November 2008 - Philippine Supreme Court Decisions/Resolutions
G.R. No. 149322 - JAIME L. YANEZA v. THE HON. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.
[G.R. NO. 149322 : November 28, 2008]
JAIME L. YANEZA, Petitioner, v. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, MANUEL A. DE JESUS and WILHELMINA M. MANZANO, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
In this Petition for Certiorari and prohibition under Rule 65, Jaime L. Yaneza, petitioner, assails the Court of Appeals' denial of his Motion for Extension of Time to File Petition for Review on the ground that it was filed after the lapse of the reglementary period for filing the appeal.
Petitioner is the owner of a 603-square-meter parcel of land, denominated as Lot 2730-A and situated along Calle Kay Rumagit, Sitio Haligionan, Brgy. San Juan, Baras, Rizal. He purchased the property from a certain Rudy Llagas on June 19, 1990.
Respondents, Manuel A. de Jesus and Wilhelmina M. Manzano, are the owners of Lot 2732 which is adjacent to Lot 2730-A. The respondents' lot has no access to the nearest road except through a road which they constructed over a portion of Lot 2730-A.
On September 26, 1995, petitioner sent a letter to respondents informing them that he is the owner of Lot 2730-A and that he does not agree with the use of the portion of his lot as an access road because it will affect the configuration of his property. As an option, petitioner offered to sell to the respondents the entire property.1
Apparently, respondents did not agree to the proposition because two days later, petitioner wrote another letter to them, offering instead a perpetual easement of right of way (4 meters wide) and stating that he will prepare the necessary document to facilitate the transaction.2
Instead of a deed of perpetual easement, it appears that petitioner and respondents executed a Deed of Absolute Sale3 on October 20, 1995 over a 175-sq m portion of Lot 2730-A, to be used as an access road 5-meters wide, for a consideration of
P20,000.00. The Deed of Absolute Sale contained the following terms and conditions:
1] The portion subject of this sale agreement is as per the sketch plan attached herein as Annex "A" and made as an integral part of this instrument;
2] The total purchase for the aforesaid portion of lot shall be in the sum of TWENTY THOUSAND (
P20,000.00) PESOS, Philippine Currency, payable on cash basis upon the signing and execution of this deed, the signature of the VENDOR being his acknowledgment that he already received the said amount satisfactorily;
3] The realty taxes and assessments on the lot subject of this sale agreement, costs of preparation of the document of sale, all other taxes, cost of subdivision survey to segregate the portion of lot, and all the incidental expenses to facilitate issuance of the individual transfer certificate of titles for the resulting lots shall be for the sole account and expense of the VENDEE;
4] The use of the aforesaid portion of lot sold shall be for - the purpose of the - right of way of and for the abovesaid property of the VENDEE, whereby the VENDOR, by virtue whereof, shall have the perpetual right and/or privilege to use the same as right of way for his own purposes.
When respondents refused to honor the cancellation, petitioner filed a Complaint6 for Cancellation of Contract with the Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) of Teresa-Baras on April 22, 1997. The complaint alleged that, contrary to what was stated in the Deed of Absolute Sale, respondents constructed an access road 8-m wide (with an area of 280 sq m); that the respondents have not complied with the conditions stated in the Deed of Absolute Sale and the Deed of Undertaking attached thereto; and that respondents have been dumping high piles of gravel, sand and soil along the access road in violation of the condition in the deed of sale that the access road will be used only for the purpose of a right of way. The complaint prayed for the court to declare as canceled the grant of right of way to respondents and to order them to pay moral and exemplary damages and attorney's fees.
