Republic of the Philippines
G.R. No. 116013 October 21, 1996
ANANIAS SOCO and FILEMON SOCO, petitioners,
COURT OF APPEALS and CLEMENTE L. SANTIAGO, respondents.
When may a new fact, supervening event or circumstance justify the modification or non-enforcement of a final and executory judgment?
The instant petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court arose from a simple case for ejectment filed with the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Malolos, Bulacan, which for thirteen (13) long years had been dragged from one forum to another until it reached this Court. It assails as erroneous the Decision 1 promulgated on February 16, 1994 and the Resolution 2 promulgated on June 22, 1994 by the respondent Court of Appeals, 3
dismissing their petition in CA-G.R. SP No. 32063, and denying their motion for reconsideration, respectively.
Pertinent to the issue raised in this appeal, the following facts were presented before the public respondent: 4
Private respondents (one of whom is private respondent Clemente Santiago in this petition) filed Civil Case No. 255, for ejectment, before the Municipal Trial Court on February 7, 1983 against petitioners Ananias and Filemon Soco. After hearing(,) judgment in favor of private respondents was rendered by the MTC on January 21, 1991 (Annex "C", petition).
On appeal to the Regional Trial Court of Malolos, Bulacan, the MTC decision was affirmed in toto on May 9, 1991 (Annex "I", Comment); Petitioners' motion for reconsideration of the RTC decision was denied on August 21, 1991 on the basis of the ruling in Ramirez vs. Bleza, (106 SCRA 187), the court in part, stating:
. . . First and foremost, let it be emphasized that the action at hand is for unlawful detainer and the other case for annulment of title pending before another sala of this court will not divest the municipal court of its jurisdiction to try the unlawful detainer case nor will it preclude or bar execution of judgment in the said case where the only issue involved is material possession or possession de facto . . .
This decision of the RTC became final and executory on account of petitioners' failure to file their projected petition for review before the Court of Appeals, inspite of the fact that their motion for extension of time to file petition for review was duly granted. The decision in Civil Case No. 153-M-91 became final and executory. . .
Upon motion filed by respondent Clemente Santiago, the presiding judge of the Municipal Trial Court of Malolos, Branch II issued an order giving herein petitioners seven (7) days to vacate otherwise "this court will be constrained to issue a writ of demolition", dated May 19, 1993. On June 2, 1993, the order of demolition was issued.
To forestall enforcement of the writ of execution and the order of demolition, petitioners filed a petition for certiorari and injunction before the respondent RTC, which case was docketed as Civil Case No. 494-M-93.
After hearing, the respondent Court dismissed Civil Case No. 494-M-93 in an order dated July 20, 1993. The motion for reconsideration filed by petitioners was also denied in the order dated September 8, 1993.
Petitioners brought their cause to the public respondent, alleging among other things that certain facts and events had transpired which purportedly would render the execution of the MTC decision unjust and inequitable. The respondent Court as earlier mentioned decided the case against petitioners. Hence, this appeal.
Petitioners submit the following statement-issue: 5
WHETHER OR NOT, the inferior court (MTC of Malolos, Bulacan) can be prevented from issuing writ of execution and demolition in Civil Case 255, not only because of a serious question of ownership but actually a favorable Decision in Civil Case No. 562-M-90 of the RTC, Branch 17, Malolos, Bulacan in favor of petitioners.
The civil case being referred to was an action for inventory and appraisal of the properties, real and personal, of the late Basilio Santiago, as well as for the completion and delivery of the legitimes of the heirs of said decedent. The plaintiffs and defendants therein were relatives of the late Basilio Santiago by various marriages and common-law relationships. Herein petitioners were among several plaintiffs in said case, while herein private respondent was included among the defendants therein. The RTC decision in said case held that the probated will of the decedent violated and impaired the legitimes of the plaintiffs, and thus ordered the completion of their legitimes by, among other things, awarding plaintiffs a portion of the land occupied by them, corresponding to their impaired legitimes. The decision is now on appeal before the Court of Appeals.
