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680 Phil. 625


[ G.R. No. 172455, February 01, 2012 ]




This resolves the Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of  Court, praying that the Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals (CA), dated December 9, 2005, and the Resolution[2] dated April 6, 2006 denying petitioners' motion for reconsideration, be reversed and set aside.

A close examination of the records would reveal the CA's narration of facts to be accurate, to wit:

As culled from the evidence on records, on December 28, 1999, Total Office Products and Services (TOPROS), Inc. (plaintiff below), through its authorized representative Junnifer A. Ty, filed a complaint for annulment of contract with the court a quo.  On February 24, 2000, summons was served on Antonio Chua (defendant below).  On February 28, 2000, defendant filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, but the same was denied in an order dated August 9, 2000. On September 3, 2000, defendant filed a motion for reconsideration, but the same was denied in an order dated October 6, 2000.  [On January 15, 2001, petitioner filed a petition for certiorari with the CA assailing the RTC's order denying the motion to dismiss.  The CA did not issue a restraining order against the RTC.] Since no answer was filed by defendant, plaintiff filed a motion to declare defendant in default.  On April 1, 2001, the court a quo issued an order declaring defendant in default and ordering the reception of the plaintiff's evidence ex-parte.

Following the presentation of the plaintiff's evidence before a commissioner, the court a quo on March 6, 2002 rendered a decision in favor of plaintiff and against defendant, the dispositive portion of which reads, as follows:

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the plaintiff as follows:

1. Declaring as  null and void and has no legal effect, the loan contract and mortgage contract for being fictitious;

2. Ordering the cancellation of the annotation appearing in TCT Nos. 62352 and 62353 of the Register of Deeds of Quezon City;

3. Ordering the defendant to pay the plaintiff the amount of thirty thousand pesos (P30,000.00) as reasonable attorney's fees; and

4. Costs of suit.


Defendant filed a motion for reconsideration of the above decision, which the lower court denied in its order dated May 17, 2002. x x x[3]

The afore-quoted judgment was appealed to the CA, but on December 9, 2005, the CA promulgated its Decision dismissing the appeal, thereby affirming the RTC judgment.  The CA ruled that the trial court's order declaring herein petitioner in default for failing to file his answer within the time allowed by the rules, is valid and in accordance with Section 3, Rule 9 of the Rules of Court. Petitioner moved for reconsideration of the Decision, but the same was denied per Resolution dated April 6, 2006.

Hence, the present petition before this Court, wherein the main argument is that the CA erred in dismissing the appeal based purely on technical considerations, resulting in petitioner's unjust deprivation of his property without due process of law due to his former counsel's gross negligence.

The petition is devoid of merit.

It is a well-entrenched rule that generally, the client is bound by the mistakes of his lawyer.  To trivialize this rule would bring about a dangerous trend of endless litigation, as parties to a case could simply change counsels and claim that due to some mistake committed by their former counsel, they are entitled to new trial.[4]

However, as held in Hilario v. People,[5] said general rule admits of certain exceptions, to wit:

x x x  the exception is when the negligence of counsel is so gross, reckless and inexcusable that the client is deprived of his day in court.  x  x  x

x x x x

If the incompetence, ignorance or inexperience of counsel is so great and the error committed as a result thereof is so serious that the client, who otherwise has a good cause, is prejudiced and denied his day in court, the litigation may be reopened to give the client another chance to present his case. In a criminal proceeding, where certain evidence was not presented because of counsel's error or incompetence, the defendant in order to secure a new trial must satisfy the court that he has a good defense and that the acquittal would in all probability have followed the introduction of the omitted evidence. What should guide judicial action is that a party be given the fullest opportunity to establish the merits of his action or defense rather than for him to lose life, liberty, honor or property on mere technicalities.[6] (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

Clearly, for petitioner's case to be considered as an exception to the general rule, it is of utmost importance that the court be convinced that petitioner had a "good cause" in the first place, and it was merely due to his lawyer's gross negligence and incompetence that he was unjustly denied the opportunity to present it.  Note, however, that as correctly pointed out by the CA, there is no showing whatsoever that petitioner had such a "good cause."

Even during proceedings before the trial court, petitioner never presented a strong defense to persuade the court that the interest of justice would be served by the lifting of the default order.  On appeal, even if petitioner (appellant below) did not assign errors with regard to the merits of the RTC decision, the CA nevertheless painstakingly reviewed the records and came to the conclusion that the evidence sufficiently supported the trial court's judgment in favor of respondent. Finally, in this petition, the arguments revolved mainly around the issue that the trial court should have been more liberal in the application of the rules by lifting the default order. Again, petitioner absolutely failed to show that he had a meritorious defense.



Velasco, Jr., (Chairperson), Perez,* Mendoza, and Reyes,** JJ., concur.

*  Designated as an additional member in lieu of Associate Justice Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe, per raffle dated January 30, 2012.

** Designated as an additional member in lieu of Associate Justice Roberto A. Abad, per Special Order No. 1178 dated January 26, 2012.

[1]  Penned by Court of Appeals Associate Justice Hakim S. Abdulwahid, with Associate Justices Remedios A. Salazar-Fernando and Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe (now Supreme Court Associate Justice), concurring.

[2]  Id.

[3]  Rollo, pp. 19-20.

[4]  Briones v. People, G.R. No. 156009, June 5, 2009, 588 SCRA 362, 372.

[5]  G.R. No. 161070, April 14, 2008, 551 SCRA 191.

[6]  Id. at 207-208.

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