G.R. No. 130974 : August 16 2006
Topic: Valid substituted service of summons
- Respondent Trajano seeks the enforcement of a foreign court’s judgment (Hawaii) in a case entitled Agapita Trajano, et al. v. Imee Marcos-Manotoc a.k.a. Imee Marcos, Civil Case No. 86-0207
- for wrongful death of deceased Archimedes Trajano committed by military intelligence officials of the Philippines allegedly under the command, direction, authority, supervision, tolerance, sufferance and/or influence of defendant Manotoc, pursuant to the provisions of Rule 39 of the then Revised Rules of Court.
- Manotoc is the defendant in Civil Case which seeks the enforcement of a foreign court’s judgment (Hawaii).
- Based on paragraph two of the Complaint, the trial court issued a Summons to petitioner at Alexandra Homes.
- Summons and a copy of the Complaint were allegedly served upon (Mr.) Macky de la Cruz, an alleged caretaker of petitioner at the condominium unit mentioned earlier.
- When petitioner failed to file her Answer, the trial court declared her in default through an Order.
- 1993, Manotoc filed a Motion to Dismiss on the ground of lack of jurisdiction of the trial court over her person due to an invalid substituted service of summons.
- The grounds to support the motion were: (1) the address of defendant indicated in the Complaint (Alexandra Homes) was not her dwelling, residence, or regular place of business as provided in Section 8, Rule 14 of the Rules of Court; (2) the party (de la Cruz), who was found in the unit, was neither a representative, employee, nor a resident of the place; (3) the procedure prescribed by the Rules on personal and substituted service of summons was ignored; (4) defendant was a resident of Singapore; and (5) whatever judgment rendered in this case would be ineffective and futile.
- 1994, RTC rejected Manotoc’s Motion To Dismiss. It relied on the presumption that the sheriff’s substituted service was made in the regular performance of official duty, and such presumption stood in the absence of proof to the contrary.
- 1997, CA dismissed Manotoc’s Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition (which sought to annull RTC Orders). It upheld RTC’s decision.
- According to the CA, the trial court had acquired jurisdiction over petitioner as there was a valid substituted service pursuant to Section 8, Rule 14 of the old Revised Rules of Court.
- Manotoc filed a Petition for Review on Certiorari 1 under Rule 45. He claimed that CA should have annulled the proceedings in the trial court for want of jurisdiction due to irregular and ineffective service of summons.
W/N CA erred in holding that there was a valid substituted service of summons on petitioner for the RTC to acquire jurisdiction?
YES. CA erred in holding that there was a valid substituted service of summons on petitioner for the RTC to acquire jurisdiction.
- Jurisdiction over the defendant is acquired either upon a valid service of summons or the defendant’s voluntary appearance in court. When the defendant does not voluntarily submit to the court’s jurisdiction or when there is no valid service of summons, “any judgment of the court which has no jurisdiction over the person of the defendant is null and void.”
- In an action strictly in personam, personal service on the defendant is the preferred mode of service, that is, by handing a copy of the summons to the defendant in person.
- If defendant, for excusable reasons, cannot be served with the summons within a reasonable period, then substituted service can be resorted to. While substituted service of summons is permitted, “it is extraordinary in character and in derogation of the usual method of service.”
- Hence, it must faithfully and strictly comply with the prescribed requirements and circumstances authorized by the rules. Indeed, “compliance with the rules regarding the service of summons is as much important as the issue of due process as of jurisdiction.”
- Based on the above principles, respondent Trajano failed to demonstrate that there was strict compliance with the requirements of the then Section 8, Rule 14 (now Section 7, Rule 14 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure).
- Due to non-compliance with the prerequisites for valid substituted service, the proceedings held before the trial court perforce must be annulled.
- The court a quo heavily relied on the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty. It reasons out that “[t]he certificate of service by the proper officer is prima facie evidence of the facts set out herein, and to overcome the presumption arising from said certificate, the evidence must be clear and convincing.”