450 Phil. 720

SECOND DIVISION

[ G.R. No. 152878, May 05, 2003 ]

RIZAL COMMERCIAL BANKING CORPORATION, PETITIONER, VS. MAGWIN MARKETING CORPORATION, NELSON TIU, BENITO SY AND ANDERSON UY, RESPONDENTS.

D E C I S I O N

BELLOSILLO, J.:

WE ARE PERTURBED that this case should drag this Court in the banal attempts to decipher the hazy and confused intent of the trial court in proceeding with what would have been a simple, straightforward and hardly arguable collection case.  Whether the dismissal without prejudice for failure to prosecute was unconditionally reconsidered, reversed and set aside to reinstate the civil case and have it ready for pre-trial are matters which should have been clarified and resolved in the first instance by the court a quo.  Unfortunately, this feckless imprecision of the trial court became the soup stock of the parties and their lawyers to further delay the case below when they could have otherwise put things in proper order efficiently and effectively.

On 4 March 1999 petitioner Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) filed a complaint for recovery of a sum of money with prayer for a writ of preliminary attachment against respondents Magwin Marketing Corporation, Nelson Tiu, Benito Sy and Anderson Uy.[1] On 26 April 1999, the trial court issued a writ of attachment. [2] On 4 June 1999 the writ was returned partially satisfied since only a parcel of land purportedly owned by defendant Benito Sy was attached.[3] In the meantime, summons was served on each of the defendants, respondents herein, who filed their respective answers, except for defendant Gabriel Cheng who was dropped without prejudice as party-defendant as his whereabouts could not be located.[4] On 21 September 1999 petitioner moved for an alias writ of attachment which on 18 January 2000 the court a quo denied.[5]

Petitioner did not cause the case to be set for pre-trial.[6] For about six (6) months thereafter, discussions between petitioner and respondents Magwin Marketing Corporation, Nelson Tiu, Benito Sy and Anderson Uy, as parties in Civil Case No. 99-518, were undertaken to restructure the indebtedness of respondent Magwin Marketing Corporation.[7] On 9 May 2000 petitioner approved a debt payment scheme for the corporation which on 15 May 2000 was communicated to the latter by means of a letter dated 10 May 2000 for the conformity of its officers, i.e., respondent Nelson Tiu as President/General Manager of Magwin Marketing Corporation and respondent Benito Sy as Director thereof.[8] Only respondent Nelson Tiu affixed his signature on the letter to signify his agreement to the terms and conditions of the restructuring.[9]

On 20 July 2000 the RTC of Makati City, on its own initiative, issued an Order dismissing without prejudice Civil Case No. 99-518 for failure of petitioner as plaintiff therein to "prosecute its action for an unreasonable length of time x x x."[10] On 31 July 2000 petitioner moved for reconsideration of the Order by informing the trial court of respondents' unremitting desire to settle the case amicably through a loan restructuring program.[11] On 22 August 2000 petitioner notified the trial court of the acquiescence thereto of respondent Nelson Tiu as an officer of Magwin Marketing Corporation and defendant in the civil case.[12]

On 8 September 2000 the court a quo issued an Order reconsidering the dismissal without prejudice of Civil Case No. 99-518 —
Acting on plaintiff's "Motion for Reconsideration" of the Order dated 20 July 2000 dismissing this case for failure to prosecute, it appearing that there was already conformity to the restructuring of defendants' indebtedness with plaintiff by defendant Nelson Tiu, President of defendant corporation per "Manifestation and Motion" filed by plaintiff on 22 August 2000, there being probability of settlement among the parties, as prayed for, the Order dated 20 July 2000 is hereby set aside.

