Republic of the
CLARITA DEPAKAKIBO GARCIA,
- versus -
SANDIGANBAYAN and REPUBLIC
CLARITA DEPAKAKIBO GARCIA,
- versus -
SANDIGANBAYAN and REPUBLIC
G.R. No. 170122
G.R. No. 171381
CARPIO, J., Chairperson,
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,* and
October 12, 2009
D E C I S I O N
VELASCO, JR., J.:
Before us are these two (2) consolidated petitions under Rule 65, each interposed by petitioner Clarita D. Garcia, with application for injunctive relief. In the first petition for mandamus and/or certiorari, docketed as G.R. No. 170122, petitioner seeks to nullify and set aside the August 5, 2005 Order, as reiterated in another Order dated August 26, 2005, both issued by the Sandiganbayan, Fourth Division, which effectively denied the petitioners motion to dismiss and/or to quash Civil Case No. 0193, a suit for forfeiture commenced by the Republic of the Philippines against the petitioner and her immediate family. The second petition for certiorari, docketed as G.R. No. 171381, seeks to nullify and set aside the November 9, 2005 Resolution of the Sandiganbayan, Fourth Division, insofar as it likewise denied the petitioners motion to dismiss and/or quash Civil Case No. 0196, another forfeiture case involving the same parties but for different properties.
To recover unlawfully acquired funds and properties in the aggregate amount of PhP 143,052,015.29 that retired Maj. Gen. Carlos F. Garcia, his wife, herein petitioner Clarita, children Ian Carl, Juan Paulo and Timothy Mark (collectively, the Garcias) had allegedly amassed and acquired, the Republic, through the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB), pursuant to Republic Act No. (RA) 1379, filed with the Sandiganbayan (SB) on October 29, 2004 a petition for the forfeiture of those properties. This petition, docketed as Civil Case No. 0193, was eventually raffled to the Fourth Division of the anti-graft court.
Prior to the filing of Forfeiture
II, but subsequent to the filing of Forfeiture I, the OMB charged the Garcias
and three others with violation of RA 7080 (plunder) under an Information dated
After the filing of Forfeiture I, the following events transpired in relation to the case:
(1) The corresponding summons were issued and
all served on Gen. Garcia at his place of detention. Per the Sheriffs Return dated
Instead of an answer, the Garcias filed a motion to dismiss on the ground of the SBs lack of jurisdiction over separate civil actions for forfeiture. The OMB countered with a motion to expunge and to declare the Garcias in default. To the OMBs motion, the Garcias interposed an opposition in which they manifested that they have meanwhile repaired to the Court on certiorari, docketed as G.R. No. 165835 to nullify the writ of attachment SB issued in which case the SB should defer action on the forfeiture case as a matter of judicial courtesy.
(2) By Resolution of January 20, 2005, the SB denied the motion to dismiss; declared the same motion as pro forma and hence without tolling effect on the period to answer. The same resolution declared the Garcias in default.
Another resolution denied the Garcias motion for reconsideration and/or to admit answer, and set a date for the ex-parte presentation of the Republics evidence.
A second motion for
reconsideration was also denied on
(3) Despite the standing default order, the Garcias moved for the transfer and consolidation of Forfeiture I with the plunder case which were respectively pending in different divisions of the SB, contending that such consolidation is mandatory under RA 8249.
(4) On July 26, 2005, the Garcias filed another motion to dismiss and/or to quash Forfeiture I on, inter alia, the following grounds: (a) the filing of the plunder case ousted the SB 4th Division of jurisdiction over the forfeiture case; and (b) that the consolidation is imperative in order to avoid possible double jeopardy entanglements.
By Order of August 5, 2005, the SB merely noted the motion in view of movants having been declared in default which has yet to be lifted.
It is upon the foregoing factual antecedents that petitioner Clarita has interposed her first special civil action for mandamus and/or certiorari docketed as G.R. No. 170122, raising the following issues:
I. Whether or not the [SB] 4th Division acted without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion x x x in issuing its challenged order of August 5, 2005 and August 26 2005 that merely Noted without action, hence refused to resolve petitioners motion to dismiss and/or to quash by virtue of petitioners prior default in that:
A. For lack of proper and valid service of summons, the [SB] 4th Division could not have acquired jurisdiction over petitioners, [and her childrens] x x x persons, much less make them become the true parties-litigants, contestants or legal adversaries in forfeiture I. As the [SB] has not validly acquired jurisdiction over the petitioners [and her childrens] x x x persons, they could not possibly be declared in default, nor can a valid judgment by default be rendered against them.
