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PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. Nos. 114841-42. August 23, 1995.]

ATLANTIC GULF AND PACIFIC COMPANY OF MANILA, INC., Petitioner, v. COURT OF APPEALS, CARLITO D. CASTILLO, HEIRS OF CRISTETA CASTILLO and CORNELIO CASTILLO, Respondents.

Arturo A. Alafriz & Associates for Petitioner.

Melvin A. Arquillo for Private Respondents.


SYLLABUS


1. REMEDIAL LAW; EVIDENCE; FACTUAL FINDINGS OF THE TRIAL AND APPELLATE COURTS; RULE AND EXCEPTION; APPLICATION IN CASE AT BAR. — The evidence on record indubitably support the findings of the trial and appellate courts that petitioner company is liable for the destruction of the property of herein private respondents and consequently entitle the latter to an award of the damages prayed for. Such conclusions and findings of fact by the lower courts are entitled to great weight on appeal and will not be disturbed except for strong and cogent reasons, none of which, however, obtain in the case at bar. The fact that the appellate court adopted the findings of the trial court, as in this case, makes the same binding upon the Supreme Court, for the factual findings of said appellate court are generally binding on the latter. For that matter, the findings of the Court of Appeals by itself, and which are supported by substantial evidence, are almost beyond the power of review by the Supreme Court. (De la Cruz, Et. Al. v. Court of Appeals, Et Al., G.R. No. 85450, July 3, 1990, 187 SCRA 165)

2. ID.; SUPREME COURT; JURISDICTION; APPEALED CASES; RULE. — It is a basic rule that only questions of law may be raised in an appeal by certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in cases thus brought to it from the Court of Appeals is limited to reviewing and revising the errors of law imputed to it. (Pacubas, Et. Al. v. Court of Appeals, Et Al., G. R. No. 84523, August 2, 1990, 188 SCRA 268; Pecson v. Court of Appeals, Et Al., G.R. No. 105360, May 25, 1993, 222 SCRA 580) It is not the function of this Court to analyze or weigh such evidence all over again. Its jurisdiction is limited to reviewing errors of law that might have been committed by the lower court. Barring a showing that the factual findings complained of are totally devoid of support in the record or that they are so glaringly erroneous as to constitute serious abuse of discretion, such findings must stand, for the Supreme Court is not expected or required to examine or contrast the oral documentary evidence submitted by the parties. (Lanzona, Et. Al. v. Intermediate Appellate Court, Et Al., G.R. No. 66344, July 2, 1990, 187 SCRA 33; Morales v. Court of Appeals, Et Al., G.R. No. 91003, May 23, 1991, 197 SCRA 391; Bunag v. Court of Appeals, Et Al., G.R. No. 101749, July 10, 1992, 211 SCRA 440)

3. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; PARTY WHO HAS NOT APPEALED CAN NOT OBTAIN AFFIRMATIVE RELIEF. — Respondent appellate court exceeded its jurisdiction when it modified the judgment of the trial court by increasing the award of damages in favor of private respondents who, in the first place, did not interpose an appeal therefrom. This being the case, they are presumed to be satisfied with the adjudication made by the lower court. As to them, the judgment of the court below may be said to have attained finality. The entrenched procedural rule in this jurisdiction is that a party who has not himself appealed cannot obtain from the appellate court any affirmative relief other than those granted in the decision of the lower court. The appellee can only advance any argument that he may deem necessary to defeat the appellant’s claim or to uphold the decision that is being disputed. He can assign errors on appeal if such are required to strengthen the views expressed by the court a quo. Such assigned errors, in turn, may be considered by the appellate court solely to maintain the appealed decision on other grounds, but not for the purpose of modifying the judgment in the appellee’s favor and giving him other affirmative reliefs. (Makati Haberdashery, Inc. Et. Al., v. National Labor Relations Commission, Et Al., G.R. Nos. 83380-81, November 15, 1989, 179 SCRA 448; and other cases cited)


D E C I S I O N


REGALADO, J.:


Assailed in this appeal by certiorari is the judgment 1 of respondent appellate court rendered in CA-G.R. CV Nos. 29976-77, which affirmed with modifications the judgment of the trial court by increasing the award of damages to herein private respondents. While the increased awards could arguably have been justified, it was the inaction of private respondents that now militate against the same.

Sometime in 1982, petitioner company commenced the construction of a steel fabrication plant in the Municipality of Bauan, Batangas, necessitating dredging operations at the Batangas Bay in an area adjacent to the real property of private respondents.

