January 2006 - Philippine Supreme Court Decisions/Resolutions
G.R. No. 167968 - VICENTE FLORENTINO v. MARIANO RIVERA, ET AL.
[G.R. NO. 167968 - January 23, 2006]
VICENTE FLORENTINO, Petitioner, v. MARIANO, CYNTHIA, ADELFA, all surnamed RIVERA and TEOFILA, MAXIMO, CIRIACO, NORBERTO, FELICIANO, JUAN GENEROSO, ANGEL, NOLASCO and MARCOSA, all surnamed MENDOZA, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
This Petition for Review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court assails the February 10, 2005 Decision1 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 62080 as well as its April 26, 2005 Resolution2 denying the motion for reconsideration.
The issue for resolution is whether the Court of Appeals overstepped the bounds of judicial discretion in reversing the orders of the trial court which substantially amended the dispositive portion of its final and executory judgment by reducing the damages awarded to respondents.
The facts3 as found by the appellate court are not disputed:
The petition stemmed from a complaint filed before the RTC by Mariano, Cynthia and Adelfa, all surnamed Rivera (hereinafter Riveras) against Vicente Florentino (hereinafter private respondent) and the latter as third-party plaintiff against Teofila Mendoza, et al., as third-party defendants (hereinafter Mendozas), for rescission, annulment, redemption, reconveyance and damages, docketed as Civil Case No. 5761-M.
On October 20, 1986, the RTC rendered a decision, the dispositive portion of which reads:
PREMISES CONSIDERED, judgment is hereby rendered for the plaintiffs Riveras and third parties defendants Mendozas and adversely to the defendant and third-party plaintiff Florentino
(aa) declaring the lease contract (Exh. 'G' also marked Exh. '2' ) terminated;
(bb) ordering the defendant Florentino to turn over the possession of the leased premises to the Riveras, with Florentino being permitted to take all removable improvements at his expense in accordance with the lease contract;
(cc) ordering Florentino to pay the Riveras annual lease rental of P500.00 for the year 1982 up to the time possession had been delivered to the Riveras and to compensate in cash or in kind the Riveras' claim for damage for unrealized annual harvest of 100 cavans from 1978 up to the present;
(dd) ordering further Florentino to pay the Riveras and the Mendozas attorney's fees in the amount of P20,000.00;
(ee) dismissing for lack of merit the counterclaims in the original complaint and the third-party complaint of Florentino.
Aggrieved, private respondent appealed the foregoing decision to the Court of Appeals (CA), docketed as CA-G.R. CV No. 15784, which affirmed the same in a decision dated March 29, 1996. Undaunted, private respondent filed a Petition for Review on Certiorari before the Supreme Court (SC), docketed as G.R. No. 140927, which the latter denied in its Resolution dated February 9, 2000. Per entry of judgment5 issued by the Supreme Court, the said Resolution became final and executory on June 1, 2000 and was recorded in the Book of Entries of Judgment[s].
Consequently, petitioners filed before the RTC a Motion for Execution6 of its decision dated October 20, 1986 which the latter granted on August 14, 2000.7 Dissatisfied, the private respondent moved for a reconsideration8 on the ground that the decision sought to be enforced is vague and contrary to the pronouncement made by the CA in the body of its decision that the petitioners were deprived of only an area of 1,650 square meters or an annual harvest of 16.5 cavans.
On September 13, 2000, the RTC granted the said motion, the decretal portion of which reads:
"All told, going by the explanation enunciated by the Court of Appeals, which this Court must pay obeisance to, paragraph (cc) of the decision rendered by this Court on October 20, 1986 is hereby CLARIFIED to such extent that the quantity of the damages which defendant Florentino must pay the Riveras for unrealized annual harvest is 16.5 (instead of 100) cavans from 1978 onwards.
Petitioners' motion for reconsideration of the afore-quoted order was denied in the Order dated October 31, 2000.
On appeal, the appellate court reversed the trial court's ruling thus:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant petition is GRANTED.The assailed Orders dated September 13, 2000 and October 31, 2000 of the Regional Trial Court of Malolos, Branch 9, are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The RTC is ordered to enforce its Decision dated October 20, 1986 in accordance with its terms and conditions.
The Court of Appeals found that the trial court gravely abused its discretion in modifying the dispositive portion of a final and executory judgment, since the modification substantially reduced the amount of damages awarded to herein respondents, i.e., from 100 cavans to only 16.5 cavans of palay, annually.
A motion for reconsideration was subsequently denied by the Court of Appeals in a Resolution dated April 26, 2005.11
Dissatisfied, petitioner filed the instant petition insisting that the challenged judgment and resolution of the appellate tribunal is not in accordance with law or applicable decisions of the Court because there existed an ambiguity in the dispositive portion of the trial court's decision and the text of the appellate court's judgment. According to petitioner, the orders of the trial court "merely clarified and quantified" the decision sought to be executed.
