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[G.R. No. 102390. February 1, 2002.]


[G.R. No. 102404. February 1, 2002.]




May the counsel of a party to whom a written request for admission is addressed under Section 1, Rule 26 of the Rules of Court, answer such request for his client? This is the question posed for resolution in these two (2) consolidated petitions for review on certiorari 1 of the Decision of the Court of Appeals dated July 24, 1991 2 that resolved the issue in the negative.

The facts attending the tragic incident that triggered the filing in the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Laguna of Civil Case No. B-2762, an action for damages, by the spouses Rogelio Hemedez and Eliza Garcia Hemedez, are as follows:chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

The Union of Filipro Employees (UFE) declared a strike on account of alleged unfair labor practices committed by Nestle Philippines, Inc. (Nestle) and put up a picket line in front of the company’s factory in Niugan, Cabuyao, Laguna. On October 27, 1987, the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) enjoining the UFE, its sympathizers and agents to desist from "blocking, barricading and obstructing the points of ingress and egress" from Nestle’s Cabuyao plant. To enforce the TRO, Nestle sought the assistance of both the 224th Philippine Constabulary (PC) Company in Camp Eldridge, Los Baños, Laguna, under the command of PC/Capt. Rey Lañada, and the members of the Cabuyao police department under the command of P/Maj. Lorenzo T. Malaga, as well as the fire brigade of Cabuyao. In order that it could transfer its products from the Cabuyao factory to its warehouse in Taguig, Metro Manila during the strike, Nestle hired the trucks of the Alimagno brothers, Constancio, Jr., who was then the Officer-in-Charge of Cabuyao, and Jesus.

On October 29, 1987, Alexander Asinas of the UFE and Francis Santos of Nestle agreed to constitute a panel to discuss about the said trucks and the scabs allowed to sneak into the Cabuyao plant, as the matter did not appear to have been covered by the TRO. However, in apparent bad faith, Santos signaled both the PC contingent to disperse the strikers at the barricades in front of the plant gate, and the overloaded cargo trucks waiting inside the compound to proceed with getting out of the plant. Thus, the PC contingent, both in uniform and in plain clothes, and armed with armalites, began hitting the strikers with truncheons as water cannons from fire trucks assisted them in the dispersal operation that resulted in the arrest of fourteen (14) strikers and injuries to many others. With gate cleared, the cargo trucks began leaving the compound with some turning to the right and others to the left into the national road. Although stones thrown by some strikers broke the windshields of some trucks, all five (5) trucks succeeded in leaving the compound.

That was the situation in the dispersal operation when Dr. Vied Vemir Garcia Hemedez arrived in the area on board his car, a Ford Escort 4-door sedan, model 1975, with plate No. DOG-689, on his way home from his masteral class at the University of the Philippines College of Public Health. He stopped his car not knowing that the sixth ten-wheeler truck owned by Jesus Alimagno and driven by Pacifico Galasao, was then leaving the Nestle compound in full speed. To avoid stones being thrown at his direction, Galasao was driving in a crouching position. However, considering the length of the truck that was also overloaded, Galasao lost control of it. After turning left to the national road, the truck zigzagged northward until it reached the soft shoulder on the right side of the national road where Galasao abruptly swerved the truck to the left to avoid the strikers. However, he was not able to swerve the truck back to the right to stay on course on the road. Because Galasao did not stop nor slow it down, the truck went diagonally across to the left side of the road, bumped the car of Dr. Hemedez, and dragged it until the car turned upside down. In Galasao’s attempt to straighten his course, he also side-swept a house off the road, rammed down a beauty parlor, and run over and killed two (2) persons sitting on a bench near the parlor facing the Iglesia ni Cristo chapel. The truck stopped as it crashed into the chapel’s reinforced concrete wall and post. Galasao rose from his seat, got off the truck, and, apparently anticipating an attack, proceeded to the chapel with a lead pipe in hand while his helpers armed themselves with stones.

