402 Phil. 684

FIRST DIVISION

[ G.R. No. 91486, January 19, 2001 ]

ALBERTO G. PINLAC, ATTY. ERIBERTO H. DECENA, RODOLFO F. REYES, FELIPE BRIONES, JUANITO METILLA, JR., FELIPE A. FLORES, HERMINIO ELEVADO, NARCISO S. SIMEROS, PETITIONERS, VS. COURT OF APPEALS, ATTY. CORAZON A. MERRERA, ATTY. JEAN MAKASIAR-PUNO, SERGIO ACABAN, REPRESENTED BY ATTY. RAMON GERONA, ATTY. ROGELIO VELASCO, MARTINA S. NONA, OVIDEO MEJICA, ALFREDO ITALIA, MARIANO GUEVARRA, JESUS YUJUICO, DOMINADOR RIVERA, SATURNINA SALES, REPRESENTED BY ATTY. CONSOLACION SALES-DEMONTANO, FRED CHUA, SONIA SY CHUA, LAWRENCE CHUA, CAROLINA C. RUBIO, REPRESENTED BY TESSIE SEBASTIAN, GEORGE G. GUERRERO, BEATRIZ TANTOCO, REPRESENTED BY FILOMENA CERVANTES, ATTY. MARCELA CELESTINO-GARCIA, FEDERICO GARCIA, ILDEFONSO MORALES, LEONCIA VELASCO, OCRAVIO F. LINA, ANA MARIA JARAMILLO, ESTRELLA BASA, JOSE ESTEVA, JR., CIRILO GONZALES, VILLY TOBIAS, MIGUEL DELA PAZ, RUBEN GUILLERMO, FAUSTO YADAO, REPRESENTED BY JEREMIAS PANLILIO, RICARDO YAP, ROSAURO/PATRICK MARQUEZ, REPRESENTED BY EMMANUEL MARQUEZ, MODESTA FABRIG AND MAXIMINO SALCEDA, MELIA LATOMBO, TERESITA PANGILINAN-RIVERO, ARCH. DANILO C. DE CASTRO, JOSE S. LEDESMA, JAIME P. ANG, VEICENTE P. ANG, MAURO U. GABRIEL, ATTY. VIRGINIA GOMEZ, GIL S. BONILLA, LOURDES BLANCO, REPRESENTED BY CATALINA BLANCO, JOSEFA SANCHEZ AND ROSALINA VILLEGAS, REPRESENTED BY HEIDI BOBIS, SHIRLEY BUCAG, QUIRINA O. TUVERA, REPRESENTED BY WILFREDO OREJUROS, GREGORIO AVENTINO, REPRESENTED BY ENRICO AVENTINO, LEONARDO L. NICOLAS, NICOMEDES PENARANDA, FRANCISCA MEDRANO, OFELIA IGNACIO, ROSENDO ABUBO, REPRESENTED BY SANTOS CHAVEZ, SOLEDAD BAUTISTA DE COLUMNA, REPRESENTED BY ZENAIDA VALLE, MARQUITA/ SEBASTIAN LOPEZ, REPRESENTED BY EMMANUEL MARQUEZ, DELIA DORION, GERARDO L. SANTIAGO, FIDEL PANGANIBAN, REPRESENTED BY MANUEL DELA ROCA, MATEO AND OFELIA INOVEJAS, REMEDIOS C. DOVAS, REPRESENTED BY JOSEFA CAPISTRANO, DOMINGO ALTAMIRANO AND SPOUSES ROLANDO ALTAMIRANO AND MINERVA FETALVERO, BEATRIZ RINGPIS, ROSARIO DE MATA, RUFINA CRUZ, REPRESENTED BY JOSEFA MANABAT, SPOUSES ANITA SALONGA-CAPAGCUAN AND MAYNARD CAPAGCUAN, DISCORA YATCO, REPRESENTED BY VICTORINA Y. FIRME, AND CONSUELO YATCO, GENEROSA MEDINA VDA. DE NOGUERA, REPRESENTED BY ATTY. RAYMUNDO M. NOGUERA, BEATRIZ SALANDANAN AND LOURDES ALONTE-VASQUEZ, PEDRO COSIO AND VICTORINA CARINO, RUTH C. ZARATE, PRECIOSISIMA V. YAPCHULAY, BASILISA B. YAPCHULAY, OFELIA B. YAPCHULAY, FELISA B. YAPCHULAY, FE B. YAPCHULAY, WILMA B. YAPCHULAY, FELIX B. YAPCHULAY, MARIANO B. YAPCHULAY, GEN. ALFREDO LIM, AND OTHER REGISTERED OWNERS OF VILAR-MALOLES (VILMA) SUBDIVISION, RESPONDENTS.

