Rowena Padilla-Rumbaua Vs. Edward Rumbaua – G.R. No. 166738, August 14, 2009

Facts:
Petitioner filed a complaint against respondent for Nullity of Marriage using the ground of Article 36 of the Family code or psychologically incapacitated to exercise the essential obligations of marriage. Petitioner submitted her Judicial Affidavits, Testimonies, and the Psychological Report of s Psychologist as her evidence. The RTC ruled in favor of the complainant and nullify the said Marriage. However, the office of the Solicitor General appealed the decision of the RTC to the CA alleging among others was the insufficiency of evidence of the petitioner. CA granted the petition of the OSG and reversed and set aside the decision of the RTC. In her appeal to the SC, petitioner assigned that the CA erred in reversing the decision of the RTC, instead of vacating the decision of the courts a quo and remanding the case to the RTC to recall her expert witness and cure the defects in her testimony, as well as to present additional evidence, would temper justice with mercy. The petitioner maintains that vacating the lower courts’ decisions and the remand of the case to the RTC for further reception of evidence are procedurally permissible. She argues that the inadequacy of her evidence during the trial was the fault of her former counsel, Atty. Richard Tabago, and asserts that remanding the case to the RTC would allow her to cure the evidentiary insufficiencies. She posits in this regard that while mistakes of counsel bind a party, the rule should be liberally construed in her favor to serve the ends of justice.

Issue:
Whether the CA erred in not remanding the case back to the RTC instead of dismissing it completely.

Held:
No. A remand of the case to the RTC for further proceedings amounts to the grant of a new trial that is not procedurally proper at this stage. Section 1 of Rule 37 provides that an aggrieved party may move the trial court to set aside a judgment or final order already rendered and to grant a new trial within the period for taking an appeal. In addition, a motion for new trial may be filed only on the grounds of (1) fraud, accident, mistake or excusable negligence that could not have been guarded against by ordinary prudence, and by reason of which the aggrieved party’s rights have probably been impaired; or (2) newly discovered evidence that, with reasonable diligence, the aggrieved party could not have discovered and produced at the trial, and that would probably alter the result if presented.
In the present case, the petitioner cites the inadequacy of the evidence presented by her former counsel as basis for a remand. She did not, however, specify the inadequacy. That the RTC granted the petition for declaration of nullity prima facie shows that the petitioner’s counsel had not been negligent in handling the case. Granting arguendo that the petitioner’s counsel had been negligent, the negligence that would justify a new trial must be excusable, i.e. one that ordinary diligence and prudence could not have guarded against. The negligence that the petitioner apparently adverts to is that cited in Uy v. First Metro Integrated Steel Corporation where we explained:

Blunders and mistakes in the conduct of the proceedings in the trial court as a result of the ignorance, inexperience or incompetence of counsel do not qualify as a ground for new trial. If such were to be admitted as valid reasons for re-opening cases, there would never be an end to litigation so long as a new counsel could be employed to allege and show that the prior counsel had not been sufficiently diligent, experienced or learned. This will put a premium on the willful and intentional commission of errors by counsel, with a view to securing new trials in the event of conviction, or an adverse decision, as in the instant case. Thus, we find no justifiable reason to grant the petitioner’s requested remand.

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