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[ G.R. No. 136331. February 17, 1999]

MIDLAND BANK PLC vs. EDUARDO LITONJUA, et al.

FIRST DIVISION

Gentlemen:

Quoted hereunder, for your information, is a resolution of this Court dated FEB 17, 1999.

G.R. No. 136331 (Midland Bank PLC vs. Eduardo Litonjua and Aurelio Litonjua.)

Petitioner assails the order issued by the Regional Trial Court dismissing its action for recognition and enforcement of a foreign judgment on the ground of prescription.

On May 8, 1996, petitioner sought to enforce an English judgment which was rendered October 11, 1985 ordering private respondents to pay as guarantors under a loan agreement and deed of guarantee.

Private respondents files a motion to dismiss anchored on the ground that petitioner's action was already barred by the Statute of Limitations, the action sought to be recognized and enforced having been rendered more than 10 years ago.

In opposing private respondents motion, petitioner alleged that when private respondents filed an action for the annulment or rescission of contracts or release form the guarantee in November 1985, petitioner interposed the enforcement and recognition of the subject English judgment as a counter-claim which took the nature of a complaint, equivalent to the filing of an action in court thus interrupting the running of the prescriptive period. As a consequence, petitioner claimed that it had the full prescriptive period of 10 years reckoned from December 22, 1994 dismissal of petitioner's counterclaim.

The regional Trial Court decided in favor of private respondents.

Thus the instant petition whish we find unavailing.

Upon perusal, the record shows that petitioner's permissive counterclaim was dismissed for failure to file the required docket fees. A case is deemed filed only upon payment of the docket fee regardless of the actual date of its filing in Court (Magaspi vs. Ramolete, No. L-34840, July 20, 1982, 115 SCRA 193, 204).

It is not simply the filing of the complaint but also the payment of appropriate initiatory fee that vests jurisdiction over the subject matter or nature of the action. Where the filing of the initiatory pleading is not accompanied by payment of the docket fee, the Court may allow payment of the fee within a reasonable time but in no case beyond the applicable prescriptive reglementary period.

The same rule applies to permissive counterclaims, third-party claims and similar pleadings, which shall be considered filed until and unless the filing fee prescribed therefor is paid.

The filing fee on the permissive counterclaim not having been paid, said pleading is deemed not filed, ergo, the running of the prescriptive period was never interrupted. The purpose of the law in prescribing time limitations for enforcing judgment or actions is to prevent obligors from sleeping on their rights (Republic vs. Court of Appeals, 260 SCRA 344).

WHEREFORE, the petition is denied due course.

Very truly yours,

(Sgd.) VIRGINIA ANCHETA-SORIANO

Clerk of Court


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