“Forum shopping is when a party repeatedly avails of several judicial remedies in different courts, simultaneously or successively, but which are all substantially founded on the same transactions and the same essential facts and circumstances, and are all raising substantially the same issue either pending in, or already resolved adversely by, some other court”
Parties who disagree with a judgment, order, or resolution made by the court may file a motion for reconsideration in the same action or appeal the decision to the next level court. They cannot question the judgment, order, or resolution by commencing another action in a co-equal court.
This is known as the doctrine of judicial stability, or non-interference in the regular orders or judgments of a co-equal court: “[N]o court can interfere by injunction with the judgments or orders of another court of concurrent jurisdiction…” (Cabili v. Balindong, A.M. RTJ-10-2225, September 6, 2011)
The rule is founded on the concept of jurisdiction. It means that a court shall have jurisdiction over its judgment, excluding all other coordinate courts. This jurisdiction extends to the execution of the judgment and all of its incidents, including ministerial acts of officers implementing the judgment (A.M. RTJ-10-2225, September 6, 2011).
To allow the breaking down of the incidents of an execution is to split the jurisdiction of courts. Splitting of jurisdiction is not allowed by our courts. In one case, a court in Cebu City entertained a motion and issued an order involving the Manila Golf and Country Club, Inc. (Manila Golf) share in custodia legis, by virtue of a writ of attachment issued by a co-equal court in Makati City (Yau v. Manila Banking Corporation, G.R. No. 126731, July 11, 2002).
In the case of Coronado v. Rojas, Judge Rojas was administratively sanctioned when he enjoined a final and executory decision of the HLURB, a co-equal body.
His excuse that the temporary restraining order (TRO) and the writ of injunction he issued were not directed against the HLURB’s writ of execution but only against the manner of execution, was too shallow and facetious (Coronado v. Rojas, A.M. No. RTJ-07-2047, July 3, 2007).
Similarly, the Court penalized two judges for issuing a TRO against the execution of a demolition order issued by another co-equal court.
The Court stressed that “when the respondents-judges acted on the application for the issuance of a TRO, they were aware that they were acting on matters pertaining to a co-equal court” (Heirs of Simeon Piedad v. Estrera and Villarin cited in Cabili v. Balindong).
In another case, the Supreme Court declared that the Makati court cannot entertain the habeas corpus case on account of a pending action in a Cavite court designating the minor’s grandparents as his guardians ad litem.
All these cases aim to illustrate that “the judgment of a court of competent jurisdiction may not be opened, modified, or vacated by any court of concurrent jurisdiction” (Panlilio v. Salonga citing 30-A Am Jur 605, G.R. No. 113087. June 27, 1994).
Furthermore, in the case of Barroso v. Omelio, et al., a complaint for a sum of money, damages and attorney’s fees was commenced by Edgar Barroso against Dennis Li in Branch 16, Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Davao City. The complaint included a prayer for the issuance of a writ of attachment which was granted upon posting of a bond (G.R. No. 194767, October 14, 2015).
In turn, defendant Dennis Li filed a counter-attachment bond issued by Travellers Insurance & Surety Corporation (Travellers). Subsequently, there was a compromise between the parties that was approved by the court and was the basis of the judgment on compromise.
Unfortunately, Defendant Dennis Li failed to pay the sums of money under the judgment on compromise. Hence, complainant Barroso filed a Motion for Execution in Branch 16 which issued a writ of execution against Dennis Li. Because the writ of execution cannot be satisfied, Barroso then filed a motion for execution upon Travellers’ counterbond.
Instead of appearing before Branch 16, Travellers filed a separate case in Branch 14, RTC Davao City, praying, among others, for: (a) the issuance of a TRO and preliminary injunction against Sheriff Anggot and Barroso, to prevent them from implementing the writ of execution; and that (b) Travellers’ counterbond be declared null and void.
Applying Cabili v. Balindong, the Supreme Court said “[I]t is quite clear that, in this case, the issuance of the subject writ of preliminary injunction was improper and, thus, correctible by certiorari”. Herein, the respondent judge (Omelio) does not have jurisdiction to hinder the enforcement of an order of a co-equal court (G.R. No. 194767, October 14, 2015).
A violation of the doctrine judicial stability impacts on forum shopping.
Forum shopping is when a party repeatedly avails of several judicial remedies in different courts, simultaneously or successively, but which are all substantially founded on the same transactions and the same essential facts and circumstances, and are all raising substantially the same issue either pending in, or already resolved adversely by, some other court (G.R. No. 126731, July 11, 2002).
In Yau v. Manila Banking Corporation, Yau, having intervened in the RTC Makati City case to protect his interest in the Silverio (Manila Golf) share, should have desisted from pursuing a similar remedy before RTC Cebu City since it will pre-empt the authority of RTC Makati City to decide upon his intervention (G.R. No. 126731, July 11, 2002). Here, Yau is evidently shopping for a forum to obtain a favorable outcome.
Determining whether a case pending in one court interferes with the jurisdiction of a co-equal court goes back to the judge’s judicial competence. Being in the frontlines of the judicial system, they are given the important task of ascertaining which cases filed before them may initially prosper and be heard in court.