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The Republic, through the OMB filed with the Sandiganbayan 2 petitions for the forfeiture of properties unlawfully acquired funds and properties that the Garcias’ had allegedly amassed and acquired. The Garcias’ filed motion to dismiss on the ground of Sandiganbayan’s lack of jurisdiction for lack of proper and valid service of summons: (1) Forfeiture I – the corresponding summons on the case were all issued and all served on Gen. Garcia at his place of detention; (2) Forfeiture II – the sheriff stated giving the copies of the summons to the OIC/Custodian of the PNP Detention Center who in turn handed them to Gen. Garcia. The general signed his receipt of the summons, but as to those pertaining to the other respondents, Gen. Garcia acknowledged receiving the same, but with the following qualifying note: “I’m receiving the copies of Clarita, Ian Carl, Juan Paolo & Timothy – but these copies will not guarantee it being served to the above-named (sic).”
Whether or not the Sandiganbayan has acquired jurisdiction over the person of the petitioner and her 3 sons.
No. Sandiganbyan did not acquire jurisdiction over the person of the petitioner and her children. It is basic that a court must acquire jurisdiction over a party for the latter to be bound by its decision or orders. Valid service of summons, by whatever mode authorized by and proper under the Rules, is the means by which a court acquires jurisdiction over a person.
In the instant case, it is undisputed that summons for Forfeitures I and II were served personally on Maj. Gen. Carlos Flores Garcia, who is detained at the PNP Detention Center, who acknowledged receipt thereof by affixing his signature. It is also undisputed that substituted service of summons for both Forfeitures I and II were made on petitioner and her children through Maj. Gen. Garcia at the PNP Detention Center. However, such substituted services of summons were invalid for being irregular and defective.
Requirements as laid down in Manotoc vs Court of Appeals:
- Impossibility of prompt personal service, i.e., the party relying on substituted service or the sheriff must show that defendant cannot be served promptly or there is impossibility of prompt service within a reasonable time. Reasonable time being “so much time as is necessary under the circumstances for a reasonably prudent and diligent man to do, conveniently, what the contract or duty requires that should be done, having a regard for the rights and possibility of loss, if any[,] to the other party.” Moreover, we indicated therein that the sheriff must show several attempts for personal service of at least three (3) times on at least two (2) different dates.
- Specific details in the return, i.e., the sheriff must describe in the Return of Summons the facts and circumstances surrounding the attempted personal service.
- Substituted service effected on a person of suitable age and discretion residing at defendant’s house or residence; or on a competent person in charge of defendant’s office or regular place of business.
From the foregoing requisites, it is apparent that no valid substituted service of summons was made on petitioner and her children, as the service made through Maj. Gen. Garcia did not comply with the first two (2) requirements mentioned above for a valid substituted service of summons. Moreover, the third requirement was also not strictly complied with as the substituted service was made not at petitioner’s house or residence but in the PNP Detention Center where Maj. Gen. Garcia is detained, even if the latter is of suitable age and discretion. Hence, no valid substituted service of summons was made.