Plaintiff is directed to submit the compromise agreement within 15 days from receipt hereof.  Failure on the part of plaintiff to submit the said agreement shall cause the imposition of payment of the required docket fees for re-filing of this case.[13]
On 27 July 2000 petitioner filed in Civil Case No. 99-518 a Manifestation and Motion to Set Case for Pre-Trial Conference alleging that "[t]o date, only defendant Nelson Tiu had affixed his signature on the May 10, 2000 letter which informed the defendants that plaintiff [herein petitioner] already approved defendant Magwin Marketing Corporation's request for restructuring of its loan obligations to plaintiff but subject to the terms and conditions specified in said letter."[14] This motion was followed on 5 October 2000 by petitioner's Supplemental Motion to Plaintiff's Manifestation and Motion to Set Case for Pre-Trial Conference affirming that petitioner "could not submit a compromise agreement because only defendant Nelson Tiu had affixed his signature on the May 10, 2000 letter x x x."[15] Respondent Anderson Uy opposed the foregoing submissions of petitioner while respondents Magwin Marketing Corporation, Nelson Tiu and Benito Sy neither contested nor supported them.[16]

The trial court, in an undated Order (although a date was later inserted in the Order), denied petitioner's motion to calendar Civil Case No. 99-518 for pre-trial stating that —

Acting on plaintiff's [herein petitioner] "Manifestation and Motion to Set Case for Pre-Trial Conference," the "Opposition" filed by defendant Uy and the subsequent "Supplemental Motion" filed by plaintiff; defendant Uy's "Opposition," and plaintiff's "Reply;" for failure of the plaintiff to submit a compromise agreement pursuant to the Order dated 8 September 2000 plaintiff's motion to set case for pre-trial conference is hereby denied.[17]

On 15 November 2000 petitioner filed its Notice of Appeal from the 8 September 2000 Order of the trial court as well as its undated Order in Civil Case No. 99-518.  On 16 November 2000 the trial court issued two (2) Orders, one of which inserted the date "6 November 2000" in the undated Order rejecting petitioner's motion for pre-trial in the civil case, and the other denying due course to the Notice of Appeal on the ground that the "Orders dated 8 September 2000 and 6 November 2000 are interlocutory orders and therefore, no appeal may be taken x x x."[18]

On 7 December 2000 petitioner elevated the Orders dated 8 September 2000, 6 November 2000 and 16 November 2000 of the trial court to the Court of Appeals in a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Civil Procedure.[19] In the main, petitioner argued that the court a quo had no authority to compel the parties in Civil Case No. 99-518 to enter into an amicable settlement nor to deny the holding of a pre-trial conference on the ground that no compromise agreement was turned over to the court a quo.[20]

On 28 September 2001 the appellate court promulgated its Decision dismissing the petition for lack of merit and affirming the assailed Orders of the trial court[21] holding that —
x x x although the language of the September 8, 2000 Order may not be clear, yet, a careful reading of the same would clearly show that the setting aside of the Order dated July 20, 2000 which dismissed petitioner's complaint x x x for failure to prosecute its action for an unreasonable length of time is dependent on the following conditions, to wit: a) The submission of the compromise agreement by petitioner within fifteen (15) days from notice; and b) Failure of petitioner to submit the said compromise agreement shall cause the imposition of the payment of the required docket fees for the re-filing of the case; so much so that the non-compliance by petitioner of condition no. 1 would make condition no. 2 effective, especially that petitioner's manifestation and motion to set case for pre-trial conference and supplemental motion x x x [were] denied by the respondent judge in his Order dated November 6, 2000, which in effect means that the Order dated July 20, 2000 was ultimately not set aside considering that a party need not pay docket fees for the re-filing of a case if the original case has been revived and reinstated.[22]
On 2 April 2002 reconsideration of the Decision was denied; hence, this petition.

In the instant case, petitioner maintains that the trial court cannot coerce the parties in Civil Case No. 99-518 to execute a compromise agreement and penalize their failure to do so by refusing to go forward with the pre-trial conference.  To hold otherwise, so petitioner avers, would violate Art. 2029 of the Civil Code which provides that "[t]he court shall endeavor to persuade the litigants in a civil case to agree upon some fair compromise," and this Court's ruling in Goldloop Properties, Inc. v. Court of Appeals[23] where it was held that the trial court cannot dismiss a complaint for failure of the parties to submit a compromise agreement.

