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[ GR Nos. L-9322-23, Jan 30, 1956 ]



98 Phil. 244

[ G.R. Nos. L-9322-23, January 30, 1956 ]




The present appeal concerns a  review of an order entered by the Court of First Instance of Cavite on June 12, 1953 which dismisses the complaint in  Civil Case No.  5113 instituted to obtain from  the court a declaratory relief on certain  matters pleaded therein while  it grants the plea prayed for in Civil  Case  No. 4606 of the same court for withdrawal of Original Certificate of Title No. 114 in order that the Register of Deeds may effect the registration of the document of consolidation  of ownership and issuance of the necessary title in favor of the winning party. Another order appealed from is that of August 26, 1953, but, being  merely corollary, discussion thereof is deemed unnecessary.

For a clear  understanding  of the issues raised  herein, it is necessary to make a brief statement  of the factual background and the different steps taken by the parties leading  to the issuance of the order subject of the present review.

On April 10,  1948, appellant  instituted in the Court of First Instance of Cavite  an action for the  annulment of a certain contract of sale with pacto de retro  (Civil Case No. 4606).  On May 11,  1949,  the trial court rendered a decision  declaring the contract valid and absolving appellee of.the complaint.  After  a motion to set aside judgment and a motion for new trial filed by appellant were denied by  the trial  court, appellant  brought the case on appeal to the Supreme  Court.   On July 23,  1951, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision appealed from particularly with regard to the  validity of the contract which is disputed by  appellant.   After the  two motions for reconsideration , filed by  appellant were denied,  the, decision  became final and executory and the record was returned to the court of origin; but,  on November  8, 1951, appellant initiated the present case for declaratory relief.  Considering that this action is purposeless because, while outwardly ita aim is to seek a declaratory relief on certain matters  but in effect its purpose is to nullify the judgment rendered in the previous ease (Civil Case No.  4606)  which was affirmed by the Supreme Court (G. R. No. L-3278), appellee filed a motion to dismiss on the ground that the case states no cause of  action.  In the meantime, appellee moved to withdraw the original of Title No. 114 which was presented in the case as evidence in  order that his ownership may be consolidated and a  new title  issued  in his name it appearing that that case has been finally terminated (Civil Case No. 4606).  The trial court, acting on the two motions, entered  an  order on June  12,  1953 granting  the motion to dismiss  and allowing the withdrawal  of  the original title as already adverted to in the early, part of this decision.

The case was originally taken to the Court of Appeals wherein appellant  assigned nine errors aa allegedly committed by the trial court but, after a cursory  reading of the errors assigned, that court certified the case to us  on the ground that the questions to be resolved  are  purely of law.

The purpose of the case which gave rise to the present appeal is avowedly for  declaratory relief instituted under Section 1, Rule 66 of the Rules of Court which provides that  "Any person  interested under a deed, will, contract or other written instrument, or whose rights are affected by a statute or ordinance, may bring  an action to determine any question of construction or validity arising under the instrument or statute and for a declaration of his rights or duties thereunder."   And, it is claimed, this case comes under its purview because its purpose is to obtain a clarification of the decision of this Court in G. R.  No. L-3278 which in the opinion of appellant, is vague and susceptible of double interpretation.  Appellant  contends that  the words  "other  written instrument" should be  interpreted as including a court  decision regardless of whether it  is final, in character or  otherwise.

We do not subscribe to the foregoing view.   Evidently, a court decision cannot be interpreted  as included within the purview of the words "other  written instrument",  as contended by  appellant; for the  simple  reason that the Rules of Court already provide for the ways by which an ambiguous or  doubtful decision may be corrected or clarified without need of resorting to the expedient prescribed by Rule 66.  Thus, if a party is not agreeable to a decision either  on questions  of law, or of fact, he may me with the trial  court  a motion for reconsideration  or  a  new trial in order  that the defect may be corrected  (Section 1, Rule 37).  The  same remedy may be pursued by a party with regard to a decision of the  Court of Appeals or  of the Supreme Court (section 1, Rule 54, section  1, Rule 55, in connection with section 1,  Rule  58).  A party may even seek relief from a judgment or order of an inferior court on  the ground  of fraud,  accident,  mistake or excusable negligence if  he avails of that remedy within the terms, prescribed by section ,1,  Rule 88.  Apparently, appellant has already availed  of some of  these  legal remedies but that he  was  denied  relief because  his claim  was  found unmeritorious.

