Republic of the
MA. IMELDA M. MANOTOC, G.R. No. 130974
- versus - QUISUMBING, J., Chairperson,
HONORABLE COURT OF TINGA, and
APPEALS and AGAPITA VELASCO, JR., JJ.
TRAJANO on behalf of the Estate
of ARCHIMEDES TRAJANO, Promulgated:
Respondents. August 16, 2006
D E C I S I O N
VELASCO, JR., J.:
The courts jurisdiction over a defendant is founded on a valid service of summons. Without a valid service, the court cannot acquire jurisdiction over the defendant, unless the defendant voluntarily submits to it. The defendant must be properly apprised of a pending action against him and assured of the opportunity to present his defenses to the suit. Proper service of summons is used to protect ones right to due process.
This Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 presents the core issue whether there was a valid substituted service of summons on petitioner for the trial court to acquire jurisdiction. Petitioner Manotoc claims the court a quo should have annulled the proceedings in the trial court for want of jurisdiction due to irregular and ineffective service of summons.
Petitioner is the defendant in Civil Case No. 63337 entitled Agapita Trajano, pro se, and on behalf of the Estate of Archimedes Trajano v. Imelda Imee R. Marcos-Manotoc for Filing, Recognition and/or Enforcement of Foreign Judgment. Respondent Trajano seeks the enforcement of a foreign courts judgment rendered on May 1, 1991 by the United States District Court of Honolulu, Hawaii, United States of America, in a case entitled Agapita Trajano, et al. v. Imee Marcos-Manotoc a.k.a. Imee Marcos, Civil Case No. 86-0207 for wrongful death of deceased Archimedes Trajano committed by military intelligence officials of the Philippines allegedly under the command, direction, authority, supervision, tolerance, sufferance and/or influence of defendant Manotoc, pursuant to the provisions of Rule 39 of the then Revised Rules of Court.
Based on paragraph
two of the Complaint, the trial court issued a Summons
hearing on the Motion to Dismiss, petitioner Manotoc presented Carlos Gonzales,
who testified that he saw defendant Manotoc as a visitor in
On the other
hand, Agapita Trajano, for plaintiffs estate, presented Robert Swift, lead counsel
for plaintiffs in the Estate of Ferdinand Marcos Human Rights Litigation, who
testified that he participated in the deposition taking of Ferdinand R. Marcos,
Jr.; and he confirmed that Mr. Marcos, Jr. testified that petitioners residence
was at the Alexandra Apartment, Greenhills. In addition, the entries
in the logbook of
Undaunted, Manotoc filed a Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition before the Court of Appeals (CA) on January 20, 1995, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 36214 seeking the annulment of the October 11, 1994 and December 21, 1994 Orders of Judge Aurelio C. Trampe.
Ruling of the Court of Appeals
In the same Decision, the CA also rejected petitioners Philippine passport as proof of her residency in Singapore as it merely showed the dates of her departure from and arrival in the Philippines without presenting the boilerplates last two (2) inside pages where petitioners residence was indicated. The CA considered the withholding of those pages as suppression of evidence. Thus, according to the CA, the trial court had acquired jurisdiction over petitioner as there was a valid substituted service pursuant to Section 8, Rule 14 of the old Revised Rules of Court.
Hence, petitioner has come before the Court for review on certiorari.
Petitioner raises the following assignment of errors for the Courts consideration:
I. RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED [A] SERIOUS ERROR IN RENDERING THE DECISION AND RESOLUTION IN QUESTION (ANNEXES A AND B) IN DEFIANCE OF LAW AND JURISPRUDENCE IN RULING THAT THE TRIAL COURT ACQUIRED JURISDICTION OVER THE PERSON OF THE PETITIONER THROUGH A SUBSTITUTED SERVICE OF SUMMONS IN ACCORDANCE WITH SECTION 8, RULE 14 OF THE REVISED RULES OF COURT.
II. RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED [A]
SERIOUS ERROR WHEN IT RULED THAT THERE WAS A VALID SERVICE OF
III. RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED [A]
SERIOUS ERROR IN CONCLUDING THAT THE RESIDENCE OF THE HUSBAND IS ALSO THE
RESIDENCE OF HIS WIFE CONTRARY TO THE RULING IN THE BANK OF THE PHILIPPINE
IV. RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED [A] SERIOUS ERROR IN FAILING TO APPLY THE RULE ON EXTRA-TERRITORIAL SERVICE OF SUMMONS UNDER SECTIONS 17 AND 18, RULE 14 OF THE REVISED RULES OF COURT.
