G.R. No. 81190 May 9, 1988
SPOUSES MATIAS B. AZNAR III and ELEONOR S. AZNAR, Petitioners, vs. HON. JUANITO A. BERNAD, In His Capacity as Presiding Judge of Branch XXI, RTC, Cebu, and the SPOUSES NICOLAS L. KINTANAR and REDEMPTA C. KINTANAR, Respondents.
Eustaqio Ch. Veloso for petitioners.chanrobles virtual law library
Roseller B. Amazons for private respondents.
Squarely presented for our consideration in this case, certified to us by the Court of Appeals 1 as involving purely question of law, is whether or not the affirmative defense of prescription may be validly set up for the first time in an amended answer.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
We rule in the affirmative.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
Briefly, it appears that on September 15, 1986, the private respondents, the spouses Nicolas and Redempta Kintanar, as plaintiffs, filed in the Regional Trail Court of Cebu, a civil action against the defendants-spouses, the herein petitioners, praying for the annulment of a Sheriffs Certificate of Sale, damages, and attorney's fees with preliminary injunction. The petitioners, on October 13, 1986, timely filed their answer specifically denying the allegations in the complaint. Seven days later, or on October 20, 1986, the petitioners submitted 'Motion For Leave to Amend Answer Or To File Supplemental Pleading," alleging in the first five paragraphs thereof the following:
Attached to the motion was a copy of the amended answer which contained additional paragraph alleging, for the first time, the affirmative defense of prescription. Averred the petitioners:
The trial court, acting through the respondent Judge, issued on November 4, 1986, an order denying the petitioner's motion. The respondent Judge based his order on a strict or literal construction of section 2, Rule 9, of the Revised Rules of Court which, in essence, provides that defenses or objections, except the failure to state a cause of action, if not pleaded in a motion to dismiss or in an answer, are deemed waived. The assailed order states:
The petitioners moved for a reconsideration of the order but it proved to be of no avail as the same was denied on December 10, 1986. Said the trial court:
On appeal by certiorari to the Court of Appeals, the case, as stated at the outset, was certified to this Court for resolution '(S)ince the instant petition involves a pure question of law on the correct interpretation of section 2, Rule 9 of the Rules of the correct Court." 6chanrobles virtual law library
The petition is meritorious.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
The general rule, it is true, is that the affirmative defense of prescription when not seasonably raised in either a motion to dismiss or in the answer, is deemed waived. 7This case, however, does not fall under the cited rule. It cannot be said that the petitioners failed to allege the defense of prescription in their answer. Precisely, the amended answer is being submitted to take the place of the original one. Once the amended answer is admitted, the original answer passes into oblivion and ceases to exist with its former place entirely taken over by the amended answer. It is clear, therefore, that the reliance of the trial court on the case of Torreda vs. Boncaros 8 is misplaced. 'That case involved a supplemental motion to dismiss alleging the defense of prescription and not an amended answer as in ere is a whale of a difference between the this instance And that two. First, a supplemental motion to dismiss, strictly speaking, is not a pleading. 9 Further, as differentiated from an amended pleading which, as aforestated, takes the place of the original pleading, a supplemental pleading does not extinguish the existence of the original. As its very name denotes, it only serves to bolster or adds something to the primary pleading. A supplement exists side by side with the original. It does not replace that which it supplements.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
It must be stressed that our decision in Torreda is based on equitable reasons and the "peculiar circumstances" of that case - the herein petitioner, whose husband died as a result of the negligence of the therein private respondents' employee, would be left with no other remedy by which she could claim for damages if the belated defense of prescription was allowed - which we do not find obtaining here. The supplemental motion to dismiss in Torreda was submitted more than six months after the original motion to dismiss was filed, while here, the petitioners moved to have their amended answer admitted by the trial court with barely seven days having passed since the filing of their original answer.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
Moreover, at the time the petitioners moved to have their original answer amended, they still had the right to do so. The records do not show that a responsive pleading, like a reply, to the original answer, has already been served to the petitioners by the private respondents. Neither is there any showing that the case has already been calendared for hearing. On this score, Section 2, Rule 10 of the Revised Rules of Court supports the petitioners' contention.
There is, therefore, no procedural impediment for the petitioners to amend their original answer. This being so, the affirmative defense of prescription has been validly pleaded for resolution in due course. For the amended answer, which would replace the original answer, certainly would cure the lapse or error committed by the petitioners in not alleging the defense of prescription in the first place - in a motion to dismiss or in the original answer.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
We have repeatedly held that the rules of procedure should be viewed as mere tools designed to facilitate the attainment of justice. Their strict and rigid application, which would result in technicalities that tend to frustrate rather than promote substantial justice, must always be avoided.10 Even the rules of sion this liberality.
Lastly, even assuming that the petitioners had indeed failed to raise the affirmative defense of prescription in a motion to dismiss or in an appropriate pleading (answer, or amended or supplemental answer) and an amendment would no longer be feasible, still prescription, if apparent on the faceof the complaint, may be favorably considered. In the xase at bar, the private respondents admit in their complaint that the contract of real estate mortgage which they alleged to be fraudulent and which had been foreclosed, giving rise to this controversy with the petitioners, was executed on July 17, 1978, 12 or more than eight long years before the commencement of the suit in the court a quo, on September 15,1986. And an action to declare a contract nuf1 and void on the ground of fraud must be instituted within four years. 13 Extinctive prescription is thus apparent on the face of the complaint itself as resolved by the Court. 14 chanrobles virtual law library
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED; the Order of the Regional Trial Court dated November 4, 1986 and December 10, 1986 denying the petitioners' motion to amend their Answer are hereby ANNULLED and SET ASIDE; and the petitioners' Amended Answer is ADMITTED. No pronouncement as to costs.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
Yap, C.J., Melencio-Herrera, Paras, and Padilla, JJ., concur.
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