Republic of the Philippines
G.R. No. 191336 January 25, 2012
CRISANTA ALCARAZ MIGUEL, Petitioner,
JERRY D. MONTANEZ, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
Before this Court is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. Petitioner Crisanta Alcaraz Miguel (Miguel) seeks the reversal and setting aside of the September 17, 2009 Decision1 and February 11, 2010 Resolution2 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 100544, entitled "Jerry D. Montanez v. Crisanta Alcaraz Miguel."
On February 1, 2001, respondent Jerry Montanez (Montanez) secured a loan of One Hundred Forty-Three Thousand Eight Hundred Sixty-Four Pesos (₱143,864.00), payable in one (1) year, or until February 1, 2002, from the petitioner. The respondent gave as collateral therefor his house and lot located at Block 39 Lot 39 Phase 3, Palmera Spring, Bagumbong, Caloocan City.
Due to the respondentís failure to pay the loan, the petitioner filed a complaint against the respondent before the Lupong Tagapamayapa of Barangay San Jose, Rodriguez, Rizal. The parties entered into a Kasunduang Pag-aayos wherein the respondent agreed to pay his loan in installments in the amount of Two Thousand Pesos (₱2,000.00) per month, and in the event the house and lot given as collateral is sold, the respondent would settle the balance of the loan in full. However, the respondent still failed to pay, and on December 13, 2004, the Lupong Tagapamayapa issued a certification to file action in court in favor of the petitioner.
On April 7, 2005, the petitioner filed before the Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) of Makati City, Branch 66, a complaint for Collection of Sum of Money. In his Answer with Counterclaim,3 the respondent raised the defense of improper venue considering that the petitioner was a resident of Bagumbong, Caloocan City while he lived in San Mateo, Rizal.
After trial, on August 16, 2006, the MeTC rendered a Decision,4 which disposes as follows:
WHEREFORE, premises considered[,] judgment is hereby rendered ordering defendant Jerry D. Montanez to pay plaintiff the following:
1. The amount of [Php147,893.00] representing the obligation with legal rate of interest from February 1, 2002 which was the date of the loan maturity until the account is fully paid;
2. The amount of Php10,000.00 as and by way of attorneyís fees; and the costs.
SO ORDERED. 5
On appeal to the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Makati City, Branch 146, the respondent raised the same issues cited in his Answer. In its March 14, 2007 Decision,6 the RTC affirmed the MeTC Decision, disposing as follows:
WHEREFORE, finding no cogent reason to disturb the findings of the court a quo, the appeal is hereby DISMISSED, and the DECISION appealed from is hereby AFFIRMED in its entirety for being in accordance with law and evidence.
Dissatisfied, the respondent appealed to the CA raising two issues, namely, (1) whether or not venue was improperly laid, and (2) whether or not the Kasunduang Pag-aayos effectively novated the loan agreement. On September 17, 2009, the CA rendered the assailed Decision, disposing as follows:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is hereby GRANTED. The appealed Decision dated March 14, 2007 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Makati City, Branch 146, is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. A new judgment is entered dismissing respondentís complaint for collection of sum of money, without prejudice to her right to file the necessary action to enforce the Kasunduang Pag-aayos.
Anent the issue of whether or not there is novation of the loan contract, the CA ruled in the negative. It ratiocinated as follows:
Judging from the terms of the Kasunduang Pag-aayos, it is clear that no novation of the old obligation has taken place.1‚wphi1 Contrary to petitionerís assertion, there was no reduction of the term or period originally stipulated. The original period in the first agreement is one (1) year to be counted from February 1, 2001, or until January 31, 2002. When the complaint was filed before the barangay on February 2003, the period of the original agreement had long expired without compliance on the part of petitioner. Hence, there was nothing to reduce or extend. There was only a change in the terms of payment which is not incompatible with the old agreement. In other words, the Kasunduang Pag-aayos merely supplemented the old agreement.9
The CA went on saying that since the parties entered into a Kasunduang Pag-aayos before the Lupon ng Barangay, such settlement has the force and effect of a court judgment, which may be enforced by execution within six (6) months from the date of settlement by the Lupon ng Barangay, or by court action after the lapse of such time.10 Considering that more than six (6) months had elapsed from the date of settlement, the CA ruled that the remedy of the petitioner was to file an action for the execution of the Kasunduang Pag-aayos in court and not for collection of sum of money.11 Consequently, the CA deemed it unnecessary to resolve the issue on venue.12
The petitioner now comes to this Court.
(1) Whether or not a complaint for sum of money is the proper remedy for the petitioner, notwithstanding the Kasunduang Pag-aayos;13 and
(2) Whether or not the CA should have decided the case on the merits rather than remand the case for the enforcement of the Kasunduang Pag-aayos.14
Because the respondent failed to comply with the terms of the Kasunduang Pag-aayos, said agreement is deemed rescinded pursuant to Article 2041 of the New Civil Code and the petitioner can insist on his original demand. Perforce, the complaint for collection of sum of money is the proper remedy.