D E C I S I O N

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

The instant case springs from a contentious and protracted dispute over a sizeable piece of real property situated in what is now known as Old Balara, Sitio Veterans, Barrio Payatas and Silangan, all of Quezon City. There are numerous claimants, titled and untitled alike, each either pressing to own a piece of it, or striving to protect one’s right as a titled owner.

Petitioners herein are World War II veterans, their dependents and successors-in-interest. Together, they filed a class suit primarily for Quieting of Title before the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 83, where it was docketed as Civil Case No. Q-35672. In particular, petitioners claimed that the real property, which has an aggregate area of 502 hectares, were part of forest lands belonging to the government; that they and their predecessors-in-interest have occupied said property continuously, adversely, and exclusively for more than thirty (30) years; and that they have accordingly filed applications for land titling in their respective names with the appropriate government agency.

While petitioners claim that the land in dispute was part of the public domain, they named as respondents several persons and corporations who are titled owners of subdivided parcels of land within the subject property. One of those so impleaded as a party-respondent was the Vil-Ma Maloles Subdivision (hereinafter, Vil-Ma). The individual lot owners of the said subdivision, however, were not specifically named. Since personal service of summons could not be effected on Vil-Ma and some of the other named respondents, petitioners moved for leave of court to serve summons by publication which was granted. Accordingly, the summons was published in the “Metropolitan Newsweek”, a periodical edited and published in the City of Caloocan and Malolos, Bulacan.[1]

