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  • Writer's pictureZiggurat Realestatecorp

Being declared in default does not automatically mean defeat

If there is a pending court dispute, you will receive a notice from the court requiring you to submit an answer to the complaint of the plaintiff . If you do not comply and submit your answer. it does not automatically result in a decision in favor of the complainant.

The rules governing the declaration of default of a party in a case and its effects are specifically found in Section 3, Rule 9, of AM 19-10-20-SC or the "2019 Amendments to the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure." which provide that:

"If the defending party fails to answer within the time allowed therefor, the court shall, upon motion of the claiming party with notice to the defending party, and proof of such failure, declare the defending party in default. Thereupon, the court shall proceed to render judgment granting the claimant such relief as his or her pleading may warrant, unless the court in its discretion requires the claimant to submit evidence. Such reception of evidence may be delegated to the clerk of court."

Correlative thereto, one of the effects of the default was also particularly mentioned in Section 3 (a) of the same rules:

"A party in default shall be entitled to notice[s] of subsequent proceedings but shall not to take part in the trial."

As one can see, the above-mentioned rules do not provide for the automatic defeat of the defaulting party. This finds support also in Sioland Development Corporation v. Fair Distribution Center Corporation, GR 199539, Aug. 9, 2023, where Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo stated:

"The mere fact that a defendant is declared in default does not automatically result in the grant of the prayers of the plaintiff. To win, the latter must still present the same quantum of evidence that would be required if the defendant were still present.

A party that defaults is not deprived of its rights, except the right to be heard and to present evidence to the trial court. If the evidence presented does not support a judgment for the plaintiff, the complaint should be dismissed, even if the defendant may not have been heard or allowed to present any countervailing evidence.

"Also, it was explained in Gajudo that:

"[A] defaulted defendant is not actually thrown out of court. While in a sense it may be said that by defaulting he leaves himself at the mercy of the court, the rules see to it that any judgment against him must be in accordance with law.

The evidence to support the plaintiff's cause is, of course, presented in his absence, but the court is not supposed to admit that which is basically incompetent. Although the defendant would not be in a position to object, elementary justice requires that only legal evidence should be considered against him. If the evidence presented should not be sufficient to justify a judgment for the plaintiff, the complaint must be dismissed. And if an unfavorable judgment should be justifiable, it cannot exceed in amount or be different in kind from what is prayed for in the complaint."

Applying the aforecited decision, even if you were declared in default, the same would not necessarily mean that the court will automatically grant whatever relief the plaintiff wants. Neither does it automatically mean that you have already lost the case.

While the defaulting party is generally deprived of their right to be heard and present evidence, the decision of the court must still be based on the ex-parte evidence of her neighbor and should still be in accordance with the law.

Source: Manila Times

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