As an offshoot of said dredging operations, an action for damages against herein petitioner Atlantic Gulf and Pacific Company of Manila, Inc. was filed by Carlito D. Castillo which was docketed as Civil Case No. 10276, and another action by Cristeta Castillo for herself and as guardian of Cornelio Castillo, docketed as Civil Case No. 10696.

On August 19, 1985, the above-mentioned cases were consolidated, as the plaintiffs therein intended to present common evidence against defendant, 2 by reason of the virtual identity of the issues involved in both cases.

Private respondents alleged that during the on-going construction of its steel and fabrication yard, petitioner’s personnel and heavy equipment trespassed into the adjacent parcels of land belonging to private respondents without their consent. These heavy equipment damaged big portions of private respondents’ property which were further used by petitioner as a depot or parking lots without paying any rent therefor, nor does it appear from the records that such use of their land was with the former’s conformity.

Private respondents further alleged that as a result of the dredging operation of petitioner company, the sea silt and water overflowed and were deposited upon their land. Consequently, the said property which used to be agricultural lands principally devoted to rice production and each averaging an annual net harvest of 75 cavans, could no longer be planted with palay as the soil became infertile, salty, unproductive and unsuitable for agriculture. 3

Petitioner company denied all the allegations of private respondents and contended that its personnel and equipment had neither intruded upon nor occupied any portion of private respondents’ landholdings. The alleged sea silt with water, according to petitioner was due to the flood brought by the heavy rains when typhoon "Ruping" hit and lashed the province of Batangas in 1982. 4

On September 6 1990, the trial court promulgated its decision with this fallo:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered ordering defendant:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

1) To pay Carlito Castillo the sum of P65,240.00 plus legal interest from the time of the filing of his complaint;

2) To pay the heirs of Cristeta Castillo the sum of P32,630.00 plus legal interest from the time of the filing of her complaint;

3) To pay Cornelio Castillo the sum of P47,490.00 with legal interest from the time of the filing of his complaint;

4) To pay plaintiffs the sum of P10,000.00 each as exemplary damages;

5) To pay plaintiffs the sum of P10,000.00 each as attorney’s fees;

6) To pay the costs of suit." 5

Dissatisfied with said judgment, petitioner company appealed to the Court of Appeals. On March 29, 1994, respondent court affirmed the judgment of the trial court with the following modifications:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Ordering defendant-appellant to pay:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

1.) Carlito Castillo the following amounts:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

a) Compensatory damages in the amount of P56,290.00 with legal interest from the time of the finality of this decision until the same shall have been fully paid;

b) Exemplary damages in the amount of P10,000.00;

c) Attorney’s fees of P10,000.00; and

d) Costs of this suit.

2.) Cornelio Castillo the following sums:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

a) Compensatory damages in the amount of P255,401.25 with legal interest from the time of the finality of this decision up to the time the amount is fully paid;

b) Exemplary damages of P10,000.00;

c) Attorney’s fees of P10,000.00; and

d) Costs of this suit;

3.) Cristeta Castillo the following amount(s):chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

a) Compensatory damages of P249,815.62 with legal interest from the time this decision becomes final until the amount is fully paid;

b) Exemplary damages of P10,000.00;

c) Attorney’s fees of P10,000.00; and

d) Costs of suit." 6

Petitioner company is now before us, arguing for nullification or, at least, partial modification of respondent court’s judgment on the bases of the following assignment of errors:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

"I


That the respondent Honorable Court of Appeals exercised its judicial power and discretion in a most arbitrary, capricious and whimsical manner by awarding against the petitioner, unconscionable, unreasonable and excessive damages clearly not warranted under Articles 20 and 2176 of the Civil Code.

II


That grave and patent abuse of discretion in the exercise of judicial power constitute a ground for the issuance of the writ of certiorari . . .

III


That the respondent Honorable Court of Appeals violated Article 2177 of the Civil Code which states that: ‘the plaintiff cannot recover damages twice for the same act or omission of the defendant’ when it condemned the petitioner as a result of its dredging operations, to pay private respondents not only the expected total amount of profits the latter would have derived from the expected sale of their palay harvest for 135 months or over 11 years, from the half hectare agricultural land, but also rentals on the basis of P5.00 per square meter of their said entire landholdings." 7

The evidence on record indubitably support the findings of the trial and appellate courts that petitioner company is liable for the destruction of the property of herein private respondents and consequently entitle the latter to an award of the damages prayed for. Such conclusions and findings of fact by the lower courts are entitled to great weight on appeal and will not be disturbed except for strong and cogent reasons, none of which, however, obtain in the case at bar. The fact that the appellate court adopted the findings of the trial court, as in this case, makes the same binding upon the Supreme Court, for the factual findings of said appellate court are generally binding on the latter. For that matter, the findings of the Court of Appeals by itself, and which are supported by substantial evidence, are almost beyond the power of review by the Supreme Court. 8

