Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Jurisdiction: Quieting of Title

Question: In a case of quieting of title, which court exercises jurisdiction?

Answer: It depends.

Determine the assessed value of the land involved.

The governing law is Republic Act No. 7691, entitled “An act expanding the jurisdiction of the metropolitan trial courts, municipal trial courts, and municipal circuit trial courts, amending for the purpose Batas Pambansa, Blg. 129, otherwise known as the "Judiciary Reorganization act of 1980”

Take note of the expansion of the jurisdiction of Metropolitan / Municipal Trial Courts and circuit trial courts.

Section 3 of Republic Act No. 7691 states:

“Section 3. Section 33 of the same law is hereby amended to read as follows: Section 1 of R.A. 7691 states:

Sec. 33. Jurisdiction of Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts in Civil Cases. — Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts shall exercise:

"(1) Exclusive original jurisdiction over civil actions and probate proceedings, testate and intestate, including the grant of provisional remedies in proper cases, where the value of the personal property, estate, or amount of the demand does not exceed One hundred thousand pesos (P100,000.00) or, in Metro Manila where such personal property, estate, or amount of the demand does not exceed Two hundred thousand pesos (P200,000.00), exclusive of interest, damages of whatever kind, attorney's fees, litigation expenses, and costs, the amount of which must be specifically alleged: Provided, That interest, damages of whatever kind, attorney's fees, litigation expenses, and costs shall be included in the determination of the filing fees: Provided, further, That where there are several claims or causes of actions between the same or different parties, embodied in the same complaint, the amount of the demand shall be the totality of the claims in all the causes of action, irrespective of whether the causes of action arose out of the same or different transactions;

"(2) Exclusive original jurisdiction over cases of forcible entry and unlawful detainer: Provided, That when, in such cases, the defendant raises the questions of ownership in his pleadings and the question of possession cannot be resolved without deciding the issue of ownership, the issue of ownership shall be resolved only to determine the issue of possession; and

"(3) Exclusive original jurisdiction in all civil actions which involve title to, or possession of, real property, or any interest therein where the ASSESSED VALUE of the property or interest therein does not exceed Twenty thousand pesos (P20,000.00) or, in civil actions in Metro Manila, where such assessed value does not exceed Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) exclusive of interest, damages of whatever kind, attorney's fees, litigation expenses and costs: Provided, That in cases of land not declared for taxation purposes, the value of such property shall be determined by the assessed value of the adjacent lots."

It is clear that the assessed value of the property involve is a determining factor in matters of jurisdiction.

So that if you file a case of quieting of title in the municipality of Daanbantayan, where the assessed value indicated in the tax declaration is P1,250, then the municipal circuit trial court of Daanbantayan exercises jurisdiction.

If the old law were to be followed, there would have been a different result.

Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, Section 19 stated:

“Section 19. Jurisdiction in Civil Cases. — Regional Trial Courts shall exercise exclusive original jurisdiction:

(1) In all civil actions in which the subject of the litigation is incapable of pecuniary estimation;

(2) In all civil actions which involve the title to, or possession of, real property, or any interest therein, except actions for forcible entry into and unlawful detainer of lands or buildings, original jurisdiction over which is conferred upon Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts;”

Under the old law, in any kind of civil action involving real property, jurisdiction unqualifiedly would have been with the Regional Trial Court.

Now, one has to qualify and determine first the assessed value of the property involved.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Stop SLAPPing the press

