Pinga vs. Heirs of German Santiago
G.R. No. 170354. June 30, 2006.
The Heirs of German Santiago filed a complaint for injunction against Edgardo Pinga and Vicenta Saavedra for unlawfully entering the coco lands of the respondent, cutting wood and bamboos and harvesting the fruits of the coconut trees therein. The petitioners in their Amended Answer with Counterclaim, asserted that the properties in question had been in possession thereof since the 1930s.
Due to the respondents failure to present their evidence and to prosecute the case for unreasonable length of time, the RTC ordered the dismissal of the complaint. Respondents filed for motion for reconsideration that the entire action be dismissed and petitioner be disallowed from presenting evidence ex parte. The respondents argued that compulsory counterclaims cannot be adjudicated independently of plaintiff’s cause of action,” and “a conversu, the dismissal of the complaint carries with it the dismissal of the compulsory counterclaims. Since there is no opposition to the Motion for Reconsideration of the respondents, the RTC granted the motion.
(1) Whether or not the dismissal of the complaint necessarily carries the dismissal of the compulsory counterclaim.
(2) Whether or not the RTC erred when it ordered the dismissal of the counterclaim on the ground that there is no opposition to the motion for reconsideration seeking the dismissal of the counterclaim
(1) No. Section 3, Rule 17 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, the dismissal of the complaint due to the fault of plaintiff does not necessarily carry with it the dismissal of the counterclaim, compulsory or otherwise. In fact, the dismissal of the complaint is without prejudice to the right of defendants to prosecute the counterclaim.
(2) Yes. There is no mandatory rule requiring that an opposition be filed to a motion for reconsideration without need for a court order to that effect; and, the “failure to file an opposition to the Plaintiff’s Motion for Reconsideration is definitely not one among the established grounds for dismissal of the counterclaim.”
Sections 2 and 3 of Rule 17 ordains a more equitable disposition of the counterclaims by ensuring that any judgment thereon is based on the merit of the counterclaim itself and not on the survival of the main complaint. Certainly, if the counterclaim is palpably without merit or suffers jurisdictional flaws which stand independent of the complaint, the trial court is not precluded from dismissing it under the amended rules, provided that the judgment or order dismissing the counterclaim is premised on those defects.
- Dismissal of plaintiff’s complaint is without prejudice to the right of the defendant to prosecute his counterclaim in the same or separate action.
- If the court dismisses the complaint on the ground of lack of jurisdiction, the compulsory counterclaim must also be dismissed as it is merely ancillary to the main action and no jurisdiction remained for any grant of relief under the counterclaim.