[G.R. NO. 163360 : June 8, 2007]
HEIRS OF IGMEDIO* MAGLAQUE AND SABINA PAYAWAL, namely DAVID P. MAGLAQUE, MAURO P. MAGLAQUE, JOSE P. MAGLAQUE, and PACITA P. MAGLAQUE, herein duly represented by JORGE A. LAPUZ, relative and Attorney-in-fact, Petitioners, v. HON. COURT OF APPEALS, PLANTERS DEVELOPMENT BANK AND ANGEL BELTRAN AND ESTATE OF ERLINDA C. BELTRAN, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
This is an appeal of the Decision1 dated November 18, 2003 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 73257 and its Resolution2 dated April 23, 2004 on the motion for reconsideration. The appellate court had affirmed the Order3 of the Regional Trial Court of Malolos, Bulacan, Branch 19, which dismissed Civil Case No. 769-M-2000, on the ground of bar by prior judgment in Civil Case No. 1189-B.
Civil Case No. 1189-B, for Revocation of Sale and Reconveyance of Title with Damages with Prayer for Writ of Preliminary Injunction, involves a parcel of land owned by the spouses Igmedio Maglaque and Sabina Payawal. Civil Case No. 769-M-2000, for Recovery of Ownership and Damages with Prayer for Writ of Preliminary Injunction and/or Temporary Restraining Order, was filed after the decision in Civil Case No. 1189-B had attained finality.
Briefly, the facts as culled from the records are as follows:
On March 19, 1974, spouses Igmedio Maglaque and Sabina Payawal mortgaged their property in San Miguel, Bulacan to the private respondent Planters Development Bank.4 The spouses failed to make their payments as stipulated in the contract of mortgage. Hence, the property was foreclosed and sold at public auction. After the lapse of the period of redemption, the bank consolidated ownership over the property and a new Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. T-259923 was issued in its name.
The petitioners filed the first complaint5 docketed as Civil Case No. 1189-B for Revocation of Sale and Reconveyance of Title with Damages with Prayer for Writ of Preliminary Injunction on August 2, 1980. The complaint assailed the validity of the foreclosure sale.
On August 16, 1985, during pre-trial, the parties submitted a joint stipulation of facts as follows:
Thereafter, the parties submitted Civil Case No. 1189-B for decision.
Meanwhile, on September 24, 1980, the bank sold the property to private respondent spouses Angel and Erlinda Beltran.
Subsequently, the trial court upheld the propriety and validity of the foreclosure of mortgage and dismissed Civil Case No. 1189-B for lack of merit and/or insufficiency of evidence.7
On appeal, the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 22489 affirmed the decision of the trial court.8
We reviewed on May 18, 1999 Maglaque v. Planters Development Bank and Spouses Beltran, docketed as CA-G.R. CV No. 22489,9 and we affirmed the Court of Appeals.
Nonetheless, on November 16, 2000 petitioners filed another complaint Civil Case No. 769-M-2000 with the Regional Trial Court of Malolos, Bulacan, Branch 19. This time, the action was for Recovery of Ownership [Accion Reivindicatoria] and Damages with Prayer for Writ of Preliminary Injunction and/or Temporary Restraining Order.10 The trial court dismissed the complaint on the ground of bar by prior judgment.
The trial court's decision was affirmed by the Court of Appeals, and Civil Case No. 769-M-2000 was dismissed as follows,
Hence, the instant petition wherein petitioners raise the following issues in their Memorandum:
Simply put, we are asked to resolve the following issues: (1) Is the present action barred by res judicata? (2) Are petitioners entitled to first refusal? And (3) Did private respondents commit fraud?cralaw library
We will now discuss the issues seriatim.
The four elements of res judicata are: (1) the judgment sought to bar the new action must be final; (2) the decision must have been rendered by a court having jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties; (3) the disposition of the case must be a judgment on the merits; and (4) there must be between the first and second action, identity of parties, subject matter and causes of action.13
The presence of the first two elements is undisputed. The third and fourth elements, i.e. the disposition of the case must be a judgment on the merits, and there must be between the first and second action, identity of parties, subject matter, and causes of action, are now at issue.
Petitioners contend that there was no judgment on the merits. Private respondents counter that there was, as evidenced by the decision of the Supreme Court over the same parties involving the same issues.
We agree with private respondents. A judgment is on the merits when it determines the rights and liabilities of the parties based on the ultimate facts as disclosed by the pleadings or issues presented for trial.14 It is not necessary that there should have been a trial, actual hearing, or arguments on the facts of the case.15 For as long as the parties had full legal opportunity to be heard on their respective claims and contentions, the judgment is on the merits.16 A judgment on the merits is one rendered after a determination of which party is right as distinguished from a judgment rendered upon some preliminary or final or merely technical point.17
In the present case, the order of dismissal in Civil Case No. 1189-B was issued after the lower court had considered the evidence of both parties. Thus, we hold that the order of dismissal in Civil Case No. 1189-B is a judgment on the merits.
