecessary delay.  This liberality is greatest in the early stages of a lawsuit, especially in this case where the amendment to the complaint was made before the trial of the case thereby giving petitioner all the time allowed by law to answer and to prepare for trial. 10 [Refugia v. Alejo, G.R. No. 138674, June 22, 2000.]

Justice Ynares-Santiago, FIRST DIVISION, RUDOLF LIETZ HOLDINGS, INC., petitioner, vs. THE REGISTRY OF DEEDS OF PARAÑAQUE CITY, respondent.[G.R. No. 133240.  November 15, 2000]

 

The granting of leave to file amended pleading is a matter particularly addressed to the sound discretion of the trial court and that discretion is broad, subject only to the limitations that the amendments should not substantially change the cause of action or alter the theory of the case or that it was made to delay the action. 19 [Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co.vs. Presiding Judge, RTC Manila Br. 39, 189 SCRA 820 citing Uy vs. Uy, 2 SCRA 675.] Once exercised, that discretion will not be disturbed on appeal, except in case of abuse thereof. 20 [Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co. vs. Presiding Judge, RTC Manila, Br. 39, supra, citing Torres vda de Nery vs. Tomacruz, 49 Phil 913.] The courts should be liberal in allowing amendments to pleadings to avoid multiplicity of suits and in order that the real controversies between the parties are presented, their rights determined and the case decided on the merits without unnecessary delay.21 [Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co. vs. Presiding Judge, RTC Manila, Br. 39, citing Shaffer vs. Palma, et al., 22 SCRA 934; Demaronsing vs. Tandayag, 58 SCRA 484.] This liberality is greatest in the early stages of a lawsuit, especially in this case where the amendment to the complaint was made before the trial of the case thereby giving petitioner all the time allowed by law to answer and to prepare for trial. As to the wisdom or soundness of the trial court’s order dismissing petitioners’ affirmative defense of prescription, this involves a matter of judgment which is not properly reviewable by petition for certiorari, which is intended to correct defects of jurisdiction solely and not to correct errors of procedure or matters in the trial court’s findings or conclusions.

Justice Gonzaga-Reyes, Third Division [G.R. No. 138674. June 22, 2000]

 

We sustain the ruling of the Court of Appeals that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in granting the motion for leave to file amended complaint and admitting the same. The procedural objection raised by petitioners is not substantial. To be sure, no rule was transgressed by resolving the motion to admit amended complaint ahead of the motion for reconsideration of the order rejecting petitioners’ defense of prescription. None has been brought to our attention. More important, if there was error, the error is not one which goes into the jurisdiction of the court. And as long as a court acts within its jurisdiction, any alleged errors committed in the exercise of its jurisdiction will amount to nothing more than errors of judgment which are reviewable by timely appeal and not by a special civil action of certiorari. 17 [Commissioner of Internal Revenue vs. CA, 257 SCRA 200; Day vs. RTC of Zamboanga City, Br. XII, 191 SCRA 610; GSIS vs. CA, 169 SCRA 244.]

Justice Gonzaga-Reyes, Third Division [G.R. No. 138674. June 22, 2000]

Second. It is clear that the original complaint of private respondent against the estate of Carlos Ngo was a suit against Carlos Ngo himself who was already dead at the time of the filing of said complaint. At that time, and this, private respondent admitted, no special proceeding to settle his estate had been filed in court. As such, the trial court did not acquire jurisdiction over either the deceased Carlos Ngo or his estate.

To cure this fatal defect, private respondent amended his original complaint. In his amended complaint, private respondent deleted the estate of Carlos Ngo and named petitioner as the defendant. When petitioner, in her comment to the amended complaint, reasoned that the conjugal partnership of gains between her and Carlos Ngo was terminated upon the latter's death and that the debt which he contracted, assuming it was a charge against the conjugal property, could only be paid after an inventory is made in the appropriate testate or intestate proceeding, private respondent simply reiterated his demand that petitioner pay her husband's debt which, he insisted, redounded to the benefit of everyone in her family.

