Jurisdiction; where party is estopped from questioning lack of jurisdiction - G.R. No. 183789

G.R. No. 183789
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"x x x.

The Court’s Ruling

On whether or not the trial court
was divested of jurisdiction
Petitioner contends that by virtue of the Order of the trial court dated 17 March 2008, respondent’s Amended Complaint was dismissed with prejudice; and, since no motion for reconsideration or appeal was filed by any of the parties in the lower court, the Order attained finality. Thus, petitioner argues, the trial court can no longer take any further action since it had lost all power or authority over the case. The Order of dismissal effectively deprived it of jurisdiction.[42]

We cannot subscribe to petitioner’s argument. Petitioner is barred by the doctrine of estoppel from challenging the lower court’s authority to render the 30 April 2008 Decision since it was petitioner itself which called for the exercise of such authority. In its Comment to NPC’s Motion to Dismiss, it raised the following issues:

1. whether or not fly ash, which is/are [sic] not yet existing, can be considered assets of the government, the disposition of which is subject to government rules particularly public bidding;

2. whether or not the alleged right of first refusal of plaintiff is not contrary to law; and

3. whether or not PSALM is bound by the said alleged right.

Then, again, in its Position Paper, it reiterated the aforesaid issues and petitioned the trial court to dismiss herein respondent’s complaint against it and to invalidate respondent’s right of first refusal as contained in the Batangas Contract. Clearly, petitioner invoked the court’s jurisdiction by seeking to obtain a definite pronouncement from it. Having thus called upon the court to settle the issues it has raised, petitioner cannot now repudiate that same jurisdiction it has invoked in the first place.

This Court has consistently held that “a party cannot invoke the jurisdiction of a court to secure affirmative relief against his opponent and after obtaining or failing to obtain such relief, repudiate or question that same jurisdiction.”[43] The Supreme Court frowns upon the undesirable practice of a party submitting his case for decision and then accepting the judgment only if favorable, and attacking it for lack of jurisdiction if adverse.[44] If a party invokes the jurisdiction of a court, he cannot thereafter challenge the court’s jurisdiction in the same case. To rule otherwise would amount to speculating on the fortune of litigation, which is against the policy of the Court.[45]

Petitioner maintains that it had tried to prevent the current situation wherein a decision was rendered by the trial court without a standing complaint. According to petitioner, in its Comment to NPC’s Motion to Dismiss, it prayed for a deferral of the court’s action on the Motion until after the resolution of the issues it has raised. Thus, petitioner claims, it cannot be faulted for the lower court’s own procedural lapse in dismissing the Amended Complaint despite petitioner’s prayer.[46]

Again, we cannot sustain petitioner’s contention.

It must be noted that petitioner did not raise the foregoing argument in its Comment on NPC’s Motion to Dismiss. Neither was it mentioned in the Position Paper it filed before the trial court. Not even in its Motion for Reconsideration of the herein challenged Decision did petitioner discuss the issue. The matter was raised for the first time in its Supplemental Motion for Reconsideration, thereby giving credence to respondent’s contention that the same was just an afterthought[47] on the part of petitioner.

If petitioner’s claim is to be accepted as true, it should have raised the issue regarding the trial court’s jurisdiction at the very first opportunity, which was, at the time of its receipt of the 17 March 2008 Order dismissing the Amended and First Supplementary Complaints in toto and only partially dismissing the Second Supplementary Complaint wherein petitioner was impleaded. At that point, petitioner should have been forewarned that the proceedings, as against it, have not been terminated. Then, too, as far as the issues it raised in its Comment and Position Paper were concerned, no pronouncement had, as yet, been made by the court at the time. Obviously, there were still matters that needed to be resolved by the court. Thus, if petitioner truly believed that the court had lost its jurisdiction after it dismissed the Amended Complaint, it should have questioned the 17 March 2008 Order of the court which failed to completely dispose of the case. Instead, it waited for the court to issue the questioned Decision, and only then did petitioner broach the subject. Clearly, under the circumstances, petitioner is estopped from questioning the court’s jurisdiction.

x x x."
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