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PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

THIRD DIVISION

[G.R. No. 115748. August 7, 1996.]

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES represented by the PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION ON GOOD GOVERNMENT, Petitioner, v. SANDIGANBAYAN (Second Division) and LUCIO C. TAN, ET AL., Respondents.


R E S O L U T I O N


FRANCISCO, J.:


Assailed in this petition are the Resolutions issued by respondent Sandiganbayan in Civil Case No. 0005, dated January 25, 1994 and March 24, 1994, granting private respondents’ motion for a bill of particulars and denying petitioner Philippine Commission on Good Government’s (PCGG) motion for reconsideration, respectively.

Initially, petitioner Republic of the Philippines, as represented by the PCGG and assisted by the Office of the Solicitor General, filed before the Sandiganbayan on July 17, 1987, a complaint for Reconveyance, Reversion, Accounting and Damages against Lucio Tan, Ferdinand Marcos and some other individuals, docketed as Civil Case No. 0005.

The defendants filed their respective answers with the exception of Ferdinand Marcos, Imelda Marcos and Federico Moreno. Subsequently however, petitioner filed a "Motion for Leave to Amend and for Admission of Second Amended Complaint", dated August 19, 1991, impleading three(3) more individuals and forty (40) other corporations as defendants and revising its allegations in the complaint.

Despite the opposition filed by defendants Lucio Tan, Et Al., the Sandiganbayan in its Resolution dated April 2, 1992, 1 granted petitioners’ motion and admitted the Second Amended Complaint dated September 5, 1991. 2

Thereafter, Manufacturing Services and Trade Corporation and fourteen (14) other corporate defendants filed a "Motion For a More Definite Statement or a Bill of Particulars" dated May 22, 1991, seeking the following particulars to wit:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"1. As to Par. 6-a — Who are the ‘Individual defendants’ referred to in the opening clause of Par. 6-a, which reads —

6-a. Among the companies beneficially owned or controlled by Defendant Lucio Tan, Defendant Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos and/or the individual Defendants were/are: . . .

(At p. 8)

In what particular manner does defendant Lucio C. Tan, Defendants Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos and/or the individual defendants each beneficially own or control the corporations listed in Par. 6-a? Does each of these defendants own shares of stock in each corporations? Or does each of these defendants control any of these corporations because of voting trust agreement or similar corporate devices? If so, who of the registered shareholders have executed such voting trust agreement or are parties to such corporate devices?

2. As to Par. 14-c — In what particular manner did the defendant-spouses Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos support the corporations enumerated therein?

3. As to Pars. 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20. — Considering that defendants are juridical persons and not natural persons and obviously have never held public office, is any act referred to in the foregoing paragraphs imputed to any of these defendants? If there be any such acts, which particular acts specifically alleged in the complaint are imputed to each of these defendants?

4. With reference to the complaint in general, the complaint alleges that each defendant had acted ‘singly or collectively’ with the other defendants and is sought to be held ‘jointly and severally liable’. Each defendant should be informed as to the particular acts it is alleged to have committed ‘singly’ and those acts which it is alleged to have committed ‘collectively’ with the other defendants.

5. The complaint seeks to recover ‘actual damages’ to be ‘proven during the trial’. Since ‘actual damages’ involve damages already sustained, these should be specified." 3

The motion was in turn adopted by the other individual defendants except the Estate of Ferdinand Marcos, Imelda R. Marcos, Don Ferry, Federico Moreno, Panfilo O. Domingo, Estate of Gregorio Licaros and Cesar Zalamea.

Petitioner opposed the motion arguing that contrary to the movants’ claims, the allegations in the Second Amended Complaint are clear and sufficient for defendants-movants to know the nature and scope of the causes of action upon which petitioner seeks relief. Moreover, it maintained that the particulars sought to be obtained pertain to evidentiary matters and therefore not the proper subject of a bill of particulars.

