G.R. No. 190814, October 09, 2013
MICHELLE LANA BROWN-ARANETA, FOR HERSELF AND REPRESENTING HER MINOR DAUGHTERS, ARABELLA MARGARITA B. ARANETA AND AVANGELINA MYKAELA B. ARANETA, Petitioners, v. JUAN IGNACIO ARANETA, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
VELASCO JR., J.:
1. Immediately issue a Provisional Order granting [him] visitation rights with respect to the minors [Ava and Ara] x x x during the pendency of these proceedings;To facilitate service of summons, Juan Ignacio, via a Motion and Urgent Manifestation of November 27, 2007, would inform the Makati RTC that Michelle and Santos may have transferred to No. 408 Anonas Street, Ayala Alabang Village, Muntinlupa City (Anonas residence), an address different from what he provided in his basic petition, referring to the Molave Drive residence in the same village. In her Officer’s Return dated December 10, 2007,5 process server Linda Fallorin stated the following: (1) she initially attempted to serve the summons upon Michelle and Santos on December 7, 2007 at the Anonas residence, only to be told by one Roberto Anonas, who refused to receive the summons, that both were out at that time; and (2) on December 10, 2007, she was finally able to serve the summons upon Michelle and Santos by substituted service through the driver of Santos’ husband.
2. Immediately issue an ex parte Hold Departure Order preventing the departure of [both] minors x x x from the country; and
3. After appropriate proceedings, render judgment granting [him] joint custody, or alternatively, granting him permanent visitation rights, over [both] his legitimate children x x x.4
1. She is not inclined to issue a [TPO] in favor of respondent at this time because she initially questioned the jurisdiction of this Court over her person and only resorted to this Urgent Ex-Parte Motion for a Protective Order after she realized that the Court had every intention of maintaining jurisdiction over this case x x x. It was emphasized that the Court does not issue Protective Orders over a person who has not bothered to appear in Court x x x. Until the respondent herself shows up in order to recognize the jurisdiction of this Court over her and in order to substantiate the allegations in her Urgent Motion, there is no basis for this Court to address the matters contained in the said Urgent Ex-Parte Motion.During the same hearing, the Makati RTC granted Juan Ignacio visitation rights on one (1) Saturday and Sunday in January 2008 considering that he was unable to see his children on the days granted under the December 21, 2007 Order.
2. Secondly, x x x even assuming for the sake of argument that the petitioner is, as respondent described him to be, temperamental, violent, a habitual drug user and a womanizer, these qualities cannot, per se, prevent him from exercising visitation rights over his children because these are rights due to him inherently, he being their biological father.12
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, respondent Araneta’s Motion to Admit Answer of January 2, 2008 is herein DENIED for lack of merit.On January 21, 2008 also, Michelle interposed a Motion to Withdraw Urgent Ex-Parte Motion for Protective Order, there pointing out that no right of Juan Ignacio, if any, will be affected if the said urgent motion is withdrawn or expunged from her answer. And obviously to sway the Makati RTC’s mind of the resulting insignificance of such withdrawal, if approved, Michelle cited the ensuing observation thus made by the court during the hearing on January 4, 2008:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
Because of respondent Araneta’s failure to file her responsive pleading within the reglementary period, x x x respondent Araneta is herein declared in DEFAULT in this proceedings.