Petitioners contend that respondent Court erred in not giving due course to their petition and in not enjoining the MTC from issuing a writ of execution and order of demolition in Civil Case No. 255 when there is (not merely a "serious question of ownership" involved but) actually a "favorable decision" rendered by the Regional Trial Court in Civil Case No. 562-M-90 awarding in favor of petitioners "the very parcel of land occupied by them and the subject-matter of the ejectment case." 6
The Court's Ruling
Petitioners have failed to show that the respondent Court of Appeals committed any reversible error.
Interestingly, petitioners failed to obtain a favorable judgment from respondent Court not only because the above argument is untenable, but also because petitioners availed of the wrong mode of appeal. Instead of merely filing a notice of appeal with the court (RTC) which rendered the decision, a petition for review was availed of. Hence, respondent Court asseverated: 7
This is a petition for review, obviously of the orders dated July 20, 1993 and September 8, 1993 issued by the respondent RTC in Civil Case No. 494-M-93, which is "a verified petition for certiorari and injunction with prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (to forestall the enforcement of the writ of execution and the order of demolition issued by the MTC) . . . (Order dated June 25, 1993). The July 20, 1993 Order (Annex "O") dismissed Civil Case No. 494-M-93. The order dated September 8, 1993 denied the motion for reconsideration of the July 20, 1993 order. In Heirs of Ildefonso Coscolluela, Sr. vs. Rico General Insurance Corporation, 179 SCRA 511, it has been ruled that "a petition for review before the Court of Appeals could have been availed of if what is challenged is an adverse decision of the Regional Trial Court in its appellate capacity affirming, modifying or reversing a decision of a municipal trial court or lower tribunal. (Sec. 22, Batas Pambansa Blg. 129 and Section 22(6) of the Interim Rules). In this case, the Petitioner assailed the dismissal order of the Regional Trial Court of a complaint originally filed with it. This adverse order which had the effect of a judgment on the merits, may be appealed to the Court of Appeals by filing a notice of appeal within fifteen (15) days from notice of the order both on question of law and of fact. (Section 39, Batas Pambansa Blg. 129 and Section 19 (a) of the Interim Rules). . . . (pp. 500-521) (emphasis supplied)
As noted by the respondent Court in the herein-assailed Decision, 8 the decision in MTC Civil Case No. 255 as affirmed in RTC Civil Case No. 153-M-91 had already become final and executory, due to petitioners' failure to file with the Court of Appeals a petition for review of the RTC decision, in spite of having secured an extension of time to do so. In this jurisdiction, the general rule is when a court's judgment or order becomes final and executory, it is the ministerial duty of the trial court to issue a writ of execution to enforce this judgment. A writ of execution may however be refused on equitable grounds as when there is a change in the situation of the parties that would make execution inequitable or when certain circumstances which transpired after judgment became final, render execution of judgment unjust. 9
Petitioners insist that the favorable judgment they obtained in RTC Civil Case No. 562-M-90 yielded a new fact or circumstance that would justify non-enforcement of the final and executory judgment of the MTC. This contention had already been resolved by public respondent and we quote with approval its disquisition: 10
The new facts and circumstances that would justify a modification or non-enforcement of a final and executory judgment refer to those matters which developed after the judgment acquired finality and which were not in existence prior to or during the trial (Lim vs. Jabalde, 172 SCRA 211). In case at bar, long before the rendition of judgment January 21, 1991, in Civil Case No. 255 of the MTC of Mololos, Civil Case No. 562-M-90 of the Regional Trial Court of Malolos, Branch XVII had already been pending as shown by the amended answer with compulsory counter-claim, dated October 11, 1990 (Annex 12, page 116, Rollo). On this basis, coupled with the ruling in Joven vs. Court of Appeals, (212 SCRA 700) which states that "the pendency of an action for reconveyance of title over the same property does not divest the city or municipal court of its jurisdiction to try the forcible entry or unlawful detainer case nor will it preclude or bar execution of judgment in the ejectment case where the only issue involved is material possession or possession de facto", We find and so hold that the case at bar is devoid of merit. The respondent Regional Trial Court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing Civil Case No. 494-M-93. (emphasis supplied)
To bolster their position, petitioners cite 11 the concurring opinion of Justice (now Chief Justice) Andres R. Narvasa in Baclayon vs. Court of Appeals. 12 However, a perusal of said opinion reveals that it specifically refers only to those facts occurring after finality of judgment as warranting the stay or preclusion of execution:
It is axiomatic that once a judgment has become executory, its enforcement becomes a ministerial, mandatory duty on the part of the Court; and the order of execution is and should be unappealable or not otherwise subject of review by a higher tribunal if the desideratum of writing finis to litigation at some definite point is to be achieved.
