November 2005 - Philippine Supreme Court Decisions/Resolutions
G.R. No. 160109 - Spouses German and Elisa Balanoba, et al., v. Manuel D. Madriaga.
[G.R. NO. 160109 November 22, 2005]
Spouses GERMAN and ELISA BALANOBA and REBECCA DE SAGON MADRIAGA, Petitioners, v. MANUEL D. MADRIAGA, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
n affirming the Court of Appeals, this Court holds (1) that the prohibition against second motions for reconsideration applies only to judgments or final orders, not to orders authorizing the execution of final judgments; (2) that once a decision becomes final and executory, it may no longer be amended; and (3) that exemptions from execution must be clearly established.
Before us is a Petition for Review1 under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, assailing the June 27, 2003 Decision2 and the October 3, 2003 Resolution3 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-GR SP No. 63912. The CA disposed as follows:
"Wherefore, in view of the foregoing premises, the petition is DENIED for lack of merit."4
The assailed Resolution, on the other hand, denied petitioner's Motion for Reconsideration.
The CA narrated the antecedents as follows:
"On June 5, 1996, x x x respondent Manuel D. Madriaga filed an action for collection of a sum of money with damages.
[He] claimed that: a parcel of land covered by TCT No. 7815 was offered for sale by the petitioners spouses to [him]; accepting the offer, [he] paid a partial payment in the amount of
P200,000.00 through Abraham de Sagun, broker of the lot and brother [of] petitioner Elisa Balanoba; the remaining balance of P250,000.00 was supposed to be paid within a period of 16 months or from February 11, 1993 until June 11, 1994; on April 25, 1993, the private respondent paid to petitioners US$600; but before the lapse of the period of x x x 16 months and without the knowledge of the x x x respondent, petitioners sold the same lot to a certain Yolanda C. Aguilon; in May 1994, x x x respondent offered to settle the remaining balance over the lot with the petitioners but they refused to convey the property; and, despite demands, x x x petitioners failed to reimburse the x x x respondent.
"For failure of petitioner[s] to file their answer, the trial court, upon motion of x x x respondent, declared them in default and the x x x respondent was allowed to present his evidence ex parte.
"On November 21, 1996, the trial court rendered its Decision [in favor of respondent].
x x x
"On August 9, 2000, x x x respondent filed his Motion for Issuance of a Notice of Garnishment, praying that a Notice of Garnishment be issued by the trial court directing the garnishee Bandila Maritime Services, Inc., petitioner German Balanoba's employer to deliver goods, effects, interests, money shares or other personal property belonging to the said petitioner sufficient to satisfy the amount of the judgment.
"On August 15, 2000, petitioners spouses filed their Opposition, (Re: Motion for the Issuance of a Notice of Garnishment), praying that the motion be denied on the ground, among others, that the money judgment is part of the community property of spouses Manuel Madriaga and Rebecca de Sagon Madriaga; that Rebecca S. Madriaga was entitled to one half (1/2) of the monetary judgment being the wife of the x x x respondent; and that Rebecca S. Madriaga, through her attorney-in-fact and counsel, condoned and waived her right to the one half (1/2) portion of the monetary award in favor of the petitioners.
"On August 22, 2000, the trial court denied x x x respondent's Motion for Issuance of a Notice of Garnishment on the ground that the litigated motion does not comply with Section 5, Rule 15 of the Rules of Court; that the motion does not indicate the balance of the judgment which has not yet been satisfied; the trial court does not issue a notice of garnishment but the Branch Sheriff implementing the writ of execution.
"x x x. Respondent filed his Motion for Reconsideration dated August 25, 2000, alleging that the failure to observe and comply with Section 5, Rule 15 of the Rules of Court was due to inadvertence and negligence on his part, x x x and that a total of One Hundred Forty Eight Thousand (
P148,000.00) has already been collected from the judgment obligee, the remaining balance to be collected was computed in Annex 'A' of the foregoing motion.
"On September 8, 2000, the trial court denied petitioner's motion for reconsideration on the ground that the same was not filed by his counsel of record, and that the amount paid per Annex 'A' of the motion does not tally with the partial returns of the Sheriff in respect to the execution partially satisfied.
