December 2009 - Philippine Supreme Court Decisions/Resolutions
G.R. No. 177486 - Purisimo S. Buyco v. Nelson Baraquia
[G.R. NO. 177486 : December 21, 2009]
PURISIMO BUYCO, Petitioner, v. NELSON BARAQUIA, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
CARPIO MORALES, J.:
Nelson Baraquia (respondent) filed before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Iloilo City a complaint1 against Dominico Buyco and Clemente Buyco (Buycos), for the establishment of a permanent right of way, injunction and damages with preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order, to enjoin the Buycos from closing off a private road within their property which he has been using to go to and from the public highway to access his poultry farm.
The Buycos died during the pendency of the case, and were substituted by Purisimo Buyco (petitioner) and his brother Gonzalo.
Branch 39 of the Iloilo RTC granted respondent's application for preliminary injunction.
By Decision2 of February 14, 2007, the trial court dismissed respondent's complaint for failure to establish the concurrence of the essential requisites for the establishment of an easement of right of way under Articles 649 and 650 of the Civil Code.3 It accordingly lifted the writ of preliminary injunction.
Respondent filed a notice of appeal of the trial court's decision. Petitioner filed too a notice of partial appeal bearing on to the non-award of prayer for damages.
Respondent later filed with the trial court a motion to cite petitioner and his brother Gonzalo in contempt, alleging that they had closed off the subject road, thus violating the writ of preliminary injunction. The trial court, by Resolution of March 13, 2007,4 noting that respondent received on March 5, 2007 his copy of its decision while petitioner received his on February 21, 2007, held that the February 14, 2007 decision had not yet become final and executory, hence, the writ of preliminary injunction remained to be valid, efficacious and obligatory, rendering petitioner's act of closing the road on March 1, 2007 an indirect contempt of court. It thus declared petitioner and his brother in contempt of court.
Petitioner moved for reconsideration of the trial court's March 13, 2007 Resolution, contending that a preliminary injunction, once quashed, ceases to exist, and that he and his brother cannot be held guilty of indirect contempt by mere motion.
By Resolution5 of April 18, 2007, the trial court set aside the March 13, 2007 Resolution and granted petitioner's motion for reconsideration, ruling that petitioner and his brother cannot be held in contempt of court by mere motion and not by verified petition.
On the lifetime of the writ of preliminary injunction, the trial court held that it is its "illumined opinion that the matter of whether a writ of preliminary injunction remains valid until the decision annulling the same attains finality is not firmly entrenched in jurisprudence, contrary to the position of the defendants." It thereupon quoted a portion of the ruling in the 2006 case of Lee v. Court of Appeals,6 to wit:
Furthermore, notwithstanding the stand of both parties, the fact remains that the Decision of the Court of Appeals annulling the grant of preliminary injunction in favor of petitioners has not yet become final on 14 December 2000. In fact, such Decision has not yet become final and executory even on the very date of this Decision, in view of petitioners' appeal with us under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. The preliminary injunction, therefore, issued by the trial court remains valid until the Decision of the Court of Appeals annulling the same attains finality, and violation thereof constitutes indirect contempt which, however, requires either a formal charge or a verified petition.7 (underscoring in the original decision)
Hence, this Petition for Review, raising a question of law - whether the lifting of a writ of preliminary injunction due to the dismissal of the complaint is immediately executory, even if the dismissal of the complaint is pending appeal.
The petition is meritorious.
A writ of preliminary injunction is an order granted at any stage of an action or proceeding prior to the judgment or final order, requiring a party or a court, agency or a person to refrain from a particular act or acts.8 It is merely a provisional remedy, adjunct to the main case subject to the latter's outcome.9 It is not a cause of action in itself.10 Being an ancillary or auxiliary remedy, it is available during the pendency of the action which may be resorted to by a litigant to preserve and protect certain rights and interests therein pending rendition, and for purposes of the ultimate effects, of a final judgment in the case.
The writ is provisional because it constitutes a temporary measure availed of during the pendency of the action and it is ancillary because it is a mere incident in and is dependent upon the result of the main action.11
It is well-settled that the sole object of a preliminary injunction, whether prohibitory or mandatory, is to preserve the status quo until the merits of the case can be heard. It is usually granted when it is made to appear that there is a substantial controversy between the parties and one of them is committing an act or threatening the immediate commission of an act that will cause irreparable injury or destroy the status quo of the controversy before a full hearing can be had on the merits of the case.12
Indubitably, in the case at bar, the writ of preliminary injunction was granted by the lower court upon respondent's showing that he and his poultry business would be injured by the closure of the subject road. After trial, however, the lower court found that respondent was not entitled to the easement of right of way prayed for, having failed to prove the essential requisites for such entitlement, hence, the writ was lifted.???ñr?bl?š