On January 25, 1994, respondent Sandiganbayan issued the assailed resolution 4 granting private respondents’ motion and ruled:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"As aptly pointed out by the defendants-movants in their instant motion, Paragraph 6-a of the Second Amended Complaint does not indicate in what particular manner does defendant Lucio Tan, Ferdinand E. Marcos, and Imelda R. Marcos as well as the individual defendants impleaded therein each beneficially own or control the corporations listed therein. Arrayed against the ‘Specific Averments of Defendants’ Illegal Acts’ (Par. 14-c) which constitute the factual backdrop leading to the five(5) ‘Causes of Action’ (Pars. 16-20 inclusive), We find the details therein to be inadequate and insufficient, the particulars or specifications not having been patently clear therein, hence defendants-movants would be unable to fully understand and comprehend the hows, whys and wherefores by which they are being sued and held liable. In other words, the allegations in the complaint are, therefore, deficient in that they merely articulate conclusions of law and presumptions unsupported by factual premises." 5

From the aforestated resolution, petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration but respondent Sandiganbayan denied the same in its Resolution dated March 24, 1994. 6 Hence, the instant petition.

The sole issue to be resolved is whether or not respondent Sandiganbayan acted with grave abuse of discretion in granting private respondents’ "Motion for a More Definite Statement or a Bill of Particulars" .

As to the object and function of a bill of particulars, the same has been declared as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"It is the office or function, as well as the object or purpose, of a bill of particulars to amplify or limit a pleading, specify more minutely and particularly a claim or defense set up and pleaded in general terms, give information, not contained in the pleading, to the opposite party and the court as to the precise nature, character, scope, and extent of the cause of action or defense relied on by the pleader, and apprise the opposite party of the case which he has to meet, to the end that the proof at the trial may be limited to the matter specified, and in order that surprise at, and needless preparations for, the trial may be avoided, and that the opposite party may be aided in framing his answering pleading and preparing for trial. It has also been stated that it is the function or purpose of a bill of particulars to define, clarify, particularize, and limit or circumscribe the issues in the case, to expedite the trial, and assist the court. A general function or purpose of a bill of particulars is to prevent injustice or do justice in the case when that cannot be accomplished without the aid of such a bill." 7

The issue before us is not one of first impression. Similar complaints commenced by petitioner thru the PCGG have previously been the object of a motion for a bill of particulars filed by the defendants.

In Tan et el. v. Sandiganbayan, et. al., 8 therein petitioner Lucio Tan filed a motion for a bill of particulars against PCGG’s expanded complaint on the ground that PCGG’s averments are made up of bare allegations, presumptuous conclusions of fact and law, and plain speculations. Upholding the denial of the motion, this Court ruled that the expanded complaint, though confusingly put in print, is sufficient in form to support the charges against Lucio Tan. 9

Subsequently however, in the cases of Tantuico, Jr. v. Republic 10 and Virata v. Sandiganbayan, 11 the motions for a bill of particulars filed by Tantuico, Jr. and Virata were granted upon finding that with respect to both petitioners, the allegations in PCGG’s amended complaints are couched in general terms, vague and mere conclusions of law.

But in Romualdez v. Sandiganbayan, 12 petitioner Romualdez’s motion for a more definite statement was struck down, with this Court ruling that the amended complaint was sufficient and in fact too specific to enable the petitioner to make the proper admissions or denials and set out his affirmative defenses. The Tantuico case was held to be inapplicable because there was no strict similarity between the situation of Tantuico and petitioner Romualdez.

As expected, PCGG invokes in this petition the ruling in the case of Tan, Et. Al. v. Sandiganbayan, Et. Al. 13 and Romualdez v. Sandiganbayan, 14 while private respondents maintain that it is the decision in Tantuico, Jr. v. Sandiganbayan 15 and Virata v. Republic 16 that is controlling.

Upon careful scrutiny of the allegations in petitioner’s Second Amended Complaint, as well as the particulars sought by private respondents in their motion for a bill of particulars, we find no grave abuse of discretion on the part of respondent Sandiganbayan in granting private respondents’ motion.

Under paragraph 6-A of the Amended Complaint, the Companies alleged to be beneficially owned or controlled by defendants Lucio Tan, Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos and/or the other individual defendants were identified and enumerated, including herein corporate respondents. 17 But except for this bare allegation, the complaint provided no further information with respect to the manner by which herein corporate respondents are beneficially owned or controlled by the individual defendants. Clearly, the allegation is a conclusion of law that is bereft of any factual basis.

