Lucas v. Lucas (G.R. No. 190710; June 06, 2011)

CASE DIGEST: JESSE U. LUCAS, Petitioners, v. JESUS S. LUCAS, Respondent. (G.R. No. 190710; June 06, 2011).

FACTS: Petitioner, Jesse U. Lucas, filed a Petition to Establish Illegitimate Filiation (with Motion for the Submission of Parties to DNA Testing) before the Regional Trial Court (RTC). Petitioner narrated that, sometime in 1967, his mother, Elsie Uy (Elsie), migrated to Manila from Davao and stayed with a certain "Ate Belen (Belen)" who worked in a prominent nightspot in Manila. On one occasion, Elsie got acquainted with respondent, Jesus S. Lucas, at Belen's workplace, and an intimate relationship developed between the two. Elsie eventually got pregnant and Jesse U. Lucas. The name of petitioner's father was not stated in petitioner's certificate of live birth. However, Elsie later on told petitioner that his father is respondent.

Respondent was not served with a copy of the petition. Nonetheless, respondent learned of the petition to establish filiation.

Unaware of the issuance of the Order, respondent filed a Special Appearance and Comment.He manifested inter alia that:(1) he did not receive the summons and a copy of the petition; (2) the petition was adversarial in nature and therefore summons should be served on him as respondent; (3) should the court agree that summons was required, he was waiving service of summons and making a voluntary appearance; and (4) notice by publication of the petition and the hearing was improper because of the confidentiality of the subject matter.

After learning of the Order, respondent filed a motion for reconsideration. Respondent averred that the petition was not in due form and substance because petitioner could not have personally known the matters that were alleged therein. He argued that DNA testing cannot be had on the basis of a mere allegation pointing to respondent as petitioner's father. Moreover, jurisprudence is still unsettled on the acceptability of DNA evidence.

The RTC, acting on respondent's motion for reconsideration, issued an Order dismissing the case. The court remarked that, based on the case of Herrera v. Alba, there are four significant procedural aspects of a traditional paternity action which the parties have to face: a prima facie case, affirmative defenses, presumption of legitimacy, and physical resemblance between the putative father and the child. The court opined that petitioner must first establish these four procedural aspects before he can present evidence of paternity and filiation, which may include incriminating acts or scientific evidence like blood group test and DNA test results.

The CA held that the RTC did not acquire jurisdiction over the person of respondent, as no summons had been served on him. Respondent's special appearance could not be considered as voluntary appearance because it was filed only for the purpose of questioning the jurisdiction of the court over respondent. Although respondent likewise questioned the court's jurisdiction over the subject matter of the petition, the same is not equivalent to a waiver of his right to object to the jurisdiction of the court over his person.

The CA remarked that petitioner filed the petition to establish illegitimate filiation, specifically seeking a DNA testing order to abbreviate the proceedings. It noted that petitioner failed to show that the four significant procedural aspects of a traditional paternity action had been met. The CA further held that a DNA testing should not be allowed when the petitioner has failed to establish a prima facie case.

ISSUE: Is the petition to establish illegitimate filiation proper?

HELD: The petition to establish filiation is sufficient in substance. It satisfies Section 1, Rule 8 of the Rules of Court, which requires the complaint to contain a plain, concise, and direct statement of the ultimate facts upon which the plaintiff bases his claim. A fact is essential if it cannot be stricken out without leaving the statement of the cause of action inadequate. A complaint states a cause of action when it contains the following elements: (1) the legal right of plaintiff, (2) the correlative obligation of the defendant, and (3) the act or omission of the defendant in violation of said legal right.The petition sufficiently states the ultimate facts relied upon by petitioner to establish his filiation to respondent. Respondent, however, contends that the allegations in the petition were hearsay as they were not of petitioner's personal knowledge. Such matter is clearly a matter of evidence that cannot be determined at this point but only during the trial when petitioner presents his evidence.

Clearly then, it was also not the opportune time to discuss the lack of a prima facie case vis-a -vis the motion for DNA testing since no evidence has, as yet, been presented by petitioner. More essentially, it is premature to discuss whether, under the circumstances, a DNA testing order is warranted considering that no such order has yet been issued by the trial court. In fact, the latter has just set the said case for hearing.

At any rate, the CA's view that it would be dangerous to allow a DNA testing without corroborative proof is well taken and deserves the Court's attention. In light of this observation, we find that there is a need to supplement the Rule on DNA Evidence to aid the courts in resolving motions for DNA testing order, particularly in paternity and other filiation cases. We, thus, address the question of whether a prima facie showing is necessary before a court can issue a DNA testing order.

In some states, to warrant the issuance of the DNA testing order, there must be a show cause hearing wherein the applicant must first present sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case or a reasonable possibility of paternity or "good cause" for the holding of the test. In these states, a court order for blood testing is considered a "search," which, under their Constitutions (as in ours), must be preceded by a finding of probable cause in order to be valid. Hence, the requirement of a prima facie case, or reasonable possibility, was imposed in civil actions as a counterpart of a finding of probable cause.

The same condition precedent should be applied in our jurisdiction to protect the putative father from mere harassment suits. Thus, during the hearing on the motion for DNA testing, the petitioner must present prima facie evidence or establish a reasonable possibility of paternity.

Notwithstanding these, it should be stressed that the issuance of a DNA testing order remains discretionary upon the court. The court may, for example, consider whether there is absolute necessity for the DNA testing. If there is already preponderance of evidence to establish paternity and the DNA test result would only be corroborative, the court may, in its discretion, disallow a DNA testing. GRANTED.