"x x x. Respondent filed his Second Motion for Reconsideration dated September 18, 2000, alleging, among others, that he has caused the rectification of the discrepancy in the amounts collected and the remaining balance payable which showed that less the amount already collected as per garnishment previously issued, the outstanding balance of petitioners as of September 19, 2000 stands at
"On September 22, 2000, the trial court denied x x x respondent's [second] motion for reconsideration for the reason that the life of the original writ has already expired. The court, however, admonished x x x respondent to move, instead, x x x for the issuance of an alias writ with a notice to the petitioners.
"On September 26, 2000, petitioners filed their Comment and/or Opposition x x x on the ground that, under Section 5, Rule 37 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, no party shall be allowed a second motion for reconsideration.
"The x x x respondent filed a Motion for Reconsideration with Prayer for the Issuance of Alias Writ of Execution dated October 12, 2000.
"On November 15, 2000, the trial court, for the purpose of determining accurately the unpaid balance of the judgment rendered on November 21, 1996, issued an Order directing the x x x respondent and the Branch Sheriff to submit to the said court a computation under oath of how much has been satisfied out of the judgment.
"x x x [R]espondent filed a Compliance dated November 27, 2000, asserting that, after conference with the implementing Sheriff, a total of
P148,790.39 of the judgment debt was satisfied by the petitioners, leaving the amount of P236,696.20 as balance and collectible amount from the petitioners as of November 27, 2000.
"On November 29, 2000, petitioners filed their Motion for Reconsideration, arguing, among others, that, x x x respondent was still married to Rebecca S. de Sagon; that the spouses were blessed with children; that x x x respondent filed and refused to give financial support to his wife and son since April 1999; and that he personally pocketed the amount he obtained from the petitioners without giving a single centavo to his wife and child.
"On December 15, 2000, the trial court issued an Order, ruling that the Compliance submitted by counsel for the petitioner[s] was not in accordance with the Order of November 15, 2000, and directing the x x x respondent and the Branch Sheriff to comply strictly with the said Order.
"On December 22, 2000, petitioners submitted their Compliance, stating that it was submitting the original copy of the Registry Return to show that x x x respondent received a copy of the petitioner's Motion for Reconsideration dated November 29, 2000[, which] was filed on even date.
"On January 2, 2001, x x x respondent filed his Motion for Reconsideration to the Order dated December 15, 2000, praying that the Order of December 15, 2000 be reconsidered; that the Order of November 15, 2000 be deemed complied with by the x x x respondent by virtue of the re-computation submitted; and that the computation filed earlier with the Compliance be withdrawn; and that the re-computation be admitted instead.
"On January 3, 2001, petitioner Rebecca de Sagon Madriaga filed a Manifestation and Motion, alleging, among others, that the money judgment was part of the community of property between her husband (x x x respondent) and herself; that being the wife of the x x x respondent and there being a pending case for declaration of nullity of their marriage, she was entitled to one half portion of the monetary judgment; and that she voluntarily condoned, waived/or abandoned in favor [of] the petitioners her right to the one half portion of the monetary award. The motion prayed that the Motion for Reconsideration with prayer for the issuance of alias writ of execution should be dismissed.
"x x x [R]espondent filed his Opposition/Comments to the Manifestation and Motion filed by Rebecca de Sagon Madriaga dated January 4, 2001, alleging that the Manifestation and Motion was in the nature of an intervention which is not in accordance with Rule 19 of the Rules of Court; that the filing of the same has unduly delayed or prejudiced the rights of the x x x respondent already pronounced in the Decision which has become final and partially executed; and that the claim of Rebecca de Sagon, if there be any, could rightfully be ventilated in a separate proceeding."5
On January 31, 2001, the trial court issued an Order (1) denying the Manifestation and Motion of Rebecca de Sagon Madriaga, because she was not a party to the case, and no waiver of rights was allowed during marriage except in case of judicial separation of property; and (2) ordering the issuance of an alias writ to enforce the unpaid balance of
P251,643,398 as of November 21, 2000.
In a Petition for Certiorari before the CA, petitioners charged the trial court with having gravely abused its discretion in allowing respondent to file four Motions for Reconsideration; and in denying the Manifestation and Motion of his wife, Rebecca Madriaga.
