Heirs of Favis v. Gonzales (G.R. No. 185922; January 15, 2014)

FACTS: Dr. Mariano Favis, Sr. (Dr. Favis) was married to Capitolina Aguilar (Capitolina) with whom he had seven children. When Capitolina died in March 1994. Dr. Favis married Juana Gonzalez (Juana), his common-law wife with whom he sired one child, Mariano G. Favis (Mariano), he executed an affidavit acknowledging Mariano as one of his legitimate children. Mariano is married to Larcelita D. Favis (Larcelita), with whom he has four children.Dr. Favis died intestate on July 29, 1995. On October 16, 1994, prior his death, he allegedly executed a Deed of Donation transferring and conveying properties in favor of his grandchildren with Juana. Claiming the said donation prejudiced their legitime, Dr. Favis children with Capitolina, petitioners herein, filed an action for annulment of the Deed of Donation, inventory, liquidation, liquidation and partition of property before the RTC against Juana, Sps. Mariano and Larcelita and their grandchildren as respondents.

RTC nullified the Deed of Donation. The trial court found that Dr. Favis, at the age of 92 and plagued with illnesses, could not have had full control of his mental capacities to execute a valid Deed of Donation.

The Court of Appeals ordered the dismissal of the petitioners nullification case. The CA motu proprioproprio ordered the dismissal of the complaint for failure of petitioners to make an averment that earnest efforts toward a compromise have been made, as mandated by Article 151 of the Family Court.

ISSUE: May the appellate court dismiss the order of dismissal of the complaint for failure to allege therein that earnest efforts towards a compromise have been made?

HELD: The appellate court committed egregious error in dismissing the complaint.

The appellate court committed egregious error in dismissing the complaint. The appellate courts decision hinged on Article 151 of the Family Code, Art.151.No suit between members of the same family shall prosper unless it should appear from the verified complaint or petition that earnest efforts toward a compromise have been made, but that the same have failed. If it is shown that no such efforts were in fact made, the case must be dismissed.

The appellate court correlated this provision with Section 1, par. (j), Rule 16 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides: Section 1. Grounds. - Within the time for but before filing the answer to the complaint or pleading asserting a claim, a motion to dismiss may be made on any of the following grounds:(j) That a condition precedent for filing the claim has not been complied with.
The appellate courts reliance on this provision is misplaced. Rule 16 treats of the grounds for a motion to dismiss the complaint. It must be distinguished from the grounds provided under Section 1, Rule 9 which specifically deals with dismissal of the claim by the court motu proprio. Section 1, Rule 9 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. Section 1, Rule 9 provides for only four instances when the court may motu proprio dismiss the claim, namely: (a) lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter; (b) litis pendentia; (c) res judicata; and (d) prescription of action.

It was in Heirs of Domingo Valientes v. Ramas cited in P.L. Uy Realty Corporation v. ALS Management and Development Corporation where we noted that the second sentence of Section 1 of Rule 9 does not only supply exceptions to the rule that defenses not pleaded either in a motion to dismiss or in the answer are deemed waived, it also allows courts to dismiss cases motu proprio on any of the enumerated grounds. The tenor of the second sentence of the Rule is that the allowance of a motu propio dismissal can proceed only from the exemption from the rule on waiver; which is but logical because there can be no ruling on a waived ground.

A failure to allege earnest but failed efforts at a compromise in a complaint among members of the same family, is not a jurisdictional defect but merely a defect in the statement of a cause of action.
In the case at hand, the proceedings before the trial court ran the full course. The complaint of petitioners was answered by respondents without a prior motion to dismiss having been filed. The decision in favor of the petitioners was appealed by respondents on the basis of the alleged error in the ruling on the merits, no mention having been made about any defect in the statement of a cause of action. In other words, no motion to dismiss the complaint based on the failure to comply with a condition precedent was filed in the trial court; neither was such failure assigned as error in the appeal that respondent brought before the Court of Appeals.

Therefore, the rule on deemed waiver of the non-jurisdictional defense or objection is wholly applicable to respondent. If the respondents as parties-defendants could not, and did not, after filing their answer to petitioners complaint, invoke the objection of absence of the required allegation on earnest efforts at a compromise, the appellate court unquestionably did not have any authority or basis to motu propio order the dismissal of petitioners complaint.

The correctness of the finding was not touched by the Court of Appeals. The respondents opted to rely only on what the appellate court considered, erroneously though, was a procedural infirmity. The trial court's factual finding, therefore, stands unreversed; and respondents did not provide us with any argument to have it reversed.

The decision of the Court of Appeals is reversed and set aside and the Judgment of the Regional Trial Court is AFFIRMED. GRANTED.

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