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LILIA B. BARRERA v. HON.

FRANCIS MILITANTE (Yap)


GR No. L-54681, May 31, 1982
Petitioner/s: LILIA B. BARRERA, represented by Miguel Logarta, Atty-In-Fact
Respondent/s: HON. FRANCIS MILITANTE, JUDGE OF CFI CEBU and
CARMEN BELLEZA, private respondent.
Doctrine: Authority to compromise cannot rightly be presumed. The record
does not show that petitioner had executed an SPA in favor of his counsel of
record or Atty-In-Fact. Thus, the court is left without any idea as to the nature
and extent of the alleged authority, which have to be proven. Sec. 23, Rule
138 of the ROC states that a special authority is required for Atty.s to
compromise the litigation of their clients. While it does not state that said
authority must be in writing, the court has reason to expect that if the same is
not in writing, it must be duly established by evidence other than the selfserving assertion of counsel that such authority was given to him.
Facts:
(1) Petitioner filed a complaint in the CFI of Cebu against private
respondents Carmen Belleza et al, for recovery of ownership and
possession of a parcel of land in Talisay, Cebu. As such, private
respondents were summoned to answer said complaint and to enter
into pre-trial and trial.
(2) The case was set for pre-trial conferences on several dates. The
latest was scheduled at May 18, 1980, but was postponed to June 11
because of the unreadiness of petitioners counsel to go on with the
pre-trial conference. On June 11, neither petitioner nor her counsel
appeared. Thus, respondent judge dismissed the case.
(3) Subsequently, petitioner filed an MR, stating that her counsel, who
was allegedly armed with an SPA to appear at the pre-trial and enter
into a compromise, was late because the secretary of the law office
did not arrive early where counsel could pick up the records of the
case on his way to court. In addition, they attached an affidavit of
the secretary stating she was late because she was feverish that
day. However, the MR was denied by respondent judge.

Held:
(1) In all the pre-trial conferences scheduled by the lower court,
petitioner has never appeared nor does the record show that she had
executed an SPA, in favor of either her Atty-In-Fact (Miguel Logarta)
or her counsel of record, to serve as the written authority to represent
her in said pre-trial conferences, with power to compromise the case.
Thus, the lower court had the discretion to dismiss the case for her or
her counsels failure to appear at the last scheduled pre-trial, June
11.
(2) The explanation given in the MR as to why counsel arrived late in
court was unsatisfactory. The affidavit by the secretary was not even
supported with a medical certificate to substantiate the claim of
illness. Moreover, it makes no sense that the secretary allegedly
arrived in the office at 9am, while counsel arrived in court 10 minutes
after 8:15amthe scheduled conference.
(3) Petitioners counsel alleged that he was armed with an SPA, but did
not show the scope, extent and limits of authority granted him.
Moreover, the said SPA was only allegedly executed by petitioners
Atty-In-Fact Logarta, the scope, extent and limits also not shown.
But the record does not show that petitioner had executed an SPA in
favor of his counsel of record or Atty-In-Fact. Thus, the court is left
without any idea as to the nature and extent of the alleged authority,
which have to be proven. Sec. 23, Rule 138 of the ROC states that a
special authority is required for Atty.s to compromise the litigation
of their clients. While it does not state that said authority must be in
writing, the court has reason to expect that if the same is not in
writing, it must be duly established by evidence other than the selfserving assertion of counsel that such authority was given to him.
Fallo: Respondent judge therefore did not act erroneously, much less in
grave abuse of discretion, in denying petitioners MR because authority to
compromise cannot rightly be presumed. And if, with good reason, the judge
is not satisfied that said authority exists (as in this case), dismissal for nonappearance of petitioner is in order.

(4) Petitioner, thus, filed this action claiming there was grave abuse of
discretion in dismissing her complaint.
Issue: W/N an SPA to appear at pre-trial and enter into a compromise has to
be proven and that authority cannot be presumed. (YESmust prove)

ABAD SANTOS, Concurring:


Petitioner can file a new complaint provided that her action has not
prescribed.