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[MAGLANA RICE v. ANNIE L. TAN](http://lawyerly.ph/juris/view/c66e5?user=fbGU2WFpmaitMVEVGZ2lBVW5xZ2RVdz09)
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DIVISION

[ GR No. 159051, Sep 21, 2011 ]

MAGLANA RICE v. ANNIE L. TAN +

DECISION

673 Phil. 532

FIRST DIVISION

[ G.R. No. 159051, September 21, 2011 ]

MAGLANA RICE AND CORN MILL, INC., AND RAMON P. DAO, PETITIONERS, VS. ANNIE L. TAN AND HER HUSBAND MANUEL TAN, RESPONDENTS.

D E C I S I O N

BERSAMIN, J.:

This case originated from the Municipal Trial Courts in Cities of Davao City (MTCC),[1] which adjudged the petitioners liable for the material injury valued at P83,750.00 sustained by the vehicle of the respondents arising from the accident involving their respective vehicles, and for attorney's fees and costs of suit. The Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 14, in Davao City upheld the judgment of the MTCC.[2] On appeal to the Court of Appeals (CA) by petition for review, the CA affirmed the RTC through its decision promulgated on November 29, 2002.[3] Hence, this further appeal via petition for review on certiorari.

Antecedents

The vehicular accident, which involved the Fuso truck owned by petitioner Maglana Rice and Corn Mill, Inc., driven by its employee, petitioner Ramon P. Dao, and the Honda Accord sedan owned by the respondents, driven by respondent Manuel Tan, occurred on August 28, 1996 in the Davao-Agusan Road in Lanang, Davao City. The truck hit the car at its rear. Both vehicles sustained damage. The respondents demanded reimbursement of their expenses for the repair of their car, but the petitioners, denying liability, refused the demand. Consequently, the respondents filed a complaint in the MTCC.

The version of the respondents is that their car was travelling along the Davao-Agusan Road, but had to stop upon reaching the All Trac Compound, as did other vehicles, due to the traffic slowdown caused by an earlier collision between a car and a jeep not far ahead. Dao, who was driving the truck, failed to stop and his truck bumped the car at its rear, causing to the car material damage valued at P83,750.00. Their version was corroborated by the traffic accident report and the court testimony of traffic investigator SPO4 Manuel C. Española (SPO4 Española).

The petitioners gave a different version. A few moments before the accident, Dao was on board the truck at about 6:45 p.m. occupying the inner of the two north-bound lanes on the national highway in Lanang, Davao City, observing an approximate distance of three-cars length from the vehicle ahead at a speed of about 30 kilometers/hour. Upon reaching the All Trac Compound, he spotted an accident involving a car and a jeep ahead of his truck, and immediately shifted to second gear to slow down to about 20 kilometers/hour. The driver of the vehicle ahead of the truck also slowed down. As he decelerated preparatory to coming to a full stop, the respondents' car overtook the truck from the right lane and suddenly cut into his lane at a very unsafe distance. This cutting-in caused the right front portion of the truck to come into contact with the left rear of the respondents' car just when the car was in a diagonal position with about two feet of its rear still on the right lane.

In its decision dated August 14, 2001,[4] the MTCC accorded greater credence to the version of the respondents. It ruled that such version was more plausible and convincing due to its being in accord with the nature of the damage of the car during the collision, among other things; and concluded that the proximate cause of the accident was the lack of foresight and vigilance of Dao. It disposed thus:

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the plaintiffs and against the defendants, Maglana Rice and Corn Mill, Inc. and Ramon Dao, enjoining them to pay jointly and severally the following:

1. The sum of P83,750.00 as the repair expenses of the Honda car which was damaged during the incident, per Job Order No. 64017 of Kar Asia Inc., dated August 29, 1996;

2. The sum of P15,000.00 as reasonable amount for and as attorney's fees; and

3. The costs of suit.

SO ORDERED.[5]

The petitioners appealed, but the RTC upheld the MTCC on December 20, 2001.[6]

Not satisfied, the petitioners further appealed to the CA, which denied their petition for lack of merit, thereby affirming the RTC.[7]

The petitioners' motion for reconsideration proved futile, with the CA denying it.[8]

Hence, this appeal to the Court by petition for review on certiorari, whereby the petitioners reiterate that the fault for the vehicular accident was attributable to the respondents.