On the other hand, respondent Anderson Uy filed his comment after several extensions asserting that there are no special and important reasons for undertaking this review.  He also alleges that petitioner's attack is limited to the Order dated 8 September 2000 as to whether it is conditional as the Court of Appeals so found and the applicability to this case of the ruling in Goldloop Properties, Inc. v. Court of Appeals.  Respondent Uy claims that the Order reconsidering the dismissal of Civil Case No. 99-518 without prejudice is on its face contingent upon the submission of the compromise agreement which in the first place was the principal reason of petitioner to justify the withdrawal of the Order declaring his failure to prosecute the civil case.  He further contends that the trial court did not force the parties in the civil case to execute a compromise agreement, the truth being that it dismissed the complaint therein for petitioner's dereliction.

Finally, respondent Uy contests the relevance of Goldloop Properties, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, and refers to its incongruence with the instant case, i.e., that the complaint of petitioner was dismissed for failure to prosecute and not for its reckless disregard to present an amicable settlement as was the situation in Goldloop Properties, Inc., and that the dismissal was without prejudice, in contrast with the dismissal with prejudice ordered in the cited case. For their part, respondents Magwin Marketing Corporation, Nelson Tiu and Benito Sy waived their right to file a comment on the instant petition and submitted the same for resolution of this Court.[24]

The petition of Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation is meritorious.  It directs our attention to questions of substance decided by the courts a quo plainly in a way not in accord with applicable precedents as well as the accepted and usual course of judicial proceedings; it offers special and important reasons that demand the exercise of our power of supervision and review.  Furthermore, petitioner's objections to the proceedings below encompass not only the Order of 8 September 2000 but include the cognate Orders of the trial court of 6 and 16 November 2000.  This is evident from the prayer of the instant petition which seeks to reverse and set aside the Decision of the appellate court and to direct the trial court to proceed with the pre-trial conference in Civil Case No. 99-518.  Evidently, the substantive issue involved herein is whether the proceedings in the civil case should progress, a question which at bottom embroils all the Orders affirmed by the Court of Appeals.

On the task at hand, we see no reason why RTC-Br. 135 of Makati City should stop short of hearing the civil case on the merits.  There is no substantial policy worth pursuing by requiring petitioner to pay again the docket fees when it has already discharged this obligation simultaneously with the filing of the complaint for collection of a sum of money. The procedure for dismissed cases when re-filed is the same as though it was initially lodged, i.e., the filing of answer, reply, answer to counter-claim, including other foot-dragging maneuvers, except for the rigmarole of raffling cases which is dispensed with since the re-filed complaint is automatically assigned to the branch to which the original case pertained.[25] A complaint that is re-filed leads to the re-enactment of past proceedings with the concomitant full attention of the same trial court exercising an immaculate slew of jurisdiction and control over the case that was previously dismissed,[26] which in the context of the instant case is a waste of judicial time, capital and energy.

What judicial benefit do we derive from starting the civil case all over again, especially where three (3) of the four (4) defendants, i.e., Magwin Marketing Corporation, Nelson Tiu and Benito Sy, have not contested petitioner's plea before this Court and the courts a quo to advance to pre-trial conference?   Indeed, to continue hereafter with the resolution of petitioner's complaint without the usual procedure for the re-filing thereof, we will save the court a quo invaluable time and other resources far outweighing the docket fees that petitioner would be forfeiting should we rule otherwise.

Going over the specifics of this petition and the arguments of respondent Anderson Uy, we rule that the Order of 8 September 2000 did not reserve conditions on the reconsideration and reversal of the Order dismissing without prejudice Civil Case No. 99-518. This is quite evident from its text which does not use words to signal an intent to impose riders on the dispositive portion —
Acting on plaintiff's "Motion for Reconsideration" of the Order dated 20 July 2000 dismissing this case for failure to prosecute, it appearing that there was already conformity to the restructuring of defendants' indebtedness with plaintiff by defendant Nelson Tiu, President of defendant corporation per "Manifestation and Motion" filed by plaintiff on 22 August 2000, there being probability of settlement among the parties, as prayed for, the Order dated 20 July 2000 is hereby set aside.

