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BELEN V. CHAVEZ, G.R.

NO 175334 (2008)
FACTS: Spouses Pacleb (private respondents) filed an action for the enforcement of a
foreign judgment against spouses Belen (petitioners). The complaint alleged that the
Pacleb secured a judgment by default rendered by Judge John W. Green of the
Superior Court of the State of California, which ordered the spouses Belen to pay
$56,204.69 representing loan repayment and share in the profits plus interest and costs
of suit. The summons was served on the Belens address in Laguna, as was alleged in
the complaint, and received by Marcelo M. Belen.
1. Spouses Belen filed an answer alleging that they were actually residents of
California and that their liability had already been extinguished via a release
abstract judgment issued in the collection case abroad.
2. For failure to attend the pre-trial conference, the RTC ordered the ex parte
presentation of evidence for Pacleb.
3. Belen subsequently filed a Motion to Dismiss citing the judgment of dismissal
issued by the Superior Court of California; however the MTD was dismissed for
failure to submit a copy of the judgment of dismissal
4. Spouses Pacleb, for their part, filed for the amendment of the complaint, stating
that they withdrew the complaint (in California) because of the prohibitive cost
of litigation.
5. For failure of spouses Belen to appear in the rescheduled pre-trial conference,
RTC declared Belen in default and allowed the presentation of ex parte
evidence. In the meantime, the counsel (Alcantara) of petitioners died without
the RTC being informed of such fact. The RTC ruled against Belen and ordered
them to pay Pacleb
6. A copy of the decision was sent to Atty. Alcantara but was returned with the
notation addressee deceased. A copy of the same was then sent to the last
known address of spouses Belen in Laguna. Atty. Culvera, the new counsel of
spouses Belen, filed a motion to quash the Writ of Execution as well as a notice of
appeal. The RTC denied the same.
7. Petitioners filed a petition for review on certiorari (Rule 65) alleging that CA
committed grave abuse of discretion in denying petitioners motion to quash the
writ of execution and notice of appeal despite sufficient legal bases in support
thereof.
ISSUE: WON the RTC acquired jurisdiction over the persons of petitioners through either
the proper service of summons or the appearance of Atty. Alcantara on behalf of
petitioners
HELD: Yes. 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. As a rule, if defendants have
not been summoned, the court acquires no jurisdiction over their person, and a
judgment rendered against them is null and void. To be bound by a decision, a party
should first be subject to the courts jurisdiction.
In an action in personam, jurisdiction over the person of the defendant is necessary for
the court to validly try and decide the case. Jurisdiction over the person of a resident

defendant who does not voluntarily appear in court can be acquired by personal
service of summons as provided under Sec 7, Rule 14 ROC. If he cannot be personally
served with summons within a reasonable time, substituted service may be made in
accordance with Sec 8 of said Rule. If he is temporarily out of the country, any of the
following modes of service may be resorted to: (1) substituted service set forth in Sec 8;
(2) personal service outside the country, with leave of court; (3) service by publication,
also with leave of court; or (4) any other manner the court may deem sufficient.
In an action in personam wherein the defendant is a non-resident who does not
voluntarily submit himself to the authority of the court, personal service of summons
within the state is essential to the acquisition of jurisdiction over her person. This method
of service is possible if such defendant is physically present in the country. If he is not
found therein, the court cannot acquire jurisdiction over his person and therefore
cannot validly try and decide the case against him. An exception was laid down
in Gemperle v. Schenker wherein a non-resident was served with summons through his
wife, who was a resident of the Philippines and who was his representative and
attorney-in-fact in a prior civil case filed by him; moreover, the second case was a
mere offshoot of the first case.
CAB: the records of the case reveal that spouses Belen were permanent residents of
California. It has been consistently maintained that they were not physically resent in
the Philippines. Therefore, the service of summons in the petitioners address in Laguna
was defective and did not serve to vest in court jurisdiction over their person.
Nevertheless, the CA correctly concluded that the appearance of Atty. Alcantara and
his filing of numerous pleadings were sufficient to vest such jurisdiction. By supplying the
court with various documents that could only have been supplied by spouses Belen,
implied authorization could be gleaned from such. In sum, there was voluntary
submission to the jurisdiction of the RTC.
The running of the fifteen-day period for appeal did not commence upon the service of
the RTC decision at the address on record of Atty. Alcantara or at the Laguna address.
It is deemed served on petitioners only upon its receipt by Atty. Culvera on 29
December 2003. Therefore, the filing of the Notice of Appeal on 06 January 2004 is
within the reglementary period and should be given due course.