B. Even then, mere declaration in default does not per se bar petitioner from challenging the [SB] 4th Divisions lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter of forfeiture I as the same can be raised anytime, even after final judgment. In the absence of jurisdiction over the subject matter, any and all proceedings before the [SB] are null and void.
C. Contrary to its August 26, 2005 rejection of petitioners motion for reconsideration of the first challenged order that the issue of jurisdiction raised therein had already been passed upon by [the SB 4th Divisions] resolution of May 20, 2005, the records clearly show that the grounds relied upon by petitioner in her motion to dismiss and/or to quash dated July 26, 2005 were entirely different, separate and distinct from the grounds set forth in petitioners manifestation and motion [to consolidate] dated April 15, 2005 that was denied by it per its resolution of May 20, 2005.
D. In any event, the [SB] 4th Division has been ousted of jurisdiction over the subject matter of forfeiture I upon the filing of the main plunder case against petitioner that mandates the automatic forfeiture of the subject properties in forfeiture cases I & II as a function or adjunct of any conviction for plunder.
E. Being incompatible, the forfeiture law (RA No. 1379 ) was impliedly repealed by the plunder law (RA No. 7080 ) with automatic forfeiture mechanism.
F. Since the sought forfeiture includes properties purportedly located in the USA, any penal conviction for forfeiture in this case cannot be enforced outside of the Philippines x x x.
G. Based on orderly procedure and sound administration of justice, it is imperative that the matter of forfeiture be exclusively tried in the main plunder case to avoid possible double jeopardy entanglements, and to avoid possible conflicting decisions by 2 divisions of the [SB] on the matter of forfeiture as a penal sanction. (Emphasis added.)
With respect to Forfeiture II, the following events and proceedings occurred or were taken after the petition for Forfeiture II was filed:
(1) On July 12, 2005, the SB sheriff served the
corresponding summons. In his return of
(2) On July 26, 2005, Clarita and her children, thru special appearance of counsel, filed a motion to dismiss and/or to quash Forfeiture II primarily for lack of jurisdiction over their persons and on the subject matter thereof which is now covered by the plunder case.
To the above motion,
the Republic filed its opposition with a motion for alternative service of
summons. The motion for alternative
service would be repeated in another motion of
(3) By Joint Resolution of November 9, 2005, the SB denied both the petitioners motion to dismiss and/or to quash and the Republics motion for alternative service of summons.
On January 24, 2006, the SB denied petitioners motion for partial reconsideration.
From the last two issuances adverted to, Clarita has come to this Court via the instant petition for certiorari, docketed as GR No. 171381. As there submitted, the SB 4th Division acted without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion in issuing its Joint Resolution dated November 9, 2005 and its Resolution of January 24, 2006 denying petitioners motion to dismiss and/or to quash in that:
A. Based on its own finding that summons was improperly served on petitioner, the [SB] ought to have dismissed forfeiture II for lack of jurisdiction over petitioners person x x x.
B. By virtue of the plunder case filed with the [SB] Second Division that mandates the automatic forfeiture of unlawfully acquired properties upon conviction, the [SB] Fourth Division has no jurisdiction over the subject matter of forfeiture.
C. Being incompatible, the forfeiture law (RA No. 1379 ) was impliedly repealed by the plunder law (RA No. 7080 ) with automatic forfeiture mechanism.
D. Based on orderly procedure and sound administration of justice, it is imperative that the matter of forfeiture be exclusively tried in the main plunder case to avoid possible double jeopardy entanglements and worse conflicting decisions by 2 divisions of the Sandiganbayan on the matter of forfeiture as a penal sanction. (Emphasis added.)
Resolution of the Court dated
The Courts Ruling
The petitions are partly meritorious.
The core issue tendered in these consolidated cases ultimately boils down to the question of jurisdiction and may thusly be couched into whether the Fourth Division of the SB has acquired jurisdiction over the person of petitionerand her three sons for that matterconsidering that, first, vis--vis Civil Case Nos. 0193 (Forfeiture I) and 0196 (Forfeiture II), summons against her have been ineffectively or improperly served and, second, that the plunder caseCrim. Case No. 28107has already been filed and pending with another division of the SB, i.e., Second Division of the SB.
Plunder Case in Crim. Case No. 28107 Did Not Absorb
the Forfeiture Cases in Civil Case Nos. 0193 and 0196
Petitioner maintains that the SB 4th Division has no jurisdiction over the subject matter of Forfeitures I and II as both cases are now covered or included in the plunder case against the Garcias. Or as petitioner puts it a bit differently, the filing of the main plunder case (Crim. Case No. 28107), with its automatic forfeiture mechanism in the event of conviction, ousted the SB 4th Division of its jurisdiction over the subject matter of the forfeiture cases. The inclusion of the forfeiture cases with the plunder case is necessary, so petitioner claims, to obviate possible double jeopardy entanglements and colliding case dispositions. Prescinding from these premises, petitioner would ascribe grave abuse of discretion on the SB 4th Division for not granting its separate motions to dismiss the two forfeiture petitions and/or to consolidate them with the plunder case on the foregoing ground.