Hence, on this aspect of its recourse, petitioner cannot expect a reversal since it is a basic rule that only questions of law may be raised in an appeal by certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in cases thus brought to it from the Court of Appeals is limited to reviewing and revising the errors of law imputed to it. 9 It is not the function of this Court to analyze or weigh such evidence all over again. Its jurisdiction is limited to reviewing errors of law that might have been committed by the lower court. Barring a showing that the factual findings complained of are totally devoid of support in the record or that they are so glaringly erroneous as to constitute serious abuse of discretion, such findings must stand, for the Supreme Court is not expected or required to examine or contrast the oral and documentary evidence submitted by the parties. 10

However, this Court finds that respondent Court of Appeals committed a reversible error of law in increasing the amount of damages awarded to private respondents by the court a quo.

Respondent appellate court exceeded its jurisdiction when it modified the judgment of the trial court by increasing the award of damages in favor of private respondents who, in the first place, did not interpose an appeal therefrom. This being the case, they are presumed to be satisfied with the adjudication made by the lower court. As to them, the judgment of the court below may be said to have attained finality.

The entrenched procedural rule in this jurisdiction is that a party who has not himself appealed cannot obtain from the appellate court any affirmative relief other than those granted in the decision of the lower court. The appellee can only advance any argument that he may deem necessary to defeat the appellant’s claim or to uphold the decision that is being disputed. He can assign errors on appeal if such are required to strengthen the views expressed by the court a quo. Such assigned errors, in turn, may be considered by the appellate court solely to maintain the appealed decision on other grounds, but not for the purpose of modifying the judgment in the appellee’s favor and giving him other affirmative reliefs. 11

WHEREFORE, the challenged judgment of respondent Court of Appeals is hereby MODIFIED with regard to the amount of damages awarded to private respondents and the awards of the trial court on this matter are hereby reinstated for that purpose. In all other respect, the decision of respondent court is AFFIRMED, without pronouncement as to cost.

SO ORDERED.

Puno, Mendoza and Francisco, JJ., concur.

Narvasa, C.J., is on leave.

Endnotes:



1. Justice Artemon D. Luna, ponente; Justices Arturo B. Buena and Alfredo, J. Lagamon, concurring.

2. Original Record, Civil Case No. 10696, 36.

3. Original Records, Civil Case No. 10276, 1-5 and Civil Case No. 10696, 1-5.

4. Ibid., id., 17-20; ibid., id., 23-26.

5. Ibid., Civil Case No. 10696, 286-287; penned by Assisting Judge Cecilio F. Balagot, Regional Trial Court, Branch 150, Makati, Metro Manila.

6. Rollo, 39-40.

7. Ibid., 7-8.

8. De la Cruz, Et. Al. v. Court of Appeals, Et Al., G.R. No. 85450, July 3, 1990, 187 SCRA 165.

9. Pacubas, et al v. Court of Appeals, Et Al., G.R. No. 84523, August 2, 1990, 188 SCRA 268; Pecson v. Court of Appeals, Et Al., G.R. No. 105360, May 25, 1993, 222 SCRA 580.

10. Lanzona, Et. Al. v. Intermediate Appellate Court, Et Al., G.R. No. 66344, July 2, 1990, 187 SCRA 33; Morales v. Court of Appeals, Et Al., G.R. No. 91003, May 23, 1991, 1997 SCRA 391; Bunag v. Court of Appeals, Et Al., G.R. No. 101749, July 10, 1992, 211 SCRA 440.

11. Makati Haberdashery, Inc., Et. Al. v. National Labor Relations Commission, Et Al., G.R. No. 83380-81, November 15, 1989, 179 SCRA 448; Dizon, Jr. v. National, Labor Commission, Et Al., G.R. No. 69018, January 29, 1990, 181 SCRA 472; Lumibao v. Intermediate Appellate Court Et. Al., G.R. No. 64677, September 13, 1990, 189 SCRA 469; SMI Fish Industries, Inc., Et. Al. v. National Labor Relation Commission, Et Al., G.R. Nos. 96952-56, September 2, 1992, 213 SCRA 444, citing Alba v. Santander, Et Al., L-28409, April 15, 1988, 160 SCRA 8; Nessia v. Fermin, Et Al., G.R. No. 102918, March 30, 1993, 220 SCRA 615.

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