[ G.R. No. 12406, March 15, 1918 ]
MARIANO LIM, PLAINTIFF AND APPELLEE, VS. ANSELMO SINGIAN AND HIS WIFE, PAZ SOLER, DEFENDANTS AND APPELLANTS.
D E C I S I O N
In this court the plaintiff, in his brief as appellee, renews his objection to the allowance of the bill of exceptions and contends that the appeal should be dismissed upon the ground that it was not taken within the time allowed by law.
Section 143 of Act No. 190 provides that "* * * the party desiring to prosecute the bill of exceptions shall so inform the court at the time of the rendition of final judgment, or as soon thereafter as may be practicable and before the ending of the term of court at which final judgment is rendered, and the judge shall enter a memorandum to that effect upon his minutes and order a like memorandum to be made by the clerk upon the docket of the court among the other entries relating to the action. Within ten days after the entry of the memorandum aforesaid, the excepting party shall cause to be presented to the judge * * *" his bill of exceptions. As the notice of intention to prosecute the bill of exceptions in this case was given on June 2, 1916, while the bill of exceptions was not in fact presented until July 12th following, the question arises whether the judgment of the trial court was still appealable when the bill of exceptions was presented and the order of enlargement was made.
In the case of Director of Lands vs. Maurera and Tiongson (p. 410, ante), this court held in passing upon a motion to dismiss the bill of exceptions in a case tried under the Land Registration Act, that although the statute therein under consideration fixes the term of thirty days from the date upon which the party receives a copy of the decision as the period within which the bill of exceptions must be filed, nevertheless if an application is presented to the trial judge for the enlargement of the statutory term within the thirty days limited by the statute, it may be extended. On the other hand, in the case of Bermudez vs. Director of Lands (36 Phil. Rep., 774) in which the application for an enlargement was made after the expiration of the thirty days, the court disapproved the practice. Referring to this decision in the .Maurera case the court said: "In the first case there is no time to be extended the time has already expired; in the second case * * * there is time which may be extended. In such a case we are of the opinion, and so decide, that it is within the sound discretion of the court to extend the period of thirty days for the presentation of a bill of exceptions in a land registration case."
The court having expressly decided in the Bermudez case, supra, that the term of thirty days fixed for the presentation of a bill of exceptions in land registration cases cannot be enlarged by the court when the application for enlargement is made after the expiration of the time limited by law, the question arises if such an enlargement can be granted upon an application for enlargement made after the expiration of the term of ten days prescribed by section 143 of Act No. 190 for a like purpose in ordinary actions.
Before entering upon an examination of the earlier decisions of the court, in which this matter has been considered, it may be profitable to make some inquiry into this matter of the jurisdiction which the law confers upon this court to pass upon the correctness of the decisions of the Courts of First Instance.
The appellate jurisdiction of this court is conferred upon it by section 18 of Act No. 136, which reads as follows:
"The Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction of all actions and special proceedings properly brought to it from Courts of First Instance * * *."
It will not be disputed that the judgment of a Court of First Instance in a matter falling within its jurisdiction and in which its proceedings are not vitiated by fraud, cannot, subject to the exception created by section 113 of Act No. 190, be reopened by any judicial authority after it has become final. The court by which it has been rendered is powerless to reopen the matter. "* * * Courts have no power thus to vacate judgments after they have become final in the sense that the party in whose favor they are rendered is entitled as of right to have execution thereon * * * (Arnedo vs. Llorente and Liongson, 18 Phil. Rep., 257, 269.) When the judgment of the lower court has become final in the sense that the successful party is entitled as of right to have execution thereon this court is equally powerless to entertain an appeal from such a judgment. The question is one of jurisdiction. This court has no jurisdiction to entertain appeals in matters which are no longer sub judice. Whether the decision of the trial court is right or wrong the matter is res judicata and the rights of the parties have become fixed and determined.
This is the settled doctrine of the Supreme Court of the United States. In the case of Credit Co. vs. Arkansas Central R. Co. (128 U. S., 258), the appeal was allowed by Justice Miller on the last day on which an appeal could be taken, but was not presented to the court below nor filed with the clerk until five days after the prescribed time had expired. It was held that the appeal must be dismissed. the court saying:
"The attempt made in this case to anticipate the actual time of presenting and filing the appeal, by entering an order mine pro tune does not help the case. When the time for taking an appeal has expired it cannot be arrested or called back by a simple order of the court. If it could be, the law which limits the time within which an appeal can be taken would be a dead letter.