As a consequence of this ruling, x x x the petitioner is allowed to present evidence ex-parte to substantiate the allegation in his Petition x x x.14
COURT:chanroblesvirtualawlibraryIt is upon the foregoing set of events and proceedings that Michelle, on March 25, 2008, instituted, pursuant to RA 9262, a Petition For Temporary and Permanent Protection Order16 (Petition for Protection Order) before the RTC in Muntinlupa City, docketed as Civil Case No. 08-023. Thereat, Michelle claimed, among other things, that in the course of their marriage, Juan Ignacio made her and their children engage in sexual acts inimical to their emotional, physical and psychological development and well-being; that he engaged in perverted sexual acts with friends, victimizing her and the children; that he has consistently failed and refused to support their family; and that he has a violent temper and was consistently harassing and threatening her to get sole custody of the children. Michelle volunteered the information that, per her therapist, she is suffering from Battered Woman’s Syndrome.17cralawlibrary
Well, I agree, she should really appear but whether or not she should really appear here and substantiate her allegations for the issuance of a protective order as far as I am concerned is irrelevant insofar as the enforcement of petitioner’s visitation rights are concerned, this case is for custody, this is not a case for the issuance of protective orders that is only a counter manifestation that she is seeking.15
WHEREFORE, the foregoing considered, the instant petition is hereby PARTLY GRANTED. Accordingly, the assailed Orders of 21 January 2008 and 7 March 2008 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE while the Orders of 29 February 2008 and 31 March 2008, in so far as the denial of petitioner’s Motion for Inhibition is concerned, are AFFIRMED. No costs.Partly, the CA wrote:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
x x x [T]he pivotal issue x x x is whether the [Makati RTC] had acquired jurisdiction over the person of the petitioner, and if so, whether the disposition of the respondent [Makati RTC] judge in declaring her in default has factual and legal basis. Admittedly, the summons and the copy of the petition were not personally served upon the petitioner as explicitly required under Section 5 of A.M. No. 03-04-04-SC x x x.(5) From the adverse May 12, 2008 and June 30, 2008 Orders of the Muntinlupa RTC in Civil Case No. M-6543, Juan Ignacio also repaired to the CA on a petition for certiorari. Docketed as CA-G.R. SP. No. 105442, the petition prayed that the Muntinlupa RTC be enjoined from further taking cognizance of Michelle’s protection order petition as the said case will infringe or intrude upon the Makati RTC’s disposition of the custody case.24cralawlibrary
Indeed, the records would show that the summons and the petition were served upon the petitioner x x x by substituted service as they were received by x x x a certain Nilo Santos at said Anonas residence, an address belatedly supplied by private respondent himself. However, x x x petitioner had actually been informed of such substituted service sometime in the second week of December 2007 and that she had opted to simply disregard the same since she had thought that such service is invalid x x x.
Despite the fact that she had known of the existence of the petition a quo and the fact that the service of summons had been made upon her by substituted service, petitioner made a decision whether it be an informed one or not, not to move for its dismissal on the ground of lack of jurisdiction over her person x x x. It was only upon the issuance of the Provisional Order that she had opted to participate in the proceeding by filing her responsive pleading to the petition. Unfortunately though, the respondent [Makati RTC] judge denied her motion to admit and declared her in default on the basis of its disquisition that the failure of the petitioner to file her responsive pleading is not due to excusable negligence or other circumstances beyond her control.
Still and all, it cannot be denied that the trial court, previous to or at the time the petitioner had filed her responsive pleading, has yet to acquire jurisdiction over the person of the latter. The Rule on Custody of Minors specifically requires that service of summons be made personally on the respondent and yet the trial court served the same upon the person of the petitioner by substituted service without proof of exhaustion of means to personally serve the same or the impossibility thereof to warrant the extraordinary method of substituted service.
Surely, while the Rule on Custody of Minors provides that the Rules of Court shall apply suppletorily in custody proceedings, the express provision requiring personal service and the very nature of custody cases should have caused the respondent judge x x x to adhere to the evident intention of the rules, that is to have both parties in a custody case participate therein.
Regrettably, the respondent judge, relying on the Officer’s Return x x x, precipitately declared x x x that the trial court had already acquired jurisdiction over the person of the petitioner. x x x
Sadly though, respondent judge, in grave abuse of discretion, assumed jurisdiction over the person of the petitioner and proceeded to act on the petition. Worse, x x x the respondent judge denied the motion to admit filed by the petitioner and declared the latter in default. While the petitioner had already submitted herself to the jurisdiction of the trial court by way of her voluntary act of filing a responsive pleading to the petition a quo, the period to file said responsive pleading, as already stated, in so far as the petitioner is concerned has yet to commence, and thus, the filing of her motion to admit answer cannot plausibly be considered as to have been filed beyond the reglementary period. In this light, the denial of said motion and the issuance of the default order are unwarranted and are reversible errors of jurisdiction x x x.23 (Emphasis added.)
