594 Phil. 62

THIRD DIVISION

[ G.R. No. 155454, December 10, 2008 ]

EDUARDO COLMENARES AND EPIFANIA COLMENARES, PETITIONERS, VS. HEIRS OF ROSARIO VDA. DE GONZALES, NAMELY: HOMERO S. GONZALES, VIOLETA GALVEZ, FLORENCIA BELO, IMELDA CANCIO AND LETICIA DE PADUA; AND HEIRS OF HOMERO GONZALES, NAMELY: AIDA CRUZ GONZALES, DIANA GONZALES AND DANIEL GONZALES, RESPONDENTS.

DECISION

NACHURA, J.:

Before us is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court assailing the Resolutions[1] dated June 21, 2002 and September 3, 2002, respectively, of the Court of Appeals (CA) which denied due course to petitioner-spouses Eduardo and Epifania Colmenares' petition for certiorari.

The brief antecedents.

Rosario Vda. de Gonzales and Homero S. Gonzales (original plaintiffs in the Municipal Trial Court [MTC]), substituted by their respective sets of heirs, namely, respondents Homero Gonzales, Violeta Galvez, Florencia Belo, Imelda Cancio and Leticia de Padua for Rosario; and respondents Aida Cruz, Diana and Daniel, all surnamed Gonzales, for Homero, filed a Complaint for ejectment against Eduardo and Epifania.

Original plaintiffs were co-owners of lots denominated as Lots 209-A, 210 and 10186-B situated at Poblacion, Talisay, Cebu. From 1946, Rosario, as lessor, and Arturo Colmenares, on behalf of the Colmenares family, as lessee, entered into an oral contract of lease. Arturo introduced major improvements on the subject lots to operate a beach resort thereon with Eduardo as local manager thereof. The lease did not have a fixed period and only stipulated payment of P150.00 as monthly rent. The rent was increased to P350.00 in August 1982, and further increased to P1,000.00 from September 1982 until August 1991.

Parenthetically, upon Arturo's death on June 12, 1962, Eduardo took over the family business, and failed to pay rent from February 1, 1967 to April 30, 1968 due to various financial difficulties. This failure to pay rent resulted in the filing of an ejectment case against petitioners docketed as Civil Case No. 140, wherein judgment was rendered ordering Eduardo to vacate the subject lots and pay unpaid rentals and attorney's fees.

Posthaste, upon learning of the court decision on his return to Cebu, Eduardo settled and paid the back rentals to Rosario. Thereafter, the parties agreed to maintain the standing lease agreement.

Subsequently, the parties agreed on the rent increases which rent, at its maximum, as previously stated, was pegged at P1,000.00. At some point, there were discussions between the parties on the possibility of an outright sale of the subject lots. However, no agreement was reached by the parties.

Respondents sent Eduardo demand letters, the last of which was dated June 14, 1983, although the latter continuously paid the P1,000.00 monthly rent. These payments were received by respondents. Thus, Eduardo was surprised at the filing of the ejectment case against him.

Respondents alleged in their complaint that the lease agreement was on a month-to-month basis which terminated upon Arturo's death. Thus, respondents asked petitioners to vacate the subject lots and remove the improvements introduced thereon. Petitioners' refusal to comply with respondents' demands constrained the latter to file the case against the former.

During pre-trial, the parties submitted the following issues for resolution:
  1. Whether [petitioners] can be ejected from the land owned by [respondents];

  2. Whether [petitioners] are builders in good faith; and

  3. Whether P5,000.00 per month is a reasonable amount for the use of the subject [lots].
After trial, the MTC rendered a decision finding that: (1) there is an oral contract of lease between the parties, Rosario and Arturo, the latter on behalf of the Colmenares family, for an indefinite period conditioned solely on the Colmenares family's continuous payment of monthly rentals; (2) the Colmenares family, including herein petitioners, are not builders in good faith, and, as such, they should demolish and remove the improvements upon termination of the lease without reimbursement for their expenses; and (3) the belated imposition of a P5,000.00 monthly rental for the subject lots is inequitable, considering the original state of the subject lots at the constitution of the lease, and the substantial investments poured therein by the Colmenares family. The MTC fixed the period of the lease at twenty (20) years reckoned from the date of the decision in 1981, and set the rent at P1,500.00 per month, with a possible ten percent (10%) increase each year.

