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Briones vs. CA
[G.R. No. 204444. January 14, 2015]
Facts: Petitioner Virgilo Briones discovered that on December 6, 2007, he allegedly mortgaged real estate property he owned in Manila (TCT No. 160689) to secure a loan with respondent Cash Asia worth P3,500,000.00. As a result, the property had been foreclosed and a writ of possession had already been issued in favor of respondent company Cash Asia. In his complaint filed to the Manila RTC to nullify the mortgage, petitioner claimed that he never contracted any loans from Cash Asia as he has been living and working in Vietnam since October 31, 2007. He further claimed that he only went back to the Philippines from December 28, 2007 to January 3, 2008 for the holidays, and that during this duration nobody informed him of any loan agreement entered into with Cash Asia. Essentially, Briones assailed the validity of the foregoing contracts claiming his signature to be forged. Respondent company filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that petitioner had filed his complaint in the Manila RTC, but the venue stipulation in the contracts state that all legal actions arising out the Real Estate Mortgage shall only be brought in or submitted to the jurisdiction of the proper court of Makati City. After the Manila RTC denied respondent’s motion, the respondent filed a petition for certiorari before the CA. The court held that the RTC gravely abused its discretion in denying Cash Asia’s motion to dismiss, and reiterated the contracts clause that provided that actions arising therefrom should be exclusively filed before the courts of Makati City only. The CA annulled the RTC Orders, and dismissed Briones’s complaint without prejudice to the filing of the same before the proper court in Makati. After the CA denied petitioner’s motion for reconsideration, the latter appealed to the current court.
Issue: W/N the CA was correct to dismiss petitioner’s complaint ground due to improper venue.
Held: No. Petition granted, CA ruling annulled. Under Rule 4 of the Rules of Court, the venue of 1) real actions is the court which has jurisdiction over the area wherein the real property involved, or a portion thereof, is situated (Sec. 1); 2) while the venue of personal actions is the court which has jurisdiction where the plaintiff or the defendant resides, at the election of the plaintiff (Sec 2). As an exception, jurisprudence in Legaspi v. Rep. of the Phils. instructs that the parties, thru a written instrument, may either introduce another venue where actions arising from such instrument may be filed, or restrict the filing of said actions in a certain exclusive venue.
As regards restrictive stipulations on venue, it must be shown that such stipulation is exclusive through the use of qualifying or restrictive words, such as "exclusively," "waiving for this purpose any other venue," "shall only" preceding the designation of venue, "to the exclusion of the other courts," or words of similar import. The lack of such words would render the stipulation as merely an agreement on an additional forum, not as limiting venue to the specified place. Where the complaint assails only the terms, conditions, and/or coverage of a written instrument and not its validity, the exclusive venue stipulation is still be binding on the parties, and a complaint may be properly dismissed on the ground of improper venue. A complaint directly assailing the validity of the written instrument itself should not be bound by the exclusive venue stipulation contained therein and should be filed in accordance with the general rules on venue.
In the current case, while the the venue stipulation in the subject contracts is restrictive in nature, considering that it effectively limits the venue of the actions arising therefrom to the courts of Makati City, petitioner’s complaint is that his signature was forged, and thus directly assails the validity of the subject contracts. Thus, Briones cannot be expected to comply with the aforesaid venue stipulation, as his compliance therewith would mean an implicit recognition of their validity. Hence, pursuant to the general rules on venue, Briones properly filed his complaint before a court in the City of Manila where the subject property is located