It is true that amendments to pleadings are liberally allowed in furtherance of justice, in order that every case may so far as possible be determined on its real facts, and in order to speed the trial of causes or prevent the circuitry of action and unnecessary expense. 25 [Regalado, Florenz D., Remedial Law Compendium, Volume One, 1997 edition, p. 181, citing Cese v. GSIS, 109 Phil. 306, 309 (1960).] But amendments cannot be allowed so as to confer jurisdiction upon a court that never acquired it in the first place. 26 [Rosario and Untalan v. Carangdang, et al., 96 Phil. 845 (1955), cited in Campos Rueda Corporation v. Bautista, 6 SCRA 240, 244 (1962).] When it is evident that the court has no jurisdiction over the person and the subject matter and that the pleading is so fatally defective as not to be susceptible of amendment, or that to permit such amendment would radically alter the theory and the nature of the action, then the court should refuse the amendment of the defective pleading and order the dismissal of the case. 27 [Alvarez, et al. v. Commonwealth of the Phil., et al., 65 Phil. 302, 315-316 (1938).]

Moreover, as correctly argued by petitioner, the conjugal partnership terminates upon the death of either spouse. 28 [Art. 175, Civil Code; Art. 126, Family Code.] After the death of one of the spouses, in case it is necessary to sell any portion of the conjugal property in order to pay outstanding obligations of the partnership, such sale must be made in the manner and with the formalities established by the Rules of Court for the sale of the property of deceased persons.29 [Tolentino, Arturo M., Commentaries and Jurisprudence on the Civil Code of the Philippines, Volume One with the Family Code of the Philippines, 1990 edition, p. 463.] Where a complaint is brought against the surviving spouse for the recovery of an indebtedness chargeable against said conjugal property, any judgment obtained thereby is void.30 [Francisco, Vicente J., The Revised Rules of Court in the Philippines, Special Proceedings, Volume V-B, 1970 edition, p. 182, citing Calma v. Tanedo, 66 Phil. 594, 598 (1938).] The proper action should be in the form of a claim to be filed in the testate or intestate proceedings of the deceased spouse.31 [Tolentino, supra.]

In many cases as in the instant one, even after the death of one of the spouses, there is no liquidation of the conjugal partnership. This does not mean, however, that the conjugal partnership continues. 32 [Id., p. 466.]And private respondent cannot be said to have no remedy. Under Sec. 6, Rule 78 of the Revised Rules of Court, he may apply in court for letters of administration in his capacity as a principal creditor of the deceased Carlos Ngo if after thirty (30) days from his death, petitioner failed to apply for administration or request that administration be granted to some other person.

Justice Puno, First Division, SULPICIA VENTURA, petitioner, vs. HON. FRANCIS J. MILITANTE, in His Capacity as Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, 7th Judicial District, Branch XII, Cebu City; and JOHN UY, respondents [G.R. No. 63145. October 5, 1999]

 

Finally, an order granting or denying a motion to amend the complaint on substantial matters is discretionary with the court.20 [§ 3, Rule 10, Rules of Court.] In the present case, the RTC committed no reversible error when it denied ZARATES’ motion to amend the complaint in order to allege that the execution sale in favor of the HAUTEAS was invalid due to the failure of the respondents to comply with the notice requirements since it correctly ordered the dismissal of the case. M

Justice Gonzaga-Reyes, Third Division, FRANCISCO G. ZARATE AND CORAZON TIROL-ZARATE, petitioners, vs. REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF KALIBO, AKLAN (BRANCH 2), SPOUSES TOMAS HAUTEA AND RHILYN HAUTEA, PROVINCIAL SHERIFF OF ILOILO MAGDALENA LOMETILLO, DEPUTY PROVINCIAL SHERIFF OF ILOILO MANOLITO FERRER, REGISTER OF DEEDS OF AKLAN, ELEUTERIO PEREZ, AND THE DEVELOPMENT BANK OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents [G.R. No. 102305. October 13, 1999]

 

