G.R. No. 200072, June 20, 2016
PHILIP YU, Petitioner, v. VIVECA LIM YU, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
Before the Court is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court seeking to reverse and set aside the Decision1 dated September 30, 2011 and Resolution2 dated January 5, 2012 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 111414 which granted the petition for the annulment of the Decision3 dated August 20, 2008 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Fourth Judicial Region, Branch 10, Balayan, Batangas.
The factual antecedents are as follows.
Petitioner Philip Yu and respondent Viveca Lim Yu were married on November 18, 1984. They had four children and maintained their conjugal home at Room 1603 Horizon Condominium, Meralco Avenue, Pasig, Metro Manila. In 1993, however, Viveca left the conjugal home with their four children and filed a Petition for Legal Separation against Philip before the RTC of Pasig City, Branch 261, for repeated physical violence, grossly abusive conduct against her and the children, sexual infidelity, and attempt on her life. She prayed for permanent custody over the children, support, and the dissolution and distribution of their conjugal partnership valued at approximately P5,000,000.00.4chanrobleslaw
Philip denied the accusations against him claiming that it was Viveca who actually attacked him a few times. He narrated that his marriage to Viveca was arranged according to the Chinese tradition and that it was much later when he discovered Viveca's excessively jealous, cynical, and insecure behaviour. He countered that since she abandoned the family home, taking their four children away, she was not entitled to support. She was, likewise, unqualified to become the administrator of their conjugal funds, which had outstanding obligations. Thus, Philip prayed in his Counterclaim for the declaration of nullity of their marriage due to Viveca's psychological incapacity, rendering her incapable of complying with her marital obligations.5chanrobleslaw
On April 24, 2007, however, Philip filed a Motion to Withdraw Counterclaim for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage revealing that he no longer had the desire to have his marriage declared void. Despite Viveca's fervent opposition, the Pasig RTC granted the motion.6chanrobleslaw
On July 1, 2009, the RTC of Pasig City rendered a Decision7 dismissing the Petition for Legal Separation in the following wise:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
From the facts obtaining in this case, the Court finds that the parties are in pari delicto warranting a denial of this petition. Respondent's illicit relationship with Linda Daet and his repeated verbal and physical abuses towards petitioner come within the purview of pars. 8 and 1 of Art. 55 of the Family Code of the Philippines whereas petitioner's unjustifiable abandonment bringing with her their children without the knowledge and consent of respondent and her assaulting respondent with a 10-inch knife are those contemplated in pars. 10 and 9 of the same code.Claiming to be completely unaware of the proceedings before the RTC of Balayan, Batangas, nullifying her marriage with Philip on the ground of her psychological incapacity, Viveca filed a Petition for Annulment of Judgment9 before the CA seeking to annul the Decision dated August 20, 2008 of said court. According to Viveca, jurisdiction over her person did not properly vest since she was not duly served with Summons. She alleged that she was deprived of her right to due process when Philip fraudulently declared that her address upon which she may be duly summoned was still at their conjugal home, when he clearly knew that she had long left said address for the United States of America. Viveca likewise maintained that had Philip complied with the legal requirements for an effective service of summons by publication, she would have been able to rightly participate in the proceedings before the Batangas court.
Notwithstanding the foregoing Court's findings, the same becomes moot with the declaration of nullity of the marriage of the parties, on the ground of the psychological incapacity of petitioner, Viveca Yu, pursuant to the Decision of Branch 10, RTC of Balayan, Batangas, which attained its finality on October 13, 2008. Since the marriage of the parties was declared a nullity there is, therefore, no legal basis to issue a decree of legal separation to the spouses whose marriage has already been declared of no force and effect.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, this petition should be, as it is hereby DISMISSED, for lack of merit.
The Petition for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage affecting the personal status of private respondent is in the nature of an action in rem. This is so because the term "personal status" includes family relations, particularly the relations between husband and wife.In its Resolution dated January 5, 2012, the CA denied Philip's Motion for Reconsideration finding no cogent and persuasive reason to revise or reverse its Decision. Hence, this petition invoking the following grounds:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
With this premise in mind, it is beyond cavil that the court a quo was justified in resorting to Summons by publication. Petitioner is a nonresident defendant who left the Philippines with her children way back in 1997 and has now been living in the United States of America. The court a quo validly acquired jurisdiction to hear and decide the case given that as adumbrated, in a proceeding in rem, jurisdiction over the person of the defendant is not a prerequisite to confer jurisdiction on the court, provided that the court acquires jurisdiction over the res.