ACCORDINGLY, the petition is GIVEN DUE COURSE. Civil Case No. 08-023 is ORDERED DISMISSED and all issuances made by [RTC], Branch 207, Muntinlupa City, are declared void. The [RTC] Branch 60, Makati City is DIRECTED to proceed with the case with dispatch.25The CA extricated itself from the foregoing legal bind on the basis of the following ratiocination and the plausible suppositions interjected thereat:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
In resolving the present petition, the Court had to consider two (2) things. First, pursuant to Section 22 (j) of A.M. No. 04-10-11-SC, a petition for certiorari against any interlocutory order issued by a family court is a prohibited pleading. Accordingly, if this Court were to strictly follow [said] Section 22 (j) x x x, then the present petition for certiorari must be dismissed. Second, the Private Respondent had first moved that the Makati RTC issue a TPO and that when her motion was denied, she filed a petition before the Muntinlupa RTC asking that the said court issue a TPO. In short, the Private Respondent committed forum-shopping. And when forum-shopping is committed, the case(s) must be dismissed with prejudice.The CA denied Michelle’s motion for reconsideration per its equally assailed Resolution of December 28, 2009.
Thus, it falls upon this Court to balance the conflict.
This Court notes that the Muntinlupa RTC tried to balance out the conflicting jurisdictional issues with the Makati RTC by stating in its first assailed Order that the reliefs provided in favor of [herein private respondent] in the [TPO] x x x are modified, to exclude from its coverage those Orders issued by the Makati Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction on the pending custody case. Be that as it may, the Muntinlupa RTC itself recognized the jurisdiction of the Makati RTC and that the case before it would, in fact, impinge upon the jurisdiction of the latter court when it stated that the disposition on the matter by this Court may result in the possibility of conflicting decisions/orders. In short, the Muntinlupa RTC itself acknowledges the fact that any future issuances, including its eventual decision on the petition before it, would affect the custody case pending before the Makati RTC and might even result to conflicting decisions. Thus, in the interest of judicial stability, it is incumbent upon this Court to ensure that this eventuality will not come to pass.
x x x x
To test the argument that a petition for certiorari is an absolutely prohibited pleading, let us push the present case to its logical extreme.
What if a woman claiming to be a battered wife leaves one of her children with her parents and another with a sibling of hers? She then went to another place, transferred residency, and filed a petition for TPO. Her parents [and sibling], who reside in another locality, likewise files a petition for TPO in behalf of the grandchild [and nephew/niece entrusted] in their custody. x x x What if the family courts refuse consolidation? Is the man devoid of any remedy and would have to spend his time shuttling between three (3) localities since a petition for certiorari is a prohibited pleading?
What if the woman went to another locality purposely in order to find a friendly venue x x x? Again, if we are to strictly construe Section 22 (j) of A.M. No. 04-10-11-SC that man would just have to bear the consequences since he cannot seek the extraordinary writ of certiorari. Or, what if both of the spouses do not reside within the court’s jurisdiction, but the judge refuses to grant a motion to dismiss due to his zeal? What remedy would a man have since he cannot resort to a petition for certiorari?
The rules are not sacrosanct. If they go in the way of the smooth and orderly administration of justice, then magistrates should apply their best judgment. If not, courts would be so hideously bound or captives to the stern and literal provisions of the law that they themselves would, wittingly or otherwise, become administrators of injustice.
On the one hand, this Court hereby notes that Private Respondent herself recognizes the jurisdiction of the Makati RTC to issue a TPO. It was only after the Makati RTC denied her prayer for a TPO when she filed a petition before the Muntinlupa RTC asking for the issuance of a TPO. It is thus highly disturbing that the Private Respondent sought another forum in order to try to obtain a favorable judgment. Thus, as aptly pointed out by the Petitioner, some sort of forum-shopping was committed.