In their Answer with Counterclaims, respondents averred that they purchased the disputed 280-sq m portion of Lot 2730-A from its previous owner, Rudy Llagas, as early as March 2, 1994. After the sale, they immediately constructed a 7 by 35-m road with a total area of 245 sq m, leaving a 1 by 35-m strip along the western portion as an easement along the irrigation canal. However, to buy peace and avoid any conflict with the petitioner, who was claiming to be the new owner, respondents agreed to pay
P20,000.00 in consideration of the petitioner's desistance from further pursuing his claim over the 280 sq m area. Petitioner prepared the Deed of Absolute Sale and respondents agreed to sign it without prejudice to the resolution of the civil case (Civil Case No. 777-M), filed by Llagas against the petitioner, on the issue of the ownership of the property.7
Respondents narrated that, after they signed the Deed of Absolute Sale but before they could deliver the
P20,000.00, they discovered that it covered only 175 sq m, not 280 sq m. There was an immediate renegotiation between the parties and, for an additional consideration of P40,000.00, petitioner agreed to sell the entire 280 sq m. Relying on the petitioner's assurance that he will prepare a new deed of sale to reflect the new agreement, respondents paid him the additional P40,000.00 as evidenced by an Acknowledgment Receipt. Despite several demands, petitioner failed to present the new deed of sale.8
According to the respondents, petitioner initially allowed them peaceful possession and use of the area even when he started constructing his house adjacent to the access road. However, while petitioner was constructing his house, a serious misunderstanding took place between petitioner and respondents' caretaker, Benjamin Manzano, brought about by the latter's refusal to allow petitioner to tap water and electricity from the respondents' property. Petitioner allegedly retaliated and took possession of the eastern half portion of the 280-sq-m area by constructing a fence along the length of the access road, which reduced it to a narrow passage that could not allow trucks to pass through. On account of this dispute, Manzano, upon respondents' authority, filed a complaint before the Barangay Lupon to compel the petitioner to remove the fence but the petitioner did not attend the conciliation proceedings. Respondents obtained from the barangay a certification to file an action in court, but petitioner preempted them by filing the instant case. Respondents pointed out that the petitioner did not seek the intervention of the Barangay Lupon before he filed the instant case; hence, the petitioner's complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a cause of action.9
In claiming damages, respondents alleged that the construction of the fence caused them difficulties when they started developing their property because the trucks that carried the necessary materials could not pass through the access road. They purportedly incurred additional costs since they had to hire laborers to manually carry the construction materials from the barangay road to the construction site.10
Respondents further asserted that what was agreed upon was a sale and not only an easement of right of way. They denied the existence of the Deed of Undertaking which does not even bear their signatures. And respondents argued that the deed of sale may not be canceled unilaterally by the petitioner since they already acquired full ownership over the property by virtue thereof.11
Finally, respondents stressed that it is the petitioner who is actually enjoying a right of way along the access road in compliance with the condition stated in the Deed of Absolute Sale. It is the petitioner who violated the terms of the contract when he obstructed the access road with the concrete fence he built thereon. For this violation, petitioner should be denied his right of way over the access road. Moreover, petitioner's property abuts the barangay road; hence, there is actually no need for him to be granted a right of way.
During trial, petitioner testified for himself and presented his brother, Cesar Yaneza, as witness. Petitioner narrated that Cesar handed to him the
P20,000.00 and that he constructed the iron fence during the latter part of 1996 because respondents did not comply with the conditions set out in the Deed of Undertaking. Cesar Yaneza testified that he was the one who delivered the Deed of Absolute Sale to the office of respondent Manuel de Jesus in Manila and that the latter requested that he leave the Deed of Undertaking so that his wife can also sign the same, but he never returned the document despite several demands.
For the respondents, respondent Manuel de Jesus, Rudy Llagas and Benjamin Manzano testified. Rudy Llagas admitted that he indeed sold to the respondents the subject property which is on the western side; what he sold to the petitioner was on the eastern side of his property.12 Respondent Manuel de Jesus swore that he and petitioner agreed on a price of
P20,000.00 for the 5-m by 35-m area and an additional P40,000.00 to increase the area to 8-m by 35-m, so that the total consideration was P60,000.00. He claimed he had to agree to the additional amount because by then he had already constructed the gate to, and trucks could not enter, their property.13 And finally, Benjamin Manzano attested that when petitioner started constructing his house, petitioner asked him if he could tap water and electricity from respondents' property, but he did not agree. He said that, after a few days from said incident, petitioner constructed the low level iron fence in the middle of the road right of way.14
On September 6, 1999, the MCTC promulgated its decision dismissing the complaint and granting the respondents' counterclaims, thus:
In view of the foregoing considerations, this Court hereby resolves to order the following:
1. To dismiss the complaint as well as the plaintiff's claim for damages and attorney's fees;
2. For plaintiff to execute a new deed of absolute sale covering the access road or road right of way of 8 meters wide by 35 meter long, including the meter easement beside the irrigation canal; with a total area of 280 sq. m. from the northwest portion of Lot 2730, now covered by TCT No. 50181 of the Register of Deeds of Rizal, Morong Branch, without prejudice to the outcome of Civil Case No. 777-M filed by Rudy Llagas against plaintiff Jaime Yaneza;
3. To cancel and declare as null and void the plaintiff's right of way over the access road of defendants;
4. For plaintiff to remove at his expense, the steel fence or structure he caused to be constructed at about the middle of defendants' access road or found within the 280 sq.m. area that obstruct, impede or alter the full and peaceful use by defendants of subject realty;
5. To restore defendants to the full, adequate and peaceful possession and use of subject realty;
6. For plaintiff to pay to the defendants the following:
P1,000,000.00 as actual damages;
P1,300,000.00 as moral damages;
P300,000.00 as exemplary damages;
P300,000.00 as attorney's fees;
P30,000.00 as reimbursement for incidental litigation expenses;
f. 6% interest on the actual damages from the time they were incurred up to the time of finality of the decision;
g. 6% interest on the award for moral, exemplary, attorney's fees and litigation expenses from the promulgation of the decision until its finality;
On January 5, 2001, the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Morong, Rizal Branch 78, rendered a Decision16 on petitioner's appeal affirming the MCTC Decision with the modification that the monetary award (item no. 6 of the dispositive portion) in favor of the respondents was deleted.
