Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence


Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence > Year 1966 > January 1966 Decisions > G.R. No. L-20738 January 31, 1966 JULIANA SOLORIA, ET AL. v. CEFRONIO DE LA CRUZ, ET AL.:




PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

EN BANC

[G.R. No. L-20738. January 31, 1966.]

JULIANA SOLORIA and ANICETO PASAMONTE, Petitioner, v. CEFRONIO DE LA CRUZ and HON. TOMAS P. PANGANIBAN. Presiding Judge, Court of Agrarian Relations, First Regional District, Respondents.

Guillermo & Navarro for the petitioners.

N.S. Nostratis for the respondents.


SYLLABUS


1. PLEADING AND PRACTICE; COURT OF AGRARIAN RELATIONS; NEW TRIAL; FAILURE TO ATTEND TRIAL FOR LACK OF ADVANCE NOTICE. — The failure of counsel for petitioners to attend the trial for lack of advance notice on him constitutes an "accident" within the meaning of Section 1, Rule 37, of the (old or revised) Rules of Court which, in turn, is a proper and valid ground to grant a new trial (Muerteguy v. Delgado, 22 Phil. 109; Lavitoria v. Judge of Court of First Instance of Tayabas, 32 Phil. 204; Villegas v. Roldan, 76 Phil. 349). This rule (Rule 37) is applicable to cases filed in the Court of Agrarian Relations (Rule 20 of the Rules of Court of Agrarian Relations).

2. ID.; ID.; ID.; AFFIDAVITS OF MERITS, WHEN NOT NECESSARY. — Affidavits of merits are not necessary if the granting of the motion for new trial is not discretionary with the court, but is demandable as of right, . . . as where the movant has been deprived of his day in court through no fault or negligence on his part because no notice of hearing was furnished him in advance so as to enable him to prepare for trial (Moran, Rules of Court, 1957 Ed., Vol. I, p. 515; citing Valerio v. Tan, G. R. No. L-6446, September 19, 1955, 97 Phil. 558, 561).

3. ID.; ID.; ID.; DELAY IN APPRISING COURT OF INTENTION TO CROSS EXAMINE WITNESSES OF OPPOSING PARTY. — The delay of appellants to apprise the court in due time of their intention to cross examine the witnesses of the opposing party and produce evidence of their own, when they had ample time to do so can only be relevant as evidence of a waiver of the right to be heard. But there is no evidence of any such intention on their part, and a renunciation of such fundamental right (to their day in court) is not to be lightly inferred. After all, the Rules allow a party to move for a new trial on the ground of unavoidable accident within the period for perfecting an appeal (Rule 37, sec. 1), as the appellants have done; or even to ask relief within 60 days after learning of a judgment or order against them (Rule 38, sec. 3). That by greater diligence counsel for appellants could have avoided the court’s rendering and then setting aside, a decision, is no ground for refusing his clients a relief to which they are entitled. Especially so when the trial court had before it a record clearly showing that appellants herein were not heard through no fault of their own.


D E C I S I O N


REYES, J. B. L., J.:


This is a petition for certiorari to review a resolution denying a motion for reconsideration 1 of the decision rendered in the case entitled "Cefronio de la Cruz, Petitioner, versus Juliana Soloria, Et Al., Respondents," CAR Case No. 330-TP-61, of the Court of Agrarian Relations, First Regional District, Sala 11, with seat at Tayug, Pangasinan.

The facts gathered from the record of this case before Us are: that sometime in 1961, Cefronio dela Cruz commenced a proceeding against Juliana Soloria before the above stated court, alleging, inter alia, that since 1959 he has been a share-tenant of said respondent Soloria over his one-hectare parcel of first class riceland situated at Barrio San Antonio, San Miguel, Pangasinan; that on May 20, 1961, said respondent, without any justifiable and legal cause or prior approval of the court, summarily ejected him from the landholding in question; that he had shared on a fifty-fifty (50-50) basis the net harvest of 30 and 45 cavans of palay produced in said land in the agricultural years 1959-1960 and 1960-1961, respectively, after having furnished all farm labor, implements, working animals and other expenses incurred in planting and harvesting said palay, except the land which was the sole contribution of said Respondent. Wherefore, petitioner dela Cruz prays that he be reinstated in the disputed landholding; that the net harvest of palay be reliquidated on the sharing basis provided for by law; that he be awarded damages for his unrealized shares from the time he was unlawfully ejected until he is fully reinstated in his holding, and attorney’s fees in the amount of P200.00. This petition was later amended on December 21, 1961 to include as co-respondent Anacleto Pasamonte, who had, in the meantime, been allegedly placed by Soloria as her new tenant in the disputed landholding (Cf. Annex "I", respondent Court’s answer, record, pp 46-49).

Respondent Juliana Soloria, through her counsel, Attys. Guillermo and Navarro, filed her answer to the petition, denying the material allegations thereof and setting up the following special defenses: that no tenancy relationship exists between her and respondent dela Cruz; that dela Cruz has no legal capacity to sue, he being a minor; that she is not the exclusive owner of the land in question, but she owns it in common with Emeteria and Ignacio, both surnamed Soloria; and that said land is being cultivated by one Valeriano de Leon, who lives with its owners, after Pedro dela Cruz, now deceased, voluntarily surrendered it shortly before his death in the early part of 1961. In their answer to the amended petition, both respondents denied that said Pasamonte is a new tenant, he being a mere hired farmhand of said Valeriano de Leon to prepare the land for planting for the agricultural year 1961-1962 (Cf. Annex "11", respondent Court’s answer, record, pp. 50-52).

