What constitutes voluntary appearance

In a civil case, courts acquire jurisdiction over the plaintiffs upon the filing of the complaint. On the other hand, jurisdiction over the defendants in a civil case is acquired either through the service of summons upon them or through their voluntary appearance in court and their submission to its authority,[1] as provided in Section 20,[2] Rule 14 of the Rules of Court. It must be emphasized that service of summons must be proper and valid.Regarding over-person jurisdiction, Philippine Commercial International Bank v. Spouses Day[3] teaches that, as a general rule, one who seeks an affirmative relief is deemed to have submitted to the jurisdiction of the court. It is by reason of this rule that the Supreme Court has had occasion to declare that the filing of motions to admit answer, for additional time to file answer, for reconsideration of a default judgment, and to lift order of default with motion for reconsideration, is considered voluntary submission to the court's jurisdiction. This, however, is tempered only by the concept of conditional appearance, such that a party who makes a special appearance to challenge, among others, the court's jurisdiction over his person cannot be considered to have submitted to its authority. Prescinding from the foregoing, it is thus clear that:
  1. Special appearance operates as an exception to the general rule on voluntary appearance;
  2. Accordingly, objections to the jurisdiction of the court over the person of the defendant must be explicitly made, i.e., set forth in an unequivocal manner; and
  3. Failure to do so constitutes voluntary submission to the jurisdiction of the court, especially in instances where a pleading or motion seeking affirmative relief is filed and submitted to the court for resolution.
It has, time and again, been held that the filing of a motion for additional time to file answer is considered voluntary submission to the jurisdiction of the court.[4] If the defendant knowingly does an act inconsistent with the right to object to the lack of personal jurisdiction as to him, like voluntarily appearing in the action, he is deemed to have submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the court.[5] Seeking an affirmative relief is inconsistent with the position that no voluntary appearance had been made, and to ask for such relief, without the proper objection, necessitates submission to the court's jurisdiction.[6]

In Carson Realty v. Red Robin (G.R. No. 225035, February 08, 2017), Carson voluntarily submitted to the jurisdiction of the RTC when it filed, through Atty. Roxas, the Appearance and Motion dated April 25, 2007 acknowledging Carson's receipt of the Summons dated April 11, 2007 and seeking additional time to file its responsive pleading. As noted by the CA, Carson failed to indicate therein that the Appearance and Motion was being filed by way of a conditional appearance to question the regularity of the service of summons. Thus, by securing the affirmative relief of additional time to file its responsive pleading, Carson effectively voluntarily submitted to the jurisdiction of the RTC.

In Philippine Commercial International Bank v. Spouses Wilson Dy Hong Pi and Lolita Dy, it was held that filing of an answer in a special appearance cannot be construed as voluntary appearance or submission to the court’s jurisdiction.[7]

[1] Chu v. Mach Asia Trading Corporation, G.R. No. 184333, April 1, 2013, citing Kukan International Corporation v. Reyes, G.R. No. 182729, September 29, 2010, 631 SCRA 596.

[2] Sec. 20. Voluntary appearance. - The defendant's voluntary appearance in the action shall be equivalent to service of summons. The inclusion in a motion to dismiss of other grounds aside from lack of jurisdiction over the person shall not be deemed a voluntary appearance.

[3] G.R. No. 171137, June 5, 2009, 588 SCRA 612.

[4] Palma v. Galvez, G.R. No. 165273, March 10, 2010, 615 SCRA 86, 99; Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited v. Catalan and HSBC International Trustee Limited v. Catalan, G.R. Nos. 159590 and 159591, October 18, 2004, 440 SCRA 499, 515.

[5] Macasaet v. Co, Jr., supra note 20, citing La Naval Drug Corporation v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 103200, August 31, 1994, 236 SCRA 78.

[6] Reicon Realty Builders Corporation v. Diamond Dragon Really and Management, Inc., G.R. No. 204796, February 4, 2015.

[7] 606 Phil. 615 (2009).

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