Considering that the crux of the controversy centers on a perceived vagueness in the fallo of the trial court's decision, it is necessary to restate the guidelines on the contents of a proper dispositive portion enunciated in Velarde v. Social JusticeSociety,12 viz:
In a civil case as well as in a special civil action, the disposition should state whether the complaint or petition is granted or denied, the specific relief granted, and the costs. The following test of completeness may be applied. First, the parties should know their rights and obligations. Second, they should know how to execute the decision under alternative contingencies. Third, there should be no need for further proceedings to dispose of the issues. Fourth, the case should be terminated by according the proper relief. The "proper relief" usually depends upon what the parties seek in their pleadings. It may declare their rights and duties, command the performance of positive prestations, or order them to abstain from specific acts. The disposition must also adjudicate costs.
In sum, petitioner argues that in substantially reducing the amount of damages, by way of unrealized income, from 100 cavans to 16.5 cavans of palay annually, the trial court was merely 'clarifying' an ambiguity between the appellate tribunal's pronouncements in the body of its decision in CA-G.R. CV No. 15784 which states that -
While it may be true that the only portion of the adjacent riceland that was affected by the waste water coming from the piggery is only 150 square meters, it must be noted, however, that this 150 square meters was counted from the peripheral fence of the piggery and poultry farm which is occupying 5,000 square meters of prime agricultural land. In the final analysis, the Mendozas, and later the Riveras, were deprived of an opportunity to cultivate 1,500 square meters of "encroached" land plus 150 square meters of land contaminated with decaying piggery sludge.13
and paragraph (cc) of the dispositive portion of the trial court's judgment which, among others, dictates that it is'
(cc) ordering Florentino to pay the Riveras annual lease rental of P500.00 for the year 1982 up to the time possession had been delivered to the Riveras and to compensate in cash or in kind the Riveras' claim for damage for unrealized annual harvest of 100 cavans from 1978 up to the present.14
It bears stressing that a decision that has acquired finality, as in this case, becomes immutable and unalterable.15 A final judgment may no longer be modified in any respect, even if the modification is meant to correct erroneous conclusions of fact or law.16 In short, once a judgment becomes final and executory, it can no longer be disturbed no matter how erroneous it may be17 and nothing further can be done therewith except to execute it.18
It is settled rule that "the operative part in every decision is the dispositive portion or the fallo, and where there is conflict between the fallo and the body of the decision, the fallo controls. This rule rests on the theory that the fallo is the final order while the opinion in the body is merely a statement, ordering nothing."19 We expounded on the underlying reason behind this rule in Republic v. Nolasco20 where, reiterating the earlier pronouncements made in Contreras v. Felix,21 we said:
More to the point is another well-recognized doctrine, that the final judgment of the court as rendered in the judgment of the court irrespective of all seemingly contrary statements in the decision. "A judgment must be distinguished from an opinion. The latter is the informal expression of the views of the court and cannot prevail against its final order or decision. While the two may be combined in one instrument, the opinion forms no part of the judgment. So, ... there is a distinction between the findings and conclusions of a court and its Judgment. While they may constitute its decision and amount to the rendition of a judgment, they are not the judgment itself. They amount to nothing more than an order for judgment, which must, of course, be distinguished from the judgment." (1 Freeman on Judgments, p. 6). At the root of the doctrine that the premises must yield to the conclusion is perhaps, side by side with the needs of writing finis to litigations, the recognition of the truth that "the trained intuition of the judge continually leads him to right results for which he is puzzled to give unimpeachable legal reasons." "It is an everyday experience of those who study judicial decisions that the results are usually sound, whether the reasoning from which the results purport to flow is sound or not." (The Theory of Judicial Decision, Pound, 36 Harv. Law Review, pp. 9, 51). It is not infrequent that the grounds of a decision fail to reflect the exact views of the court, especially those of concurring justices in a collegiate court. We often encounter in judicial decisions, lapses, findings, loose statements and generalities which do not bear on the issues or are apparently opposed to the otherwise sound and considered result reached by the court as expressed in the dispositive part, so called, of the decision.
