Dispute Resolution, Litigation, Arbitration

Service of Summons Made Easy

As of 12 August 2020

The amendments to the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure (Revised Rules) became effective on 01 May 2020 and include significant changes on the procedure for the service of summons.

Substituted Service on Corporations

Under the former rules, service of summons to domestic private juridical entities such as corporations can only be made on its president, managing partner, general manager, corporate secretary, treasurer, or in-house counsel. The foregoing list was exclusive; thus, service of summons to any other person such as a cashier, security guard, or a receptionist was deemed defective and would result to a failure on the part of the court to acquire jurisdiction over the person of the defendant.

Under Section 12 of the Revised Rules, in the absence of the president, managing partner, general manager, corporate secretary, treasurer, or in-house counsel, the summons may be served on their secretary.

In case their respective secretary is also nowhere to be found, the summons can be served on the person who customarily receives the correspondence for the defendant -- who could be the receptionist or even the security guard at its principal office. Should there be refusal by all of the previously mentioned recipients to receive the summons despite at least three (3) attempts on two (2) different dates, service may be made electronically with leave of court.

Substituted Service on Individuals

Under the former rules, substituted service in the absence of the defendant may be made by leaving copies of the summons at the defendant’s residence with some person of suitable age and discretion residing therein or at the defendant’s office or regular place of business with some competent person in charge thereof.

The Revised Rules codified jurisprudence set by the Supreme Court relaxing the rules on substituted service and now allows substituted service upon security guards, for example, who prohibit the process server from reaching the defendant to serve summons. Section 6 (c), Rule 14 of the Revised Rules expressly states that if the process server is refused entry upon making his or her authority and purpose known, substituted service to the defendant may be done by leaving copies of the summons with any of the officers of the homeowners’ association or condominium corporation, or its chief security officer in charge of the community or the building where the defendant may be found.

Furthermore, substituted service of summons can be done by sending an electronic mail to the defendant’s electronic mail address if allowed by the court.

Opposing counsel may be deputized to serve summons to their client

Section 13, Rule 14 of the Revised Rules now expressly allows the court to deputize a lawyer to serve summons on his or her client if the said lawyer makes a special appearance for the sole purpose of assailing the validity of the service of summons.

Note that under the Revised Rules, a motion to dismiss on the ground of lack of jurisdiction over the person of the defendant is now prohibited. This includes filing a Motion to Dismiss by special appearance on the ground of lack of jurisdiction over the person of the defendant. The remedy of the defendant is to allege such ground as an affirmative defense in the Answer. See related article of “Amendments to the Rules Governing a Motion to Dismiss.”

Plaintiff may be authorized to serve summons

The Revised Rules include provisions that allow the court to authorize the plaintiff to serve summons upon the defendant under certain circumstances:

  • in cases where summons is to be served outside the judicial region of the court where the case is pending;
  • if summons is returned without being served on any or all the defendants, the court shall order the plaintiff to cause the service of summons by other means available under the Revised Rules. Plaintiff’s failure to comply with the said order shall cause the dismissal of the initiatory pleading without prejudice.

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