Republic of the
145370. March 4, 2004]
ANCHETA, petitioner, vs. RODOLFO S. ANCHETA, respondent.
E C I S I O N
CALLEJO, SR., J.:
This is a petition for review on certiorari of the Resolution
of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 59550 which dismissed the
petitioner’s petition under Rule 47 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure to
annul the Order
of the Regional Trial Court of Naic, Cavite, Branch 15 in Special
Proceedings No. NC-662 nullifying the marriage of the petitioner and the
respondent Rodolfo S. Ancheta, and of the resolution of the appellate court
denying the motion for reconsideration of the said resolution.
This case arose from the following facts:
After their marriage on March 5, 1959, the petitioner and the respondent
resided in Muntinlupa, Metro Manila. They had eight children during their
coverture, whose names and dates of births are as follows:
a. ANA MARIE B . ANCHETA – born October 6, 1959
b. RODOLFO B. ANCHETA, JR. – born March 7, 1961
c. VENANCIO MARIANO B. ANCHETA – born May 18, 1962
d. GERARDO B. ANCHETA – born April 8, 1963
e. KATHRINA B. ANCHETA – born October 29, 1965
f. ANTONIO B. ANCHETA – born March 6, 1967
g. NATASHA MARTINA B. ANCHETA - born August 2, 1968
h. FRITZIE YOLANDA B. ANCHETA – born November 19, 1970
On December 6, 1992, the respondent left the conjugal home and abandoned the
petitioner and their children. On January 25, 1994, petitioner Marietta
Ancheta filed a petition with the Regional Trial Court of Makati, Branch 40,
against the respondent for the dissolution of their conjugal partnership and
judicial separation of property with a plea for support and support
pendente lite. The case was docketed as Sp. Proc. No. M-3735. At that
time, the petitioner was renting a house at No. 72 CRM Avenue cor. CRM
Corazon, BF Homes, Almanza, Las Piñas, Metro Manila.
On April 20, 1994, the parties executed a Compromise Agreement
where some of the conjugal properties were adjudicated to the petitioner and
her eight children, including the following:
b. A parcel of land (adjoining the two lots covered by TCT Nos. 120082 and
TCT No. 120083-Cavite) located at Bancal, Carmona, Cavite, registered in the
name of the family Ancheta. Biofood Corporation under TCT No. 310882,
together with the resort Munting Paraiso, Training Center, four-storey
building, pavilion, swimming pool and all improvements. All of the shares
of stocks of Ancheta Biofoods Corporation were distributed one-third (1/3)
to the petitioner and the eight children one-twelfth (1/12) each.
The court rendered judgment based on the said compromise agreement.
Conformably thereto, the respondent vacated, on June 1, 1994, the resort
Munting Paraiso and all the buildings and improvements thereon. The
petitioner, with the knowledge of the respondent, thenceforth resided in the
In the meantime, the respondent intended to marry again. On June 5, 1995,
he filed a petition with the Regional Trial Court of Naic, Cavite, Branch
15, for the declaration of nullity of his marriage with the petitioner on
the ground of psychological incapacity. The case was docketed as Sp. Proc.
No. NC-662. Although the respondent knew that the petitioner was already
residing at the resort Munting Paraiso in Bancal, Carmona, Cavite, he,
nevertheless, alleged in his petition that the petitioner was residing at
No. 72 CRM Avenue corner CRM Corazon, BF Homes, Almanza, Las Piñas, Metro
Manila, “where she may be served with summons.”
The clerk of court issued summons to the petitioner at the address stated in
The sheriff served the summons and a copy of the petition by substituted
service on June 6, 1995 on the petitioner’s son, Venancio Mariano B. Ancheta
III, at his residence in Bancal, Carmona, Cavite.
On June 21, 1995, Sheriff Jose R. Salvadora, Jr. submitted a Return of
Service to the court stating that the summons and a copy of the petition
were served on the petitioner through her son Venancio Mariano B. Ancheta
III on June 6, 1995:
RETURN OF SERVICE
This is to certify that the summons together with the copy of the complaint
and its annexes was received by the herein defendant thru his son Venancio
M.B. Ancheta [III] as evidenced by the signature appearing on the summons.
Service was made on June 6, 1995.
June 21, 1995, Naic, Cavite.
JOSE R. SALVADORA, JR.