An ordinary appeal is the proper remedy in questioning a judgment by default; appeal is also the proper remedy from an order denying a petition for relief of judgment.25 [Rule 41, Section 2, 1964 Revised Rules of Court, now Rule 41, Section 1, 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended. Under this rule, an order denying a petition for relief of judgment is no longer appealable; however, an aggrieved party may file an appropriate action of certiorari under Rule 65 (Ibid.).] Hence, in the normal course of events, the Court of Appeals correctly denied the petition for certiorari before it, assailing the trial court’s decision by default and denial of the petition for relief, in view of the availability of appeal therefrom. However, in the exceptional circumstances presented in this case, appeal seems to be inadequate; consequently, even if petitioner interposed an appeal, certiorari lies to correct such a despotic exercise of discretion. 26 [Matute vs. Court of Appeals, 26 SCRA 768 [1969]; Omico Mining & Ind. Corp. vs. Vallejos, 63 SCRA 285 [1975]; Zenith Ins. Corp. vs. Purisima, 114 SCRA 62 [1982]; Dimayacyac vs. Court of Appeals, 93 SCRA 265 [1979]; Pioneer Insurance & Surety Corporation vs. Hontanosas, 78 SCRA 447 [1977]; Ramnani vs. Court of Appeals, 221 SCRA 582 [1993].]

The failure of the trial court to act on the twin motions of petitioner to set aside the order of default and to set aside the evidence ex-parte, can not be lightly dismissed as a mere error or oversight. It seriously affected the discretion of the trial court, for such omission amounted to grave abuse of discretion depriving petitioner of the opportunity to be heard on the two crucial motions which, if granted, would have allowed petitioner to regain his standing in court and to present his evidence.

Purportedly, the trial court declared petitioner as in default when he failed to attend the scheduled March 5, 1997 pre-trial conference. Petitioner, however, explained that he did not attend because he was awaiting resolution of his motion to admit amended answer to file as early as January 9, 1997. Thus, petitioner need not attend the March 5, 1997 pre-trial conference because the resolution of his motion to admit amended answer takes precedence over the pre-trial conference. The trial court gravely abused its discretion in declaring petitioner as in default when it was itself remiss in not resolving petitioner’s pending motions.

Worse, the trial court acted despotically in allowing respondent to present evidence ex-parte even if petitioner could not be lawfully declared in default for non-appearance due to the trial court’s own failure to rule on the admission of his amended answer because the original answer was on record. More, in deciding the case without resolving petitioner’s motion to set aside default and motion to set aside ex-parte evidence, the trial court exercised its discretion capriciously, arbitrarily and whimsically.27 [Salas vs. Castro, 216 SCRA 198, 207 [1992]; Francisco vs. Mandi, 152 SCRA 711 [1987]. Thus, the trial court gravely abused its discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.

We have time and again allowed recourse to the extraordinary remedy of certiorari where an appeal is not adequate, or equally beneficial, speedy and sufficient. 28 [PNB vs. Sayo, 292 SCRA 202, 231 [1998]; Africa vs. Sandiganbayan, 287 SCRA 408, 417 [1998]; Rodriguez vs. Court of Appeals, 245 SCRA 150, 152 [1995]; Ruiz vs. Court of Appeals, 220 SCRA 490, 500 [1993]; Hualam Construction and Development Corp. vs. Court of Appeals, 214 SCRA 612, 628 [1992].]

Justice Pardo, First Division, NILO H. RAYMUNDO, petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS, Sixth Division, HON. APOLINARIO B. SANTOS, + Presiding Judge, RTC, Br. 67, Pasig City, and JUAN MARCOS ARELLANO, respondents, [G. R. No. 137793. September 29, 1999]

 

 

May the trial court motu proprio dismiss a complaint on the ground of improper venue? 

The issue involved herein is simple.  May the trial court motu proprio dismiss a complaint on the ground of improper venue?  This question has already been answered in Dacoycoy v. Intermediate Appellate Court,1 [195 SCRA 641 (1991).] where this Court held that it may not.

