G. R. No. 141880 - September 27, 2004
ZENAIDA F. DAPAR alias ZENAIDA D. BIASCAN, Petitioner, vs. GLORIA LOZANO BIASCAN and MARIO BIASCAN, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
CALLEJO, SR., J.:
This is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court from the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV- No. 57306 reversing the Decision2 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Caloocan City, Branch 120, in Civil Case No. C-16184 and its Resolution3 denying the motion for the reconsideration thereof.
Sometime in 1966, Spouses Gloria and Mario Biascan were married in civil rights in Quezon City.4 They were, thereafter, blessed with four (4) children, namely, Robert, Edward, Glomary, and Eric.5
Mario Biascan, an electrician by profession, worked in Saudi Arabia as an overseas contract worker from 1977 to 1981. It was in 1979 when he met Zenaida Dapar, who was then working as a domestic helper. That first meeting ripened into an intimate relationship. Both being lonely in a foreign land, Zenaida and Mario became lovers, which resulted in the latters failure to give support to his wife and family.
Zenaida returned to the Philippines in 1981. Upon Marios return to the country, he joined Zenaida to live in a rented house in Pag-asa Subdivision, Karuhatan, Valenzuela, Metro Manila. They opened a joint account with the Philippine National Bank (PNB), Valenzuela Branch, under Savings Account No. 498-514587-96 on March 30, 1982. Mario returned to Saudi Arabia in February 1984, while Zenaida stayed behind and worked in a garment factory. He remitted his earnings to Zenaida, and the latter deposited the said amounts in the PNB joint savings account through the Barclay Bank, PLS Athens. These remittances were credited in the said account, as well as others coming from Zenaidas relatives who were also working abroad. As of May 21, 1901, the balance of the bank account was
In the meantime, on July 8, 1985, a contract to sell was executed by and between State Land Investment Corporation, on the one hand, and "Sps. Mario M. Biascan/ & Zenaida D. Biascan," on the other, over a parcel of land consisting of 150 square meters, described as Lot 11, Block 2, Narra St., Hillcrest Village, Camarin Road, Novaliches, Caloocan City for
On November 15, 1993, Gloria L. Biascan filed a complaint against Zenaida for annulment of title, reconveyance, and damages in the RTC of Caloocan City, Branch 120, docketed as Civil Case No. C-16184. She made the following allegations:
Gloria prayed that judgment be rendered in her favor, as follows:
Zenaida filed a Motion to Dismiss13 on January 20, 1994, principally on the ground that, under Article 113 of the Civil Code and Section 4, Rule 3 of the Rules of Court, a married woman cannot sue or be sued alone without joining her husband, and that, as registered co-owner of the subject property, the latter was an indispensable party. She also alleged that she had no idea that Mario was a married man; that she tried to leave him when such fact came to her knowledge; and that Mario made repeated promises of marriage.
According to Zenaida, she was fraudulently and maliciously forced by Mario and his family to vacate the house and lot in question. Thus, on January 14, 1992, she instituted an action for partition before Branch 129 of the Regional Trial Court of Caloocan City, docketed as Civil Case No. C-259. Zenaida, likewise, alleged that she instituted an action for the enforcement of the Amicable Settlement made before the barangay, before the Metropolitan Trial Court of Caloocan City for the recovery of personal properties. Thereafter, on May 3, 1993, the RTC of Caloocan City rendered its Decision14 in Civil Case No. C-259, declaring that she was a co-owner of the subject lot. She averred that, after receipt of the decision, Mario and Gloria sent her a Letter15 dated May 18, 1993, persuading her to agree to a very unreasonable settlement.
Zenaida claimed that Mario filed a petition for certiorari before the Court of Appeals, docketed as CA-G.R. SP. No. 32512, which was dismissed16 on December 17, 1993 on the ground that the decision rendered by the RTC of Caloocan City had long since become final and executory; thus, based on the doctrine of res judicata, her ownership of the one-half portion of the lot covered by TCT No. 207197 could no longer be questioned. Zenaida posited that pursuant to paragraph (c), Sec. 3 of Rule 131 of the Rules of Court, the facts and conclusions contained in the said decision are conclusively presumed to be true.
The trial court denied the motion to dismiss in an Order17 dated March 23, 1994.