The petitioner failed to file an answer to the petition. On June 22, 1995,
the respondent filed an “Ex-Parte Motion to Declare Defendant as in Default”
setting it for hearing on June 27, 1995 at 8:30 a.m. During the hearing on
the said date, there was no appearance for the petitioner. The public
prosecutor appeared for the State and offered no objection to the motion of
the respondent who appeared with counsel. The trial court granted the motion
and declared the petitioner in default, and allowed the respondent to adduce
evidence ex-parte. The respondent testified in his behalf and
adduced documentary evidence. On July 7, 1995, the trial court issued an
Order granting the petition and declaring the marriage of the parties void
The clerk of court issued a Certificate of Finality of the Order of the
court on July 16, 1996.
On February 14, 1998, Valentine’s Day, the respondent and Teresita H. Rodil
were married in civil rights before the municipal mayor of Indang, Cavite.
On July 7, 2000, the petitioner filed a verified petition against the
respondent with the Court of Appeals under Rule 47 of the Rules of Court, as
amended, for the annulment of the order of the RTC of Cavite in Special
Proceedings No. NC-662. The case was docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 59550. The
petitioner alleged, inter alia, that the respondent committed gross
misrepresentations by making it appear in his petition in Sp. Proc. No.
NC-662 that she was a resident of No. 72 CRM Avenue cor. CRM Corazon, BF
Homes, Almanza, Las Piñas, Metro Manila, when in truth and in fact, the
respondent knew very well that she was residing at Munting Paraiso, Bancal,
Carmona, Cavite. According to the petitioner, the respondent did so to
deprive her of her right to be heard in the said case, and ultimately secure
a favorable judgment without any opposition thereto. The petitioner also
alleged that the respondent caused the service of the petition and summons
on her by substituted service through her married son, Venancio Mariano B.
Ancheta III, a resident of Bancal, Carmona, Cavite, where the respondent was
a resident. Furthermore, Venancio M.B. Ancheta III failed to deliver to her
the copy of the petition and summons. Thus, according to the petitioner, the
order of the trial court in favor of the respondent was null and void (1)
for lack of jurisdiction over her person; and (2) due to the extrinsic fraud
perpetrated by the respondent. She further contended that there was no
factual basis for the trial court’s finding that she was suffering from
psychological incapacity. Finally, the petitioner averred that she learned
of the Order of the RTC only on January 11, 2000. Appended to the petition,
inter alia, were the affidavits of the petitioner and of Venancio M.B.
The petitioner prayed that, after due proceedings, judgment be rendered in
her favor, thus:
WHEREFORE, petitioner respectfully prays this Honorable Court to render
Judgment granting the Petition.
1. Declaring null and void the Order dated June 7, 1995 (of the Regional
Trial Court, Branch 14, Naic, Cavite).
2. Ordering respondent to pay petitioner
P1,000,000.00 as moral damages;
P500,000.00 as exemplary damages;
P200,000.00 as attorney’s fees plus P7,500.00 per diem for every
P100,000.00 as litigation expenses;
e. Costs of suit.
On July 13, 2000, the CA issued a Resolution dismissing the petition on the
We cannot give due course to the present petition in default or in the
absence of any clear and specific averment by petitioner that the ordinary
remedies of new trial, appeal, petition for relief or other appropriate
remedies are no longer available through no fault of petitioner. Neither is
there any averment or allegation that the present petition is based only on
the grounds of extrinsic fraud and lack of jurisdiction. Nor yet that, on
the assumption that extrinsic fraud can be a valid ground therefor, that it
was not availed of, or could not have been availed of, in a motion for new
trial, or petition for relief.
The petitioner filed a motion for the reconsideration of the said
resolution, appending thereto an amended petition in which she alleged,
inter alia, that:
4. This petition is based purely on the grounds of extrinsic fraud and lack
5. This petition has not prescribed; it was filed within the four-year
period after discovery of the extrinsic fraud.
6. The ground of extrinsic fraud has not been availed of, or could not have
been availed of in a motion for new trial or petition for relief.
7. The ground of lack of jurisdiction is not barred by laches and/or
8. The ordinary remedies of new trial, appeal, petition for relief or other
appropriate remedies were no longer available through no fault of
petitioner; neither has she ever availed of the said remedies. This petition
is the only available remedy to her.
