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431 Phil. 11

FIRST DIVISION

[ G.R. No. 133498, April 18, 2002 ]

C.F. SHARP & CO., INC., PETITIONER, VS. NORTHWEST AIRLINES, INC., RESPONDENT.

D E C I S I O N

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

This is a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court assailing the February 17, 1997 Decision[1] and the April 2, 1998 Resolution[2] of the Court of Appeals[3] in CA-G.R. SP No. 40996.

The undisputed facts are as follows:

On May 9, 1974, respondent, through its Japan Branch, entered into an International Passenger Sales Agency Agreement with petitioner, authorizing the latter to sell its air transport tickets.  Petitioner failed to remit the proceeds of the ticket sales, for which reason, respondent filed a collection suit against petitioner before the Tokyo District Court which rendered judgment on January 29, 1981, ordering petitioner to pay respondent the amount of “83,158,195 Yen and damages for the delay at the rate of 6% per annum from August 28, 1980 up to and until payment is completed.”[4] Unable to execute the decision in Japan, respondent filed a case to enforce said foreign judgment with the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 54.[5] However, the case was dismissed on the ground of failure of the Japanese Court to acquire jurisdiction over the person of the petitioner.  Respondent appealed to the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the decision of the trial court.

Respondent filed a petition for review with this Court, docketed as G.R. No. 112573. On February 9, 1995, a decision was rendered, the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is partly GRANTED, and the challenged decision is AFFIRMED insofar as it denied NORTHWEST’s claims for attorney’s fees, litigation expenses, and exemplary damages but REVERSED insofar as it sustained the trial court’s dismissal of NORTHWEST’s complaint in Civil Case No. 83-17637 of Branch 54 of the Regional Trial Court of Manila, and another in its stead is hereby rendered ORDERING private respondent C.F. SHARP & COMPANY, INC. to pay to NORTHWEST the amounts adjudged in the foreign judgment subject of said case, with interest thereon at the legal rate from the filing of the complaint therein until the said foreign judgment is fully satisfied.

Costs against the private respondent.

SO ORDERED.[6]
Accordingly, the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 54, issued a writ of execution of the foregoing decision.[7] On November 22, 1995, the trial court modified its order for the execution of the decision, viz:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, this Court hereby issues another order, as follows: the writ of execution is issued against defendant C.F. Sharp ordering said defendant to pay the plaintiff the sum of 83,158,195 Yen at the exchange rate prevailing on the date of the foreign judgment on January 29, 1981, plus 6% per annum until May 19, 1983; and from said date until full payment, 12% per annum (6% by way of damages and 6% interest) until the entire obligation is fully satisfied.

SO ORDERED.[8]
On December 18, 1995, petitioner filed a petition for certiorari under Rule 65, docketed as G.R. No. 122890, assailing the aforequoted order.  On May 29, 1996, the case was referred to the Court of Appeals.  Petitioner contended that it had already made partial payments; hence, it was liable only for the amount of 61,734,633 Yen.  Moreover, it argued that it was not liable to pay additional interest on top of the 6% interest imposed in the foreign judgment.

The Court of Appeals rendered the assailed decision on February 17, 1997. It sustained the imposition of additional interest on the liability of petitioner as adjudged in the foreign judgment.  The appellate court likewise corrected the reckoning date of the imposition of the interests in accordance with the February 9, 1995 decision to be executed, but lowered the additional interest from 12% to 6% per annum.  Further, it ruled that the basis of the conversion of petitioner’s liability in its peso equivalent should be the prevailing rate at the time of payment and not the rate on the date of the foreign judgment.  The dispositive portion of the said decision reads:
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED.  The assailed Orders dated October 13, 1995 and November 22, 1995 are annulled and set aside on the ground that they varied the final judgment of the First Division of the Supreme Court in G.R. No. 112573, entitled, “NORTHWEST ORIENT AIRLINES, INC., Petitioner, versus, COURT OF APPEALS and C. F. SHARP & COMPANY, INC., Respondents”.

Respondent court is enjoined to execute the said final judgment with an unpaid principal balance of Y61,734,633 plus damages for delay at the rate of 6% per annum from August 28, 1980, until fully paid, which may be paid in local currency based on the conversion rate prevailing at the time of payment; plus 6% legal interest per annum from August 28, 1980, the date of the filing of the complaint in the foreign judgment.

No costs.

SO ORDERED.[9]
On April 2, 1998, the Court of Appeals denied both the motion for reconsideration and the partial motion for reconsideration filed by petitioner and respondent, respectively.

In the present recourse, petitioner questions the applicable conversion rate of its liability, and claims that a ruling thereon by the Court of Appeals effectively deprived it of due process of law because said rate was not among the issues submitted for resolution.

The petition is without merit.