Respondents filed a motion for reconsideration with respect to the deletion of the award of damages, but the same was denied for failure to include a Notice of Hearing. Respondents filed a Petition for Relief from Judgment, the status of which was not disclosed by the parties in this petition.
Meanwhile, petitioner's counsel received a copy of the RTC Decision on February 6, 2001. On February 9, 2001, he withdrew his appearance for the petitioner. On February 22, 2001, petitioner, through his new counsel, filed an Urgent Motion for Extension of Time to File Petition for Review praying that they be given a period of 15 days from February 24, 2001, or until March 12, 2001, within which to file the petition.
On February 28, 2001, the CA issued a Resolution17 denying the Urgent Motion for having been filed one day late and, consequently, dismissed the appeal. On March 27, 2001, petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration and a Motion for Leave of Court to Admit Petition for Review, but the CA denied the motions in its Resolution18 dated July 25, 2001.
Disgruntled with the CA Resolutions, petitioner filed this Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition, raising the following issues:
WHETHER THE PETITION SHOULD BE GIVEN DUE COURSE IN THE LIGHT OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES AFFECTING THE TIMELINESS OF THE FILING THEREOF.
WHETHER THE APPEALED DECISION OF THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT WAS RENDERED AND WRITTEN AS REQUIRED BY THE 1987 PHILIPPINE CONSTITUTION AND THE RULES OF COURT.
WHETHER THE PLAINTIFF HAS NO CAUSE OF ACTION.
WHETHER THE PETITIONER MAY BE COMPELLED TO EXECUTE A DEED OF CONVEYANCE AGAINST HIS WILL AND IN VIOLATION OF HIS CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT AGAINST
DEPRIVATION OF PROPERTY WITHOUT DUE PROCESS OF LAW, AND THE CIVIL LAW AGAINST UNJUST ENRICHMENT.19
The petition has no merit.
In the interest of substantial justice, petitioner begs this Court's indulgence for the late filing of his motion for extension of time, which he claims is due to an honest mistake.
Certainly, we cannot ascribe grave abuse of discretion upon a court that denies a motion for extension of time filed after the expiration of the reglementary period to file a petition. A motion for extension of time to file a petition should be filed prior to the expiration or lapse of the period set by law, otherwise, there is no longer any period to extend and the judgment or order to be appealed from will have become final and executory.20 Once the judgment becomes final and executory, the appellate court is without jurisdiction to modify or reverse it.
We have repeatedly pronounced that perfection of an appeal in the manner and within the period prescribed by law is mandatory and jurisdictional.21 The failure to perfect an appeal is not a mere technicality as it deprives the appellate court of jurisdiction over the appeal.22 Hence, anyone seeking an exemption from the application of the reglementary period for filing an appeal has the burden of proving the existence of an exceptionally meritorious instance warranting such deviation.23 But none obtains in this case.
Even on the merits, we find the petition noticeably infirm. The petitioner's complaint for cancellation of the contract was correctly dismissed by the MCTC.
Petitioner's cause of action for cancellation of the contract is based on a breach of contract as provided in Article 119124 of the Civil Code and is properly denominated "rescission," or "resolution" under the Old Civil Code. It is grounded on the respondents' alleged noncompliance with the conditions embodied in the Deed of Absolute Sale and the Deed of Undertaking. In particular, petitioner claims that respondents constructed a road three meters wider than what was agreed upon in the deed of sale and failed to comply with their undertaking to facilitate the transfer of the title over the subject area.
