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THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 109645 March 4, 1996

ORTIGAS AND COMPANY LIMITED PARTNERSHIP, Petitioner, v. JUDGE TIRSO VELASCO and DOLORES V. MOLINA, Respondents.

G.R. No. 112564 March 4, 1996

DOLORES V. MOLINA, Petitioner, v. HON. PRESIDING JUDGE, RTC, QUEZON CITY, BR. 105, and MANILA BANKING CORPORATION, Respondents.

R E S O L U T I O N

NARVASA, C.J.:

Before the Court is the motion of private respondent Manila Banking Corporation (hereafter, simply Manilabank) to cite petitioner Dolores V. Molina in contempt of court because she has allegedly "persistently defied the lawful and just orders of the Court . . betraying a clear and malicious intention . . to erode the Court's authority and integrity which is detrimental to the administration of justice."

Manilabank asserts that the Decision of the Court in these consolidated cases dated July 25, 1994 became "final and executory" upon issuance of the Resolution dated January 23, 1995, which denied with finality Molina's motion for reconsideration dated August 10, 1994 and two (2) supplements thereto, both dated September 22, 1994. This notwithstanding, Molina filed a "Motion for Leave to File the Herein Incorporated Second Motion for Reconsideration and to Allow . . Dolores V. Molina a Day in Court Relative to Her Petition for Reconstitution," dated February 27, 1995. In another Resolution, dated March 1, 1995, this Court reiterated the denial with finality of Molina's motion and, in addition, ordered that "no Further pleadings, motions or papers shall he filed
. . except only as regards the issues directly involved in the "Motion for Reconsideration" (Re: Dismissal of Respondent Judge)." And in the Resolution of July 24, 1995, the Court, among other things, declared these cases closed and terminated. reiterated its direction that "no further pleadings, motions or papers be henceforth filed in these cases except only as regards the issues directly involved in the 'Motion for Reconsideration' (Re: Dismissal of Respondent Judge), . . " and directed entry of judgment and transmittal of the mittimus to the corresponding courts of origin, for appropriate action and disposition.

It is Manilabank's submission that Molina defied these Resolutions of the Court and engaged in contumacious conduct by filing the following subsequent motions (in addition to her second motion for reconsideration of February 27, 1995, supra), to wit:

a) motion to refer the cases to the Court En Banc dated April 5, 1995 (denied by Resolution of June 19, 1995);

b) consolidated motion dated July 25, 1995, for reconsideration of the June 19, 1995 Resolution (denied by Resolution dated August 28, 1995); and

(c) motion dated August 21, 1995 for reconsideration of the July 24, 1995 Resolution (Re: increasing fines on counsels and directing entry of judgment) (denied by Resolution dated October 25, 1995).

Manilabank asserts that said motions "are patently unmeritorious and filed manifestly for delay," the issues therein having been repeatedly raised ad nauseam by Molina and the Court having "already weighed and correctly resolved (them) in favor of private respondent." It opines that said issues are barred by the March 1, 1995 Resolution.

In her "comment/opposition" dated October 11, 1995, Molina traversed these allegations of contumacy, arguing that the pleadings "are allowed under the Revised Rules of Court, particularly Rules 49 and 52;" all her motions are meritorious . . (since they lay) before the Court "new legal issues for determination brought about by the pleadings of the other party;" the pleadings were filed before she learned of the entry of judgment sometime in September 1995; and "there is no manifest . . refusal to obey the Court's Resolutions." She maintains that the second motion for reconsideration filed before the March 1, 1995 Resolution presented four (4) new issues to the Court, implying that (a) it is not proscribed by the direction against the filing of further pleadings, motions or papers and (b) even if the subsequent motions were mere reiterations of the second motion for reconsideration, they are nonetheless meritorious. She insists that all that her pleadings continuously pray for "is . . to give her a day in court."

Insistent Reiteration of Argument In

Second Motion for Reconsideration, Etc.

The matter dealt with in Manilabank's motion for contempt a party's obstinate, importunate and endless reiteration of argument is one that confronts the Court every now and then. This is regrettable and certainly undesirable. While no one may begrudge the right of a litigant to prosecute or defend his cause with all the vigor and resources at his command, no party may be allowed to persist in presenting to the Court arguments in vindication of his right or defense after these have been pronounced by final judgment to be without merit and his motion for reconsideration of that judgment has been denied.

