358 Phil. 849
1) Are you employed?On November 25 1994, the Regional Trial Court of Makati issued an order suspending the proceedings until petitioners could complete the documents required for establishing their right to litigate as paupers.
2) If you are employed,
a) who is your employer?
b) what position do you hold in your present employment?
c) what is your annual gross compensation for 1993?
d) how long have you been employed with your present employer?
3) Are you engaged in any business?
4) If you are engaged in business,
a) what type of business are you engaged in?
b) how long have you been engaged in business?
c) what is your annual gross income derived from business for 1993?
. . . .
7) Do you own real property?
8) If you own real property,
a) how many and what types of real properties do you own?
b) where are these real properties located?
c) what is the present market value of each of these real properties?
d) what is the latest assessed value of each of these real properties?
. . . .
56) What type of dwelling do you live in?
57) If you live in a house, do you own the house?
58) If you are merely renting your dwelling, how much is your monthly rent?
59) If you are without viable means of income, how are you and your family being financially supported?
There is nothing in the order which authorized plaintiffs to ignore the interrogatories served upon them. For that matter, the answers required would reflect as to whether they are entitled to litigate as paupers, the issue which the court directed the parties to clarify within thirty (30) days. The sanctions on the party who refuses to make discovery are clear in the rules as well as in the applicable case law. There is absolutely no reason why plaintiffs should be excused therefrom.Petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration but the trial court denied their motion in an order, dated June 16, 1995. They then filed a special civil action for certiorari in this Court to set aside the aforesaid orders of the trial court. The case was referred to the Court of Appeals, which on August 8, 1997, affirmed the orders of the Regional Trial Court. The appellate court held:
Undoubtedly, the petitioners’ failure to serve their answers within the reglementary period constitutes a valid ground for the dismissal of their actions or any part thereof.Hence, this petition for review on certiorari tendering the following issues:
While it is true that aside from the dismissal of the actions, there are other sanctions that may be imposed for failure of a party to serve answers to interrogatories, however, since respondents are precisely seeking the dismissal of the complaints because of the petitioners’ non-compliance with all the requirements that would entitle them to litigate as paupers, such failure justifies the action taken by the court a quo, which had previously required the parties to "perfect their pleadings." Needless to state, by not answering the interrogatories, the petitioners rendered it difficult for respondent Pepsico to substantiate its opposition to their request to litigate as paupers, as directed by the court a quo.
At any rate, the dismissal ordered by the court a quo is without prejudice, thus implicitly reserving the petitioners’ right to further pursue their cases.
WHETHER OR NOT THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED GRAVE ERROR IN NOT CONSIDERING THAT THE REMEDY OF DISMISSAL UPON FAILURE OF A PARTY TO SERVE ANSWERS TO INTERROGATORIES IS AVAILABLE OR MAY BE RESORTED TO ONLY WHEN THE SUBJECT MATTER THEREOF REFERS TO THE VERY MERITS OF THE CASE.We find the instant petition to be well taken, but first we shall dispose of the procedural objections raised by respondents PCPPI and PI, to wit: (1) that the instant petition is not accompanied by a sworn certification on non-forum shopping as required by Rule 45, §4 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure and (2) that the said petition raises a question of fact which cannot be dealt with in a petition for review on certiorari under §1 of the said rule.
WHETHER OR NOT THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED GRAVE ERROR IN NOT CONSIDERING THAT THE PETITIONERS HAD SUBSTANTIALLY COMPLIED WITH THE REQUIREMENTS ON WRITTEN INTERROGATORIES.
3. No other action or proceeding involving the same issues have been commenced with this Honorable Supreme Court, the regular courts, the Honorable Court of Appeals, or any other tribunal or agency.This is sufficient compliance with Rule 45, §4 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.
4. To the best of my knowledge, no such action or proceeding is pending before this Honorable Supreme Court, the regular courts, the Honorable Court of Appeals, or any other tribunal or agency.
5. If I should thereafter learn that a similar action or proceeding has been filed or is pending before this Honorable Supreme Court, the regular courts, the Honorable Court of Appeals, or any other tribunal or agency, I hereby undertake to report that fact to this Honorable Supreme Court within five (5) days from having gained knowledge thereof.
. . . there is a question of law in a given case when the doubt or difference arises as to what the law is on a certain set of facts; there is a question of fact when the doubt or difference arises as to the truth or falsehood of the alleged facts.For the question in this case is whether petitioners’ failure to answer written interrogatories is a sufficient reason for the dismissal of their complaints. The resolution of this question does not depend on the evaluation of proof but on a consideration of the applicable legal provisions and case law.
What is chiefly contemplated is the discovery of every bit of information which may be useful in the preparation for trial, such as the identity and location of persons having knowledge of relevant facts; those relevant facts themselves; and the existence, description, nature, custody, condition, and location of any books, documents, and other tangible things.To ensure the efficacy of the various modes of discovery, the Rules provide sanctions against a party who refuses to make discovery. Rule 29, §5 for example states:
If any party or an officer or managing agent of a party wilfully fails to appear before the officer who is to take his deposition, after being served with a proper notice, or fails to serve answers to interrogatories submitted under Rule 25, after proper service of such interrogatories, the court on motion and notice may strike out all or any part of any pleading of that party, or dismiss the action or proceeding or any part thereof, or enter a judgment by default against that party, and in its discretion, order him to pay the reasonable expenses incurred by the other, including attorney’s fees.This Court has upheld the dismissal of an action due to the refusal of the plaintiff to make discovery. In Arellano v. Court of First Instance of Sorsogon, it affirmed the dismissal of a suit for reconveyance of a parcel of land with a claim for damages when the plaintiff unjustifiably failed to answer the written interrogatories sent by the defendant regarding the alleged title of the former. However, the determination of the sanction a court should impose for the failure of a party to comply with the modes of discovery rests on sound judicial discretion. As we said in Insular Life Assurance Co., Ltd. v. Court of Appeals:
The matter of how, and when, the above sanctions should be applied is one that primarily rests on the sound discretion of the court where the case pends, having always in mind the paramount and overriding interest of justice. For while the modes of discovery are intended to attain the resolution of litigations with great expediency, they are not contemplated, however, ultimately to be causes of injustice. It behooves trial courts to examine well the circumstances of each case and to make their considered determination thereafter.In the case at bar, we think the trial court was rather precipitate in dismissing the complaints of petitioners against respondents PCPPI and PI.