[G.R. NO. 178366 : July 28, 2008]
DOMINADOR A. MOCORRO, JR., Petitioner, v. RODITO RAMIREZ, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
VELASCO, JR., J.:
On January 25, 1990, in PGC Case No. 114, the Philippine Gamefowl Commission (PGC), acting on a petition on the issue of who between petitioner Dominador A. Mocorro, Jr. and Rodolfo Azur is entitled to operate a cockpit in the Municipality of Caibiran, Leyte (now Biliran Province), rendered a decision, the decretal portion of which partly reads:
WHEREFORE, x x x the Commission RESOLVED, as it hereby resolves to:
1. Declare and recognize petitioner Dominador A. Mocorro, Jr. to be the rightful cockpit operator in the Municipal[ity] of Caibiran, Leyte, (now Biliran) for being the prior operator;
2. Cancel and revoke Registration Certificate No. C87-829 issued in the name of respondent Rodolfo Azur;
3. Order the issuance of a Registration Certificate in favor of, and in the name of Petitioner Dominador A. Mocorro, Jr.; x x x
Pursuant to the above decision, the PGC issued in favor of petitioner Registration Certificate No. P90-943 which, as later extended, was to expire on December 31, 1991. Respondent Rodito Ramirez, then Caibiran municipal mayor, also issued Business Permit No. 015 authorizing petitioner to operate his cockpit, the Caibiran (Cockers) Gallera, up to 1991. For its part, the Sangguniang Bayan (SB) of Caibiran passed a resolution authorizing petitioner to operate his cockpit for CY 1991.
On January 20, 1992, petitioner applied and paid the fees necessary for the renewal of the registration of his cockpit. Accompanying the application were the requisite local government certificates/permits. For some reason, however, petitioner failed to operate since respondent refused to issue him a business permit, prompting petitioner, through Ricardo Rostata, to address a letter-complaint to the PGC Chairperson questioning respondent's refusal action.
Later developments saw respondent issuing a special permit to one Edwin Rosario for the holding sometime in July 1992 of a pintakasi (celebration of cockfighting) in Gallera, Caibiran. This was followed by the issuance of another permit authorizing, starting August 2, 1992, and every Sunday thereafter, the holding of cockfights in Azur's cockpit located also in Caibiran.
On August 10, 1992, petitioner filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Biliran a suit for injunction against respondent and Azur. Docketed as Civil Case No. B-0837, the case, entitled Dominador A. Mocorro, Jr., represented by Ricardo Rostata v. Mayor Rodito Ramirez and Rodolfo Azur, was later raffled to Branch 16 of the court.
On March 19, 1993, the RTC issued a writ of preliminary injunction enjoining respondent and Azur from holding any cockfight within Caibiran until further orders of the court. Despite the injunction, cockfights continued to be staged in Caibiran, prompting petitioner to file a motion to cite respondent and Azur in contempt of court.
In their Answer, respondent and Azur drew attention to the cancellation by the SB of petitioner's 1991 business permit for repeated violations of the terms thereof. They also pointed out that Azur, before operating the cockpit, had already complied with all the requirements and secured the necessary business permit.
On November 25, 1993, the RTC issued an Order allowing petitioner to present evidence to support his contempt motion.
In the meantime, Azur continued with, and respondent allowed, the holding of Sunday cockfights in Caibiran.
On February 17, 1995, the RTC rendered a Decision,1 the fallo of which reads:
WHEREFORE, defendants Mayor Rodolfo Ramirez and Rodolfo Azur are therefore found guilty of indirect contempt for contumacious disobedience of and resistance to the March 19, 1993 writ of preliminary injunction issued by this court and they are fined the sum of P1,000.00. The March 19, 1993 writ of preliminary injunction is hereby made permanent and defendant Rodito Ramirez and Rodolfo Azur are ordered to pay, jointly and severally, plaintiff Dominador Mocorro, Jr. actual damages the sum of P2,000.00 every Sunday of each week from August 2, 1992 when defendants started to cause the holding of the cockfight in Pob. Caibaran, Biliran; plus P10,000 attorney's fees; P5,000.00 litigation expenses; exemplary or corrective damages in the sum of P20,000.00 and [to] pay the costs. (Emphasis added.)
Aggrieved, respondent and Azur interposed an appeal before the Court of Appeals (CA), docketed as CA-G.R. CV No. 48029. By a Decision dated May 31, 2001, the CA denied the appeal for lack of merit and affirmed the RTC Decision.
