February 28, 2018
G.R. No. 232202
DANIEL A. VILLAREAL, JR. (on behalf of ORLANDO A. VILLAREAL), Petitioner
MATROPOLITAN WATERWORKS AND SEWERAGE SYSTEM, Respondent
D E C I S I O N
We resolve this petition1 under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, assailing the Decision2 dated February 9, 2017 and the Order3 dated May 17, 2017 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City, Branch 215, in Case No. R-QZN-16-03654-CV.
The Antecedent Facts
In a Decision4 dated October 30, 2000, the Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) of Quezon City, Branch 39, dismissed a case entitled "Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System v. Orlando A. Villareal and other persons claiming Rights Under Him" in Civil Case No. 21293 for Unlawful Detainer, for being prematurely filed and for lack of cause of action.
On appeal by respondent Metropolitan Waterworks Sewerage System (MWSS), the RTC-Branch 96 rendered a Decision5 on September 27, 2002 in Civil Case Nos. Q-01-42773 and Q-01-42773-B, reversing the MeTC's judgment, and ordered, among others, that:
1. In Civil Case No. Q-01-42773, [Orlando] and all persons claiming rights under him to vacate the premises located at No. 18, V. Heizer, St., Balara Filters, Quezon City and surrender peacefully the possession thereof to (MWSS); and to pay the amount of ₱2,500.00 as reasonable compensation from November 7, 1997 until the possession is restored to [MWSS);
x x x x
On December 15, 2002, the RTC Clerk of Court issued an Entry of Judgment/Order,7 stating that the RTC Decision dated September 27, 2002 has become final and executory.
Within a period of two years or on May 17, 2004, MWSS filed a Motion for Issuance of Writ of Execution8 with the MeTC.
On July 2, 2004, Orlando Villareal (Orlando) filed his Comment/Opposition,9 praying that the motion be held in abeyance pending compliance by MWSS with the provision of Section 23 of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 7279,10 also known as the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992.
More than 10 years from the filing of MWSS' motion for execution or on July 28, 2014, the MeTC issued an Order11 in Civil Case No. 35806, granting the motion.
Ruling of the MeTC
On October 26, 2015, the MeTC issued a Writ of Execution,12 for the satisfaction of the RTC Decision dated September 27, 2002. In addressing Orlando's prayer, the MeTC held in its July 28, 2014 Order that R.A. No. 7279 does not find application, since Orlando failed to prove that he falls under the category of "underprivileged and homeless citizens," who are the beneficiaries of the said Act.13
Pursuant to the writ of execution, the MeTC Sheriff III sent on April 19, 2016 a Sheriff's Notice to Vacate and Pay14 to Orlando.
On April 20, 2016, Daniel A. Villareal, Jr. (on behalf of Orlando), filed a Petition for Certiorari15 under Rule 65 with the RTC-Branch 215, challenging the Writ of Execution dated October 26, 2015 and the Sheriff's Notice to Vacate and Pay dated April 19, 2016. He argued that the fiveyear period under Section 6,16 Rule 39 of the Rules was violated since the execution was done more than 10 years from the finality of the RTC decision.
In response, MWSS filed its Comment/Opposition,17 and countered among others, that the five-year period under the Rules within which to enforce a judgment by mere motion run only against the judgment obligee and not the court that will resolve/decide it.18 MWSS likewise alleged that Orlando's filing of Comment/Opposition dated July 2, 2004 caused the delay in the execution of judgment.
Ruling of the RTC
On February 9, 2017, the RTC, in its Decision19 dismissed the petition and affirmed the October 26, 2015 Writ of Execution and the April 19, 2016 Sheriff's Notice to Vacate and Pay.
Petitioner's subsequent motion for reconsideration20 was denied in the RTC Order21 dated May 17, 2017.
Hence, this petition, anchored on this sole ground:
WHETHER OR NOT THE [RTC] ERRED IN DISMISSING THE PETITION BASED ON ERRONEOUS APPLICATION OF RULE 39, SECTION 6 OF THE RULES OF COURT AND APPARENT IGNORANCE OF APPLICABLE JURISPRUDENCE.22
Ruling of the Court
The petition is granted.