Dissatisfied, respondents appealed the decision of the MTC to the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 15, Cebu City. The RTC affirmed the MTC finding that the Colmenares family, including herein petitioners, may not be ejected by respondents from the subject lots because of the existing lease agreement between the parties. However, the RTC reduced the twenty (20)-year lease period fixed by the MTC to ten (10) years and increased the monthly rent to P5,000.00.

Petitioners and respondent-heirs of Homero S. Gonzales respectively filed a motion for reconsideration with the RTC, whereas respondents heirs of Rosario Vda. de Gonzales directly filed a petition for review of the RTC decision with the CA. In this regard, the RTC issued an Order dated July 13, 1994, subsequently reiterated in a December 14, 1995 Order, holding in abeyance the resolution of petitioners' Motion for Reconsideration until receipt of the CA decision on respondent-heirs of Rosario Vda. de Gonzales' appeal. However, it appears that the CA denied respondent-heirs of Rosario's appeal, a decision which attained finality by November 21, 1997.[2]

Meanwhile, on January 24, 1996, the RTC issued the following Order:
It appearing that the Court of Appeals has given due course to the petition for certiorari from the decision of this Court, the court is left with no other choice but to suspend this proceedings to await the decision of the Court of Appeals thereon. And if the Court of Appeals will affirm the decision, then execution will follow. And if the Court of Appeals reverses the decision of this Court, then there is no more decision to talk about. Further proceedings in this case are hereby suspended accordingly.
Later on, respondents filed a motion for issuance of a writ of execution which the MTC granted in light of the latest RTC Order and the dismissal by the CA of respondent-heirs of Rosario Vda. de Gonzales' appeal, to wit:
With the finality of the decision of the Court of Appeals, and the remand of the records of the case to this Court, which, in effect, is an order or directive by the RTC to this Court to execute its judgment, this Court finds no more legal impediment for the issuance of the writ of execution prayed for.

WHEREFORE, the motion for issuance of [a] writ of execution is granted.[3]
From this MTC Order, petitioners directly filed a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court before the CA alleging grave abuse of discretion in the MTC's issuance of a writ of execution. The CA issued the herein assailed Resolutions denying due course to petitioners' petition for (1) violation of the hierarchy of courts in bypassing the RTC's certiorari jurisdiction over the MTC and directly invoking that of the CA, and (2) non-compliance with the rules on verification and certification of non-forum shopping when Epifania failed to sign thereon.

Hence, this appeal by certiorari.

Upon order of this Court, respondents were required to file a Comment on the petition. All the respondents, except Aida Gonzales, filed their Comment on April 9, 2003. In our Resolution dated July 7, 2003, we ordered petitioners to submit to this Court the address of respondent Aida or the name of her counsel.

Aida's counsel of record in the proceedings below, Atty. Manuel G. Maranga, filed an Explanation and Compliance stating that he did not receive a copy of the instant petition. Counsel explained that he had lost contact with Aida and diligent efforts to contact the latter proved futile. Paragraph 4 of the Explanation and Compliance filed by Atty. Maranga, reads:
  1. That the last time undersigned counsel saw respondent Aida Gonzales was when he filed on July 1994 on behalf of the Heirs of Homero S. Gonzales, deceased spouse of respondent Aida Gonzales, a Motion for Reconsideration of the decision of the trial court in Civil Case No. CEB 11290 (hereto attached as Annex "A"), which until now has not been resolved, thereby making undersigned counsel believe that the case has been settled during these past many years. As a matter of fact, upon EARNEST inquiry by undersigned counsel, it was gathered by him that the property in question had already been allegedly bought from the Gonzaleses et al., except respondent Aida Gonzales, by a certain "BEBOT" known to be MRS. ALEGRE, daughter of Arturo Colmenares, former occupant of the property in question and niece of petitioner Eduardo Colmenares and that by virtue of said alleged purchase by BEBOT, said Eduardo Colmenares has no more interest in the property in question.[4]
We required petitioners to send a copy of the petition to Atty. Maranga. Petitioners, to date, have yet to comply with the foregoing resolution. Meanwhile, petitioners' counsel of record, Atty. Rex J.M.A. Fernandez, when asked to show cause why he should not be disciplinarily dealt with, or held in contempt, for failure to comply with our resolution, filed an Explanation narrating the falling out he had with petitioners, specifically Eduardo, in 2002. Eduardo allegedly told Atty. Fernandez that he was terminating the services of the latter. Thus, Atty. Fernandez presumed that Eduardo himself would notify this Court of the fact of termination, since Eduardo had done so before the lower courts in other cases where Atty. Fernandez had represented him. We accepted Atty. Fernandez' explanation as satisfactory, and we required petitioners to inform this Court of the name and address of their new counsel. Petitioners again failed to comply with the order.

