CASE BrieF NO. 2018-0004

CASE: Samson Lim Bio Hian vs. Joaquin Lim Eng Tian/Johnson Lim Bio Tiong vs. Joaquin Lim Eng Tian [G.R. No. 195472/G.R. No. 195568 January 8, 2018]

PONENTE: AssociateJustice Samuel Martires

SUBJECT:

  1. Remedial Law:
    i. Final and Executory Judgement – effect
  2. Political Law:
    i. Justiciable controversy
    ii. Moot and academic – meaning

Where a decision on the merits of a case is rendered and the same has become final and executory, the action on procedural matters or issues is thereby rendered moot and academic.”

FACTS:
The Samson Lim Bio Tian (Samson) and Johnson Lim Bio Tiong (Johnson) and Joaquin Lim Eng Tian (Joaquin) are co-owners of a parcel of land. Joaquin wanted to have the said land partitioned but Samson and Johnson refused to heed his demand, thus, he filed a complaint for partition.

Summons and copies of the complaint were served upon Johnson and Samson who, in turn, filed their respective pleadings. After the issues were joined, the RTC set the case for pre-trial conference. Notices were sent to the parties and their respective counsels.

When the case was called for pre-trial, only Joaquin and Johnson and their respective counsels appeared. However, Johnson filed his pre-trial brief only on that day. Samson and his counsel also failed to appear. Thus, the RTC issued an order, wherein it ruled that both Johnson and Samson failed to file a pre-trial brief. Joaquin was thus allowed to submit his evidence ex parte.

Thereafter, Samson moved for reconsideration of the RTC’s order. He averred that the non-appearance of his counsel during the pre-trial should be excused as the latter was busy attending a seminar in Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE). He did not, however, offer any reason for his own failure to appear. Johnson also filed a motion for reconsideration, arguing that he and his counsel decided to submit personally his pre-trial brief on the pre-trial date instead of by mail because they were apprehensive that the court would not receive it on time.

This time, the RTC granted Johnson and Samson’s motions thereby allowing Johnson and Samson to cross-examine Joaquin and the Pre-Trial Brief belatedly submitted by them were admitted.

Joaquin moved for reconsideration but the same was denied by the RTC. Aggrieved, Joaquin filed a petition for certiorari before the CA.

The CA nullified the order of the RTC. It observed that Samson did not bother to offer any excuse for his non-appearance during the pre-trial conference nor for not filing a pre-trial brief. The appellate court added that Johnson’s excuse that he opted to personally file his Brief on the date set for pre-trial instead of filing it by mail, because he did not rely on the mail service, was flimsy and could not be given credence.


Johnson and Samson moved for reconsideration but were denied by the CA in a resolution, dated 9 February 2011. Undeterred, Johnson and Samson filed a petition for review before this Court.

Meanwhile, on 21 February 2013, the RTC rendered a decision in the action for partition and ruled that Johnson, as co-owner of the parcel of land, was entitled to demand its partition. The decision of the RTC was affirmed by the CA and on 15 December 2016, the CA judgment became final and executory.

ISSUE:                                                          

A.       Whether the petition filed by Johnson and Samson presents a justiciable controversy after the decision on the action for partition has already become final and executory.

RULING:
The existence of an actual case or controversy is a necessary condition precedent to the court’s exercise of its power of adjudication. An actual case or controversy exists when there is a conflict of legal rights or an assertion of opposite legal claims between the parties that is susceptible or ripe for judicial resolution. In the negative, a justiciable controversy must neither be conjectural nor moot and academic. There must be a definite and concrete dispute touching on the legal relations of the parties who have adverse legal interests. The reason is that the issue ceases to be justiciable when a controversy becomes moot and academic; otherwise, the court would engage in rendering an advisory opinion on what the law would be upon a hypothetical state of facts.

A case becomes moot and academic when, by virtue of supervening events, the conflicting issue that may be resolved by the court ceases to exist. While it is true that this court may assume jurisdiction over a case that has been rendered moot and academic by supervening events, the following instances must be present:
(1)     Grave constitutional violations;
(2)     Exceptional character of the case;
(3)     Paramount public interest;
(4)     The case presents an opportunity to guide the bench, the bar, and the public; or
(5)     The case is capable of repetition yet evading review.

None of these circumstances is present in this case. The issue raised in this petition was rendered moot and academic by the final and executory decision in the main action for partition.

To explain further, the question presented in this petition is merely procedural, i.e., whether the defendant may be allowed to cross-examine the plaintiff after the trial court had allowed the latter to present his evidence ex parte. It is axiomatic in this jurisdiction that where a decision on the merits of a case is rendered and the same has become final and executory, the action on procedural matters or issues is thereby rendered moot and academic. Inarguably, an adjudication of the procedural issue presented for resolution would be a futile exercise.
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THINGS DECIDED:

A) An actual case or controversy exists when there is a conflict of legal rights or an assertion of opposite legal claims between the parties that is susceptible or ripe for judicial resolution.

B) A case becomes moot and academic when, by virtue of supervening events, the conflicting issue that may be resolved by the court ceases to exist.

C) Where a decision on the merits of a case is rendered and the same has become final and executory, the action on procedural matters or issues is thereby rendered moot and academic.

‘Stand by things decided’ ~ Stare Decisis


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