At the outset, it should be pointed out that petitioner resorted to a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45, and not a special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65. The principle of hierarchy of courts does not find any application in this case.23
In Ysidoro v. Justice Leonardo De Castro, et al.,24 this Court differentiated the nature of the remedies provided under Rules 45 and 65 of the Rules of Court in this manner:
[A] review on certiorari under a Rule 45 petition is generally limited to the review of legal issues; the Court only resolves questions of law which have been properly raised by the parties during the appeal and in the petition. Under this mode, the Court determines whether a proper application of the law was made in a given set of facts. A Rule 65 review, on the other hand, is strictly confined to the determination of the propriety of the trial court's jurisdiction – whether it has jurisdiction over the case and if so, whether the exercise of its jurisdiction has or has not been attended by grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.25
Corollary, under Section 2(c), Rule 41 of the Rules, it is provided that in all cases where only questions of law are raised, the appeal from a decision or order of the RTC shall be to the Supreme Court by petition for review on certiorari in accordance with Section 1 of Rule 45 of which provides:
Sec. 1. Filing of petition with Supreme Court. - A party desiring to appeal by certiorari from a judgment or final order or resolution of the Court of Appeals, the Sandiganbayan, the Regional Trial Court or other courts whenever authorized by law, may file with the Supreme Court a verified petition for review on certiorari. The petition shall raise only questions of law which must be distinctly set forth.
Here, it is patently clear that petitioner does not question whether the RTC has jurisdiction or authority to resolve his petition for certiorari under Rule 65. Rather, he assails the wisdom of the RTC's very judgment and appreciation in upholding the MeTC's issuance of the writ of execution in MWSS' favor. The error relates to a mistake in the application of law and jurisprudence regarding Section 6 of Rule 39, and not to an error of jurisdiction or grave abuse of discretion amounting to excess of jurisdiction. This, obviously, is a question of law; consequently, direct resort to this Court is proper.
Execution may be either through motion or an independent action. The two modes of execution under the Rules are available, depending on the timing when the prevailing party invoked his right to enforce the court's judgment. Section 6, Rule 39 of the Rules, states thus:
Sec. 6. Execution by motion or by independent action. - A final and executory judgment or order may be executed on motion within five (5) years from the date of its entry. After the lapse of such time, and before it is barred by the statute of limitations, a judgment may be enforced by action. The revived judgment may also be enforced by motion within five (5) years from the date of its entry and thereafter by action before it is barred by the statute of limitations.
"Execution by motion is only available if the enforcement of the judgment was sought within five (5) years from the date of its entry."26 This is a matter of right.27 "On the other hand, execution by independent action is mandatory if the five-year prescriptive period for execution by motion had already elapsed."28 "[T]he said judgment is reduced to a right of action which must be enforced by the institution of a complaint in a regular court."29 "[T]he action must be filed before it is barred by the statute of limitations which, under the Civil Code, is ten (10) years from the finality of the judgment."30 Corollary, "[a] final and executory judgment may be executed by motion within five years or by action for revival of judgment within ten years reckoned from the date of entry of judgment."31 The date of entry, in turn, is the same as the date of finality of judgment.32
By jurisprudence, for execution by motion to be valid, the judgment creditor must ensure the accomplishment of two acts within the five-year prescriptive period, as follows: (a) the filing of the motion for the issuance of the writ of execution; and (b) the court's actual issuance of the writ.33
Here, the RTC Decision dated September 27, 2002 became final and executory on December 15, 2002. By operation of law, December 15, 2002 is likewise the date of entry of judgment. Consequently, the five-year prescriptive period for the execution of the RTC decision by mere motion must be reckoned from December 15, 2002.
MWSS filed a Motion for Issuance of Writ of Execution of the RTC Decision on May 17, 2004. This is within five years from December 15, 2002 – the date when the decision became final and executory. Thus, the first act was accomplished.
There is, however, non-compliance with the second act.
