G.R. No. 157832. Jan 15, 2014

FIRST DIVISION
[ G.R. No. 157832, January 15, 2014 ]
SPOUSES MARCELO C. AMIANA AND ADELINA TANTAY-AMIANA, PETITIONERS, V. DEVELOPMENT BANK OF THE PHILIPPINES, RESPONDENT.

By petition for certiorari, the defendants assail in this Court the two orders[1] issued by the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 57, in San Carlos City, Negros Occidental denying their Motion for Summary Judgment and their Motion for Reconsideration.

On January 12, 1979, the petitioners borrowed P15,000.00 from respondent Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), and executed a deed of mortgage over their parcel of land located in San Carlos, Negros Occidental to secure the performance of their obligation. In 1998, DBP caused the extra-judicial foreclosure of the mortgage, and the property was sold to DBP, the only bidder in the ensuing foreclosure sale.[2] In their letter to DBP dated April 16, 2001, the petitioners protested the foreclosure of the mortgage, and tendered P9,375.00 as redemption price,[3] but DBP returned the payment, insisting that the foreclosure had been in accordance with law.[4]

On April 22, 2002, the petitioners filed a complaint in the RTC against DBP for the declaration of the nullity of the foreclosure of mortgage and sale of mortgaged real estate property (with damages and application for injunction), alleging that DBP had not made a demand for the payment of the loan, and had not notified them of the foreclosure, thereby rendering the foreclosure sale illegal; and that DBP's right of action upon the loan and mortgage had long prescribed because it did not foreclose the mortgage within 10 years from the due date of the loan.[5]

In its answer,[6] DBP claimed that it had sent several written demands but the petitioners had not heeded the demands; and that the allegation on the prescription of its right to foreclose the mortgage was a mere conclusion without any basis in law.

The petitioners then filed a Motion for Summary Judgment,[7] alleging that they were entitled to a summary judgment as a matter of law considering that based on their evidence and on DBP's answer, there was no genuine issue as to any material fact, except as to the amount of damages.

DBP opposed the Motion for Summary Judgment,[8] positing that a summary judgment was not proper because its answer tendered factual issues that called for the presentation of evidence.On October 22, 2002, the RTC denied the Motion for Summary Judgment and set the case for pre-trial and trial on the merits,[9] opining that the case could not be resolved by looking only at the allegations of the complaint and the answer; and that there was an imperative need for a full blown trial on the merits.

The petitioners sought the reconsideration of the denial of the Motion for Summary Judgment, reiterating that there was no genuine issue as to any material fact by virtue of DBP's admissions and failure to submit opposing affidavits and evidence.[10]

On March 28, 2003, the RTC denied the petitioners' motion for reconsideration for its lack of merit through the second assailed order.[11]

Hence, the petitioners brought their petition for certiorari, still insisting that DBP had admitted: (a) the lack of notice on the foreclosure; (b) its failure to comply with the procedural requisites for extrajudicial foreclosure; and (c) the prescription of its right to foreclose the mortgage. They added that their Motion for Summary Judgment should be deemed unopposed, and that the documents submitted in support of their motion should be deemed admitted because DBP did not submit opposing affidavits, and its opposition to the petitioners' formal offer of evidence was not predicated on valid grounds.[12]

DBP counters that it had categorically and specifically denied the allegation of the lack of demand, and the allegation on prescription.[13]

The petition for certiorari lacks merit.

In Excelsa Industries, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, the Court described summary judgment or accelerated judgment as:
x x x a device for weeding out sham claims or defenses at an early stage of the litigation, thereby avoiding the expense and loss of time involved in a trial. The very object of the device is to separate what is formal or pretended in denial or averment from what is genuine and substantial, so that only the latter may subject a suitor to the burden of a trial. The term "genuine issue" has been defined as an issue of fact that calls for the presentation of evidence as distinguished from an issue that is sham, fictitious, contrived, set up in bad faith and patently unsubstantial so as not to constitute a genuine issue for trial. The court can determine this on the basis of the pleadings, admissions, documents, affidavits and counter-affidavits submitted by the parties to the court. Where the facts pleaded by the parties are disputed or contested, proceedings for a summary judgment cannot take the place of a trial.[14] (citation omitted)
The Court also observed in Carcon Development Corporation v. Court of Appeals, that:
The theory of summary judgment is that although an answer may on its face appear to tender issues — requiring trial - yet if it is demonstrated by affidavits, depositions, or admissions that those issues are not genuine, but sham or fictitious, the court is justified in dispensing with the trial and in rendering summary judgment for the plaintiff. The court is expected to act chiefly on the basis of the affidavits, depositions, admissions submitted by the movant, and those of the other party in opposition thereto. The hearing contemplated (with 10-day notice) is for the purpose of determining whether the issues are genuine or not, not to receive evidence on the issues set up in the pleadings. In other words, a hearing is not de riguer. x x x This is not to say that such a hearing may be regarded as a superfluity. It is not, and the court has plenary discretion to determine the necessity therefor.[15] (citation omitted)
A party who moves for summary judgment has the burden of demonstrating clearly the absence of any genuine issue of fact,[16] or that the issue posed in the complaint is so patently unsubstantial as not to constitute a genuine issue for trial. In case of doubt as to the propriety of a summary judgment, the doubt shall be resolved against the moving party. The court should take that view of evidence most favorable to the party against whom it is directed and give that party the benefit of all favorable inferences. Indeed, the trial courts have limited authority to render summary judgments, and they may do so only in cases where there is clearly no genuine issue as to any material fact. The rule does not invest the court with jurisdiction summarily to try the factual issues on affidavits, but authorizes summary judgment only if it clearly appears that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact.[17]

