Republic of the Philippines
G.R. No. 118552             February 5, 1996
PHILIPPINE BANK OF COMMUNICATIONS, petitioner,
COURT OF APPEALS and THE SPOUSES ALEJANDRO and AMPARO CASAFRANCA, respondents.
D E C I S I O N
DAVIDE, JR., J.:
This petition for review on certiorari seeks: (1) a modification of the decision of 29 April 1994 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 383321 affirming in toto the 20 April 1992 ruling of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Cebu, Branch 16, in Civil Case No. CEB-6779;2 and (2) a review of the appellate court's resolution of 4 January 19953 denying the petitioner's Motion for Partial Reconsideration4 of the aforementioned decision.
The sole issue in this case is whether, in the foreclosure of a real estate mortgage, the penalties stipulated in two promissory notes secured by the mortgage may be charged against the mortgagors as part of the sums secured, although the mortgage contract does not mention the said penalties.
The Court of Appeals adopted the trial court's findings of facts, to wit:
The following antecedental facts are supported by the pleadings and evidence on record: Plaintiff spouses Alejandro and Amparo Casafranca, used to be the owners of Lot 802-B-2-B-2-F-1 of the subdivision plan Psd-698545, located in Cebu City and covered by TCT No. 32769 (Exh A). On 3 December 1976 they sold the lot to Carlos Po who paid part of the agreed price. The latter, after securing a title in his name (TCT No. 66446), mortgaged the lot to the Philippine Bank of Communications (PBCom for short) to secure a loan of P330,000 (Exh B). It appears that in a civil action that ensued between them, plaintiff spouses obtained a favorable judgment against Carlos Po (Exh C). Later, in an auction sale to satisfy Carlos Po's judgment obligation, plaintiff spouses acquired the aforesaid lot and a Certificate of Sale was executed in their favor (Exh D).
Meanwhile, under date of 9 September 1980 PBCom applied for extrajudicial foreclosure of the mortgage executed by Carlos Po (Exh E), and in the succeeding auction sale held on 4 November 1980, it acquired the lot at its winning bid of P1,006,540.56. The corresponding Certificate of Sale was then executed in its favor (Exh F). It appears further that sometime in 1981 plaintiff Amparo Casafranca who had stepped into the shoes of mortgagor Carlos Po by virtue of the auction sale in her favor (Exh D) offered to redeem the property from PBCom by tendering to its manager, Isidore Falek, a check in the amount of P500,000 which, in her estimate, would be sufficient to settle the account of Carlos Po. PBCom did not accept the check as it insisted that any such redemption should be at the price it acquired the lot in the auction sale. In reaction, plaintiffs filed against PBCom Civil Case No. R-21700 in the RTC of Cebu for nullification of the foreclosure and auction sale (Exh M). In a judgment which became final and executory on 17 September 1986 (Exh H) the Court set aside the extrajudicial foreclosure and auction sale and declared that the obligation secured by the mortgage executed by Carlos Po was only P330,000 plus stipulated interest and charges (Exh G). Subsequently, in a letter dated 4 December 1986 PBCom advised plaintiff spouses to pay the sum of P884,281.38 purportedly representing Carlos Po's principal account of P330,000, interest and charges thereon, attorney's fee[s] and realty taxes which it paid for the lot (Exh I). Plaintiffs, however, did not agree with said Statement of Account and since the account remained unpaid, PBCom again applied for extrajudicial foreclosure of mortgage (Exh J), which culminated in an auction sale of the lot on 2 April 1987, during which it was sold to Natalie Limchio for P1,184,000 (Exh L).
