Remedial Law

Ma. Hazelina Tujan-Militante vs Ana Kari Carmencita Nustad

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G.R. No. 209518 – 811 Phil. 192 – Remedial Law – Civil Procedure – How Jurisdiction acquired; Summons – Voluntary Appearance

Civil Law – Land Titles and Deeds – Title cannot be collaterally attached

In 2011, Ana Kari Carmencita Nustad filed a civil case against Ma. Hazelina Tujan-Militante. Ana prayed that the court issue an order against Hazelina for her to produce in court several duplicate copies of land titles which are in the name of Ana but are in Hazelina’s possession. Hazelina filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction on the ground that she never received summons. The court denied her motion to dismiss. Hazelina then filed a motion for reconsideration where she further averred that Ana’s titles are void because she is a Norwegian, an alien, who is prohibited by the Constitution from owning real properties. She also prayed for damages.

ISSUES:

1. Whether or not the court acquired jurisdiction over Hazelina.

2. Whether or not Hazelina can attack Ana’s titles in the civil case filed by Ana.

HELD:

1. Yes. A trial court acquires jurisdiction over the person of the defendant by service of summons. However, it is equally significant that even without valid service of summons, a court may still acquire jurisdiction over the person of the defendant, if the latter voluntarily appears before it. In this case, when Hazelina’s motion to dismiss was denied, she filed a motion for reconsideration where she sought affirmative relief. The subsequent filing of a Motion for Reconsideration which sought for affirmative relief is tantamount to voluntary appearance and submission to the authority of the court. Such 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. By seeking affirmative reliefs from the trial court, Hazelina is deemed to have voluntarily submitted to the jurisdiction of the court. A party cannot invoke the jurisdiction of the court to secure the affirmative relief against his opponent and after obtaining or failing to obtain such relief, repudiate or question that same jurisdiction.

2. Hazelina’s contention that the TCTs under the name of Nustad are invalid because of her citizenship constitutes a collateral attack on the titles. The issue as to whether an alien is or is not qualified to acquire the lands covered by the subject titles can only be raised in an action expressly instituted for that purpose.

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