Some of the named respondents filed their respective responsive pleadings, while the others, including Vil-Ma, failed to answer, and were thus declared in default. Consequently, petitioners were allowed to present evidence ex parte against the defaulted respondents. The court a quo found the following facts to be conclusive:
(T)hat the case involves three parcel of lands, to wit: Lot 1 & 2 situated at the Old Balara, Diliman, Quezon City and Lot 3 situated at Sitio Veterans, Barrio Payatas and Silangan, Quezon City containing an aggregate area of 502 hectares more or less; that Lot 1 is covered by TCT No. 5690 in the name of defaulted respondent Jose V. Bagtas, which title emanated from TCT No. 48546 in the name of Emiliana Vda. De Vera Cruz which contains an actual area of only 294.6 sq. meters, but, when said TCT No. 5690 was issued the same was illegally and fraudulently expanded to cover 23.5767 hectares through fraudulent resurveys without proper judicial proceedings; that on said illegally expanded area of TCT No. 5690 in the name of respondent Jose V. Bagtas, more than 363 transfer certificates of title were subsequently issued including those belonging to some of the defaulted respondents thereof; that TCT No. 5690 contains no technical description on its face; that Lot 2 is covered by TCT No. 3548 in the name of Eustacio Maloles married to Soledad Villegas and Vicente B. Vilar doing business under the name and style of defaulted respondent Vilma Maloles Subdivision Inc., which title was derived from TCT No. 33531 in the name of Oscar L. Uy which in turn came from TCT No. 26285 in the name of Maria Lim which was immediately derived from OCT No. 614 which contains no technical description on its face, that TCT No. 3548 likewise contains no technical description on its face; that however, on the face of TCT No. 33531 of Oscar L. Uy from which TCT No. 3548 of defaulted respondent Vilma Maloles Subdivision Inc., was derived, it appears that said TCT No. 33531 was cancelled by another title, TCT No. 1713 and not by TCT No. 3548, the supposed derivative thereof, which title, from the foregoing facts, seems to have come from nowhere considering that no document could be produced by the representative of the Register of Deeds of Pasig, relative to the origin of the aforesaid title and which register of deeds has jurisdiction over the same; that from this spurious and fraudulent TCT No. 3548 which contains no technical description on its face, numerous TCTs were subsequently issued, some of which belong to the defaulted respondents hereof, that despite the issuance has not been cancelled by the Register of Deeds of Quezon City; that Lot 3 was originally covered by OCT No. 333 from which 846 questionable TCTs emanated and issued by the Register of Deeds of Quezon City perpetrated and made possible by the illegal expansion of the actual area thereof from 4,574 Sq. Meters, more or less, to 407,3875 (sic) hectares without proper judicial proceedings; that as an example of the fraud perpetrated by respondents, TCT No. 26205 covers a lot situated at Barrio Ermitaño, San Juan del Monte, TCT No. 26287 covers a lot located at Barrio Talipapa, Novaliches, TCT No. 33531 covers a lot located at the District of Cubao. TCT No. 47705 covers a lot situated at Barrio San Francisco, San Juan, TCT No. 133770 covers a lot located at San Bartolome, Caloocan City, TCT No. 45741 covers a lot located at San Francisco del Monte, San Juan, TCT No. 45636 covers a lot located at the municipality of San Juan, TCT No. 19-6370 covers a lot located at Kamuning District, TCT No. 188447 covers a lot located at San Francisco del Monte with a different mother title, OCT No. 515, TCT No. (22092) – 61850 covers a lot located at Tala Estate Caloocan City, TCT No. 14645 covers lot located at Kamuning District and TCT No. 14692 covers a lot located at Bo. San Isidro, Caloocan City, yet these TCTs were utilized by some people to claim an area located inside the litigated premises despite the fact that their technical descriptions, as aforementioned, are different from the lands being sought to be covered therewith; that Lots 1, 2 & 3 have been under the possession of petitioners for a continuous, public, open, & uninterrupted period of 30 years through World War II Veterans Legionnaires of the Philippines, Inc., by the principle of tacking possession; that the Bureau of Forest Development has certified that Lots 1, 2 & 3 are part of public forest belonging to the government not yet certified for disposition and alienation; that the Bureau of Forest Development knew and encouraged petitioner’s occupancy and possession of said lots as in fact ordinary residential permits were issued by said agency to some of herein petitioners and even helped in petitioners’ acquisition of electrical facilities from the MERALCO.[2]
Resolving the sole issue of whether or not petitioners were entitled to the land they occupy and possess, even when said land was allegedly part of unclassified public forest land and yet covered by transfer certificates of title in the names of the defaulted respondents, the court a quo rendered a Partial Decision in favor of petitioners, based on the following disquisition:
First, because as established from the foregoing facts, OCT No. 614, TCT No. 5690, TCT No. 3548 covering Lots 1 & 2 of the disputed land, not having technical descriptions appearing on their respective face, clearly are null and void by reason thereof. This is because “a torrens title is the certificate of ownership issued under the Register of Deeds naming and declaring the owner in fee simple of the real property DESCRIBED therein, free from all liens and encumbrances except such as maybe expressly noted thereon or otherwise reserved by law.” (Philippine National Bank vs. Tan Ong Zse, 51 Phil. 317). Without any technical description a title is fictitious and the mere issuance thereof is fraudulent. Such being the case, it follows that none of the title holders subsequently issued out of said void titles could say that he or she is an innocent purchaser for value. For in the case at bar, there are really no rights that could be transferred to them since even the titles of those supposed owners thereof originally are themselves fictitious. x x x Second, because although the Bureau of Forest Development maintains, as in fact, it certified that Lots 1, 2 & 3 are part of the unclassified public forest land of the government, and therefore, are not susceptible of private appropriation, still, due to the established fact that the lots involved are under the present occupancy and possession of petitioners with the knowledge and tolerance of the Bureau of Forest Development, the true and real nature of said lands as being public forest has become highly dubious and in the opinion of this Court could not overcome the presumption that said lands are agricultural. For “the mere fact that a tract of land has trees upon it or has mineral wealth within it, is not of itself sufficient to declare that one is forest land and the other mineral land. There must be some proof of the extent as well as of the present or future value of the land as forest or mineral. It must be shown that the land is more valuable for the forestry or the minerals which it contains than it is for agricultural purposes. Land may be classified as forest or mineral today and after the exhaustion of the timber or minerals contained therein may be classified as agricultural land tomorrow. Hence, in case of doubt and considering that it is a matter of public knowledge that a majority of the lands in the Philippines are agricultural lands, it was rightly held that in the absence of evidence to the contrary any land may be presumed to be agricultural.” And that being the case, it is clear that petitioners have acquired legally a title over Lots 1, 2 & 3 of this case through extra-ordinary prescription of thirty (30) years of continuous, public, open and uninterrupted possession thereof, the lands being agricultural and, thus, are susceptible of private ownership by petitioners.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of petitioners and against the defaulted respondents:

1) Declaring petitioners through the principal petitioners hereof, to wit: Alberto G. Pinlac, Atty. Eriberto H. Decena, Rodolfo T. Reyes, Felipe Briones and Juanito S. Metilla as absolute owners in fee simple title of the aforesaid Lots 1, 2 & 3 hereof by virtue of extra-ordinary prescription, with the exception of the lands covered by the respective transfer certificate of title belonging to the non-defaulted respondents;

2) Declaring Original Certificate of Title No. 614, TCT No. 5690 and TCT No. 3548 of the Register of Deeds of Quezon City, and the subsequent TCTs issued therefrom, with the exception of those titles belonging to the non-defaulted respondents, as null and void ab initio;