In ruling that the applicable conversion rate of petitioner’s liability is the rate at the time of payment, the Court of Appeals cited the case of Zagala v. Jimenez,[10] interpreting the provisions of Republic Act No. 529, as amended by R.A. No. 4100.  Under this law, stipulations on the satisfaction of obligations in foreign currency are void.  Payments of monetary obligations, subject to certain exceptions, shall be discharged in the currency which is the legal tender in the Philippines.  But since R.A. No. 529 does not provide for the rate of exchange for the payment of foreign currency obligations incurred after its enactment, the Court held in a number of cases[11] that the rate of exchange for the conversion in the peso equivalent should be the prevailing rate at the time of payment.

Petitioner, however, contends that with the repeal of R.A. No. 529 by R.A. No. 8183,[12] the jurisprudence relied upon by the Court of Appeals is no longer applicable.

Republic Act No. 529, as amended by R.A. No. 4100, provides:
SECTION 1. Every provision contained in, or made with respect to, any domestic obligation to wit, any obligation contracted in the Philippines which provision purports to give the obligee the right to require payment in gold or in a particular kind of coin or currency other than Philippine currency or in an amount of money of the Philippines measured thereby, be as it is hereby declared against public policy, and null, void, and of no effect, and no such provision shall be contained in, or made with respect to, any obligation hereafter incurred.  The above prohibition shall not apply to (a) transactions where the funds involved are the proceeds of loans or investments made directly or indirectly, through bona fide intermediaries or agents, by foreign governments, their agencies and instrumentalities, and international financial banking institutions so long as the funds are identifiable, as having emanated from the sources enumerated above; b) transactions affecting high-priority economic projects for agricultural, industrial and power development as may be determined by the National Economic Council which are financed by or through foreign funds; (c) forward exchange transactions entered into between banks or between banks and individuals or juridical persons; (d) import-export and other international banking, financial investment and industrial transactions.  With the exception of the cases enumerated in items (a), (b), (c) and (d) in the foregoing provision, in which cases the terms of the parties’ agreement shall apply, every other domestic obligation heretofore or hereafter incurred, whether or not any such provision as to payment is contained therein or made with respect thereto, shall be discharged upon payment in any coin or currency which at the time of payment is legal tender for public and private debts: Provided, That if the obligation was incurred prior to the enactment of this Act and required payment in a particular kind of coin or currency other than Philippine currency, it shall be discharged in Philippine currency, measured at the prevailing rates of exchange at the time the obligation was incurred, except in case of a loan made in a foreign currency stipulated to be payable in the same currency in which case the rate of exchange prevailing at the time of the stipulated date of payment shall prevail.  All coin and currency, including Central Bank notes, heretofore or hereafter issued and declared by the Government of the Philippines shall be legal tender for all debts, public and private.
Pertinent portion of Republic Act No. 8183 states:
SECTION 1. All monetary obligations shall be settled in the Philippine currency which is legal tender in the Philippines.  However, the parties may agree that the obligation or transaction shall be settled in any other currency at the time of payment.

SEC. 2.  Republic Act Numbered Five Hundred and Twenty-Nine (R.A. No. 529), as amended, entitled “An Act to Assure the Uniform Value of Philippine Coin and Currency” is hereby repealed.
The repeal of R.A. No. 529 by R.A. No. 8183 has the effect of removing the prohibition on the stipulation of currency other than Philippine currency, such that obligations or transactions may now be paid in the currency agreed upon by the parties. Just like R.A. No. 529, however, the new law does not provide for the applicable rate of exchange for the conversion of foreign currency-incurred obligations in their peso equivalent.  It follows, therefore, that the jurisprudence established in R.A. No. 529 regarding the rate of conversion remains applicable.  Thus, in Asia World Recruitment, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Commission,[13] the Court, applying R.A. No. 8183, sustained the ruling of the NLRC that obligations in foreign currency may be discharged in Philippine currency based on the prevailing rate at the time of payment.  The wisdom on which the jurisprudence interpreting R.A. No. 529 is based equally holds true with R.A. No. 8183.  Verily, it is just and fair to preserve the real value of the foreign exchange- incurred obligation to the date of its payment.[14]

We find no denial of due process in the instant case.  Contrary to the argument of petitioner, the matter of the applicable conversion rate was one of the issues submitted for resolution before the Court of Appeals.  Moreover, opportunity to be heard, which is the very essence of due process, was afforded petitioner when it filed a motion for reconsideration of the Court of Appeals’ decision.