Still and all, there is more to this case than meets the eye. Private respondent knew that petitioner left the conjugal home on account of their marital difficulties. She temporarily resided at her parent's house in Greenhills, Mandaluyong, Metro Manila. But during the pendency of the Legal Separation case, she lived in Quezon City. This much was revealed by private respondent himself in the Amended Answer with Counterclaim filed in the Legal Separation suit-"10. After abandoning the conjugal abode on 24 August 1993, petitioner resided at her parent's house in Richbelt Condominium, Annapolis Street, Greenhills, Mandaluyong, Metro Manila, until she moved to her present address in October 1993. x x x xThis knowledge notwithstanding, private respondent declared before the court a quo that the "last known address" of petitioner was still her conjugal abode at Unit 1603 Horizon Condominium, Mcralco Avenue, Ortigas, Pasig City. While private respondent knew that it was well-nigh impossible for petitioner to receive Summons and other court notices at their former conjugal home, still, he supplied the aforesaid address.
We cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that private respondent moved for the dismissal of his counterclaim for nullity of marriage in the Legal Separation case in 2007 as he had by then had the sinister motive of filing the Petition for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage before the court a quo. Private respondent knew that if he breathed a word on the filing and pendency of the latter Petition, petitioner would vigorously resist it as revealed by her tenacious opposition in the proceedings before the RTC-Pasig.
The deceitful scheme employed by private respondent deprived petitioner of her constitutional right to due process which ensued in her failure to participate in the proceedings before the court a quo. To Our mind, this compelling justification warrants the annulment of judgement.10chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
In essence, Philip questions the appellate court's judgment of setting aside the decision of the Batangas RTC despite its own finding that said court validly acquired jurisdiction when Summons was duly served on Viveca by publication. He maintains that since service of summons was properly accomplished by publication thereof in a newspaper of general circulation as well as its personal service on Viveca at her last known address, it logically follows that any and all resolutions rendered by the trial court are valid and binding on the parties. Thus, the decision of the Batangas court which acquired jurisdiction over the res should be immutable as it is already final and executory.11chanrobleslaw
THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED WHEN IT SET ASIDE THE FINAL AND EXECUTORY DECISION OF THE COURT A QUO DESPITE ITS ACCURATE FINDINGS THAT THE COURT A QUO PROPERLY ACQUIRED JURISDICTION OVER THE ACTION IN REM THROUGH SUMMONS BY PUBLICATION.
THE PUBLICATION OF THE ORDER OF THE COURT A QUO, SUMMONS, THE COMPLAINT AS WELL AS THE DECISION RENDERED THEREIN IS NOTICE TO THE WHOLE WORLD INCLUDING RESPONDENT. RESPONDENT WAS THEREFORE CONSTRUCTIVELY NOTIFIED OF THE PROCEEDINGS AND WAS NOT DENIED DUE PROCESS HAVING BEEN DULY NOTIFIED BY PUBLICATION.
RESPONDENT HAS BEEN DOMICILED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA FOR MORE THAN TEN (10) YEARS AND WHOSE ADDRESS IS UNKNOWN TO PETITIONER. AS FAR AS PETITIONER IS CONCERNED, UNIT 1603 HORIZON CONDOMINIUM, MERALCO AVENUE, PASIG CITY IS THE LAST KNOWN ADDRESS OF RESPONDENT, BEING THE CONJUGAL HOME.
PETITIONER IS CURRENTLY NOT A RESIDENT OF THE CONJUGAL HOME.
THE OFFICE OF THE SOLICITOR GENERAL AND/OR THE OFFICE OF THE CITY PROSECUTOR OF BALAYAN, BATANGAS, APPEARED AS COUNSEL FOR THE STATE AND FULLY PROTECTED THE INTEREST OF THE STATE INCLUDING THE INTEREST OF RESPONDENT.
PETITIONER CANNOT BE FAULTED FOR MOVING FOR THE WITHDRAWAL OF HIS COUNTER-CLAIM FOR DECLARATION OF NULLITY OF MARRIAGE, WHICH IS ALLOWED BY SECTION 2, RULE 17 OF THE NEW RULES OF COURT AS AMENDED, AND SAID WITHDRAWAL WAS EVEN APPROVED BY THE RTC OF PASIG.
THE PETITION FOR ANNULMENT OF DECISION FILED BEFORE THE COURT OF APPEALS WAS DEFECTIVE AND NOT IN ACCORDANCE WITH RULE 47 OF THE NEW RULES OF COURT, AS AMENDED, FOR HAVING FAILED TO STATE AND ALLEGE THE DEFENSES THAT RESPONDENT HAS AGAINST PETITIONER.
EVEN ASSUMING ARGUENDO THAT THE DEFENSES THAT ARE AVAILABLE TO RESPONDENT ARE THOSE THAT WERE PRESENTED IN THE LEGAL SEPARATION CASE THAT WAS DISMISSED BY THE RTC OF PASIG CITY, SAID GROUNDS ONLY BOLSTER THE FACT THAT THE DECISION DATED AUGUST 20, 2008 OF THE RTC OF BALAYAN, BATANGAS, CORRECTLY NULLIFIED THE MARRIAGE DUE TO RESPONDENT'S PSYCHOLOGICAL INCAPACITY.
THE COURT OF APPEALS DID NOT OBSERVE AND FOLLOW SECTIONS 6 AND 7 OF RULE 47 OF THE REVISED RULES OF COURT, AS AMENDED.
