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Special Civil Actions: Rule 63 - Declaratory Relief and Similar Remedies


Rule 63
Declaratory Relief and Similar Remedies

Section 1. Who may file petition - Any person interested under a deed, will, contract or other written instrument, or whose rights are affected by a statute, executive order or regulation, ordinance, or any other governmental regulation may, before breach or violation thereof bring an action in the appropriate Regional Trial Court to determine any question of construction or validity arising, and for a declaration of his rights or duties, thereunder. (Bar Matter No. 803, 17 February 1998)

An action for the reformation of an instrument, to quiet title to real property or remove clouds therefrom, or to consolidate ownership under Article 1607 of the Civil Code, may be brought under this Rule.

Section 2. Parties. — All persons who have or claim any interest which would be affected by the declaration shall be made parties; and no declaration shall, except as otherwise provided in these Rules, prejudice the rights of persons not parties to the action. 

Section 3. Notice on Solicitor General. — In any action which involves the validity of a statute, executive order or regulation, or any other governmental regulation, the Solicitor General shall be notified by the party assailing the same and shall be entitled to be heard upon such question. 

Section 4. Local government ordinances. — In any action involving the validity of a local government ordinance, the corresponding prosecutor or attorney of the local governmental unit involved shall be similarly notified and entitled to be heard. If such ordinance is alleged to be unconstitutional, the Solicitor General shall also be notified and entitled to be heard. 

Section 5. Court action discretionary. — Except in actions falling under the second paragraph of section 1 of this Rule, the court, motu proprio or upon motion, may refuse to exercise the power to declare rights and to construe instruments in any case where a decision would not terminate the uncertainty or controversy which gave rise to the action, or in any case where the declaration or construction is not necessary and proper under the circumstances.

Section 6. Conversion into ordinary action. — If before the final termination of the case, a breach or violation of an instrument or a statute, executive order or regulation, ordinance, or any other governmental regulation should take place, the action may thereupon be converted into an ordinary action, and the parties shall be allowed to file such pleadings as may be necessary or proper. (Rule 63, Rules of Court)

Types of Actions:

Rule 63 covers two types of actions:

(a) petition for declaratory relief, and
(b) similar remedies.

The similar remedies are:

(a) action for reformation of an instrument;
(b) action to quiet title; and
(c) action to consolidate ownership, under Article 1607 of the Civil Code.


DECLARATORY RELIEF

What is the subject matter in a petition for declaratory relief?

The subject matter in a petition for declaratory relief is any of the following:
  1. a deed;
  2. a will;
  3. a contract or other written instrument;
  4. a statute;
  5. an executive order or regulation;
  6. an ordinance; or
  7. any other governmental regulation (Sec. 1, Rule 63, Rules of Court).
●The enumeration of the subject matter is exclusive. Hence, an action not based on any of the enumerated subject matters cannot be the proper subject of declaratory relief.

● An action for declaratory relief to ask the court to declare his filiation and consequently his hereditary rights is improper. The action is not based on a deed, a will, statute or any of those enumerated as the subject matter of the petition

●An action for declaratory relief to seek judicial declaration of citizenship to correct a previous unilateral registration by petitioner as an alien is improper, the action not being founded on a deed, contract or any ordinance (Obiles vs. Republic, 92 Phil. 864). An action for declaratory relief is not proper to resolve doubts concerning one's citizenship.

● A petition for declaratory relief is not proper for the purpose of seeking enlightenment as to the true import of a judgment. The remedy is to move for a clarificatory judgment.

● A petition for declaratory relief is not proper to assail a judgment. A party could appeal and employ other remedies under the Rules of Court before or after the judgment has become final and executor.

● Even if the subject is one enumerated under the Rules, where the contract or statute is clear in its terms and there is no doubt as to its meaning and validity, a petition for declaratory relief is improper. There would be no need for construction or a declaration of rights thereunder.


Who may file a petition for declaratory relief?

1. Any person interested under a deed, will, contract or other written instrument or

Contracts take effect only between the parties, their assigns and heirs, except in case where the rights and obligations arising from the contract are not transmissible by their nature, or by stipulation or by provision of law. The heir is not liable beyond the value of the property he received from the decedent.

