No. L-18831. January 30, 1965.
MAIN TOPIC – Rule 38
Catalina Cayetano filed a case for Foreclosure of Real Estate Mortgage against Spouses Ceguerra. Within the reglementary period, the defendants filed an Answer in the form of a letter, which provided that the mortgage was deliberately planned. The Court granted the foreclosure instituted on the ground that Spouses Ceguerra was in default due to their failure to file a responsive pleading to the complaint within the reglementary period. It appears that this decision never became known to appellants-spouses, the same having been returned to the Court, as unclaimed.
On April 21, 1961, defendants were served with a copy of a Writ of Execution, commanding the Sheriff to seize the goods and chattels in order to satisfy the judgment. Spouses Ceguerra filed a Petition for Relief on the ground that (1) the answer-letter was a substantial compliance with the rules, for it contained facts upon which defendants relied upon as defenses, and if said letter-answer did not conform with the rules, the non-conformity could be considered “an excusable mistake” taking into account that defendants are mere ordinary lay-men not cognizant with the intricacies of the Rules of Court and (2) that they have been deprived of their day in court. It was prayed that the Court, in the interest of justice, set aside the order dated January 7, 1961, declaring them in default, together with the decision of January 11, 1961, and that the case be set for hearing on the merits. The Court denied the instant petition for relief on the ground of failure to file within the reglementary period.
(1) Whether or not the petition for relief is filed within the period provided for by the rules.
(2) Whether or not the letter-answer was a sufficient and substantial compliance with the requirements of the rules
(1) Yes, the letter-answer took the place of a responsive pleading and, therefore, defendants should not have been declared in default. For purposes of argument, that defendants were validly declared in default, still the petition for relief to have been filed on time. This is so, because a petition for relief may likewise be taken from the order of execution, inasmuch as Sec. 2, Rule 38, Revised Rules, does not only refer to judgments, but also to orders, or any other proceedings. From the time they had actual knowledge of the order of execution, on April 21, 1961, until the filing of the petition for relief, on June 17, 1961, only 57 days had elapsed.
The subject matter of the case is a lot and house, which to all appearances, constitute the only holdings of the defendants. It would be in keeping with the best interest of justice to afford them a chance to prove whether the machinations attributed to appellee existed and whether appellee can be compelled to submit the title of appellants to the GSIS, with a view of having the loan released.
(2) Yes. The letter-answer contained a recital of facts relied upon, as defenses. The mortgage debt was admitted, but defendants claimed that thru the machinations of plaintiff, they were unable to pay the same. Having filed an answer, defendants should have been entitled to notice of hearing. And if the answer was not responsive, the trial court should have apprised the defendants of such fact, considering that they were not lawyers. It appearing that they were not informed of the scheduled hearing, all the proceedings undertaken therein became a nullity, there being a deprivation of their day in court, amounting to lack of due process.
A petition for relief may be taken from an order of execution, inasmuch as Sec. 2, Rule 38, Revised Rules of Court, does not only refer to judgments, but also to orders, or any proceedings.