The petitioners contend that DBP made either general denials or admissions, implied or express, and that there was no more genuine issue as to any material fact except as to the amount of damages.

Under Section 10, Rule 8 of the Rules of Court, a defendant may specifically deny a material allegation of the plaintiff in any of three ways. The first is by specifying each material allegation of fact the truth of which he does not admit and, whenever practicable, by setting forth the substance of the matters upon which he relies to support his denial. The second is where he desires to deny only a part of an averment, he shall specify so much of it as is true and material and shall deny only the remainder. The third is where he is without knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth of a material averment made in the complaint, he shall so state, and this shall have the effect of a denial.

An examination of the pleadings submitted by the parties to the trial court belies the petitioners' contention that DBP did not dispute their allegation on the lack of any demand and on DBP's right to extrajudicially foreclose the mortgage having already prescribed because of its failure to foreclose within 10 years from the due date of the loan.

In paragraph 1 (b) of the complaint, the petitioners stated as follows:
x x x x

b. That the above-named mortgagee or defendant failed to make a demand upon plaintiffs, judicially or extra-judicially, for the payment of the aforestated loan and to foreclose the said mortgage within ten (10) years from its due date aforestated, for which reason defendant's right of action on said loan and mortgage had long prescribed and/or become unenforceable under the law.[18]

x x x x
Traversing the petitioners' allegation, DBP countered in its paragraph 3 of its answer thusly:
x x x x

3. Paragraph (b) thereof is specifically denied, the truth being that several written demands were made by defendant upon plaintiffs but the latter refused to heed said demands, the allegation as to the prescription of the defendant's right to foreclose the mortgage is denied, the same being a mere conclusion without any basis in law.[19]

x x x x
By averring "that several written demands were made by defendant upon plaintiffs but the latter refused to heed said demands, the allegation as to the prescription of the defendant's right to foreclose the mortgage is denied, the same being a mere conclusion without any basis in law," DBP effectively denied the material allegations of the petitioners' complaint on the lack of demands and prescription through the first of the three ways of specific denial under Section 10, Rule 8 of the Rules of Court.

Considering that proceedings for a summary judgment could not take the place of a trial where the facts pleaded by the parties were disputed or contested,[20] a trial was thus necessary to ascertain which of the conflicting allegations were true. The denial by the RTC of the petitioners' Motion for Summary Judgment was consequently correct, and did not constitute an abuse of its discretion, least of all grave. The dismissal of the petition should be directed because the writ of certiorari issues only when grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction is committed by a lower court. Grave abuse of discretion means either that the judicial or quasi-judicial power was exercised in an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility, or that the respondent judge, tribunal or board evaded a positive duty, or virtually refused to perform the duty enjoined or to act in contemplation of law, such as when such judge, tribunal or board exercising judicial or quasi-judicial powers acted in a capricious or whimsical manner as to be equivalent to lack of jurisdiction.[21]

WHEREFORE, the Court DISMISSES the petition for certiorari; and ORDERS the petitioner to pay the costs of suit.

SO ORDERED.

[1] Rollo, pp. 95-96, 122-123.[2] Id. at 51.
[3] Id. at 46.
[4] Id. at 47.
[5] Id. at 20-24.
[6] Id. at 28-30.
[7] Id. at 31-42.
[8] Id. at 59-60.
[9] Id. at 95-96.
[10] Id. at 100-109.
[11] Id. at 122-123.
[12] Id. at 3-19.
[13] Id. at 156-158.
[14] G.R. No. 105455, August 23, 1995, 247 SCRA 560, 566.
[15] G.R. No. 88218, December 19, 1989, 180 SCRA 348, 352.
[16] Supra note 14, at 566-567.
[17] Archipelago Builders v. Intermediate Appellate Court, G.R. No. 75282, February 19, 1991, 194 SCRA 207, 212-213.
[18] Rollo, p. 21.
[19] Id. at 28.
[20] Viajar v. Estenzo, No. L-43882, April 30, 1979, 89 SCRA 684, 696-697.
[21] Delos Santos v. Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company, G.R. No. 153852, October 24, 2012, 68 SCRA 410, 422-423.

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