Petitioners contention is untenable. And in response to what she suggests in some of her pleadings, let it be stated at the outset that the SB has jurisdiction over actions for forfeiture under RA 1379, albeit the proceeding thereunder is civil in nature. We said so in Garcia v. Sandiganbayan involving no less than petitioners husband questioning certain orders issued in Forfeiture I case.
Petitioners posture respecting Forfeitures I and II being absorbed
by the plunder case, thus depriving the
4th Division of the SB of jurisdiction over the civil cases, is
flawed by the assumptions holding it together, the first assumption being that
the forfeiture cases are the corresponding civil action for recovery of civil
liability ex delicto. As
correctly ruled by the SB 4th Division in its
Such liability is based on a statute that safeguards the right of the State to recover unlawfully acquired properties. The action of forfeiture arises when a public officer or employee [acquires] during his incumbency an amount of property which is manifestly out of proportion of his salary x x x and to his other lawful income x x x. Such amount of property is then presumed prima facie to have been unlawfully acquired. Thus if the respondent [public official] is unable to show to the satisfaction of the court that he has lawfully acquired the property in question, then the court shall declare such property forfeited in favor of the State, and by virtue of such judgment the property aforesaid shall become property of the State. x x x (Citations in the original.)
Lest it be overlooked, Executive Order No. (EO) 14, Series of 1986, albeit defining only the jurisdiction over cases involving ill-gotten wealth of former President Marcos, his immediate family and business associates, authorizes under its Sec. 3 the filing of forfeiture suits under RA 1379 which will proceed independently of any criminal proceedings. The Court, in Republic v. Sandiganbayan, interpreted this provision as empowering the Presidential Commission on Good Government to file independent civil actions separate from the criminal actions.
Forfeiture Cases and the Plunder Case Have Separate Causes of Action; the Former Is Civil in Nature while the Latter Is Criminal
It bears stressing, as a second point, that a forfeiture case under RA 1379 arises out of a cause of action separate and different from a plunder case, thus negating the notion that the crime of plunder charged in Crim. Case No. 28107 absorbs the forfeiture cases. In a prosecution for plunder, what is sought to be established is the commission of the criminal acts in furtherance of the acquisition of ill-gotten wealth. In the language of Sec. 4 of RA 7080, for purposes of establishing the crime of plunder, it is sufficient to establish beyond reasonable doubt a pattern of overt or criminal acts indicative of the overall unlawful scheme or conspiracy [to amass, accumulate or acquire ill-gotten wealth]. On the other hand, all that the court needs to determine, by preponderance of evidence, under RA 1379 is the disproportion of respondents properties to his legitimate income, it being unnecessary to prove how he acquired said properties. As correctly formulated by the Solicitor General, the forfeitable nature of the properties under the provisions of RA 1379 does not proceed from a determination of a specific overt act committed by the respondent public officer leading to the acquisition of the illegal wealth.
Given the foregoing considerations, petitioners thesis on possible double jeopardy entanglements should a judgment of conviction ensue in Crim. Case 28107 collapses entirely. Double jeopardy, as a criminal law concept, refers to jeopardy of punishment for the same offense, suggesting that double jeopardy presupposes two separate criminal prosecutions. Proceedings under RA 1379 are, to repeat, civil in nature. As a necessary corollary, one who is sued under RA 1379 may be proceeded against for a criminal offense. Thus, the filing of a case under that law is not barred by the conviction or acquittal of the defendant in Crim. Case 28107 for plunder.
Moreover, given the variance in the nature and subject matter of the proceedings between the plunder case and the subject forfeiture cases, petitioners apprehension about the likelihood of conflicting decisions of two different divisions of the anti-graft court on the matter of forfeiture as a penal sanction is specious at best. What the SB said in this regard merits approving citation:
On the matter of forfeiture as a penal sanction, respondents argue that the division where the plunder case is pending may issue a decision that would collide or be in conflict with the decision by this division on the forfeiture case. They refer to a situation where this Courts Second Division may exonerate the respondents in the plunder case while the Fourth Division grant the petition for forfeiture for the same properties in favor of the state or vice versa.