Pinned down by his overturned car, Dr. Hemedez mustered strength to ask someone to inform his parents, through a doctor friend, about the incident as he pleaded with people around to extricate him from under the truck. Capt. Lañada and some PC soldiers immediately rushed to the truck to prevent people from looting it. At that moment, the brothers of Dr. Hemedez, namely, Roel, Emeterio and Rogelio, Jr., followed by their mother, Mrs. Eliza Hemedez, and her daughter, Andora, arrived. Roel and Emeterio tried to pull Dr. Hemedez out of his car to no avail. Roel cut the ropes holding the canvass covering the load of the truck in preparation for its being lifted, and asked the PC soldiers to unload or allow them to unload the truck’s cargo. The soldiers referred Roel to Capt. Lañada who, however, refused to unload the cargo of the truck for fear that the cargo might be looted. Mrs. Hemedez made the same plea to Capt. Lañada and Jesus Alimagno who had arrived in the area, but she was met with the same adamant refusal to unload the cargo for fear that there might be looting, notwithstanding that Dr. Hemedez was the godson of Constancio Alimagno, Sr. It was two (2) hours later when the cargo was finally unloaded to other trucks that Dr. Hemedez was finally pulled out from under Galasao’s truck, and brought to the Perpetual Help Hospital in Biñan, Laguna where he died shortly after arrival thereat. He died due to "Intra-thoracic hemorrhage, massive, due to severe impact (Vehicular Accident)." Mrs. Hemedez witnessed in pain the agony of her helpless son as a consequence of the refusal of Capt. Lañada and the PC soldiers to help them save his life. The Hemedez family tried to pay Funeraria Dionicio for the funeral services rendered for Dr. Hemedez but its owner, Dionicio Hemedez, refused to accept payment on the ground that Miguela Alimagno, the mother of Jesus, undertook to pay for it. 3

On December 8, 1987, the spouses Rogelio and Eliza Hemedez, parents of Dr. Hemedez, filed Civil Case No. B-2762 in the RTC of Laguna against Nestle, Jesus Alimagno, Francis Santos, Pacifico Galasao, and PC/Capt. Rey Lañada, praying for the award of Thirty Thousand Pesos (P30,000.00) as indemnity for Dr. Hemedez’ death, Eleven Million Four Hundred Thousand Pesos (P11,400,000.00) representing loss of earnings of the deceased, Eighty Thousand Pesos (P80,000.00) as actual compensation for the destruction of his car, moral and exemplary damages, and attorney’s fees.

In their answer to the complaint, Nestle and Santos denied liability for the death of Dr. Hemedez. They interposed as special and affirmative defenses that Nestle and Belltown Transport Services, Inc., an independent contractor, had a "trucking and hauling agreement" whereby Belltown agreed to "make deliveries of the products of Nestle" and assumed "liability for any injuries or damages to properties" that would arise from the agreement. They alleged that the accident happened in the course of an illegal strike and hence, the proximate cause of Dr. Hemedez’ death "was the violent assault by the strikers against the truck." They averred that the complaint should be dismissed for failure to implead UFE, its officers and striking members, as indispensable parties. They alleged further that the incident happened outside of Nestle’s premises and that when they came to know about it, they ordered the lifting of the truck by Nestle’s own forklift. The delayed unloading of the cargo from the truck thus rested upon Belltown’s "sole judgment." They set up a cross-claim against Galasao in order that he could reimburse them should they be adjudged liable, and a counterclaim for attorney’s fees for what they called an unfounded suit.

For his part, Capt. Lañada dismissed the claims for his liability. He asserted that the unruly mob’s attack on the trucks that built up a "monstrous traffic jam" caused the incident. While he and his men exerted all efforts to save all casualties and not just Dr. Hemedez, the plaintiffs misconstrued his acts "as refusal in their obsessive and hysterical desire to extricate their stricken relative from the place of the accident without regard to the welfare and well-being of the larger throng of persons some of whom were also injured who were just as well entitled to or deserving protection from the contingent of PC soldiers." He interposed a counterclaim for moral damages and attorney’s fees arising from the plaintiffs’ having unjustly impleaded him in the "baseless suit" designed to be a speculative monetary claim against Nestle.

Thereafter, the Hemedez spouses served the defendants a request for admission of the truth of the facts set forth in their complaint and the genuineness of each of the documents appended thereto. Through their respective counsel, Nestle and Santos, Capt. Lañada, and Alimagno and Galasao filed their verified answer to the request for admission.

Contending that under Section 2 of Rule 26 of the Rules of Court the parties themselves and not their counsel should personally answer the request for admission and hence the answer filed by their counsel in their behalf was "by nature based on hearsay," they sought the striking out of said answers. On the other hand, the defendants asserted that they observed the rules in filing their answers, through their lawyers, to the request for admission.