3) Ordering the Register of Deeds of Quezon City to cancel OCT No. 614, TCT No. 5690 and TCT No. 3548 as well as the subsequent TCTs issued and emanating therefrom, with the exception of those titles belonging to the non-defaulted respondents, from its record;

4) Declaring the area of TCT No. 333 in excess of its true and actual area of 4,574 Sq. Meters, as well as the TCTs subsequently issued by the Register of Deeds of Quezon City, covering the area in excess of said actual area, with the exception of those belonging to non-defaulted respondents, as null and void ab initio;

5) Ordering the Register of Deeds of Quezon City to cancel all TCTs subsequently issued based on OCT No. 333 in excess of the actual area of 4,574 Sq. Meters, with the exception of those titles belonging to the non-defaulted respondents;

6) Declaring the writ of preliminary injunction dated August 7, 1985, in so far as those areas covered by the cancelled OCTs and TCTs hereof are concerned, as permanent;

7) Ordering the Register of Deeds of Quezon City to issue herein petitioners the corresponding individual transfer certificate of titles upon proper application made thereof.

SO ORDERED.[3]
On May 17, 1989, or exactly one (1) year and fifty-seven (57) days after the above-quoted judgment by default was rendered, a Petition for Annulment of Judgment with Certiorari, Prohibition and Mandamus[4] was brought before the Court of Appeals by the titled owners of the subdivided lots within Vil-Ma. They assailed the default judgment which nullified all their titles, arguing that the court a quo had no jurisdiction over them and their respective titled properties. They also alleged that they only came to know of the adverse judgment when petitioners sought the execution of the judgment by attempting to dispossess some of the titled owners of the lots and making formal demands for them to vacate their respective properties.

They likewise claimed that the Partial Decision against the defaulted respondents was null and void on the grounds of lack of jurisdiction and extrinsic fraud, for the reasons that:
(1)
Civil Case No. Q-35672, while it was a petition to quiet title, was a collateral proceeding, not a direct action attacking their duly registered titles. Besides, a petition for cancellation of title can only be filed by a registered owner or a person having an interest in registered property, and must be filed in the original land registration case in which the decree of registration was entered.


(2)
They were never made parties to Civil Case No. Q-35672, nor were their lots described in the complaint, published summons, and Partial Decision. Named defendant was VIL-MA, a totally separate and independent entity which had already ceased to exist way back in January of 1976. Moreover, the summons, as well as the Partial Decision was not published in a newspaper or periodical of general circulation. Thus, the defective service of summons to said defendant did not place the individual lot owners under the trial court’s jurisdiction, nor are they bound by the adverse judgment.


(3)
They were denied due process of law as they were not given their day in court. They should have been included as indispensable parties-respondents in Civil Case No. Q-35672 since the petitioners therein were seeking to annul their respective transfer certificates of title.


(4)
Their duly registered titles cannot be defeated by the alleged adverse, continuous and notorious possession of the petitioners since their titles are indefeasible and cannot be acquired by prescription or adverse possession.


(5)
If, indeed, the subject property is unclassified forest lands, it is not capable of private appropriation. The court a quo is bereft of authority to declare motu proprio that the subject property should be reclassified as agricultural, not forest land.


(6)
The trial court violated Section 3(c), Rule 10 of the Rules of Court which provides that when some of several respondents fail to answer, “the court shall try the case against all upon the answers thus filed and render judgment upon the evidence thus presented,” whenever a complaint states a common cause of action against several respondents. Accordingly, the defense interposed by those who answer or appear to litigate the case should inure to the benefit of even those who fail to appear or answer.


(7)
The trial court cannot render null and void in the default judgment the mother title (OCT No. 614), from which the petitioners’ transfer certificates were derived, which the Supreme Court had already declared valid and legal.
To impress upon the Court of Appeals that they have a meritorious defense and that their petition was not intended to delay or frustrate the final disposition of the case, the titled owners cited the case of De La Cruz v. De La Cruz,[5] where the Supreme Court traced the origins of OCT 614. It was held in that case, that:
x x x. The Piedad Estate consists of a vast tract of land originally registered on March 12, 1912 under Original Certificate of Title No. 614 of the Register of Deeds of the Province of Rizal in the name of the Philippine Government.

The Piedad Estate was one of the so-called friar lands which were purchased by the government of the Philippines pursuant to the provisions of the Friar Lands Act, Public Act No. 1120 which was enacted on April 26, 1904. x x x.