Ruling

The appeal deserves outright rejection.

I
Appeal under Rule 45 is limited to
questions of law; exceptions

The issue this appeal poses concerns the real cause of the vehicular accident, that is, whether or not the respondents' car suddenly cut into the lane of the petitioners' truck, and whether or not Dao simply failed to stop on time despite the respondents' car having already come to a full stop due to traffic congestion along the road. The issue is obviously a factual one because it requires the ascertainment of which driver was negligent. As such, the appeal fails, for a petition for review on certiorari, pursuant to Section 1, Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, "shall raise only questions of law, which must be distinctly set forth." A question, to be one of law, must not involve an examination of the probative value of the evidence presented by the litigants or any of them. Indeed, there is a question of law in a given case when the doubt or difference arises as to what the law is on certain state of facts; there is a question of fact when the doubt or difference arises as to the truth or falsehood of alleged facts.[9]

Whether certain items of evidence should be accorded probative value or weight, or should be rejected as feeble or spurious; or whether or not the proofs on one side or the other are clear and convincing and adequate to establish a proposition in issue; whether or not the body of proofs presented by a party, weighed and analyzed in relation to contrary evidence submitted by adverse party, may be said to be strong, clear and convincing; whether or not certain documents presented by one side should be accorded full faith and credit in the face of protests as to their spurious character by the other side;  whether or not inconsistencies in the body of proofs of a party are of such gravity as to justify refusing to give said proofs weight - all these are issues of fact.  Questions like these are not reviewable by the Supreme Court whose review of cases decided by the CA is confined only to questions of law raised in the petition and therein distinctly set forth.[10]

That an appeal by certiorari should raise only questions of law is not properly to be doubted. The limitation exists, because the Supreme Court is not a trier of facts that undertakes the re-examination and re-assessment of the evidence presented by the contending parties during the trial. The appreciation and resolution of factual issues are the functions of the lower courts, whose resulting findings are then received with respect and are binding on the Supreme Court subject to certain exceptions.[11]

Although the Court has recognized several exceptions to the limitation of an appeal by certiorari to only questions of law, including: (a) when the findings are grounded entirely on speculation, surmises or conjectures; (b) when the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible; (c) when there is grave abuse of discretion; (d) when the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts; (e) when the findings of facts are conflicting; (f) when in making its findings the Court of Appeals went beyond the issues of the case, or its findings are contrary to the admissions of both the appellant and the appellee; (g) when the findings are contrary to those of the trial court; (h) when the findings are conclusions without citation of specific evidence on which they are based; (i) when the facts set forth in the petition as well as in the petitioner's main and reply briefs are not disputed by the respondent; (j) when the findings of fact are premised on the supposed absence of evidence and contradicted by the evidence on record; and (k) when the Court of Appeals manifestly overlooked certain relevant facts not disputed by the parties, which, if properly considered, would justify a different conclusion,[12] this appeal does not come under the exceptions.

II
Appeal to the Court is frivolous;
Petitioners are liable for treble costs of suit

In the CA, the petitioners specified the errors committed by the RTC thuswise:

I. THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN NOT HOLDING THAT PLAINTIFF DR. MANUEL TAN VIOLATED TRAFFIC RULES (SEC. 39, RA 4136) AT THE TIME OF THE ACCIDENT AND PURSUANT TO ARTICLE 2185 OF THE CIVIL CODE AND THE RULING OF THE SUPREME COURT (MCKEE VS. IAC, 211 SCRA 517) HE WAS THE ONE NEGLIGENT AT THE TIME OF THE MISHAP.

II. THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN NOT HOLDING THAT MANUEL TAN WAS TRYING TO COVER UP HIS MISDEEDS BECAUSE AT THE TIME OF THE ACCIDENT THE INSURANCE OF HIS WIFE'S CAR ALREADY EXPIRED AND HE WANTED THE INSURANCE OF THE DEFENDANT'S TRUCK [TO] SHOULDER EXPENSES FOR THE DAMAGE.

III. THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN NOT HOLDING THAT THE POLICE REPORT WAS ERRONEOUS AND LOADED IN FAVOR OF THE PLAINTIFFS AS PERCEIVED BY THE PRESIDING JUDGE OF MUNICIPAL TRIAL COURT IN CITIES, BRANCH 2, WHO ORIGINALLY HEARD THIS CASE BUT HE RETIRED BEFORE HE COULD RENDER HIS DECISION ON THIS CASE.

IV. THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN ITS APPRECIATION OF THE EVIDENCE PRESENTED BY BOTH PARTIES, AND COROLLARILY, IT ARRIVED AT A WRONG CONCLUSION.[13]

As stated, the CA rejected the petitioners' submissions.

The rejection by the CA unerringly indicated that three lower courts with the legal capacity and official function to resolve issues of fact, namely, the MTCC, the RTC, and the CA, all found and declared that the police report respecting the accident was unbiased and worthy of belief; that the truck had been travelling behind the respondents' car; and that the accident had occurred because Dao did not stop after the car had come to a full stop despite his having a clear view of the road ahead. They noted that the pictorial evidence revealed no scraping marks or even a dent on the left side of the car, but instead showed a solitary material damage sustained on the left rear portion of car, proof that only one collision had occurred between the two vehicles.[14] They concluded that the version of the respondents was the more credible one.

In this recourse, the petitioners have presented no ground sufficient to persuade the Court to treat their appeal as coming under any of the aforementioned exceptions as to warrant the review of the uniform findings of fact and conclusions made by the MTCC, RTC and CA. After the CA upheld the appellate judgment of the RTC, they should have desisted on their own volition from coming to the Court, seeing that the only issues that they would be raising were plainly factual in nature. They did not desist despite their attorney being surely aware of the limitation to questions of law of any appeal to the Court on account of its not being a trier of facts. Under such circumstances, their appeal was made notwithstanding its being patently frivolous.

A frivolous appeal is one where no error can be brought before the appellate court, or whose result is obvious and the arguments of error are totally bereft of merit, or which is prosecuted in bad faith, or which is contrary to established law and unsupported by a reasoned, colorable argument for change.[15] It is frivolous, too, when it does not present any justiciable question, or is one so readily recognizable as devoid of merit on the face of the record that there is little, if any, prospect that it can succeed.[16] A losing party has no right to prosecute a frivolous appeal, because he and his counsel are not relieved from the obligation to demonstrate persuasively even when appeal is a matter of right the substantial and reversible errors committed during the trial.

Given the frivolousness of the appeal, the Court imposes treble costs of suit on the petitioners. Rule 142 of the Rules of Court provides:

Section 3. Costs when appeal frivolous. ? Where an action or an appeal is found to be frivolous, double or treble costs may be imposed on the plaintiff or appellant, which shall be paid by his attorney, if so ordered by the court.

Corpus Juris Secundum explains the concept of costs of suit thusly:

Costs are certain allowances authorized by statute or court rule to reimburse the successful party for expenses incurred in prosecuting or defending an action or special proceedings. They are in the nature of incidental damages allowed to indemnify a party against the expense of successfully asserting his rights in court. The theory on which they are allowed to a plaintiff is that the default of defendant made it necessary to sue him, and to a defendant, that plaintiff sued him without cause.

xxx

In their origin, costs were given rather as a punishment of the defeated party for causing the litigation than as a recompense to the successful party for the expenses to which he had been subjected.  At the present time, the latter theory generally obtains in the legislation with regard to it; but under some statutes, the law of costs is regarded as penal, the right to recover costs being given to the successful party against the unsuccessful party as a penalty for presenting in court as suit or defense that which is without merit, as where the litigant has pleaded frivolous or false matters.

xxx

Costs are a mere incident to, and are in no sense the subject of, the litigation; and while they are incident to all actions they are nevertheless in their nature a mere incident to the judgment to which they attach, especially in cases relating to motions and orders.