There is an urgent need for Congress to pass legislation that would deter the filing of baseless and frivolous lawsuits against journalists.
The state should emphasize this constitutional policy to promote and protect public participation in discussion of matters of public interest by enacting a law that would curb the filing of baseless and harassment lawsuits.
This urgent need comes in the wake of continuous libel suits that have been filed against members of the press.
Most lawsuits filed against member of the press are meant only to harass newsmen who are only doing their duties as watchdogs in the affairs of governance.
Common charges slapped against the working press are libel and defamation.
Most of the complainants are government officials, and the self-proclaimed powers-that-be who loathe the exposes against corruption and government abuse.
Lately, in the national scene, editors and high ranking executives of national dailies have been charged with violating the laws against inciting to sedition.
In our own community, the Negros Chornicle has been the subject of harassment by high ranking local government officials who do not like what we publish.
A series of libel suits have been slapped against the Negros Chronicle.
Fortunately, all these harassment suits never saw the light of day and have been dismissed at the city prosecutors’ level and the Department of Justice.
The unabated slapping of harassment suits, with the intention of pressuring newsmen, or even to silence them should be stopped.
This continued harassment sends a dangerous signal against press freedom in the country, and sends a chilling effect upon every journalist.
A journalist is hampered professionally and economically in the performance of his duties as the purveyor of truth if he has to face frivolous lawsuits.
In the United States, there are state laws that protect journalists against the filing of baseless civil or criminal charges hurled against them.
Such baseless charges have been commonly labeled as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP).
In California for instance, the legislature has passed a statue against SLAPP where a newsman, or an individual engaged in the exercise of free speech who is sued, can seek a preliminary court determination whether the suit is meant only to harass him.
The newsman’s relief includes the recovery of the costs of suit and attorney’s fees, should the court finally determine that the suit against the newsman or individual is frivolous and baseless.
The Publisher’s Association of the Philippines, of which the Negros Chronicle is an active member, will take the initiative of drafting a similar bill and propose it to Congress.
The state should officially declare it to be in the public interest to encourage continued participation in matters of public significance, and that this participation should not be chilled through abuse of the judicial process.
It is our obligation as journalists to band together and curb this disturbing increase in strategic lawsuits brought primarily to chill the valid exercise of the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and petition for the redress of grievances.
It is high time to put a stop to SLAPP.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Blogger in the hierarchy of rights

There is a hierarchy of rights which the Constitution protects.
It is important for blogers you and I to determine where bloggers stand in the hierarchy of rights.
Why is this important?
In pursuit of the exercse of our rights to free expression, or free speech in the blog, we can stumble into legal issues or obstacles which may require a determination whether what we blog is constitutionally protected, or falls under the realm of un-protected speech.
If blogs fall under un-protected speech, then it give rise to legal consequences, like suits for criminal libel, or for sedition, for for indecent publication.
If one is blogging about the birds and the bees, then there may be nothing to worry about.
But what if you are a blogger engaged in criticisms of the actions of others?
What if you are a blogger making critical comments on matters that interests the public at large?
You could end up facing a libel charge.
You need to determine where your blog falls under the hierarchy of free-speech rights because it will have an impact on your legal defense.
In decisions of our Supreme Court, it has been ruled that freedom of expression ranks in the hierarchy of constitutional rights higher than property rights.
Therefore the norms for regulation of expression (like blogging) places more stringent limits on state action.
Freedom of expression or freedom of speech and even press freedom enjoys a higher rank in the hierarchy of constitutionally protected rights.

