436 Phil. 10

FIRST DIVISION

[ G.R. No. 134141, August 13, 2002 ]

LEODY MANUEL, PETITIONER, VS. JOSE AND DAISY ESCALANTE, RESPONDENTS.

D E C I S I O N

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

This is a petition for review of the decision dated January 22, 1998[1] and the resolution dated May 29, 1998[2] of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 48659.

Respondent Daisy Escalante was the lessee of a room on the second floor of the house owned by Triumfo Garces, located in No. 1603 Indiana St. Malate, Manila. The lease was on a monthly basis. On August 13, 1984, Garces filed a complaint for unlawful detainer, docketed as Civil Case No. 102100-CV, with the Metropolitan Trial Court (MTC) of Manila, Branch XIII, against respondent on the ground of expiration of the lease contract and violation of the lease when she subleased the room to boarders.

On August 30, 1985, the MTC rendered a decision in favor of Triumfo Garces, the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the plaintiff and against the defendant, ordering the latter:

(a) and all other persons claiming rights under her to vacate the premises known as Room B of a residential house designated as no. 1603 Indiana St. Malate, Manila:

(b) to pay the plaintiff the sum of P3,000.00 as and for attorney’s fees: and

(c) to pay the costs of the suit.

For lack of utter merit defendant’s answer with counterclaim is hereby dismissed.

SO ORDERED.[3]

Respondent filed a Notice of Appeal but failed to pay the requisite appeal fee. Hence, plaintiff filed a motion for the immediate execution of the decision of the MTC. The motion was granted and a writ of execution was issued.

At 8:30 in the morning of October 2, 1985, petitioner Manuel Leody, the Supervising Sheriff in the Office of the City Sheriff of Manila, accompanied by Triumfo Garces and the latter’s sons, Florence, Rocky and Rey, went to the room occupied by respondents Daisy and Jose Escalante and served on them a copy of the writ of execution. He demanded that respondents immediately vacate the room. Respondents pleaded with petitioner to postpone the enforcement of the writ to 2:00 in the afternoon so that she can consult her lawyer and ascertain whether an appeal had been filed from the decision of the MTC, or to file a motion for a temporary restraining order to suspend the execution of the writ. Petitioner agreed to defer the implementation of the writ but only up to 10:00 that morning.

Respondent failed to see her lawyer but was able to engage a new counsel, who forthwith filed an Urgent Motion to stay the enforcement of the writ of execution. Respondent thereafter asked petitioner for further deferment pending the resolution of the Urgent Motion, but Garces refused. With the help of four laborers, petitioner hauled all of respondents’ personal belongings out of the room and dumped them on the sidewalk. By 12:00 noon, respondents turned over the premises to petitioner, who then turned it over to Garces.

Meanwhile, respondents left their possessions on the sidewalk. At 5:00 that afternoon, there was a heavy downpour and all of respondents’ belongings were soaked. Subsequently, the MTC denied respondents’ Urgent Motion on the ground that they failed to perfect their appeal from said decision when they failed to pay the requisite docket fee and to post a supersedeas bond.[4]

Respondents then wrote a letter to Garces and petitioner demanding payment of the amount of P747,600.00 broken down as follows:

Salary of the guards watching the personal belongings of

8 persons . . . P1,200.00 daily including meals times

12 days
P 14,400.00
 
Value of 50 pieces of jewelry lost
64,000.00
 
Loss of daily earning, expenses for traveling to look for
a place to live in Manila City and incidental expenses
P1,600.00 daily times 12 days
19,200.00
 
Loss of the right to appeal
500,000.00
 
Moral damages suffered by the whole family
150,000.00
 
T O T A L
P747,600.00[5]
 

When petitioner and Garces refused to comply, respondents instituted a complaint against them for damages before the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 33, docketed as Civil Case No. 85-33241. Respondents averred that their eviction was done through intimidation, threats and coercion, and prayed that judgment be rendered ordering defendants to:

1) Pay the plaintiffs the total amount of P 1,479,080.00;

2) Pay the plaintiffs P 20,000.00 as and for attorney’s fees for having been constrained to employ legal services of counsel to protect their rights and interests;

3) Pay the legal interest on the amount of P 1,479,080.00 from the filing of this complaint up to the time the obligation shall have been fully paid pursuant to the decision;[6]

In their answer, petitioner and Garces argued that the writ of execution was implemented pursuant to law and the Rules of Court and that whatever damages were sustained by the respondents were due to their own negligence.

On May 4, 1994, the Regional Trial Court dismissed the complaint and rendered judgment as follows:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the present complaint is hereby ordered dismissed.