Succinctly stated, "where there is a conflict between the dispositive portion of the decision and the body thereof, the dispositive portion controls irrespective of what appears in the body of the decision."22 While the body of the decision, order or resolution might create some ambiguity in the manner the court's reasoning preponderates, it is the dispositive portion thereof that finally invests rights upon the parties, sets conditions for the exercise of those rights, and imposes the corresponding duties or obligations.23
More emphatically, Light Rail Transit Authority v. Court of Appeals24 declares that "it is the dispositive part of the judgment that actually settles and declares the rights and obligations of the parties, finally, definitively, and authoritatively, notwithstanding the existence of inconsistent statements in the body that may tend to confuse." In this regard, it must be borne in mind "that execution must conform to that ordained or decreed in the dispositive part of the decision; consequently, where the order of execution is not in harmony with and exceeds the judgment which gives it life, the order has pro-tanto no validity."25
It bears noting that in the foregoing cases cited, the perceived inconsistencies referred to alleged ambiguities found in the body of the same judgments. It is worse in this case because what the trial court did was to amend paragraph (cc) of the dispositive portion of its final and executory October 20, 1986 verdict in order that the same would conform to the disquisitions contained in the body of the appellate court's judgment which had affirmed in full in the decretal portion of the decision dated March 29, 1996 in CA-G.R. CV No. 15784, the lower court's ruling. Suffice it to state that this is anathema to the above-mentioned rules. Hence, the Court of Appeals could not be faulted for setting aside the trial court's assailed orders of September 13, 2000 and October 31, 2000 and ordering said court "to enforce its Decision dated October 20, 1986 in accordance with its terms and conditions."26
It has not escaped our attention that this is the second time this case has reached us. As pointed out by the Court of Appeals in its March 29, 1996 in CA-G.R. CV No. 15784 Decision, the case at that time had already "been dragging for almost two decades."27 What should have been a simple implementation of an October 20, 1986 judgment in 2000 was delayed by the filing of a motion for reconsideration questioning the computation of damages which petitioner insists should be 16.5 instead of 100 cavans each year. This issue had already been long settled with the issuance of the April 12, 2000 Resolution28 in G.R. No. 140927 denying with finality petitioner's motion for reconsideration.
It is to the interest of the public that there should be an end to litigation by the parties over a subject fully and fairly adjudicated. The doctrine of res judicatais a rule which pervades every well-regulated system of jurisprudence and is founded upon two grounds embodied in various maxims of the common law, namely: (1) public policy and necessity, which makes it to the interest of the State that there should be an end to litigation - republicae ut sit litium, and (2) the hardship on the individual that he should be vexed twice for the same cause - nemo debet bis vexari et eadem causa. A contrary doctrine would subject the public peace and quiet to the will and neglect of individuals and prefer the gratification of the litigious disposition on the part of suitors to the preservation of the public tranquility and happiness.29
It is almost trite to say that execution is the fruit and end of the suit and is the life of the law. A judgment, if left unexecuted, would be nothing but an empty victory for the prevailing party.30 Litigation must end sometime and somewhere. An effective and efficient administration of justice requires that once a judgment has become final, the winning party be not deprived of the fruits of the verdict. Courts must, therefore, guard against any scheme calculated to bring about that result. Constituted as they are to put an end to controversies, courts should frown upon any attempt to prolong them.31
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The February 10, 2005 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 62080, and its April 26, 2005 Resolution, are AFFIRMED.
1 Rollo, pp. 26-32. Penned by Associate Justice Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe and concurred in by Associate Justices Mariano C. Del Castillo and Hakim S. Abdulwahid.
2 Id. at 33.
3 Id. at 27-28.
4 See also CA rollo, pp. 53-54. Penned by Judge Jesus R. De Vega.
5 Id. at 84.
6 Id. at 82.
7 Id. at 87. Penned by Judge D. Roy Masadao, Jr.
8 Id. at 88-91.
9 Id. at 34.
10 Rollo, p. 31.
11 Id. at 33.
12 G.R. No. 159357, April 28, 2004, 428 SCRA 283, 313.
13 CA rollo, p. 18.
14 Id. at 53-54.
15 Philippine Veterans Bank v. Estrella, 453 Phil. 45, 51 (2003).
16 Ramos v. Ramos, 447 Phil. 114, 119 (2003).
17 Natalia Realty, Inc. v. Rivera, G.R. No. 164914, October 5, 2005.
18 King Integrated Security Services, Inc. v. Gatan, 453 Phil. 293, 296 (2003).
19 Mendoza, Jr. v. San Miguel Foods, Inc., G.R. No. 158684, May 16, 2005, 458 SCRA 664, 676-677.
20 G.R. No. 155108, April 27, 2005, 457 SCRA 400, 427-428.
21 78 Phil. 570, 577-578 (1947).
22 Olac v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 84256, September 2, 1992, 213 SCRA 321, 328.
23 Globe Telecom, Inc. v. Florendo-Flores, 438 Phil. 756, 765 (2002).
24 G.R. NOS. 139275-76 & 140949, November 25, 2004, 444 SCRA 125, 136.
25 Jose Clavano, Inc. v. Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board, 428 Phil. 208, 223 (2002).
26 Rollo, p. 31.
27 CA rollo, p. 19.
28 Id. at 56.
29 Heirs of the Late Faustina Adalid v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 122202, May 26, 2005, 459 SCRA 27, 41.
30 Garcia v. Yared, 447 Phil. 444, 453 (2003).
31 Ho v. Lacsa, G.R. No. 142664, October 5, 2005.