[G.R. NO. 147443 : February 11, 2008]
LPBS COMMERCIAL, INC., Petitioner, v. HON. VENANCIO J. AMILA, in his capacity as Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Tagbilaran City, Br. 3 and THE FIRST CONSOLIDATED BANK (FCB) OF BOHOL, INC., Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
This Petition for Certiorari1 assails the January 17, 2001 Order2 of the Regional Trial Court of Bohol, Branch 3 denying petitioner's Urgent Motion for the Issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction. Also assailed is the February 22, 2001 Order3 denying the Motion for Reconsideration.
In 1991, petitioner obtained several loans from respondent First Consolidated Bank (FCB) of Bohol Inc. By July 1997, petitioner's loan with respondent bank amounted to P11.5 Million with an average interest rate of 15.5% per annum. The loan was covered by several Promissory Notes and secured with a Real Estate Mortgage4 covering five parcels of land.
In October 1997, petitioner's loan obligation was restructured and consolidated into three Promissory Notes5 executed as follows:
October 16, 1997
October 23, 1997
November 10, 1997
Consequently, the old Promissory Notes were deemed cancelled and superseded by the new ones which provided for an increased interest rate of 20% per annum for the first two notes, and 30% per annum for the third note.
On June 11, 1998, petitioner filed a Complaint6 for Reformation of Documents, Recovery of Excessive Interest Payments, Damages, Injunction with Preliminary Injunction and/or Temporary Restraining Order against respondent bank before the Regional Trial Court of Bohol (RTC-Bohol) docketed as Civil Case No. 6200. The RTC-Bohol, through Executive Judge Achilles L. Melicor subsequently issued an Order directing the special raffle of Civil Case No. 6200 and denying petitioner's application for TRO.7 The case was eventually assigned to RTC-Bohol Branch 3 which was presided by Judge Fernando G. Fuentes III.
In its complaint, petitioner alleged that additional oppressive and excessive charges were unilaterally imposed by respondent bank in violation of their agreement. Petitioner claimed that the interest rates applicable to the aggregate loan is only 20% and not 30% as reflected in the third Promissory Note dated November 10, 1997; and that the term of the promissory notes was six months and not 30 days.
In its Answer,8 respondent bank alleged that the imposition of the additional charge of 5% per annum based on the outstanding principal and the total amount of the unpaid interest was in accordance with the provisions of the Promissory Notes. Respondent bank added that contrary to petitioner's claim, the parties did not have any agreement providing for a maturity period of six months.
Despite being given countless opportunities to settle the matter, the parties were unable to reach an agreement. In the course of the protracted proceedings, Judge Fuentes was replaced by Judge Venancio J. Amila. Noting the slow progress of the case in the hearing held on May 11, 2000, Judge Amila gave the parties a last chance to settle before finally proceeding to pre-trial.9
Meanwhile, on November 10, 2000, respondent bank filed an "Application for the Extra-Judicial Foreclosure of the Real Estate Mortgage." On December 11, 2000, petitioner filed an "Urgent Motion for the Issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction" to enjoin foreclosure. When said motion was heard on December 20, 2000, petitioner asked the trial court to reset the hearing claiming the possibility of an amicable agreement between the parties. The trial court reset the hearing to January 15, 2001, but on January 12, 2001, petitioner again filed an urgent motion for the postponement of the hearing which the trial court denied. During the January 15, 2001 hearing, respondent bank manifested that there has been no settlement between the parties and moved for the resolution of petitioner's pending motion for the issuance of a TRO.
On January 17, 2001, the trial court issued an Order denying the motion for issuance of a TRO, thus:
WHEREFORE, considering that there has been a long default of plaintiff to pay its loan obligation to defendant bank according to the reconstructed promissory notes, the foreclosure of the mortgaged properties is therefore due and proper. However, as the propriety of additional interests allegedly unilaterally imposed by defendant are being questioned by plaintiff, the foreclosure should be limited only to the uncontested agreement in fairness to both, which is the amount of the loan and the interest therein due as mutually agreed by the parties. The penalties and all other additional increments thereto shall be the subject of hearing to determine its propriety or justification.
Petitioner moved for reconsideration but was denied by the trial court. Hence, this petition.
The order denying petitioner's motion for issuance of a TRO is an interlocutory order on an incident which does not touch on the merits of the case or put an end to the proceedings.11 The remedy against an interlocutory order is not certiorari, but an appeal in case of an unfavorable decision. Only if there are circumstances that clearly demonstrate the inadequacy of an appeal that the remedy of certiorari is allowed,12 none of which is present in the instant case.
Moreover, no special and important reason or exceptional and compelling circumstance has been adduced by the petitioner why direct recourse to this Court should be allowed. This Court's original jurisdiction to issue a writ of certiorari (as well as of prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, habeas corpus and injunction) is not exclusive, but is concurrent with the Regional Trial Courts and the Court of Appeals in certain cases.
In Liga ng mga Barangay v. City Mayor of Manila13 we held that '
This concurrence of jurisdiction is not, however, to be taken as according to parties seeking any of the writs an absolute, unrestrained freedom of choice of the court to which application therefor will be directed. There is after all a hierarchy of courts. That hierarchy is determinative of the venue of appeals, and also serves as a general determinant of the appropriate forum for petitions for the extraordinary writs. A becoming regard of that judicial hierarchy most certainly indicates that petitions for the issuance of extraordinary writs against first level ("inferior") courts should be filed with the Regional Trial Court, and those against the latter, with the Court of Appeals. A direct invocation of the Supreme Court's original jurisdiction to issue these writs should be allowed only when there are special and important reasons therefor, clearly and specifically set out in the petition. This is [an] established policy. It is a policy necessary to prevent inordinate demands upon the Court's time and attention which are better devoted to those matters within its exclusive jurisdiction, and to prevent further over-crowding of the Court's docket.
The propensity of litigants and lawyers to disregard the hierarchy of courts in our judicial system by seeking relief directly from this Court must be put to a halt for two reasons: (1) it would be an imposition upon the precious time of this Court; and (2) it would cause an inevitable and resultant delay, intended or otherwise, in the adjudication of cases, which in some instances had to be remanded or referred to the lower court as the proper forum under the rules of procedure, or as better equipped to resolve the issues because this Court is not a trier of facts.14
WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED.
* In lieu of Justice Minita V. Chico-Nazario, per Special Order No. 484 dated January 11, 2008.
1 Rollo, pp. 3-11.
2 Id. at 69.
3 Id. at 73-74.
4 Id. at 23-24 and 28-29.
5 Id. at 20-22.
6 Id. at 12-19.
7 Id. at 111.
8 Id. at 35-49.
9 Id. at 165.
10 Id. at 69.
11 Law Firm of Abrenica, Tungol and Tibayan v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 143706, April 5, 2002, 380 SCRA 285, 293.