On 6 April 1988 plaintiffs commenced the present action to nullify the auction sale in favor of Natalie Limchio. It is alleged in the complaint that the second foreclosure was void as it was based on a bloated account. Plaintiffs further alleged that PBCom refused to turn over the correct amount of residue after paying off the mortgage and costs of the sale. Upon plaintiffs' application, the Court issued on 7 April 1988 a TRO enjoining defendant sheriffs from transferring the title of the lot in favor of defendant Natalie Limchio and the latter, from taking possession of the lot. This was followed by a preliminary injunctive writ which was issued after hearing and upon plaintiffs' filing of a bond. However, before the pre-trial conference could be held, plaintiffs signified their intention to pursue only their alternative demand for the residue or balance of the proceeds of the auction sale less the correct outstanding account which was secured by the mortgage. For this purpose they filed an amended complaint only against PBCom (pp. 296-305, rollo) which was admitted, in which they pray for recovery of the sum of P625,724.90 as residue after paying off the outstanding account [to] the tune of P558,275.00, realty taxes paid by PBCom and costs of the foreclosure proceeding. Hence, what is left for the Court to ascertain is the true or correct account of Carlos Po as of the auction sale on 2 April 1987 after which, the determination of the residue would follow. . . .5
As to the amounts due the parties, the trial court computed them as follows:
The mortgage contract (Exh B) explicitly provides for interest of "Twelve per cent (12%) per annum or at such other higher rate or rates as may be fixed by the MORTGAGEE from time to time, and shall be payable at the end of every month or otherwise, as the MORTGAGEE may elect and, if not so paid, shall be added to, and become part of, the principal and shall earn interest at the same rate as the principal." It is then evident that the parties agreed to capitalize the interest due and unpaid, which as added principal, shall earn new interest. Herein lies the discrepancy in the computation respectively submitted by plaintiffs (pp. 190-191; 204-209, rollo) and PBCom (pp. 181-183, rollo), for while the former assessed only conventional or simple interest, the latter computed compound interest conformable to the mortgage contract. In this connection, the Court finds PBCom's computation of interest to be in accordance with the contractual stipulations of the parties. It may be stressed that the increase in the rate of interest from 12% to 14% as of 1 December 1979 is authorized in the mortgage contract itself as sanctioned by CB Circular No. 705 dated 1 December 1979. PBCom is further entitled to reimbursement for realty taxes it paid for the lot. But of course, penalties and charges are not due for want of stipulation in the mortgage contract.
To recapitulate, the principal loan obtained by Carlos Po (now succeeded by plaintiffs) on 15 December 1976 was P330,000. Interest thereon for the first year at 12% per annum was retained or deducted from the proceeds of the loan. For the next two (2) years or from 25 December 1977 to 30 November 1979, compound interests earned at the same rate reached P77,660. And then from 1 December 1979 to 2 April 1987 (date of auction sale) the rate of interest was raised to 14% per annum, as authorized in the mortgage contract. At such rate, compound interests for said period would be in the sum of P343,805. Adding both interest earnings to the principal obligation, the total account would then be P751,465. Additionally, the mortgage contract provides for attorney's fee[s] equivalent to 10% of the amounts due. Hence, the sum of P75,146.50 in the concept of attorney's fee[s] would raise the account to P826,611.50. Finally, the amount of P83,028.18 representing realty taxes paid by PBCom for the lot, inclusive of interest, which must be reimbursed, will bring the grand total of the account to P909,639.68.
On the other hand, the publication and other expenses incurred in the foreclosure and auction sale [to] the tune of P707 should be deducted from the amount of P1,184,000 which Natalie Limchio paid for the lot, leaving net proceeds of P1,183,293. Subtracting therefrom the total account due to PBCom, the residue would be P273,653.32, which must be delivered to plaintiffs.6
In the light of the above, the trial court thus ruled:
WHEREFORE, foregoing premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of plaintiffs Alejandro and Amparo Casafranca for the sum of P273,653.32 representing the residue or balance of the proceeds of the auction sale conducted on 2 April 1987 after deducting therefrom publication expenses and paying off the total account due to defendant Philippine Bank of Communications, and ordering the latter to pay unto plaintiffs the aforesaid amount.
Both parties appealed from the above judgment to the Court of Appeals. The petitioner questioned the lower court's failure to include in its computation the penalty stipulated in the aforementioned promissory notes. On the other hand, the private respondents advanced that: (1) the interest on the sum due to the petitioner should have stopped running on 31 July 1981; (2) the lower court should have allowed twelve percent (12%) interest per annum on the amount awarded to the private respondents from 3 April 1987 until the obligation was fully paid; and (3) the lower court should have awarded the private respondents moral and exemplary damages, attorney's fees, and litigation expenses.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court in toto and subsequently denied the parties' separate motions for reconsideration.
