Marilyn B. Montehermoso, et al. vs. Romeo Batuto and Arnel Batuto | G.R. No. 246553, December 2, 2020

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Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 246553 | December 02, 2020

MARILYN B. MONTEHERMOSO, TANNY B. MONTEHERMOSO, EMMA B. MONTEHERMOSO OLIVEROS, EVA B. MONTEHERMOSO, TERESA B. MONTEHERMOSO CARIG, and SALVAR B. MONTEHERMOSO, Petitioners,
vs.
ROMEO BATUTO AND ARNEL BATUTO, Respondents.

R E S O L U T I O N

LAZARO-JAVIER, J.:

Under the doctrine of finality of judgment or immutability of judgment, a decision that has acquired finality becomes immutable and unalterable, and may no longer be modified in any respect, even if the modification is meant to correct erroneous conclusions of fact and law, and whether it be made by the court that rendered it or by the Highest Court of the land. Any act which violates this principle must immediately be struck down.1

Here, the case arose from a complaint for cancellation of title, reconveyance, and damages. Respondents Romeo Batuto and Arnel Batuto claimed that their property, a forty-four thousand four hundred ten-square meter (44,410 sq.m.) piece of land was erroneously included in petitioners’ Marilyn B. Montehermoso, Tanny B. Montehermoso, Emma B. Montehermoso Oliveros, Eva B. Montehermoso, Teresa B. Montehermoso Carig, and Salvar B. Montehermoso OCT No. 5781. By Decision2 dated March 8, 2015, the Regional trial Court (RTC) found merit in respondents’ claim and consequently ordered the reconveyance of the property to them. Petitioners thereafter launched a barrage of court actions all directed to set aside the trial court’s decision, viz.: 

First, Petitioners appealed the trial court’s decision which appeal was dismissed per Court of Appeals’ Resolution dated August 5, 2016. The same became final and executory on September 9, 20163 and the corresponding writ of execution and writ of demolition4 were issued.

Second, Petitioner Tanny Montehermoso alone filed a petition for relief from judgment about a year later, which the Court of Appeals dismissed under Resolution5 dated September 27, 2017. Petitioner Tanny’s motion for reconsideration was also denied by Resolution6 dated April 24, 2018.

Third, Then petitioners sought to reverse the foregoing Resolutions via a petition for review on certiorari filed with the Court which denied the same under Resolution dated August 6, 2018 for failure to show that the Court of Appeals committed reversible error which warranted the Court’s exercise of its discretionary appellate jurisdiction.7

Fourth, But petitioners did not stop there. They again filed, this time, a petition for annulment of judgment before the Court of Appeals, raising as ground the trial court’s alleged lack of jurisdiction over the case. In its assailed Resolution8 dated February 13, 2019, the Court of Appeals dismissed the petition. Petitioners’ motion for reconsideration was likewise denied under Resolution9 dated April 10, 2019.

Finally, Petitioners, once again, are back before the Court via Rule 45, assailing the Court of Appeals’ denial of their petition for annulment of judgment.

Invariably, petitioners, for over five (5) years since the trial court rendered its Decision dated March 8, 2015, have never stopped attacking it before different fora and through different modes of review. This notwithstanding that the assailed decision had long attained finality on September 9, 201610 and had already been implemented.11 As it was, petitioners have stubbornly refused to respect the immutability of this judgment as they keep trifling and playing around the judicial process over and over again. But enough is enough. 

Spouses Aguilar v. The Manila Banking Corporation12 aptly held:

It is an important fundamental principle in the judicial system that every litigation must come to an end. Access to the courts is guaranteed. But there must be a limit thereto. Once a litigant’s rights have been adjudicated in a valid and final judgment of a competent court, he should not be granted an unbridled license to come back for another try. The prevailing party should not be harassed by subsequent suits. For, if endless litigations were to be encouraged, then unscrupulous litigants will multiply to the detriment of the administration of justice.

The Court reminds petitioners’ counsel of the duty of lawyers who, as officers of the court, must see to it that the orderly administration of justice must not be unduly impeded. It is the duty of a counsel to advise his client, ordinarily a layman on the intricacies and vagaries of the law, on the merit or lack of merit of his case. If he finds that his client’s cause is defenseless, then it is his bounden duty to advise the latter to acquiesce and submit, rather than traverse the incontrovertible. A lawyer must resist the whims and caprices of his client, and temper his client’s propensity to litigate. A lawyer’s oath to uphold the cause of justice is superior to his duty to his client; its primacy is indisputable.