The right to costs, although ancillary to the judgment, is a substantive right and not a mere matter of procedure; although it has been held that costs alone cannot furnish the basis for substantive judgment.[17] [emphasis supplied]

The imposition of treble costs of suit on the petitioners is meant to remind them and their attorney that the extent that an attorney's exercise of his professional responsibility for their benefit as his clients submits to reasonable limits beyond which he ought to go no further, and that his failure to recognize such limits will not be allowed to go unsanctioned by the Court. Thus, the Court has not hesitated to impose treble costs of suit (a) to stress its dislike for "any scheme to prolong litigation" or for "an unwarranted effort to avoid the implementation of a judgment painstakingly arrived at;"[18] (b) to sanction an appeal that was obviously interposed "for the sole purpose of delay;"[19] (c) to disapprove of the party's "lack of good and honest intentions, as well as the evasive manner by which it was able to frustrate (the adverse party's) claim for a decade;"[20] (d) to stifle a party's deplorable propensity to "go to extreme lengths to evade complying with their duties under the law and the orders of this Court" and thereby to cause the case to drag "for far too long with practically no end in sight;"[21] (e) to condemn the counsel's frantic search for "any ground to resuscitate his client's lost cause;"[22] and (f) to reiterate that a litigant, although his right to initiate an action in court is fully respected, is not permitted to initiate similar suits once his case has been adjudicated by a competent court in a valid final judgment, in the hope of securing a favorable ruling "for this will result to endless litigations detrimental to the administration of justice."[23]

WHEREFORE, the Court AFFIRMS the decision of the Court of Appeals, and ORDERS the petitioners to pay treble costs of suit.

SO ORDERED.

Corona, C.J., (Chairperson), Leonardo-De Castro, Del Castillo, and *Perez, JJ., concur.



* Vice Associate Justice Martin S. Villarama, Jr. per Special Order No. 1080 dated September 13, 2011.

[1] CA rollo, pp. 41-49.

[2] Id., pp. 67-75.

[3] Rollo, pp. 29-38; penned by Associate Justice Portia Aliño-Hormachuelos (retired), with Associate Justice Jose L. Sabio, Jr. (retired) and Associate Justice Amelita G. Tolentino concurring.

[4] CA rollo, pp. 41-49; penned by Presiding Judge Antonina B. Escovilla.

[5] Id.

[6] Id., pp. 67-75.

[7] Rollo, pp. 29-38.

[8] Id., pp. 49-50.

[9] II Herrera, Remedial Law, 2000 Edition, p. 648; citing Moran, Comments on the Rules of Court, 1979 Edition.

[10]  Paterno v. Paterno, G.R. No. 63680, March 23, 1990, 183 SCRA 630, 637.

[11]  FNCB Finance v. Estavillo, G.R. No. 93394, December 20, 1990, 192 SCRA 514, 517.

[12] Sampayan v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 156360, January 14, 2005, 448 SCRA 220, 229; The Insular Life Assurance Company, Ltd. v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 126850, April 28, 2004, 428 SCRA 79, 86; Langkaan Realty Development, Inc. v. United Coconut Planters Bank, G.R. No. 139437, December 8, 2000, 347 SCRA 542, 549; Nokom v. National Labor Relations Commission, G.R. No. 140043, July 18, 2000, 336 SCRA 97, 110; Sps. Sta. Maria v. Court of Appeals, 349 Phil. 275, 282-283 (1998).

[13] Rollo, pp. 32-33.

[14] Rollo, pp. 34-35 (CA Decision).

[15] Bersamin, Appeal and Review in the Philippines, Second Edition, p. 105; citing Re & Re, Brief Writing & Oral Argument, Seventh Edition, Oceana Publications, p. 55.

[16] De La Cruz v. Blanco and Quevedo, 73  Phil. 596 (1942).

[17] 20 CJS, Costs, ยง2.

[18] Tumibay v. Soro, G.R. No. 152016, April 13, 2010, 618 SCRA 169, 179.

[19] Equitable Banking Corporation v. Liwanag, G.R. No. L-28335, March 30, 1970, 32 SCRA 293, 297.

[20] Uniwide Holdings, Inc. v. Jandecs Transportation Co., Inc., G.R. No. 168522, December 19, 2007, 541 SCRA 158, 165.

[21] Heirs of Jose Sy Bang v. Sy, G.R. No. 114217, October 13, 2009, 603 SCRA 534,574.

[22] Diaz v. Republic, G.R. No. 181502, February 2, 2010, 611 SCRA 403, 427.

[23] Knecht  v. United Cigarette Corp., G.R. No 139370, July 4, 2002, 384 SCRA 45, 59.

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