In her answer, Zenaida alleged that the trial court had no jurisdiction over the case, as the cause of action therein was barred by prior judgment. She, likewise, alleged that aside from her savings from her work in Saudi Arabia, she had other sources of income: her earnings from working as a dressmaker at the Flores Garment International Corporation; income from buying and selling jewelry; a dollar pension from her brother who was with the U.S. Navy; and financial support from her mother and older brothers. She averred that most of the money used for the amortization and purchase of the subject lot, as well as the construction of the improvements thereon, was sourced from her earnings and income and not solely from Mario Biascan. She further alleged that Mario was, in fact, unemployed from the later part of 1985 to the early part of 1988, and that they had to secure a loan in the total amount of
She further alleged the following by way of counterclaim:
After the parties submitted their respective pre-trial briefs, Gloria filed an amended complaint,19 impleading her husband Mario as party-defendant. Thereafter, in an Order20 dated July 6, 1994, the RTC, Branch 120, issued a writ of preliminary injunction restraining and enjoining the enforcement of the writ of execution21 issued by the RTC, Branch 129 in Civil Case No. C-259. Gloria then filed a bond in the amount of
After trial, the court ruled in favor of defendant Zenaida and dismissed the complaint on October 28, 1997. The dispositive portion of the decision reads:
The trial court ruled that the law on co-ownership governed the property relations of Mario and Zenaida, who were living in an adulterous relationship or in a state of concubinage at the time the house and lot in question was acquired. The trial court further explained that under Article 148 of the Family Code, properties acquired by both of the parties through their actual joint contribution of money shall be owned in common in proportion to their respective contributions, and in the event that the amount of such contributions could not be determined, as in the present case, they shall be presumed to be equal. The trial court concluded that the shares of Mario and Zenaida as described in TCT No. 207197 was in accordance with the sharing prescribed in Article 148. As such, there was no legal basis to order the reconveyance of the one-half share of the petitioner in favor of Gloria Biascan.
Anent Zenaidas use of the surname Biascan, the trial court ruled that Gloria was not entitled to damages since Mario consented thereto.
On appeal, however, the appellate court reversed the decision of the trial court and ruled in favor of Gloria as follows:
The appellate court ruled that Zenaidas contention that Mario was unemployed from 1985 to 1988, and that she had savings and substantial earnings from her jewelry business was untenable. The appellate court also ruled that the remittances from relatives as claimed by Zenaida were not meant for her, as they were either unsigned or addressed to someone else. Clearly, the appellate court ruled, such remittances were not intended to increase Zenaidas resources to support her claim that she contributed to the payment of the house and lot in question from her own funds. The appellate court noted that the appellees income was so meager that it was not even enough for her, and that she failed to establish, by clear and convincing evidence, that her savings and/or the remittances of her mother and brothers were deposited to the PNB joint savings account. The appellate court further ratiocinated as follows:
For failure of the appellee to prove by satisfactory evidence that she contributed money to the purchase price of the house and lot in question, there is no basis to justify her co-ownership; the same must revert to the conjugal partnership [of] Mario Biascan and his lawful wife, the appellant (Agapay v. Palang, 276 SCRA 340). The entry in the Transfer Certificate of Title No. 207197, the word "Spouses Mario M. Biascan and Zenaida D. Biascan", where the latter is not legally married to the former, is no proof that she contributed her money for the purchase of the property in question. In the case at bar, no iota of evidence was adduced to prove contribution. In the determination of the nature of the property acquired during their live-in partner status, the controlling factor is the source of the money utilized in the purchase.
Evidently, from the Contract to Sell (Exh. "2"), Mario M. Biascan was in Saudi Arabia and the appellee was probably of the impression that is she made it appear that they are spouses, the same belong to both of them. Regrettably, there is no law to support such belief.
Indeed, there was fraud, deceit and misrepresentation in the acquisition of the property in question, depriving the lawful wife, the appellant herein, the property acquired during the marriage which forms part of the conjugal partnership between Mario M. Biascan and Gloria Lozano Biascan.25
Zenaidas motion for reconsideration was, likewise, denied in a Resolution dated February 4, 2000.
The Present Petition
Zenaida, now the petitioner, raises the following issues for the resolution of the Court in the instant petition:
The petitioner catalogues the deposits made in the PNB account from 1985 to November 1988,27 and avers that such deposits could not possibly be considered as remittances of respondent Mario Biascan because he was jobless in 1983, and, thereafter, from 1985 to 1988, and was then in the Philippines wholly dependent upon her for support. The petitioner also avers that the alleged remittances cannot be considered as respondent Mario Biascans record of employment abroad, and that based on the evidence on record, he could not have paid even one-half () of the purchase price of the subject property. However, since the contribution of the petitioner and respondent could not be determined, considering that no specific amounts were properly identified as actual deposits of the parties in the joint account, such shares are presumed equal.