While the ground invoked by the trial court in dismissing the petition below was clearly that of improper venue, 2 [Order dated January 30, 1998; Annex “A”, Rollo, p. 17.] the Solicitor General confuses venue with jurisdiction.  A distinction between the two must be drawn.  Jurisdiction over the subject matter or nature of an action is conferred only by law. 3 [Republic v. Estipular, G.R. No. 136588, July 20, 2000.] It may not be conferred by consent or waiver upon a court which otherwise would have no jurisdiction over the subject matter of an action.  On the other hand, the venue of an action as fixed by statute may be changed by the consent of the parties, and an objection on improper venue may be waived by the failure of the defendant to raise it at the proper time.  In such an event, the court may still render a valid judgment.  Rules as to jurisdiction can never be left to the consent or agreement of the parties.  Venue is procedural, not jurisdictional, and hence may be waived.  It is meant to provide convenience to the parties, rather than restrict their access to the courts as it relates to the place of trial.  4 [Heir of Lopez v. De Castro, G.R. No. 112905, February 3, 2000.]

In Dacoycoy v. IAC, this Court ruled:

The motu proprio dismissal of petitioner’s complaint by respondent trial court on the ground of improper venue is plain error, obviously attributable to its inability to distinguish between jurisdiction and venue.

Questions or issues relating to venue of actions are basically governed by Rule 4 of the Revised Rules of Court.  It is said that the laying of venue is procedural rather than substantive.  It relates to the jurisdiction of the court over the person rather than the subject matter.  Provisions relating to venue establish a relation between the plaintiff and the defendant and not between the court and the subject matter.  Venue relates to trial not to jurisdiction, touches more of the convenience of the parties rather than the substance of the case.

xxx  xxx                                                    xxx.

Dismissing the complaint on the ground of improper venue is certainly not the appropriate course of action at this stage of the proceedings, particularly as venue, in inferior courts as well as in the courts of first instance (now RTC), may be waived expressly or impliedly.  Where the defendant fails to challenge timely the venue in a motion to dismiss as provided by Section 4 of Rule 4 of the Rules of Court, and allows the trial to be held and a decision to be rendered, he cannot on appeal or in a special action be permitted to belatedly challenge the wrong venue, which is deemed waived.

Thus, unless and until the defendant objects to the venue in a motion to dismiss, the venue cannot be truly said to have been improperly laid, as for all practical intents and purposes, the venue, though technically wrong, may be acceptable to the parties for whose convenience the rules on venue had been devised.  The trial court cannot pre-empt the defendant’s prerogative to object to the improper laying of the venue by motu proprio dismissing the case.

Indeed, it was grossly erroneous for the trial court to have taken a procedural short-cut by dismissing motu proprio the complaint on the ground of improper venue without first allowing the procedure outlined in the rules of court to take its proper course.  Although we are for the speedy and expeditious resolution of cases, justice and fairness take primary importance.  The ends of justice require that respondent trial court faithfully adhere to the rules of procedure to afford not only the defendant, but the plaintiff as well, the right to be heard on his cause. 5 [Supra., at 643-46.]

Rule 9, Section 1 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure states that defenses and objections not pleaded either in a motion to dismiss or in the answer are deemed waived.  The court may only dismiss an action motu proprio in case of lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter, litis pendentia, res judicata and prescription.  Therefore, the trial court in this case erred when it dismissed the petition motu proprio.  It should have waited for a motion to dismiss or a responsive pleading from respondent, raising the objection or affirmative defense of improper venue, before dismissing the petition.  However, this was overtaken by petitioner’s motion for leave to amend its petition.

Petitioner correctly invoked the jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court in seeking the amendment of its certificates of title.  The jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court over matters involving the registration of lands and lands registered under the Torrens system is conferred by Section 2 of Presidential Decree No. 1529, The Property Registration Decree, viz:

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 (now Regional Trial Courts) shall have exclusive jurisdiction over all applications for original registration of title to lands, including improvements and interest 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.  The court through its clerk of court shall furnish the Land Registration Commission with two certified copies of all pleadings, exhibits, orders, and decisions filed or issued in applications or petitions for land registration, with the exception of stenographic notes, within five days from the filing or issuance thereof.