The petitioner also alleged therein that the order of the trial court
nullifying her and the respondent’s marriage was null and void for the court
a quo’s failure to order the public prosecutor to conduct an
investigation on whether there was collusion between the parties, and to
order the Solicitor General to appear for the State.
On September 27, 2000, the CA issued a Resolution denying the said motion.
The petitioner filed a petition for review on certiorari with this Court
alleging that the CA erred as follows:
1. In failing to take into consideration the kind of Order which was sought
to be annulled.
2. In finding that the Petition was procedurally flawed.
3. In not finding that the Petition substantially complied with the
requirements of the Rules of Court.
4. In failing to comply with Section 5, Rule 47, Rules of Court.
5. In not even considering/resolving Petitioner’s Motion to Admit the
Amended Petition; and in not admitting the Amended Petition.
6. In failing to apply the Rules of Procedure with liberality.
The petition is meritorious.
An original action in the Court of Appeals under Rule 47 of the Rules of
Court, as amended, to annul a judgment or final order or resolution in civil
actions of the RTC may be based on two grounds: (a) extrinsic fraud; or (b)
lack of jurisdiction. If based on extrinsic fraud, the remedy is subject to
a condition precedent, namely, the ordinary remedies of new trial, appeal,
petition for relief or other appropriate remedies are no longer available
through no fault of the petitioner.
The petitioner must allege in the petition that the ordinary remedies of new
trial, appeal, petition for relief from judgment, under Rule 38 of the Rules
of Court are no longer available through no fault of hers; otherwise, the
petition will be dismissed. If the petitioner fails to avail of the
remedies of new trial, appeal or relief from judgment through her own fault
or negligence before filing her petition with the Court of Appeals, she
cannot resort to the remedy under Rule 47 of the Rules; otherwise, she would
benefit from her inaction or negligence.
It is not enough to allege in the petition that the said remedies were no
longer available through no fault of her own. The petitioner must also
explain and justify her failure to avail of such remedies. The safeguard was
incorporated in the rule precisely to avoid abuse of the remedy.
Access to the courts is guaranteed. But there must be limits thereto. Once
a litigant’s rights have been adjudicated in a valid final judgment of a
competent court, he should not be granted an unbridled license to sue anew.
The prevailing party should not be vexed by subsequent suits.
In this case, the petitioner failed to allege in her petition in the CA that
the ordinary remedies of new trial, appeal, and petition for relief, were no
longer available through no fault of her own. She merely alleged therein
that she received the assailed order of the trial court on January 11, 2000.
The petitioner’s amended petition did not cure the fatal defect in her
original petition, because although she admitted therein that she did not
avail of the remedies of new trial, appeal or petition for relief from
judgment, she did not explain why she failed to do so.
We, however, rule that the Court of Appeals erred in dismissing the original
petition and denying admission of the amended petition. This is so because
apparently, the Court of Appeals failed to take note from the material
allegations of the petition, that the petition was based not only on
extrinsic fraud but also on lack of jurisdiction over the person of the
petitioner, on her claim that the summons and the copy of the complaint in
Sp. Proc. No. NC-662 were not served on her. While the original petition and
amended petition did not state a cause of action for the nullification of
the assailed order on the ground of extrinsic fraud, we rule, however, that
it states a sufficient cause of action for the nullification of the assailed
order on the ground of lack of jurisdiction of the RTC over the person of
the petitioner, notwithstanding the absence of any allegation therein that
the ordinary remedy of new trial or reconsideration, or appeal are no longer
available through no fault of the petitioner.
In a case where a petition for the annulment of a judgment or final order of
the RTC filed under Rule 47 of the Rules of Court is grounded on lack of
jurisdiction over the person of the defendant/respondent or over the nature
or subject of the action, the petitioner need not allege in the petition
that the ordinary remedy of new trial or reconsideration of the final order
or judgment or appeal therefrom are no longer available through no fault of
her own. This is so because a judgment rendered or final order issued by
the RTC without jurisdiction is null and void and may be assailed any time
either collaterally or in a direct action or by resisting such judgment or
final order in any action or proceeding whenever it is invoked,
unless barred by laches.