A second motion for reconsideration is forbidden except for extraordinarily persuasive reasons, and only upon express leave first obtained. 1 The propriety or acceptability of such a second motion for reconsideration is not contingent upon the averment of "new" grounds to assail the judgment, i.e., grounds other than those theretofore presented and rejected. Otherwise, attainment of finality of a judgment might be staved off indefinitely, depending on the party's ingeniousness or cleverness in conceiving and formulating "additional flaws" or "newly discovered errors" therein, or thinking up some injury or prejudice to the rights of the movant for reconsideration. "Piece-meal" impugnation of a judgment by successive motions for reconsideration is anathema, being precluded by the salutary axiom that a party seeking the setting aside of a judgment, act or proceeding must set out in his motion all the grounds therefor, and those not so included are deemed waived and cease to be available for subsequent motions. 2

For all litigation must come to an end at some point, in accordance with established rules of procedure and jurisprudence. As a matter of practice and policy, courts must dispose of every case as promptly as possible; and in fulfillment of their role in the administration of justice, they should brook no delay in the termination of cases by stratagems or maneuverings of parties or their lawyers. The Court recently had occasion to reaffirm these basic postulates in "In Re Joaquin T. Borromeo," 3 viz.:

It is . . of the essence of the judicial function that at some point, litigation must end. Hence, after the procedures and processes for lawsuits have been undergone, and the modes of review set by law have been exhausted, or terminated, no further ventilation of the same subject matter is allowed. To be sure, there may be, on the part of the losing parties, continuing disagreement with the verdict, and the conclusions therein embodied. This is of no moment, indeed, is to be expected; but, it is not their will, but the Court's, which must prevail; and, to repeat, public policy demands that at some definite time, the issues must be laid to rest and the court's dispositions thereon accorded absolute finality (with voluminous citations, including Garbo v. Court of Appeals, 226 SCRA 250, G.R. No. 100474, September 10, 1993; GSIS v. Gines, 219 SCRA 724, G.R. No. 85273, March 9, 1993; Gesulgon v. NLRC, 219 SCRA 561, G.R. No. 90349, March 5, 1993; Paramount Insurance Corporation v. Japson, 211 SCRA 879, G.R. No. 68073, July 29, 1992; Cachola v. CA, 208 SCRA 496, G.R. No. 97822, May 7, 1992; Enriquez v. C.A., 202 SCRA 487, G.R. No. 83720, October 4, 1991; Alvendia v. IAC, 181 SCRA 252, G.R. No. 72138, January 22, 1990, etc.) As observed by this Court in Rheem of the Philippines v. Ferrer, a 1967 decision (20 SCRA 441, 444), a party "may think highly of his intellectual endowment. That is his privilege. And he may suffer frustration at what he feels is others" lack of it. This is his misfortune. Some such frame of mind, however, should not be allowed to harden into a belief that he may attack a court's decision in words calculated to jettison the time-honored aphorism that courts are the temples of right.

Effect, and Disposition of

Motion for Reconsideration

The filing of a motion for reconsideration, authorized by Rule 52 of the Rules of Court, does not impose on the Court the obligation to deal individually and specifically with the grounds relied upon therefor, in much the same way that the Court does in its judgment or final order as regards be issues raised and submitted for decision. This would be a useless formality or ritual invariably involving merely a reiteration of the reasons already set forth in the judgment or final order for rejecting the arguments advanced by the movant; and it would be a needless act, too, with respect to issues raised for the first time, these being, as above stated, deemed waived because not asserted at the first opportunity. It suffices for the Court to deal generally and summarily with the motion for reconsideration, and merely state a legal ground for its denial (Sec. 14, ART. VIII, Constitution); i.e., the motion contains merely a reiteration or rehash of arguments already submitted to and pronounced without merit by the Court in its judgment, or the basic issues have already been passed upon, or the motion. discloses no substantial argument or cogent reason to warrant reconsideration or modification of the judgment or final order; or the arguments in the motion are too unsubstantial to require consideration, etc.