Hence, the trial court 4 issued an Order dated April 10, 1989 denying for lack of merit the Hemedez spouses’ motion to strike out the defendants’ answers and/or declare the matters sought to be admitted as impliedly admitted. It held that the grounds relied upon by plaintiffs’ counsel in his motion were "more formal than substantial" for several reasons. First, by signing and verifying the answer to the request for admission, the counsel of a defendant or defendants "reposed upon himself the same undertaking the defendant would have undertaken had he been the one who verified" the answer. Second, since the purpose of verification is merely to serve as an assurance that the allegations in the pleading are true and correct and not the product of imagination, and that the pleading is filed in good faith, the absence of verification is formal and not jurisdictional. Third, the defendants were bound by the acts of the counsel of their choice. Fourth, the generalizations made in the answer were expected because the plaintiffs requests for admission were substantially identical with the allegations in their complaint. The lower court concluded:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

A cursory reading of the adverted answers to the complaint would show that defendants have substantially complied with the requirements of the rules by so specifically denying the matters which they could not admit and indicating the reasons why they could not admit or deny the specific matters sought to be admitted, thus leaving such matter controverted. The veracity, therefore, of their denial or uncommitted stand, is a matter that could be determined only in a full blown trial on the merit where parties could amply support their respective claim.

The Hemedez spouses sought a reconsideration of that Order through an omnibus motion (a) asserting that the matters sought to be admitted were "decisive on the respective liabilities of all defendants" ; (b) stressing the need to resolve the relevancy and materiality of the specific matters requested to be admitted and which were neither admitted nor denied by the defendants; and (c) seeking permission to amend the complaint to implead as indispensable parties defendants Belltown Transport Services, Inc., Magnolia Freight Services, and Constancio Alimagno, Jr.

Nestle, Santos and Capt. Lañada opposed the omnibus motion on the grounds that: (a) it was filed out of time, (b) it raised no new matters not already taken up in the questioned Order, and (c) to allow amendment of the complaint would result in delay in the proceedings.

On July 24, 1989, the lower court denied the omnibus motion except the prayer to amend the complaint. It stressed that in that particular stage of the proceedings, the court could not "make a categorical ruling as to the veracity of the denials made by defendants of certain facts based on immateriality, irrelevancy or for lack of information until after it has considered in a full blown trial all the evidence presented and pertinent to the issue of the case."cralaw virtua1aw library

Refusing to budge from their stand, the Hemedez spouses sought the review of both Orders of the lower court via a petition for certiorari that was filed on August 16, 1989 and docketed in this Court as G.R. No. 89399. The First Division of this Court referred the petition to the Court of Appeals where it was docketed as CA-G.R. No. 18894. On July 24, 1991, the Court of Appeals rendered the Decision annulling the lower court’s Orders of April 10, 1989 and July 24, 1989, granting the motions to strike out the answers subject of the requests for admission and declaring each of the matters requested to be impliedly admitted, and remanding the case to the court a quo for proper proceedings.

Hence, the instant consolidated petitions for review on certiorari. As earlier stated, the petitioners offer for resolution the principal issue of whether or not an answer to a request for admission signed and sworn to by the counsel of the party so requested is sufficient compliance with the provisions of Rule 26 of the Rules of Court. In other words, should a person to whom a request for admission is addressed personally answer the request? Two (2) other collateral issues need resolution: (a) whether or not each answer of the requested party defendant to the statements sought to be admitted is a specific denial in accordance with the rules, and (b) whether or not the motion for reconsideration of the questioned Order of April 10, 1989 was timely filed.

The provision of Rule 26 of the Rules of Court, the matrix upon which the resolution of these petitions rests, state:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

SEC. 2. Implied admission. — Each of the matters of which an admission is requested shall be deemed admitted unless, within a period designated in the request, which shall not be less than ten (10) days after service thereof, or within such further time as the court may allow on motion and notice, the party to whom the request is directed serves upon the party requesting the admission a sworn statement either denying specifically or setting forth in detail the reasons why he cannot truthfully either admit or deny those matters.