The assigned errors bring to the fore the crux of the disagreementthe validity of the substituted service of summons for the trial court to acquire jurisdiction over petitioner.
The Courts Ruling
We GRANT the petition.
Acquisition of Jurisdiction
Jurisdiction over the defendant is acquired either upon a valid service of summons or the defendants voluntary appearance in court. When the defendant does not voluntarily submit to the courts jurisdiction or when there is no valid service of summons, any judgment of the court which has no jurisdiction over the person of the defendant is null and void. In an action strictly in personam, personal service on the defendant is the preferred mode of service, that is, by handing a copy of the summons to the defendant in person. If defendant, for excusable reasons, cannot be served with the summons within a reasonable period, then substituted service can be resorted to. While substituted service of summons is permitted, it is extraordinary in character and in derogation of the usual method of service. Hence, it must faithfully and strictly comply with the prescribed requirements and circumstances authorized by the rules. Indeed, compliance with the rules regarding the service of summons is as much important as the issue of due process as of jurisdiction.
Requirements for Substituted Service
Section 8 of Rule 14 of the old Revised Rules of Court which applies to this case provides:
SEC. 8.  Substituted service. If the defendant cannot be served within a reasonable time as provided in the preceding section [personal service on defendant], service may be effected (a) by leaving copies of the summons at the defendants residence with some person of suitable age and discretion then residing therein, or (b) by leaving the copies at defendants office or regular place of business with some competent person in charge thereof.
We can break down this section into the following requirements to effect a valid substituted service:
(1) Impossibility of Prompt Personal Service
The party relying on substituted service or the sheriff must show that defendant cannot be served promptly or there is impossibility of prompt service. Section 8, Rule 14 provides that the plaintiff or the sheriff is given a reasonable time to serve the summons to the defendant in person, but no specific time frame is mentioned. Reasonable time is defined as so much time as is necessary under the circumstances for a reasonably prudent and diligent man to do, conveniently, what the contract or duty requires that should be done, having a regard for the rights and possibility of loss, if any[,] to the other party. Under the Rules, the service of summons has no set period. However, when the court, clerk of court, or the plaintiff asks the sheriff to make the return of the summons and the latter submits the return of summons, then the validity of the summons lapses. The plaintiff may then ask for an alias summons if the service of summons has failed. What then is a reasonable time for the sheriff to effect a personal service in order to demonstrate impossibility of prompt service? To the plaintiff, reasonable time means no more than seven (7) days since an expeditious processing of a complaint is what a plaintiff wants. To the sheriff, reasonable time means 15 to 30 days because at the end of the month, it is a practice for the branch clerk of court to require the sheriff to submit a return of the summons assigned to the sheriff for service. The Sheriffs Return provides data to the Clerk of Court, which the clerk uses in the Monthly Report of Cases to be submitted to the Office of the Court Administrator within the first ten (10) days of the succeeding month. Thus, one month from the issuance of summons can be considered reasonable time with regard to personal service on the defendant.
Sheriffs are asked to discharge their duties on the service of summons with due care, utmost diligence, and reasonable promptness and speed so as not to prejudice the expeditious dispensation of justice. Thus, they are enjoined to try their best efforts to accomplish personal service on defendant. On the other hand, since the defendant is expected to try to avoid and evade service of summons, the sheriff must be resourceful, persevering, canny, and diligent in serving the process on the defendant. For substituted service of summons to be available, there must be several attempts by the sheriff to personally serve the summons within a reasonable period [of one month] which eventually resulted in failure to prove impossibility of prompt service. Several attempts means at least three (3) tries, preferably on at least two different dates. In addition, the sheriff must cite why such efforts were unsuccessful. It is only then that impossibility of service can be confirmed or accepted.
(2) Specific Details in the Return
The sheriff must
describe in the Return of Summons the facts and circumstances surrounding the
attempted personal service.