As specifically stated above, the said lands are not “public lands” in the sense in which those words are used in the Public Land Act Numbered Nine Hundred and twenty-six and cannot be acquired or leased under the provisions thereof. In the case of Jacinto vs. Director of Lands (1926) 49 Phil. 853, the Supreme Court held that the so-called friar lands, to which the government of the Philippines holds title, are not public lands but private or patrimonial property of the government.

x x x x x x x x x

As held in Lorenzo vs. Nicolas, No. L-4085, 30 July 1952, 91 Phil. 686, “from the provisions of sections 11, 12 and 16 of Act No. 1120, it is apparent that the pervading legislative intent is to sell the friar lands acquired by the government to actual settlers and occupants of the same.[6]
Claiming that their individual transfer certificates of title were derived from subsequent subdivisions and transfers of the lots within the Piedad Estate, the defaulted registered owners invoked the Comments and Recommendations of the Ad Hoc Committee created by the then Ministry of Natural Resources, tasked to investigate the historical background of the Piedad and Payatas Estates in Quezon City, containing evidence which they would have substantiated had they been given their day in court. The Ad Hoc Committee reported, to wit:

FINDINGS AND OBSERVATIONS

The Piedad Estate, situated in the Municipality of San Mateo and Caloocan during the time of registration in 1910, covers an area of 3850.7226 hectares. The Registration of Title under Case No. 5975 was published in the January 21, 1910 issue of the Official Gazette.

After the Piedad Estate was registered in Original Certificate of Title No. 614 in the name of the Government in 1910 under the provisions of Act 496, the area was subdivided originally into 874 lots. As a result of subsequent surveys executed in the course of disposition, the number of lots increased to 1,305. Disposition of these lots was made by the Bureau of Lands thru sales, under the Friar Lands Act, as early as 1910 and records show that even before the Second World War, all lots in the Piedad Estate have been disposed of. Owing perhaps to the scarcity of land applicants at the time, it will be observed that a number of applicants have acquired several lots totalling several hectares. Among the vendees with several lots are the Philippine Trust Co., the Zuzuarregui’s and the Metropolitan Water District, to name a few. A list of lot holders in the Piedad Estate with the corresponding lot numbers, lot areas and date of purchase from the Bureau of Lands is hereto attached and marked as ANNEX “B”.

Thru a series of transfer of lots from one owner to another attended at times by subdivision into smaller lots and at other times by consolidation of several lots into one, most of the lots of the Piedad Estate have lost their identity both in original ownership structure and lot descriptions. Piedad Estate now embraces and includes a number of private residential subdivisions among which are the following:
  1. Villar Maloles Subdivision (owned by Villar Maloles, Psd-21997)

  2. U.P. Sites Nos. 1 and 2

  3. Sunnyville Subdivision (Owned by the Delos Santos family)

  4. Sterling Meadows Subdivision (LRC) Pcs-11110

  5. Dona Patrona Subdivision

  6. Far Eastern University (43 has.)

  7. Luis Reyes (Psd-19419)

  8. Jose Yulo (PLS-336-D)
By virtue of subsequent changes in political boundaries, Piedad Estate is now within Quezon City. It is located on both sides of Luzon Avenue and is bounded on the North by the Republic Avenue; on the East by private residential subdivisions which includes the B.F. Homes (LRC) Psd-133236, the Villa Ligaya Subdivision (Psd-65729), the Kapalaran Subdivision (Pcs-47850), the Kasiyahan Subdivision (LRC) Pcs-12091, Zuzuarregui Property (Psd-34912) and the Doña Beartiz Subdivision under Psd-39351; on the South by the Don Mariano Marcos Avenue; and on the South-West and West by the U.P. Sites Nos. 1 and 2.

COMMENTS AND RECOMMENDATION

There is no doubt that Piedad Estate has long been segregated from the mass of the public domain and have become private lands duly registered under the Torrens System following the procedure for the confirmation of private lands prescribed in Act 496. Thus the lands inside the Piedad Estate are no longer lands of the public domain. Neither are these lands forest lands, in the classification of lands for forest purposes, the main criterion prescribed in Section 15 of P.D. 705, the Forestry Code, is its slope. Those beyond 18% are to be preserved for forest purposes while those below are to be released as not needed for forest purposes, hence, as alienable and disposable. By its physical nature, location and historical use, the land in question can hardly be considered and classified as forest land. Physically, it is first, level and at most slightly rolling land. Location wise, it used to be within the periphery and now in the heart of a metropolis. While originally it was used for agricultural purposes, it has later become urban due to population pressure and rapid urbanization in the Metro Manila area. It is devoid of any timber land, more so if we talk of forest of commercial value. In fact, the Composite Land Classification Committee of the MNR composed of the Directors of BFD, BL, BFAR and BMGS, has already signed a land classification map and recommended for its release because it has absolutely no forest value.

