D. Venue (Rule 4)

1. VENUE OF ACTIONS

a. Venue of real actions

Actions affecting title to or possession of real property, or interest therein, shall be commenced and tried in the proper court which has jurisdiction over the area wherein the real property involved, or a portion thereof, is situated. (Section 1, Rule 4, Rules of Court)

Forcible entry and detainer actions

Forcible entry and detainer actions shall be commenced and tried in the municipal trial court of the municipality or city wherein the real property involved, or a portion thereof, is situated. (Paragraph 2, Section 1, Rule 4, Ibid.)

b. Venue of personal actions

All other actions may be commenced and tried where the plaintiff or any of the principal plaintiffs resides, or where the defendant or any of the principal defendants resides, or in the case of a nonresident defendant where he may be found, at the election of the plaintiff. (Section 2, Rule 4, Ibid.)

c. Venue of actions against nonresidents

If any of the defendants does not reside and is not found in the Philippines, and the action affects the personal status of the plaintiff, or any property of said defendant located in the Philippines, the action may be commenced and tried in the court of the place where the plaintiff resides, or where the property or any portion thereof is situated or found. (Section 3, Rule 4, Ibid.)

d. Inapplicability of rules on venue

This Rule shall not apply:
1) In those cases where a specific rule or law provides otherwise; or
2) Where the parties have validly agreed in writing before the filing of the action on the exclusive venue thereof. (Section 4, Rule 4, Ibid.)

2. VENUE V. JURISDICTION

VenueJurisdiction
ProceduralSubstantive
May be waivedCannot be waived
For convenienceConferred by law
May be stipulatedCannot be stipulated

Venue is the place of trial or geographical location in which an action or proceeding should be brought. In civil cases, venue is a matter of procedural law. A patty’s objections to venue must be brought at the earliest opportunity either in a motion to dismiss or in the answer; otherwise, the objection shall be deemed waived. When the venue of a civil action is improperly laid, the court cannot motu proprio dismiss the case. (Cabrera v. PSA, G.R. No. 241369, 03 June 2019)

Furthermore, the rules on venue are intended to provide convenience to the parties, rather than restrict their access to the courts. It simply arranges for the convenient and effective transaction of business in the courts and do not relate to their power, authority, or jurisdiction over the subject matter of the action. (Ibid.)

Jurisdiction is conferred by law and not subject to stipulation of the parties. (Ley Construction and Development Corporation v. Sedano, G.R. No. 222711, 23 August 2017)

Cabrera v. PSA (June 2019)
At the outset, the Court notes that when petitioner filed her first petition before the RTC-Br. 17 docketed as SP. Proc. No. 11,850-12, she had already pleaded exemption from complying with the rule on venue by filing her petition in her place of domicile, i.e., Davao City, she being a mere student who had no means to engage a lawyer to file it on her behalf. Likewise, records show that the OSG registered no objection to such venue; hence, the RTC-Br. proceeded to hear the petition and rendered a decision on the merits, which was subsequently reversed by the CA. During the entire course of the proceedings thereat, from which the present petition stemmed, venue was never raised as an issue.
Clearly, therefore, it was erroneous for the RTC-Br. 14 to motu proprio dismiss the re-filed petition before it on the ground of improper venue. Since convenience is the raison d’etre of the rules on venue, and as it was established that Davao City is the residence of petitioner, and as further pointed out by the OSG, PSA has a field office located at Ango Building, Cabaguio Avenue, Davao City, then Davao City is the most convenient venue for the parties. Thus, the RTC-Br. 14 should have taken cognizance of and heard petitioner’s re-filed petition in order to promote, not defeat, the ends of justice.
Moreover, it was error for the RTC-Br. 14 to dismiss the re-filed petition motu proprio. It is well-settled that courts may not motu proprio dismiss the case on the ground of improper venue. Without any objection at the earliest opportunity, as in a motion to dismiss or in the answer, it is deemed waived…

2. STIPULATION ON EXCLUSIVE VENUE

General Rule: The venue of real actions is the court which has jurisdiction over the area wherein the real property involved, or a portion thereof, is situated; while the venue of personal actions is the court which has jurisdiction where the plaintiff or the defendant resides, at the election of the plaintiff. (Briones v. CA, G.R. No. 204444, 14 January 2015)
Exception: The parties, thru a written instrument, may either introduce another venue where actions arising from such instrument may be filed, or restrict the filing of said actions in a certain exclusive venue. (Ibid.)