Notwithstanding petitioners' obvious lack of interest in pursuing their case, we shall resolve it now.

At the outset, we note that petitioners raised extraneous issues which were not touched upon by the CA in denying due course to their petition. In any event, petitioners posit the following issues for our resolution, to wit:
  1. Whether the decision of the Municipal Trial Court dated September 27, 1991, as modified by the decision of the Regional Trial Court dated June 13, 1994, became final and executory.

  2. Whether the decision of the Municipal Trial Court dated September 27, 1991, as modified by the decision of the Regional Trial Court date June 13, 1994, can be executed after the period of ten (10) years from the date the decision was rendered.

  3. Whether the levy on the property of petitioners is valid.

  4. Whether verification of a pleading is jurisdictional.
We detect petitioners' clever but transparent ploy to circumvent the rule on hierarchy of courts and have us settle factual issues that were not passed upon by the lower courts because of petitioners' fatal procedural lapses. In the same vein, we unmask petitioners' vain attempt to lend merit to their petition by raising ostensibly substantial issues which, likewise, were never touched upon by the appellate court. It is on the basis of these submissions that petitioners' arguments glaringly assail the MTC's supposedly erroneous ruling.

We reject petitioners' posturing. In an appeal by certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, we are asked to resolve only questions of law.[5] The question of law herein, based on the given state of facts, is whether the CA erred in denying due course to the petition for certiorari which was not signed by petitioner Epifania, wife of Eduardo, and which violated the principle on hierarchy of courts. Curiously, petitioners, deliberately or unintentionally, failed to explain why they are justified in directly filing a petition for certiorari with the CA, bypassing the RTC's concurrent jurisdiction over the MTC's decision.

On that score alone, the petition is dismissible. Direct resort to a higher court, the CA in this instance, cannot be sanctioned when the remedy sought by a petitioner may equally be availed in the RTC, which has concurrent jurisdiction with the CA and this Court, to issue a writ of certiorari against the MTC.[6] Petitioners have failed to make a showing that the redress desired cannot be obtained in the RTC.[7] In fact, petitioners made no attempt to do so at all. Thus, the CA committed no error in denying due course to the petition.

On the other ground for the dismissal relied upon by the CA, i.e., Epifania's failure to co-sign the verification and certification against non-forum shopping, we likewise sustain the appellate court's action. Section 1,[8] Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, in relation to Section 3,[9] Rule 46 thereof, explicitly requires that a petition for certiorari shall be verified and accompanied by a sworn certification of non-forum shopping. The last paragraph of Section 3, Rule 46 unequivocally states that a petitioner's failure to comply with these requirements shall be sufficient ground for the dismissal of the petition.

The foregoing misstep, taken together with petitioners' violation of the rule on hierarchy of courts, contrary to petitioners' misleading presentation of issues, cannot be cured by simply invoking motherhood statements like substantial justice. Moreover, the application of Section 6,[10] Rule 1 of the Rules of Court, on the liberal construction of the rules, is not warranted upon a scrutiny of petitioners' claims. Our holding in Alonso v. Villamor[11] remains good law:
No one has been misled by the error in the name of the party plaintiff. If we should, by reason of this error, send this case back for amendment and new trial, there would be on the retrial the same complaint, the same answer, the same defense, the same interests, the same witnesses, and the same evidence. The name of the plaintiff would constitute the only difference between the old trial and the new. In our judgment, there is not enough in a name to justify such action.

x x x x

The error in this case is purely technical. To take advantage of it for other purposes than to cure it, does not appeal to a fair sense of justice. Its presentation as fatal to the plaintiff's case smacks of skill rather than right. A litigation is not a game of technicalities in which one, more deeply schooled and skilled in the subtle art of movement and position, entraps and destroys the other. It is, rather, a contest in which each contending party fully and fairly lays before the court the facts in issue and then, brushing aside as wholly trivial and indecisive all imperfections of form and technicalities of procedure, asks that justice be done upon the merits. Lawsuits, unlike duels, are not to be won by a rapier's thrust. Technicality, when it deserts its proper office as an aid to justice and becomes its great hindrance and chief enemy, deserves scant consideration from courts. There should be no vested rights in technicalities. No litigant should be permitted to challenge a record of a court of these Islands for defect of form when his substantial rights have not been prejudiced thereby.
In fine, petitioners have not proffered sufficient justification, much less, demonstrated merit to the substance of their claims, as would exempt it from the procedural requirements in the filing of a petition for certiorari set forth in the Rules of Court.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is DENIED DUE COURSE. The Resolutions of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 71170 are hereby AFFIRMED. The Order dated June 30, 2000 of the Regional Trial Court issuing a Writ of Execution is likewise AFFIRMED. Costs against the petitioners.