On the other hand, if the Court were to dismiss the present petition on the ground that a petition for certiorari is a prohibited pleading, it would have to close its eyes to the fact that the Private Respondent wilfully committed forum-shopping. To dismiss the present petition would, in effect, “reward” her for this negative act. This, the Court cannot countenance.
x x x x
Accordingly, x x x Civil Case No. 08-023 must not be allowed to proceed any further. Imperatively, to ensure that the jurisdiction of the Makati RTC remains unshackled, all of the issuances of the Muntinlupa RTC should, by all means, be nullified.26 (Emphasis added.)
Sadly though, respondent judge, in grave abuse of discretion, assumed jurisdiction over the person of the petitioner and proceeded to act on the petition. Worse, without due regard to the plain intention of the rule in ensuring the adjudication of the controversy surrounding a custody case based on its merits, the respondent judge denied the motion to admit filed by the petitioner and declared the latter in default. While the petitioner had already submitted herself to the jurisdiction of the trial court by way of her voluntary act of filing a responsive pleading to the petition a quo, the period to file said responsive pleading, as already stated, in so far as the petitioner is concerned has yet to commence, and thus, the filing of her motion to admit answer cannot plausibly be considered as to have been filed beyond the reglementary period. In this light, the denial of said motion and the issuance of the default order are unwarranted and are reversible errors of jurisdiction, therefore correctible by a writ of certiorari. (Emphasis supplied.)Withal, the Court finds it downright offensive and utterly distasteful that petitioner raised the following as one of the issues in this appellate proceeding:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
x x x x
WHEREFORE, the foregoing considered, the instant petition is hereby PARTLY GRANTED. Accordingly, the assailed Orders of 21 January 2008 and 7 March 2008 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE while the Orders of 29 February 2008 and 31 March 2008, in so far as the denial of petitioner’s Motion for Inhibition is concerned, are AFFIRMED. No costs.
Whether or not the petitioners are guilty of forum-shopping when the Petition for Custody of private respondent Araneta was dismissed by the Court of Appeals on the ground that the RTC of Makati City Branch 60 did not acquire jurisdiction because the summons was not served personally upon herein Petitioner Michelle Lana Brown Araneta.32 (Emphasis supplied.)Petitioner’s above posture smacks of bad faith, taken doubtless to deceive and mislead the Court. Indeed, nothing in either the body or the fallo of the 2008 CA Decision would yield the conclusion that the petition for custody is being dismissed, as petitioner unabashedly would have the Court believe.
x x x There is therefore, no conflict of jurisdiction in this case but since the petitioner filed a Petition for Certiorari in the Court of Appeals, which includes the issue of custody, we submit that the matter of custody pendente lite including visitation, should not and can not be resolved by this Honorable Court without conflicting with the Temporary Protection Order of a co-equal court, the RTC of Muntinlupa City. x x xNo less than the Muntinlupa RTC itself recognized the resulting aberration of its orders conflicting with that/those of the Makati RTC. As it were, the former, in its Order of May 12, 2008, resolving Juan Ignacio’s Motion to Dismiss with Prayer to Lift Temporary Protection Order, categorically stated that there may be orders in the protection order case that would possibly conflict with the orders issued by the Makati RTC in the custody case. So it was that to address these possible conflicts, the Muntinlupa RTC partially granted Juan Ignacio’s Motion to Dismiss by modifying the reliefs provided under the TPO by excluding from its coverage those orders issued by the Makati RTC in the exercise of its jurisdiction over the custody case. Pursuant to the foregoing Order of the Muntinlupa RTC, the December 21, 2007 and January 4, 2008 Orders of the Makati RTC, granting Juan Ignacio visitation rights on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day and one (1) Saturday and Sunday in January 2008, are not covered by the reliefs under the TPO. Hence, despite the TPO directing Juan Ignacio to stay at least one (1) kilometer away from Ava and Ara, Juan Ignacio would still have the right to see his children by virtue of the orders issued by the Makati RTC granting him temporary visitation rights. The said Muntinlupa RTC Order reads:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
x x x x
If the petitioner is granted visitation rights, the Honorable Court, with due respect would be allowing him to violate the TPO against him; the Honorable Court would then be rendering a conflicting decision.50 (Emphasis supplied.)
