Constitutional Law, Political Law, Remedial Law

Mijares v. Ranada G.R. NO. 139325, April 12, 2005 Recognition of Foreign Judgments

FACTS:

Ten Filipino citizens who each alleged having suffered human rights abuses such as arbitrary detention, torture and rape in the hands of police or military forces during the Marcos regime, filed with the US District Court, Hawaii, against the Estate Ferdinand E. Marcos.

Trial ensued, and subsequently a jury rendered a Final Judgment and an award of compensatory and exemplary damages in favor of the plaintiff class with an award of a total of One Billion Nine Hundred Sixty Four Million Five Thousand Eight Hundred Fifty Nine Dollars and Ninety Cents ($1,964,005,859.90)

The present petitioners filed Complaint with the Makati RTC for the enforcement of the Final Judgment.

Respondent Judge Ranada of the Makati RTC issued the subject Order dismissing the complaint without prejudice. He opined that the subject matter of the complaint was capable of pecuniary estimation, as it involved a judgment rendered by a foreign court ordering the payment of definite sums of money, allowing for easy determination of the value of the foreign judgment.

The RTC estimated the proper amount of filing fees was approximately Four Hundred Seventy Two Million Pesos, which obviously had not been paid.

Petitioners submit that their action is incapable of pecuniary estimation as the subject matter of the suit is the enforcement of a foreign judgment, and not an action for the collection of a sum of money or recovery of damages. They also point out that to require the class plaintiffs to pay Four Hundred Seventy Two Million Pesos (P472,000,000.00) in filing fees would negate and render inutile the liberal construction ordained by the Rules of Court, particularly the inexpensive disposition of every action.

ISSUE:

What provision, if any, then should apply in determining the filing fees for an action to enforce a foreign judgment?

RULING:

Petition is GRANTED.

Respondent judge was in clear and serious error when he concluded that the filing fees should be computed on the basis of the schematic table of Section 7(a), as the action involved pertains to a claim against an estate based on judgment.

A proper understanding is required on the nature and effects of a foreign judgment in this jurisdiction.

The rules of comity, utility and convenience of nations have established a usage among civilized states by which final judgments of foreign courts of competent jurisdiction are reciprocally respected and rendered efficacious under certain conditions that may vary in different countries. 

The conditions required by the Philippines for recognition and enforcement of a foreign judgment  has remained unchanged.

SEC. 48. Effect of foreign judgments. The effect of a judgment of a tribunal of a foreign country, having jurisdiction to pronounce the judgment is as follows:

(a) In case of a judgment upon a specific thing, the judgment is conclusive upon the title to the thing;

(b) In case of a judgment against a person, the judgment is presumptive evidence of a right as between the parties and their successors in interest by a subsequent title;

In either case, the judgment or final order may be repelled by evidence of a want of jurisdiction, want of notice to the party, collusion, fraud, or clear mistake of law or fact.

There is an evident distinction between a foreign judgment in an action in rem and one in personam. For an action in rem, the foreign judgment is deemed conclusive upon the title to the thing, while in an action in personam, the foreign judgment is presumptive, and not conclusive, of a right as between the parties and their successors in interest by a subsequent title.

Thus, the party aggrieved by the foreign judgment is entitled to defend against the enforcement of such decision in the local forum. It is essential that there should be an opportunity to challenge the foreign judgment, in order for the court in this jurisdiction to properly determine its efficacy.

Consequently, the party attacking a foreign judgment has the burden of overcoming the presumption of its validity.

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