The petitioner also points out that Article 148 of the Family Code does not provide for an annulment of title of any of the properties acquired during an illicit relationship, but merely provides for forfeiture of the properties of the party in bad faith in accordance with the said provision.
According to the petitioner, it is, likewise, evident from the evidence presented that respondent Gloria Biascan had knowledge of the petitioners illicit relationship with her husband, did nothing to stop it, and, in fact, benefited from such relationship. The petitioner contends that the award of attorneys fees in favor of such respondent cannot be allowed, as the appellate court made no express findings or reasons in its decision to justify such award.
Finally, the petitioner points out that the decision in Civil Case No. C-259, which was affirmed by the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 32512, already became final and executory, and that the court a quo issued a writ of execution on September 24, 1993. The petitioner cites the ruling of the Court in Mendiola v. Court of Appeals28 to bolster her claim.
For their part, the respondents allege that the decision rendered in Civil Case No. C-259 is not res judicata in the instant case. While the petitioner filed a motion to dismiss invoking the defense of bar by former judgment, such motion was denied by the court a quo. According to the respondents, the petitioner did not file a motion for reconsideration or appeal, much less raise the same as an error before the appellate court. The respondents allege that the silence of the petitioner on the matter of res judicata before the Court of Appeals is an indication of her conformity to the correctness of the ruling of the lower court.
The respondents also posit that the petitioner employed fraud, deceit and misrepresentation in her inclusion as a co-owner of the property, as a result of which the lawful wife, respondent Gloria Biascan, was deprived of the property in question; thus, the annulment of the title and reconveyance of the property in question was legal and proper. Furthermore, due to such fraudulent and deceitful acts of the petitioner, respondent Gloria Biascan, the aggrieved party, is legally entitled to the award of attorneys fees.
The issue in the present case is whether or not the action of respondent Gloria Biascan is barred by the decision of the RTC in Civil Case No. C-259. A secondary issue is whether or not the petitioner is liable to respondent Gloria Biascan for damages for usurpation of the surname of respondent Mario Biascan under Article 377 of the Civil Code.
The Courts Ruling
We find and so hold that the action of respondent Gloria Biascan was barred by the decision of the RTC in Civil Case No. C-259.
For res judicata to bar the institution of subsequent action, the following requisites must concur: (1) the former judgment must be final; (2) it must have been rendered by a court having jurisdiction of the subject matter and the parties; (3) it must be a judgment on the merits; and (4) there must be, between the first and second actions (a) identity of parties, (b) identity of subject matter, and (c) identity of cause of action.29 The foundation principle upon which the doctrine of res judicata rests is that parties ought not to be permitted to litigate the same issue more than once; that when a right or fact has been judicially tried and determined by a court of competent jurisdiction, so long as it remains unreversed, should be conclusive upon the parties and those in privity with them in law or estate.30 As we ruled in Oropeza Marketing Corporation v. Allied Banking Corporation:31
Res judicata literally means "a matter adjudged; a thing judicially acted upon or decided; a thing or matter settled by judgment." Res judicata lays the rule that an existing final judgment or decree rendered on the merits, and without fraud or collusion, or by a court of competent jurisdiction, upon any matter within its jurisdiction, is conclusive of the rights of the parties or their privies, in all other actions or suits in the same or any other judicial tribunal of concurrent jurisdiction on the points and matters in issue in the first suit. The principle of res judicata has two aspects, namely: (a) "bar by prior judgment" as enunciated in Rule 39, Section 49(b) of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure; and (b) "conclusiveness of judgment" which is contained in Rule 39, Section 47(c).
There is "bar by prior judgment" when, as between the first case where the judgment was rendered and the second case that is sought to be barred, there is identity of parties, subject matter, and causes of action. In this instance, the judgment in the first case constitutes an absolute bar to the second action. Otherwise put, the judgment or decree of the court of competent jurisdiction on the merits concludes the litigation between the parties, as well as their privies, and constitutes a bar to a new action or suit involving the same cause of action before the same or other tribunal.
