3 reasons why Tijam doesn't apply

Despite the pendency of G.R. No. 169700 for around 18 years, the exception laid down in Tijam v. Sibonghanoy and clarified recently in Figueroa v. People cannot be applied. There are three reasons for this.

First, because, as a general rule, the principle of estoppel by laches cannot lie against the government.

Second, no injustice to the parties or to any third person will be wrought by the ruling that the trial court has no jurisdiction over the instituted probate proceedings.

Third and most important, because in Tijam, the delayed invocation of lack of jurisdiction has been made during the execution stage of a final and executory ruling of a court. In Figueroa, the Court has emphasized that estoppel by laches only supervenes in exceptional cases similar to the factual milieu in Tijam. It is well to note the following factual setting of Tijam:

[FACTS RE TIJAM START HERE.] On July 19, 1948 — barely one month after the effectivity of Republic Act No. 296 known as the Judiciary Act of 1948 — the spouses Serafin Tijam and Felicitas Tagalog commenced Civil Case No. R-660 in the Court of First Instance of Cebu against the spouses Magdaleno Sibonghanoy and Lucia Baguio to recover from them the sum of P1,908.00, with legal interest thereon from the date of the filing of the complaint until the whole obligation is paid, plus costs. As prayed for in the complaint, a writ of attachment was issued by the court against defendants' properties, but the same was soon dissolved upon the filing of a counter-bond by defendants and the Manila Surety and Fidelity Co., Inc. hereinafter referred to as the Surety, on the 31st of the same month.

After being duly served with summons the defendants filed their answer in which, after making some admissions and denials of the material averments of the complaint, they interposed a counterclaim. This counterclaim was answered by the plaintiffs.

After trial upon the issues thus joined, the Court rendered judgment in favor of the plaintiffs and, after the same had become final and executory, upon motion of the latter, the Court issued a writ of execution against the defendants. The writ having been returned unsatisfied, the plaintiffs moved for the issuance of a writ of execution against the Surety's bond (Rec. on Appeal pp. 46-49), against which the Surety filed a written opposition (Id. pp. 49) upon two grounds, namely, (1) Failure to prosecute and (2) Absence of a demand upon the Surety for the payment of the amount due under the judgment. Upon these grounds the Surety prayed the Court not only to deny the motion for execution against its counter-bond but also the following affirmative relief: "to relieve the herein bonding company of its liability, if any, under the bond in question" (Id. p. 54) The Court denied this motion on the ground solely that no previous demand had been made on the Surety for the satisfaction of the judgment. Thereafter the necessary demand was made, and upon failure of the Surety to satisfy the judgment, the plaintiffs filed a second motion for execution against the counter-bond. On the date set for the hearing thereon, the Court, upon motion of the Surety's counsel, granted the latter a period of five days within which to answer the motion. Upon its failure to file such answer, the Court granted the motion for execution and the corresponding writ was issued.Subsequently, the Surety moved to quash the writ on the ground that the same was issued without the required summary hearing provided for in Section 17 of Rule 59 of the Rules of Court. As the Court denied the motion, the Surety appealed to the Court of Appeals from such order of denial and from the one denying its motion for reconsideration (Id. p. 97). Its record on appeal was then printed as required by the Rules, and in due time it filed its brief raising therein no other question but the ones covered by the following assignment of errors:

"I. That the Honorable Court a quo erred in issuing its order dated November 2, 1957, by holding the incident as submitted for resolution, without a summary hearing and compliance with the other mandatory requirements provided for in Section 17, Rule 59 of the Rules of Court.

"II. That the Honorable Court a quo erred in ordering the issuance of execution against the herein bonding company-appellant.

"III. That the Honorable Court a quo erred in denying the motion to quash the writ of execution filed by the herein bonding company- appellant as well as its subsequent motion for reconsideration, and/or in not quashing or setting aside the writ of execution."

Not one of the assignment of errors — it is obvious raises the question of lack of jurisdiction, neither directly nor indirectly.

Although the appellees failed to file their brief, the Court of Appeals, on December 11, 1962, decided the case affirming the orders appealed from.

On January 8, 1963 — five days after the Surety received notice of the decision, it filed a motion asking for extension of time within which to file a motion for reconsideration. The Court of Appeals granted the motion in its resolution of January 10 of the same year. Two days later the Surety filed a pleading entitled MOTION TO DISMISS, alleging substantially that appellees' action was filed in the Court of First Instance of Cebu on July 19, 1948 for the recovery of the sum of P1,908.00 only; that a month before that date Republic Act No. 296, otherwise known as the Judiciary Act of 1948, had already become effective, Section 88 of which placed within the original exclusive jurisdiction of inferior courts all civil actions where the value of the subject-matter or the amount of the demand does not exceed P2,000.00, exclusive of interest and costs; that the Court of First Instance therefore had no jurisdiction to try and decide the case. Upon these premises the Surety's motion prayed the Court of Appeals to set aside its decision and to dismiss the case. By resolution of January 16, 1963 the Court of Appeals required the appellees to answer the motion to dismiss, but they failed to do so. Whereupon, on May 20 of the same year, the Court resolved to set aside its decision and to certify the case to Us. [FACTS RE TIJAM END HERE.]

Clearly, then, in Tijam, the issue of lack of jurisdiction has only been raised during the execution stage, specifically when the matter of the trial court’s denial of the surety’s motion to quash the writ of execution has been brought to the appellate court for review. In the case of Frianela v. Banayad, the trial court’s assumption of unauthorized jurisdiction over the probate proceedings has been discovered by the Court during the appeal stage of the main case, not during the execution stage of a final and executory decision. Thus, the exceptional rule laid down in Tijam cannot apply.Since the RTC has no jurisdiction over the action, all the proceedings therein, including the decision rendered, are null and void. (APOLONIA BANAYAD FRIANELA, Petitioner, vs. SERVILLANO BANAYAD, JR., Respondent. G.R. No. 169700. July 30, 2009)