Published 9 November 2020, The Daily Tribune
“I’ll see you in court!” is a familiar legal ultimatum delivered whether in movies or in real life. Dramatic as it is, it does not answer the more important question: where exactly is that court?
There has to be a specific place where parties can expect to be brought even for legal cases. As the familiar rule states, venue is a matter of convenience for litigants. For civil cases, there are instances where the proper venue can be waived or changed. However, there are instances where venue is specified and is decisive in determining whether the court can proceed – such as in criminal cases where venue is a matter of law and not simply a matter of procedure.
Venue, simply, 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. While rules are provided as to where a civil case must be filed, the other party must object to an improper venue, otherwise, the objection is deemed waived and the court can proceed. This is because venue is simply a matter of convenience and not a matter of jurisdiction.
Under Rule 4 of the Revised Rules of Civil Procedure, the venue of a civil case depends on whether the action is a real or personal action. If it affects title to or possession of real property, or interest therein, it is a real action. The action should be filed in the proper court which has jurisdiction over the area wherein the real property involved, or a portion thereof, is situated.
If the action is a personal action, the action shall be filed with the proper court 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 non-resident defendant where he may be found, at the election of the plaintiff. Examples of personal actions are collection of sum of money, damages, or injunction.
These rules do not apply if there is a specific rule or law which provides otherwise. The rules also do not apply to civil cases where the parties have validly agreed in writing before the filing of the action on the exclusive venue thereof.
Effectively, a venue agreement between parties can either be suggestive or restrictive. It is suggestive if it expands the availability of parties’ options for venue apart from those stated in Rule 4. On the other hand, for a venue agreement to be mandatory or restrictive, it must contain the restrictive and qualifying words that will limit venue exclusively to the nominated venue. 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, the stipulation should be deemed as merely an agreement on an additional forum, not as limiting venue to the specified place.
For instance, in a promissory note which stipulates that “any action to enforce payment of any sums due under this Note shall exclusively be brought in the proper court within [the] National Capital Judicial Region (NCJR) or in any place where Radiowealth Finance Company, Inc. has a branch/office, at its sole option,”, the venue agreement is suggestive in nature. It allows parties to file the case anywhere in NCJR or any place where the company has a branch, not just in the city where its principal place of business is established. (Radiowealth Finance Company vs. Pineda, G.R. No. 227147, July 30, 2018).
In a case where the stipulation in the parties’ agreement provided that “all Court litigation procedures shall be conducted in the appropriate Courts of Valenzuela City, Metro Manila,” the Supreme Court held that the Valenzuela courts should only be considered as an additional choice of venue to those mentioned under Section 2, Rule 4 of the Rules of Court. Accordingly, the personal action for damages may be filed with the (a) RTC of Valenzuela City as stipulated in the bidding agreement; (b) RTC of Bulanao, Tabuk, Kalinga which has jurisdiction over the residence of the plaintiff, or with the (c) RTC of Valenzuela City which has jurisdiction over the business address of petitioner. The filing of the complaint in the RTC of Bulanao, Tabuk, Kalinga, was proper, for parties did not expressly stipulate Valenzuela as the exclusive venue (Auction in Malinta, Inc. vs. Warren Embes Luyaben, G.R. No. 173979 February 12, 2007).
It must also be remembered that an erroneous venue in civil cases will not automatically lead to a dismissal. When improper venue is not objected to in a motion to dismiss, it is deemed waived. Hence, venue is waivable, because it simply arranges for the convenient and effective transaction of business in the courts. It does not relate to the court’s power to hear the case.
When objection to venue is raised in a motion to dismiss, however, the court is duty-bound to act on it pursuant to the rules laid down by Rule 4 of the Revised Rules of Civil Procedure. While the rules on venue are for the convenience of plaintiffs, these rules do not give them unbounded freedom to file their cases wherever they may please. They are designed to insure a just and orderly administration of justice.
For comments and questions, please send an email to email@example.com.