Sunday, March 11, 2012

Robinson vs. Mirales

Facts: Remelita Robinson owed Celita Mirales US$20,054.00 as shown in a memo agreement they had on Jan 2000. 8 months later Mirales filed a claim for the sum of money with the RTC Paranaque. The summons was issued by the court but when serving the summons the sheriff wasn’t able to serve the summons because the residence of the defendant Robinson was apparently transferred. The sherriff then went to the new address of Robinson at Alabang Hills. At the gate of Alabang hills (village) the security guard refused to admit the sheriff in to deliver the summons. The guard by the name of Gerroche said that he had specific instructions not to let any person in who is looking for Robinson when she is not around. This occurrence apparently happened twice. The security guard received the summons but refused to sign a receipt. Mirales then seized the opportunity to petition the court for the default of Robinson in the case for failure to answer the service of summons. The RTC favored Mirales, declared Robinson in default and proceeded with the case allowing Mirales to adduce evidence. Then 5 months later the RTC favored Mirales with a judgement, ordering Robinson to pay with interest, moral damages, atty’s fees and cost of suit. Robinson contested the decision saying the the summons was improperly served (on the security guard). 

Issue: Whether or not Robinson is in default 

Held: YES, Robinson was in default because there was sufficient tender of the summons. 

Summons is a writ by which the defendant is notified of the action brought against him or her. In a civil action, service of summons is the means by which the court acquires jurisdiction over the person of the defendant. Any judgment without such service, in the absence of a valid waiver, is null and void. Where the action is in personam and the defendant is in the Philippines, the service of summons may be made through personal or substituted service in the manner provided for in Sections 6 and 7, Rule 14 of the 1997 Rules of Procedure 

Under our procedural rules, personal service is generally preferred over substituted service, the latter mode of service being a method extraordinary in character. For substituted service to be justified, the following circumstances must be clearly established: (a) personal service of summons within a reasonable time was impossible; (b) efforts were exerted to locate the party; and (c) the summons was served upon a person of sufficient age and discretion residing at the party’s residence or upon a competent person in charge of the party’s office or place of business. Failure to do so would invalidate all subsequent proceedings on jurisdictional grounds 

The fact that Robinson instructed the guard not to let any person in when she’s not around and her failure to repudiate this fact and the fact that she failed to deny receipt of summons from the guard worked against her in this case.

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