Based on the pleadings filed, this (Muntinlupa) Court holds that since the Makati Court first acquired jurisdiction over the issue of custody, the latter continues to exercise it, so that any disposition on the matter by this Court may result in the possibility of conflicting decisions/orders.Verily, the Muntinlupa RTC was aware that its issuances and its eventual final disposition on the Petition for Protection Order would affect the custody case before the Makati RTC, if not totally clash with the latter court’s decision. We agree with the CA’s ensuing observation:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
Wherefore, this Court partially grants respondent’s Motion to Dismiss insofar as those matters covered by A.M. No. 03-04-04-SC, Rule on Custody of Minors and Writ of Habeas corpus in Relation to Custody of Minors are concerned, which are within the jurisdiction of the Makati Court, but continues to take cognizance on matters not included therein (A.M. No. 03-04-04-SC) but within the protective mantle of R.A. No. 9262.
Consequently, the reliefs provided in favor of the petitioner in the Temporary Protection Order dated March 31, 2008 are modified, to exclude from its coverage those Orders issued by the Makati Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction on the pending custody case.
The motions to lift the temporary protection order (except on those matter stated above) and to cite petitioner in contempt of court are denied for lack of merit.51 (Emphasis supplied.)
This Court notes that the Muntinlupa RTC tried to balance out the conflicting jurisdictional issues with the Makati RTC by stating in its first assailed Order that the reliefs provided in favor of [herein private respondent] in the [TPO] dated March 31, 2008 are modified, to exclude from its coverage those Orders issued by the Makati Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction on the pending custody case. Be that as it may, the Muntinlupa RTC itself recognized the jurisdiction of the Makati RTC and that the case before it would, in fact, impinge upon the jurisdiction of the latter court when it stated that the disposition on the matter by this Court may result in the possibility of conflicting decisions/orders. In short, the Muntinlupa RTC itself acknowledges the fact that any future issuances, including its eventual decision on the petition before it, would affect the custody case pending before the Makati RTC and might even result to conflicting decisions. Thus, in the interest of judicial stablility, it is incumbent upon this Court to ensure that this eventuality will not come to pass.52Civil Case No. 08-023 should, thus, be dismissed with prejudice for being a clear case of forum shopping.
* Additional member per Raffle dated September 24, 2013.cranad
1Rollo, pp 55-66. Penned by Associate Justice Normandie B. Pizarro and concurred in by Associate Justices Jose C. Reyes, Jr. and Martin S. Villarama, Jr. (now a member of this Court).cranad
2 Id. at 107-109.cranad
3 Took effect on May 15, 2003.cranad
4 CA rollo, p. 55.cranad
5 Id. at 66.cranad
6 Id. at 67. Dated December 19, 2007.cranad
7Rollo, p. 298
8 Id. at 333.cranad
9 Id. at 334.cranad
10 Specifically, Michelle, inter alia, asked that, pursuant to Sec. 17 of the Rule on Custody of Minors, Juan Ignacio be ordered to cease and desist from harassing, intimidating, threatening or stalking her, Ava and Ara, their yayas or any persons looking after said children and to stay away from them within a radius of one thousand (1,000) meters, and to refrain from communicating with them directly or indirectly by any known means of communication. CA rollo, p. 99.cranad
11 Id. at 84.cranad
12Rollo, p. 398.cranad
13 CA rollo, pp. 172-177.cranad
14Rollo, pp. 115-116.cranad
15 CA rollo, p. 129. TSN, January 4, 2008, p. 23;
16 Id. at 193-204.cranad
17 RA 9262, Sec. 3(c). “Battered Woman’s Syndrome” refers to a scientifically defined pattern of psychological and behavioural symptoms found in women living in battering relationships as a result of cumulative abuse.cranad
18 CA rollo, p. 205.cranad
19 Id. at 206.cranad
20 SECTION 17. Protection Order. – The court may issue a Protection Order requiring any person:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
(a) To stay away from the home, school, business, or place of employment of the minor, other parent or other party, or from any other specific place designated by the court;
(b) To cease and desist from harassing, intimidating, or threatening such minor or the other parent or any person to whom custody of the minor is awarded;
(c) To refrain from acts or commission or omission that create an unreasonable risk to the health, safety, or welfare of the minor;
(d) To permit a parent, or a party entitled to visitation by a court order or a separation agreement, to visit the minor at stated periods;
(e) To permit a designated party to enter the residence during a specified period of time in order to take personal belongings not contested in a proceeding pending with the Family Court; and
(f) To comply with such other orders as are necessary for the protection of the minor.