On the basis of existing records of the Bureau of Lands and the area of the Piedad Estate as contained in the Technical Descriptions of the said Estate published in the January 21, 1910 issue of the Official Gazette, there is no expansion or enlargement of the area, hence, it is recommended that existing titles within the area should be respected and their validity upheld.

x x x x x x x x x

In view of all the foregoing, the committee recommends that all existing titles validly issued within the area be respected and their validity upheld.[7] (Emphasis supplied)
Accordingly, the defaulted titled owners prayed that judgment be rendered:
  1. Declaring the aforesaid Partial Decision on defaulted private respondents as null and void;

  2. Declaring all Residential Use Permits issued by the Director of Forest Management Bureau as null and void;

  3. Declaring all Transfer of Certificates of Titles of the petitioners (respondents herein) emanating from OCT 614 and TCT 3548 (1713) as valid;

  4. Ordering private respondents (petitioners herein), their agents or representatives and all other persons claiming right under them to vacate the respective titled lands of the petitioners squatted by the former;

  5. Ordering the dismissal of Hon. Judge Reynaldo Roura from the Regional Trial Court, Macabebe, Pampanga on the grounds of gross incompetence and gross ignorance of the law (Adm. Circular No. 4 of the Supreme Court, dated January 27, 1988).

  6. Making the preliminary injunction as permanent; and

  7. Ordering the private respondents (petitioners herein) to pay jointly and solidarily to the petitioners the sum of P200,000.00 as moral and exemplary damages, plus the sum of P5,000.00 per lot of the petitioners as attorney’s fee, aside from cost of suit, and for any other relief just and proper.[8]
On June 23, 1989, the Court of Appeals granted respondents’ (petitioners therein) application for writ of preliminary injunction, ruling that:
When this case was called for hearing on June 21, 1989 on the application for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction, the parties and their respective counsel appeared and orally argued their respective stand on the matter. It is admitted that the herein petitioners, indispensable parties in the case, were not individually served with summons.

We believe and so hold that there is merit in the instant application for preliminary injunction, hence, the same is hereby GRANTED. Upon the posting by the petitioners of a bond in the amount of One Hundred Thousand Pesos (P100,000.00), subject to Our approval, let a writ of preliminary injunction issue enjoining the respondents (petitioners herein), and all persons acting for and in their behalf, to desist and refrain from enforcing or implementing, or from attempting to enforce and implement, the questioned writ of execution of the partial judgment, dated March 21, 1988, rendered in Civil Case No. Q-35672, entitled: “Teofilo M. Gariando, et al., petitioners versus Gregorio Dizon, et al., respondents”, until further orders from this Court.

SO ORDERED.[9]
On November 15, 1989, the Court of Appeals rendered a Decision[10] granting the petition and annulling the Partial Decision in Civil Case No. Q-35762 based on its finding that the trial court’s lack of jurisdiction over the persons of respondents ---
x x x becomes all the more apparent when petitioners claim or asseverate that the assailed Partial Decision can not bind Vilar-Maloles (VILMA), the umbrella name, for the simple reason that said PARTNERSHIP was dissolved on January 26, 1976, for it can no longer be sued as it had no more juridical personality.

x x x x x x x x x

Furthermore, petitioners contend that “the summons and the Partial Decision were published in a local newspaper edited in Caloocan City and Malolos, Bulacan known as “METROPOLITAN NEWSWEEK” implying that said summons and Partial Decision were not published in a newspaper of general circulation in Quezon City as required by PD 1079, Sec. 1 thereof. Petitioners not having been duly notified of the hearing/proceedings, the Partial Decision being assailed is without significance to them or as far as petitioners are concerned said Partial Decision is null and void.[11]
Petitioners’ motion for reconsideration was denied in a Resolution dated December 21, 1989.[12]

Hence, the instant petition for certiorari which raises the following issues:
  1. WHETHER OR NOT RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS’ QUESTIONED DECISION HAS VIOLATED PETITIONERS’ RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS BY IGNORING AND LEAVING UNDECIDED ALL THE ISSUES RAISED IN THE ANSWER OF PETITIONERS IN CA-G.R. NO. SP-17596.

  2. WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT A-QUO HAS ACQUIRED JURISDICTION OVER RESPONDENT VILMA MALOLES SUBDIVISION BY THE PUBLICATION OF THE SUMMONS AND PETITION AS ORDERED BY THE COURT IN CIVIL CASE NO. Q-35672 AND SO THE PARTIAL DECISION (ANNEX “B”) WAS LEGAL, VALID AND PROPER.