The petitioner and the private respondents then instituted with this Court separate petitions for certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. While that of the petitioner was docketed as G.R. No. 118552 (this case), that of the private respondents was docketed as G.R. No. 118809 and assigned to the Second Division. However, the two actions were not consolidated.
The private respondents in this case filed their Comment8 to the petition as required in the resolution of 8 February 1995.9
On 13 March 1995, the Second Division issued a resolution which dismissed G.R. No. 118809, thus:
[F]or failure to persuasively demonstrate any reversible error in the challenged judgment of the Fourth Division of the Court of Appeals promulgated on April 29, 1994 - affirming in toto that of the Regional Trial Court of Cebu rendered by Judge (now Court of Appeals Justice) Godardo A. Jacinto on April 20, 1992 (Civil Case No. CEB-6779) - it appearing on the contrary, that both judgments correctly appreciated the evidence and applied the relevant legal provisions in ruling, essentially, that there had been no valid tender of payment by petitioners of the amount of the mortgage liability burdening the property in question, and that the computation of the amount rightly due said petitioners had been correctly made in accordance with the law applicable to the case (Act No. 3135, as amended). Moreover, the record discloses no important and special reason for the exercise by this Court of its discretionary power of review in this case.10
On 9 May 1995, this Court received the private respondents' Manifestation11 drawing our attention to this resolution.
On 23 August 1995, we gave due course to the petition12 and required the parties to submit their respective memoranda, which they subsequently did. The private respondents contended that "[a]ctually there are no more issues left for this Honorable Court to decide because all the issues in controversy in this case has [sic] already been decided with finality by the Second Division of the Supreme Court in G.R. No. 118809."13 To which, the petitioner replied14 that the G.R. No. 118809 resolution dispensed with only those issues raised therein by the private respondents and did not touch on the questions raised in this case.
The petition is not impressed with merit.
The two promissory notes in question, signed by Carlos Po, 15 are similarly worded and their pertinent provisions read:
For value received, I/we jointly and severally, promise to pay the Philippine Bank of Communications, at its office in the City of Cebu, Philippines the sum of THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS (P300,000.00), Philippine Currency, together with interest thereon at the rate of TWELVE % per annum until paid, which interest rate the Bank may at any time without notice, raise within the limits allowed by law, and I/we also agree to pay, jointly and solidarily 12% per annum penalty charge, by way of liquidated damages should this note be unpaid or is not renewed on due date.
xxx       xxx       xxx
Should it become necessary to collect this note through an attorney-at-law, I/we hereby expressly agree to pay, jointly and severally, ten per cent (10%) of the total amount due on this note as attorney's fees which in no case shall be less than P100.00 exclusive of all costs and fees allowed by law stipulated in the contract of real estate mortgage if any there be.
while the mortgage contract provides in part:16
This mortgage is given as security for the payment to the MORTGAGEE on demand or at maturity, as the case may be, of all promissory notes, letters of credit, trust receipts, bills of exchange, drafts, overdrafts and all other obligations of every kind already incurred or which hereafter may be incurred by the MORTGAGOR(S) and Po's All Electrical Supply either as principal debtor(s) or as surety(ies) or in any other capacity, including discounts of Chinese and other drafts, bills of exchange, promissory notes, even without any further endorsements by the Mortgagor(s), said property or properties to stand security for the payment of the said obligations to the fullest extent and for all that it is (or they are) worth, to the extent of THREE HUNDRED THIRTY THOUSAND PESOS (P330,000.00) Philippine Currency.
xxx       xxx       xxx
This mortgage shall be subject to the following conditions, to wit:
FIRST: The interest on the obligations secured by this mortgage shall be computed at the rate of Twelve per cent (12%) per annum or at such other or higher rate or rates as may be fixed by the MORTGAGEE from time to time, and shall be payable at the end of every month or otherwise, as the MORTGAGEE may elect and if not so paid, shall be added to, and become part of, the principal and shall earn interest at the same rate as the principal.
xxx       xxx       xxx
EIGHT: The MORTGAGOR(S) shall, during the existence of this mortgage, promptly pay when due all taxes or assessments of every kind that may be levied upon the property or properties hereby mortgaged and deliver the corresponding tax receipts to the MORTGAGEE, . . . In case of failure on the part of the MORTGAGOR(S) to comply with the provisions of this condition, the MORTGAGEE may and is hereby authorized to pay such taxes or assessments and to have the buildings insured; and any sum or sums so spent by the MORTGAGEE shall be fully secured hereby and be subject to the terms hereof. . . .
xxx       xxx       xxx
ELEVENTH: The expenses incurred in the drafting, acknowledgement and the registration of this mortgage and of its cancellation, shall be for the account of, and shall be paid by, the MORTGAGOR(S).
