Thursday, March 08, 2012

Villaluz vs. Ligon

Facts: Petitioner Villaluz and respondent Ligon were engaged in several businesses. Villaluz borrowed sums of money from Ligon secured by postdated checks amounting to P1,543,586.00 which later bounced for the reasons “Drawn Against Insufficient Funds/Account Closed.” Demands were made on Villaluz but she failed to pay her debt prompting Ligon to institute criminal proceedings for violation of BP 22 before the RTC Manila. During the hearing of said cases, Villaluz asked for the settlement of their controversy both parties executed a MOA. In accordance therewith Villaluz issued a check in the amount of P1,900,000.00 which again bounced upon presentment for the reason that it was drawn against a closed account. Ligon made several demands on Villaluz but to no avail. Ligon instituted a complaint against Villaluz with the RTC of Makati. Upon failure of Villaluz and her counsel to appear at the pre-trial conference, the RTC declared Villaluz as in default and received Ligon’s evidence ex-parte. The RTC ordered Villaluz to pay the amount prayed for. Villaluz through counsel, filed a Motion for New Trial and a Motion to Admit Answer which were both granted by the court. RTC of Makati rendered a decision in favor of the plaintiff. Villaluz went to the CA and claimed that the trial court erred: in not dismissing the case on the ground of forum shopping. CA denied the petition ruling that the motion to dismiss on the ground of forum shopping should have been filed within the time for but before filing of an answer to the complaint or pleading asserting a claim, pursuant to Section 1(e), Rule 16 of the Rules of Court.

Issue: Whether or not herein respondent committed forum shopping in this case 

Held: We agree with petitioner that the CA and respondent were mistaken in stating that there could be no forum shopping in this case since the case was filed prior to the effectivity of Admin. Circular No. 04-94 which required a certification of non-forum shopping. Respondent in his Comment contends that: there is no forum shopping in the case at bar since the present case was filed with the trial court on April 2, 1992, before Revised Circular No. 28-91 and Admin. Circular No. 04-94 took effect; the instant case is a collection of sum of money which sprung from the violation of the Memorandum of Agreement between the petitioner and respondent, while Criminal Case Nos. 98-73195-213 entitled People vs. Teresita Villaluz pertain to violation of B.P. Blg. 22 which is a penal law; the said cases have different nature; there is also no identity of causes of action since the first case involves a personal civil action for collection of a sum of money whereas the second case is a criminal action wherein the State has interest. While petitioner is correct in stating that the rule against forum shopping existed even prior to the issuance of Admin. Circular No. 04-94, we find that, in the present case, respondent did not commit forum shopping. There is forum shopping when, as a result of an adverse opinion in one forum, a party seeks a favorable opinion, other than by appeal or certiorari in another.

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