[G.R. NO. 158848 : February 4, 2008]
ESTEBAN YAU, Petitioner, v. RICARDO C. SILVERIO, SR., Respondent.
[G.R. NO. 171994 : February 4, 2008]
ARTURO MACAPAGAL, Petitioner, v. HON. IRENEO LEE GAKO, JR., in his capacity as Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Cebu City, Branch 6, ESTEBAN YAU and Deputy Sheriff RUBEN S. NEQUINTO, Petitioner,
D E C I S I O N
Before this Court are two (2) consolidated petitions, the first, docketed as G.R. No. 158848, is a Petition for Review on Certiorari 1 of the Decision2 dated September 22, 1999 and Resolution dated June 20, 2003 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 72202; and the other, G.R. No. 171994, is likewise a Petition for Review on Certiorari assailing the Decision3 dated August 24, 2005 and Resolution dated March 15, 2006 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 60106.
The undisputed facts are:
On January 22, 1981, Esteban Yau bought from the Philippine Underwriters Finance Corporation (Philfinance) Promissory Note No. 3447 issued by the Philippine Shares Corporation (PSC). Yau paid the amount of
P1,600,000 to Philfinance for the note. The latter promised to return to him on March 24, 1981 his investment plus earnings of P29,866.67. Philfinance then issued postdated checks to Yau drawn against the Insular Bank of Asia and America, all maturing on March 24, 1981, for P1,600,000.00, P24,177.78 and P5,688.89. But when the checks were deposited in the bank, they were dishonored for insufficiency of funds. When Yau complained to the PSC, it denied having issued the promissory note.
Thus, on March 28, 1984, Yau filed a complaint4 with the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 6, Cebu City, for recovery of the value of the promissory note and for damages against Philfinance and the members of its board of directors, among whom were Ricardo C. Silverio, Sr., Pablo C. Carlos, Jr., Arturo Macapagal, Florencio Biagan, Jr., and Miguel Angel Cano.
Except for defendant Pablo C. Carlos Jr., all the other defendants failed to file their answers seasonably. Hence, the trial court issued an Order declaring them in default and allowing Yau to present his evidence ex parte. Pablo Carlos, Jr., although present during the hearing, did not present evidence in his defense.
Meanwhile, after the trial court denied their motion for reconsideration, Silverio and his co-defendants (except Pablo Carlos, Jr.), filed with the Court of Appeals a Petition for Certiorari and prohibition (docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 04835), assailing the Order of default. The appellate court, however, in its Decision dated March 10, 1986, dismissed the petition, holding that summonses were duly served and that defendants' failure to answer the complaint justifies the trial court's Order declaring them in default. Since they did not interpose an appeal, the Decision of the appellate court became final and executory on June 17, 1986. An entry of judgment was made on July 4, 1986.
On March 27, 1991, the trial court rendered its Decision in favor of Esteban Yau. The dispositive portion reads:
WHEREFORE, judgment is rendered in favor of plaintiff and against defendants Philippine Underwriters Finance Corporation, Ricardo C. Silverio, Sr., Pablo C. Carlos, Jr., Arturo Macapagal, Florencio Biagan, Jr. and Miguel Angel Cano, ordering the latter, jointly and severally, to pay the former the following:
(a) The principal amount of One Million Six Hundred Thousand (
P1,600,000) Pesos, representing the principal amount of the plaintiff's investment;
(b) The amount of Ten Million Three Hundred Ninety Seven Thousand Four Hundred Ninety Four Pesos and 03/100 (
P10,397,494.03), representing the earnings which the plaintiff could have made on his investment as of December 31, 1989 and thereafter, legal interest on the principal amount of P1,600,000, until fully paid;
(c) The amount of One Hundred Thousand (P100,000) Pesos as, and for moral damages;
(d) The amount of Fifty Thousand (P50,000) Pesos as, and for exemplary or corrective damages;
(e) The amount of One Hundred Thirty Seven Thousand Two Hundred Seven Pesos and 28/100 (
P137,207.28) as attorney's fees; Forty Four Thousand Eighteen Pesos and 33/100 ( P44,018.33) as litigation expenses; andcralawlibrary
(f) The costs of the suit.