Import of Denial of Motion

For Reconsideration

The denial of a motion for reconsideration signifies that the grounds relied upon have been found, upon due deliberation, to be without merit, as not being of sufficient weight to warrant a modification of the judgment or final order. It means not only that the grounds relied upon are lacking in merit but also that any other, not so raised, is deemed waived and may no longer be set up in a subsequent motion or application to overturn the judgment; and this is true, whatever may be the title given to such motion or application, whether it be "second motion for reconsideration" or "motion for clarification" or "plea for due process" or "prayer for a second look," or "motion to defer, or set aside, entry of judgment," or "motion to refer case to Court En Banc," etc.

It is relevant at this point to remind everyone that the Court En Banc is not an appellate tribunal to which appeals from Divisions may be taken. 4 The judgment of a division is as authoritative and as final as that of the Court En Banc. Referrals of cases from a Division to the Court En Banc do not take place as a matter of routine, but only on specified grounds and in the Court's discretion.

Denial "With Finality"

While the denial of a motion for reconsideration of a judgment or final order is normally accompanied by the modifier, "final," or "with finality," there may be a denial not so qualified. That is of no consequence. By no means may it be taken as indicating any uncertainty or indecisiveness on the part of the Court regarding its denial of reconsideration, or an encouragement or expectation of a second motion for reconsideration. The modifier serves simply to emphasize the import and effect of the denial of the motion for reconsideration, i.e., that the Court will entertain and consider no further arguments or submissions from the parties respecting its correctness; that in the Court's considered view, nothing more is left to be discussed, clarified or done in the case, all issues raised having been passed upon and definitely resolved, and any other which could have been raised having been waived and no longer being available as ground for a second motion. A denial with finality stresses that the case is considered closed. 5

Thus, the Resolution of January 23, 1995 denying with finality Molina's motions for reconsideration of the decision of July 25, 1994 in these cases ended all further discussion on the merits of the cases. The effects of such denial with finality were not negated by the filing by Molina of a second motion for reconsideration, even if this was attached to a motion purportedly seeking leave of court to do so. Having in fact been filed without express
leave no such leave ever having been granted, the motion therefor not obviously being the equivalent thereof it was to all intents mere surplusage that did not need to be acted on, and did not give rise to a pending matter so as to forestall the finality of the decision.

What has been stated also suffices to dispose of Molina's theory that her second motion for reconsideration, filed on February 27, 1995, was not covered by the Resolution of March 1, 1995 in which this Court reiterated the denial with finality of her motions for reconsideration and, in-addition, ordered that "no further pleadings, motions or papers shall be filed . . except only as regards the issues directly involved in the 'Motion for Reconsideration' (Re: Dismissal of Respondent Judge);" and since Manilabank had manifested that it was no longer filing an opposition thereto, said second motion for reconsideration remains pending and unopposed. To repeat, the second motion for reconsideration, having been filed without express leave, was nothing but a scrap of paper, mere surplusage, incapable of producing any legal effects whatsoever.

Nor may Molina derive comfort from her claim that the motion raises "new" legal issues. Apart from the fact that said "new" issues are contained in an unauthorized and totally ineffectual motion, they are not in fact "new issues," and even if they were, have already been waived and become barred by failure to assert at the first opportunity. It is plain, therefore, that to all intents and purposes, there is no pending second motion for reconsideration requiring action by the Court.

The absence of an opposition is also of no moment. It is explained by Manilabank in its Manifestation of March 29, 1995; and even if it were totally unexplained, such absence does not and cannot invest the unauthorized second motion for reconsideration with status or validity.

Prohibition to File Further Pleadings

Apart from the original directive in its Resolution of March 1, 19, the Court twice reiterated the admonition that no further pleadings, motions or papers should be filed in these cases, except only as regards issues directly involved in the 'Motion for Reconsideration' (Re: Dismissal of Respondent Judge). This it did in its Resolutions dated July 24 and October 25, 1995, respectively.

Evidently, an order of this character is directed to parties who obstinately refuse to accept the Court's final verdict and who, despite such verdict and in defiance of established procedural rules, mulishly persist in still arguing the merits of their cause. They continue to take up the time of the Court needlessly, by filing unauthorized, forbidden, even worthless pleadings, motions and papers, serving no real purpose other than to delay termination of the case.