The efforts made to find the defendant
and the reasons behind the failure must be clearly narrated in detail in the Return. The date and time of the attempts on personal
service, the inquiries made to locate the defendant, the name/s of the occupants
of the alleged residence or house of defendant and all other acts done, though
futile, to serve the summons on defendant must be specified in the Return to justify
substituted service. The form on
Sheriffs Return of Summons on Substituted Service prescribed in the Handbook
for Sheriffs published by the Philippine Judicial Academy requires a narration
of the efforts made to find the defendant personally and the fact of failure. Supreme Court Administrative Circular No. 5
(3) A Person of Suitable Age and Discretion
If the substituted service will be effected at defendants house or residence, it should be left with a person of suitable age and discretion then residing therein. A person of suitable age and discretion is one who has attained the age of full legal capacity (18 years old) and is considered to have enough discernment to understand the importance of a summons. Discretion is defined as the ability to make decisions which represent a responsible choice and for which an understanding of what is lawful, right or wise may be presupposed. Thus, to be of sufficient discretion, such person must know how to read and understand English to comprehend the import of the summons, and fully realize the need to deliver the summons and complaint to the defendant at the earliest possible time for the person to take appropriate action. Thus, the person must have the relation of confidence to the defendant, ensuring that the latter would receive or at least be notified of the receipt of the summons. The sheriff must therefore determine if the person found in the alleged dwelling or residence of defendant is of legal age, what the recipients relationship with the defendant is, and whether said person comprehends the significance of the receipt of the summons and his duty to immediately deliver it to the defendant or at least notify the defendant of said receipt of summons. These matters must be clearly and specifically described in the Return of Summons.
(4) A Competent Person in Charge
If the substituted service will be done at defendants office or regular place of business, then it should be served on a competent person in charge of the place. Thus, the person on whom the substituted service will be made must be the one managing the office or business of defendant, such as the president or manager; and such individual must have sufficient knowledge to understand the obligation of the defendant in the summons, its importance, and the prejudicial effects arising from inaction on the summons. Again, these details must be contained in the Return.
Invalid Substituted Service in the Case at Bar
Let us examine the full text of the Sheriffs Return, which reads:
THIS IS TO CERTIFY that on many occasions several attempts were made to serve the summons with complaint and annexes issued by this Honorable Court in the above entitled case, personally upon the defendant IMELDA IMEE MARCOS-MANOTOC located at Alexandra Condominium Corpration [sic] or Alexandra Homes E-2 Room 104 No. 29 Merlaco [sic] Ave., Pasig, Metro-Manila at reasonable hours of the day but to no avail for the reason that said defendant is usually out of her place and/or residence or premises. That on the 15th day of July, 1993, substituted service of summons was resorted to in accordance with the Rules of Court in the Philippines leaving copy of said summons with complaint and annexes thru [sic] (Mr) Macky de la Cruz, caretaker of the said defendant, according to (Ms) Lyn Jacinto, Receptionist and Telephone Operator of the said building, a person of suitable age and discretion, living with the said defendant at the given address who acknowledged the receipt thereof of said processes but he refused to sign (emphases supplied).
WHEREFORE, said summons is hereby returned to this Honorable Court of origin, duly served for its record and information.
A meticulous scrutiny of the aforementioned Return readily reveals the absence of material data on the serious efforts to serve the Summons on petitioner Manotoc in person. There is no clear valid reason cited in the Return why those efforts proved inadequate, to reach the conclusion that personal service has become impossible or unattainable outside the generally couched phrases of on many occasions several attempts were made to serve the summons x x x personally, at reasonable hours during the day, and to no avail for the reason that the said defendant is usually out of her place and/or residence or premises. Wanting in detailed information, the Return deviates from the rulingin Domagas v. Jensen and other related casesthat the pertinent facts and circumstances on the efforts exerted to serve the summons personally must be narrated in the Return. It cannot be determined how many times, on what specific dates, and at what hours of the day the attempts were made. Given the fact that the substituted service of summons may be assailed, as in the present case, by a Motion to Dismiss, it is imperative that the pertinent facts and circumstances surrounding the service of summons be described with more particularity in the Return or Certificate of Service.
Besides, apart from the allegation of petitioners address in the Complaint, it has not been shown that respondent Trajano or Sheriff Caelas, who served such summons, exerted extraordinary efforts to locate petitioner. Certainly, the second paragraph of the Complaint only states that respondents were informed, and so [they] allege about the address and whereabouts of petitioner. Before resorting to substituted service, a plaintiff must demonstrate an effort in good faith to locate the defendant through more direct means. More so, in the case in hand, when the alleged petitioners residence or house is doubtful or has not been clearly ascertained, it would have been better for personal service to have been pursued persistently.
In the case Umandap v. Sabio, Jr., it may be true that the Court held that a Sheriffs Return, which states that despite efforts exerted to serve said process personally upon the defendant on several occasions the same proved futile, conforms to the requirements of valid substituted service. However, in view of the numerous claims of irregularities in substituted service which have spawned the filing of a great number of unnecessary special civil actions of certiorari and appeals to higher courts, resulting in prolonged litigation and wasteful legal expenses, the Court rules in the case at bar that the narration of the efforts made to find the defendant and the fact of failure written in broad and imprecise words will not suffice. The facts and circumstances should be stated with more particularity and detail on the number of attempts made at personal service, dates and times of the attempts, inquiries to locate defendant, names of occupants of the alleged residence, and the reasons for failure should be included in the Return to satisfactorily show the efforts undertaken. That such efforts were made to personally serve summons on defendant, and those resulted in failure, would prove impossibility of prompt personal service.
