A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - January 26, 2016 - 9:00am

This case should be a good lesson to those who are dealing with a married woman. Husband-wife relationship somehow influences another party in conducting negotiations with the wife, particularly when the wife has given the husband some authority. This is what happened in this case of Teddy and Nancy.

Teddy and Nancy are husband and wife, both residents of the USA. Teddy, who is a member of the Philippine Bar, however, practices his profession in the Philippines commuting for this purpose between Manila and America. Nancy on the other hand, also still has some interests in the Philippines, particularly a certain real property in Paco, Manila, which is also being claimed by her widowed sister Anna, as co-owner. Since Teddy has an office in Manila, Nancy sent a letter to Anna informing the latter that all communications intended for her regarding said property should be addressed to her husband Teddy, who is also her lawyer, at his address in Manila.

Seven months later, without any headway in the negotiations, Anna already filed a complaint for partition of real property and accounting of rental in the Regional Trial Court of Manila against Teddy and Nancy. In her complaint, Anna alleged that Teddy and Nancy are present residents of USA but for the purpose of the complaint, they may be served with summons at Teddy’s address in Manila where Teddy holds office and where he can be found.

Apparently, the foregoing averments were made on the basis of a letter previously sent by Nancy to Anna’s lawyer in which she referred Anna to her husband as the party to whom all communications intended for her may be sent. Service of summon was then made upon Teddy in his Manila office. Teddy accepted the summons for himself but refused to accept the summons for his wife on the ground that he was not authorized to accept the process on her behalf. Accordingly, no copy of the summons and complaint was left for Nancy.

Teddy thereafter filed his answer but Nancy did not. For this reason, Anna moved to declare Nancy in default. Teddy opposed this, contending that Nancy was not validly served with summons. Anna countered that Nancy was served with summons through her husband-lawyer and co-defendant whom she had manifestly authorized to serve as her lawyer in her dispute with Anna over their property. Was Anna correct?

No. Anna’s action is essentially for the purpose of affecting Nancy’s interest in a specific property and not to render a judgment against Nancy personally. It is therefore in the nature of an action in rem wherein jurisdiction over the person of Nancy is not essential for giving the court jurisdiction so long as the court acquires jurisdiction over the res on the property. Since Nancy is a non-resident and is not found in the Philippines, service of summons on her must be made outside of the Philippines either by (1) personal service, (2) by publication in a newspaper of general circulation in such placement and for such time as the court may order in which case a copy of the summon and order of the court should be sent in the last known address of Nancy, or (3) in any other manner which the court may deem sufficient. Since apparently, the service was not done according to the first two modes, the question is whether the service on Nancy’s husband and attorney can be justified under the third mode. But this mode, like the first two, must be made outside the Philippines such as through the Philippine Embassy in a foreign country where Nancy resides. Although Nancy wrote Anna’s attorney that all communications intended for her should be addressed to her husband Teddy who is also her lawyer at the latter’s address in Manila, no power of attorney to receive summons for her can be inferred therefrom. As usual, in negotiations of this kind, the exchange of correspondence was carried on by counsel of the parties. But the authority given to Nancy’s husband in these negotiations certainly cannot be construed as also including an authority to represent her in any litigation (Valmonte, et. al. vs. C., et. al., G.R. 108538, January 22, 1996).


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