On June 22, 2001, the CA's May 31, 2001 Decision became final and executory as evidenced by the corresponding Entry of Judgment.2
Subsequently, petitioner moved for the issuance of a writ of execution. On April 2, 2002, the RTC granted the motion and issued, on May 27, 2002, the corresponding writ,3 to wit:
WHEREFORE, you are hereby commanded that of the goods and chattels of the defendants, Mayor Rodito Ramirez and Rodolfo Azur, you cause to be made the sum of THIRTY EIGHT THOUSAND PESOS (P38,000.00) plus 2,000 every Sunday of each week from August 2, 1992[,] when defendants started to cause the holding of the cockfight, together with your lawful fees for service of execution, all in Philippine currencies, and to likewise, return this writ together with your proceedings within the period provided for under the Rules.
But if sufficient personal properties cannot be found whereof t[o] satisfy this execution and lawful fees thereon, then you are commanded that of the lands and buildings of said defendants, you cause to be made the said sum of money in the manner required by law and the Rules of Court.
Sheriff Ludenilo S. Ador's computation of the amount collectibles to implement the issued writ of execution contained the following entries and breakdowns:
|CORRECTIVE DAMAGES - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -||20,000.00|
|LITIGATION EXPENSES - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -||5,000.00|
|ATTORNEY'S FEES - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -||10,000.00|
|Plus P2,000.00 every Sunday of each week|
|From August 2, 1992 when defendant started|
|To cause the holding of cockfight|
|(August 2, 1992 to June 22, 2001 finality of judgment)|
|August to December 1992 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - = 21 weeks|
|January to December 1993 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - = 52|
|January to December 1994 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - = 52|
|January to December 1995 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - = 52|
|1996 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - = 52|
|1997 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - = 52|
|1998 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - = 52|
|1999 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - = 52|
|2000 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - = 52|
|January to June 22, 2001 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - = 22|
|Expenses and publication on notice of sale||8,000.00|
|LUDENILO S. ADOR (Sgd.)|
|ENRIQUE C. ASIS (Sgd.)|
On June 11, 2002, the sheriff issued a Notice of Attachment,5 therein apprising the Register of Deeds of Biliran of the levy on execution made over the rights and participation of respondent on the two parcels of land indicated in the notice, to wit:
ARP No. 04-002-00128
Agricultural land situated at Palenke, Caibiran, Biliran, with survey no. 1224, having an area of 3619.20, with unit value of 195,000.00; market value of 70,575.00; and assessed value at 11,295.00 PhP. Declared in the name of Rodito Ramirez, more particularly bounded as follows: x x x
ARP No. 04-003-00209
Residential lot located at Bgy. Victory, Caibiran, with an area of 112.05, with unit value of 250.00; market value of 28,013.00, under survey no. 1806-P, with PIN-074-04-003-04-071, assessed at 2,802.00, declared in the name of Rodito Ramirez, more particularly bounded as follows: x x x
On October 23, 2002, the sheriff issued a Notice of Sale on Execution of Real Properties6 and set a date for public auction.
Meanwhile, on August 7, 2002, respondent, joined by his wife, Gloria, filed a Petition to Exclude Properties from Execution7 before the RTC against the sheriff and petitioner. The petition yielded the following reasons for the desired exclusion: (1) the two parcels of land do not belong to respondent; and (2) the persons liable under the RTC's decision are Azur and the Municipality of Caibiran, Biliran, not respondent, who was impleaded in the suit in his capacity as municipal mayor.
By Order of November 18, 2002, the RTC denied the petition.8
Taking a different tack, respondent filed, on January 9, 2003, an Omnibus Motion to Quash Writ of Execution and to Set Aside Sheriff's Computation,9 therein alleging that the writ of execution attempts to enforce an incomplete judgment and, in the process, substantially modifies the decision of the RTC; and that the same writ seeks to enforce and execute a void judgment. Respondent argued that the fallo of the RTC's decision, while indicating a day, i.e., August 2, 1992, whence his liability shall commence to run, failed to state a terminal date. And in a bid to cure this substantive defect in the fallo, Sheriff Ador considered June 22, 2001 as the termination date of payments, a move which respondent viewed as amounting to a modification of an incomplete judgment. Moreover, respondent maintained that the fallo of the RTC decision disposed that he and Azur are liable to pay petitioner PhP 10,000 for attorney's fees, PhP 5,000 for litigation expenses, and PhP 20,000 for exemplary damages, but the body of the decision never discussed petitioner's entitlement to the said awards.
Petitioner filed his opposition10 to the omnibus motion.