If a contract should contain some stipulation in favor of a third person, he may demand its fulfillment provided he communicated his acceptance to the obligor before its revocation. A mere incidental benefit or interest of a person is not sufficient. The contracting parties must have clearly and deliberately conferred a favor upon a third person.

2. Any person whose rights are affected by a statute, executive order or regulation, ordinance or other governmental regulation

may before breach or violation thereof, bring an action in the RTC to determine any question of construction or validity arising and for a declaration of his rights or duties, thereunder (Sec 1, Rule 63).


Who shall be made parties to the action?

1. All persons who have or claim any interest which would be affected by the declaration shall be made parties; and no declaration shall, except as otherwise provided in the Rules, prejudice the rights of persons not parties to the action. (Sec 2, Rule 63).

2. In any action which involves the validity of a statute, executive order or regulation, or any other governmental regulation, the Solicitor General shall be notified by the party assailing the same and shall be entitled to be heard upon such question. (Sec 3, Rule 63).

3. In any action involving the validity of a local government ordinance, the corresponding prosecutor or attorney of the local governmental unit involved shall be similarly notified and entitled to be heard. If such ordinance is alleged to be unconstitutional, the Solicitor General shall also be notified and entitled to be heard. (Sec 4, Rule 63).


What court has jurisdiction over declaratory relief?

The subject matter of a petition for declaratory relief raises issues which are not capable of pecuniary estimation and must be filed with the appopriate Regional Trial Court (Sec. 19[11, BP 129; Sec. 1, Rule 63). It would be error to file the petition with the Supreme Court which has no original jurisdiction to entertain a petition for declaratory relief.


When should a petition for declaratory relief be filed?

The petition for declaratory relief should be filed before there occurs any breach or violation of the deed, contract, statute, ordinance or executive order or regulation. (Sec 1, Rule 63) It will not prosper when brought after a contract or a statute has already been breached or violated.


What is the appropriate remedy if there has already been a breach?

● If there has already been a breach, the appropriate ordinary civil action, not declaratory relief, should be filed.

● Where the law or contract has already been contravened prior to the filing of an action for declaratory relief, the courts can no longer assume jurisdiction over the action. In other words, a court has no more jurisdiction over an action for declaratory relief if its subject has already been infringed or transgressed before the institution of the action (Malana vs. Tappa, G.R. No. 181303, September 17, 2009). Under such circumstances, inasmuch as a cause of action has already accrued in favor of one or the other party, there is nothing more for the court to explain or clarify short of a judgment or final order.


Will the action for declaratory relief be dismissed if the breach occurs after the action has been constituted and during the its pendency?

When the breach occurs not before the filing of the petition for declaratory relief but after the action has been constituted and during its pendency, the action is not to be dismissed but may be converted into an ordinary action and the parties shall be allowed to file such pleadings as may be necessary or proper (Sec 1, Rule 63).


What are the requisites of an action for declaratory relief ?

The requisites of an action for declaratory relief are:
  1. The subject matter must be a deed, will, contract or other written instrument, statute, executive order or regulation or ordinance;
  2. The terms of said document or the validity thereof are doubtful and require judicial construction;
  3.  There must have been no breach of said document;
  4. There must be actual justiciable controversy or the "ripening seeds" of one between persons whose interests are adverse;
  5.  The issue must be ripe for judicial determination [e.g. administrative remedies already exhausted]; and
  6. Adequate relief is not available thru other means or other forms of action or proceedings. (Regalado, Remedial Law Compendium, Vol. 1)

What is the purpose of the petition?

● An action for declaratory relief is brought to secure an authoritative statement of the rights and obligations of the parties under a contract or a statute for their guidance in the enforcement or compliance with the same.

