G.R. No. 141536 – 352 SCRA 738 – Civil Law – Conflict of Laws – Processual Presumption – Forum Non Conveniens
Remedial Law – Civil Procedure – Rule 34 – Summary Judgment
Gil Miguel Puyat, a foreigner, lost a collection suit filed against him by Ron Zabarte in a court in California, USA. The California court ordered Puyat to pay the amount of $241k. Puyat was only able to pay $5k.
In January 1994, Zabarte filed an action to enforce the California judgment here in the Philippines against Puyat. Puyat filed an Answer where he alleged, among others, that the California court had no jurisdiction over the case, hence, the foreign judgment is void. He likewise averred that the trial court had no jurisdiction because the issues involved are partnership matters which are under the jurisdiction of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Zabarte then filed a motion for summary judgment as he argued that Puyat’s Answer tendered no issue. The trial court granted the motion and eventually gave a favorable judgment for Zabarte. The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court.
On appeal, Puyat now avers that the trial court should have never taken cognizance of the case because it had no jurisdiction over the case pursuant to the forum non conveniens rule. He averred that under this principle, since all the transaction involved in this case occurred in California, he being a foreigner, and the California law was not properly determined, the trial court had no jurisdiction. He also assailed the validity of the trial court’s act in granting the motion for summary judgment filed by Zabarte.
ISSUE: Whether or not Puyat is correct.
HELD: No. The allowance of summary judgment is proper. In this case, Puyat’s Answer did not really tender an issue. Summary judgment is resorted to in order to avoid long drawn out litigations and useless delays. When affidavits, depositions and admissions on file show that there are no genuine issues of fact to be tried, the Rules allow a party to pierce the allegations in the pleadings and to obtain immediate relief by way of summary judgment. In short, since the facts are not in dispute, the court is allowed to decide the case summarily by applying the law to the material facts. In this case, Puyat’s Answer merely alleged that the California court, a civil court, had no jurisdiction because the case involved was a partnership issue. He however admitted that the issue involved is the payment of money upon promissory notes with damages. Puyat also did not attach a copy of the complaint filed by Zabarte with the California court. As such, the trial court properly presumed, applying the principle of processual presumption, that the California law is the same as Philippine law – that cases involving collection of money is cognizable by civil courts. And by applying the principle of processual presumption, there’s no longer a need to try the facts in this case, hence, a summary judgment was in order.
Anent the issue of forum non conveniens, such does not exist in this case. Under the principle of forum non conveniens, even if the exercise of jurisdiction is authorized by law, courts may nonetheless refuse to entertain a case for any of the following practical reasons:
1) The belief that the matter can be better tried and decided elsewhere, either because the main aspects of the case transpired in a foreign jurisdiction or the material witnesses have their residence there;
2) The belief that the non-resident plaintiff sought the forum[,] a practice known as forum shopping[,] merely to secure procedural advantages or to convey or harass the defendant;
3) The unwillingness to extend local judicial facilities to non-residents or aliens when the docket may already be overcrowded;
4) The inadequacy of the local judicial machinery for effectuating the right sought to be maintained; and
The difficulty of ascertaining foreign law.
None of the above existed in this case, hence, the trial court properly took cognizance of the case.