Ruling of the Court of Appeals
The CA sustained the trial court's grant of respondent's series of Motions. Construing Section 5 of Rule 37 of the Rules of Court in relation to Sections 1, 2, 3 and 4 of the same Rule, it held that the prohibition on "second motions for reconsideration" applied only to an aggrieved party, not to a winning litigant like respondent; and also only to judgments and final orders.
The appellate court also found that the trial court had not gravely abused its discretion in denying the Manifestation and Motion of respondent's wife, Rebecca. She was not a party to the case; neither was she a party to the Contract between petitioners and respondent. Besides, the CA considered as irrelevant to the present case the question of whether the money judgment was conjugal property. It said that the issue should properly be the subject of another proceeding.
As to the claimed exemption from garnishment of German Balanoba's salary under Article 1708 of the Civil Code, the CA emphasized that describing him as a "mere seafarer" - - without specifically pointing out his position, functions, duties and responsibilities - - did not establish that he was merely a laborer. As a seafarer employed with a foreign corporation doing business in the Philippines, he was earning more than an ordinary wage earner or laborer. Thus, the CA surmised that it was very unlikely that he was a "laborer," under the contemplation of Article 1708.
Hence this Petition.6
In their Memorandum, petitioners submit that the CA erred as follows:
In concluding that Section 5, paragraph 2 [of Rule 37] of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure refers only to the aggrieved party and not likewise to the winning party.
In declaring that Petitioner Rebecca De Sagon Madriaga was not a party to the case and therefore cannot ask for the reliefs prayed for by her.
In declaring that Petitioner Balanoba failed to demonstrate that he was a mere laborer whose wages are exempt from execution within the ambit of the law."7
The Court's Ruling
The Petition is not meritorious.
Motions for Reconsideration
Petitioners take issue with the appellate court's ruling that under paragraph 2, Section 5 of Rule 37 of the Rules Court, only the losing or "aggrieved party" was prohibited from filing a second motion for reconsideration of a judgment or final order.
Indeed, the CA's pronouncement was quite sweeping. Thus, we clarify.
First, the aforementioned provision states: "No party shall be allowed a second motion for reconsideration of a judgment or final order." Plainly, this statement means that any party - - whether the winning or the losing litigant - - is prohibited from filing a second motion for reconsideration. Accordingly, winning litigants may also move for reconsideration of a part or parts of a decision or a final order. In the event that the motion is denied, an attempt at a second motion for reconsideration would be prohibited under the afore-quoted provision.
Second, note, though, that what is proscribed under Section 5 of Rule 37 is a second motion for reconsideration of a "judgment or final order." The provision is consonant with public policy that frowns upon the piecemeal impugnment of a judgment or final order by the filing of successive motions for reconsideration. This rule is also consistent with the equally important policy that all litigations must come to an end at some point.8 The filing of successive motions is certainly not the case here.
As may be noted, the November 21, 1996 Decision of the trial court was already final and executory; yet, respondent has obtained only a partial execution of his money judgment. It was precisely to effect a full execution that he filed on August 9, 2000, a "Motion for Issuance of a Notice of Garnishment." The series of "Motions for Reconsideration" he subsequently filed referred to matters attendant to a complete execution of the Decision in his favor. Those Motions were not for the reconsideration of the final judgment.
Third, except for respondent's first Motion for Reconsideration, his succeeding Motions were actually in compliance with the procedural defects noted and ordered corrected by the trial court.
To begin with, the August 22, 2000 denial of the original Motion for Issuance of a Notice of Garnishment was grounded on (1) respondent's inadvertent failure to attach a notice of hearing under Section 5 of Rule 15 of the Rules of Court; (2) his failure to indicate the balance of the unsatisfied judgment; and (3) the rule that it was not the court, but the branch sheriff implementing the Writ of Execution, that should issue a notice of garnishment.9 Respondent aimed to correct those procedural lapses in his Motion dated August 25, 2000. Unfortunately, it was denied, because it was not his counsel of record who filed it, and the amount reflected as unpaid did not correspond to the partial return of the sheriff.10
The subsequent compliance of respondent with the above procedural requirements notwithstanding, his Motion for Issuance of the Notice of Garnishment was still denied, because the life of the original Writ of Execution had already expired. For that reason, he was advised to ask for an alias writ,11 and he promptly did in a "Motion for Reconsideration with Prayer for the Issuance of an Alias Writ of Execution."12
The trial court then required him and the branch sheriff to submit under oath a computation of how much of the judgment had been satisfied.13 On November 27, 2000, respondent filed a Compliance,14 which the court later found to be not in accordance with its Order. His fourth (and last) questioned "Motion for Reconsideration" was levelled against this December 15, 2000 Order.15
Be that as it may, the CA did not err in sustaining the trial court's actions allowing respondent's Motions, which were aimed at the execution of the judgment in his favor. As the prevailing party, he should not be deprived of the fruits of his rightful victory by any subterfuge of the losing party16 or by minor procedural lapses of his lawyer.