In this case, the original petition and the amended petition in the Court of
Appeals, in light of the material averments therein, were based not only on
extrinsic fraud, but also on lack of jurisdiction of the trial court over
the person of the petitioner because of the failure of the sheriff to serve
on her the summons and a copy of the complaint. She claimed that the
summons and complaint were served on her son, Venancio Mariano B. Ancheta
III, who, however, failed to give her the said summons and complaint.
Even a cursory reading of the material averments of the original petition
and its annexes will show that it is, prima facie meritorious; hence,
it should have been given due course by the Court of Appeals.
Paramount Insurance Corporation v. Japzon,
we held that jurisdiction is acquired by a trial court over the person of
the defendant either by his voluntary appearance in court and his submission
to its authority or by service of summons. The service of summons and the
complaint on the defendant is to inform him that a case has been filed
against him and, thus, enable him to defend himself. He is, thus, put on
guard as to the demands of the plaintiff or the petitioner. Without such
service in the absence of a valid waiver renders the judgment of the court
null and void.
Jurisdiction cannot be acquired by the court on the person of the defendant
even if he knows of the case against him unless he is validly served with
Summons and complaint may be served on the defendant either by handing a
copy thereof to him in person, or, if he refuses to receive and sign for it,
by tendering it to her.
However, if there is impossibility of prompt service of the summons
personally on the defendant despite diligent efforts to find him, service of
the summons may be effected by substituted service as provided in Section 7,
Rule 14 of the said Rules:
SEC. 7. Substituted service.— If, for justifiable causes, the
defendant cannot be served within a reasonable time as provided in the
preceding section, service may be effected (a) by leaving copies of the
summons at the defendant’s residence with some person of suitable age and
discretion then residing therein, or (b) by leaving the copies of
defendant’s office or regular place of business with some competent person
in charge thereof.
Miranda v. Court of Appeals,
we held that the modes of service should be strictly followed in order that
the court may acquire jurisdiction over the person of the defendant. Thus,
it is only when a defendant cannot be served personally within a reasonable
time that substituted service may be made by stating the efforts made to
find him and personally serve on him the summons and complaint and the fact
that such effort failed.
This statement should be made in the proof of service to be accomplished and
filed in court by the sheriff. This is necessary because substituted
service is a derogation of the usual method of service. It has been held
that substituted service of summons is a method extraordinary in character;
hence, may be used only as prescribed and in the circumstances categorized
As gleaned from the petition and the amended petition in the CA and the
annexes thereof, the summons in Sp. Proc. No. NC-662 was issued on June 6,
On the same day, the summons was served on and received by Venancio Mariano
B. Ancheta III,
the petitioner’s son. When the return of summons was submitted to the court
by the sheriff on June 21, 1995, no statement was made on the impossibility
of locating the defendant therein within a reasonable time, or that any
effort was made by the sheriff to locate the defendant. There was no
mention therein that Venancio Mariano Ancheta III was residing at No. 72 CRM
Avenue cor. CRM Corazon, BF Homes, Almanza, Las Piñas, where the petitioner
(defendant therein) was allegedly residing. It turned out that Venancio
Mariano B. Ancheta III had been residing at Bancal, Carmona, Cavite, and
that his father merely showed him the summons and the complaint and was made
to affix his signature on the face of the summons; he was not furnished with
a copy of the said summons and complaint.
4. From the time my father started staying at Munting Paraiso, Bancal,
Carmona, Cavite, I have been residing on the adjoining land consisting of
two (2) lots later apportioned to my father as his share of the conjugal
partnership. Since then, I have been residing therein up to the present.
5. On June 6, 1995, at Bancal, Carmona, Cavite (at my residence situated on
my father’s lot), my father came to see me and then asked me to sign and I
did sign papers which he (my father) and the Sheriff did not allow me to
read. Apparently, these papers are for the Summons to my mother in the case
for annulment of marriage filed by my father against her. I was not given
any copy of the Summons and/or copy of the complaint/petition.