Moreover, to allow sheriffs to describe the facts and circumstances in inexact terms would encourage routine performance of their precise duties relating to substituted servicefor it would be quite easy to shroud or conceal carelessness or laxity in such broad terms. Lastly, considering that monies and properties worth millions may be lost by a defendant because of an irregular or void substituted service, it is but only fair that the Sheriffs Return should clearly and convincingly show the impracticability or hopelessness of personal service.
such a general description be considered adequate, there is still a serious nonconformity
from the requirement that the summons must be left with a person of suitable
age and discretion residing in defendants house or residence. Thus, there are two (2) requirements under
the Rules: (1) recipient must be a person of suitable age and discretion; and
(2) recipient must reside in the house or residence of defendant. Both requirements were not met. In this case, the Sheriffs Return lacks information
as to residence, age, and discretion of Mr. Macky de la Cruz, aside from the sheriffs
general assertion that de la Cruz is the resident caretaker of petitioner as
pointed out by a certain Ms. Lyn Jacinto, alleged receptionist and telephone
It has been stated and restated that substituted service of summons must faithfully and strictly comply with the prescribed requirements and in the circumstances authorized by the rules. 
Even American case law likewise stresses the principle of strict compliance with statute or rule on substituted service, thus:
The procedure prescribed by a statute or rule for substituted or constructive service must be strictly pursued. There must be strict compliance with the requirements of statutes authorizing substituted or constructive service.
Where, by the local law, substituted or constructive service is in certain situations authorized in the place of personal service when the latter is inconvenient or impossible, a strict and literal compliance with the provisions of the law must be shown in order to support the judgment based on such substituted or constructive service. Jurisdiction is not to be assumed and exercised on the general ground that the subject matter of the suit is within the power of the court. The inquiry must be as to whether the requisites of the statute have been complied with, and such compliance must appear on the record. The fact that the defendant had actual knowledge of attempted service does not render the service effectual if in fact the process was not served in accordance with the requirements of the statute.
Based on the above principles, respondent Trajano failed to demonstrate that there was strict compliance with the requirements of the then Section 8, Rule 14 (now Section 7, Rule 14 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure).
Due to non-compliance with the prerequisites for valid substituted service, the proceedings held before the trial court perforce must be annulled.
The court a quo heavily relied on the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty. It reasons out that [t]he certificate of service by the proper officer is prima facie evidence of the facts set out herein, and to overcome the presumption arising from said certificate, the evidence must be clear and convincing.
The Court acknowledges that this ruling is still a valid doctrine. However, for the presumption to apply, the Sheriffs Return must show that serious efforts or attempts were exerted to personally serve the summons and that said efforts failed. These facts must be specifically narrated in the Return. To reiterate, it must clearly show that the substituted service must be made on a person of suitable age and discretion living in the dwelling or residence of defendant. Otherwise, the Return is flawed and the presumption cannot be availed of. As previously explained, the Return of Sheriff Caelas did not comply with the stringent requirements of Rule 14, Section 8 on substituted service.
In the case of Venturanza v. Court of Appeals, it was held that x x x the presumption of regularity in the performance of official functions by the sheriff is not applicable in this case where it is patent that the sheriffs return is defective (emphasis supplied). While the Sheriffs Return in the Venturanza case had no statement on the effort or attempt to personally serve the summons, the Return of Sheriff Caelas in the case at bar merely described the efforts or attempts in general terms lacking in details as required by the ruling in the case of Domagas v. Jensen and other cases. It is as if Caelas Return did not mention any effort to accomplish personal service. Thus, the substituted service is void.
On the issue whether
petitioner Manotoc is a resident of
IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, this Petition for Review is hereby GRANTED and the assailed March 17, 1997 Decision and October 8, 1997 Resolution of the Court of Appeals and the October 11, 1994 and December 21, 1994 Orders of the Regional Trial Court, National Capital Judicial Region, Pasig City, Branch 163 are hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. No costs.
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING
ANTONIO T. CARPIO CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES
Associate Justice Associate Justice
DANTE O. TINGA
A T T E S T A T I O N
I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.
LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING
C E R T I F I C A T I O N
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, and the Division Chairpersons Attestation, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.
ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN
 See Samartino v. Raon, G.R. No. 131482,
Pa 641, 542 A2d 1370 and app den 518 Pa 642, 542 A2d 1370.