Objections on the ground of irrelevancy or impropriety of the matter requested shall be promptly submitted to the court for resolution." (Emphasis supplied.) 5

The issue for resolution thus calls for an interpretation of the phrase "the party to whom the request is directed." This is not the first time that the Court is faced with the issue of whether a party requested to make admissions may reply or answer through his counsel. In PSCFC Financial Corporation v. Court of Appeals, 6 the petitioner therein served upon the Banco Filipino Savings and Mortgage Bank, a written request for admission of the truth of certain factual matters. Through Philip Sigfrid A. Fortun, who was not yet a lawyer when Banco Filipino inaugurated its financing plan in 1968, Banco Filipino made the requested admissions but denied that the financing corporation had availed of the Home Financing Plan subject of controversy. Obviously objecting to the reply, the petitioner therein made a second request for admission. In resolving the issue of whether or not the answer to the request for admission under Rule 26 "should be made by the party himself and nobody else, not even his lawyer," the Court issued a Resolution stating as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

The argument is untenable. Section 21 of Rule 138 states —

SEC. 21. Authority of attorney to appear. — An attorney is presumed to be properly authorized to represent any cause in which he appears, and no written power of attorney is required to authorize him to appear in court for his client . . . .

Petitioner has not shown that the case at bar falls under any of the recognized exceptions as found in Art. 1878 of the Civil Code which enumerates the instances when special powers of attorney are necessary, or in Rule 20 of the Rules of Court on pre-trial where the parties and their attorneys are both directed to appear before the court for a conference; so that for counsel to appear at the pre-trial in behalf of his client, he must clothe the former with an adequate authority in the form of a special power of attorney or corporate resolution.

Section 23 of Rule 138 provides that" (a)ttorneys have authority to bind their clients in any case by any agreement in relation thereto made in writing, and in taking appeals, and in all matters of ordinary judicial procedure . . . ."cralaw virtua1aw library

Thus, when Rule 26 states that a party shall respond to the request for admission, it should not be restrictively construed to mean that a party may not engage the services of counsel to make the response in his behalf. Indeed, the theory of petitioner must not be taken seriously; otherwise, it will negate the principles on agency in the Civil Code, as well as Sec. 23, Rule 138, of the Rules of Court.

Nonetheless, even assuming arguendo that Atty. Philip Sigfrid Fortun overstepped his authority, it is only his client, respondent Banco Filipino, which has the prerogative to impugn his acts and not petitioner, the adverse party. Interestingly, Banco Filipino has not objected to the response made by its counsel in its behalf. (Emphasis supplied.) 7

In the case at bar, neither is there a showing that petitioners Nestle and Santos did not authorize their respective counsel to file in their behalf the respective answers requested of them by private respondents in the latter’s written request for admission. As this Court has said, there is no reason to strictly construe the phrase "the party to whom the request is directed" to refer solely or personally to the petitioners themselves.

Moreover, as correctly observed by the lower court, the subject matters of the request for admission are the same as the ultimate facts alleged in the complaint for which private respondents have filed their respective answers. Private respondents thus desired the petitioners to admit once again the very matters they had dealt with in their respective answers. In Po v. Court of Appeals, this Court said:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

A party should not be compelled to admit matters of fact already admitted by his pleading and concerning which there is no issue (Sherr v. East, 71 A2d, 752, Terry 260, cited in 27 C.J.S. 91), nor should he be required to make a second denial of those already denied in his answer to the complaint. A request for admission is not intended to merely reproduce or reiterate the allegations of the requesting party’s pleading but should set forth relevant evidentiary matters of fact, or documents described in and exhibited with the request, whose purpose is to establish said party’s cause of action or defense. Unless it serves that purpose, it is, as correctly observed by the Court of Appeals, "pointless, useless," and "a mere redundancy." 8

The Court reiterated that ruling in Briboneria v. Court of Appeals 9 and in Concrete Aggregates Corporation v. Court of Appeals. 10 In the latter case, the Court emphasized that the rule on admission as a mode of discovery is intended "to expedite trial and to relieve parties of the costs of proving facts which will not be disputed on trial and the truth of which can be ascertained by reasonable inquiry." Thus, if the request for admission only serves to delay the proceedings by abetting redundancy in the pleadings, the intended purpose for the rule will certainly be defeated.

