Supreme Court E-Library
Information At Your Fingertips

  View printer friendly version

398 Phil. 859


[ G.R. No. 95533, November 20, 2000 ]




On December 28, 1988, a complaint for escheat[1]was filed by petitioner, Republic of the Philippines, with the Regional Trial Court of Davao City against several banks which had branches within the jurisdiction of the said court.[2]

The complaint alleged that pursuant to Act No. 3936 as amended by P.D. 679,[3] the respective managers of the defendant banks submitted to the Treasurer of the Republic of the Philippines separate statements prepared under oath which listed all deposits and credits held by them in favor of depositors or creditors either known to be dead, have not been heard from, or have not made depositors or withdrawals for ten years or more since December 31, 1970.

The complaint prayed that after due notice to the defendant banks, and after hearing, judgment be rendered declaring that the deposits, credits and unpaid balances in question be escheated to petitioner, commanding defendant banks to forthwith deposit the same with the Treasurer of the Philippines.[4]

On April 12, 1989, the lower court issued an order directing petitioner to show cause why the complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a cause of action.  According to the order, the complaint contained no allegation that defendant banks have complied with two of the conditions in Section 2 of Act No. 3936,[5] compliance with the requirements being necessary for the complaint to prosper.[6]

On April 27, 1989, petitioner submitted its manifestation and motion to allow amendment of the petition to allege compliance with the conditions set forth in Section 2 of Act. No. 3936 as amended by P.D. 679 ("Unclaimed Balances Law").[7]

The amended complaint prayed that judgment be rendered ordering that the amount of P97,263.38, deposited with the defendant banks by depositors who are known to be dead or have not made further deposits or withdrawals during the preceding ten years or more be escheated in favor of the Republic of the Philippines in accordance with Section 1, Act 3936 as amended by P.D. 679.

The trial court found the amendment sufficient and issued an order dated June 7, 1989 requiring petitioner to publish a notice in the Mindanao Forum Standard once a week for two consecutive weeks, containing the summons, notice to the public, the amended petition incorporated in the summons and the list of unclaimed balances.  The notice was estimated to occupy 27 pages of the said newspaper at an estimated cost of P50,000.00.[8]

On July 11, 1989, petitioner submitted a manifestation to the lower court praying that the publication of the list of the unclaimed balances be dispensed with.  Petitioner posited that under Section 3, Act No. 3936, only the following are required to be published: (1) summons to respondent banks; and (2) notice to all persons other than those named defendants therein.  Petitioner submitted that to require it to publish the names and list of unclaimed balances would only result in additional and unnecessary expense to the government.[9]

On August 1, 1989, the trial court issued the following Order:

"WHEREFORE, this Court will not dispense with the publication of the list of unclaimed balances and, unless the plaintiff, through the Office of the Solicitor General, agrees to the publication thereof as stated in the Order of this Court dated June 7, 1989, and shoulder the cost thereof as also mentioned in said Order, and manifests its agreement to this Court in writing within thirty (30) days from receipt thereof, this case will be DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.

Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration of the above Order,[10] which was denied by the lower court for lack of merit.[11]

Subsequently, the trial court issued an Order dated October 31, 1989 dismissing Civil Case No. 19488-89 without prejudice for plaintiff's failure to agree to the required publication and shoulder the costs thereof.[12]

Petitioner received a copy of the aforesaid Order on November 15, 1989.  On January 10, 1990, petitioner filed with the Court of Appeals a petition for mandamus and certiorari, alleging grave abuse of discretion on the part of respondent judge in ordering the publication of the list of unclaimed balances.[13] The petition for certiorari and mandamus was dismissed by the Court of Appeals, on the ground that the proper remedy was ordinary appeal.  Thus:[14]

It is axiomatic that the extraordinary remedy of certiorari is available only in the absence of a plain, speedy and adequate remedy like appeal. The order of the respondent court dated October 31, 1989 dismissing the case is final and appealable (Monares vs. CWA Enterpises, 105 Phil. 1333; Vol. I, Francisco, Rules of Court, at pp. 967-968). No timely appeal having been taken therefrom, the same became final and executory and this petition for certiorari filed on January 10, 1989 to review the interlocutory orders issued by the court before the case was dismissed can no longer be entertained.