The Counterclaims interposed by the defendant Pablo C. Carlos, Jr. in his Answer, are dismissed.
Pablo Carlos, Jr. and Philfinance interposed an appeal to the Court of Appeals, docketed therein as CA-G.R. CV No. 33496. With respect to Silverio, Macapagal, Biagan, and Cano, their Notice of Appeal was dismissed for their failure to pay the docket fees. The Order of dismissal became final and executory on December 26, 1991 and an entry of judgment was made on April 21, 1992.
On July 31, 1992, the trial court, upon petitioner Yau's motion, issued an Order directing the execution of its Decision and, on September 17, 1992, issued the corresponding writ of execution.
In December 1992, the defendants' bank deposits were garnished by the sheriff. Also, the shares of Silverio in the Manila Golf and Country Club were sold at public auction for
P2,000,000. As the judgment was only partially satisfied, the writ of execution was enforced against the other defendants, including Macapagal.
Silverio and Macapagal took separate courses of action. On February 2, 1993, Macapagal filed with this Court a Petition for Certiorari and prohibition, questioning the validity of the Decision of the trial court, its Order of execution and the writ of execution. The petition, however, was referred to the Court of Appeals, where it was docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 31075 and raffled off to the Fourteenth Division. Eventually, the appellate court dismissed the petition on the ground that the same was barred, under the principle of res judicata, by its previous Decision in CA-G.R. SP No. 04835, upholding the validity of the trial court's Order of default.
On other hand, Silverio filed with the Court of Appeals (Special Eleventh Division) a petition for reinstatement of his appeal and annulment of the writ of execution, docketed as CA-G.R. CV No. 33496. However, the appellate court denied the petition on the ground that the Order of the RTC dismissing the Notice of Appeal had become final and executory.
Macapagal then filed with this Court a Petition for Review on Certiorari ,docketed as G.R. No. 110610. Silverio likewise filed with this Court a similar petition, docketed as G.R. No. 113851. These petitions were consolidated because they arose out of the same facts. In its Decision dated April 18, 1997, this Court upheld the rulings of the Court of Appeals and dismissed their petitions. Their motions for reconsideration were denied with finality by this Court in its Resolution6 dated October 8, 1998.
Considering that the judgment was not fully satisfied, the sheriff resumed the implementation of the writ. In 1999, he sent notices of garnishment to several banks in Manila against any existing account of Macapagal. Thereupon, Macapagal filed with the trial court a motion to quash the writ of execution on the ground that its lifetime has expired, contending that the judgment in Civil Case No. CEB - 2058 became final and executory in 1992, hence, can be enforced only within five (5) years therefrom or until 1997. After five (5) years and within ten (10) years from the entry of judgment, it may be enforced only by an independent civil action.
On January 28, 2000, the trial court issued an Order denying Macapagal's motion to quash the writ of execution. His motion for reconsideration was likewise denied in a Resolution dated May 22, 2000. The trial court held that there was an effective interruption or delay in the implementation of the writ of execution because he filed with the Court of Appeals and this Court various petitions.
Macapagal then filed with the Court of Appeals (Eighteenth Division) a Petition for Certiorari, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 60106. However, the appellate court, in its Decision dated August 24, 2005, dismissed the petition and denied the motion for reconsideration in its Resolution dated September 15, 2005.
Hence, Macapagal filed with this Court the present petition, docketed as G.R. No. 171994.
Meanwhile, on October 31, 2000, the Court of Appeals rendered a Decision in CA-G.R. CV No. 33496 (appeal of defendants Philfinance and Pablo Carlos, Jr.). The dispositive portion reads:
"IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the appealed decision as hereby modified in such a way that the award of lost income is deleted and the legal interest to be paid on the principal amount of P1,600,000 be computed from the filing of the complaint at twelve (12%) percent until full payment thereof. On all other respect, the judgment stands. Costs against appellants.7
The aforesaid Decision became final and executory on March 21, 2001.