TWELFTH: Should the MORTGAGEE find it necessary to resort to the courts in order to collect any amount which may be due, the interest thereon or the expenses incurred on account of the matters enumerated in the previous paragraphs, or should the MORTGAGEE in any manner and for any reason be involved in litigation on account of the property or properties mortgaged, or should foreclosure proceedings be instituted in accordance with the fourth condition hereof or should the MORTGAGOR(S) encumber the property or properties hereby mortgaged with a second mortgage without the written consent of the MORTGAGEE, the MORTGAGEE shall be allowed a sum equivalent to Ten Per Centum (10%) of all the amounts due, but in no case less than THIRTY THREE THOUSAND PESOS as attorney's fees, said amount to be considered part of the principal sum hereby secured, this mortgage answering for its payment accordingly.
We immediately discern that the mortgage contract does not at all mention the penalties stipulated in the promissory notes. However, the petitioner insists that the penalties are covered by the following provision of the mortgage contract:
This mortgage is given as security for the payment to the MORTGAGEE on demand or at maturity, as the case may be, of all promissory notes, letters of credit, trust receipts, bills of exchange, drafts, overdrafts and all other obligations of every kind already incurred or which hereafter may be incurred. . . .
The petitioner's insistence is based on the supposed rule:
[T]hat the determination of the mortgage debt would not be limited on the mortgage contract itself if from the face thereof, it is apparent that other obligations are also intended to be secured.
To bolster its argument, the petitioner relies on the cases represented by Mojica vs. Court of Appeals 17 which held:
It has long been settled by a long line of decisions that mortgages to secure future advancements are valid and legal contracts; that the amounts named as consideration in said contract do not limit the amount for which the mortgage may stand as security if from the four corners of the instrument the intent to secure future and other indebtedness can be gathered.18
The Court is unconvinced for the cases relied upon by the petitioner are inapplicable. The doctrine first laid down in Lim Julian vs. Lutero19 pertains only to mortgages securing future advancements. The petitioner would not have been misled into thinking otherwise had it properly quoted Mojica in its petition. The following explanation is helpful to distinguish future advancements from the loan in the case at bench:
It is not uncommon that persons enter into a contract whereby they draw sums of money from their creditors, usually banks, from time to time, and as security therefor execute a mortgage on their property. Such contracts are sometimes executed for an account smaller or larger than that actually borrowed. Thus, it may appear in the contract that the loan secured by the mortgage is only for P10,000 when by reason of advancements made by the creditor to the debtor the amount ultimately drawn and borrowed is P20,000. Under these circumstances it is inequitable to consider that the mortgage can be foreclosed only for the amount of P10,000. Indeed, no bank or creditor would be willing to make such advancements which are in excess of the amount stipulated if the payment thereof is not secured. . . .20
The obligation in this case was not a series of indeterminate sums incurred over a period of time, but two specific amounts procured in a single instance. Thus, the inapplicability of Lim Julian. Instead, what applies here is the general rule that "an action to foreclose a mortgage must be limited to the amount mentioned in the mortgage."21
Aside from the foregoing, other factors militate against the petitioner's stance.