Equally settled, however, is that the rule admits of exceptions which in the course of time, this Court has come to specifically identify. One of these is when facts and events transpire after a judgment has become executory which on equitable grounds render its execution impossible or unjust, in which case a stay or preclusion of execution may properly be sought.
The principle is well illustrated in an early case decided in 1938, Chua A.H. Lee v. Mapa (51 Phil. 624, cited, together with other cases, in Moran, Comments on the Rules, 1980 ed., Vol. 2, . . .). There, judgment was rendered for plaintiff declaring defendants to be liable to repay loans secured by pledges of personal property. After execution had issued out, the defendants manifested willingness to pay the amount of the loans and accrued interests thereon provided the pledges were returned to them. The request for return of the pledges having unaccountably been rejected by the plaintiff, the latter was thereupon sued by the defendants in a separate action for the recovery of damages arising from the loss of the pledges. The defendants also asked for stay of the execution pending final determination of their separate action. This was granted, upon bond to answer for the judgment. This Court upheld such stay, ruling that the Trial Court had acted "advisedly" and within its jurisdiction. This Court pointed out that "a stay may be allowed on grounds which are in their nature peculiarly equitable, as for instance to give defendant an opportunity to set off a claim against plaintiff;" that the ground relied upon for the stay of execution, and which is the foundation of the new action "is such that it could not have been foreseen at the time of the trial of the case," having indeed "arisen subsequent to the remanding of the record from the Supreme Court to the trial court," and could not therefore be regarded as an attempt "to interpret or to reverse the judgment of the higher court."
Likewise, the ponencia in Baclayon held that "(i)t should be emphasized that Rule 8, Section 2 of the Rules of Court allows a party to set forth two or more statements of a claim or defense alternatively or hypothetically, either in one cause of action or defense or in separate causes of action or defenses." 13 Hence, if petitioners believed that their action in the inventory/appraisal cum legitime completion case would defeat any favorable judgment private respondent might obtain in the ejectment case, they should have raised the same in the latter case, alternatively or hypothetically.
In any event, we had already ruled in San Pedro vs. Court of Appeals 14 that the finality of the decision with respect to possession de facto cannot be affected by the pendency on appeal of a case where ownership of the property is being contested, to wit:
Firmly settled is the rule that the pendency of an action questioning the ownership of property will not abate ejectment suits or bar the execution of the judgments therein.
xxx xxx xxx
The rationale of the rule is that an ejectment suit involves only the issue of material possession or possession de facto while an action for annulment of title, such as the case at bar, involves the question of ownership. There may be identity of parties and subject matter but not of the cause of action or the relief prayed for. (Dante vs. Sison, 174 SCRA 517).
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the petition is DENIED, petitioners not having shown that any reversible error was committed by respondent Court in the assailed Decision. Costs against petitioners.
Narvasa, C.J., Davide, Jr., Melo and Francisco, JJ., concur.
1 Rollo, pp. 19-22.
2 Rollo, pp. 38-39.
3 Composed of J. Asaali S. Isnani, ponente, and JJ. Nathanael P. De Pano, Jr. and Corona Ibay Somera, concurring.
4 Rollo, pp. 19-20.
5 Rollo, p. 11.
6 Rollo, pp. 12-14.
7 Rollo, p. 21.
8 Quoted on page 3 hereof.
9 Rodriguez vs. Project 6 Market Cooperative, Inc., 247 SCRA 528, August 23, 1995.
10 Rollo, p. 22.
11 Rollo, pp. 80-81.
12 182 SCRA 761, 774-775, February 26, 1990.
13 Baclayon vs. Court of Appeals, supra, at pp. 770-771.
14 235 SCRA 145, 148-150, August 4, 1994.
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