Evidently, too, the directive against the filing of any further pleadings, motions or papers is one that exacts observance by all parties concerned, such that wilful and unjustifiable disregard or disobedience thereof constitutes constructive contempt under Section 3 (b), Rule 71 of the Rules of Court. The record shows just such wilful disobedience or resistance which is not satisfactorily explained in Molina's "Comment/Answer" dated October 11, 1995, submitted on requirement by the Court.

After her motion for reconsideration of the Decision of July 25, 1994 (as well as the two supplements thereto dated September 22, 1994) had been denied with finality by the Resolution of January 23, 1995; after she had filed an unauthorized and inefficacious second motion for reconsideration dated February 27, 1995; and after she had been served with notice of the Resolution of March 1, 1995 reiterating the denial of her motions for reconsideration and commanding that "no further pleadings, motions or papers shall be filed . . except only as regards the issues directly involved in the 'Motion for Reconsideration' (Re: Dismissal of Respondent Judge)," Molina still filed a motion dated April 5, 1995 to have the cases referred to the Court En Banc. The motion essentially reiterated a prayer lifted from her second motion for reconsideration, and was a clear attempt to reopen proceedings. It obviously had nothing whatever to do with the proceedings concerning the complaint against respondent Judge Velasco.

After her aforesaid motion of April 5, 1995 was denied by Resolution dated June 19, 1995 (and after another Resolution was issued by the Court dated July 24, 1995, declaring the cases closed and terminated, reiterating the command that no further pleadings, motion or papers be filed, and directing entry of judgment and transmission of the mittimus), Molina filed a consolidated motion dated July 25, 1995, praying for reconsideration of the Resolution of June 19, 1995 and repeating her plea that the cases be referred to the Court En Banc; and another motion, dated August 21, 1995, for reconsideration of the Resolution of July 24, 1995. These two motions were denied by separate Resolutions dated, respectively, August 28, 1995 and October 25, 1995.

It is clear that petitioner was bent on pursuing her claims despite the Court's unequivocal declaration that her claims were lacking in merit, that the proceedings were terminated, and that no further pleadings, motions or papers should be filed. Her persistence constitutes a deliberate disregard, even defiance of these Court's plain orders, and an abuse of the rules of procedure to delay the termination of these cases.

Her reiteration of her rejected arguments cannot obliterate their essential and egregious speciousness; and under no circumstances may she or any other litigant or counsel be allowed to engage the Court in interminable squabbling about the correctness of its orders and dispositions.

Molina has had more than her day in court. She was accorded more than ample opportunity to present the merits of her case. Her every argument was heard and considered. The Court cannot countenance defiance of its authority on repetitious assertions of the meritoriousness of a party's cause, no matter how sincerely or genuinely entertained. There has been a final determination of the issues in these cases and petitioner has been repeatedly directed to abide thereby. Her deliberate violation of the orders of the Court are unjustified and inexcusable. The refusal of petitioner Molina to concede defeat, manifested by her unceasing attempts to prolong the final disposition of these case, obstructs the administration of justice and, therefore, constitutes contempt of Court.

WHEREFORE, Dolores V. Molina is found GUILTY of contempt of court for willful disregard and disobedience of the Resolutions of the Court, and a FINE OF ONE THOUSAND PESOS (P1,000.00) is hereby imposed on her, payable within five (5) days from receipt of this Resolution, with the warning that any subsequent disregard and disobedience of this Court's orders will be dealt with more severely.

Let this Resolution be published in the authorized Court reports for the information and guidance of the bench and the bar respecting the nature and effect of denials of motions for reconsideration of judgments and final orders, the propriety of second motions for reconsideration, and the prohibition against the filing of further pleadings, motions or other papers.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., Melo, Francisco, Panganiban, JJ., concur.


Endnotes:

1 Sec. 1, Rule 52, Rules of Court.

2 Sec. 8, Rule 15; SEE Sec. 4, Rule 37, Rules of Court.

3 Ex Rel. Cebu City Chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Adm. Matter No. 93-7-696-0, February 21, 1995: 241 SCRA 405, 454-455.

4 See SC Circular No. 2-89, March 1, 1989.

5 Barrera v. Victor, A.M. No. CA-90-15, May 24, 1991.




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