Plaintiff is directed to submit the compromise agreement within 15 days from receipt hereof.  Failure on the part of plaintiff to submit the said agreement shall cause the imposition of payment of the required docket fees for re-filing of this case.[27]
Contrary to respondent Uy's asseverations, the impact of the second paragraph upon the first is simply to illustrate what the trial court would do after setting aside the dismissal without prejudice: submission of the compromise agreement for the consideration of the trial court.  Nothing in the second paragraph do we read that the reconsideration is subject to two (2) qualifications.  Certainly far from it, for in Goldloop Properties, Inc. v. Court of Appeals[28] a similar directive, i.e., "[t]he parties are given a period of fifteen (15) days from today within which to submit a Compromise Agreement," was held to mean that "should the parties fail in their negotiations the proceedings would continue from where they left off." Goldloop Properties, Inc. further said that its order, or a specie of it, did not constitute an agreement or even an expectation of the parties that should they fail to settle their differences within the stipulated number of days their case would be dismissed.

The addition of the second sentence in the second paragraph does not change the absolute nullification of the dismissal without prejudice decreed in the first paragraph.  The sentence "[f]ailure on the part of plaintiff to submit the said agreement shall cause the imposition of payment of the required docket fees for re-filing of this case" is not a directive to pay docket fees but only a statement of the event that may result in its imposition. The reason for this is that the trial court could not have possibly made such payment obligatory in the same civil case, i.e., Civil Case No. 99-518, since docket fees are defrayed only after the dismissal becomes final and executory and when the civil case is re-filed.

It must be emphasized however that once the dismissal attains the attribute of finality, the trial court cannot impose legal fees anew because a final and executory dismissal although without prejudice divests the trial court of jurisdiction over the civil case as well as any residual power to order anything relative to the dismissed case; it would have to wait until the complaint is docketed once again.[29] On the other hand, if we are to concede that the trial court retains jurisdiction over Civil Case No. 99-518 for it to issue the assailed Orders, a continuation of the hearing thereon would not trigger a disbursement for docket fees on the part of petitioner as this would obviously imply the setting aside of the order of dismissal and the reinstatement of the complaint.

Indubitably, it is speculative to reckon the effectivity of the Order of dismissal without prejudice to the presentation of the compromise agreement. If we are to admit that the efficacy of the invalidation of the Order of dismissal is dependent upon this condition, then we must inquire: from what date do we count the fifteen (15)-day reglementary period within which the alleged revival of the order of dismissal began to run?  Did it commence from the lapse of the fifteen (15) days provided for in the Order of 8 September 2000?  Or do we count it from the 6 November 2000 Order when the trial court denied the holding of a pre-trial conference?  Or must it be upon petitioner's receipt of the 16 November 2000 Order denying due course to its Notice of Appeal?  The court a quo could not have instituted an Order that marked the proceedings before it with a shadow of instability and chaos rather than a semblance of constancy and firmness.

The subsequent actions of the trial court also belie an intention to revive the Order of dismissal without prejudice in the event that petitioner fails to submit a compromise agreement.  The Orders of 6 and 16 November 2000 plainly manifest that it was retaining jurisdiction over the civil case, a fact which would not have been possible had the dismissal without prejudice been resuscitated.  Surely, the court a quo could not have denied on 6 November 2000 petitioner's motion to calendar Civil Case No. 99-518 for pre-trial if the dismissal had been restored to life in the meantime.  By then the dismissal without prejudice would have already become final and executory so as to effectively remove the civil case from the docket of the trial court.

The same is true with the Order of 16 November 2000 denying due course to petitioner's Notice of Appeal.  There would have been no basis for such exercise of discretion because the jurisdiction of the court a quo over the civil case would have been discharged and terminated by the presumed dismissal thereof.   Moreover, we note the ground for denying due course to the appeal:  the "Orders dated 8 September 2000 and 6 November 2000 are interlocutory orders and therefore, no appeal may be taken from x x x."[30] This declaration strongly suggests that something more was to be accomplished in the civil case, thus negating the claim that the Order of dismissal without prejudice was resurrected upon the parties' failure to yield a compromise agreement.   A "final order" issued by a court has been defined as one which disposes of the subject matter in its entirety or terminates a particular proceeding or action, leaving nothing else to be done but to enforce by execution what has been determined by the court, while an "interlocutory order" is one which does not dispose of a case completely but leaves something more to be decided upon.[31]

