The Curing Effect of Amendments

Despite its finding that the petitioner corporation did not violate the modified terms of the three promissory notes and that the payment of the principal loans were not yet due when the complaint was filed, the trial court did not dismiss the complaint, citing Section 5, Rule 10 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, which reads:

Section 5. Amendment to conform to or authorize presentation of evidence. — When issues not raised by the pleadings are tried with the express or implied consent of the parties, they shall be treated in all respects as if they had been raised in the pleadings. Such amendment of the pleadings as may be necessary to cause them to conform to the evidence and to raise these issues may be made upon motion of any party at any time, even after judgment; but failure to amend does not affect the result of the trial of these issues. If evidence is objected to at the trial on the ground that it is not within the issues made by the pleadings, the court may allow the pleadings to be amended and shall do so with liberality if the presentation of the merits of the action and the ends of substantial justice will be subserved thereby. The court may grant a continuance to enable the amendment to be made.

According to the trial court, and sustained by the Court of Appeals, this Section allows a complaint that does not state a cause of action to be cured by evidence presented without objection during the trial. Thus, it ruled that even if the private respondent had no cause of action when he filed the complaint for a sum of money and damages because none of the three promissory notes was due yet, he could nevertheless recover on the first two promissory notes dated 7 August 1996 and 14 March 1997, which became due during the pendency of the case in view of the introduction of evidence of their maturity during the trial.
Such interpretation of Section 5, Rule 10 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure is erroneous.

Amendments of pleadings are allowed under Rule 10 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure in order that the actual merits of a case may be determined in the most expeditious and inexpensive manner without regard to technicalities, and that all other matters included in the case may be determined in a single proceeding, thereby avoiding multiplicity of suits. Section 5 thereof applies to situations wherein evidence not within the issues raised in the pleadings is presented by the parties during the trial, and to conform to such evidence the pleadings are subsequently amended on motion of a party. Thus, a complaint which fails to state a cause of action may be cured by evidence presented during the trial.

However, the curing effect under Section 5 is applicable only if a cause of action in fact exists at the time the complaint is filed, but the complaint is defective for failure to allege the essential facts. For example, if a complaint failed to allege the fulfillment of a condition precedent upon which the cause of action depends, evidence showing that such condition had already been fulfilled when the complaint was filed may be presented during the trial, and the complaint may accordingly be amended thereafter. Thus, in Roces v. Jalandoni, the Supreme Court upheld the trial court in taking cognizance of an otherwise defective complaint which was later cured by the testimony of the plaintiff during the trial. In that case, there was in fact a cause of action and the only problem was the insufficiency of the allegations in the complaint. This ruling was reiterated in Pascua v. Court of Appeals.

It thus follows that a complaint whose cause of action has not yet accrued cannot be cured or remedied by an amended or supplemental pleading alleging the existence or accrual of a cause of action while the case is pending. Such an action is prematurely brought and is, therefore, a groundless suit, which should be dismissed by the court upon proper motion seasonably filed by the defendant. The underlying reason for this rule is that a person should not be summoned before the public tribunals to answer for complaints which are immature. As the Supreme Court eloquently said in Surigao Mine Exploration Co., Inc. v. Harris:

It is a rule of law to which there is, perhaps, no exception, either at law or in equity, that to recover at all there must be some cause of action at the commencement of the suit. As observed by counsel for appellees, there are reasons of public policy why there should be no needless haste in bringing up litigation, and why people who are in no default and against whom there is yet no cause of action should not be summoned before the public tribunals to answer complaints which are groundless. The Supreme Court says "groundless" because if the action is immature, it should not be entertained, and an action prematurely brought is a groundless suit.

It is true that an amended complaint and the answer thereto take the place of the originals which are thereby regarded as abandoned (Reynes vs. Compañía General de Tabacos [1912], 21 Phil. 416; Ruyman and Farris vs. Director of Lands [1916], 34 Phil., 428) and that "the complaint and answer having been superseded by the amended complaint and answer thereto, and the answer to the original complaint not having been presented in evidence as an exhibit, the trial court was not authorized to take it into account." (Bastida vs. Menzi & Co. [1933], 58 Phil., 188.) But in none of these cases or in any other case has the Supreme Court held that if a right of action did not exist when the original complaint was filed, one could be created by filing an amended complaint. In some jurisdictions in the United States what was termed an "imperfect cause of action" could be perfected by suitable amendment (Brown vs. Galena Mining & Smelting Co., 32 Kan., 528; Hooper vs. City of Atlanta, 26 Ga. App., 221) and this is virtually permitted in Banzon and Rosauro vs. Sellner ([1933], 58 Phil., 453); Asiatic Potroleum [sic] Co. vs. Veloso ([1935], 62 Phil., 683); and recently in Ramos vs. Gibbon (38 Off. Gaz., 241). That, however, which is no cause of action whatsoever cannot by amendment or supplemental pleading be converted into a cause of action: Nihil de re accrescit ei qui nihil in re quando jus accresceret habet.

The Supreme Court is therefore of the opinion, and so hold, that unless the plaintiff has a valid and subsisting cause of action at the time his action is commenced, the defect cannot be cured or remedied by the acquisition or accrual of one while the action is pending, and a supplemental complaint or an amendment setting up such after-accrued cause of action is not permissible. (Emphasis ours).

Hence, contrary to the holding of the trial court and the Court of Appeals, the defect of lack of cause of action at the commencement of this suit cannot be cured by the accrual of a cause of action during the pendency of this case arising from the alleged maturity of two of the promissory notes on 7 August 1999 and 14 March 2000. (G.R. No. 161135; April 8, 2005)