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Declaration of Default


Section 3. Default; declaration of. — If the defending party fails to answer within the time allowed therefor, the court shall, upon motion of the claiming party with notice to the defending party, and proof of such failure, declare the defending party in default. Thereupon, the court shall proceed to render judgment granting the claimant such relief as his pleading may warrant, unless the court in its discretion requires the claimant to submit evidence. Such reception of evidence may be delegated to the clerk of court. (Sec. 3, Rule 9, Rules of Court)


What are the grounds under which a party may be declared in default?
  1. Failure to answer within the time allowed therefor; (Sec 3, Rule 9)
  2. Failure to serve a copy of the answer to the adverse party. 
● The defendant who files his answer in court in time but failed to serve a copy thereof upon the adverse party may be validly declared in default (Gonzalez vs. Francisco, 49 Phil. 747, Banares vs. Flordeliza, G.R. No. L-29355, July 20, 1928)


Can the court motu proprio declare a defendant in default?

No. There must be a motion to that effect by the plaintiff with notice to the defending party and proof of failure by the defendant to file his responsive pleading despite due notice. (Sec 3, Rule 9)

● Three requirements must be complied with before the court can declare the defending party in default: (1) the claiming party must file a motion asking the court to declare the defending party in default; (2) the defending party must be notified of the motion to declare him in default and (3) the claiming party must prove that the defending party has failed to answer within the period provided by the Rules of Court. (Sablas vs. Sablas, G.R. No. 144568, July 3, 2007)

● The trial court cannot motu proprio declare a defendant in default as the rules leave it up to the claiming party to protect his or its interests. The trial court should not under any circumstances act as counsel of the claiming party. (Sablas vs. Sablas)


What is the effect of failure to file an answer under the Rule on Summary Procedure? Will the defendant be declared in default?

Under the Rule on Summary Procedure, the defendant who fails to file an answer within the reglementary period is not to be declared in default. Instead, the court motu proprio, or on motion of the plaintiff, shall render judgment as may be warranted by the facts alleged in the complaint and limited to what is prayed for.

Under the Rule on Summary Procedure, the plaintiff is prohibited from filing a motion to declare the defendant in default (Sec. 19[h], 1991 Rule on Summary Procedure). 


What are the requisites before a party may be declared in default? (Bar 1999)

The following are the requisites before a party may be declared in default:
  1. The court has validly acquired jurisdiction over the person of the defending party either by service of summons or voluntary appearance;
  2. The defending party failed to file the answer within the time allowed therefor;
  3. There must be a motion to declare the defending party in default filed by the claiming party; 
  4. The defending party must be notified of the motion to declare him in default;
  5. There must be proof of the failure to file the answer; (Sablas vs. Sablas)
  6. There must be a hearing of the motion to declare the defendant in default. (Hearing of the motion is required by Sec. 4, Rule 15)

Should the court admit an answer which is filed beyond the reglementary period but before the defendant is declared in default?

● It is within the sound discretion of the trial court to permit the defendant to file his answer and to be heard on the merits even after the reglementary period for filing the answer expires. (Sablas vs. Sablas)

● The rule is that the defendants answer should be admitted where it is filed before a declaration of default and no prejudice is caused to the plaintiff, as default judgments are generally disfavored. (Trajano vs. Cruz, L-47070, Dec. 29, 1977).

● Where the answer is filed beyond the reglementary period but before the defendant is declared in default and there is no showing that defendant intends to delay the case, the answer should be admitted. (Cathay Pacific Airways, Ltd. v. Hon. Romillo, Jr., 225 Phil. 397, 1986).

● The policy of the law is to have every litigants case tried on the merits as much as possible. Hence, judgments by default are frowned upon. A case is best decided when all contending parties are able to ventilate their respective claims, present their arguments and adduce evidence in support thereof. The parties are thus given the chance to be heard fully and the demands of due process are subserved. Moreover, it is only amidst such an atmosphere that accurate factual findings and correct legal conclusions can be reached by the courts. (Sablas vs. Sablas)


What follows after the court has validly declared the defendant in default?

Under the rules, when a party is declared in default, the court may do either of two things:
  1. to proceed to render judgment, or
  2. to require the plaintiff to present his evidence ex parte.
The court need not personally receive the evidence if it decides to hear the evidence of the plaintiff. The reception of the evidence may be delegated to the clerk of court (Sec. 3, Rule 9).


Are the complainants automatically entitled to the relief prayed for once the defendants are declared in default?

● Complainants are not automatically entitled to the relief prayed for once the defendants are declared in default. Favorable relief can be granted only after the court has ascertained that the relief is warranted by the evidence offered and the facts proven by the presenting party. (Gajudo vs. Traders Royal Bank, G.R. No. 151098, March 21, 2006)

● The mere fact that a defendant is declared in default does not automatically result in the grant of the prayers of the plaintiff. To win, the latter must still present the same quantum of evidence that would be required if the defendant were still present. A party that defaults is not deprived of its rights, except the right to be heard and to present evidence to the trial court. If the evidence presented does not support a judgment for the plaintiff, the complaint should be dismissed, even if the defendant may not have been heard or allowed to present any countervailing evidence. (Gajudo vs. Traders Royal Bank)

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