We, thus, rule that the Court of Appeals acted arbitrarily in dismissing the
original petition of the petitioner and the amended petition for annulment
of the assailed order grounded on lack of jurisdiction over the person of
The action in Rule 47 of the Rules of Court does not involve the merits of
the final order of the trial court. However, we cannot but express alarm at
what transpired in the court a quo as shown by the records. The
records show that for the petitioner’s failure to file an answer to the
complaint, the trial court granted the motion of the respondent herein to
declare her in default. The public prosecutor condoned the acts of the
trial court when he interposed no objection to the motion of the
respondent. The trial court forthwith received the evidence of the
respondent ex-parte and rendered judgment against the petitioner
without a whimper of protest from the public prosecutor. The actuations of
the trial court and the public prosecutor are in defiance of Article 48 of
the Family Code, which reads:
Article 48. In all cases of annulment or declaration of absolute nullity of
marriage, the Court shall order the prosecuting attorney or fiscal assigned
to it to appear on behalf of the State to take steps to prevent collusion
between the parties and to take care that evidence is not fabricated or
In the cases referred to in the preceding paragraph, no judgment shall be
based upon a stipulation of facts or confession of judgment.
The trial court and the public prosecutor also ignored Rule 18, Section 6 of
the 1985 Rules of Court (now Rule 9, Section 3[e] of the 1997 Rules of Civil
Procedure) which provides:
Sec. 6. No defaults in actions for annulment of marriage or for legal
separation.— If the defendant in an action for annulment of marriage or
for legal separation fails to answer, the court shall order the prosecuting
attorney to investigate whether or not a collusion between the parties
exits, and if there is no collusion, to intervene for the State in order to
see to it that the evidence submitted is not fabricated.
In the case of
Republic v. Court of Appeals,
this Court laid down the guidelines in the interpretation and application of
Art. 48 of the Family Code, one of which concerns the role of the
prosecuting attorney or fiscal and the Solicitor General to appear as
counsel for the State:
(8) The trial court must order the prosecuting attorney or fiscal and the
Solicitor General to appear as counsel for the state. No decision shall be
handed down unless the Solicitor General issues a certification, which will
be quoted in the decision, briefly stating therein his reasons for his
agreement or opposition, as the case may be, to the petition. The Solicitor
General, along with the prosecuting attorney, shall submit to the court such
certification within fifteen (15) days from the date the case is deemed
submitted for resolution of the court. The Solicitor General shall
discharge the equivalent function of the defensor vinculi
contemplated under Canon 1095.
This Court in the case of
Malcampo-Sin v. Sin
reiterated its pronouncement in
Republic v. Court of Appeals,
regarding the role of the prosecuting attorney or fiscal and the Solicitor
General to appear as counsel for the State.
The trial court, abetted by the ineptitude, if not sheer negligence of the
public prosecutor, waylaid the Rules of Court and the Family Code, as well
as the rulings of this Court.
The task of protecting marriage as an inviolable social institution requires
vigilant and zealous participation and not mere pro-forma compliance. The
protection of marriage as a sacred institution requires not just the defense
of a true and genuine union but the exposure of an invalid one as well.
grant of annulment of marriage or legal separation by default is fraught
with the danger of collusion. Hence, in all cases for annulment, declaration
of nullity of marriage and legal separation, the prosecuting attorney or
fiscal is ordered to appear on behalf of the State for the purpose of
preventing any collusion between the parties and to take care that their
evidence is not fabricated or suppressed. If the defendant-spouse fails to
answer the complaint, the court cannot declare him or her in default but
instead, should order the prosecuting attorney to determine if collusion
exists between the parties. The prosecuting attorney or fiscal may oppose
the application for legal separation or annulment through the presentation
of his own evidence, if in his opinion, the proof adduced is dubious and
Our constitution is committed to the policy of strengthening the family as a
basic social institution. Our family law is based on the policy that
marriage is not a mere contract, but a social institution in which the State
is vitally interested. The State can find no stronger anchor than on good,
solid and happy families. The break-up of families weakens our social and
moral fabric; hence, their preservation is not the concern of the family
Whether or not a marriage should continue to exist or a family should stay
together must not depend on the whims and caprices of only one party, who
claims that the other suffers psychological imbalance, incapacitating such
party to fulfill his or her marital duties and obligations.
IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING,
the petition is GRANTED. The Resolutions of the Court of Appeals dated July
13, 2000 and September 27, 2000 in CA-G.R. SP No. 59550 are hereby SET ASIDE
and REVERSED. Let the records of CA-G.R. SP No. 59550 be remanded to the
Court of Appeals for further proceedings conformably with the Decision of
this Court and Rule 47 of the Rules of Court, as amended.
Quisumbing, (Acting Chairman), Austria-Martinez,
and Tinga, JJ., concur.
Puno, J., (Chairman),