● The purpose of the petition is to ask the court to determine any question of construction or validity arising from the subject matter, and for the declaration of rights and duties therein (Sec. 1, Rule 63, Rules of Court). Thus, the purpose is to seek for a judicial interpretation of an instrument or for a judicial declaration of a person's rights under a statute and not to ask for affirmative reliefs like injunction, damages or any other relief beyond the purpose of the petition as declared under the Rules. It is not brought to settle issues arising from a breach because after the breach of the contract or statute, the petition can no longer be brought.

It has been held that in an action for declaratory relief, the question raised is a question of "construction" or "validity" arising under an instrument or statute. The object is to terminate uncertainties in an instrument or statute and the judgment of the court cannot extend beyond a declaration of the rights and duties of the parties to the action and cannot provide corrective reliefs.

It is the absence of allegations seeking material or affirmative reliefs in a petition for declaratory relief that it has been held that when the main case is for declaratory relief, a third-party complaint is inconceivable. The relief sought in this kind of pleading is contribution, indemnity, subrogation or other relief from the third-party defendant in respect of the claim of the plaintiff against him. Accordingly, this relief cannot be granted because in a declaratory relief, the court is merely interpreting the terms of the contract. It has also been held however, that a petition for declaratory relief may entertain a compulsory counterclaim as long as it is based on or arising from the same transaction, subject mater of the petition.


Does the court have discretion to refuse to act on the petition for declaratory relief?

Yes. In declaratory relief, the court is given the discretion to act or not to act on the petition. It may therefore, choose not to construe the instrument sought to be construed or could refrain from declaring the rights of the petitioner under the deed or the law. A refusal of the court to declare rights or construe an instrument is actually the functional equivalent of the dismissal of the petition.


What are the grounds for the court to refuse to exercise declaratory relief?

The court, motu proprio or upon motion, may refuse to exercise the power to declare rights and to construe instruments in any case where:
  1.  A decision would not terminate the uncertainty or controversy which gave rise to the action; or
  2.  The declaration or construction is not necessary and proper under the circumstances as when the instrument or the statute has already been breached (Sec 5, Rule 63).

Does the court have discretion to refuse to act with respect to actions described as `similar remedies'?

No. The court does not have the discretion to refuse to act with respect to actions described as `similar remedies'. Thus, in an action for reformation of an instrument, to quiet title or to consolidate ownership, the court cannot refuse to render a judgment. (Sec 5, Rule 63)


Does judgment in action for declaratory relief entail any executory process?

There is nothing to execute in the judgment of the court the way judgments in ordinary civil actions are executed. This is because the judgment in a declaratory relief is confined either to an interpretation of a deed or a declaration whether or nor the petitioner has or does not have rights under the law. As a general principle therefore, the judgment in a declaratory relief is said to stand by itself and no executory process follows as of course. It is unlike the judgment in an ordinary civil action which is coercive in character and enforced by execution.


Justiciable controversy

The traditional concept of cause of action in ordinary civil actions, as earlier mentioned does not apply to a declaratory relief where no specific right of the plaintiff has as yet been violated because the action is brought before a breach of the deed or law occurs.

The absence of a breach should not however, be taken to mean that the petition need not involve a controversy. A justiciable controversy is in fact indispensable for the propriety of the petition. It need not be a controversy consisting of an actual violation of a right by another but one with the "ripening seeds" of a controversy. The controversy must be one that is not merely imagined or one that is academic or theoretical.

A justiciable controversy is required because the court, in a petition for declaratory relief is not called upon to render a mere `advisory opinion' which unlike a judicial proceeding, has no res judicata effect and requires no controversy of whatever degree.

Courts are not called upon to resolve questions as a "pure academic exercise."

For example, a person who impugns a statute must be one who could show that he will sustain a direct injury as a result of the enforcement of a statute (Cabarle vs. Tagle, G.R. No. 113475, February 15, 1994). An actual injury is not necessary. In declaratory relief, all that is required is an impending violation of the plaintiff's rights.


What is the proper recourse to assail the validity of an executive order?