"The appeal must be dismissed * * *."
The rule announced in this case was expressly approved and applied by the Supreme Court of the United States in the recent case of the Old Nick Williams Co. vs. U. S. (215 U. S., 541), decided January 24, 1910.
In the case of Scarborough vs. Pargoud (108 U. S., 567), in which an attempt was made to have the court entertain an appeal after the expiration of the time allowed by the statute within which an appeal might be taken, the court said:
* * * The writ of error in this case was not brought within the time limited by law and we have consequently no jurisdiction. For that reason the writ is dismissed."
Section 47 of General Orders No, 58 provides that
"An appeal must be taken within fifteen days from the rendition of the judgment or order appealed from."
In the case of The United States vs. Trincio (4 Phil. Rep., 90), this court held, following the decision announced in the case of The United States vs. Flemister (1 Phil. Rep., 317), that appeals in criminal cases can not be taken after the lapse of fifteen days from the rendition of the judgment or order appealed from and that the pendency of a motion for a new trial does not extend the time within which the appeal may be perfected. This rule was reconsidered and affirmed after an extended review of the authorities in the recent case of The United States vs. the Court of First Instance of Manila (24 Phil. Rep., 321).
It having been decided that the term fixed by General Orders No. 58 within which appeals may be taken in criminal cases is nonextendable and that the term of thirty days allowed for filing bill of exceptions in land registration cases cannot be extended unless an application for such extension is made before its expiration, the question presents itself whether there is any reason why a different rule should be followed with regard to the time allowed within which to file the bill of exceptions in an ordinary civil action. It is to be noted that the language of section 143 of Act No. 190, by the use of the word "shall," is fully as imperative in its declaration regarding the time within which the bill of exceptions may be filed in such an action as are the statutes upon which were based the decisions of this court regarding appeals in land registration and criminal cases.
It is a fact, however, that in the case of Gomez Garcia vs. Hipolito (2 Phil. Rep., 732), it was expressly held, two justices dissenting, that the period of ten days prescribed by section 143 of Act No. 190 may be extended by the trial court, expressly or tacitly, either before or after its expiration. In several cases since decided the same rule, with more or less variation, has been announced. In the case of Gonzalez Quiros vs. Palanca Tan-Guinlay (17 Phil. Rep., 357, 368), however, the Court, after citing section 143 of Act No. 190, dismissed the bill of exceptions upon the express ground that "the record does not show that the judgment creditor * * * presented the necessary bill of exceptions within the ten days specified by law for its admission and prosecution, * * *
We shall not attempt, however, to collate the many decisions in which this vexatious question has been considered, or attempt to reconcile them. It must be admitted that the decision in the Gomez Garcia case has opened the door to endless doubt and hesitation. If the term of ten days fixed by the statute may be disregarded, and extensions granted nunc pro tunc upon applications presented after its expiration, it is evident that there is no other guide or landmark to make known the point at which a litigated matter passes into the domain of things adjudicated. In criminal cases (U. S. vs. Flemister, 1 Phil. Rep., 317); in land registration cases (Bermudez vs. Director of Lands, 36 Phil. Rep., 774) ; in special proceedings (Alemany vs. Sweeney, 3 Phil. Rep., 424); in cases coming before the Board of Public Utility Commissioners (Philippine Shipowners' Association vs. Public Utility Commissioners, R. G. No. 13443, decided January 21, 1918), there is a fixed and definite limit of time after the expiration of which no further dispute is possible as to the finality of the decision, if free from fraud or jurisdictional defects. The advantages of such certainty to parties and to the courts are plainly manifest. The disadvantages of the uncertainty now prevailing with regard to the time within which appeals may be taken in ordinary actions are equally obvious. Since the decision in the case of Gomez Garcia vs. Hipolito (supra) broke down the definite boundary prescribed by the statute, this court has devoted months of its time to a consideration of the conduct of parties and counsel in a multitude of cases for the purpose of determining whether the excuses offered for failure to comply with the terms of the law should be accepted or not. Equally prolific of loss of time and fruitless discussion has been the debate over the meaning of the term "as soon thereafter as may be practicable" contained in section 143 of Act No. 190 as prescribing the time within which notice of intention to prosecute the bill of exceptions must be given