Identity of rights asserted & relief prayed for

On the question of forum shopping, petitioners Gilbert and Lincoln Continental contend that the acts of respondents in filing a petition for certiorari and mandamus in CA-G.R. SP No. 85069 and withdrawing the same and their subsequent filing of a petition for certiorari in CA-G.R. SP No. 87104 constitute forum shopping; that respondents withdrew their petition in CA-G.R. SP No. 85069 after the Tenth Division issued a Resolution dated October 20, 2004 denying their application for a writ of preliminary injunction; that they then filed an identical petition in CA-G.R. SP No. 87104 seeking the same relief alleged in their petition in CA-G.R. SP No. 85069; and that by taking cognizance of the petition in CA-G.R. SP No. 87104, instead of dismissing it outright on the ground of forum shopping, the Court of Appeals committed grave abuse of discretion tantamount to lack or excess of jurisdiction.

A party is guilty of forum shopping when he repetitively avails of several judicial remedies in different courts, simultaneously or successively, all substantially founded on the same transactions and the same essential facts and circumstances, and all raising substantially the same issues either pending in, or already resolved adversely by some other court. It is prohibited by Section 5, Rule 7 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, which provides:

SECTION 5. Certification against forum shopping. The plaintiff or principal party shall certify under oath in the complaint or other initiatory pleading asserting a claim for relief, or in a sworn certification annexed thereto and simultaneously filed therewith: (a) that he has not theretofore commenced any action or filed any other claim involving the same issues in any court, tribunal, or quasi-judicial agency and, to the best of his knowledge, no such other action or claim is pending therein; (b) if there is such other pending action or claim, a complete statement of the present status thereof; and (c) if he should thereafter learn that the same or similar action has been filed or is pending, he shall report that fact within five (5) days therefrom to the court wherein his aforesaid complaint or initiatory pleading has been filed.

Failure to comply with the foregoing requirements shall not be curable by mere amendment of the complaint or other initiatory pleading but shall be cause for the dismissal of the case without prejudice, unless otherwise provided, upon motion and hearing. The submission of a false certification or non-compliance with any of the undertakings therein shall constitute indirect contempt of court, without prejudice to the corresponding administrative and criminal actions. If the acts of the party or his counsel clearly constitute willful and deliberate forum shopping, the same shall be ground for summary dismissal with prejudice and shall constitute direct contempt, as well as a cause for administrative sanctions.

Forum shopping is condemned because it unnecessarily burdens our courts with heavy caseloads, unduly taxes the manpower and financial resources of the judiciary and trifles with and mocks judicial processes, thereby affecting the efficient administration of justice. The primary evil sought to be proscribed by the prohibition against forum shopping is, however, the possibility of conflicting decisions being rendered by the different courts and/or administrative agencies upon the same issues.

Forum shopping may only exist where the elements of litis pendentia are present or where a final judgment in one case will amount to res judicata in the other. Litis pendentia as a ground for dismissing a civil action is that situation wherein another action is pending between the same parties for the same cause of action, such that the second action is unnecessary and vexatious. The elements of litis pendentia are as follows: (a) identity of parties, or at least such as representing the same interest in both actions; (b) identity of rights asserted and the relief prayed for, the relief being founded on the same facts; and (c) the identity of the two cases such that judgment in one, regardless of which party is successful, would amount to res judicata in the other. From the foregoing, it is clear that sans litis pendentia or res judicata, there can be no forum shopping.

While the first element of litis pendentia identity of parties is present in both CA-G.R. SP No. 85069 and CA-G.R. SP No. 87104, however, the second element, does not exist.The petitioners in CA-G.R. SP No. 85069 prayed that the following Orders be set aside:

(1) the Order of inhibition dated June 22, 2004 issued by the presiding judge of the RTC of Manila, Branch 24; and
(2) the Order dated July 12, 2004 issued by Branch 46 setting Gilberts application for preliminary injunction for hearing.

In their petition in CA-G.R. SP No. 87104, respondents prayed for the annulment of the writ of preliminary injunction issued by the RTC, Branch 46 after the expiration of the TRO issued by the Tenth Division of the Court of Appeals. Evidently, this relief is not identical with the relief sought by respondents in CA-G.R. SP No. 85069. Clearly, the second element of litis pendentia the identity of reliefs sought - is lacking in the two petitions filed by respondents with the appellate court. Thus, the Supreme Court rules that no grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction may be attributed to the Court of Appeals (Eighth Division) for giving due course to respondents petition in CA-G.R. SP No. 87104.
On the second issue, Section 3, Rule 58 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended provides:

SECTION 3. Grounds for issuance of preliminary injunction. A preliminary injunction may be granted when it is established:

(a) That the applicant is entitled to the relief demanded, and the whole or part of such relief consists in restraining the commission or continuance of the act or acts complained of, or in requiring the performance of an act or acts, either for a limited period or perpetually;
(b) That the commission, continuance, or non-performance of the act or acts complained of during the litigation would probably work injustice to the applicant; or
(c) That a party, court, agency, or a person is doing, threatening, or is attempting to do, or is procuring or suffering to be done, some act or acts probably in violation of the rights of the applicant respecting the subject of the action or proceeding, and tending to render the judgment ineffectual.
For a party to be entitled to an injunctive writ, he must show that there exists a right to be protected and that the acts against which the injunction is directed are violative of this right. In granting the respondents application for injunctive relief and making the injunction permanent, the Court of Appeals (Seventh Division) found that they have shown their clear and established right to the disputed 20,160 shares of stock because: (1) they have physical possession of the two stock certificates equivalent to the said number of shares; (2) Lincoln Continental is a mere trustee of the Guy family; and (3) respondents constitute a majority of the board of directors of Northern Islands, and accordingly have management and control of the company at the inception of Civil Case No. 94-109444. The appellate court then ruled that the trial court committed grave abuse of discretion in issuing a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction in favor of Guy. The writ actually reduced the membership of Northern Islands board to just one member - Gilbert Guy. Moreover, he failed to establish by clear and convincing evidence his ownership of the shares of stock in question. The Court of Appeals then held there was an urgent necessity to issue an injunctive writ in order to prevent serious damage to the rights of respondents and Northern Islands.

The Supreme Court thus finds no reason to depart from the findings of the Court of Appeals. Indeed, the Supreme Court cannot discern any taint of grave abuse of discretion on its part in issuing the assailed writ of preliminary injunction and making the injunction permanent. (G.R. No. 165849; December 10, 2007)

Popular Posts