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HEIRS OF DR. MARIANO FAVIS SR vs. JUANA GONZALES, G.R. No. 185922. January 15, 2014 (Digested)

G.R. No. 185922.  January 15, 2014
Civil Procedure: Effect of Failure to Plead

Dr. Favis died intestate on 29 July 1995 leaving properties:
On 16 October 1994, he allegedly executed a Deed of Donation transferring and conveying properties described in (1) and (2) in favor of his grandchildren with Juana.
Claiming that said donation prejudiced their legitime, Dr. Favis’ children with Capitolina, petitioners herein, filed an action for annulment of the Deed of Donation, inventory, liquidation and partition of property before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) against Juana, Spouses Mariano and Larcelita and their grandchildren as respondents.
In their Answer with Counterclaim, respondents assert that the properties donated do not form part of the estate of the late Dr. Favis because said donation was made inter vivos, hence petitioners have no stake over said properties.
The RTC, in its Pre-Trial Order, limited the issues to the validity of the deed of donation and whether or not respondent Juana and Mariano are compulsory heirs of Dr. Favis.
Respondents interposed an appeal before the Court of Appeals
The Court of Appeals rejected petitioners’ contention

Whether or not the CA erred in applying Section 1, par. (j), Rule 16 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure in moto proprio dismissing the case.

The appellate court’s reliance on this provision is misplaced. Rule 16 treats of the grounds for a motion to dismiss the complaint. It must be distinguished from the grounds provided under Section 1, Rule 9 which specifically deals with dismissal of the claim by the court motu proprio. Section 1, Rule 9 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.
Section 1, Rule 9 provides for only four instances when the court may motu proprio dismiss the claim, namely: (a) lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter; (b) litis pendentia ; (c) res judicata ; and (d) prescription of action.Specifically in Gumabon v. Larin, cited in Katon v. Palanca, Jr., the Court held:
x x x [T]he motu proprio dismissal of a case was traditionally limited to instances when the court clearly had no jurisdiction over the subject matter and when the plaintiff did not appear during trial, failed to prosecute his action for an unreasonable length of time or neglected to comply with the rules or with any order of the court. Outside of these instances, any motu proprio dismissal would amount to a violation of the right of the plaintiff to be heard. Except for qualifying and expanding Section 2, Rule 9, and Section 3, Rule 17, of the Revised Rules of Court, the amendatory 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure brought about no radical change. Under the new rules, a court may motu proprio dismiss a claim when it appears from the pleadings or evidence on record that it has no jurisdiction over the subject matter; when there is another cause of action pending between the same parties for the same cause, or where the action is barred by a prior judgment or by statute of limitations. x x x.

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