On September 8, 2003, the RTC issued an Order11 denying respondent's omnibus motion, holding that only this Court can nullify a decision of the CA. The RTC also stated the observation that respondent, in his and Azur's appeal to the CA in CA-G.R. CV No. 48029, and even later in his petition to exclude real properties,12 never raised, in the assignment of errors, the propriety of the awards adverted to.
Following the denial, per the RTC's Order dated November 6, 2003, of his motion for reconsideration, respondent posthaste filed with the CA a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 to nullify and set aside the September 8, 2003 and November 6, 2003 Orders of the RTC as well as the Writ of Execution dated May 27, 2002. The petition was docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 81074.
On August 8, 2006, the CA rendered a Decision13 effectively finding for respondent on the issue of actual damages. The dispositive portion of the decision reads:
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is PARTIALLY GRANTED. The assailed Orders dated September 8, 2003 and the November 6, 2003 as well as the Writ of Execution dated May 27, 2002 insofar as said Orders and Writ required petitioner to pay private respondent actual damages, are SET ASIDE. The assailed Orders and Writ are AFFIRMED in all other respects.
The CA predicated its above ruling on the following premises:
(1) The fallo of the RTC decision rendered in Civil Case No. B-0837 lacks an important data, referring to the exact amount awarded as actual damages. According to the CA, the fallo did not state when the said PhP 2,000 per Sunday liability will end; hence, the amount of the award of actual damages cannot be determined;
(2) There is no basis for petitioner's contention holding respondent and Azur liable for actual damages until such time that petitioner can resume holding cockfights in his cockpit arena;
(3) When he ordered respondent to pay actual damages in the amount equivalent to PhP 2,000 x the number of Sundays occurring from August 2, 1992 to June 22, 2001, the RTC judge substantially amended or modified the final and executory February 17, 1995 RTC decision, an amendatory action which is null and void for lack of jurisdiction; andcralawlibrary
(4) The adverted defect in the February 17, 1995 decision does not in any way avoid the entire disposition as such defect only affects the award of actual damages. The other awards can be executed.
On May 25, 2007, the CA rejected petitioner's motion for partial reconsideration.
Hence, this petition on the following issues:
I. CA erred in taking jurisdiction over the Petition for Certiorari (CA-G.R. SP No. 81074) of the respondent and in eliminating the award of actual damages in favor of the petitioner;
II. CA erred in not finding that the date when the respondent should stop the payment of the weekly actual damage is ascertainable from the decision itself;
III. CA erred in holding that the decision of the RTC, Branch 16, Naval, Biliran which was affirmed by the Ninth Division of the CA was so defective in failing to state the date when the respondent should stop paying the weekly actual damage of P2,000.00 to the petitioner that the said decision is void pro tanto and cannot be executed with respect to actual damages.
According to petitioner, respondent, by filing his petition for certiorari under Rule 65 in CA-G.R. SP No. 81074, in effect prayed for the declaration of nullity of the final and executory May 31, 2001 Decision of the CA in CA-G.R. CV No. 48029 which, for reference, affirmed the February 17, 1995 Decision of the RTC in Biliran in Civil Case No. B-0837.
Petitioner maintains that it was only on January 9, 2003 when respondent, via an Omnibus Motion to Quash Writ of Execution and to Set Aside Sheriff's Computation, raised the notion that the writ of execution attempted to enforce an incomplete and void judgment. In net effect, petitioner adds, respondent was questioning the validity of the February 17, 1995 RTC Decision which had already attained finality.
We find for petitioner.
CA-G.R. SP No. 81074, a petition for certiorari, which, on its face, sought to nullify the execution processes14 issued by the Biliran RTC and the underlying awards covered by the writ of execution, strikes the Court to be really a mere ploy, a subterfuge devised to modify a final judgment of the Biliran RTC dated February 17, 1995. If allowed, such stratagem would trifle with and make a farce of a duly promulgated decision that has become final and executory. The Court cannot allow such legal aberration. A definitive final judgment, however erroneous, is no longer subject to change or revision.