Besides the semantic and consequential improbabilities of respondent Uy's argument, our ruling in Goldloop Properties, Inc., is decisive of the instant case.  In Goldloop Properties, Inc., we reversed the action of the trial court in dismissing the complaint for failure of the plaintiff to prosecute its case, which was in turn based on its inability to forge a compromise with the other parties within fifteen (15) days from notice of the order to do so and held —
Since there is nothing in the Rules that imposes the sanction of dismissal for failing to submit a compromise agreement, then it is obvious that the dismissal of the complaint on the basis thereof amounts no less to a gross procedural infirmity assailable by certiorari. For such submission could at most be directory and could not result in throwing out the case for failure to effect a compromise.  While a compromise is encouraged, very strongly in fact, failure to consummate one does not warrant any procedural sanction, much less an authority to jettison a civil complaint worth P4,000,000.00 x x x Plainly, submission of a compromise agreement is never mandatory, nor is it required by any rule.[32]
As also explained therein, the proper course of action that should have been taken by the court a quo, upon manifestation of the parties of their willingness to discuss a settlement, was to suspend the proceedings and allow them reasonable time to come to terms (a) If willingness to discuss a possible compromise is expressed by one or both parties; or (b) If it appears that one of the parties, before the commencement of the action or proceeding, offered to discuss a possible compromise but the other party refused the offer, pursuant to Art. 2030 of the Civil Code.  If despite efforts exerted by the trial court and the parties the negotiations still fail, only then should the action continue as if no suspension had taken place.[33]

Ostensibly, while the rules allow the trial court to suspend its proceedings consistent with the policy to encourage the use of alternative mechanisms of dispute resolution, in the instant case, the trial court only gave the parties fifteen (15) days to conclude a deal.  This was, to say the least, a passive and paltry attempt of the court a quo in its task of persuading litigants to agree upon a reasonable concession.[34] Hence, if only to inspire confidence in the pursuit of a middle ground between petitioner and respondents, we must not interpret the trial court's Orders as dismissing the action on its own motion because the parties, specifically petitioner, were anxious to litigate their case as exhibited in their several manifestations and motions.

We reject respondent Uy's contention that Goldloop Properties, Inc. v. Court of Appeals is irrelevant to the case at bar on the dubious reasoning that the complaint of petitioner was dismissed for failure to prosecute and not for the non-submission of a compromise agreement which was the bone of contention in that case, and that the dismissal imposed in the instant case was without prejudice, in contrast to the dismissal with prejudice decreed in the cited case.  To begin with, whether the dismissal is with or without prejudice if grievously erroneous is detrimental to the cause of the affected party; Goldloop Properties, Inc. does not tolerate a wrongful dismissal just because it was without prejudice.  More importantly, the facts in Goldloop Properties, Inc. involve, as in the instant case, a dismissal for failure to prosecute on the ground of the parties' inability to come up with a compromise agreement within fifteen (15) days from notice of the court's order therein.  All told, the parallelism between them is unmistakable.

Even if we are to accept on face value respondent's understanding of Goldloop Properties, Inc. as solely about the failure to submit a compromise agreement, it is apparent that the present case confronts a similar problem. Perhaps initially the issue was one of failure to prosecute, as can be observed from the Order dated 20 July 2000, although later reversed and set aside. But thereafter, in the Order of 6 November 2000, the trial court refused to proceed to pre-trial owing to the "failure of the plaintiff to submit a compromise agreement pursuant to the Order dated 8 September 2000." When the civil case was stalled on account of the trial court's refusal to call the parties to a pre-trial conference, the reason or basis therefor was the absence of a negotiated settlement — a circumstance that takes the case at bar within the plain ambit of Goldloop Properties, Inc.  In any event, given that the instant case merely revolves around the search for a reasonable interpretation of the several Orders of the trial court, i.e., as to whether the dismissal without prejudice was revived upon petitioner's helplessness to perfect an out-of-court arrangement, with more reason must we employ the ruling in Goldloop Properties, Inc. to resolve the parties' differences of opinion.