The mortgage provision relied upon by the petitioner is known in American jurisprudence as a "dragnet" clause, which is specifically phrased to subsume all debts of past or future origin. Such clauses are "carefully scrutinized and strictly construed."22
The mortgage contract is also one of adhesion as it was prepared solely by the petitioner and the only participation of the other party was the affixing of his signature or "adhesion" thereto. Being a contract of adhesion, the mortgage is to be strictly construed against the petitioner, the party which prepared the agreement.23
A reading, not only of the earlier quoted provision, but of the entire mortgage contract yields no mention of penalty charges.24 Construing this silence strictly against the petitioner, it can fairly be concluded that the petitioner did not intend to include the penalties on the promissory notes in the secured amount. This explains the finding by the trial court, as affirmed by the Court of Appeals, that "penalties and charges are not due for want of stipulation in the mortgage contract."25
Indeed, a mortgage must sufficiently describe the debt sought to be secured, which description must not be such as to mislead or deceive, and an obligation is not secured by a mortgage unless it comes fairly within the terms of the mortgage.26 In this case, the mortgage contract provides that it secures notes and other evidences of indebtedness. Under the rule of ejusdem generis, 27 where a description of things of a particular class or kind is "accompanied by words of a generic character, the generic words will usually be limited to things of a kindred nature with those particularly enumerated. . . ." 28 A penalty charge does not belong to the species of obligations enumerated in the mortgage, hence, the said contract cannot be understood to secure the penalty.
There is also sufficient authority to declare that any ambiguity in a contract whose terms are susceptible of different interpretations must be read against the party who drafted it.29
A mortgage and a note secured by it are deemed parts of one transaction and are construed together,30 thus, an ambiguity is created when the notes provide for the payment of a penalty but the mortgage contract does not. Construing the ambiguity against the petitioner, it follows that no penalty was intended to be covered by the mortgage. The mortgage contract consisted of three pages with no less than seventeen conditions in fine print; it included provisions for interest and attorney's fees similar to those in the promissory notes; and it even provided for the payment of taxes and insurance charges. Plainly, the petitioner can be as specific as it wants to be, yet it simply did not specify nor even allude to, that the penalty in the promissory notes would be secured by the mortgage. This can then only be interpreted to mean that the petitioner had no design of including the penalty in the amount secured.
It should also be noted that the private respondents consistently excluded penalty charges in their computation of the amount due to the petitioner,31 while the petitioner seemed indecisive in including the said charges.
In its Manifestation32 of 14 May 1988 before the trial court, the petitioner computed the penalty charge as follows:
Penalty charge on the principal amount of P330,000,00 from Dec. 25, 1977 to April 2, 1987 at the rate of 8% per
The promissory notes provided for a 12% per annum penalty, 33 not eight percent (8%). The petitioner explained this discrepancy in its Memorandum 34 submitted to the trial court, claiming:
On the contrary, the bank's computation of the actual amount of the mortgage debt should be upheld. In fact, the bank was lenient on the spouses in computing the amount of the debt. For instance, the rate of charges stipulated is 12% per annum . . . Yet the bank computed the charges at a much lesser rate . . . thereby lessening the actual amount of the mortgage debt.35
The petitioner, however, included in its Offer of Exhibits:36
Promissory Note No. 3838
dated 25 October 1977.
Stipulation on penalty/bank charges.
. . . 3) It is stipulated that PBCom could impose penalty charges of 12% per annum; and 4) PBCom was liberal on plaintiffs as it did not impose the full extent of the stipulated charges.
Far then from being a display of lenience or liberality, the above circumstances evince the petitioner's uncertainty as to whether penalty charges were actually due it. In fact, in a statement of account 37 signed by the petitioner's Senior Vice-President, Isidore Falek, there was no mention of a penalty charge, although there was an entry stating:
xxx       xxx       xxx
8% Bank charges
Furthermore, the promissory notes are clear that the penalty shall be at 12% per annum, neither more nor less. Thus, when the petitioner claims that under the same notes it could impose, as in fact it did, the lower penalty of 8% - contrary to what was covenanted - the petitioner only reveals that it is wont to stipulate what it does not mean. The private respondent then should not be faulted for the petitioner's imperfection, and the latter must bear the consequences of its failings.
It is interesting to note that the petition in this case did not include a computation of the sum due as penalty which is the very matter in dispute. The petitioner merely pegged its claim at "12% per annum on the principal amount of P330,000.00 computed from 1977,"38 which was likewise a departure from the 8% interest rate which it insisted upon during trial.
After interpreting the mortgage contract strictly against the petitioner, considering the intention of the parties as evidenced by their various pleadings and assertions, the inescapable conclusion is that the mortgage contract did not authorize the petitioner to include in the secured amount the penalty stipulated in the promissory notes. The mortgage contract did not contain a trace of the said penalty and, proceeding by the rule that "an action to foreclose a mortgage must be limited to the amount mentioned in the mortgage," such penalty can not be recovered on the foreclosure of the mortgage.