Issues having been joined, the court a quo set the hearing of the case for June 8, 1962, notice of which was each furnished by registered mail to the respective counsels of record of the parties. On this scheduled hearing, neither respondent nor their counsels appeared; hence, the court a quo, upon motion, allowed petitioner dela Cruz to present his evidence ex parte and thereafter considered the case submitted for decision. A copy of this order was sent to respondents’ counsel which he received on August 8, 1962 (Cf. Annex "C", petition, record, pp. 15-19, resolution dated December 4, 1962, p. 3).

On August 30, 1962, the court a quo rendered a decision granting the reliefs prayed for in the petition of said Cefronio dela Cruz (Cf. Annex "A", petition, record, pp. 5-10).

Three (3) days after receipt of the above decision, counsel for respondents presented a motion to reconsider and set aside said decision and to allow them to cross-examine petitioners’ witnesses and to present their own evidence in support of their claims and defenses, claiming that they were deprived of their day in court, because their failure to attend the scheduled hearing on June 8, 1962 was due to an accident since notice thereof was received only on June 14, 1962, which was six (6) days after said trial. This claim was supported by an affidavit, attached to the motion, of Atty. Dario R. Navarro, counsel for respondents, attesting to this fact. Said motion also reiterated and discussed the merits and validity of the special defenses set up in their answer which, if considered, will materially alter or change the result of said decision (Cf. Annex "B", petition, record, pp. 11-14).

As above stated in the beginning of this opinion, the court a quo denied respondents’ motion for reconsideration and/or new trial; hence, the present petition before this Court.

In the order of denial, the court a quo ruled that although its records show that counsel for respondents did not receive the notice of hearing for June 8, 1962 before said date but only later, i.e., on June 14, 1962, which was six (6) days after the scheduled trial, they were still negligent in not filing, before judgment was rendered on August 30, 1962, any pleading to indicate their intention to cross- examine petitioners’ witnesses and to present their own evidence despite the receipt, on August 8, 1962, of the order dated June 8, 1962 considering the case as submitted for decision; hence, respondents were not deprived of their day in court. It also refuted the arguments presented to support the merits of the special defenses set up in respondents’ answer which it ruled as not meritorious. It further maintained that said denial was proper since respondent failed to attach, in their motion, an affidavit of merits to support the validity of said defenses alleged in the answer.

We disagree with the above conclusion of the court a quo. It is not disputed that counsel for respondents (petitioners herein) did not receive notice of hearing on or before June 8, 1962, which was the scheduled date of trial; hence, they failed to attend said hearing. This circumstance, i.e., failure to attend trial for lack of advance notice, has been held in previous cases to constitute an "accident" within the meaning of Section 1, Rule 37, of the (old or revised) Rules of Court which, in turn, is a proper and valid ground to grant a new trial (Muerteguy v. Delgado, 22 Phil. 109; Lavitoria v. Judge of Court of First Instance of Tayabas, 32 Phil. 204; Villegas v. Roldan, 76 Phil 349). This rule (Rule 37) is applicable to cases filed in the Court of Agrarian Relations (Rule 20 of the Rules of Court of Agrarian Relations).

This Court has also held that:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Where the movant has been deprived of his day in court through no fault or negligence on his part and because no notice of hearing was furnished him in advance so as to enable him to prepare for trial, the judgment or order is absolutely null and void for denying him his day in court, a constitutional right. In such case, the judgment or order suffers from an inherent procedural defect and is absolutely void. Under such circumstances, no showing of merits is necessary to support an application to have the order vacated (1 Freeman on Judgments, p. 559)." (Valerio v. Tan, 97 Phil. 558, 561.)

"Affidavits of merits are not necessary when the granting of the motion for new trial is not discretionary with the court but is demandable as of right, as where the movant has been deprived of his day in court, through no fault or negligence on his own (Valerio v. Tan. Et. Al., G.R. No. L-6446, Sept. 19, 1955)." (Navarro v. Bello, L-11647, January 31, 1958; 54 O.G. 6588)

"However, affidavits of merits are not necessary if the granting of the motion for new trial is not discretionary with the court, but is demandable as of right . . . as where the movant has been deprived of his day in court through no fault or negligence on his part because no notice of hearing was furnished him in advance so as to enable him to prepare for trial (Moran, Rules of Court, 1957 Ed., Vol. I, p. 515; citing Valerio v. Tan, G.R. No. L-6446, September 19, 1955)." (Gattoc v. Sarena, L-11752, July 30, 1958.)

Conformably with the above cited rulings, the court a quo should have granted a new trial.

The appealed order stresses that petitioners-appellants were negligent in failing to apprise the court in due time of their intention to cross examine the witnesses of the opposing party and produce evidence of their own, when they had from August 8, 1963 to August 30, 1963 to do so. This delay can only be relevant as evidence of a waiver of the right to be heard. But there is no evidence of any such intention on the part of the appellants, and a renunciation of such a fundamental right (to their day in court) is not to be lightly inferred. After all, the Rules allow a party to move for a new trial on the ground of unavoidable accident within the period for perfecting an appeal (Rule 37, sec. 1), as the appellants have done; or even to ask relief within 60 days after learning of a judgment or order against them (Rule 38, sec. 3). That by greater diligence counsel could have avoided the court’s rendering, and then setting aside, a decision, is no ground for refusing his clients a relief to which they are entitled. Especially so when the trial court had before it a record clearly showing that appellants herein were not heard through no fault of their own.

Wherefore, the present petition for certiorari is hereby granted, the disputed resolution (dated December 4, 1962) reversed and set aside, and a new trial granted. The case is remanded to the court of origin for further proceedings consonant with this opinion. Without pronouncement as to costs.

Bengzon, C.J., Bautista Angelo, Concepcion, Dizon, Regala, Bengzon, J.P. and Zaldivar concur.

Makalintal, J., is on leave.

Endnotes:



1. Should be considered as motion for new trial.




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