We also find nothing in the record to support respondent Uy's conclusion that petitioner has been mercilessly delaying the prosecution of Civil Case No. 99-518 to warrant its dismissal.  A complaint may be dismissed due to plaintiff's fault: (a) if he fails to appear during a scheduled trial, especially on the date for the presentation of his evidence in chief, or when so required at the pre-trial; (b) if he neglects to prosecute his action for an unreasonable length of time; or (c) if he does not comply with the rules or any order of the court.  None of these was obtaining in the civil case.

While there was a lull of about six (6) months in the prosecution of Civil Case No. 99-518, it must be remembered that respondents themselves contributed largely to this delay.  They repeatedly asked petitioner to consider re-structuring the debt of respondent Magwin Marketing Corporation to which petitioner graciously acceded.  Petitioner approved a new debt payment scheme that was sought by respondents, which it then communicated to respondent Corporation through a letter for the conformity of the latter's officers, i.e., respondent Nelson Tiu as President/General Manager and respondent Benito Sy as Director thereof.  Regrettably, only respondent Nelson Tiu affixed his signature on the letter to signify his concurrence with the terms and conditions of the arrangement.  The momentary lag in the civil case was aggravated when respondent Benito Sy for unknown and unexplained reasons paid no heed to the adjustments in the indebtedness although curiously he has not opposed before this Court or the courts a quo petitioner's desire to go ahead with the pre-trial conference.

Admittedly, delay took place in this case but it was not an interruption that should have entailed the dismissal of the complaint even if such was designated as without prejudice.  To constitute a sufficient ground for dismissal, the inattention of plaintiff to pursue his cause must not only be prolonged but also be unnecessary and dilatory resulting in the trifling of judicial processes.  In the instant case, the adjournment was not only fleeting as it lasted less than six (6) months but was also done in good faith to accommodate respondents' incessant pleas to negotiate.  Although the dismissal of a case for failure to prosecute is a matter addressed to the sound discretion of the court, that judgment however must not be abused. The availability of this recourse must be determined according to the procedural history of each case, the situation at the time of the dismissal, and the diligence of plaintiff to proceed therein.[35] Stress must also be laid upon the official directive that courts must endeavor to convince parties in a civil case to consummate a fair settlement,[36] and to mitigate damages to be paid by the losing party who has shown a sincere desire for such give-and-take.[37] All things considered, we see no compelling circumstances to uphold the dismissal of petitioner's complaint regardless of its characterization as being without prejudice.

In fine, petitioner cannot be said to have lost interest in fighting the civil case to the end.  A court may dismiss a case on the ground of non prosequitur but the real test of the judicious exercise of such power is whether under the circumstances plaintiff is chargeable with want of fitting assiduousness in not acting on his complaint with reasonable promptitude.  Unless a party's conduct is so indifferent, irresponsible, contumacious or slothful as to provide substantial grounds for dismissal, i.e., equivalent to default or non-appearance in the case, the courts should consider lesser sanctions which would still amount to achieving the desired end.[38] In the absence of a pattern or scheme to delay the disposition of the case or of a wanton failure to observe the mandatory requirement of the rules on the part of the plaintiff, as in the case at bar, courts should decide to dispense rather than wield their authority to dismiss.[39]

Clearly, another creative remedy was available to the court a quo to attain a speedy disposition of Civil Case No. 99-518 without sacrificing the course of justice.  Since the failure of petitioner to submit a compromise agreement was the refusal of just one of herein respondents, i.e., Benito Sy, to sign his name on the conforme of the loan restructure documents, and the common concern of the courts a quo was dispatch in the proceedings, the holding of a pre-trial conference was the best-suited solution to the problem as this stage in a civil action is where issues are simplified and the dispute quickly and genuinely reconciled. By means of pre-trial, the trial court is fully empowered to sway the litigants to agree upon some fair compromise.