Wife Not a Party
Petitioners next challenge the appellate court's ruling sustaining the denial by the trial court of Petitioner Rebecca Madriaga's Motion and Manifestation, on the ground that she was not a party to the case and could not ask for the reliefs prayed for. As respondent was still married to her at the time of the money judgment, petitioners contended that (1) she had a share in the judgment awarded to respondent; and, (2) having condoned her share in petitioners' favor, the balance of the money judgment should be reduced by an amount corresponding to that share. We are not convinced.
At the time Rebecca's Motion and Manifestation was filed before the trial court, the judgment in respondent's favor had already become final and executory. It is a well-settled rule that once a final judgment or order becomes final and executory - - more so when it has already been executed - - it may no longer be amended or corrected by the court, except for clerical errors or mistakes17 and only in a few exceptional cases,18 none of which obtains in the present case. A final judgment stands immutable; otherwise, there would be no end to litigation. A judgment that has attained finality constitutes the ultimate adjudication of the rights and obligations of the parties and becomes valid and binding upon them and their successors in interest.
Moreover, as the trial court correctly observed, Rebecca's post-judgment Motion and Manifestation was in the nature of a motion for intervention. Therefore, it should have been filed before judgment was rendered, as provided under Section 2 of Rule 19 of the Rules of Court.19 As the case was already terminated upon the rendition of the final judgment, intervention was no longer possible.20 Significantly, prior to judgment, petitioners could have tried to include Rebecca as a party to the suit, under Sections 421 and 922 of Rule 3. But they did not.
No Proof That German Balanoba
Was a Laborer
As to the remaining assertion that Petitioner German Balanoba should have been considered a "laborer" whose wages were exempt from execution, suffice it to state the basic evidentiary rule that whoever alleges a fact must prove it with the required quantum of proof.23 Litigations cannot be properly resolved by suppositions, deductions or even presumptions with no basis in evidence, for the truth must be determined by the applicable rules of admissibility and proof.24
Apropos this contention, the Court reiterates the rule in Gaa v. Court of Appeals25 that the exemption under Article 170826 of the Civil Code favors only laboring men or women whose work is manual. Belonging to this class are the workers who usually look to the
reward of a day's labor for immediate or present support. They, more than any other persons, are the ones in need of the exemption27 which, needless to say, does not encompass any and all workers. With more reason should it be said that any claim for exemption must be clearly established.
Because it was not proven that German Balanoba was a mere laborer, no error may be ascribed to the CA for ruling that his salary was not exempt from execution.
WHEREFORE, this Petition is DENIEDand the challenged Decision of the Court of Appeals AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioners.
1 Rollo, pp. 8-13.
2 Id., pp. 45-54. Penned by Justice B. A. Adefuin-de la Cruz (Chairman, Special Ninth Division) and concurred in by Justices Juan Q. Enriquez Jr. and Hakim S. Abdulwahid (members).
3 Id., p. 56.
4 CA Decision, p. 10; rollo, p. 54.
5 Id., pp. 2-5 & 46-49.
6 The Petition was deemed submitted for decision on July 13, 2004, upon the Court's receipt of respondent's Memorandum, signed by Atty. Mina Joy C. Pangasinan of Pangasinan & Pangasinan Law Office. Petitioners' Memorandum, signed by Atty. Prosencio D. Jaso, was received by the Court on June 4, 2004.
