Estrellita’s refusal to file an answer eventually led to the loss of her right to answer; and her pending petition for certiorari/review on certiorari questioning the denial of the motion to dismiss before the higher courts does not at all suspend the trial proceedings of the principal suit before the RTC of Quezon City.
Firstly, it can never be argued that Estrellita was deprived of her right to due process. She was never declared in default, and she even actively participated in the trial to defend her interest.
Estrellita invokes Judge Macias v. Macias to justify the suspension of the period to file an answer and of the proceedings in the trial court until her petition for certiorari questioning the validity of the denial of her Motion to Dismiss has been decided by this Court. In said case, we affirmed the following reasoning of the CA which, apparently, is Estrellita’s basis for her argument, to wit:
However, she opted to file, on April 10, 2001, a ‘Motion to Dismiss,’ instead of filing an Answer to the complaint. The filing of said motion suspended the period for her to file her Answer to the complaint. Until said motion is resolved by the Respondent Court with finality, it behooved the Respondent Court to suspend the hearings of the case on the merits. The Respondent Court, on April 19, 2001, issued its Order denying the ‘Motion to Dismiss’ of the Petitioner. Under Section 6, Rule 16 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure [now Section 4], the Petitioner had the balance of the period provided for in Rule 11 of the said Rules but in no case less than five (5) days computed from service on her of the aforesaid Order of the Respondent Court within which to file her Answer to the complaint: x x x (Emphasis supplied.)
Estrellita obviously misappreciated Macias. All we pronounced therein is that the trial court is mandated to suspend trial until it finally resolves the motion to dismiss that is filed before it. Nothing in the above excerpt states that the trial court should suspend its proceedings should the issue of the propriety or impropriety of the motion to dismiss be raised before the appellate courts. In Macias, the trial court failed to observe due process in the course of the proceeding of the case because after it denied the wife’s motion to dismiss, it immediately proceeded to allow the husband to present evidence ex parte and resolved the case with undue haste even when, under the rules of procedure, the wife still had time to file an answer. In the instant case, Estrellita had no time left for filing an answer, as she filed the motion to dismiss beyond the extended period earlier granted by the trial court after she filed motions for extension of time to file an answer.
Estrellita argues that the trial court prematurely issued its judgment, as it should have waited first for the resolution of her Motion to Dismiss before the CA and, subsequently, before this Court. However, in upholding the RTC, the CA correctly ruled that the pendency of a petition for certiorari does not suspend the proceedings before the trial court. “An application for certiorari is an independent action which is not part or a continuation of the trial which resulted in the rendition of the judgment complained of.” Rule 65 of the Rules of Court is explicit in stating that “[t]he petition shall not interrupt the course of the principal case unless a temporary restraining order or a writ of preliminary injunction has been issued against the public respondent from further proceeding in the case.” In fact, the trial court respected the CA’s temporary restraining order and only after the CA rendered judgment did the RTC again require Estrellita to present her evidence.
Notably, when the CA judgment was elevated to us by way of Rule 45, we never issued any order precluding the trial court from proceeding with the principal action. With her numerous requests for postponements, Estrellita remained obstinate in refusing to file an answer or to present her evidence when it was her turn to do so, insisting that the trial court should wait first for our decision in G.R. No. 126603. Her failure to file an answer and her refusal to present her evidence were attributable only to herself and she should not be allowed to benefit from her own dilatory tactics to the prejudice of the other party. Sans her answer, the trial court correctly proceeded with the trial and rendered its Decision after it deemed Estrellita to have waived her right to present her side of the story. Neither should the lower court wait for the decision in G.R. No. 126603 to become final and executory, nor should it wait for its records to be remanded back to it because G.R. No. 126603 involves strictly the propriety of the Motion to Dismiss and not the issue of validity of marriage.