THE MANILA RAILROAD COMPANY VS. THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL (G.R. No. 6287)

Posted: November 7, 2013 in case digests
Tags: ,

Territorial jurisdiction in criminal cases.

Effect of defect in jurisdiction.

G.R. No. 6287             December 1, 1911

THE MANILA RAILROAD COMPANY, plaintiff-appellee,

vs.

THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL, representing the Insular Government, et al., defendants-appellants.

W. A. Kincaid and Thomas L. Hartigan, for appellant.

Antonio Constantino, for appellee.

FACTS:

– This is a case of appeal from CFI Tarlac’s judgment dismissing the action before it on motion of the plaintiff upon the ground that the court had no jurisdiction of the subject matter.

– On December 1907, Manila Railroad Co. began an action in CFI Tarlac for the condemnation of 69,910 sq. m. real estate located in Tarlac. This is for construction of a railroad line “from Paniqui to Tayug in Tarlac,” as authorized by law.

– Before beginning the action, Manila Railroad had caused to be made a thorough search in the Office of the Registry of Property and of the Tax where the lands sought to be condemned were located and to whom they belonged. As a result of such investigations, it alleged that the lands in question were located in Tarlac.

– After filing and duly serving the complaint, the plaintiff, pursuant to law and pending final determination of the action, took possession of and occupied the lands described in the complaint, building its line and putting the same in operation.

–  On October 4, Manila Railroad gave notice to the defendants that on October 9, a motion would be made to the court to dismiss the action upon the ground that the court had no jurisdiction of the subject matter, it having just been ascertained by the plaintiff that the land sought to be condemned was situated in the Province of Nueva Ecija, instead of the Province of Tarlac, as alleged in the complaint.

– This motion was heard and, after due consideration, the trial court dismissed the action upon the ground presented by the plaintiff. Thus, the case was appealed.

ISSUES:

1. WON CFI Tarlac has power and authority to take cognizance of condemnation of real estate located in another province

2. WON Sec. 377[1] of the Code of Civil Procedure and Act. No. 1258 are applicable and so the CFI has no jurisdiction.

HELD:

1. YES, CFI Tarlac has power and authority to take cognizance of condemnation of real estate located in another province.

 Ratio Sections 55 and 56[1] of Act No. 136 of the Philippine Commission confer perfect and complete jurisdiction upon the CFI of these Islands with respect to real estate in the Philippine Islands. Such jurisdiction is not made to depend upon locality. There is no suggestion of limitation. The jurisdiction is universal. It is nowhere suggested, much less provided, that a CFI of one province, regularly sitting in said province, may not under certain conditions take cognizance of an action arising in another province or of an action relating to real estate located outside of the boundaries of the province to which it may at the time be assigned.

Furthermore, in terms of jurisdiction over person of the plaintiff, the procedure does not alter or change that power or authority; it simply directs the manner in which it shall be fully and justly exercised. To be sure, in certain cases, if that power is not exercised in conformity with the provisions of the procedural law, purely, the court attempting to exercise it loses the power to exercise it legally. This does not mean that it loses jurisdiction of the subject matter. It means simply that he may thereby lose jurisdiction of the person or that the judgment may thereby be rendered defective for lack of something essential to sustain it. There is, of course, an important distinction between person and subject matter are both conferred by law. As to the subject matter, nothing can change the jurisdiction of the court over diminish it or dictate when it shall attach or when it shall be removed. That is a matter of legislative enactment which none but the legislature may change. On the other hand, the jurisdiction of the court over the person is, in some instances, made to defend on the consent or objection, on the acts or omissions of the parties or any of them. Jurisdiction over the person, however, may be conferred by consent, expressly or impliedly given, or it may, by an objection, be prevented from attaching or removed after it has attached.

2. NO.

Ratio Sec. 377 contains no express inhibition against the court. The prohibition provided therein is clearly directed against the one who begins the action and lays the venue. The court, before the action is commenced, has nothing to do with it either. The plaintiff does both. Only when that is done does the section begin to operate effectively so far as the court is concerned. The prohibition is not a limitation on the power of the court but on the rights of the plaintiff. It establishes a relation not between the court and the subject, but between the plaintiff and the defendant. It relates not to jurisdiction but to trial. It simply gives to defendant the unqualified right, if he desires it, to have the trial take place where his land lies and where, probably, all of his witnesses live. Its object is to secure to him a convenient trial.

The fact that such a provision appears in the procedural law at once raises a strong presumption that it has nothing to do with the jurisdiction of the court over the subject matter. It becomes merely a matter of method, of convenience to the parties litigant. If their interests are best subserved by bringing in the Court Instance of the city of Manila an action affecting lands in the Province of Ilocos Norte, there is no controlling reason why such a course should not be followed. The matter is, under the law, entirely within the control of either party. The plaintiff’s interests select the venue. If such selection is not in accordance with section 377, the defendant may make timely objection and, as a result, the venue is changed to meet the requirements of the law.

Section 377 of the Code of Civil Procedure is not applicable to actions by railroad corporations to condemn lands; and that, while with the consent of defendants express or implied the venue may be laid and the action tried in any province selected by the plaintiff nevertheless the defendants whose lands lie in one province, or any one of such defendants, may, by timely application to the court, require the venue as to their, or, if one defendant, his, lands to be changed to the province where their or his lands lie. In such case the action as to all of the defendants not objecting would continue in the province where originally begun. It would be severed as to the objecting defendants and ordered continued before the court of the appropriate province or provinces. While we are of that opinion and so hold it can not affect the decision in the case before us for the reason that the defendants are not objecting to the venue and are not asking for a change thereof. They have not only expressly submitted themselves to the jurisdiction of the court but are here asking that that jurisdiction be maintained against the efforts of the plaintiff to remove it.

Moreover, the principles which we have herein laid down we do not apply to criminal cases. They seem to rest on a different footing. There the people of the state is a party. The interests of the public require that, to secure the best results and effects in the punishment of crime, it is necessary to prosecute and punish the criminal in the very place, as near as may be, where he committed his crime. As a result it has been the uniform legislation, both in statutes and in constitutions, that the venue of a criminal action must be laid in the place where the crime was committed. While the laws here do not specifically and in terms require it, we believe it is the established custom and the uniform holding that criminal prosecutions must be brought and conducted, except in cases especially provided by law, in the province where the crime is committed.

The judgment must be REVERSED and the case REMANDED to the trial court with direction to proceed with the action according to law.

With regards to the jurisdiction over the person of the plaintiff, the jurisdiction was obtained not only by the usual course of practice – that is, by the process of the court – but also by consent expressly given, is apparent. The plaintiff submitted itself to the jurisdiction by beginning the action. The defendants are now in this court asking that the action be not dismissed but continued. They are not only nor objecting to the jurisdiction of the court but, rather, are here on this appeal for the purpose of maintaining that very jurisdiction over them. Nor is the plaintiff in any position to ask for favors. It is clearly guilty of gross negligence in the allegations of its complaint, if the land does not lie in Tarlac as it now asserts

 

Crim Pro case digest team:

– Karen P. Lustica

– Carmela Dumlao

– Arline Halina

– Daniel Erika

– Sannie Mae Paronda

– Randel Bejasa

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