Dismissing the civil case and compelling petitioner to re-file its complaint is a dangerous, costly and circuitous route that may end up aggravating, not resolving, the disagreement. This case management strategy is frighteningly deceptive because it does so at the expense of petitioner whose cause of action, perhaps, may have already been admitted by its adverse parties as shown by three (3) of four (4) defendants not willing to contest petitioner's allegations, and more critically, since this approach promotes the useless and thankless duplication of hard work already undertaken by the trial court.  As we have aptly observed, "[i]nconsiderate dismissals, even if without prejudice, do not constitute a panacea nor a solution to the congestion of court dockets.  While they lend a deceptive aura of efficiency to records of individual judges, they merely postpone the ultimate reckoning between the parties.  In the absence of clear lack of merit or intention to delay, justice is better served by a brief continuance, trial on the merits, and final disposition of the cases before the court."[40]

WHEREFORE, the Petition for Review is GRANTED.  The Decision dated 28 September 2001 and Resolution dated 2 April 2002 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 62102 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE.

The Orders dated 8 September 2000, 6 November 2000 and 16 November 2000 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 135, of Makati City, docketed as Civil Case No. 99-518, are also REVERSED and SET ASIDE insofar as these Orders are interpreted to impose upon and collect anew from petitioner RIZAL COMMERCIAL BANKING CORPORATION docket or legal fees for its complaint, or to dismiss without prejudice Civil Case No. 99-518, or to preclude the trial court from calling the parties therein to pre-trial conference, or from proceeding thereafter with dispatch to resolve the civil case.

Civil Case No. 99-518 is deemed REINSTATED in, as it was never taken out from, the dockets of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 135, of Makati City.   The trial court is ORDERED to exercise its jurisdiction over Civil Case No. 99-518, to CONDUCT the pre-trial conference therein with dispatch, and to UNDERTAKE thereafter such other proceedings as may be relevant, without petitioner being charged anew docket or other legal fees in connection with its reinstatement.   Costs against respondents.

SO ORDERED.

Quisumbing, Austria-Martinez, and Callejo, Sr., JJ., concur.




[1] Docketed as Civil Case No. 99-518, Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation v. Magwin Marketing Corporation, et al., which was raffled to RTC-Br. 135,  Makati City; Rollo, p. 4.

[2] CA Record, p. 234.

[3] Id. at 237.

[4] Id. at 7.

[5] Id. at 237.

[6] Id. at 234.

[7] Rollo, p. 6; CA Record, p. 136.

[8] Id. at 6; id. at  42-43.

[9] Rollo, p. 7.

[10] Ibid.

[11] CA Record, p. 242.

[12] Rollo, p. 7.

[13] Order issued by Judge Francisco B. Ibay; CA Record,  p. 24.

[14] Rollo, p. 8.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Id. at  9.

[17] Order issued by Judge Francisco B. Ibay; CA Record, p. 25.

[18] CA Record, pp. 32- 33.

[19] Docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 62102, Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation v. Hon. Judge Francisco B. Ibay, et al.

[20] Id. at 11-13.

[21] Decision penned by Associate Justice Mercedes Gozo-Dadole and concurred in by then Presiding Justice (now Associate Justice of this Court) Ma. Alicia Austria-Martinez and Associate Justice Jose L. Sabio Jr.; Rollo, pp. 26-35.

[22] Id. at 34.

[23] G.R. No. 99431, 11 August 1992, 212 SCRA 498.

[24] Resolution dated 18 September 2002; Rollo, p. 43.

[25] The 2002 Revised Manual for Clerks of Courts, Vol. I, p. 223.

[26] Bañares II v. Balising, G.R. No. 132624, 13 March 2000, 328 SCRA 36.

[27] Issued by Judge Francisco B. Ibay; CA Record, p. 24.

[28] See Note 22 at  506.

[29] Ortigas & Company Limited Partnership v. Velasco, G.R. No. 109645, 25 July 1994, 234 SCRA 455; Aquizap v. Basilio, No. L-21293, 29 December 1967, 21 SCRA 1434.

[30] CA Record, pp. 32-33.

[31] See Note 26.

[32] See Note 22 at  506.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Civil Code, art. 2029; see SC Adm. Order No. 21-01; see also A.M. No. 99-6-01-SC.

[35] Calalang v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 103185, 22 January 1993, 217 SCRA 462.

[36] See Note 34.

[37] Civil Code, art. 2031.

[38] Bank of the Philippine Islands v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 117385, 11 February 1999, 303 SCRA 19.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Macasa v. Herrera, 101 Phil. 44, 48 (1957).



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