But where there is identity of parties in the first and second cases, but no identity of causes of action, the first judgment is conclusive only as to those matters actually and directly controverted and determined and not as to matters merely involved therein. This is the concept of res judicata known as "conclusiveness of judgment." Stated differently, any right, fact, or matter in issue directly adjudicated or necessarily involved in the determination of an action before a competent court in which judgment is rendered on the merits is conclusively settled by the judgment therein and cannot again be litigated between the parties and their privies whether or not the claim, demand, purpose, or subject matter of the two actions is the same.32
Contrary to the contentions of the respondents, the petitioner consistently invoked the finality of the judgment of the RTC of Caloocan City, Branch 129, in Civil Case No. C-259 for partition of the property covered by TCT No. 207197, as well as a 1976 model Toyota car. Eighty-three (83) days after learning of the said decision,33 respondent Mario Biascan filed a petition for relief from judgment, which the trial court dismissed, and which dismissal was affirmed by the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 32512 promulgated on December 17, 1993. The decision in Civil Case No. C-259 became final and executory, thus satisfying the first requisite. Furthermore, such judgment was on the merits and was rendered by a court having jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties.
In the meantime, on October 27, 1993, respondent Gloria Biascan filed Civil Case No. C-16184 for annulment of TCT No. 207197, reconveyance and damages.
It is clear that there is identity of subject matter between the two cases; that is, the parcel of land in Caloocan City covered by TCT No. 207197. Such property was adjudicated in favor of the petitioner and the respondent, as co-owners in equal shares. It must be stressed that in a complaint for partition, the plaintiff seeks, first, a declaration that he is a co-owner of the subject properties; and second, the conveyance of his lawful shares. An action for partition is at once an action for declaration of co-ownership and for segregation and conveyance of a determinate portion of the properties involved.34 As we ruled in a recent case:35
Indeed, the difference in form and nature of the two actions is immaterial and is not a reason for exemption from the effects of res judicata. The philosophy behind this rule prohibits the parties from litigating the same issue more than once. When a right or fact has been judicially tried and determined by a court of competent jurisdiction or an opportunity for such trial has been given, the judgment of the court, as long as it remains unreversed, should be conclusive upon the parties and those in privity with them.37 Whatever has once been irrevocably established as the controlling legal principle in an earlier final judgment continues to be the law of the case between the same parties in another suit, as long as the facts on which such decision was predicated continue to be the facts of the dispute before the court.38
It may be argued that there is no identity of parties in the first and second case. In the first case for partition, the plaintiff was the petitioner, while the defendant was respondent Mario Biascan; in the second case for annulment of title and reconveyance of the same property, respondent Gloria Biascan was the plaintiff, while the defendants were the petitioner and respondent Mario Biascan. However, absolute identity of parties is not required for the principle of res judicata to apply. Mere substantial identity of parties, or a community of interests between a party in the first case and a party in the subsequent case, even if the latter was not impleaded in the first case, is sufficient.39
It cannot be ignored that the evidence presented in the two cases were substantially the same: among others, the PNB Bank account, the Contract to Sell, the Deed of Sale, and the certificates of remittances. In fact, both trial courts made similar findings, and adjudicated the property in favor of both respondent Mario Biascan and the petitioner. This cannot be done without violating the rule on finality of judgments. The Court reiterates the following pronouncement in Gallardo-Corro v. Gallardo:40
Indeed, it is readily apparent that the action for annulment of judgment was, in effect, a second cycle of review regarding a subject matter which has already been finally decided.42 It is, likewise, not lost upon this Court that respondent Gloria Biascan resorted to filing the second case for annulment of title as an afterthought, after realizing her husbands failure to appeal Civil Case No. C-259, and the inevitable dismissal of the petition for relief from judgment by the trial court and, thereafter, the petition for certiorari before the appellate court.
Anent respondent Gloria Biascans claim for damages for the petitioners alleged usurpation of her husbands name, we rule that she is not entitled to an award therefor.
The usurpation of name under Article 377 of the Civil Code43 implies some injury to the interests of the owner of the name. It consists in the possibility of confusion of identity between the owner and the usurper, and exists when a person designates himself by another name. The elements are as follows: (1) there is an actual use of anothers name by the defendant; (2) the use is unauthorized; and (3) the use of anothers name is to designate personality or identify a person.44 None of the foregoing exist in the case at bar. Respondent Gloria Biascan did not claim that the petitioner ever attempted to impersonate her. In fact, the trial court found that respondent Mario Biascan allowed the petitioner to use his surname, viz:
The mere use of a surname cannot be enjoined; it is the use thereof coupled with the representation that one is the lawful wife, or the usurpation of the wifes status, which gives rise to an action for damages.46
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 57306 is REVERSED AND SET ASIDE. The complaint of respondent Gloria Biascan is DISMISSED on the ground of res judicata. The counterclaims of the petitioner against respondent Gloria Biascan are DISMISSED. No costs.
Puno, Austria-Martinez, Tinga, and Chico-Nazario*, JJ., concur.
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