To state the obvious, the construction of the road beyond the stipulated area does not constitute a breach of contract. Breach of contract implies a failure, without legal excuse, to perform any promise or undertaking that forms part of the contract.25 Although the contract specifically stated the area covered by the sale, it did not contain a promise by the respondents that they will only occupy such area. Albeit apparently wrong, petitioner's cause of action should not have been based on the contract of sale.
Neither could the respondent be faulted for not facilitating the transfer of the title over the subject area. Respondents did not sign the Deed of Undertaking, and thus, could not have assumed the obligations contained therein. Moreover, considering that the respondents specifically denied the existence of the document and petitioner failed to authenticate it, the RTC was correct in declaring that it has no probative weight.
Besides, rescission of a contract will not be permitted for a slight or casual breach but only for a substantial and fundamental breach as would defeat the very object of the parties in making the agreement.26 It must be a breach of faith that destroys or violates the reciprocity between the parties.27 The alleged breach by the respondents was definitely not of such level and magnitude.
Most importantly, rescission of a contract presupposes the existence of a valid and subsisting obligation. The breach contemplated in Article 1191 is the obligor's failure to comply with an existing obligation.28 It would be useless to rescind a contract that is no longer in existence. Here, we find that the contract of sale sought to be canceled by the petitioner does not exist anymore; hence, the filing of the petition for cancellation was an exercise in futility.
The records show that the parties' original agreement, embodied in the Deed of Absolute Sale, had already been superseded or novated by a new contract, albeit an oral one, covering an increased area of 280 sq m. In his testimony, petitioner admitted that he received from his brother, Cesar Yaneza, the
P20,000.00 that respondents paid. This, taken with the respondents' narration of the circumstances surrounding the signing of the deed of sale and the subsequent renegotiation for an increased area, together with the Acknowledgment Receipt showing that an additional P40,000.00 was paid to the petitioner, reasonably leads us to believe that the parties had actually entered into a new agreement which covered the entire 280-sq m area where the access road was laid.
The new contract of sale between the parties is valid despite it not being evidenced by any writing.29 The requirement under the Statute of Frauds does not affect the validity of the contract of sale but is needed merely for its enforceability. In any case, it applies only to contracts which are executory, and not to those which have been consummated either totally or partially,30 as in the new contract of sale herein.
The existence of the new contract of sale over the 280-sq m area therefore having been established, it follows that the petitioner may be compelled to execute the corresponding deed of sale reflecting this new agreement. After the existence of the contract has been admitted, the party bound thereby may be compelled to execute the proper document.31 This is clear from Article 1357, viz.:
Art. 1357. If the law requires a document or other special form, as in the acts and contracts enumerated in the following article [Article 1358], the contracting parties may compel each other to observe that form, once the contract has been perfected. This right may be exercised simultaneously with the action upon the contract.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED. The assailed CA Resolutions dated February 28, 2001 and July 25, 2001 are AFFIRMED.
1 Rollo, p. 83.
2 Id. at 84.
3 Id. at 126-128.
4 Id. at 92-95.
5 Id. at 91.
6 Id. at 76-79.
7 Id. at 97-99.
8 Id. at 99-100.
9 Id. at 100-102.
10 Id. at 102-103
11 Id. at 104-107.
12 Id. at 148.
13 Id. at 149.
15 Id. at 153-154.
16 Id. at 70-75.
17 Id. at 36.
18 Id. at 35.
19 Id. at 349.
24 Article 1191 of the New Civil Code provides:
Art. 1191. The power to rescind obligations is implied in reciprocal ones, in case one of the obligors should not comply with what is incumbent upon him.
The injured party may choose between the fulfillment and the rescission of the obligation, with the payment of damages in either case. He may also seek rescission, even after he has chosen fulfillment, if the latter should become impossible.
The court shall decree the rescission claimed, unless there be just cause authorizing the fixing of a period.
This is understood to be without prejudice to the rights of third persons who have acquired the thing, in accordance with articles 1385 and 1388 of the Mortgage Law.
25 See Black's Law Dictionary, Fifth Edition, p. 171.
28 Velarde v. Court of Appeals, 413 Phil. 360, 373 (2001).
29 See Article 1356 of the New Civil Code.