SO ORDERED.

Ynares-Santiago, Austria-Martinez, Chico-Nazario, and Reyes, JJ., concur.



[1] Penned by Associate Justice Mariano C. del Castillo, with Associate Justices Martin S. Villarama, Jr. and Rebecca de Guia-Salvador, concurring, rollo, pp. 19-20, 22.

[2] CA rollo, p. 55.

[3] Order dated June 30, 2000; rollo, p. 43.

[4] Id. at 84.

[5] See RULES OF COURT, Rule 45, Sec. 1.

[6] See RULES OF COURT, Rule 65, Sec. 4, par. 2:

SEC. 4. When and where to file the petition. -- x x x

If the petition relates to an act or an omission of a municipal trial court or of a corporation, a board, an officer or a person, it shall be filed with the Regional Trial Court exercising jurisdiction over the territorial area as defined by the Supreme Court. It may also be filed with the Court of Appeals or with the Sandiganbayan, whether or not the same is in aid of the court's appellate jurisdiction. If the petition involves an act or an omission of a quasi-judicial agency, unless otherwise provided by law or these rules, the petition shall be filed with and be cognizable only by the Court of Appeals.

[7] See Gayo v. Verceles, G.R. No. 150477, February 28, 2005, 452 SCRA 504.

[8] SEC. 1. Petition for certiorari. - When any tribunal, board or officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions has acted without or in excess of its or his jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, and there is no appeal, nor any plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law, a person aggrieved thereby may file a verified petition in the proper court, alleging the facts with certainty and praying that judgment be rendered annulling or modifying the proceedings of such tribunal, board or officer, and granting such incidental reliefs as law and justice may require.

The petition shall be accompanied by a certified true copy of the judgment, order or resolution subject thereof, copies of all pleadings and documents relevant and pertinent thereto, and a sworn certification of non-forum shopping as provided in the third paragraph of Section 3, Rule 46.

[9] SEC. 3. Contents and filing of petition; effect of non-compliance with requirements. - The petition shall contain the full names and actual addresses of all the petitioners and respondents, a concise statement of the matters involved, the factual background of the case, and the grounds relied upon for the relief prayed for.

In actions filed under Rule 65, the petition shall further indicate the material dates showing when notice of the judgment or final order or resolution subject thereof was received, when a motion for new trial or reconsideration, if any, was filed and when notice of the denial thereof was received.

It shall be filed in seven (7) clearly legible copies together with proof of service thereof on the respondent with the original copy intended for the court indicated as such by the petitioner, and shall be accompanied by a clearly legible duplicate original or certified true copy of the judgment, order, resolution, or ruling subject thereof, such material portions of the record as are referred to therein, and other documents relevant or pertinent thereto. The certification shall be accomplished by the proper clerk of court or by his duly authorized representative, or by the proper officer of the court, tribunal, agency or office involved or by his duly authorized representative. The other requisite number of copies of the petition shall be accompanied by clearly legible plain copies of all documents attached to the original.

The petitioner shall also submit, together with the petition, a sworn certification that he has not theretofor commenced any other action involving the same issues in the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals or different divisions thereof, or any other tribunal or agency; if there is such other action or proceeding, he must state the status of the same; and if he should thereafter learn that similar action or proceeding has been filed or is pending before the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, or different divisions thereof, or any other tribunal or agency, he undertakes to promptly inform the aforesaid courts and other tribunal or agency thereof within five (5) days therefrom.

The petitioner shall pay the corresponding docket and other lawful fees to the clerk of court and deposit the amount of P500.00 for costs at the time of the filing of the petition.

The failure of the petitioner to comply with any of the foregoing requirements shall be sufficient ground for the dismissal of the petition.

[10] SEC. 6. Construction. - These Rules shall be liberally construed in order to promote their objective of securing a just, speedy and inexpensive disposition of every action and proceeding.

[11] 16 Phil. 315, 321 (1910).



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