Moreover, as the Court has observed in Briboneria, Sec. 1 of Rule 26 requires that the request for admission must be served directly upon the party requested. Otherwise, that party cannot be deemed to have admitted the genuineness of any relevant matters of fact set forth therein on account of failure to answer the request for admission. It is thus unfair and unreasonable for private respondents to expect the petitioners to answer the requests for admission that they in fact did not personally receive. Private respondents’ failure to serve copies of the request for admission directly upon the petitioners themselves suffices to warrant denial of the motion to strike out petitioners’ responses to said request.

The application of the rules on modes of discovery rests upon the sound discretion of the court. In the same vein, the determination of the sanction to be imposed upon a party who fails to comply with the modes of discovery rests on the same sound judicial discretion. 11 It is the duty of the courts to examine thoroughly the circumstances of each case and to determine the applicability of the modes of discovery, bearing always in mind the aim to attain an expeditious administration of justice. 12 It need not be emphasized that upon the court’s shoulders likewise rests the burden of determining whether the response of the requested party is a specific denial of the matters requested for admission.

While the Court upholds the petitioners’ contention on the propriety of an answer to a request for admission being filed by counsel, there is no merit in their contention on the late filing of private respondents’ omnibus motion. It is indeed a fact that private respondents received a copy of the questioned Order of April 10, 1989 on April 26, 1989 and that they filed the omnibus motion by registered mail only on June 21, 1989 or fifty-six (56) days thereafter. Petitioners contend that the omnibus motion should have been filed within the 15-day reglementary period as required by Section 39 of the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980. Suffice it to state that the Order sought to be reconsidered by the lower court did not finally dispose of the merits of the case so that it should be covered by the reglementary period stated in Section 39. That section speaks of "final orders" 13 and not interlocutory ones or those that leave "something to be done by the court before the case is finally decided on the merits." 14 By denying the motion to strike out the answers of private respondents to petitioners’ request for admission, the lower court did not terminate the proceedings. When it ruled on the omnibus motion which petitioners believe was filed out of time, the lower court simply disposed of a matter that was, in a manner of speaking, getting in the way of the expeditious disposition of the case. Private respondents who should be most interested in the speedy disposition of the case unfortunately and unwittingly caused its delay by a request for admission that only achieved nothing but further delay in the proceedings.

WHEREFORE, the consolidated petitions for review on, certiorari are GRANTED. The questioned Decision of the Court of Appeals dated July 24, 1991 is SET ASIDE, and the Regional Trial Court of Laguna is ordered to proceed with dispatch in the resolution of Civil Case No. B-2762.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary


Bellosillo, Mendoza, Quisumbing, and Buena, JJ., concur.


1. Per the Resolution of February 5, 1992 (Rollo, G.R. No. 102390, p. 84).

2. Associate Justice Alfredo L. Benipayo, ponente, with Associate Justices Manuel C. Herrera and Cancio C. Garcia, concurring.

3. Complaint in Civil Case No. B-2762.

4. Presided by Judge Minita Chico-Nazario.

5. Under the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, this rule states:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"SEC. 2. Implied admission. — Each of the matters of which an admission is requested shall be deemed admitted unless, within a period designated in the request, which shall not be less than fifteen (15) days after service thereof, or within such further time as the court may allow on motion, the party to whom the request is directed files and serves upon the party requesting the admission of a sworn statement either denying specifically the matters of which an admission is requested or setting forth in detail the reasons why he cannot truthfully either admit or deny those matters.

Objections to any request for admission shall be submitted to the court by the party requested within the period for and prior to the filing of his sworn statement as contemplated in the preceding paragraph and his compliance therewith shall be deferred until such objections are resolved, which resolution shall be made as early as practicable."cralaw virtua1aw library

6. 216 SCRA 838 (1992).

7. Id., p. 842.

8. 164 SCRA 668, 670 (1988).

9. 216 SCRA 607 (1992).

10. 334 Phil. 77 (1997).

11. Dela Torre v. Pepsi Cola Products Phils., Inc., 298 SCRA 363 (1998).

12. Insular Life Assurance Co., Ltd. v. Court of Appeals, 238 SCRA 88, 93 (1994).

13. Sec. 39 states that" (t)he period for appeal from final orders, resolutions, awards, judgments, or decisions of any court in all cases shall be fifteen (15) days counted from the notice of the final order, resolution, award, judgment, or decision appealed from: . ."cralaw virtua1aw library

14. Philgreen Trading Construction Corporation v. Court of Appeals, 338 Phil. 433 (1997).

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