We held in Olongapo City v. Subic Water and Sewerage Co., Inc.34 that:
In Arambulo v. Court of First Instance of Laguna, we explained the rule that the jurisdiction of a court to issue a writ of execution by motion is only effective within the five-year period from the entry of judgment. Outside this five-year period, any writ of execution issued pursuant to a motion filed by the judgment creditor, is null and void. If no writ of execution was issued by the court within the five-year period, even a motion filed within such prescriptive period would not suffice. A writ issued by the court after the lapse of the five-year period is already null and void. The judgment creditor's only recourse then is to file an independent action, which must also be within the prescriptive period set by law for the enforcement of judgments.
This Court subsequently reiterated its Arambulo ruling in Ramos v. Garciano, where we said:
There seems to be no serious dispute that the 4th alias writ of execution was issued eight (8) days after the lapse of the five (5) year period from the date of the entry of judgment in Civil Case No. 367. As a general rule, after the lapse of such period a judgment may be enforced only by ordinary action, not by mere motion (Section 6, Rule 39, Rules of Court).
The limitation that a judgment been enforced by execution within five years, otherwise it loses efficacy, goes to the very jurisdiction of the Court. A writ issued after such period is void, and the failure to object thereto does not validate it, for the reason that jurisdiction of courts is solely conferred by law and not by express or implied will of the parties.35 (Citations omitted, emphasis and italics ours and emphasis in the original)
As can be gleaned from the aforementioned discussion, the five-year prescriptive period reckoned from the entry of judgment mentioned in Section 6, Rule 39 of the Rules, should be observed both by the winning party who filed the motion, i.e., judgment obligee/creditor, and the court that will resolve the same. Simply put, the winning party may file the motion for execution within the five-year period; and the court should issue the actual writ of execution pursuant to the motion within the same period. After the lapse of the five-year period, any writ issued by the court is already null and void, since the court no longer has jurisdiction over the issuance of the writ.
Records show that after the filing of MWSS' Motion for Issuance of Writ of Execution, and Orlando's Comment/Opposition thereto, the MeTC issued an Order granting the said motion only on July 28, 2014. More than a year after the grant, or on October 26, 2015, the MeTC issued the Writ of Execution. Reckoned from the entry of judgment on December 15, 2002, more than 12 years have elapsed after the actual writ of execution was finally issued by the MeTC. This is clearly beyond the five-year prescriptive period within which the court may issue the writ of execution. By then, the MeTC was already stripped of its jurisdiction. Thus, the writ of execution it issued on October 26, 2015 is null and void.
We can not subscribe to MWSS' insistence that Orlando's filing of his Comment/Opposition to the Motion for Issuance of Writ of Execution, caused the delay in the execution of judgment, which in effect operates as an exception to the rule that execution by motion after the lapse of five years is no longer allowed.
As discussed earlier, a judgment may be executed on motion within five years from the date of its entry or from the date it becomes final and . executory. Thereafter, before barred by the statute of limitations, by action. However, there are instances where this Court allowed execution by motion even after the lapse of five years upon meritorious grounds. These exceptions have one common denominator, i.e., the delay is caused or occasioned by actions of the judgment debtor and/or is incurred for his benefit or advantage.36
In Yau v. Silverio, Sr.,37 We stressed that:
[I]n computing the time limit for enforcing a final judgment, the general rule is that there should not be included the time when execution is stayed, either by agreement of the parties for a definite time, by injunction, by the taking of an appeal or writ of error so as to operate as a supersedeas, by the death of a party or otherwise. Any interruption or delay occasioned by the debtor will extend the time within which the writ may be issued without scire facias. Thus, the time during which execution is stayed should be excluded, and the said time will be extended by any delay occasioned by the debtor.38
In this case, there is an absence of any showing on the part of MWSS that the execution of the RTC decision was stayed "by agreement of the parties for a definite time, by injunction, by the taking of an appeal or writ of error so as to operate as a supersedeas, by the death of a party or otherwise," or by any circumstance that would further delay its implementation.
Orlando merely filed a comment to MWSS' motion for the issuance of a writ of execution.1âшphi1 He cannot be faulted in doing so. There is neither a law nor a rule which prevents him from filing a comment. Apparently, the delay was not brought about by the filing of the comment; but instead, the period within which the MeTC acted upon it.