Suffice it to say that the variance in the decisions of both divisions does not give rise to a conflict. After all, forfeiture in the plunder case requires the attendance of facts and circumstances separate and distinct from that in the forfeiture case. Between the two (2) cases, there is no causal connection in the facts sought to be established and the issues sought to be addressed. As a result, the decision of this Court in one does not have a bearing on the other.
There is also no conflict even if the decisions in both cases result in an order for the forfeiture of the subject properties. The forfeiture following a conviction in the plunder case will apply only to those ill-gotten wealth not recovered by the forfeiture case and vise (sic) versa. This is on the assumption that the information on plunder and the petition for forfeiture cover the same set of properties.
RA 7080 Did Not Repeal RA 1379
Petitioner takes a different tack in her bid to prove that SB erred in not dismissing Forfeitures I and II with her assertion that RA 7080 impliedly repealed RA 1379. We are not convinced.
Nowhere in RA 7080 can we find any provision that would indicate a repeal, expressly or impliedly, of RA 1379. RA 7080 is a penal statute which, at its most basic, aims to penalize the act of any public officer who by himself or in connivance with members of his family amasses, accumulates or acquires ill-gotten wealth in the aggregate amount of at least PhP 50 million. On the other hand, RA 1379 is not penal in nature, in that it does not make a crime the act of a public official acquiring during his incumbency an amount of property manifestly out of proportion of his salary and other legitimate income. RA 1379 aims to enforce the right of the State to recover the properties which were not lawfully acquired by the officer.
It has often been said that all doubts must be resolved against any implied repeal and all efforts should be exerted to harmonize and give effect to all laws and provisions on the same subject. To be sure, both RA 1379 and RA 7080 can very well be harmonized. The Court perceives no irreconcilable conflict between them. One can be enforced without nullifying the other.
Sandiganbayan Did Not Acquire Jurisdiction over
the Persons of Petitioner and Her Children
On the issue of lack of jurisdiction, petitioner argues that the SB did not acquire jurisdiction over her person and that of her children due to a defective substituted service of summons. There is merit in petitioners contention.
Sec. 7, Rule 14 of the 1997 Revised Rules of Civil Procedure clearly provides for the requirements of a valid substituted service of summons, thus:
SEC. 7. 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.
It is basic that a court must acquire jurisdiction over a party for the latter to be bound by its decision or orders. Valid service of summons, by whatever mode authorized by and proper under the Rules, is the means by which a court acquires jurisdiction over a person.
In the instant case, it is undisputed that summons for Forfeitures I and
II were served personally on Maj. Gen. Carlos Flores Garcia, who is detained at
In Manotoc v. Court of Appeals, we broke down the requirements to be:
(1) Impossibility of prompt personal service, i.e., the party relying on substituted service or the sheriff must show that defendant cannot be served promptly or there is impossibility of prompt service within a reasonable time. Reasonable time being 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. Moreover, we indicated therein that the sheriff must show several attempts for personal service of at least three (3) times on at least two (2) different dates.
(2) Specific details in the return, i.e., the sheriff must describe in the Return of Summons the facts and circumstances surrounding the attempted personal service.
(3) Substituted service effected on a person of suitable age and discretion residing at defendants house or residence; or on a competent person in charge of defendants office or regular place of business.
From the foregoing requisites, it is apparent that no valid substituted
service of summons was made on petitioner and her children, as the service made
through Maj. Gen. Garcia did not comply with the first two (2) requirements mentioned
above for a valid substituted service of summons. Moreover, the third requirement was also not
strictly complied with as the substituted service was made not at petitioners
house or residence but in the PNP
The stringent rules on valid service of summons for the court to acquire jurisdiction over the person of the defendants, however, admits of exceptions, as when the party voluntarily submits himself to the jurisdiction of the court by asking affirmative relief. In the instant case, the Republic asserts that petitioner is estopped from questioning improper service of summons since the improvident service of summons in both forfeiture cases had been cured by their (petitioner and her children) voluntary appearance in the forfeiture cases. The Republic points to the various pleadings filed by petitioner and her children during the subject forfeiture hearings. We cannot subscribe to the Republics views.
Special Appearance to Question a Courts Jurisdiction
Is Not Voluntary Appearance
The second sentence of Sec. 20, Rule 14 of the Revised Rules of Civil Procedure clearly provides:
Sec. 20. Voluntary appearance.The defendants voluntary appearance in the action shall be equivalent to service of summons. The inclusion in a motion to dismiss of other grounds aside from lack of jurisdiction over the person of the defendant shall not be deemed a voluntary appearance. (Emphasis ours.)
