Tijam vs Sibonghanoy
[G.R. No. L-21450. April 15, 1968]
Facts: On July 19, 1948 petitioners Serafin Tijam and Felicitas Tagalog commenced a civil case in the Court of First Instance of Cebu against the spouses Magdaleno Sibonghanoy and Lucia Baguioto to recover the sum of P1,908.00, plus legal interests and additional costs. Later, respondent company Manila Surety and Fidelity Co., Inc. was referred to by the spouses Sibonghanoy as their surety. About a month prior to the filing of the complaint, the Judiciary Act of 1948 took effect, depriving the Court of First Instance of original jurisdiction over cases in which the demand, exclusive of interest, is not more than P2,000.00. (Secs. 44[c] and 86[b], R.A. No. 296.). Despite the enactment of RA 296, throughout the resolution of the case over the next fifteen years in the Cebu CFI and later the court of appeals, respondent Surety did not dispute the jurisdiction of the courts, whether directly or indirectly. Later, in January 1963 receiving the decision of the CA affirming the CFI’s writ of execution, respondent filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that the petitioner’s action was filed just one month after the enactment of date RA 296, and that Section 88 of said Act placed within the original exclusive jurisdiction of inferior courts all civil actions where the value of the subject-matter or the amount of the demand does not exceed P2,000.00, exclusive of interest and costs; that the CFI therefore had no jurisdiction to try and decide the case.
Issue: W/N Surety is correct in asserting that CFI had no jurisdiction over the case due to the enactment of RA 296?
No. CA ruling upheld. A party may be estopped or barred from raising a question in different ways and for different reasons. Estoppel is divided into either estoppel in pais, or estoppel by deed or by record, and of estoppel by laches. Laches, in a general sense is failure or neglect, for an unreasonable and unexplained length of time, to do that which, by exercising due diligence, could or should have been done earlier; it is negligence or omission to assert a right within a reasonable time, warranting a presumption that the party entitled to assert it either has abandoned it or declined to assert it. A party cannot invoke the jurisdiction of a court to sure affirmative relief against his opponent and, after obtaining or failing to obtain such relief, repudiate or question that same jurisdiction. In the current case, from the time the Surety became a quasi-party on July 31, 1948, it could have raised the question of the lack of jurisdiction of the CFI since the sum of money involved which, according to the law then in force, was within the original exclusive jurisdiction of inferior courts. It failed to do so. Instead, at several stages of the proceedings in the court a quo as well as in the Court of Appeals, it invoked the jurisdiction of said courts to obtain affirmative relief and submitted its case for a final adjudication on the merits. It was only after an adverse decision was rendered by the Court of Appeals that it finally raised the question of jurisdiction.