More specifically, jurisdiction over petitions for amendments of certificates of title, such as the one brought below, is provided for by Section 108 of P.D. 1529, thus:

Amendment and alteration of certificates. --- No erasure, alteration, or amendment shall be made upon the registration book after the entry of a certificate of title or of a memorandum thereon and the attestation of the same by the Register of Deeds, except upon order of the proper Court of First Instance (now Regional Trial Court).  A registered owner or other person having an interest in registered property, or, in proper cases, the Register of Deeds with the approval of the Commissioner of Land Registration, may apply by petition to the court upon the ground that the registered interests of any description, whether vested, contingent, expectant inchoate appearing on the certificate, have terminated and ceased; or that new interest not appearing upon the certificate have arisen or been created; or that an omission or error was made in entering a certificate or any memorandum thereon, or on any duplicate certificate; or that the name of any person on the certificate has been changed; or that the registered owner has married, or, if registered as married, that the marriage has been terminated and no right or interest of heirs or creditors will thereby be affected, or that a corporation which owned registered land and has been dissolved has not conveyed the same within three years after its dissolution; or upon any other reasonable ground and the court may hear and determine the petition after notice to all parties in interest, and may order the entry or cancellation of a new certificate, or grant any other relief upon such terms and conditions, requiring security or bond if necessary, as it may consider proper:  xxx. (Emphasis ours.)

In the case at bar, the lands are located in Parañaque City, as stated on the faces of the titles.  Petitioner, thus, also correctly filed the petition in the place where the lands are situated, pursuant to the following rule:

Venue of real actions. --- Actions affecting title to or possession of real property, or interest therein, shall be commenced and tried in the proper court which has jurisdiction over the area wherein the real property involved, or a portion thereof, is situated. 4 [1997 RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE, Rule 4, Section 1, first paragraph. ]

Petitioner, however, named as respondent the Register of Deeds of Pasay City, under the mistaken impression that it was still the custodian of the titles to lands in Parañaque.  Later, petitioner learned that a Register of Deeds for Parañaque City had taken over the record and custody of titles therein.  Petitioner, thus, promptly moved for leave of court to amend its petition.  This, to our mind, was justified.  In preparing its amended petition, petitioner likewise corrected its allegation on the location of the lands involved.

Before the amended petition was filed, the trial court had already dismissed the petition based on improper venue.  It relied on the allegation in the petition that the lands are located in Pasay City.  However, the titles of the land, copies of which were attached to the petition, plainly show that the lands involved are situated in Parañaque City.  The trial court should have considered these annexes, as these form an integral part of the pleading.

At the very least, the trial court should have allowed petitioner to amend its petition, for this was still a matter of right on its part.

Amendments as a matter of right. --- A party may amend his pleading once as a matter of right at any time before a responsive pleading is served or, in the case of a reply, at any time within ten (10) days after it is served. 7 [1997 RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE, Rule 10, Section 2. ]

Amendments to pleadings are liberally allowed in furtherance of justice, in order that every case may so far as possible be determined on its real facts, and in order to speed the trial of cases or prevent the circuitry of action and unnecessary expense. 8 [Ventura v. Militante, G.R. No. 63145, October 5, 1999] The trial court, therefore, should have allowed the amendment proposed by petitioner for in so doing, it would have allowed the actual merits of the case to be speedily determined, without regard to technicalities, and in the most expeditious and inexpensive manner. 9 [1997 RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE, Rule 10, Section 1.]

The courts should be liberal in allowing amendments to pleadings to avoid multiplicity of suits and in order that the real controversies between the parties are presented, their rights determined and the case decided on the merits without unnecessary delay.  This liberality is greatest in the early stages of a lawsuit, especially in this case where the amendment to the complaint was made before the trial of the case thereby giving petitioner all the time allowed by law to answer and to prepare for trial. 10 [Refugia v. Alejo, G.R. No. 138674, June 22, 2000.]

Justice Ynares-Santiago, FIRST DIVISION, RUDOLF LIETZ HOLDINGS, INC., petitioner, vs. THE REGISTRY OF DEEDS OF PARAÑAQUE CITY, respondent.[G.R. No. 133240.  November 15, 2000]

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