WHEREFORE, the petition for certiorari is dismissed for lack of merit.


Aggrieved, petitioner filed an appeal under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court raising the following issues:[15]

Whether or not respondent RTC judge committed grave abuse of discretion tantamount to lack of jurisdiction in ordering the publication of the list of unclaimed balances listed under annexes "A" to "P" of the complaint.
Whether or not the remedy of appeal, though available, was the speedy and adequate remedy.
Whether or not respondent RTC judge in issuing the interlocutory orders dated June 7, 1989 and August 1, 1990 - which are contrary to Sec. 1, Act 3936, as amended by PD 679, otherwise known as the "Unclaimed Balances Law" acted in excess of and without jurisdiction; consequently thus making the Orders of Sept. 1, 1989 (denying the motion for reconsideration) and the Order dated October 31, 1989 dismissing the case, patently null and void.
Whether or not the decision of the Honorable Court of Appeals is in accord with law.

The petition is without merit.

The Order of the trial court dismissing the complaint, albeit without prejudice, was a final order in the sense that it finally disposed of the case.  As such, petitioner's remedy was to file an ordinary appeal to the Court of Appeals within fifteen (15) days from receipt hereof.

This Court has previously held that an order dismissing a case without prejudice is a final order if no motion for reconsideration or appeal therefrom is timely filed.

In Olympia International vs. Court of Appeals,[16] we stated thus:

The dismissal without prejudice of a complaint does not however mean that said dismissal order was any less final.  Such order of dismissal is complete in all details, and though without prejudice, nonetheless finally disposed of the matter.  It was not merely an interlocutory order but a final disposition of the complaint.

The law grants an aggrieved party a period of fifteen (15) days from his receipt of the court's decision or order disposing of the action or proceeding to appeal or move to reconsider the same.

After the lapse of the fifteen-day period, an order becomes final and executory and is beyond the power or jurisdiction of the court which rendered it to further amend or revoke.  A final judgment or order cannot be modified in any respect, even if the modification sought is for the purpose of correcting an erroneous conclusion by the court which rendered the same.

Hence, the Court of Appeals did not err when it dismissed the petition for certiorari and mandamus, on the ground that the proper remedy was to appeal within fifteen (15) days.  The lapse of the reglementary period was of no moment.  A basic requisite for the special civil action of certiorari to lie is that there be no appeal nor plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.  Certiorari is a remedy of last recourse and is a limited form of review. Its principal function is to keep inferior tribunals within their jurisdiction.  It cannot be used as a substitute for a lost appeal.  It is not intended to correct errors of procedure or mistakes in the judge's findings or conclusions.[17]

In a more recent case,this Court held:

xxx  xxx  xxx.  Apparently, petitioner resorted to this special civil action because it had failed to take an appeal within the 15-day reglementary period which expired on June 20, 1997.  This, of course, cannot be done. The special civil action of certiorari cannot be used as a substitute for an appeal which petitioner has lost. Nor can it be contended that the only question raised in this case is a jurisdictional question.  Certiorari lies only where there is no appeal nor any plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.  There is no reason why the question being raised by petitioner, i.e., whether the appellate court committed a grave abuse of discretion in dismissing petitions, could not have been raised by it on appeal.[18]

Admittedly, this Court, in accordance with the liberal spirit pervading the Rules of Court and in the interest of justice, has the discretion to treat a petition for certiorari as having been filed under Rule 45, especially if filed within the reglementary period for filing a petition for review.[19] In the case at bar, there is no compelling reason for the Court of Appeals to have treated the petition for certiorari and mandamus as an ordinary appeal. Aside from being filed beyond the fifteen (15) day period, the petition failed to show that the trial court committed grave abuse of discretion or want or excess of jurisdiction in issuing the assailed Order dismissing the complaint.  If at all, any mistake therein was an error of judgment or procedure, which is correctible in an ordinary appeal filed in due time.

