CASE: Kazuhiro Hasegawa and Nippon Engineering Consultants Co. vs Minoru Kitamura (G.R. nos. 149177 November 23, 2007)

PONENCIA: Nachura, J.:

CASE BRIEF

FACTS (Set 1):

Nippon Engineering Consultants Co., Ltd. (Nippon), a Japanese consultancy firm entered into an Independent Contractor Agreement (ICA) with Minoru Kitamura, a Japanese national permanently residing in the Philippines. The agreement provides that Kitamura was to extend professional services to Nippon for a year starting on April 1, 1999. 

A year thereafter, Nippon informed Kitamura that it had no more intention of automatically renewing his ICA. 

Threatened with impending unemployment, Kitamura requested a negotiation conference and demanded that his employment contract be extended. Nippon insisted that Kitamura’s contract was for a fixed term that had already expired, and refused to negotiate for the renewal of the ICA.

Consequently, Kitamura filed a complaint for specific performance and damages with the Regional Trial Court.

Nippon moved to dismiss the complaint on the ground of forum non conveniens contending that the ICA had been perfected in Japan and executed by and between Japanese nationals.

ISSUE: 

Whether the Motion to Dismiss filed by Nippon should be granted.

RULING:

Forum non conveniens, cannotbe used to deprive the trial court of its jurisdiction herein. First, it is not a proper basis for a motion to dismiss because Section 1, Rule 16 of the Rules of Court does not include it as a ground. Second, whether a suit should be entertained or dismissed on the basis of the said doctrine depends largely upon the facts of the particular case and is addressed to the sound discretion of the trial court. In this case, the RTC decided to assume jurisdiction. Third, the propriety of dismissing a case based on this principle requires a factual determination; hence, this conflicts principle is more properly considered a matter of defense.

FACTS (Set 2):

Nippon filed a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 before the Court of Appeals alleging grave abuse of discretion on the part of the RTC. The CA resolved to dismiss the petition on procedural grounds for lack of statement of material dates and for insufficient verification and certification against forum shopping.

Aggrieved by this development, Nippon filed with the CA a second Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 already stating therein the material dates and attaching thereto the proper verification and certification. This second petition, substantially raised the same issues as those in the first petition.

Kitamura questioned the filing of the second petition by Nippon, contending that the finality of the CA’s decision in the first petition has already barred the filing of the second petition (fundamentally raising the same issues as those in the first one).

ISSUE: Whether the dismissal of the first petition for insufficient verification and certification bars the filing of the second petition.

RULING:

The contention of Kitamura is not correct.

When the CA dismissed the first petition on account of defective certification of non-forum shopping, it was a dismissal without prejudice. The same holds true in the CA’s dismissal of the said case due to defects in the formal requirement of verification and in the other requirement in Rule 46 of the Rules of Court on the statement of the material dates. The dismissal being without prejudice, Nippon can re-file the petition, or file a second petition attaching thereto the appropriate verification and certification as they, in fact did and stating therein the material dates, within the prescribed period in Section 4, Rule 65 of the said Rules.The dismissal of a case without prejudice signifies the absence of a decision on the merits and leaves the parties free to litigate the matter in a subsequent action as though the dismissed action had not been commenced.

THINGS DECIDED:

a) Forum non convenience is not a proper basis for a motion to dismiss because Section 1, Rule 16 of the Rules of Court does not include it as a ground. Second, whether a suit should be entertained or dismissed on the basis of the said doctrine depends largely upon the facts of the particular case and is addressed to the sound discretion of the trial court.

b) When the CA dismissed the first petition on account of defective certification of non-forum shopping, it was a dismissal without prejudice. The petitioner can re-file the petition, or file a second petition attaching thereto the appropriate verification and certification.

‘Stand by things decided.’ ~ Stare Decisis

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