The parties are not precluded from agreeing in writing on an exclusive venue, as qualified by Section 4 of the same rule. Written stipulations as to venue may be restrictive in the sense that the suit may be filed only in the place agreed upon, or merely permissive in that the parties may file their suit not only in the place agreed upon but also in the places fixed by law. As in any other agreement, what is essential is the ascertainment of the intention of the parties respecting the matter. (Legaspi v. Republic, G.R. No. 160653, 23 July 2008)

Rule 4 of the Rules of Court sets forth the principles generally governing the venue of actions, whether real or personal, or involving persons who neither reside nor are found in the Philippines or otherwise. Agreements on venue are explicitly allowed. “By written agreement of the parties the venue of an action may be changed or transferred from one province to another.” Parties may by stipulation waive the legal venue and such waiver is valid and effective being merely a personal privilege, which is not contrary to public policy or prejudicial to third persons. It is a general principle that a person may renounce any right which the law gives unless such renunciation would be against public policy. (Unimasters Conglomeration, Inc. v. CA, En Banc, G.R. No. 119657, 07 February 1997)

Intention of the parties

Written stipulations as to venue may be restrictive in the sense that the suit may be filed only in the place agreed upon, or merely permissive in that the parties may file their suit not only in the place agreed upon but also in the places fixed by law (Rule 4, specifically). As in any other agreement, what is essential is the ascertainment of the intention of the parties respecting the matter. (Ibid.)

Convenience as reason. Since convenience is the raison d’etre of the rules of venue, it is easy to accept the proposition that normally, venue stipulations should be deemed permissive merely, and that interpretation should be adopted which most serves the parties’ convenience. In other words, stipulations designating venues other than those assigned by Rule 4 should be interpreted as designed to make it more convenient for the parties to institute actions arising from or in relation to their agreements; that is to say, as simply adding to or expanding the venues indicated in said Rule 4. (Ibid.)

Unimasters Conglomeration, Inc. v. CA, (February 1997)
Of the essence is the ascertainment of the parties’ intention in their agreement governing the venue of actions between them. That ascertainment must be done keeping in mind that convenience is the foundation of venue regulations, and that construction should be adopted which most conduces thereto. Hence, the invariable construction placed on venue stipulations is that they do not negate but merely complement or add to the codal standards of Rule 4 of the Rules of Court. In other words, unless the parties make very clear, by employing categorical and suitably limiting language, that they wish the venue of actions between them to be laid only and exclusively at a definite place, and to disregard the prescriptions of Rule 4, agreements on venue are not to be regarded as mandatory or restrictive, but merely permissive, or complementary of said rule. The fact that in their agreement the parties specify only one of the venues mentioned in Rule 4, or fix a place for their actions different from those specified by said rule, does not, without more, suffice to characterize the agreement as a restrictive one. There must, to repeat, be accompanying language clearly and categorically expressing their purpose and design that actions between them be litigated only at the place named by them, regardless of the general precepts of Rule 4; and any doubt or uncertainty as to the parties’ intentions must be resolved against giving their agreement a restrictive or mandatory aspect. Any other rule would permit of individual, subjective judicial interpretations without stable standards, which could well result in precedents in hopeless inconsistency.