Thus, a defendant who files a motion to dismiss, assailing the jurisdiction of the court over his person, together with other grounds raised therein, is not deemed to have appeared voluntarily before the court. What the rule on voluntary appearancethe first sentence of the above-quoted rulemeans is that the voluntary appearance of the defendant in court is without qualification, in which case he is deemed to have waived his defense of lack of jurisdiction over his person due to improper service of summons.
The pleadings filed by petitioner in the subject forfeiture cases, however, do not show that she voluntarily appeared without qualification. Petitioner filed the following pleadings in Forfeiture I: (a) motion to dismiss; (b) motion for reconsideration and/or to admit answer; (c) second motion for reconsideration; (d) motion to consolidate forfeiture case with plunder case; and (e) motion to dismiss and/or to quash Forfeiture I. And in Forfeiture II: (a) motion to dismiss and/or to quash Forfeiture II; and (b) motion for partial reconsideration.
The foregoing pleadings, particularly the motions to dismiss, were filed
by petitioner solely for special appearance with the purpose of challenging
the jurisdiction of the SB over her person and that of her three children. Petitioner asserts therein that SB did not
acquire jurisdiction over her person and of her three children for lack of
valid service of summons through improvident substituted service of summons in
both Forfeiture I and Forfeiture II. This
stance the petitioner never abandoned when she filed her motions for
reconsideration, even with a prayer to admit their attached Answer Ex
Abundante Ad Cautelam dated
Moreover, the leading La Naval Drug Corp. v. Court of Appeals applies to the instant case. Said case elucidates the current view in our jurisdiction that a special appearance before the courtchallenging its jurisdiction over the person through a motion to dismiss even if the movant invokes other groundsis not tantamount to estoppel or a waiver by the movant of his objection to jurisdiction over his person; and such is not constitutive of a voluntary submission to the jurisdiction of the court.
Thus, it cannot be said that petitioner and her three children voluntarily appeared before the SB to cure the defective substituted services of summons. They are, therefore, not estopped from questioning the jurisdiction of the SB over their persons nor are they deemed to have waived such defense of lack of jurisdiction. Consequently, there being no valid substituted services of summons made, the SB did not acquire jurisdiction over the persons of petitioner and her children. And perforce, the proceedings in the subject forfeiture cases, insofar as petitioner and her three children are concerned, are null and void for lack of jurisdiction. Thus, the order declaring them in default must be set aside and voided insofar as petitioner and her three children are concerned. For the forfeiture case to proceed against them, it is, thus, imperative for the SB to serve anew summons or alias summons on the petitioner and her three children in order to acquire jurisdiction over their persons.
WHEREFORE, the petitions for certiorari and mandamus are PARTIALLY GRANTED. The Sandiganbayan, Fourth Division has not acquired jurisdiction over petitioner Clarita D. Garcia and her three children. The proceedings in Civil Case Nos. 0193 and 0196 before the Sandiganbayan, Fourth Division, insofar as they pertain to petitioner and her three children, are VOID for lack of jurisdiction over their persons. No costs.
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
ANTONIO T. CARPIO
MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO
Associate Justice Associate Justice
DIOSDADO M. PERALTA
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.
ANTONIO T. CARPIO
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.
LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING
Acting Chief Justice
 Rollo (G.R. No. 170122), pp. 49-50.
 Rollo (G.R. No. 171381), pp. 48-69.
 An Act Declaring Forfeiture In Favor of the State Any Property Found to Have Been Unlawfully Acquired By Any Public Officer or Employee and Providing for the Proceedings Therefor.
 Rollo (G.R. No. 170122), p. 80.
 An Act Further Defining the Jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan, Amending for the Purpose Presidential Decree No. 1606, as Amended, Providing Funds Therefor, and for Other Purposes.
 Rollo (G.R. No. 170122), p. 49.
 Rollo (G.R. No. 171381), pp. 70-82.
 499 Phil. 589 (2005).
 Rollo (G.R. No. 170122), pp. 219-227.
 RA 1379, Sec. 2.
 RA 1379, Sec. 6
 Sec. 3. Civil suits for restitution x x x or x x x forfeiture proceedings provided for under [RA] 1379 x x x may be filed separately from and proceed independently of any proceedings and may be proved by a preponderance of evidence.
 G.R. No. 84895, May 4, 1989, 173 SCRA 72.
 Rollo (G.R. No. 171381), p. 303. Comment on Petition.
 Constitution, Art. III, Sec. 21 provides that [n]o person shall be twice put in jeopardy of punishment for the same offense.
 Rollo (G.R. No. 171381), p. 81. SB Resolution dated January 24, 2006.
 Casimina v. Legaspi, G.R. No. 147530, June 29, 2005, 462 SCRA 171.
 G.R. No. 130974,
 G.R. No. 103200,