In paragraph 14-C it is alleged that improper payments were given to Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos in the form of gifts, bribes, commissions and dividends in various sums in consideration of the Marcoses’ continued support to defendant Lucio Tan’s diversified ventures and/or the former’s ownership or interests in said business ventures. 18 But in like manner, no factual allegation was made as to the form and extent of support given by the Marcos spouses to the corporations alleged to be owned by Lucio Tan. Again the allegation is a mere conclusion with no basis in fact.

Equally wanting in specificity is petitioner’s allegation that private respondents should be held jointly and severally liable for actual damages respecting the pecuniary loss sustained by petitioner as a result of private respondents’ unlawful acts. Without specifying the amount and extent of damages suffered, private respondents cannot be expected to properly respond to this allegation since there is no basis from which to determine whether petitioner’s claim for actual damages is justified or not.

The aforementioned particulars sought by private respondents are material facts, which as previously held, "should be clearly and definitely averred in the complaint in order that the defendant may, in fairness, be informed of the claims made against him to the end that he may be prepared to meet the issues at the trial." 19

There is no merit to the contention that the particulars sought by the private respondents in their motion refer to mere details or evidentiary matters whose proper place is during the pre-trial and trial proper. A party’s right to move for a bill of particulars in accordance with Section 1 of Rule 12 when the allegations of the complaint are vague and uncertain is intended to afford a party not only a chance to properly prepare a responsive pleading but also an opportunity to prepare an intelligent answer. This is to avert the danger where the opposition party will find difficulty in squarely meeting the issues raised against him and plead the corresponding defenses which is not timely raised in the answer will be deemed waived. Thus, it was pronounced in Virata v. Sandiganbayan 20 that:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"The proper preparation of an intelligent answer requires information as to the precise nature, character, scope and extent of the cause of action in order that the pleader may be able to squarely meet the issues raised, thereby circumscribing them within determined confines and preventing surprises during the trial, and in order that he may set forth his defenses which may not be so readily availed of if the allegations controverted are vague, indefinite, uncertain or are mere general conclusions. The latter task assumes added significance because defenses not pleaded (save those excepted in Section 2, Rule 9 of the Revised Rules of Court and, whenever appropriate, the defense of prescription) in a motion to dismiss or in the answer are deemed waived. . . ."cralaw virtua1aw library

With respect however to paragraphs 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20 of the Amended Complaint, we do not find it necessary for petitioner to specify whether any of the acts referred therein pertain to herein corporate respondents on account of petitioner’s admission that by the very nature of the causes of action, it is clear that the specified acts referred to in said paragraphs are imputed to the individual defendants. 21

In the same vein, the particular acts alleged to have been committed singly or collectively with the other defendants are already laid out in detail under petitioner’s Specific Averments of Defendant’s Illegal Acts in the Amended Complaint, 22 hence, need no further clarification.

ACCORDINGLY, subject to the foregoing modifications with respect to paragraphs 3 and 4 of private respondents’ Motion for a More Definite Statement or a Bill of Particulars, the assailed resolutions of respondent Sandiganbayan are hereby AFFIRMED and the instant petition is ordered DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C.J., Davide, Jr., Melo and Panganiban, JJ., concur.

Endnotes:



1. Annex G, Rollo, p. 310.

2. Annex H, Rollo, p. 324.

3. Rollo, pp. 366-367, Annex I.

4. Rollo, p. 30, Annex A.

5. Rollo, pp. 34-35.

6. Rollo, p. 37, Annex B.

7. Tan, Et. Al. v. Sandiganbayan, et. al. 180 SCRA 34, 42-43 (1989); Tantuico v. Republic, 204 SCRA 428 (1991); Virata v. Sandiganbayan, 221 SCRA 52 (1993).

8. Supra.

9. Supra.

10. Supra.

11. Supra

12. G.R. No. 108097, Resolution, July 29, 1993.

13. Supra.

14. Supra.

15. Supra.

16. Supra.

17. Rollo, pp. 331-335.

18. Rollo, pp. 345-347

19. Tantuico, Jr. v. Republic, supra, p. 447-448.

20. Supra, p. 63-64.

21. Rollo, p. 383, Annex L.

22. Pars. 14-15, Rollo, p. 341-353.

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