Friday, August 04, 2006

The blogger and free speech

Why can we blog?
People blog because it is their way of "speaking their minds" through the web, and sharing it with others.
Blogging is an exercise. It is an exercise of one's constitutional right to free speech.
To be able to freely speak one's mind and express, is one that is guaranteed by our constitution.
Blogging thereofre is part and parcel of that plethora of rights protected by the constitution.
Section 4 ARticle III of the 1987 Philippine Constitution states that "No law shall be passed abriding the freedom of speech, of expression , or of the press, or the right of the people peacably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances."
To a very large extent, you and I can blog because this action is protected by the constitution.
According to the constitution, the government is prohibited from passing a law that would abrige free speech.
Naturally, this freedom, freedom of speech, like other rights, is not absolute.
There are types of speech which is not protected (blogs that are libelous, obcene, and those that cannot be protected because it endangers the nation's survival or security). But we will discuss this later.
If you notice the section of the bill of rights I have cited above specifically mentions three manifestatons of freedom: speech, expression, and press.
When you blog, are you exercising the right to free speech, or free press?
Or is there a difference?
There are significant differences which I think you will have to take note as a blogger, and I will discuss this later on.
When I was doing my thesis on defamation, one authority said there's gotta be a difference between the right to free speech and free press, otherwise the fundamental law would be engaged in "constitutional redundancy" which is not the object of the framers of the constitution.
The right to free press, generally is the right to speak about political matters and the political state of a nation.
The right to free speech meanwhile, is generally non-political speech like commercial speech.
Another distinction between free speech and free press is that the right to free press is generally exercised by the members of the press.
Those newspaper guys who write about the political state of their societies, those are the people who invoke the right to a free press.
Those engaged in free speech are generally those who not belong to that catgeory of writers or bloggers exercising the freedom of the press.
So what are you? A blogger exercising the right to a free press, or a blogger exercising your right to a free speech?
That is why we encounter questions like: Are bloggers journalists?
What have these distinctions got anything to do with you as a blogger?
There is some animal called the "hierarchy of rights."
I'll discuss this in my next web log.
See you later...

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Mactan WiFi

I am here at the Mactan International Airport waiting for a flight back to Manila.
Mactan airport is a WiFi hotspot. If you intend to purchase WiFi cards, you can choose between airborne access or Globequest.
Airborne access prepaid cards can be bought at The Tinder Box coffee and wines store inside the airport. Globequest pre-paid cards are sold at Bo's Coffee right beside The Tinder Box.
Globequest is far more efficient at Mactan airport so better to buy the Globequest pre-paid cards.
Anyway, I just came from a hearing this morning at the Regional Trial Court of Cebu. It is a very old case that I took over, filed in 1991 when I was still a third year college student in Silliman.
I presented for cross examination Atty. Orencio Gervacio, a provincial board member of Biliran province.
He was my last witness so I will be formally offering the plaintiff's evidence in ten days.
Thus, fifteen years after the filing of the case, the plaintiff is finally ready to formally offer its evidence.
How do the wheels of justice grind in the Philippines?
After the hearing I met a client at the SM Center at the reclamation area.
She looked deeply worried about her case.
Who would not be?
She hired a lawyer who charged her acceptance fees.
But she just found out that the lawyer she had engaged did not even enter his appearance in court.
The case was decided agasint her, as a private complainant. Her lawyer wasn't even there.
She is mad at the lawyer.
She wants me to remedy the situation. She gave me a folder of papers that have turned yellow because of age.
I bet this case was started even before that other case I attended this morning.
I saw that it was filed in 1984 yet.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

