Let’s Meet Halfway: Venue for Civil Actions
Christian Andrew Labitoria Gallardo
What is the midpoint between the North and the South of the Metro, that is, between Quezon City to Alabang-Paranaque area? That is a constant question posed to a group of friends with some living in the North and some living in the South.
For the Northerners, a hipster place in Cubao Expo or some after-work pub in Ortigas may seem like fair place to meet up with the Southies. For the Southerners however, it would be most equitable to meet in a high-end bar in Makati or Taguig with the Northies.
Similarly, in court actions, finding a reasonable court venue for the complainant and the respondent to meet and litigate can be quite a struggle. Where must court actions be filed?
To determine the venue of actions, one must first differentiate between criminal, civil and administrative cases. If the action involves a crime or an offense, usually carrying with it the penalty of fine and/or imprisonment, it is a criminal case. Otherwise, if it involves only the delivery of money or property, or compelling the other party to do or not to do a specific act, it is civil in nature. Administrative cases on the other hand involves a government department or agency specifically designated by law to act on specific matters, such as the National Labor Relations Commission for the filing of labor cases. In this article, we shall first discuss the venue for civil cases.
For civil cases, the nature of the action is determinative of the venue for the trial of the case. A civil case may be a real action or a personal action. A real action affects the title to or possession of a real property, such as land. To put it simply, if it involves the question of ownership or possession of a land, it is a real action. Otherwise, it is a personal action.
Real actions shall be tried in the local court where the real property involved, or a portion thereof, is situated. On the other hand, personal actions involving Philippine-resident defendants shall be tried in the local court where any of the complainant or defendant resides, at the option of the complainant. The residence contemplated here is the place where on stays, permanently or temporarily. Hence, despite growing up in a province where one’s kins are residing, if one already moved out and rents an apartment in Katipunan to study, the personal action may be filed in the courts of Quezon City.
There is a different rule however for defendants not residing in the Philippines. For non-resident defendants that can be nonetheless be located in the country, the case may be tried either in the local court where the complainant resides or where the defendant may be found, depending again on the choice of the complainant. For non-resident defendants however that cannot be located in the Philippines, an action may be commenced against him ONLY if the action affects the personal status of the complainant, or the property of the defendant that can be found in the country, in which case it may be filed either in the local court where the complainant resides, or where the affected property is located.
Where a specific law provides otherwise
The rules on venue outline above however is only the general rule. Where there is a specific law or rule which provides for a pertinent venue of a specific type of court action, it must be adhered to. An example of this are petitions for annulment of marriage or legal separation, which must be filed in the Family Court of the city or province where the petitioner or the respondent has been residing for at least six (6) months prior to the date of filing of the case.
Exclusive Venue Stipulations
The parties may also agree in writing prior to the filing of the action on the exclusive venue of a potential or contemplated court action. In fact, this is a standard provision to include in any form of contracts in order to ensure that the parties shall not spend an exorbitant amount just to attend court hearings. Take note however that the operative word is the term “exclusive”, which means that the stipulation must be framed in such manner as to preclude any other possible venues for court actions. Hence, if the stipulation in the contract only provides that the parties agree to bring any disputes to the courts in Muntinlupa City where the defendant resides, it shall not preclude the complainant to bring the personal action to the courts in Bulacan City where he resides, as the stipulation does not provide for exclusivity. Terms such as “exclusively” or “solely” must therefore be added to make the stipulation on venue exclusive in nature.
Meeting halfway can be quite a struggle. This applies not only in determining the venue for court actions or hanging out with friends, but also in creating or sustaining relationships with people, romantic or otherwise. Thankfully, at least in court actions, the venue has been provided by law, at least where the parties fail to stipulate on such, to prevent further arguments and misundertandings.
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Christian Andrew Labitoria Gallardo is a recent graduate of the Ateneo School of Law with a Juris Doctor degree, and is currently an associate of the Sangalang and Gaerlan, Business Lawyers, a law firm specializing in labor, corporate and business law. You may reach him through a phone call or message (09157042132) or via email (email@example.com).  § 1 Rule 4, 2020 Rules of Civil Procedure.  § 1 Rule 4, 2020 Rules on Civil Procedure.  Id.  Dangwa Transportation Co v Sarmiento (1977).  § 2 Rule 4, 2020 Rules of Civil Procedure.  § 4 SC Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages.  § 2 (C), SC Rule on Legal Separation.  § 4 Rule 4, 2020 Rules of Civil Procedure.