In our June 13, 2013 decision in this case, we directed Atty. Mahinay to show cause “why he should not be sanctioned for committing a clear violation of the rule prohibiting forum-shopping by aiding his clients in asserting the same claims at least twice.” The directive was called for by the following observations made in the decision, to wit:
We start this decision by expressing our alarm that this case is the fifth suit to reach the Court dividing the several heirs of the late Don Filemon Y. Sotto respecting four real properties that had belonged to Filemon’s estate (Estate of Sotto).
The first case held that herein respondent Matilde, one of four declared heirs of Filemon, had validly redeemed the four properties pursuant to the assailed deed of redemption, and was entitled to have the title over the four properties transferred to her name, subject to the right of the three other declared heirs to join her in the redemption of the four properties within a period of six months.
The second was the civil case filed by Pascuala against Matilde to annul the former’s waiver of rights, and to restore her as a co-redemptioner of Matilde with respect to the four properties.
The third was an incident in Civil Case No. R-10027 (that is, the suit brought by the heirs of Carmen Rallos against the Estate of Sotto). After the trial court denied their motion for reconsideration for its lack of merit, the heirs of Miguel elevated the denial to the CA on certiorari and prohibition, but the CA dismissed their petition. Thence, the heirs of Miguel came to the Court on certiorari, but the Court dismissed their petition for being filed out of time and for lack of merit.
The fourth was The Estate of Don Filemon Y. Sotto v. Matilde S. Palicte, et al., whereby the Court expressly affirmed the ruling rendered by the probate court denying the administrator’s motion to require Matilde to turn over the four real properties to the Estate of Sotto.
The fifth is this case. It seems that the disposition by the Court of the previous cases did not yet satisfy herein petitioners despite their being the successors-in-interest of two of the declared heirs of Filemon who had been parties in the previous cases either directly or in privity. They now pray that the Court undo the November 29, 2002 decision, whereby the CA declared their action for the partition of the four properties as already barred by the judgments previously rendered, and the resolution denying their motion for reconsideration.
Whether or not the petitioners’ counsel, Atty. Makilito B. Mahinay, committed forum shopping.
What we have seen here is a clear demonstration of unmitigated forum shopping on the part of petitioners and their counsel. It should not be enough for us to just express our alarm at petitioners’ disregard of the doctrine of res judicata. We do not justly conclude this decision unless we perform one last unpleasant task, which is to demand from petitioners’ counsel, Atty. Makilito B. Mahinay, an explanation of his role in this pernicious attempt to relitigate the already settled issue regarding Matilde’s exclusive right in the four properties. He was not unaware of the other cases in which the issue had been definitely settled considering that his clients were the heirs themselves of Marcelo and Miguel. Moreover, he had represented the Estate of Sotto in The Estate of Don Filemon Y. Sotto v. Palicte.
On July 22, 2013, Atty. Mahinay submitted a so-called Compliance (With Humble Motion for Reconsideration) containing his explanations, praying that he not be sanctioned for violating the rule against forum shopping.
The Court considers Atty. Mahinay’s explanations unsatisfactory.
There is forum shopping “when a party repetitively avails of several judicial remedies in different courts, simultaneously or successively, all substantially founded on the same transactions and the same essential facts and circumstances, and all raising substantially the same issues either pending in or already resolved adversely by some other court.” Forum shopping is an act of malpractice that is prohibited and condemned because it trifles with the courts and abuses their processes. It degrades the administration of justice and adds to the already congested court dockets.
An important factor in determining its existence is the vexation caused to the courts and the parties-litigants by the filing of similar cases to claim substantially the same reliefs
The test to determine the existence of forum shopping is whether the elements of litis pendentia are present, or whether a final judgment in one case amounts to res judicata in the other. Thus, there is forum shopping when the following elements are present, namely: (a) identity of parties, or at least such parties as represent the same interests in both actions; (b) identity of rights asserted and reliefs prayed for, the relief being founded on the same facts; and (c) the identity of the two preceding particulars, such that any judgment rendered in the other action will, regardless of which party is successful, amounts to res judicata in the action under consideration.
In view of the foregoing, Atty. Mahinay was guilty of forum shopping. Under Revised Circular No. 28-91, any willful and deliberate forum shopping by any party and his counsel through the filing of multiple petitions or complaints to ensure favorable action shall constitute direct contempt of court.