California statute against SLAPP

California has a law against Strategic Lawsuits agasint Public Participation (SLAPP)
It is embodied in their Code of Civil Procedure
Here is the text of the statute:
425.16. (a) The Legislature finds and declares that there has beena disturbing increase in lawsuits brought primarily to chill thevalid exercise of the constitutional rights of freedom of speech andpetition for the redress of grievances. The Legislature finds anddeclares that it is in the public interest to encourage continuedparticipation in matters of public significance, and that thisparticipation should not be chilled through abuse of the judicialprocess. To this end, this section shall be construed broadly. (b) (1) A cause of action against a person arising from any act ofthat person in furtherance of the person's right of petition or freespeech under the United States or California Constitution inconnection with a public issue shall be subject to a special motionto strike, unless the court determines that the plaintiff hasestablished that there is a probability that the plaintiff willprevail on the claim. (2) In making its determination, the court shall consider thepleadings, and supporting and opposing affidavits stating the factsupon which the liability or defense is based. (3) If the court determines that the plaintiff has established aprobability that he or she will prevail on the claim, neither thatdetermination nor the fact of that determination shall be admissiblein evidence at any later stage of the case, and no burden of proof ordegree of proof otherwise applicable shall be affected by thatdetermination. (c) In any action subject to subdivision (b), a prevailingdefendant on a special motion to strike shall be entitled to recoverhis or her attorney's fees and costs. If the court finds that aspecial motion to strike is frivolous or is solely intended to causeunnecessary delay, the court shall award costs and reasonableattorney's fees to a plaintiff prevailing on the motion, pursuant toSection 128.5. (d) This section shall not apply to any enforcement action broughtin the name of the people of the State of California by the AttorneyGeneral, district attorney, or city attorney, acting as a publicprosecutor. (e) As used in this section, "act in furtherance of a person'sright of petition or free speech under the United States or California Constitution in connection with a public issue" includes:(1) any written or oral statement or writing made before alegislative, executive, or judicial proceeding, or any other officialproceeding authorized by law; (2) any written or oral statement orwriting made in connection with an issue under consideration orreview by a legislative, executive, or judicial body, or any otherofficial proceeding authorized by law; (3) any written or oralstatement or writing made in a place open to the public or a publicforum in connection with an issue of public interest; (4) or anyother conduct in furtherance of the exercise of the constitutionalright of petition or the constitutional right of free speech inconnection with a public issue or an issue of public interest. (f) The special motion may be filed within 60 days of the serviceof the complaint or, in the court's discretion, at any later timeupon terms it deems proper. The motion shall be noticed for hearingnot more than 30 days after service unless the docket conditions ofthe court require a later hearing. (g) All discovery proceedings in the action shall be stayed uponthe filing of a notice of motion made pursuant to this section. Thestay of discovery shall remain in effect until notice of entry of theorder ruling on the motion. The court, on noticed motion and forgood cause shown, may order that specified discovery be conductednotwithstanding this subdivision. (h) For purposes of this section, "complaint" includes"cross-complaint" and "petition," "plaintiff" includes"cross-complainant" and "petitioner," and "defendant" includes"cross-defendant" and "respondent." (i) On or before January 1, 1998, the Judicial Council shallreport to the Legislature on the frequency and outcome of specialmotions made pursuant to this section, and on any other matterspertinent to the purposes of this section. (j) An order granting or denying a special motion to strike shallbe appealable under Section 904.1. (k) (1) Any party who files a special motion to strike pursuant tothis section, and any party who files an opposition to a specialmotion to strike, shall, promptly upon so filing, transmit to theJudicial Council, by e-mail or fax, a copy of the endorsed-filedcaption page of the motion or opposition, a copy of any relatednotice of appeal or petition for a writ, and a conformed copy of anyorder issued pursuant to this section, including any order grantingor denying a special motion to strike, discovery, or fees. (2) The Judicial Council shall maintain a public record ofinformation transmitted pursuant to this subdivision for at leastthree years, and may store the information on microfilm or otherappropriate electronic media.

Me and the World Trade Center

People say a picture can tell a thousand stories.
I have a picture that confirms this.
One of the photographs I have kept is the one taken by my Tito Bobong.
He took my picture with the Manhattan skyline hosting the World Trade Center in the background.
The World Trade Center is no more. Only tragic memories remain.
This picture was tkaken during our trip to the Statue of Liberty aboard a ferry.
Everytime I look at this picture, the horrific events of September 11, 2001 immediately come to mind. It must be because prominently shown in the photo are the twin towers.
I remember I went to the house of a close friend at around 9 p.m. on September 11 2001. We were watching CNN when suddenly there was a breaking news that a plane smashed onto a tower of the WTC. As we continued to montior, there were reports of other planes also came crashing to other major locations like the Pentagon.
We then concluded that there was an attack on America.
We immediately sent text messages to friends and relatives that America is under siege.
My cousin Kathlyn migrated to New York just before 9/11. She said she frequently passed by WTC, and always postponed a visit, telling herself that the WTC will always be there.
This are the memories that roam my mind everytime I look at this picture.