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See You in Court: Summoning Defendants In a Civil Case

Christian Andrew Labitoria Gallardo[1]

In the Philippine context, refusing to lend money to a friend or a relative can be quite a feat. The appeal to pity, coupled with veiled threats to remember the refusal as a mark of ingratitude or selfishness, prove rather effective. Equally difficult however is collecting the same. The risk of being branded as someone heartless to a person in need comes to mind. In law however, regardless of the relationship with the debtor, one can ask the assistance of the courts in collecting the debts. What if the debtor however refuses to come to court? Can the police just drag them away?


To make a valid judgment, it is obvious that the person against whom a case has been filed must be notified, or at the very least attempted to be notified, in order to afford him an opportunity to present this side. This notification is, in legal parlance, called “summons”. It is through this summons that a court acquires power to make a binding and valid ruling for or against a party if that party does not voluntarily appear in court. [2]

Upon the filing of a complaint, the Court is generally bound to issue “summons” within 5 days from the receipt of the pleading and the proof of payment of the required legal fees.[3] This shall be served together with the complaint by the sheriff or the court officer. However, upon request, the court may authorize the person filing the case to serve the summons on the other party. It shall be served against the defendants individually, notwithstanding the relations of the defendants with each other. Hence, even if the defendants are siblings, or even if they are spouses, summons shall be served upon them separately. Note that summons may served at night, or even on Sunday or during holidays.[4]

How may summons be served?

Generally, summons shall be served personally on the other party whenever practicable. It must be handed out to and received by the other party himself. If he refuses to accept it notwithstanding the fact that is already being handed out to him, it may be left within his view and presence.[5] If the other party is a person confined in jail or penal institutions however, service upon him shall be made by the jail warden.[6] On the other hand, if the other party is a minor, service shall be made on his or her parent or guardian.[7] Again, even if the other parties are spouses, service of summons shall be made to them individually.[8]

It must be noted that the service need not be made on the place of residence of the other party. It may be made in any place that he can be found.[9]

What if the debtor is a corporation? Who must receive the summons?

If the other party however is a juridical entity such as a corporation, partnership or association, service may be made on the president, in-house counsel, general manager, managing partner, treasurer, corporate secretary, or in case they are unavailable, to their respective secretaries. If it cannot be made on the officers listed, summons may be served on the person in charge of customarily receiving correspondence in behalf of the entity.[10] Similar to the principle stated above, it need not be made on the principal office of the entity as summons may be served anywhere that those officers can be found.[11] In fact, mailing the summons to the principal office as stated in official documents of government agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission or the Cooperative Development Authority produces no legal effect.[12] Again, the summons must be received by the officers listed personally.

It must be noted further that only the officers listed above can receive summons on behalf of the entity they are representing. Even if the corporation has several branches, service on the branch manager of one of its branches is not valid.[13] More so, a security guard is not authorized to receive summons in behalf of his employer.[14] If, however, any of the officers listed above expressly authorized an employee to receive the summons on his or her behalf, service shall be valid regardless of the position of the authorized employee in the office.[15]

What if, however, the debtor is hiding and refuses to attend court hearings? Worse, what if he skipped town to avoid his obligation? Or what if he is not someone familiar, such that his real or full name and address is not known? How can one invoke the aid of the court against an unknown debtor, or one that cannot be found? Check out our article next week to find out. Meanwhile, please join our facebook page for more free online legal advice.

Cover Photo by Benjamin Child on Unsplash

[1]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 ( [2] Section 17 Rule 14, 2020 Rules of Court for Civil Procedures in relation to Rule 23 Rule. [3] Section 1 Rule 14, 2020 Rules of Court for Civil Procedures [4] Laus v CA, 219 SCRA 688. [5] Section 5 Rule 14 2020 Rules of Court for Civil Procedures. [6] Section 8 Rule 14 2020 Rules of Court for Civil Procedures. [7] Section 10 Rule 14 2020 Rules of Court for Civil Procedures. [8] Section 11 Rule 14 2020 Rules of Court for Civil Procedures. [9] Sansio v Spouses Mogul (2009). [10] Section 12 Rule 14 2020 Rules of Court for Civil Procedures. [11] Baltazar v CA, G.R. No. 78728 (1988). [12][12] Cathay Metal Corporation v Laguna West Multi-Purpose Cooperative Inc (2014). [13] E.B. Villarosa and Partner Co ltd v. Judge Benito G.R. No. 136426 (1999). [14] Orosa v CA, 261 SCRA 376 (1996). [15] Nation Petroleum Gas Inc v RCBC (2015).


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