Sometime in 2001, the sheriff found that Silverio was a co-owner of three (3) houses located in Forbes Park and Bel-Air Village, Makati City, covered by TCT Nos. (147129)-137156, (436750)-137155 and (337033)-137154 of the Registry of Deeds, same city. Thus, on March 21, 2001, the sheriff served a Notice of Levy on a house and lot in Forbes Park. An auction sale was held on July 26, 2001 wherein Yau was declared the highest bidder, with a bid of
P11,443,219.64 for the said house and lot covered by TCT No. (436750)-137155. On August 6, 2001, the sheriff issued the corresponding Certificate of Sale.
On December 7, 2001, Silverio filed with the trial court an omnibus motion praying that the levy on execution, the notice of auction sale and the certificate of sale be declared void. He contends that the writ of execution has become functus oficio since more than five (5) years have elapsed from the finality of the judgment sought to be executed.
The trial court, in its Order of March 20, 2002, denied the omnibus motion. The trial court also denied his motion for reconsideration in an Order dated June 21, 2002.
Undaunted, Silverio filed with the Court of Appeals (Twelfth Division) a Petition for Certiorari, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 72202, challenging the said Orders of the trial court. On April 15, 2003, the appellate court rendered its Decision granting the petition, thus:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is GRANTED, and the assailed Orders of public respondent judge are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The levy by respondent sheriff upon TCT No. (-147129)-137156, TCT No. (-436750)137155, and TCT No. (-337033 - )137154, as well as the subsequent auction sale and transfer of the property covered by TCT No. (436750) 137155, are declared NULL and VOID. All annotations upon the titles to aforesaid properties pursuant to the levy are ordered cancelled. Costs against private respondent.
Yau's motion for reconsideration was denied by the appellate court in its Resolution dated June 20, 2003.
Hence, Yau filed the instant Petition for Review on Certiorari, docketed as G.R. No. 158848.
In view of the identity of the parties and the issues in G.R. No. 158848 and G.R. No. 171994, we resolved to consolidate the two petitions.
The principal and common issue in both petitions is whether the Decision rendered by the RTC in Civil Case No. CEB-2058 may no longer be enforced against Silverio and Macapagal since more than five (5) years have already lapsed from its finality.
Significantly, the Court of Appeals rendered conflicting Decisions. In the Petition for Certiorari (CA-G.R. SP No. 60106) filed by Macapagal assailing the trial court's Orders denying his motion to quash the writ of execution, the appellate court denied his petition. It sustained the trial court's ruling that its judgment may still be enforced despite the lapse of five years from the date it became final; and held that the delay in the implementation of the writ of execution was due to Macapagal's filing with the Court of Appeals and this Court various petitions.
Relative to Silverio's Petition for Certiorari (CA-G.R. SP No. 72202) questioning the trial court's Orders denying his omnibus motion to declare void the levy on execution, the auction sale and the certificate of sale, the Court of Appeals granted his petition. The appellate court ruled that the writ had become functus oficio and could no longer be enforced since more than five years have elapsed from the finality of the trial court's judgment.
Section 6, Rule 39 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended provides:
Section 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.
It is clear from the above Rule that 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.
In Francisco Motors Corporation v. Court of Appeals,9 this Court held that in 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.
There had been many instances where this Court allowed the execution by motion even after the lapse of five years. These exceptions have one common denominator, and that is, the delay is caused or occasioned by actions of the judgment debtor and/or is incurred for his benefit or advantage.10
Here, the judgment of the trial court sought to be executed became final and executory on December 26, 1991. The writ of execution was issued on September 17, 1992. It could not be enforced for the full satisfaction of the judgment within the five-year period because Macapagal and Silverio filed with the Court of Appeals and this Court petitions challenging the trial court's judgment and the writ of execution. Such petitions suspended or interrupted the further enforcement of the writ.
