Anita Mangila  vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 125027, August 12, 2002

Sometime in January 1988, petitioner contracted the freight forwarding services of private respondent for shipment of petitioner’s products, such as crabs, prawns and assorted fishes, to Guam (USA) where petitioner maintains an outlet. Petitioner agreed to pay private respondent cash on delivery. Private respondent’s invoice stipulates a charge of 18 percent interest per annum on all overdue accounts. In case of suit, the same invoice stipulates attorney’s fees equivalent to 25 percent of the amount due plus costs of suit. On the first shipment, petitioner requested for seven days within which to pay private respondent. However, for the next three shipments, March 17, 24 and 31, 1988, petitioner failed to pay private respondent shipping charges amounting to P109, 376.95.

Despite several demands, petitioner never paid private respondent. Thus, private respondent filed Civil Case before the Regional Trial Court of Pasay City for collection of sum of money.

On August 1, 1988, the sheriff filed his Sheriff’s Return showing that summons was not served on petitioner. A woman found at petitioner’s house informed the sheriff that petitioner transferred her residence to Sto. Niño, Guagua, Pampanga. The sheriff found out further that petitioner had left the Philippines for Guam. Thus, construing petitioner’s departure from the Philippines as done with intent to defraud her creditors, private respondent filed a Motion for Preliminary Attachment. On September 26, 1988, the trial court issued an Order of Preliminary Attachment against petitioner. The following day, the trial court issued a Writ of Preliminary Attachment. Sheriff Alfredo San Miguel of RTC Pampanga served on petitioner’s household help in San Fernando, Pampanga, the Notice of Levy with the Order, Affidavit and Bond.

On November 7, 1988, petitioner filed an Urgent Motion to Discharge Attachment without submitting herself to the jurisdiction of the trial court. She pointed out that up to then, she had not been served a copy of the Complaint and the summons. Hence, petitioner claimed the court had not acquired jurisdiction over her person. The trial court granted the Motion to Discharge Attachment on January 13, 1989 upon filing of petitioner’s counter-bond. The trial court, however, did not rule on the question of jurisdiction and on the validity of the writ of preliminary attachment.

Whether respondent court erred in not holding that the writ of attachment was improperly issued and served.

Yes, the issue of when jurisdiction over the person of the defendant should be acquired in cases where a party resorts to provisional remedies. A party to a suit may, at any time after filing the complaint, avail of the provisional remedies under the Rules of Court. Specifically, Rule 57 on preliminary attachment speaks of the grant of the remedy “at the commencement of the action or at any time thereafter.” This phrase refers to the date of filing of the complaint which is the moment that marks “the commencement of the action.” The reference plainly is to a time before summons is served on the defendant, or even before summons issues.

Whatever be the acts done by the Court prior to the acquisition of jurisdiction over the person of defendant – issuance of summons, order of attachment and writ of attachment – these do not and cannot bind and affect the defendant until and unless jurisdiction over his person is eventually obtained by the court, either by service on him of summons or other coercive process or his voluntary submission to the court’s authority. Hence, when the sheriff or other proper officer commences implementation of the writ of attachment, it is essential that he serve on the defendant not only a copy of the applicant’s affidavit and attachment bond, and of the order of attachment, as explicitly required by Section 5 of Rule 57, but also the summons addressed to said defendant as well as a copy of the complaint xxx.”

Furthermore, the grant of the provisional remedy of attachment involves three stages: first, the court issues the order granting the application; second, the writ of attachment issues pursuant to the order granting the writ; and third, the writ is implemented. For the initial two stages, it is not necessary that jurisdiction over the person of the defendant be first obtained. However, once the implementation of the writ commences, the court must have acquired jurisdiction over the defendant for without such jurisdiction, the court has no power and authority to act in any manner against the defendant. Any order issuing from the Court will not bind the defendant.


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