Petitioner’s contention that it is Article 1250[15] of the Civil Code that should be applied is untenable.  The rule that the value of the currency at the time of the establishment of the obligation shall be the basis of payment finds application only when there is an official pronouncement or declaration of the existence of an extraordinary inflation or deflation.[16]

For its part, respondent prays for the modification of the Court of Appeals’ award of interest.  While as a general rule, a party who has not appealed is not entitled to affirmative relief other than what was granted in the decision of the court below, law and jurisprudence authorize a tribunal to consider errors, although unassigned, if they involve (1) errors affecting the lower court’s jurisdiction over the subject matter, (2) plain errors not specified, and (3) clerical errors.[17]

In the case at bar, the Court of Appeal’s failure to apply the correct legal rate of interest, to which respondent is lawfully entitled, amounts to a “plain error.” In Eastern Shipping Lines, Inc. v. Court of Appeals,[18] it was held that absent any stipulation, the legal rate of interest in obligations which consists in the payment of a sum of money, as in the present case, is 12% per annum.  As stated in the decision of the Court in G.R. No. 112573, which is final and executory, petitioner is liable to pay respondent the amount adjudged in the foreign judgment, with “interest thereon at the legal rate [12% per annum] from the filing of the complaint therein [on August 28, 1980] until the said foreign judgment is fully satisfied.” Since petitioner already made partial payments, his obligation was reduced to 61,734,633 Yen.  Thus, petitioner should pay respondent the amount of 61,734,633 Yen plus “damages for the delay at the rate of 6% per annum from August 28, 1980 up to and until payment is completed,” with interest thereon at the rate of 12% per annum from the filing of the complaint on August 28, 1980, until fully satisfied.

The Court is clothed with ample authority to review matters, even if they are not assigned as errors on appeal, if it finds that their consideration is necessary in arriving at a just decision of the case.  Rules of procedure are mere tools designed to facilitate the attainment of justice.  Their strict and rigid application, which would result in technicalities that tend to frustrate rather than promote substantial justice, must be avoided.  Hence, substantive rights, like the applicable legal rate of interest on petitioner’s long due and demandable obligation, must not be prejudiced by a rigid and technical application of the rules.[19]

WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, the instant petition is DENIED.  The February 17, 1997 decision and the April 2, 1998 resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 40996 are AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION.  Petitioner is directed to pay respondent 61,734,633 Yen plus damages for the delay at the rate of 6% per annum from August 28, 1980 up to and until payment is completed, with interest at the rate of 12% per annum counted from the date of filing of the complaint on August 28, 1980, until fully satisfied.  Petitioner’s liability may be paid in Philippine currency, computed at the exchange rate prevailing at the time of payment.

SO ORDERED.

Puno, and Sandoval-Gutierrez, JJ., concur.
Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman), Kapunan, and Austria-Martinez, JJ., on official leave.



[1] Rollo, p. 34.

[2] Rollo, p. 32.

[3] Former Fourth Division, composed of Associate Justices Ma. Alicia Austria-Martinez (ponente), Bernardo LL. Salas and Gloria C. Paras.

[4] See Rollo, p. 72.

[5] Civil Case No. 83-17637.

[6] Rollo, p. 87.

[7] Rollo, p. 59.

[8] Rollo, pp. 63-64.

[9] Rollo, p. 42.

[10] 152 SCRA 147 [1987].

[11] Kalalo v. Cruz, 34 SCRA 337 [1970]; Ponce v. Court of Appeals, et al., 90 SCRA 533 [1979]; General Insurance & Surety Corporation v. Union Insurance Society of Canton, Ltd., 179 SCRA 530 [1989]; Republic Resources and Development Corporation v. Court of Appeals, et al., 203 SCRA 164 [1991]; San Buenaventura v. Court of Appeals, et al., 181 SCRA 197 [1990]; Philippine Manpower Services, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Commission, 224 SCRA 691 [1993].

[12] Approved on June 11, 1996.

[13] 313 SCRA 1, 17 [1999].

[14] Vitug, Compendium of Civil Law and Jurisprudence, p. 510, 1993 edition.

[15] Art. 1250. In case of an extraordinary inflation or deflation of the currency stipulated should supervene, the value of the currency at the time of the establishment of the obligation shall be the basis of payment, unless there is an agreement to the contrary.

[16] Mobil Oil Philippines, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, 180 SCRA 651, 667 [1989].

[17] 266 SCRA 48, 66-67 [1997], citing Philippine Airlines, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, 185 SCRA 110, [1990]; Aparri v. Court of Appeals, 13 SCRA 611 [1965]; Dy v. Kuizon, 113 Phil. 592 [1961]; Borromeo v. Zaballero, 109 Phil 332 [1960]; Santos v. Court of Appeals, 221 SCRA 42 [1993].

[18] 234 SCRA 78, 95-96 [1994].

[19] Ibid., citing Regalado, Florenz D., Remedial Law Compendium, Vol. I, 5th Revised Edition, p. 378; Ortigas, Jr. v. Lufthansa German Airlines, 64 SCRA 610 [1975]; Soco v. Militante, 123 SCRA 160 [1983]; Radio Communications of the Philippines, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Commission, 210 SCRA 222, [1992]; Piczon v. Court of Appeals, 190 SCRA 31 [1990].

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