The petitioner contends that the CA erred in ruling that she should have followed the procedure for enforcement of the amicable settlement as provided in the Revised Katarungang Pambarangay Law, instead of filing a collection case. The petitioner points out that the cause of action did not arise from the Kasunduang Pag-aayos but on the respondentís breach of the original loan agreement.15
This Court agrees with the petitioner.
It is true that an amicable settlement reached at the barangay conciliation proceedings, like the Kasunduang Pag-aayos in this case, is binding between the contracting parties and, upon its perfection, is immediately executory insofar as it is not contrary to law, good morals, good customs, public order and public policy.16 This is in accord with the broad precept of Article 2037 of the Civil Code, viz:
A compromise has upon the parties the effect and authority of res judicata; but there shall be no execution except in compliance with a judicial compromise.
Being a by-product of mutual concessions and good faith of the parties, an amicable settlement has the force and effect of res judicata even if not judicially approved.17 It transcends being a mere contract binding only upon the parties thereto, and is akin to a judgment that is subject to execution in accordance with the Rules.18 Thus, under Section 417 of the Local Government Code,19 such amicable settlement or arbitration award may be enforced by execution by the Barangay Lupon within six (6) months from the date of settlement, or by filing an action to enforce such settlement in the appropriate city or municipal court, if beyond the six-month period.
Under the first remedy, the proceedings are covered by the Local Government Code and the Katarungang Pambarangay Implementing Rules and Regulations. The Punong Barangay is called upon during the hearing to determine solely the fact of non-compliance of the terms of the settlement and to give the defaulting party another chance at voluntarily complying with his obligation under the settlement. Under the second remedy, the proceedings are governed by the Rules of Court, as amended. The cause of action is the amicable settlement itself, which, by operation of law, has the force and effect of a final judgment.20
It must be emphasized, however, that enforcement by execution of the amicable settlement, either under the first or the second remedy, is only applicable if the contracting parties have not repudiated such settlement within ten (10) days from the date thereof in accordance with Section 416 of the Local Government Code. If the amicable settlement is repudiated by one party, either expressly or impliedly, the other party has two options, namely, to enforce the compromise in accordance with the Local Government Code or Rules of Court as the case may be, or to consider it rescinded and insist upon his original demand. This is in accord with Article 2041 of the Civil Code, which qualifies the broad application of Article 2037, viz:
If one of the parties fails or refuses to abide by the compromise, the other party may either enforce the compromise or regard it as rescinded and insist upon his original demand.
In the case of Leonor v. Sycip,21 the Supreme Court (SC) had the occasion to explain this provision of law. It ruled that Article 2041 does not require an action for rescission, and the aggrieved party, by the breach of compromise agreement, may just consider it already rescinded, to wit:
It is worthy of notice, in this connection, that, unlike Article 2039 of the same Code, which speaks of "a cause of annulment or rescission of the compromise" and provides that "the compromise may be annulled or rescinded" for the cause therein specified, thus suggesting an action for annulment or rescission, said Article 2041 confers upon the party concerned, not a "cause" for rescission, or the right to "demand" the rescission of a compromise, but the authority, not only to "regard it as rescinded", but, also, to "insist upon his original demand". The language of this Article 2041, particularly when contrasted with that of Article 2039, denotes that no action for rescission is required in said Article 2041, and that the party aggrieved by the breach of a compromise agreement may, if he chooses, bring the suit contemplated or involved in his original demand, as if there had never been any compromise agreement, without bringing an action for rescission thereof. He need not seek a judicial declaration of rescission, for he may "regard" the compromise agreement already "rescinded".22 (emphasis supplied)
As so well stated in the case of Chavez v. Court of Appeals,23 a party's non-compliance with the amicable settlement paved the way for the application of Article 2041 under which the other party may either enforce the compromise, following the procedure laid out in the Revised Katarungang Pambarangay Law, or consider it as rescinded and insist upon his original demand. To quote:
In the case at bar, the Revised Katarungang Pambarangay Law provides for a two-tiered mode of enforcement of an amicable settlement, to wit: (a) by execution by the Punong Barangay which is quasi-judicial and summary in nature on mere motion of the party entitled thereto; and (b) an action in regular form, which remedy is judicial. However, the mode of enforcement does not rule out the right of rescission under Art. 2041 of the Civil Code. The availability of the right of rescission is apparent from the wording of Sec. 417 itself which provides that the amicable settlement "may" be enforced by execution by the lupon within six (6) months from its date or by action in the appropriate city or municipal court, if beyond that period. The use of the word "may" clearly makes the procedure provided in the Revised Katarungang Pambarangay Law directory or merely optional in nature.