A decision that has acquired finality becomes immutable and unalterable. This quality of immutability precludes the modification of a final judgment, even if the modification is meant to correct erroneous conclusions of fact and law. And this postulate holds true whether the modification is made by the court that rendered it or by the highest court in the land.15 The orderly administration of justice requires that, at the risk of occasional errors, the judgments/resolutions of a court must reach a point of finality set by the law. The noble purpose is to write finis to dispute once and for all. This is a fundamental principle in our justice system, without which there would be no end to litigations. Utmost respect and adherence to this principle must always be maintained by those who exercise the power of adjudication. Any act, which violates such principle, must immediately be struck down.16 Indeed, the principle of conclusiveness of prior adjudications is not confined in its operation to the judgments of what are ordinarily known as courts, but extends to all bodies upon which judicial powers had been conferred.17 Ï‚Î·Î±Ã±rÎ¿blÎµÅ¡ Î½Î¹râ€ Ï…Î±l lÎ±Ï‰ lÎ¹brÎ±rÃ¿
The only exceptions to the rule on the immutability of final judgments are (1) the correction of clerical errors, (2) the so-called nunc pro tunc entries which cause no prejudice to any party, and (3) void judgments.18 Nunc pro tunc judgments have been defined and characterized by the Court in the following manner:
The object of a judgment nunc pro tunc is not the rendering of a new judgment and the ascertainment and determination of new rights, but is one placing in proper form on the record, the judgment that had been previously rendered, to make it speak the truth, so as to make it show what the judicial action really was, not to correct judicial errors, such as to render a judgment which the court ought to have rendered, in place of the one it did erroneously render, nor to supply nonaction by the court, however erroneous the judgment may have been. (Wilmerding v. Corbin Banking Co., 28 South., 640, 641; 126 Ala., 268.)
A nunc pro tunc entry in practice is an entry made now of something which was actually previously done, to have effect as of the former date. Its office is not to supply omitted action by the court, but to supply an omission in the record of action really had, but omitted through inadvertence or mistake. (Perkins v. Haywood, 31 N. E., 670, 672.)19
Unquestionably, respondent and Azur were adjudged by the RTC jointly and severally liable for actual damages. But the fallo of the RTC decision did not indicate how the amount of the actual damages award should be determined. While the decision stated that the award of actual damages in the amount of PhP 2,000 per Sunday was to be computed from August 2, 1992, there is nothing in the fallo suggesting at the very least when the PhP 2,000 per Sunday liability will end.
In accordance with the exception for modification of a final judgment, there is a need to amend the decision of the RTC pursuant to the nunc pro tunc rule which, we hasten to add, will cause no prejudice to any party. In this regard, justice and equity dictate that respondent and Azur should be held solidarily liable for actual damages in the amount of PhP 2,000 for every actual illegal cockfight held, regardless of the staging date, in Azur's cockpit in Caibiran, Biliran, reckoned from August 2, 1992 to June 22, 2001 when the finality of the RTC Decision dated February 17, 1995 set in.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is hereby GRANTED. Accordingly, the Decision dated August 8, 2006 of the CA in CA-G.R. SP No. 81074 is MODIFIED in the sense that respondent Rodito Ramirez and Rodolfo Azur are jointly and solidarily liable to petitioner for actual damages in the amount of PhP 2,000 for every actual cockfight held in petitioner's cockpit in Caibiran, Biliran reckoned from August 2, 1992 to June 22, 2001 when the RTC Decision in Civil Case No. B-0837 became final. The RTC, Branch 16 in Naval, Biliran is hereby ordered to issue an amended decision conformably with, or incorporating the modifications set forth in, this Decision.
No pronouncement as to costs.
1 Penned by Judge Bonifacio Sanz Maceda.
2 Rollo, p. 48.
3 Id. at 49-50.
4 Id. at 51.
5 Id. at 52.
6 Id. at 53-54.
7 Id. at 55-59.
8 Id. at 64-67.
9 Id. at 68-73.
10 Id. at 75-77.
11 Id. at 78-83.
12 Supra note 7.
13 Penned by Associate Justice Marlene Gonzales-Sison and concurred in by Associate Justices Pampio A. Abarintos (Chairperson) and Priscilla Baltazar-Padilla.
14 November 18, 2002 and September 8, 2003 RTC Orders.
15 Collantes v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 169604, March 6, 2007, 517 SCRA 561, 562; citing Ramos v. Ramos, 447 Phil. 114, 119 (2003).
16 PeÃ±a v. Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), G.R. No. 159520, September 19, 2006, 502 SCRA 383, 404; citing Fortich v. Corona, 352 Phil. 461, 486 (1998).
17 Id. at 404-405; citing San Luis v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 80160, June 26, 1989, 174 SCRA 258, 271.
18 Ramos, supra note 15.
19 Briones-Vasquez v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 144882, February 4, 2005, 450 SCRA 482, 492; citing Lichauco v. Tan Pho, 51 Phil. 862, 879-881 (1923).