I have a small sari-sari store business here in our subdivision. One of my neighbors owes me P7,500, the value of all of the items he got from my store. We have no formal written contract. I just simply write the items and their respective values in a notebook and have him sign beside it.
That is also what I do with my other customers.
I tried several times to demand from him to pay the full amount but he simply gave me excuses. Then, he transferred to another area and I have not heard from him for many years. He did not inform me before he left where he will be transferring. It was just last month that another neighbor of mine told me that the neighbor who owes me money lives a few blocks away from our subdivision but still within the same city.
I just want to know if I can still go after him even if it has been almost ten years since I last asked him to pay. Should I have to bring this matter first before the Barangay or can I go directly in court? Please enlighten me.
From the facts that you have shared with us, we submit that you may still demand from your former neighbor to pay the amount of P7,500 he owed you which represents the value of all of the items he availed from your store. While it is true that you have no formal agreement with him, such fact does not excuse him from settling the afore-stated amount. You may make use of your record of the items he availed from your store in order to establish his financial obligation. It may be considered that he expressly acknowledged his obligation to pay the value of those items when he affixed his signature beside the list of each of the transactions he made.
Insofar as whether you should bring your claim before the Barangay or directly in court, we have a qualified answer. While the amount you are claiming from your former neighbor is no more than P7,500 and is thus cognizable by the Barangay, you, however, failed to mention the exact date of your last demand. You merely mentioned in your letter that it has been almost ten (10) years since you last demanded from him to pay. This information is vital because an action based upon a written contract must be commenced within ten (10) years from the time the right of action accrues (Article 1144 (1), New Civil Code of the Philippines).
Accordingly, if your action will be barred by the statute of limitations or if you only have a few days left before the 10-year period prescribes, then you may bring your action directly in court. Otherwise, the matter should be passed upon by the lupon or pangkat of your Barangay. This is in consonance with Section 412 of Republic Act No. 7610 which provides that, “(a) No complaint, petition, action or proceeding involving any matter within the authority of the lupon shall be filed or instituted directly in court, unless there has been a confrontation between the parties before the lupon chairman or the pangkat, and that no conciliation or settlement has been reached as certified by the lupon or pangkat secretary or unless the settlement has been repudiated by the parties thereto. (b) The parties may go directly to court in the following instances: x x x (4) Where the action may otherwise be barred by the statute of limitations. x x x”
We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to email@example.com