WHEREFORE, finding no reversible error on the part of respondent Court of Appeals, its challenged decision of 29 April 1994 in CA-G.R. CV No. 38332 is hereby AFFIRMED in toto.
Costs against the petitioner.
Narvasa, C.J., Melo, Francisco and Panganiban, JJ., concur.
1 Annex "B" of Petition; Rollo, 33-44. Per Herrera, M., J., ponente, with Guerrero, B., and Lagamon, A., JJ., concurring.
2 Original Records (OR), Civil Case No. CEB-6779, vol. 2, 233-237. Per Judge Godardo A. Jacinto.
3 Annex "D" of Petition; Rollo, 50-51. Per Guerrero, B., J., ponente, with Francisco, C., and Lipana-Reyes, C., JJ., concurring.
4 Annex "C," Id.; Id., 45-49.
5 OR, Civil Case No. CEB-6779, vol. 2, 233-234; Decision, CA-G.R. CV No. 38332, 2-4; Rollo, 34-36.
6 OR,. Civil Case No. CEB-6779, vol. 2, 236-237.
7 OR, Civil Case No. CEB-6779, vol., 2, 237.
8 Rollo, 57-66.
9 Id., 52.
10 Id., 15.
11 Id., 69-71.
12 Id., 86.
13 Id., 108.
14 Rollo, 112-119.
15 Exhibits "14" and "15'; OR, Civil Case No. CEB-6779, vol. 2, 130-133.
16 Exhibit "B" in Civil Case No. CEB-6779, Folder of Exhibits.
17 201 SCRA 517 .
18 At 522. See also Lim Julian vs. Lutero, 49 Phil. 703 ; Tady-Y vs. Philippine National Bank, 12 SCRA 19 . See also F.D.R. PONCE, The Philippine Torrens System, 472 [1964 ed.]; V. FRANCISCO, Land Registration and Mortgages, 610 [4th ed. 1961]; N. PEÑA, Land Titles and Deeds, 233 [1977 ed.].
19 Supra note 18.
20 A. MAÑALAC and R. MAÑALAC, Development of Land Laws and Registration in the Philippines, 665 [10th ed. 1961].
21 Id.; Lim Julian vs. Lutero, supra note 18.
22 55 Am Jur 28, Mortgages, § 142, 283-284.
23 BPI Credit Corporation vs. Court of Appeals, 204 SCRA 601 .
24 This silence is admitted by the petitioner; Rollo, 12.
25 OR, Civil Case No. CEB-6779, vol. 2, 236.
26 55 Am Jur 2d, Mortgages, § 152, 290.
27 The Court has applied rules of statutory construction in the interpretation of contracts whenever helpful in determining the intention of the parties thereto. See Empire Insurance Company vs. Rufino, 90 SCRA 437 .
28 R. AGPALO, Statutory Construction, 154 [1990 ed.].
29 Article 1377, Civil Code; De Leon vs. Court of Appeals, 205 SCRA 612 ; Nacu vs. Court of Appeals, 231 SCRA 237 ; Cadalin vs. POEA's Administrator, 238 SCRA 721 .
30 55 Am Jur 2d, Mortgages, § 176, 303.
31 See Complaint, OR, Civil Case No. CEB-6779, vol. 1, 5; Memorandum, Id., 165, 173-176; Comments on Defendant Bank's Manifestation, Id., 287, 290-291; Compliance, Id., 304, 306; Amended Complaint, Id., 396, 424; Memorandum, Id., vol. 2, 177, 195.
32 Id., vol. 1, 281-283.
33 Exhibit "14-A"; Id., Vol. 2, 130-131; Exhibit "15-A"; Id., vol. 2, 132-133.
34 Id., 200-220. Also, see TSN, 17 May 1991, 5, for the testimony of Eugenia Ng, manager of the petitioner's Loans Department, which was the sole discussion on the computation of the petitioner's claim, yet did not explain why the penalty was fixed at 8% instead of 12%.
35 Id., 217-218.
36 OR, Civil Case No. CEB-6779, vol. 2, 122-123.
37 Exhibit "12"; Id., 127.
38 Rollo, 15.
The Lawphil Project - Arellano Law Foundation