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Algura Vs LGU of Naga

GR no. 150135

October 30, 2006

506 SCRA 81 Remedial Law Civil Procedure Rule 141 Indigent



In 1999, the City of Naga demolished a portion of the house owned by spouses Antonio
and Lorencita Algura for allegedly being a nuisance as the said portion of the house was
allegedly blocking the road right of way.

In September 1999, the spouses then sued Naga for damages arising from the said
demolition (loss of income from boarders), which to the spouses is an illegal demolition.
Simultaneous to their complaint was an ex-parte motion for them to litigate as indigent
litigants. The motion was granted and the spouses were exempted from paying the
required filing fees.

In February 2000, during pre-trial, the City of Naga asked for 5 days within which to file
a Motion to Disqualify Petitioners as Indigent Litigants. Under the Rules of Court (then
Sec. 16, Rule 141), a party may be qualified as a pauper litigant (for those residing
outside Metro Manila) if he submits an affidavit attesting that a.) his gross monthly
income does not exceed P1,500.00 (now not more than double the monthly minimum
wage) and b.) he should not own property with an assessed value of not more than
P18,000.00 (now not more than P300k market value). The City asserted that the
combined income of the Alguras is at least P13,400 which is way beyond the threshold
P1.5k. The City presented as proof Antonios pay slip as a policeman (P10,400) and
Lorencitas estimated income from her sari-sari store. The claim of the spouses that they
were property-less, as proven by the City Assessors Certification, was not disputed by
the City.

The spouses argued that since the boarding house was demolished by the city, they only
relied on the income of Antonio which was barely enough to cover their familys need
like food, shelter, and other basic necessities for them and their family (they have 6

The judge, however, granted the motion of the City and so the spouses were disqualified
as pauper-litigants. Subsequently, the case filed by the spouses against the City was
dismissed for the spouses failure to pay the required filing fees.

RTC ( Naga, Branch 27) decision:

1. April 14, 2000, Granting the disqualification of petitioners.

2. On July 17, 2000, denying petitioners motion for reconsideration

3. September 11, 2001, ordering the Dismissal of the case

Petition: Instant petition raising a solitary issue for the Consideration of the Court.

ISSUE: Whether petitioners should be considered as indigent litigants who qualify for
exemption from paying filing fees.


Petition is Meritorious. Petition is granted. The decision of the RTC is ANNULLED AND

As to the Disqualification of petitioners as Pauper Litigants, there was no hearing on the

matter, since the Supreme court is not a trier of facts the case was remanded back to the
lower court because the RTC should have called for a hearing as required by rule 3
section 21 to enable the petitioners to adduce evidence that they did not have property
and money sufficient and available for food, shelter and basic necessities

In this case, the Supreme Court reconciled the provisions of Sec. 21, Rule 3 and Sec. 19,
Rule 141 (then Sec. 16, Rule 141).

Sec. 21, Rule 3, merely provides a general statement that indigent litigants may not be
required to pay the filing fees. On the other hand, Sec. 19, Rule 141 provides the specific
standards that a party must meet before he can be qualified as an indigent party and thus
be exempt from paying the required fees.

If Sec. 19, Rule 141 (in this case, then Sec. 16, Rule 141) is strictly applied, then the
spouses could not qualify because their income exceeds P1.5k, which was the threshold
prior to 2000. But if Sec. 21, Rule 3 is to be applied, the applicant (the Spouses) should
be given a chance in a hearing to satisfy the court that notwithstanding the evidence
presented by the opposing party (Naga), they have no money or property sufficient and
available for food, shelter and other basic necessities for their family, and are thus,
qualified as indigent litigants under said Rule. Therefore, the court should have
conducted a trial in order to let the spouses satisfy the court that indeed the income
theyre having, even though above the P1.5k limit, was not sufficient to cover food,
shelter, and their other basic needs.

Rule 3 Sec. 21. Indigent party.

A party may be authorized to litigate his action, claim or defense as an
indigent if the court, upon an ex parte application and hearing, is satisfied
that the party is one who has no money or property sufficient and available
for food, shelter and basic necessities for himself and his family.

Such authority shall include an exemption from payment of docket and other
lawful fees, and of transcripts of stenographic notes which the court may
order to be furnished him. The amount of the docket and other lawful fees
which the indigent was exempted from paying shall be a lien on any
judgment rendered in the case favorable to the indigent, unless the court
otherwise provides.

Any adverse party may contest the grant of such authority at any
time before judgment is rendered by the trial court. If the court
should determine after hearing that the party declared as an
indigent is in fact a person with sufficient income or property, the
proper docket and other lawful fees shall be assessed and collected
by the clerk of court. If payment is not made within the time fixed by
the court, execution shall issue for the payment thereof, without
prejudice to such other sanctions as the court may impose. cralaw