Republic of the Philippines
G.R. No. L-19548 December 22, 1966
NICEFORO S. AGATON, petitioner-appellant,
HON. PATRICIO PEREZ, CARLOS S. MARTINEZ, and FELIZA B. MARTINEZ, respondents-appellees.
N. S. Agaton for petitioner and appellant.
Bernardo C. Ronquillo for respondents and appellees.
On June 15, 1960 respondent Feliza B. Martinez and her husband, co-respondent Carlos S. Martinez, entered into a contract of lease with petitioner Niceforo S. Agaton, covering the second floor of respondents' house at Camp 8, Kennon Road, Baguio City. The term of the lease was up to June 15, 1961, at a monthly rental of P100.00. On May 8, 1961 respondents filed a complaint in the municipal court of Baguio for the collection of (1) rents unpaid since December 18, 1960; (2) the value of certain city services which petitioner was supposed to pay but did not, thus compelling respondents to pay them; and (3) another indebtedness in the sum of P200, together with attorney's fees of P150.
Petitioner filed a written answer to the complaint, containing denials as well as a number of allegations under the headings of "first special affirmative defense and/or counterclaim" and "second special affirmative defense and/or counterclaim." The first consists of a long narration of evidentiary facts and conclusions which, reduced to their essence, merely tend to support petitioner's allegation that respondents had misled him into renting their house by making him believe that there was regular transportation which he could avail of in going to and from the city proper when actually there was none. The second affirmative defense and/or counterclaim also consists of a detailed narration of how respondent Feliza Martinez, on March 14, 1961, went to see petitioner's employer, the Superintendent of the Baguio Military Institute where he was teaching, to inquire whether he was getting his salary on time — an act which, petitioner alleged, was done maliciously and with the obvious intention to "embarrass, humiliate, degrade, belittle and vex the defendant and thus undermine (his) position of dignity and authority." Compensatory damages (for taxi fare spent by petitioner) were the subject of the first counterclaim; moral damages were the subject of the second.
When the case was called for hearing respondents were furnished copy of petitioner's answer to the complaint, whereupon they manifested to the Court that they "are denying specially each and every allegation of all the counterclaims, the truth being that this claim was filed in good faith." The trial then proceeded as to respondents' case, after which petitioner made a verbal motion for judgment on the pleadings with respect to his counterclaim, alleging that respondents' verbal answer thereto constituted a mere general denial and therefore tendered no triable issue. The motion was denied, as was also a subsequent motion for reconsideration. Petitioner thereupon filed a petition for certiorari with the Court of First Instance of Baguio, alleging grave abuse of discretion. That court, in its decision of January 10, 1962, ruled that there was no such abuse and hence dismissed the petition, with costs.
Petitioner interposed the present appeal and now insists that since respondents' answer to his counterclaim was a mere general denial and therefore tendered no issue, it was mandatory for the court a quo to render judgment on the pleadings. There is no merit in the argument. In the first place, petitioner's answer, particularly in those portions thereof denominated by him as special affirmative defenses and/or counterclaims, contains so many unnecessary allegations of evidentiary matters that a specific denial of each and every one of them was not only uncalled for but even impractical, especially considering that the old Rules of Court did not require an answer (in this case to the counterclaim) in the municipal court to be in writing (Rule 4, Sec. 6). In the second place, the allegations in both the special affirmative defenses and in the counterclaim are so inseparable and indeed have been lumped by petitioner himself under common headings that, following the rule as to new matters affirmed in the answer (Rule 11, Section 1, old Rules of Court), they may be deemed controverted even if not specifically challenged by respondents in a reply. Finally, the basic allegations which make up the counterclaims, namely, misrepresentation and malice attributed to respondents were specifically traversed by them by their allegation of good faith in the verbal answer interposed by them to the said counterclaims.
Far from committing a grave abuse of discretion, the court a quo acted correctly and with proper judicial circumspection in denying petitioner's motion for judgment on the pleading.
The decision appealed from is affirmed, with costs against petitioner-appellant.
Concepcion, C.J., Reyes, J.B.L., Dizon, Regala, Bengzon, J.P., Zaldivar, Sanchez and Castro, JJ., concur.
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