after the receipt of notice of the rendition of a judgment. In the case of Santillan vs. Almonte (24 Phil. Rep., 227) the Court has endeavored to remedy the defect by adopting the rule that save in exceptional cases not more than twenty days after the receipt of notice of entry of judgment will be allowed within which to give notice of intention to present a bill of exceptions, thus fixing a definite limit to a period which the statute vaguely outlines by requiring that the notice be given "as soon * * * as practicable." This having been done, were it not for the doubt and uncertainty introduced by the Gomez Garcia case, it would be possible to determine, with a reasonable degree of precision, the end of litigation by enforcing the rule of the statute that the bill of exceptions in such actions shall be filed within ten days after the date upon which notice of intention to present it is given or within such additional time as may be allowed by the court for that purpose by order made upon petition filed before the expiration of the said term of ten days. Under such a practice the successful party would know positively when he is entitled to a writ of execution as of right and the clerks of the lower courts would have equally reliable means of determining when the ministerial duty of issuing such writs devolves upon them. The Courts of First Instance would know positively when their power to reopen their judgment comes to an end. The court has said in the case of Arnedo vs. Llorente and Liongson (18 Phil. Rep., 257, 269) that their power ends when the successful party is entitled to a writ of execution as of right. But this can only be when the litigation is ended, when it has passed out of the control of the judiciary, and unless that time can be determined positively by a simple mathematical computation as it can be in criminal cases, in land registration cases, and in special proceedings trouble will constantly arise. It is an unfortunate fact that the result of the decision in the Gomez Garcia case has been to give rise to a great deal of doubt and uncertainty. We believe that it is incumbent upon us to put an end to this uncertainty by expressly disapproving the doctrine of the Gomez Garcia case, and others in which it has been followed, and by declaring our purpose to adhere to the express terms of section 143 of Act No. 190 by refusing to entertain appeals in all cases in which the appellant has failed to file his bill of exceptions within ten days from the time of giving notice of his intention to do so or within such additional time as the trial court may by express order have allowed in response to a petition for enlargement filed before the expiration of the statutory period of ten days.
The bill of exceptions in this case having been filed over a month after the date upon which notice of intention to present it was filed and no application for an enlargement of the statutory period having been made before its expiration, we are without jurisdiction to entertain the appeal and the bill of exceptions is therefore dismissed. So ordered.
Arellano, C. J., Torres, Johnson, Araullo, Street, and Avanceña, JJ., concur.
 Will be published later.
MALCOLM, J., concurring:
I agree. Only I would go further. I would stay with the law.
When the Code of Criminal Procedure fixes the period of fifteen days within which an appeal can be taken, the law means what it says. This court has so held. When the Land Registration Law fixes the period of thirty days within which appeals and bills of exception must be filed, the law means what it says. This court has so held. When the Code of Civil Procedure fixes the period of ten days within which a bill of exceptions can be presented, the law means what it says. This court has not so held. When any procedural statute names a definite period within which an act must be performed, no inherent right in a court is resurrected and the legislative intention of certainty and finality in judicial proceedings is" plainly apparent. The time for appeal fixed by statute is not extendible by a court, whether application is made before or after its expiration.
As I said in the dissenting opinion in Director of Lands vs. Maurera and Tiongson (p. 410, ante), in speaking of section 26 of Act No. 2347, concerning the time within which the litigating parties must file their appeals and bills of exception against the final judgments in land registration cases:
"* * * No words could be plainer. Application is wisdom. Interpretation is dangerous. Judicial amendment is fatal. Only note that to emphazise intention, the Legislature uses such emphatic words as "must" and "shall." Of course, the law was drafted and passed for a purpose. The laudible intention of the Legislature was to expedite court proceedings. A court should not make this law a dead letter. Our only duty is to give effect to legislative intention.
"In view, therefore, of the easily understandable provisions of the law which gave no discretion to the courts, I must by this dissent protest against our usurpation of legislative power tending to the prolongation of judicial proceedings."