7 Petitioners' Memorandum, pp. 10-11; rollo, pp. 270-271. Original in uppercase.
8 So v. CA, 415 Phil. 705, 711, August 21, 2001; Equatorial Realty Development, Inc. v. Mayfair Theater, Inc., 412 Phil. 77, 80, June 25, 2001; Ortigas and Company Limited Partnership v. Judge Velasco, 324 Phil. 483, 490, March 4, 1996; Ngo Bun Tiong v. Sayo, 163 SCRA 237, 245, June 30, 1988.
9 Rollo, p. 84.
10 Id., p. 88.
11 Id., p. 98.
12 Id., pp. 99-100.
13 Order dated November 15, 2000; id., p. 101.
14 Id., p. 102.
15 Id., pp. 112-116.
16 Equatorial Realty Development, Inc. v. Mayfair Theater, Inc., supra; Times Transit Credit Cooperative, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Commission, 363 Phil. 386, 392, March 2, 1999; Nasser v. Court of Appeals, 314 Phil. 871, 883, June 5, 1995.
17 Mayon Estate Corp. v. Altura, 440 SCRA 377, October 18, 2004; Seven Brothers Shipping Corporation v. Oriental Assurance Corporation, 439 Phil. 663, 671, October 15, 2002; Jose Clavano, Inc. v. Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board, 428 Phil. 208, 233, February 27, 2002; Pio Barretto Realty Development Corporation v. CA, 412 Phil. 553, 564, June 28, 2001.
18 Among the exceptions to the doctrine of immutability of final judgments or orders is the existence of supervening events, which refer to facts transpiring after the judgment has become final and executory; or to new circumstances that develop after the judgment has acquired finality - - including matters that the parties were not aware of prior to or during the trial, as they were not yet in existence at the time. (See Natalia Realty, Inc. v. CA, 440 Phil. 1, 23, November 12, 2002; and Jose Clavano, Inc. v. HLURB, supra, p. 228). A final judgment may also be modified when its execution becomes impossible or unjust. (See Abalos v. Philex Mining Corporation, 441 Phil. 386, 393-394, November 27, 2002.)
19 See Secretary of Agrarian Reform v. Tropical Homes, Inc., 414 Phil. 389, 406, July 31, 2001; Looyuko v. CA, 413 Phil. 445, 460-461, July 12, 2001. Section 2 of Rule 19 provides as follows:
"SEC. 2. Time to intervene. - The motion to intervene may be filed at any time before rendition of judgment by the trial court. A copy of the pleading-in-intervention shall be attached to the motion and served on the original parties."
20 Secretary of Agrarian Reform v. Tropical Homes, Inc., supra; Rabino v. Cruz, 222 SCRA 493, 501, May 24, 1993.
21 Section 4 of Rule 3 reads:
"SEC. 4. Spouses as parties. - Husband and wife shall sue or be sued jointly, except as provided by law."
22 Section 9 of Rule 3 provides as follows:
"SEC. 9. Non-joinder of necessary parties to be pleaded. - Whenever in any pleading in which a claim is asserted a necessary party is not joined, the pleader shall set forth his name, if known, and shall state why he is omitted. Should the court find the reason for the omission unmeritorious, it may order the inclusion of the omitted necessary party if jurisdiction over his person may be obtained.
"The failure to comply with the order for his inclusion, without justifiable cause, shall be deemed a waiver of the claim against such party.
"The non[-]inclusion of a necessary party does not prevent the court from proceeding in the action, and the judgment rendered therein shall be without prejudice to the rights of such necessary party."
23 Ocampo v. Ocampo, 427 SCRA 545, 546 & 555, April 14, 2004; Lagon v. Hooven Comalco Industries, Inc., 349 SCRA 363, 379, January 17, 2001. See also '1 of Rule 133 of the Revised Rules on Evidence.
24 Lagon v. Hooven Comalco Industries, Inc.; supra, p. 380.
25 140 SCRA 304, December 3, 1985. See D' Armoured Security and Investigation Agency, Inc. v. Orpia, GR No. 151325, June 27, 2005, p. 7.
26 "Art. 1708. The laborer's wages shall not be subject to execution or attachment, except for debts incurred for food, shelter, clothing and medical attendance."
27 Gaa v. Court of Appeals; supra, p. 310.