There should be a greater awareness on the part of litigants and counsels that the time of the judiciary, much more so of this Court, is too valuable to be wasted or frittered away by efforts, far from commendable, to evade the operation of a decision final and executory, especially so, where, as shown in the present case, the clear and manifest absence of any right calling for vindication, is quite obvious and indisputable.

Verily, by the undue delay in the execution of a final judgment in their favor, respondents have suffered an injustice. The Court views with disfavor the unjustified delay in the enforcement of the final decision and orders in the present case. Once a judgment becomes final and executory, the prevailing party should not be denied the fruits of his victory by some subterfuge devised by the losing party. Unjustified delay in the enforcement of a judgment sets at naught the role of courts in disposing justiciable controversies with finality.

In Central Surety and Insurance Company v. Planters Products, Inc.,13 the Court found that petitioner triggered the series of delays in the execution of the RTC’s final decision by filing numerous motions and appeals in the appellate courts. Petitioner was clearly merely resorting to dilatory maneuvers to skirt its legal obligation to pay respondent the adjudged sum of money. Thus, the Court ordered triple costs against petitioner and warned its counsel of severe disciplinary sanctions for any further attempt to delay the final disposition of the case. 

In Reyes v. Alsons Development and Investment Corporation,14 the Court warned therein petitioner and her counsel that they shall be severely dealt with if they once again attempt to revive the case. In that case, petitioner and her counsel were found to have trifled with the inter-related rules and jurisprudence on forum shopping and res judicata all for the purpose of frustrating the satisfaction of a final judgment. In the process, they unduly taxed the manpower and financial resources not only of the judiciary, but those of the prevailing party, as well.

Here, petitioners, too, should now stop making a mockery of the judicial system through their pernicious attempts to revive the trial court’s long-settled and implemented decision. A violation of this injunction will be sanctioned accordingly.

As for petitioners’ counsel, Atty. Belinda M. Nagui, she is reminded of her primordial duty as an officer of the court who must see to it that the orderly administration of justice must never be unduly impeded. As such, she must resist the whims and caprices of her clients, and temper her clients’ propensities to litigate. Her oath to uphold the cause of justice is superior to her duty to her client; its primacy is indisputable.15

WHEREFORE, the petition for review on certiorari is DENIED and the assailed Resolutions dated February 13, 2019 and April 10, 2019 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 159373, AFFIRMED.

Petitioners as well as their counsel Atty. Belinda M. Nagui or any other counsel who may take over this case are STERNLY WARNED that any further attempt to revive this case in whatever form and before any forum will be severely sanctioned.

SO ORDERED.

(SGD) AMY C. LAZARO-JAVIER
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

ESTELA M. PERLAS-BERNABE
Senior Associate Justice
Chairperson
(On leave)

ALEXANDER G. GESMUNDO
Associate Justice
MARIO V. LOPEZ
Associate Justice 

RICARDO R. ROSARIO
Associate Justice 

ATTESTATION

I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court’s Division.

(SGD) ALEXANDER G. GESMUNDO
Associate Justice
Acting Chairperson, Second Division

CERTIFICATION

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court’s Division.

(SGD) DIOSDADO M. PERALTA
Chief Justice

FOOTNOTES

1 People v. Santiago, G.R. No. 228819, July 24, 2019.

2 Rollo, pp. 64-72. 

3 Id. at 96.

4 Id. at 97-98. 

5 Penned by Associate Justice Marlene B. Gonzales-Sison with concurrence of Associate Justice Ramon A. Cruz and Associate Justice Henri Jean Paul B. lining (now a Member of this Court), id. at 88-90. 

6 Id. at 92-94. 

7 Id at 102. 

8 Penned by Associate Justice Femanda Lampas Peralta and concurred in by Associate Justices Rodil V. Zalameda and Henri Jean Paul B. Inting (now Members of this Court), id at 31-33.

9 Id. at 35-36.

10 Id. at 96. 

11 Id. at 97-98.

12 533 Phil. 645, 669-670 (2006). 

13 546 Phil. 479, 485 (2007).

14 546 Phil. 76, 86 (2007).

15 V.C. Ponce Company, Inc. v. Reyes, 583 Phil. 644, 653 (2008).