G.R. No. 181930 : January 10, 2011
MILAGROS SALTING, Petitioner,
v. JOHN VELEZ and CLARISSA R. VELEZ, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
This is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, seeking to annul and set aside the Court of Appeals (CA)
Decision1cralaw dated November 29,
2007 and Resolution2cralaw dated
February 27, 2008 in CA-G.R. SP No. 97618.
The factual and procedural antecedents leading to the instant petition are as follows: chanrob1esvirtwallawlibrary
On October 7, 2003, respondents John Velez and Clarissa Velez filed a complaint3cralaw for ejectment against
petitioner Milagros Salting involving a property covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 38079. The case was docketed as Civil Case No.
2524. On March 28, 2006, respondents obtained a favorable decision4cralaw when the Metropolitan Trial
Court (MeTC), Branch LXXIV, of Taguig City, Metro Manila, ordered petitioner to vacate the subject parcel of land and to pay attorney's fees and
costs of suit. The decision became final and executory, after which respondents filed a motion for execution which was opposed by petitioner.
Thereafter, petitioner instituted an action before the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 153, for Annulment of Sale of the Property covered by TCT
No. 38079, with prayer for the issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction against respondents, Hon. Ma.
Paz Yson, Deputy Sheriff Ernesto G. Raymundo, Jr., Teresita Diokno-Villamena, and Heirs of Daniel B. Villamena (Heirs of Villamena).5cralaw The case was docketed as
Civil Case No. 70859-TG. Petitioner claimed that she purchased the subject parcel of land from Villamena as evidenced by a notarized document known
as Sale of Real Estate. She further explained that respondents were able to obtain title to the subject property through the fraudulent acts of the
heirs of Villamena. Finally, she averred that the decision in Civil Case No. 2524 had not attained finality as she was not properly informed of the
MeTC decision. Petitioner thus prayed that a TRO be issued, restraining respondents and all persons acting for and in their behalf from executing
the MeTC decision dated March 28, 2006. She further sought the declaration of nullity of the sale by the heirs of Villamena to respondents
involving the subject parcel of land, and, consequently, the cancellation of the title to the property in the name of respondents.
Finding that petitioner would suffer grave and irreparable damage if respondents would not be enjoined from executing the March 28, 2006 MeTC
decision while respondents would not suffer any prejudice, the RTC, in an Order dated October 26, 2006, granted the writ of preliminary injunction
applied for.6cralaw Aggrieved,
respondents filed a special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court before the CA, raising the sole issue of
whether or not the RTC committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in issuing the writ of preliminary
injunction against the execution of a judgment for ejectment.
In a Decision7cralaw dated November
29, 2007, the CA resolved the issue in the affirmative. The CA noted that the principal action in Civil Case No. 70859-TG is the annulment of the
deed of sale executed between respondents and the heirs of Villamena, while the subject of the ancillary remedy of preliminary injunction is the
execution of the final judgment in a separate proceeding for ejectment in Civil Case No. 2524. The appellate court concluded that petitioner had no
clear and unmistakable right to possession over the subject parcel of land in view of the March 28, 2006 MeTC decision. Hence, contrary to the
conclusion of the RTC, the CA opined that petitioner was not entitled to the writ of preliminary injunction. The CA thus set aside the October 26,
2006 Order of the RTC.
Petitioner now comes before this Court in this petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, claiming that: chanrob1esvirtwallawlibrary
In rendering the assailed Decision and Resolution, the Court of Appeals has decided in a way probably not in accord with law or with the applicable
decisions of the Supreme Court. (Section 6 (a), Rule 45, 1997 Rule[s] of Civil Procedure). The Court of Appeals disregarded the rule that service
of decision to a deceased lawyer is invalid and that the party must be duly served by the final judgment in order that the final judgment will
become final and executory. The Court of Appeals, likewise, disregarded the existence of a clear and existing right of the petitioner which should
be protected by an injunctive relief and the rule that the pendency of an action assailing the right of a party to eject will justify the
suspension of the proceedings of the ejectment case.8cralawredlaw
Petitioner claims that she was denied her right to appeal when the March 28, 2006 MeTC decision was declared final and executory despite the fact
that the copy of the decision was served on her deceased counsel. She further claims that the MeTC decision had not attained finality due to
improper service of the decision. Moreover, petitioner avers that she has a clear and existing right and interest over the subject property which
should be protected by injunction. Finally, petitioner argues that jurisprudence allows the suspension of proceedings in an ejectment case at
whatever stage when warranted by the circumstances of the case.
In their Comment, 9cralaw respondents
allege that the petition is already moot and academic in view of the execution of the MeTC decision. They claim that it is not proper to restrain
the execution of the MeTC decision as the case instituted before the RTC was for the annulment of the sale executed between respondents and the
heirs of Villamena, and not an action for annulment of judgment or mandamus to compel the MeTC to entertain her belated appeal. Respondents add
that the finality of the ejectment case is not a bar to the case instituted for the annulment of the sale and the eventual recovery of ownership of
the subject property. The actions for ejectment and for annulment of sale are two different cases that may proceed independently, especially when
the judgment in the ejectment case had attained finality, as in the instant case. Finally, respondents fault the petitioner herself for not
informing the MeTC of the death of her former counsel the moment she learned of such death.
We find no merit in the petition.