With regard to the fourth element, petitioners state that there is no identity of parties and causes of action.
In their Memorandum, they state,
To this private respondents counter that regardless of the inclusion of a nominal party, where the basic rudiments of res judicataare present, the case must be dismissed in accordance with the provision of Section 1 (f),19 Rule 16 of the Revised Rules of Civil Procedure.
We note that only the Registry of Deeds for the Province of Bulacan was added in the enumeration of defendants. In the recent case of Heirs of the Late Faustina Adalid v. Court of Appeals, we held that:
In this case, the Register of Deeds, as a party in the second complaint is of no moment as it is merely a nominal party.21
Is there identity of causes of action?cralaw library
Petitioners state that Civil Case No. 1189-B, Revocation of Sale and Reconveyance of Title with Damages with Prayer for Writ of Preliminary Injunction, was for a revocation of sale, whereas Civil Case No. 769-M-2000, Recovery of Ownership and Damages with Prayer for Writ of Preliminary Injunction and/or Temporary Restraining Order is for accion reivindicatoria, hence, there is no identity of action.
Private respondents contend, however, that in both cases the causes of action are similar which is recovery of ownership. A perusal of the allegations of the second case vis - à-vis the first, shows that in both cases the same reliefs are being prayed for and the issues in the second had been thoroughly ventilated in the first case. Furthermore, the proceedings in the second case, if permitted to continue, would require the production anew of evidence that had been thoroughly weighed and studied by the Regional Trial Court of Malolos, Bulacan, Branch 22, in its Decision in the first case on February 28, 1989.
In several cases, we said that the ultimate test to ascertain identity of action is whether or not the same evidence fully supports and establishes both the present cause of action and the former cause of action.22 Causes of action are identical when there is an identity in the facts essential to the maintenance of the two actions, or where the same evidence will sustain both actions. If the same facts or evidence can sustain either, the two actions are considered the same, so that the judgment in one is a bar to the other.23 Here, we hold there is, patently, identity of causes of action.
A party cannot escape the operation of res judicata by simply varying the form of the action or by adopting a different mode of presenting its case.24 That one case is for revocation of sale and the other for accion reivindicatoria is of no significance. The application of res judicatacannot be subverted merely by a difference in labelling. In fact, res judicatahas been applied to cases far more diverse than the hair-splitting distinctions raised by petitioners concerning the instant case. For instance, a case for rendering an accounting of funds was held to preclude a subsequent case for the partition of the same funds and their fruits; a judgment in an action for recovery of damages for property lost was an effective bar to any other action between the same parties for the recovery of the same property or its value.25 All the more should res judicatabe applied in this instance.
Material facts or questions which were in issue in a former action and were there admitted or judicially determined are conclusively settled by a judgment rendered therein and that such facts or questions become res judicata.26 Here, the resolution of the second complaint hinges on the validity of the foreclosure sale. Ultimately, the ownership of the contested parcel of land will depend on the propriety of the aforementioned sale. Judgment on this issue of validity has already been rendered and accorded finality as shown by the entry of judgment dated August 16, 1999 in Supreme Court case G.R. No. 109472.27
As elucidated in the case of Gallardo-Corro v. Gallardo:
The case of Heirs of the Late Faustina Adalid enunciates the reason for the rule of res judicata:
Indeed, it has been well said that this maxim is more than a mere rule of law, more even than an important principle of public policy, and that it is a fundamental concept in the organization of every jural society, for not only does it ward off endless litigation, it ensures the stability of judgment, and guards against inconsistent decisions on the same set of facts.30
The petitioners must not make a mockery of the law by refiling a case whose issues have been conclusively determined with finality by the high Court. We will not breathe life to issues which have been properly resolved in accordance with law. Otherwise, the Pandora's Box that the doctrine of res judicataseeks to contain will be opened. The evils that the doctrine seeks to prevent would be set loose to wreak havoc on the orderliness and efficiency of our justice system.
Anent the second and third issues that the petitioners have pointed out in their Memorandum on whether or not they are entitled to the right of first refusal and whether or not private respondents are guilty of fraudulent acts prejudicial to the petitioners,31 the parties are bound as to any other admissible matter which might have been offered for that purpose and of all other matters that could have been adjudged in the prior case.32
The case of Cruz v. Court of Appeals is also instructive with regard to the abovementioned issues:
The issues on the right of first refusal and fraud in the sale involve matters essentially connected with the subject matter of litigation; hence, preclusion had set in.
At any rate, aside from being moot and academic, these two issues on whether or not the petitioners are entitled to the right of first refusal and whether or not private respondents are guilty of fraudulent acts prejudicial to the petitioners are questions of fact, hence not subject to the review of this Court.34
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED for lack of merit. The Decision dated November 18, 2003 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 73257 and its Resolution dated April 23, 2004 are AFFIRMED.
Costs against the petitioners.
Carpio, Carpio-Morales, Tinga, JJ., concur.
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