Jurisdictional issue barred on ground of laches, estoppel

In a long line of cases, the Supreme Court has held that "[a]lthough the issue of jurisdiction may be raised at any stage of the proceedings as the same is conferred by law, it is nonetheless settled that a party may be barred from raising it on ground of laches or estoppel."[1]The rule is stated in La'O v. Republic of the Philippines and the Government Service Insurance System:[2]
While it is true that jurisdiction over the subject matter of a case may be raised at any stage of the proceedings since it is conferred by law, it is nevertheless settled that a party may be barred from raising it on the ground of estoppel. After voluntarily submitting a cause and encountering an adverse decision on the merits, it is improper and too late for the losing party to question the jurisdiction of the court. A party who has invoked the jurisdiction of a court over a particular matter to secure affirmative relief cannot be permitted to afterwards deny that same jurisdiction to escape liability.[3] (Citations omitted)
The wisdom that underlies this was explained at length in Tijam, et al. v. Sibonghanoy, et al.:[4]
A party may be estopped or barred from raising a question in different ways and for different reasons. Thus we speak of estoppel in pais, of estoppel by deed or by record, and of estoppel by laches.

Laches, in a general sense, is failure or neglect, for an unreasonable and unexplained length of time, to do that which, by exercising due diligence, could or should have been done earlier; it is negligence or omission to assert a right within a reasonable time, warranting a presumption that the party entitled to assert it either has abandoned it or declined to assert it.

The doctrine of laches or of "stale demands" is based upon grounds of public policy which requires, for the peace of society, the discouragement of stale claims and, unlike the statute of limitations, is not a mere question of time but is principally a question of the inequity or unfairness of permitting a right or claim to be enforced or asserted.

It has been held that a party cannot invoke the jurisdiction of a court to secure affirmative relief against his opponent and, after obtaining or failing to obtain such relief, repudiate or question that same jurisdiction. In the case just cited, by way of explaining the rule, it was further said that the question whether the court had jurisdiction either of the subject matter of the action or of the parties was not important in such cases because the party is barred from such conduct not because the judgment or order of the court is valid and conclusive as an adjudication, but for the reason that such a practice cannot be tolerated — obviously for reasons of public policy.

Furthermore, it has also been held that after voluntarily submitting a cause and encountering an adverse decision on the merits, it is too late for the loser to question the jurisdiction or power of the court. And in Littleton vs. Burgess, 16 Wyo. 58, the Court said that it is not right for a party who has affirmed and invoked the jurisdiction of a court in a particular matter to secure an affirmative relief, to afterwards deny that same jurisdiction to escape a penalty.

Upon this same principle is what We said in the three cases mentioned in the resolution of the Court of Appeals of May 20, 1963 (supra) — to the effect that we frown upon the "undesirable practice" of a party submitting his case for decision and then accepting the judgment, only if favorable, and attacking it for lack of jurisdiction, when adverse — as well as in Pindangan etc. vs. Dans et al., G. R. L-14591, September 26, 1962; Montelibano et al. vs. Bacolod-Murcia Milling Co., Inc., G. R. L-15092; Young Men Labor Union etc. vs. the Court of Industrial Relations et al., G. R. L-20307, Feb. 26, 1965, and Mejia vs. Lucas, 100 Phil. p. 277.[5] (Citations omitted)

[1] Heirs of Bertuldo Hinog v. Hon. Melicor, 495 Phil. 422, 438 (2005) [Per J. Austria-Martinez, Second Division].

[2] 515 Phil. 409 (2006) [Per J. Corona, Second Division].

[3] Id. at 416.

[4] 131 Phil. 556 (1968) [Per J. Dizon, En Banc].

[5] Id. at 563-565. 

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