We first determine the validity of the service of the March 28, 2006 MeTC decision on petitioner's counsel who, as of that date, was already
deceased. If a party to a case has appeared by counsel, service of pleadings and judgments shall be made upon his counsel or one of them, unless
service upon the party himself is ordered by the court.10cralaw Thus, when the MeTC
decision was sent to petitioner's counsel, such service of judgment was valid and binding upon petitioner, notwithstanding the death of her
counsel. It is not the duty of the courts to inquire, during the progress of a case, whether the law firm or partnership continues to exist
lawfully, the partners are still alive, or its associates are still connected with the firm.11cralaw Litigants, represented by
counsel, cannot simply sit back, relax, and await the outcome of their case.12cralaw It is the duty of the
party-litigant to be in contact with her counsel from time to time in order to be informed of the progress of her case.13cralaw It is likewise the duty of
the party to inform the court of the fact of her counsel's death. Her failure to do so means that she is negligent in the protection of her cause,
and she cannot pass the blame to the court which is not tasked to monitor the changes in the circumstances of the parties and their counsels.
It is noteworthy that when petitioner came to know of the death of her counsel and upon obtaining the services of a new counsel, petitioner
instituted another action for the annulment of the deed of sale between her and the heirs of Villamena, instead of questioning the MeTC decision
through an action for annulment of judgment. Obviously, the annulment case instituted by petitioner is separate and distinct from the ejectment
case filed by respondents. She cannot, therefore, obtain relief through the second case for alleged errors and injustices committed in the first
With the foregoing disquisition, we find that the March 28, 2006 MeTC decision had, indeed, become final and executory. A final and executory
decision can only be annulled by a petition to annul the same on the ground of extrinsic fraud and lack of jurisdiction, or by a petition for
relief from a final order or judgment under Rule 38 of the Rules of Court. However, no petition to that effect was filed.14cralaw Well-settled is the rule
that once a judgment becomes final and executory, it can no longer be disturbed,
altered, or modified in any respect except to correct clerical errors or to make nunc pro tunc entries. Nothing further can be done to a final judgment except to execute it.15cralawredlaw
In the present case, the finality of the March 28, 2006 decision with respect to possession de facto cannot be affected by the pendency of
the annulment case where the ownership of the property is being contested.16cralaw We are inclined to adhere
to settled jurisprudence that suits involving ownership may not be successfully pleaded in abatement of the enforcement of the final decision in an
ejectment suit. The rationale of the rule has been explained in this wise: chanrob1esvirtwallawlibrary
This rule is not without good reason. If the rule were otherwise, ejectment cases could easily be frustrated through the simple expedient of filing
an action contesting the ownership over the property subject of the controversy. This would render nugatory the underlying philosophy of the
summary remedy of ejectment which is to prevent criminal disorder and breaches of the peace and to discourage those who, believing themselves
entitled to the possession of the property, resort to force rather than to some appropriate action in court to assert their claims.17cralawredlaw
Unlawful detainer and forcible entry suits under Rule 70 of the Rules of Court are designed to summarily restore physical possession of a piece of
land or building to one who has been illegally or forcibly deprived thereof, without prejudice to the settlement of the parties' opposing claims of
juridical possession in appropriate proceedings.18cralawredlaw
Finally, as aptly held by the CA, petitioner is not entitled to a writ of preliminary injunction to restrain the execution of the MeTC decision.
Section 3, Rule 58 of the Rules of Court enumerates the grounds for the issuance of preliminary injunction, viz.: chanrob1esvirtwallawlibrary
SEC. 3. Grounds for issuance of preliminary injunction. - A preliminary injunction may be granted when it is established: chanrob1esvirtwallawlibrary
(a) That the applicant is entitled to the relief demanded, and the whole or part of such relief consists in restraining the commission or
continuance of the act or acts complained of, or in requiring the performance of an act or acts, either for a limited period or perpetually; chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
(b) That the commission, continuance or non-performance of the act or acts complained of during the litigation would probably work injustice to the
(c) That a party, court, agency or a person is doing, threatening, or is attempting to do, or is procuring or suffering to be done, some act or
acts probably in violation of the rights of the applicant respecting the subject of the action or proceeding, and tending to render the judgment
And as clearly explained in Ocampo v. Sison Vda. de Fernandez19cralaw: chanrob1esvirtwallawlibrary
To be entitled to the injunctive writ, the applicant must show that there exists a right to be protected which is directly threatened by an act
sought to be enjoined. Furthermore, there must be a showing that the invasion of the right is material and substantial and that there is an urgent
and paramount necessity for the writ to prevent serious damage. The applicant's right must be clear and unmistakable. In the absence of a clear
legal right, the issuance of the writ constitutes grave abuse of discretion. Where the applicant's right or title is doubtful or disputed,
injunction is not proper. The possibility of irreparable damage without proof of an actual existing right is not a ground for injunction.
A clear and positive right especially calling for judicial protection must be shown. Injunction is not a remedy to protect or enforce contingent,
abstract, or future rights; it will not issue to protect a right not in esse and which may never arise, or to restrain an act which does
not give rise to a cause of action. There must exist an actual right. There must be a patent showing by the applicant that there exists a right to
be protected and that the acts against which the writ is to be directed are violative of said right.20cralawredlaw
In this case, the enforcement of the writ of execution which would evict petitioner from her residence is manifestly prejudicial to her interest.
However, she possesses no legal right that merits the protection of the courts through the writ of preliminary injunction. Her right to possess the
property in question has been declared inferior or inexistent in relation to respondents in the ejectment case in the MeTC decision which has
become final and executory.21cralawredlaw
In any event, as manifested by respondents, the March 28, 2006 MeTC decision has already been executed. Hence, there is nothing more to restrain.
WHEREFORE , premises considered, the petition is DENIED for lack of merit. The Court of Appeals Decision dated November 29, 2007 and
Resolution dated February 27, 2008 in CA-G.R. SP No. 97618 are AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED .
ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA
WE CONCUR : chanrob1esvirtwallawlibrary
CARPIO, J., Chairperson, PERALTA,