Section 15. Extraterritorial service. — When the defendant does not reside and is not found in the Philippines, and the action affects the personal status of the plaintiff or relates to, or the subject of which is, property within the Philippines, in which the defendant has or claims a lien or interest, actual or contingent, or in which the relief demanded consists, wholly or in part, in excluding the defendant from any interest therein, or the property of the defendant has been attached within the Philippines, service may, by leave of court, be effected out of the Philippines by personal service as under section 6; or by publication in a newspaper of general circulation in such places and for such time as the court may order, in which case a copy of the summons and order of the court shall be sent by registered mail to the last known address of the defendant, or in any other manner the court may deem sufficient. Any order granting such leave shall specify a reasonable time, which shall not be less than sixty (60) days after notice, within which the defendant must answer. (17a)Thus, under Section 15 of Rule 14, a defendant who is a non-resident and is not found in the country may be served with summons by extraterritorial service in four instances: (1) when the action affects the personal status of the plaintiff; (2) when the action relates to, or the subject of which is property within the Philippines, in which the defendant has or claims a lien or interest, actual or contingent; (3) when the relief demanded consists, wholly or in part, in excluding the defendant from any interest in property located in the Philippines; or (4) when the property of the defendant has been attached within the Philippines.24chanrobleslaw
Section 4. Venue. - The Petition shall be filed in the Family Court of the province or city where the petitioner or the respondent has been residing for at least six months prior to the date of filing. Or in the case of non-resident respondent, where he may be found in the Philippines, at the election of the petitioner.32chanroblesvirtuallawlibraryIt is, therefore, evident that not only did Philip contradict his previous Motion to Withdraw his Counterclaim for the Declaration of Nullity of marriage, he even violated a basic mandate of law so as to be able to file the same action before a different court in a city he was not even a resident of.
It is the duty of the court to require the fullest compliance with all the requirements of the statute permitting service by publication. Where service is obtained by publication, the entire proceeding should be closely scrutinized by the courts and a strict compliance with every condition of law should be exacted. Otherwise great abuses may occur, and the rights of persons and property may be made to depend upon the elastic conscience of interested parties rather than the enlightened judgment of the court or judge.36chanroblesvirtuallawlibraryIndeed, due process requires that those with interest to the thing in litigation be notified and given an opportunity to defend those interests.37 When defendants are deprived of such opportunity to duly participate in, and even be informed of, the proceedings, due to a deceitful scheme employed by the prevailing litigant, as in this case, there exists a violation of their due process rights. Any judgment issued in violation thereof necessarily suffers a fatal infirmity for courts, as guardians of constitutional rights cannot be expected to deny persons their due process rights while at the same time be considered as acting within their jurisdiction.38 This Court, therefore, deems as proper the annulment of the Batangas court's judgment issued without proper service of summons.
1 Penned by Associate Justice Japar B. Dimaampao, with Associate Justices Antonio L. Villamor and Jane Aurora C. Lantion, concurring; rollo, pp. 38-48.
2Id. at 50-51.
3 Penned by Judge Cristino E. Judit; id. at 66-76.
4Id. at 39.
6Id. at 40.
7Id. at 219-225.
8Id. at 225. (Emphasis ours)
9Id. at 80-107.
10Id. at 43-45. (Emphasis ours)
11Id. at 16.
12 573 Phil. 58 (2008).
13 544 Phil. 45 (2007).
14 468 Phil. 900 (2004).
15Rollo, p. 18.
16Id. at 23.
17Id. at 25.
18Biaco v. Philippine Countryside Rural Bank, supra note 13, at 53.
19Pinasukan Seafood House, Roxas Bouley Ard, Inc. v. Far East Bank & Trust Company, now Bank of the Philippine Islands, and Hector I. Galura, G.R. No. 159926, January 20, 2014, 714 SCRA 226, 241.
20Alba v. Court of Appeals, 503 Phil. 451, 462 (2005).
21Pinasukan Seafood House, Roxas Bouley Ard, Inc. v. Far East Bank & Trust Company, now Bank of the Philippine Islands, and Hector I. Galura, supra note 19, at 243.
22Romualdez-Licaros v. Licaros, 449 Phil. 824, 833 (2003).
23Macasaet v. Co, Jr., G.R. No. 156759, June 5, 2013, 697 SCRA 187, 200.
24Romualdez-Licaros v. Licaros, supra note 22, at 835.
26Rollo, p. 11.
27Id. at 12.
28Id. at 52-60.
29Id. at 39.
30Id. at 27.
31Id. at 226.
33 493 Phil. 676 (2005).
34Acance v. Court of Appeals, supra, at 688.
35 149 Phil. 636 (1971).
36Dulap, et al. v. Court of Appeals, supra, at 649. (Citation omitted)
37De Pedro v. Romasan Development Corporation, G.R. No. 194751, November 26, 2014, 743 SCRA 52, 72.