But the fundamental  reason why the decision  of  this Court  in the original case (G. R. No.  L-3278)  cannot  be the subject of declaratory relief is  predicated upon the principle of res judicata  which stamps the mark of .finality on  a case which has been fully and  definitely litigated1 in court. This prnciple is sound.  It  avoids multiplicity  of actions. It commands that  once a case is  definitely litigated  it should not  be reopened.  Thus, it has been  held that "The foundation principle upon which the doctrine of res judicata rests is  that parties ought  not to be permitted to litigate the same  issue more  than once; that, when a right or fact has been judicially tried and determined  by a court of competent jurisdiction, or an opportunity for such trial has  been given, the judgment of the court,  so long as it remains unreversed, should be conclusive upon the parties, and those in privity with "them in law or estate. It is considered that a judgment presents evidence of the facts of so  high a  nature  that  nothing  which could  be proved by evidence aliunde would be sufficient to overcome it; and therefore it  would be useless for  a party against whom it can be  properly applied to adduce any such evidence, and accordingly he is estopped or precluded by law from doing  so.  Such is the character of an estoppel  by matter  of record, as in  case of an issue on  a question of fact, judicially tried and decided."  (Oberiano vs. Sobremesana, G.  R, No. L-4622, May 30, 1952.)

We may mention in passing that the claim of appellant that the decision of this Court above referred to suffers from contradiction or inconsistency is rather  equivocal for he mistook  a restatement made  therein of  a  portion of the argument of appellant as a finding of fact made by the  Court which is not  the  case.  A more  discerning appreciation  of the decision would bear this out.   The  truth of the matter  is that the Court concluded that the  contract in dispute was valid as  may be inferred from the portion of the decision which we quote:
"The second or supplemental motion for a new trial, the denial of which is the subject of  the fourth assignment  of  err added a now ground to the  first  motion for new trial and assailed the validity of the contract of sale  for supposed lack of valuable consideration or  because the consideration was 'false and illicit' Here is what we make out  of the plaintiff's line of reasoning is none too easy to understand:

"At the start and  through the  greater  part of the Japanese occupation, the Japanese war notes were at par  with the Commonwealth currency and were  so understood and  recognized both by the Philippine Executive Commission  and the Japanese-sponsored Philippine Republic'  By the contract in.question the par reduced the rate of exchange between the two. currencies from par one to ten.  'This  reduction is  contrary to the law or  public policy promulgated by the Japanese Military  authorities, or the Philippine Executive Commission.'  Therefore the consideration was  false and illicit and the contract was void ab initio, according to Articles 1255 1275, 1276, and  1278 of the Civil Code.

"What the  plaintiff would want the court to  do  as  a  result of the contract's alleged nullity ig not stated or made clear.  However, that may be, the contract was not void.  It was licit for the parties to agree  that the  vendor should pay the purchaser  only P2,000 instead of P20.000 as price of repurchase regardless of the currency received by the  vendor.  In this case the  plaintiff,  who  is a full pledged lawyer and appeared below in his own behalf and filed the brief in this instance, drew  the deed of sale himself,  according to the lower court's finding, and the fixing of the ratio of ten to one between the Japanese war notes and the Commonwealth  money must have  been his own  idea and certainly was  for his own benefit.  If the devaluation  of the  Japanese  money  bothered  the plaintiff's conscience, there was no  law to prevent him from redeeming the land  for P20;000, or P15,000 which  he  admitted having  received." (Italics supplied)
With regard to the portion of the order which  allows the withdrawal of the. original certificate of title  in order that the Register of Deeds may  effect the  consolidation of ownership and issuance of  a new title in favor of  appellee as requested, we do not also find any justification for its reversal, as we are urged, it appearing that the  decision in the original case (Civil Case No. 4606) has become final and executory and no  further  step  need be taken therein affecting the equities of the parties.  The case is  closed, and  no  reason is  seen why the evidence that has been presented cannot be  withdrawn.

Finding no  merit in this appeal, we  hereby  affirm  the order appealed from, with  costs against appellant.

ParĂ¡s, C.  J., Padilla, Montemayor,  Reyes, A.,  Labrador, Concepcion,  Reyes, J. B. L., and Endenda, JJ., concur.

* 89 Phil., 497.