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32) LOURDES A. VALMONTE and ALFREDO D. VALMONTE v.

THE HONORABLE COURT


OF APPEALS, THIRD DIVISION and ROSITA DIMALANTA
G.R. No. 108538 January 22, 1996
J. Mendoza

NATURE: Petition for review on certiorari over the CA ruling, which reversed the earlier decision
of the RTC of Manila, declaring Lourdes Valmonte in default.

FACTS:

1) Petitioners are spouses Lourdes and Alfredo Valmonte who reside at Washington, USA. Atty.
Alfredo Valmonte, however, was a member of the Philippine Bar, practicing his profession in the
Philippines in an office located at Ermita, Manila.

2) Private respondent Rosita Dimalanta, sister of Lourdes Valmonte, was on the other hand, a
resident of Missouri, USA. Dimalanta filed a complaint for partition of real property (a three-door
apartment located in Paco, Manila) and accounting of rentals against petitioners Lourdes A.
Valmonte and Alfredo D. Valmonte before the RTC of Manila.

3) In a letter previously sent by Lourdes to Rosita, she mentioned that in regard to the partition
of the property in question, all communications intended for her should be sent to her husband.

4) In line with the complaint for partition and accounting of rentals, service of summons was
then made upon petitioner Alfredo Valmonte, who at the time, was at his office in Manila.
Petitioner Alfredo Valmonte accepted the summons, insofar as he was concerned, but refused
to accept the summons for his wife, Lourdes Valmonte, on the ground that he was not
authorized to accept the process on her behalf. Accordingly the process server left without
leaving a copy of the summons and complaint for petitioner Lourdes Valmonte.

5) Petitioner Alfredo Valmonte thereafter filed his Answer with Counterclaim. Petitioner Lourdes
Valmonte, however, was not able to file her Answer. For this reason private respondent moved
to declare her in default. Petitioner Alfredo D. Valmonte entered a special appearance in behalf
of his wife and opposed the private respondents motion.
6) The trial court denied private respondents motion to declare petitioner Lourdes A. Valmonte
in default as well as the subsequent motion for reconsideration. Whereupon, private respondent
filed a petition for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus with the Court of Appeals.

7) The CA granted Dimalantas petition and declared Lourdes Valmonte in default.

CA held that Mrs. Valmonte clearly and unequivocally directed the aforementioned counsel of
Dimalanta to address all communications (evidently referring to her controversy with her sister
Mrs. Dimalanta over the Paco property, now the subject of the instant case) to her lawyer who
happens also to be her husband.

Further evidencing her intent to be represented by Atty. Valmonte, her husband, was his
subsequent special appearance made in behalf of Lourdes.

8) The present petition instituted by spouses Valmonte, assailing the decision of the CA, alleging
that it erred in refusing to apply Rule 17, Section 7 of the Rules of Court when in fact petitioner
Lourdes Valmonte is a non-resident defendant and that there was no valid substituted service
under Rule 14, Section 8 as there was no strict compliance with the requirement.

ISSUE: Whether there was valid service of summons as against the person of Lourdes
Valmonte.

RULING: NO.

In an action in rem or quasi in rem, jurisdiction over the person of the defendant is not essential
for giving the court jurisdiction so long as the court acquires jurisdiction over the res. If the
defendant is a nonresident and he is not found in the country, summons may be served
extraterritorially in accordance with Rule 14, Section 17, which provides:

17. Extraterritorial service. - When the defendant does not reside and is not
found in the Philippines and the action affects the personal status of the plaintiff
or relates to, or the subject of which is, property within the Philippines, in which
the defendant has or claims a lien or interest, actual or contingent, or in which the
relief demanded consists, wholly or in part, in excluding the defendant from any
interest therein, or the property of the defendant has been attached within the
Philippines, service may, by leave of court, be effected out of the Philippines by
personal service as under Section 7; or by publication in a newspaper of general
circulation in such places and for such time as the court may order, in which case
a copy of the summons and order of the court shall be sent by registered mail to
the last known address of the defendant, or in any other manner the court may
deem sufficient. Any order granting such leave shall specify a reasonable time,
which shall not be less than sixty (60) days after notice, within which the
defendant must answer.

Service of summons is not for the purpose of vesting it with jurisdiction but for complying with
the requirements of fair play or due process, so that he will be informed of the pendency of the
action against him and the possibility that property in the Philippines belonging to him or in
which he has an interest may be subjected to a judgment in favor of the plaintiff and he can
thereby take steps to protect his interest if he is so minded.

In the case at bar, private respondents action, which is for partition and accounting under Rule
69, is in the nature of an action quasi in rem. Such an action is essentially for the purpose of
affecting the defendants interest in a specific property and not to render a judgment against
him.

As petitioner Lourdes A. Valmonte is a nonresident who is not found in the Philippines, service
of summons on her must be in accordance with Rule 14, Section 17. Such service, to be
effective outside the Philippines, must be made either (1) by personal service; (2) by
publication in a newspaper of general circulation in such places and for such time as the court
may order, in which case a copy of the summons and order of the court should be sent by
registered mail to the last known address of the defendant; or (3) in any other manner which
the court may deem sufficient.

Since in the case at bar, the service of summons upon petitioner Lourdes A. Valmonte was not
done by means of any of the first two modes, the question is whether the service on her
attorney, petitioner Alfredo D. Valmonte, can be justified under the third mode, namely, in any
manner the court may deem sufficient.
The SC held that service upon Atty. Valmonte does not constitute valid service against Lourdes
Valmonte, his wife. The third mode of service provided in the Rules, like the first two, must be
made outside the Philippines, such as through the Philippine Embassy in the foreign country
where the defendant resides.

Moreover, there are several reasons why the service of summons on Atty. Alfredo
A.Valmonte cannot be considered a valid service of summons on petitioner Lourdes
A. Valmonte.

In the first place, service of summons on petitioner Alfredo D. Valmonte was not made
upon the order of the court as required by Rule 14, 17 and certainly was not a mode
deemed sufficient by the court which in fact refused to consider the service to be valid and on
that basis declare petitioner Lourdes Valmonte in default for her failure to file an answer.

In the second place, service in the attempted manner on petitioner was not made upon
prior leave of the trial court as required also in Rule 14, 17. The Rules require that such
leave must be applied for by motion in writing, supported by affidavit of the plaintiff or some
person on his behalf and setting forth the grounds for the application.

Finally, and most importantly, because there was no order granting such leave, petitioner
Lourdes Valmonte was not given ample time to file her Answer which, according to the
rules, shall be not less than sixty (60) days after notice. It must be noted that the period to file an
Answer in an action against a resident defendant differs from the period given in an action filed
against a nonresident defendant who is not found in the Philippines. In the former, the period is
fifteen (15) days from service of summons, while in the latter, it is at least sixty (60) days from
notice.

Wherefore, the decision appealed from is REVERSED. The orders of the RTC Manila are herein
REINSTATED.