As stated earlier, on April 18, 1997, this Court rendered its Decision in G.R. No. 110610 and G.R. No. 113851 dismissing the petitions of Macapagal and Silverio assailing the trial court's judgment in Civil Case No. CEB-2058. In 1998, this Court denied with finality their motions for reconsideration. And in the instant petitions, Macapagal and Silverio are attacking the validity of the writ of execution by the trial court. Because of their maneuvers, there has been a delay of sixteen (16) years in the enforcement of such judgment, reckoned from its finality on December 26, 1991 up to the present. Indeed, the enforcement of the trial court's judgment by motion has been interrupted by the acts of Macapagal and Silverio the judgment debtors.
Every litigation must come to an end. While a litigant's right to initiate an action in court is fully respected, however, once his case has been adjudicated by a competent court in a valid final judgment, he should not be permitted to initiate similar suits hoping to secure a favorable ruling, for this will result to endless litigations detrimental to the administration of justice.11
Let it be stressed that with respect to Macapagal and Silverio the Decision of the trial court has attained finality. Such definitive judgment is no longer subject to change, revision, amendment or reversal. Upon finality of the judgment, the court loses its jurisdiction to amend, modify or alter the same. Except for correction of clerical errors or the making of nunc pro tunc entries which causes no prejudice to any party, or where the judgment is void, the judgment can neither be amended nor altered after it has become final and executory. This is the principle of immutability of final judgment.
In Lim v. Jabalde,12 this Court further explained the necessity of adhering to the doctrine of immutability of final judgments, thus:
"Litigation must end and terminate sometime and somewhere and it is essential to an effective and efficient administration of justice that, once a judgment has become final, the winning party be, not through a mere subterfuge, deprived of the fruits of the verdict. Courts must therefore guard against any scheme calculated to bring about that result. Constituted as they are to put an end to controversies, courts should frown upon any attempt to prolong them."
Every litigation must come to an end once a judgment becomes final, executory and unappealable. For just as a losing party has the right to file an appeal within the prescribed period, the winning party also has the correlative right to enjoy the finality of the resolution of his case by the execution and satisfaction of the judgment, which is the "life of the law." Any attempt to thwart this rigid rule and deny the prevailing litigant his right to savour the fruit of his victory must immediately be struck down.13 The statute of limitations has not been devised against those who wish to act but cannot do so, for causes beyond their control.14
WHEREFORE, we GRANT the Petition of Esteban Yau in G.R. No. 158848 and DENY the petition of Arturo Macapagal in G.R. No. 171994. The Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 72202 is REVERSED, while the Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 60106 is AFFIRMED.The RTC, Branch 6, Cebu City, is directed to order its sheriff to continue the implementation of the writ of execution issued in Civil Case No. CEB-2058 until the award in favor of petitioner Esteban Yau shall have been fully satisfied.
Costs against Ricardo C. Silverio, Sr. and Arturo Macapagal.
* No part.
** Additional member pursuant to Administrative Circular No. 84-2007.
1 Under Rule 45 of the 1997 Revised Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended.
2 Penned by Associate Justice Eliezer R. De Los Santos with Associate Justice Romeo A. Brawner (retired; now Comelec Commissioner) and Associate Justice Regalado E. Maambong concurring; Rollo, pp. 55-80.
3 Penned by Associate Justice Pampio A. Abarintos with Associate Justice Mercedes Gozo-Dadole and Associate Justice Ramon M. Bato, Jr. concurring; id., pp. 35-42.
4 Docketed as Civil Case No. CEB-2058.
5 Rollo, G.R. No. 171994, pp. 52-53.
6 Macapagal v. Court of Appeals, et al. G.R. No. 110610 and Silverio, et al. v. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 113851, October 8, 1998, 297 SCRA 429.
7 Rollo, G.R. No. 158848, p. 60.
8 Id., p. 80.
13 Seven Brother Shipping Corporation v. Oriental Assurance Corporation, supra, citing In Re: Petition for Clarification as to the Validity and Forceful Effect of Two (2) Final and Executory but Conflicting Decisions of the Honorable Supreme Court, G.R. No. 123780, September 24, 2002, 389 SCRA 493.
14 Lancita v. Magbanua, supra at footnote 9.