Thus, although the "Kasunduan" executed by petitioner and respondent before the Office of the Barangay Captain had the force and effect of a final judgment of a court, petitioner's non-compliance paved the way for the application of Art. 2041 under which respondent may either enforce the compromise, following the procedure laid out in the Revised Katarungang Pambarangay Law, or regard it as rescinded and insist upon his original demand. Respondent chose the latter option when he instituted Civil Case No. 5139-V-97 for recovery of unrealized profits and reimbursement of advance rentals, moral and exemplary damages, and attorney's fees. Respondent was not limited to claiming ₱150,000.00 because although he agreed to the amount in the "Kasunduan," it is axiomatic that a compromise settlement is not an admission of liability but merely a recognition that there is a dispute and an impending litigation which the parties hope to prevent by making reciprocal concessions, adjusting their respective positions in the hope of gaining balanced by the danger of losing. Under the "Kasunduan," respondent was only required to execute a waiver of all possible claims arising from the lease contract if petitioner fully complies with his obligations thereunder. It is undisputed that herein petitioner did not.24 (emphasis supplied and citations omitted)
In the instant case, the respondent did not comply with the terms and conditions of the Kasunduang Pag-aayos. Such non-compliance may be construed as repudiation because it denotes that the respondent did not intend to be bound by the terms thereof, thereby negating the very purpose for which it was executed. Perforce, the petitioner has the option either to enforce the Kasunduang Pag-aayos, or to regard it as rescinded and insist upon his original demand, in accordance with the provision of Article 2041 of the Civil Code. Having instituted an action for collection of sum of money, the petitioner obviously chose to rescind the Kasunduang Pag-aayos. As such, it is error on the part of the CA to rule that enforcement by execution of said agreement is the appropriate remedy under the circumstances.
Considering that the Kasunduang Pag-aayos is deemed rescinded by the non-compliance of the respondent of the terms thereof, remanding the case to the trial court for the enforcement of said agreement is clearly unwarranted.
The petitioner avers that the CA erred in remanding the case to the trial court for the enforcement of the Kasunduang Pag-aayos as it prolonged the process, "thereby putting off the case in an indefinite pendency."25 Thus, the petitioner insists that she should be allowed to ventilate her rights before this Court and not to repeat the same proceedings just to comply with the enforcement of the Kasunduang Pag-aayos, in order to finally enforce her right to payment.26
The CA took off on the wrong premise that enforcement of the Kasunduang Pag-aayos is the proper remedy, and therefore erred in its conclusion that the case should be remanded to the trial court. The fact that the petitioner opted to rescind the Kasunduang Pag-aayos means that she is insisting upon the undertaking of the respondent under the original loan contract. Thus, the CA should have decided the case on the merits, as an appeal before it, and not prolong the determination of the issues by remanding it to the trial court. Pertinently, evidence abounds that the respondent has failed to comply with his loan obligation. In fact, the Kasunduang Pag-aayos is the well nigh incontrovertible proof of the respondentís indebtedness with the petitioner as it was executed precisely to give the respondent a second chance to make good on his undertaking. And since the respondent still reneged in paying his indebtedness, justice demands that he must be held answerable therefor.
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The assailed decision of the Court of Appeals is SET ASIDE and the Decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 146, Makati City, dated March 14, 2007 is REINSTATED.
BIENVENIDO L. REYES
ANTONIO T. CARPIO
|JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ
|MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO
ESTELA M. PERLAS-BERNABE*
A T T E S T A T I O N
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 Courtís Division.
ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Chairperson, Second Division
C E R T I F I C A T I O N
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the Division Chairperson's Attestation, 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 Courtís Division.
RENATO C. CORONA
* Additional Member in lieu of Associate Justice Arturo D. Brion per Special Order No. 1174 dated January 9, 2012.
1 Penned by Associate Justice Rosalinda Asuncion-Vicente, with Associate Justices Normandie B. Pizarro and Ricardo R. Rosario, concurring; rollo, pp. 37-45.
2 Id. at 34-35.
3 Id. at 63-69.
4 Id. at 70-74.
5 Id. at 73.
6 Id. at 75-77.
7 Id. at 77.
8 Id. at 45.
9 Id. at 41.
10 Id. at 42.
11 Id. at 43.
12 Id. at 44.
13 Id. at 13.
14 Id. at 14.
15 Id. at 20.
16 New Civil Code, Article 1306.
17 Republic v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No.108292, September 10, 1993,, 226 SCRA 314; 468 Phil 1000 (2004).
18 Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) v. ALA Industries Corporation, G.R. No. 147349, February 13, 2004, 422 SCRA 603, 611.
19 R.A. No. 7160, Book III, Title One, Chapter VII, Section, 417. Execution. ó The amicable settlement or arbitration award may be enforced by execution by the [L]upon within six (6) months from the date of the settlement. After the lapse of such time, the settlement may be enforced by action in the proper city or municipal court.
20 Vidal v. Escueta, 463 Phil 314 (2003).
21 111 Phil 859 (1961).
22 Id. at 865.
23 493 Phil 945 (2005).
24 Id. at 954-955.
25 Rollo, p. 26.
26 Id. at 27.
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