The publication of the list of unclaimed balances is intended to safeguard the right of the depositors, their heirs and successors to due process.[20] This was made clear by the lower court in its assailed Order, to wit:[21]

Moreover, how would other persons who may have an interest in any of the unclaimed balances know what this case is all about and whether they have an interest in this case if the amended complaint and list of unclaimed balances are not published?  Such other persons may be heirs of the bank depositors named in the list of unclaimed balances.

x x x                                             x x x                                     x x x

The fact that the government is in a tight financial situation is not a justification for this Court to dispense with the elementary rule of due process.

As declared by the trial court in its Order dated August 1, 1989, the dismissal of the petition for escheat is without prejudice. In other words, the State can refile the said petition, notwithstanding the lapse of time.  Prescription of action does not run against the government.[22]

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED.  The decision of the Court of Appeals dated August 14, 1990 is AFFIRMED.


Davide, Jr., C.J. (Chairman), Puno, Kapunan, and Pardo, JJ., concur.

*  All banks impleaded were ordered by the /court of Appeals to comment on the petition, but only private respondent Philippine Commercial and International Bank filed comment (Rollo, Court of Appeals Decision, p. 29).

[1] Rollo, p. 36; Civil Case Nos. 19488-89.

[2] Impleaded were Philippine Commercial International Bank, Sta. Ana Branch; Citytrust Banking Corporation, Davao Branch; consolidated Bank and Trust Co., Davao Ext. Office; Manila Bank, Davao Branch; Pacific Banking Corporation, Davao Branch; Phil. Commercial International Bank, Davao Branch; Philippine National Bank, Davao Branch; Prudential Bank and Trust Company, Davao Main Branch; Consolidated Bank and Trust Company, Sta. Ana Ext. Office; Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation, Davao Branch; Philippine Veterans Bank, Davao Branch; Comtrust Bank, Davao Branch; Davao City Development Bank, Davao City; Bank of the Philippine Islands, Digos Branch; and Rural Bank of Digos, Inc.

[3] Sec. 2 of the law provides: "Immediately after the taking effect of this act and within the month of January of every odd year, all banks, building and loan associations, and trust corporations shall forward to the Treasurer of the Philippines a statement, under oath, of their respective managing officers, of all credits and deposits held by them in favor of persons known to be dead, or who have not made further deposits or withdrawals during the preceding ten years or more, arranged in alphabetical order according to the names of creditors and depositors. xxx."

[4] Rollo, p. 39.

[5] The conditions referred to are:

(1)  A copy of the sworn statement shall be posted in a conspicuous place in th premises of the bank, building and loan association, or trust corporation concerned for at least sixty days from the date of filing thereof;

(2) Immediately before filing the above sworn statement, the bank, building and loan association, and trust corporation shall communicate with the person in whose favor the unclaimed balance stands at his last known place of residence or post office address.

[6] Rollo, pp. 42-43.

[7] Rollo, p. 44.

[8] Rollo, pp. 47-49.

[9] Rollo, pp. 50-51.

[10] Rollo, pp. 53-54.

[11] Rollo, pp. 56-57.

[12] Rollo, p. 58.

[13] Rollo, pp. 59-69; CA-G.R. SP No. 19647.

[14] Record, p. 244.

[15] Rollo, pp. 10-11.

[16] 180 SCRA 353, 361 (1989).

[17] Barangay Blue ridge "A" of Quezon City v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 111854, November 24, 1999.

[18] Republic v. Court of Appeals & Traders Royal Bank, G.R. No. 129846, January 18, 2000; underscoring ours.  See also BF Savings & Mortgage Bank v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 132703, June 23, 2000.

[19] Republic of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals & Traders Royal Bank, supra.

[20] Rollo, p. 56.

[21] Rollo, p. 57.

[22] Reyes v. Court of Appeals 295 SCRA 296, 313 (1998).

© Supreme Court E-Library 2019
This website was designed and developed, and is maintained, by the E-Library Technical Staff in collaboration with the Management Information Systems Office.