• When the remedy of ‘terceria’ may be filed

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    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    Before my mother died, she had entrusted her rice field to her friend for the latter to manage and supervise it. When my mother died, we family members told her friend that we will be collecting the income from the rice field. She, however, refused and we consequently filed a complaint against her. We obtained a favorable judgment and a writ of execution was issued. Her house was levied thereafter. Her husband and children filed the remedy of terceria because they claimed that they did not have anything to do with the original case. What is your opinion on this matter?
    Sincerely yours,
    Don

    Dear Don,
    Your situation is similar to the case of Gomez et al. v. Sta. Ines et al.(G.R. No. 132537, October 14, 2005; ponente: former Associate Justice Minita Chico-Nazario), wherein the Supreme Court held that a stranger or a third party may validly assail the levy of his property to answer for another man’s debt through a remedy known as terceria. Thus:

    “It is a basic principle of law that money judgments are enforceable only against property unquestionably belonging to the judgment debtor, and any third person adversely affected by the mistaken levy of his property to answer for another man’s debt may validly assail such levy through the remedies provided for by Rule 39 of the Rules of Court. Under said rule, a third person may avail himself of the remedies of (1) terceria to determine whether the sheriff has rightly or wrongly taken hold of the property not belonging to the judgment debtor or obligor; and (2) independent separate action to vindicate their claim of ownership and/or possession over the foreclosed property. If a separate action is the recourse, the third-party claimant must institute in a forum of competent jurisdiction an action, distinct and separate from the action in which the judgment is being enforced, even before or without need of filing a claim in the court that issued the writ.

    “In the case at bar, herein respondents are strangers to the action where the writ of execution was issued. As pointed out by the Nueva Vizcaya RTC [Regional Trial Court] in its original order denying the motion to dismiss, the husband and children of Marietta were not parties to the Pasig RTC case and are third-party claimants who became such only after trial in the previous case had been terminated and the judgment therein had become final and executory. Neither are they indispensable nor necessary parties in the Pasig RTC case, and they could not, therefore, intervene in said case. As strangers to the original case, respondents cannot be compelled to present their claim with the Pasig RTC, which issued the writ of execution. In choosing to institute a separate action before a competent court in the province where the levied property is located [Nueva Vizcaya RTC], respondents correctly exercised a remedy provided for in the Rules of Court in order that they may vindicate their alleged claim to the levied house and lot. It was, therefore, erroneous for the trial court to dismiss the complaint based on lack of jurisdiction.”

    In your situation, the husband and children of the friend of your late mother may validly avail of the remedy called terceria since they were not parties in the original case. They only became third-party claimants after the previous case was terminated and the judgment thereon became final and executory.

    Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.

    We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.

    Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net.

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