  3. WHETHER OR NOT PRIVATE RESPONDENTS PER THEIR PETITION BEFORE RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS HAS A VALID CAUSE OF ACTION CONSIDERING THEY ADOPTED CONTRADICTORY POSITIONS OR THEORIES OF THE CASE, AND THAT RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS DECISION (ANNEX “G”) IS VOID.[13]
We find no merit in the instant petition.

The case before the Court of Appeals was one for annulment of judgment, certiorari, prohibition and mandamus. In resolving the same, the Court of Appeals need not retry the facts. An action for annulment of judgment is grounded only on two justifications: (1) extrinsic fraud; and (2) lack of jurisdiction or denial of due process.[14] All that herein private respondents had to prove was that the trial court had no jurisdiction; that they were prevented from having a trial or presenting their case to the trial court by some act or conduct of petitioners;[15] or that they had been denied due process of law. Thus, the Court of Appeals need only to resolve the issues of lack of jurisdiction, existence of extrinsic fraud, and denial of due process of law.

The action for annulment of judgment cannot and was not a substitute for the lost remedy of appeal. The very purpose of the action for annulment of judgment was to have the final and executory judgment set aside so that there will be a renewal of litigation.[16] Whether or not the assailed Partial Decision based solely on facts and evidence presented by the petitioners is meritorious is irrelevant and immaterial. Thus, the Court of Appeals did not err, nor did it violate the petitioners’ right to due process of law, when it refused to consider all the factual issues raised by petitioners.

We also agree with the Court of Appeals’ conclusion that the Partial Decision is null and void insofar as private respondents are concerned since the latter were not duly served summons or notified of the proceedings against them. The summons and the Partial Decision were published in a local newspaper edited and published in Caloocan City and Malolos, Bulacan. However, the Court of Appeals found the publication in said newspaper, namely the “Metropolitan Newsweek,” to be invalid because the said periodical is not considered a newspaper of general circulation in Quezon City where the subject property is located, as required by Presidential Decree No. 1079, Section 1.

Petitioners, however, contend that the service of summons by publication was legal and in accordance with the requirements of Rule 14, Section 14 of the Rules of Court. The service by publication was done pursuant to the orders of the trial court dated May 5, 1993 and September 29, 1983.[17]

While the service of summons by publication may have been done with the approval of the trial court, it does not cure the fatal defect that the “Metropolitan Newsweek” is not a newspaper of general circulation in Quezon City. The Rules strictly require that publication must be “in a newspaper of general circulation and in such places and for such time as the court may order.”[18] The court orders relied upon by petitioners did not specify the place and the length of time that the summons was to be published. In the absence of such specification, publication in just any periodical does not satisfy the strict requirements of the rules. The incomplete directive of the court a quo coupled with the defective publication of the summons rendered the service by publication ineffective. The modes of service of summons should be strictly followed in order that the court may acquire jurisdiction over the respondents,[19] and failure to strictly comply with the requirements of the rules regarding the order of its publication is a fatal defect in the service of summons.[20] It cannot be overemphasized that the statutory requirements of service of summons, whether personally, by substituted service, or by publication, must be followed strictly, faithfully and fully, and any mode of service other than that prescribed by the statute is considered ineffective.[21]

Be that as it may, even granting that the publication strictly complied with the rules, the service of summons would still be ineffective insofar as private respondents are concerned. At the time the complaint for Quieting of Title was filed on November 2, 1983, Vilma Maloles Subdivision no longer existed as a juridical entity. Vilma Maloles Subdivision, a partnership, was dissolved more than six (6) years earlier, as evidenced by a Certificate of Dissolution issued by the SEC dated January 26, 1976.[22] Consequently, it could no longer be sued having lost its juridical personality.

It was also established that all the lots within the subdivision had been disposed of to private individuals, herein private respondents. As the titled owners, they should have been impleaded as party-respondents before the court a quo. They were not made respondents, neither were they informed of the adverse proceedings that would result in the nullification of their duly registered titles. Clearly, there was a blatant disregard for their rights as registered owners. Private respondents’ titles and rights as owners have been unjustly violated. Hence, the Court of Appeals did not err in granting private respondents’ petition by annulling and setting aside the Partial Decision rendered by the court a quo for lack of jurisdiction and for denial of due process of law.