Under the Rules of Court, petitions for Certiorari and Prohibition are availed of to question judicial, quasi-judicial and mandatory acts.  Since the issuance of an EO is not judicial, quasi-judicial or a mandatory act, a petition for certiorari and prohibition is an incorrect remedy; instead a petition for declaratory relief under Rule 63 of the Rules of Court, filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC), is the proper recourse to assail the validity of EO 7. (Galicto vs. Aquino, G.R. No. 193978, February 28, 2012)


A student files an action for declaratory relief against his school to determine whether he deserves to graduate with Latin honors. Is this action tenable? (Bar 1998)

Suggested answer:

The action is not tenable. To be the proper subject of a petition for declaratory relief, the subject of the petition must be a deed, will, contract, written instrument, statute, executive order, regulation, ordinance, or any other governmental regulation. Whether or not the student is to be conferred Latin honors is not a proper subject of the petition.


SIMILAR REMEDIES

What court has jurisdiction over actions described as "similar remedies"?

● The MTC exercise exclusive original jurisdiction over all civil actions which involve title to or possession of real property where the assessed value does not exceed P20,000.00 outside Metro Manila or does not exceed P50,000.00 in Metro Manila. 

● The first paragraph of Section 1, Rule 63 of the Rules of Court, describes the general circumstances in which a person may file a petition for declaratory relief, to wit:

 Any person interested under a deed, will, contract or other written instrument, or whose rights are affected by a statute, executive order or regulation, ordinance, or any other governmental regulation may, before breach or violation thereof, bring an action in the appropriate Regional Trial Court to determine any question of construction or validity arising, and for a declaration of his rights or duties, thereunder. 

As the afore-quoted provision states, a petition for declaratory relief under the first paragraph of Section 1, Rule 63 may be brought before the appropriate RTC.

Section 1, Rule 63 of the Rules of Court further provides in its second paragraph that:

An action for the reformation of an instrument, to quiet title to real property or remove clouds therefrom, or to consolidate ownership under Article 1607 of the Civil Code, may be brought under this Rule. 

The second paragraph of Section 1, Rule 63 of the Rules of Court specifically refers to (1) an action for the reformation of an instrument, recognized under Articles 1359 to 1369 of the Civil Code; (2) an action to quiet title, authorized by Articles 476 to 481 of the Civil Code; and (3) an action to consolidate ownership required by Article 1607 of the Civil Code in a sale with a right to repurchase. These three remedies are considered similar to declaratory relief because they also result in the adjudication of the legal rights of the litigants, often without the need of execution to carry the judgment into effect.

To determine which court has jurisdiction over the actions identified in the second paragraph of Section 1, Rule 63 of the Rules of Court, said provision must be read together with those of the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980, as amended.

It is important to note that Section 1, Rule 63 of the Rules of Court does not categorically require that an action to quiet title be filed before the RTC. It repeatedly uses the word may that an action for quieting of title may be brought under [the] Rule on petitions for declaratory relief, and a person desiring to file a petition for declaratory relief may x x x bring an action in the appropriate Regional Trial Court. The use of the word may in a statute denotes that the provision is merely permissive and indicates a mere possibility, an opportunity or an option.

In contrast, the mandatory provision of the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980, as amended, uses the word shall and explicitly requires the MTC to exercise exclusive original jurisdiction over all civil actions which involve title to or possession of real property where the assessed value does not exceed P20,000.00, thus:

Section 33. Jurisdiction of Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts in Civil Cases.Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts shall exercise:
x x x x
(3) Exclusive original jurisdiction in all civil actions which involve title to, possession of, real property, or any interest therein where the assessed value of the property or interest therein does not exceed Twenty thousand pesos (P20,000.00) or, in civil actions in Metro Manila, where such assessed value does not exceeds Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) exclusive of interest, damages of whatever kind, attorneys fees, litigation expenses and costs: x x x (Emphasis ours.)

As found by the RTC, the assessed value of the subject property as stated in Tax Declaration No. 02-48386 is only P410.00; therefore, petitioners Complaint involving title to and possession of the said property is within the exclusive original jurisdiction of the MTC, not the RTC. (Malana vs. Tappa, G.R. No. 181303, September 17, 2009)


Read:

Action for Reformation of an Instrument
Action to Quiet Title
Action to Consolidate Ownership

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