Remedial Law

JERSON E. TORTAL v. CHIZURU TANIGUCHI G.R. No. 212683, November 12, 2018 Res Judicata, Appellate Remedies [J. LEONEN]

FACTS:

Petitioner Tortal married Respondent Taniguchi on June 8, 1999. They lived in a 250 m2 house and lot in BF Homes, Parañaque City, which was registered in the name of Tortal, married to Taniguchi. 

On April 11, 2000, Taniguchi filed a petition for the nullity of her marriage with Tortal.

The RTC granted the petition and annulled Tortal and Taniguchi’s marriage. In the same decision, the RTC declared the house and lot to be Taniguchi’s exclusive property. The decision became final and executory on October 14, 2005.

While the petition for nullity of marriage was pending, Sales filed a complaint for collection of sum of money against Tortal. 

In accordance with the RTC’s Compromise Judgment on the said case, Tortal and Taniguchi’s house and lot was levied upon, and was then sold at a public auction to Sales.

Taniguchi filed a Complaint for Annulment of Levy and Sale in Execution against Tortal and Sales. 

The RTC granted Taniguchi’s petition and nullified the levy and the sale of the house and lot to Sales, and permanently enjoined the Registry of Deeds of Parañaque City from issuing a new TCT in favour of Sales.

On appeal, the CA upheld the assailed Decision.

The CA rejected Tortal’s allegations about the supposed defects of the Decision of the RTC nullifying his marriage with Taniguchi. It pointed out that this Decision had long become final and executory, and stressed that Tortal should have assailed the RTC Decision nullifying his marriage with a petition for annulment of judgment, not in the present case which only questioned the nullity of the levy and sale of the house and lot to Sales.

The CA also rejected Tortal’s assertions that Taniguchi had no right to acquire property because she was a Japanese citizen. 

It emphasized that Tortal failed to bring up Taniguchi’s citizenship during pre-trial and only did so for the first time on appeal.

The CA denied Tortal’s motion for reconsideration.

Hence the present Petition for Review on Certiorari.

ISSUE:

Whether or not petitioner may assail a final and executory judgment nullifying his marriage with respondent in his appeal of the CA Decision, which granted respondent’s petition for annulment of levy and sale in execution.

RULING: 

The Petition lacks merit.

In the action for the nullity of his marriage with respondent, petitioner claims that he never received the summons and the RTC failed to acquire jurisdiction over him.

However, instead of directly assailing the RTC Decision, which granted the nullity of his marriage in an action for annulment of judgment, petitioner chose to tackle the issue in his appeal of the RTC Decision, which nullified the levy and sale by auction of the house and lot to Sales. 

This is clearly not the correct remedy. The CA did not err in dismissing his appeal and in upholding the RTC Decision, striking down the levy and sale by auction.

Upon this point, the court a quo’s disquisition is well-taken –

It is doubtful that defendant Tortal could, in the instant case, assail the validity of the final decision of RTC Br. 260. 

Following the principle of res judicata, the dispute on ownership was deemed to have been put to rest with the finality of the said decision. 

Under the doctrine of res judicata, a matter that has been adjudicated by a court of competent jurisdiction must be deemed to have been finally and conclusively settled if it arises in any subsequent litigation between the same parties and for the same cause . . . . Certainly, the remedy available to defendant Tortal is not in this proceeding, but through a petition for annulment of judgment with the Court of Appeals under Rule 47 of the Rules of Court.

Without a ruling from the Court of Appeals nullifying the RTC Decision, which granted the nullity of petitioner and respondent’s marriage and declared respondent as the exclusive owner of the house and lot, this Decision remains valid and subsisting. 

Finally, the lower courts did not err in granting the petition for nullity of levy and sale at auction since respondent was the established exclusive owner of the house and lot. Thus, petitioner had no authority to use the real property as security for his indebtedness with Sales.

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