BOSTON EQUITY RESOURCES, INC., vs. COURT OF APPEALS, G.R. No. 173946, June 19, 2013

Facts:
On 24 December 1997, petitioner filed a complaint for sum of money with a prayer for the issuance of a writ of preliminary attachment against the spouses Manuel and Lolita Toledo. Herein respondent filed an Answer, she filed a Motion for Leave to Admit Amended Answer in which she alleged, among others, that her husband and co-defendant, Manuel Toledo (Manuel), is already dead. The death certificate of Manuel states “13 July 1995” as the date of death. As a result, petitioner filed a motion, dated 5 August 1999, to require respondent to disclose the heirs of Manuel. In compliance with the verbal order of the court during the 11 October 1999 hearing of the case, respondent submitted the required names and addresses of the heirs. Petitioner then filed a Motion for Substitution, praying that Manuel be substituted by his children as party-defendants. It appears that this motion was granted by the trial court.

Pre-trial thereafter ensued, the trial court issued its pre-trial order containing, among others, the dates of hearing of the case.

The trial of the case then proceeded. Herein petitioner, as plaintiff, presented its evidence and its exhibits were thereafter admitted.

On 26 May 2004, the reception of evidence for herein respondent was cancelled upon agreement of the parties. Counsel for herein respondent was given a period of fifteen days within which to file a demurrer to evidence. However, respondent instead filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, citing among others that the trial court did not acquire jurisdiction over the person of Manuel pursuant to Section 5, Rule 86 of the Revised Rules of Court;
The trial court, in an Order denied the motion to dismiss for having been filed out of time, citing Section 1, Rule 16 of the 1997 Rules of Court which states that: “Within the time for but before filing the answer to the complaint or pleading asserting a claim, a motion to dismiss may be made x x x.” Respondent’s motion for reconsideration of the order of denial was likewise denied on the ground that “defendants’ attack on the jurisdiction of this Court is now barred by estoppel by laches” since respondent failed to raise the issue despite several chances to do so.
Aggrieved, respondent filed a petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals alleging that the trial court seriously erred and gravely abused its discretion in denying her motion to dismiss despite discovery, during the trial of the case, of evidence that would constitute a ground for dismissal of the case. CA granted the petition of the Respondent and declared that Jurisdiction can be question at any time even first time on appeal.
Hence this case.

Issue:
Whether the Respondent CA erred in declaring that the Private respondent is not estopped in questioning the jurisdiction of the Trial Court over the person of the defendant?

Held:
Yes, objection on jurisdictional grounds which is not waived even if not alleged in a motion to dismiss or the answer is lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter. x x x Lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter can always be raised anytime, even for the first time on appeal, since jurisdictional issues cannot be waived x x x subject, however, to the principle of estoppel by laches.

Since the defense of lack of jurisdiction over the person of a party to a case is not one of those defenses which are not deemed waived under Section 1 of Rule 9, such defense must be invoked when an answer or a motion to dismiss is filed in order to prevent a waiver of the defense. If the objection is not raised either in a motion to dismiss or in the answer, the objection to the jurisdiction over the person of the plaintiff or the defendant is deemed waived by virtue of the first sentence of the above-quoted Section 1 of Rule 9 of the Rules of Court.

Section 1. Defenses and objections not pleaded. – Defenses and objections not pleaded either in a motion to dismiss or in the answer are deemed waived.

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