Petitioners failed to show that they were the aggrieved parties. If ever there was denial of due process, it was private respondents who suffered therefrom. Whether by petitioners’ failure to effectively serve summons or by omitting to name private respondents as respondents, the trial court’s Partial Decision declaring private respondents’ titles null and void was clearly violative of the due process requirement of the Constitution. It is elementary that before a person can be deprived of his right or property he should first be informed of the claim against him and the theory on which such claim is premised.[23] The courts will not countenance a denial of the fundamental right to due process, which is a cornerstone of our legal system.[24]

The Partial Decision was a judgment by default, which is generally looked upon with disfavor,[25] for it cannot pretend to be based on the merits of the controversy.[26] As in this case, the judgment by default may amount to a positive and considerable injustice to private respondents. Hence, justice and equity demand that this case be litigated anew.[27] It is evident that the reopening of the case would not amount to an exercise in futility nor is it intended to further delay the final resolution of this controversy. The court a quo should give all the necessary parties every chance to fight their case fairly and in the open, without resort to technicalities.[28]

Finally, the conclusion that the Partial Decision of the court a quo is void finds support in Rule 10, Section 5(c) of the then Rules of Court, which provides:
“(c) Effect of partial default. - When a pleading asserting a claim states a common cause of action against several defending parties, some of whom answer and the others fail to do so, the court shall try the case against all upon the answers thus filed and render judgment upon the evidence presented.”
In fact, the court a quo enumerated in the Partial Decision those who filed responsive pleadings. Considering that petitioners in their complaint stated a common cause of action against all the named respondents, the court a quo should have heard the case as against all respondents, the defaulted respondents included. However, the trial court, unmindful of the above-quoted rule, proceeded to receive evidence ex parte only against the defaulted respondents. The trial court’s disposition is not only violative of the rules but also a clear negation of the defaulted respondents’ limited rights.

Whatever defense and evidence the non-defaulted respondents may present which would be applicable to the situation of the defaulted respondents should inure to the benefit of the latter. The nullification of OCT 614 adversely affected the answering respondents for they all share the same mother title. In effect, the court a quo pre-judged the case even against the answering respondents, for how could OCT 614, the mother title, be valid for one set of respondents and null and void for the other respondents? In fine, the Partial Decision was procedurally flawed.

WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, the decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 17596 is AFFIRMED and the instant petition is DENIED for lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman), Kapunan, and Pardo, JJ., concur.
Puno, J., no part.



[1] Annex “R”, Records, p. 259.

[2] Partial Decision on Defaulted Private Respondents, Civil Case No. Q-35672, RTC, Quezon City, Branch 83, penned by Judge Reynaldo V. Roura; Rollo, pp. 50-52; references to exhibits omitted.

[3] Ibid., pp. 52-54 (citations omitted).

[4] CA-G.R. SP No. 17596.

[5] 130 SCRA 666 (1984).

[6] At 673-677.

[7] Special Order No. 426, Series of 1986; Rollo, pp. 214-221.

[8] Petition, Rollo, p. 111.

[9] Record, p. 319.

[10] Associate Justice Ricardo J. Francisco, ponente; Associate Justices Antonio M. Martinez and Jesus M. Elbinias, concurring.

[11] Rollo, pp. 127-129.

[12] Rollo, p. 136.

[13] Petition, Rollo, p. 35.

[14] Strait Times, Inc. v. CA, 294 SCRA 714 (1998); Salonga v. CA, 269 SCRA 534 (1997).

[15] Ybanez v. CA, 253 SCRA 540 (1997).

[16] I Moran, Rules of Court, 1950 ed., p. 697, citing Anuran v. Aquino, 38 Phil. 29; Banco-Español-Filipino v. Palanca, 37 Phil. 921; Santiago v. Ceniza, 5 SCRA 494 (1962).

[17] Annex “F-1” and “F-2” cited in pp. 39-40, Rollo.

[18] Rules of Court, Rule 14, Section 14.

[19] Gan Hock v. CA, 197 SCRA 223 (1991).

[20] Sahagun v. CA, 198 SCRA 44 (1991).

[21] Paluwagan ng Bayan Savings Bank v. King, 172 SCRA 60 (1989).

[22] Annex “P”, Record, p. 255.

[23] Republic v. Sandiganbayan, 266 SCRA 515 (1997).

[24] Fabella v. CA, 282 SCRA 256 (1997).

[25] Trajano v. Cruz, 80 SCRA 712 (1977).

[26] Lesaca v. Ca, 215 SCRA 17 (1992); Coombs v. Santos, 24 Phil. 446 (1913).

[27] Sps. Rudy Ameloquio, Sr. and Laguimas Obnamia v. CA, G.R. No. 124243, June 15, 2000.

[28] Gerales v. CA, 218 SCRA 638 (1993); Goldloop Properties, Inc. v. CA, 212 SCRA 504 (1992).



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