SECTION 18. Judgment. – After trial, the court shall render judgment awarding the custody of the minor to the proper party considering the best interests of the minor.
If it appears that both parties are unfit to have the care and custody of the minor, the court may designate either the paternal or maternal grandparent of the minor, or his oldest brother or sister, or any reputable person to take charge of such minor, or commit him to any suitable home for children.
In its judgment, the court may order either or both parents to give an amount necessary for the support, maintenance and education of the minor, irrespective of who may be its custodian. In determining the amount of support, the court may consider the following factors: (1) the financial resources of the custodial and non-custodial parent and those of the minor; (2) the physical and emotional health, special needs, and aptitude of the minor; (3) the standard of living the minor has been accustomed to; and (4) the non-monetary contributions that the parents would make toward the care and well-being of the minor.
The court may also issue any order that is just and reasonable permitting the parent who is deprived of the care and custody of the minor to visit or have temporary custody.cranad
21 Under Sec. 22(k) of A.M. No. 04-10-11-SC or The Rule on Violence Against Women and Their Children, a motion for reconsideration is a prohibited pleading.cranad
22Rollo, p. 139. Penned by Associate Justice Josefina Guevara-Salonga and concurred in by Associate Justices Magdangal M. De Leon and Ramon R. Garcia.cranad
23 Id. at 132-134, 136.cranad
24 CA rollo, p. 387.cranad
25Rollo, p. 66.cranad
26 Id. at 62-66.cranad
27 Section 22. Prohibited pleadings and motions. – The following pleadings, motions or petitions shall not be allowed:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
x x x x
(j) Petition for certiorari, mandamus or prohibition against any interlocutory order issued by the court.cranad
28Rollo, p. 19.cranad
29 Id. at 10.cranad
30 Id. at 20.cranad
31 Id. at 136, 139.cranad
32 Id. at 6.cranad
33Yap v. Chua, G.R. No. 186730, June 30, 2012, 672 SCRA 419, 427-428.cranad
34Ligon v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 127683, August 7, 1998, 294 SCRA 73, 99.cranad
35 A Latin term literally meaning “a pending suit.”
36Yap v. Chua, supra note 33, at 428.cranad
37Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp., Ltd. v. Catalan, G.R. Nos. 159590 & 159591, October 18, 2004, 440 SCRA 298, 512.cranad
38Executive Secretary v. Gordon, G.R. No. 134171, November 18, 1998, 298 SCRA 736, 740-741.cranad
39Guaranteed Hotels, Inc. v. Baltao, G.R. No. 164338, January 17, 2005, 448 SCRA 738, 746.cranad
40Luis Ao-As v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 128464, June 20, 2006, 491 SCRA 339, 354.cranad
41 See First Philippine International Bank v. CA, 322 Phil 280, 313 (1996).cranad
42Agilent Technologies Singapore (PTE) Ltd. v. Integrated Silicon Technology Philippines, G.R. No. 154618, April 14, 2004, 427 SCRA 593, 602.cranad
43 THE RULE ON CUSTODY OF MINORS, Sec. 14.cranad
44 Id., Sec. 14(c).cranad
45 Id., Sec. 14(d).cranad
46 Id., Sec. 14(f).cranad
47 Id., Sec. 14(g).cranad
48 Id., Sec. 14(h).cranad
49Rollo, p. 207.cranad
50 Id. at 322.cranad
51 CA rollo, p. 39.cranad
52Rollo, pp. 62-63.