Remedial Law

Selga v. Brar G.R. No. 175151, September 21, 2011 Res Judicata

FACTS:

Francisco Entierro died intestate and left behind the subject property with an area of 39,577 sqm, covered by TCT No. T-10273.

Francisco’s spouse, Basilia, and legitimate children, (Basilia, et al.), executed a Deed of Sale with Declaration of Heirship, declaring themselves to be Francisco’s only heirs who inherited the subject property; and thereby sold the subject property to petitioners, spouses Tobias Selga and Ceferina Garancho Selga.

Accordingly, a new TCT was issued in petitioners’ names.

Seven years later, respondent Sony Entierro Brar, filed a Complaint for Annulment of Sale with Damages against petitioners. She claimed that she was a legitimate child of Francisco and Basilia, and that she had been illegally deprived of her rightful share and interests in the subject property as one of Francisco’s legal heirs.

The case was docketed as Civil Case No. 276.

RTC [Branch 55] rendered judgment declaring the annulment of the Deed of Sale with Declaration of heirship. 

The trial court held that Basilia, et al., validly sold all their rights and interests over the subject property to petitioners, excluding the rights and interests over the same pertaining to respondent, who did not participate in the execution of the Deed of Sale. 

Subsequently, respondent, in a letter, sought to redeem petitioners’ ten-eleventh (10/11) share in the subject property. She claimed that she is exercising her right in accordance with the Decision of the RTC.

However, this was rejected by the petitioners.

Hence, respondent instituted a Complaint for Legal Redemption with Damages before RTC-Branch 56. The case was docketed as Civil Case No. 573 

In their Answer with Counterclaim, petitioners invoked the defenses of res judicata and/or forum shopping, arguing that the cause of action pleaded by respondent was among those that had already been litigated in Civil Case No. 276.

The RTC dismisssed the complaint on the ground of res judicata.

On appeal, the CA reversed the RTC Decision and held that respondent had validly exercised her right to redemption of the subject property.

Hence, the instant Petition.

ISSUE:

Whether or not the prior final judgment rendered in Civil Case No. 276 [Annulment of Sale with Damages] already barred Civil Case No. 573 [Legal Redemption with Damages].

RULING:

We find merit in the instant Petition.

Res judicata means “a matter adjudged; a thing judicially acted upon or decided; a thing or matter settled by judgment.”  It lays the rule that an existing final judgment or decree rendered on the merits, without fraud or collusion, by a court of competent jurisdiction, upon any matter within its jurisdiction, is conclusive of the rights of the parties or their privies, in all other actions or suits in the same or any other judicial tribunal of concurrent jurisdiction on the points and matters in issue in the first suit.

It must be remembered that it is to the interest of the public that there should be an end to litigation by the parties over a subject fully and fairly adjudicated. 

The doctrine of res judicata is a rule that pervades every well-regulated system of jurisprudence and is founded upon two grounds embodied in various maxims of the common law, namely: (1) public policy and necessity, which dictates that it would be in the interest of the State that there should be an end to litigation — republicae ut sit litium; and 

(2) the hardship on the individual that he should be vexed twice for the same cause — nemo debet bis vexari pro una et eadem causa

A contrary doctrine would subject public peace and quiet to the will and neglect of individuals and prefer the gratification of the litigious disposition on the part of suitors to the preservation of public tranquility and happiness.

The case at bar satisfies the four essential requisites of res judicata under the first concept, bar by prior judgment, viz:

(a) finality of the former judgment;

(b) the court which rendered it had jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties;

(c) it must be a judgment on the merits; and

(d) there must be, between the first and second actions, identity of parties, subject matter and causes of action.

It is not disputed that the Decision dated May 8, 1996 of RTC-Branch 55 in Civil Case No. 276 had become final and executory. 

To elaborate:

There is identity of parties.  Civil Case No. 276 and Civil Case No. 573 were both instituted by respondent against petitioners.

There is also identity of subject matter.  Civil Case No. 276 and Civil Case No. 573 both involved respondent’s rights and interests over the subject property as Francisco’s legitimate child and compulsory heir.

Finally, there is identity of causes of action.

A closer study of the Complaint, and the trial proceedings before RTC-Branch 56, reveal that respondent’s right to redeem petitioners’ ten-eleventh (10/11) share in the subject property also arose from the sale of the subject property to petitioners by respondent’s co-heirs and co-owners, alleged to be without respondent’s knowledge or consent – the very same cause of action at the crux of Civil Case No. 276.

WHEREFORE, the instant Petition is hereby GRANTED.

The Decision of RTC Branch 56 dismissing Civil Case No. 573, is REINSTATED.

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