We conclude this ponencia with a reminder on the significance of prescriptive period for the enforcement of judgments on the part of the winning party, as held in Villeza v. German Management and Services, Inc., et al.:39
The Court has pronounced in a plethora of cases that it is revolting to the conscience to allow someone to further avert the satisfaction of an obligation because of sheer literal adherence to technicality; that although strict compliance with the rules of procedure is desired, liberal interpretation is warranted in cases where a strict enforcement of the rules will not serve the ends of justice, and that it is a better rule that courts, under the principle of equity, will not be guided or bound strictly by the statute of limitations or the doctrine of laches when to do so, manifest wrong or injustice would result. These cases, though, remain exceptions to the general rule. The purpose of the law in prescribing time limitations for enforcing judgment by action is precisely to prevent the winning parties from sleeping on their rights. This Court cannot just set aside the statute of limitations into oblivion every time someone cries for equity and justice. Indeed, "if eternal vigilance is the price of safety, one cannot sleep on one's right for more than a 10th of a century and expect it to be preserved in pristine purity."40 (Citations omitted and emphasis and italics ours)
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Decision dated February 9, 2017 and the Order dated May 17, 2017 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 215, in Case No. R-QZN-16-03654-CV, are REVERSED and SET ASIDE.
NOEL GIMENEZ TIJAM
MARIA LOURDES P.A. SERENO
|TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO
|MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO
FRANCIS H. JARDELEZA
C E R T I F I C A T I O N
Pursuant to the Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court’s Division.
MARIA LOURDES P.A. SERENO
1 Rollo, pp. 15-33.
2 Rendered by Presiding Judge Rafael G. Hipolito; id. at 36-42.
3 Id. at 34-35.
4 Rendered by Presiding Judge Cesar 0. Untalan; id. at 113-114.
5 Rendered by Judge Lucas P. Bersamin (now a Member of this Court); id. at 104-107.
6 Id. at 107.
7 Id. at 120.
8 Id. at 108-110.
9 Id. at 125-127.
10 AN ACT TO PROVIDE FOR COMPREHENSIVE AND CONTINUING URBAN DEVELOPMENT AND HOUSING PROGRAM, ESTABLISH THE MECHANISM FOR ITS IMPLEMENTATION, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES. Approved on March 24, 1992.
11 Rendered by Judge Juvenal N. Bella; rollo, pp. 137-139.
12 Id. at 43-44.
13 Id. at 138.
14 Issued by Sheriff Rogelio V. Clemente, Jr., id. at 45.
15 Id. at 54-66.
16 Sec. 6. Execution by motion or by independent action. - A final and executory judgment or order may be executed on motion within five (5) years from the date of its entry. After the lapse of such time, and before it is barred by the statute of limitations, a judgment may be enforced by action. The revived judgment may also be enforced by motion within five (5) years from the date of its entry and thereafter by action before it is barred by the statute of limitations.
17 Rollo, pp. 67-75.
18 Id. at 70.
19 Id. at 36-42.
20 Id. at 76-86.
21 Id. at 34-35.
22 Id. at 22.
23 Mendoza v. Salinas, 543 Phil. 380,385 (2007).
24 681 Phil. 1 (2012).
25 Id. at 14-15.
26 Olongapo City v. Subic Water and Sewerage Co., Inc., 740 Phil. 502, 519 (2014).
27 Rubio, et al. v. Alabata, 728 Phil. 257, 262 (2014).
28 Olongapo City v. Subic Water and Sewerage Co., Inc., supra at 519.
29 Rubio, et al. v. Alabata, supra at 262.
30 Olongapo City v. Subic Water and Sewerage Co., Inc., supra at 519.
31 Phil. Veterans Bank v. Solid Homes, Inc., 607 Phil. 14,21 (2009).
32 See Section 2, Rule 36 of the Rules.
33 Olongapo City v. Subic Water and Sewerage Co., Inc., supra at 520-521.
34 740 Phil. 502 (2014).
35 Id. at 520.
36 Camacho v. CA, 351 Phil. 108, 113 (1998), citing Republic v. CA, 329 Phil. 115, 121-122 (1996).
37 567 Phil. 493 (2008).
38 Id. at 502-503, citing Francisco Motors Corp. CA. 535 Phil. 736, 751 (2006).
39 641 Phil. 544 (2010).
40 Id. at 551-552.
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