a. Requisites for exclusive venue stipulation

Requisites for exclusive venue stipulation:
1) The stipulation on the chosen venue is exclusive in nature or in intent;
2) It is expressed in writing by the parties thereto; and
3) It is entered into before the filing of the suit. (Ley Construction and Development Corporation v. Sedano, G.R. No. 222711, 23 August 2017)
Ley Construction and Development Corporation v. Sedano (August 2017)
After a thorough study of the case, the Court is convinced that all these elements are present and that the questioned stipulation in the lease contract, i.e., Section 21 thereof, is a valid venue stipulation that limits the venue of the cases to the courts of Pasay City. It states:
21. Should any of the party (sic) renege or violate any terms and conditions of this lease contract, it shall be liable for damages. All actions or case[s] filed in connection with this lease shall be filed with the Regional Trial Court of Pasay City, exclusive of all others
The above provision clearly shows the parties’ intention to limit the place where actions or cases arising from a violation of the terms and conditions of the contract of lease may be instituted. This is evident from the use of the phrase “exclusive of all others” and the specification of the locality of Pasay City as the place where such cases may be filed.
Notably, the fact that this stipulation generalizes that all actions or cases of the aforementioned kind shall be filed with the RTC of Pasay City, to the exclusion of all other courts, does not mean that the same is a stipulation which attempts to curtail the jurisdiction of all other courts. It is fundamental that jurisdiction is conferred by law and not subject to stipulation of the parties. Hence, following the rule that the law is deemed written into every contract, the said stipulation should not be construed as a stipulation on jurisdiction but rather, one which merely limits venue. Moreover, “[t]he parties are charged with knowledge of the existing law at the time they enter into the contract and at the time it is to become operative.” Thus, without any clear showing in the contract that the parties intended otherwise, the questioned stipulation should be considered as a stipulation on venue (and not on jurisdiction), consistent with the basic principles of procedural law.

b. Words and phrases

As regards restrictive stipulations on venue, jurisprudence instructs that it must be shown that such stipulation is exclusive. In the absence of qualifying or restrictive words, such as “exclusively,” “waiving for this purpose any other venue,” “shall only” preceding the designation of venue, “to the exclusion of the other courts,” or words of similar import, the stipulation should be deemed as merely an agreement on an additional forum, not as limiting venue to the specified place. (Ibid.)

Clear and categorical

Because restrictive stipulations are in derogation of this general policy, the language of the parties must be so clear and categorical as to leave no doubt of their intention to limit the place or places, or to fix places other than those indicated in Rule 4, for their actions. (Unimasters Conglomeration, Inc. v. CA, supra.)

Exclusivity and waiver

The mere stipulation on the venue of an action is not enough to preclude parties from bringing a case in other venues. It must be shown that such stipulation is exclusive. In the absence of qualifying or restrictive words, such as “exclusively” and “waiving for this purpose any other venue,” “shall only” preceding the designation of venue, “to the exclusion of the other courts,” or words of similar import, the stipulation should be deemed as merely an agreement on an additional forum, not as limiting venue to the specified place. (Auction in Malinta, Inc. v. Luyaben, G.R. No. 173979, 12 February 2007)

Briones v. CA (January 2015)
In this relation, case law likewise provides that in cases where the complaint assails only the terms, conditions, and/or coverage of a written instrument and not its validity, the exclusive venue stipulation contained therein shall still be binding on the parties, and thus, the complaint may be properly dismissed on the ground of improper venue. Conversely, therefore, a complaint directly assailing the validity of the written instrument itself should not be bound by the exclusive venue stipulation contained therein and should be filed in accordance with the general rules on venue. To be sure, it would be inherently consistent for a complaint of this nature to recognize the exclusive venue stipulation when it, in fact, precisely assails the validity of the instrument in which such stipulation is contained.
In this case, the venue stipulation found in the subject contracts is indeed restrictive in nature, considering that it effectively limits the venue of the actions arising therefrom to the courts of Makati City. However, it must be emphasized that Briones’ s complaint directly assails the validity of the subject contracts, claiming forgery in their execution. Given this circumstance, Briones cannot be expected to comply with the aforesaid venue stipulation, as his compliance therewith would mean an implicit recognition of their validity. Hence, pursuant to the general rules on venue, Briones properly filed his complaint before a court in the City of Manila where the subject property is located.
De Leon v. Dela Llana (February 2015)
… with the undated lease contract definitely settled as absolutely simulated, and hence, void, there can be no invocation of the exclusive venue stipulation on the part of either party; thus, the general rule on the filing of real actions in the court where the property is situated – as in the filing of the first ejectment complaint before the MCTC-Nabunturan-Mawab located in Compostela Valley same as the subject property of this case – prevails.

Disclaimer: All information herein is for educational and general information only intended for those preparing for the bar exam. These should not be taken as professional legal advice or opinion. Please consult a competent lawyer to address your specific concerns. Any statements or opinions of the author are solely his own and do not reflect that of any organization he may be connected.

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