As plaintiffs were not motivated by malice or ill will in filing the present complaint, defendants’ counterclaim is likewise dismissed.[7]

Respondents appealed to the Court of Appeals raising the following issues:

(1) Whether or not the enforcement of the writ of execution was in accordance with the Rules of Court and case law;

(2) Whether or not petitioner and Garces are liable for damages to the respondents;

(3) If so, whether the respondents adduced sufficient evidence to prove their claims for damages and attorney’s fees.

On January 22, 1998, the Court of Appeals rendered the assailed decision, the dispositive portion of which reads:

In the light of all the foregoing, the Decision of the Court a quo dismissing the complaint as against Appellee Manuel Leody is hereby REVERSED. Appellee Manuel Leody is hereby ordered to pay to Appellant Daisy Escalante the amounts of P20,000.00 by way of moral damages, P10,000.00 by way of exemplary damages and P5,000.00 by way of attorney’s fees. The Decision of the Court a quo is hereby AFFIRMED in all other respects. No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.[8]

The Court of Appeals ruled that the sheriff, following “usual procedure,” should have apprised the defendant of the issuance by the court of a writ of execution and demanded that the defendant vacate the premises voluntarily.[9] For failing to do so, petitioner was held liable for moral and exemplary damages, but only to respondent Daisy Escalante, since respondent Jose Escalante failed to testify before the Regional Trial Court.[10] The Court of Appeals denied respondents’ claim for actual damages because they were not able to prove and properly particularize the same.[11] Garces, on the other hand, was absolved from liability.

Petitioner’s Motion for Reconsideration was denied by the Court of Appeals in a Resolution dated May 29, 1998.[12]

Petitioner thus brought the instant petition for review, assigning the following errors:

I

THE 1964 REVISED RULES OF COURT (UNDER SEC. 13, RULE 39), NOT THE 1997 RULES ON CIVIL PROCEDURE (UNDER SEC. 10 (c) RULE 39), IS THE LAW APPLICABLE TO THE CASE AT BAR.

II

SECTION 10 (c), RULE 39 OF THE 1997 RULES ON CIVIL PROCEDURE HAS NO RETROACTIVE APPLICATION TO THE INSTANT CASE.

III

THE QUESTIONED DECISION AND RESOLUTION VIOLATE THE LAW; HENCE, VOID.

IV

THE RULINGS IN “REFORMA vs. ADRIANO” (189 SCRA 723) AND “CITY OF MANILA vs. COURT OF APPEALS” (204 SCRA 362) HAVE NO RETROACTIVE APPLICATION TO THE PECULIARITY OF THE PRESENT CASE.

V

ASSUMING ARGUENDO THAT THE 1997 RULES ON CIVIL PROCEDURE AND “REFORMA vs. ADRIANO” HAVE RETROACTIVE APPLICATION, THE AWARD OF DAMAGES IMPOSED UPON THE PETITIONER IS EXCESSIVE AND TOO HARSH.

Petitioner contends that the Court of Appeals erred in applying Rule 39, Section 10 (c) of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, considering that the same was not yet in effect at the time the judgment of eviction was executed on October 2, 1985. The said provision requires the sheriff to give the judgment obligor three days to peaceably vacate the premises before ousting him therefrom, to wit:

SEC. 10. Execution of judgments for specific act.–

xxx xxx xxx.

(c) Delivery or restitution of real property. – The officer shall demand of the person against whom the judgment for the delivery or restitution of real property is rendered and all persons claiming rights under him to peaceably vacate the property within three (3) working days, and restore possession thereof to the judgment obligee; otherwise, the officer shall oust all such persons therefrom with the assistance, if necessary, of appropriate peace officers, and employing such means as may be reasonably necessary to retake possession, and place the judgment obligee in possession of such property. Any costs, damages, rents or profits awarded by the judgment shall be satisfied in the same manner as a judgment for money.

No such requirement was contained in the 1964 Rules of Court. Rule 39, Section 13 of the old Rules provides:

SEC. 13. How execution for the delivery or restitution of property enforced. – The officer must enforce an execution for the delivery or restitution of property by ousting therefrom the person against whom the judgment is rendered and placing the judgment creditor in possession of such property, and by levying as hereinafter provided upon so much of the property of the judgment debtor as will satisfy the amount of the judgment and costs include in the writ of execution.

According to petitioner, the “usual procedure” alluded to by the Court of Appeals refers to the procedure laid down in the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, which were not in effect. He argues that the Court of Appeals erred in retroactively applying the said Rules to a case which occurred in 1985.

The contention is untenable. The “usual procedure” mentioned did not necessarily mean that embodied in the 1997 Rules. Rather, it referred to the procedure normally observed in the service and enforcement of writs of execution, which is consistent with basic principles of fair play. As the Court of Appeals correctly observed, “the raison d’ etre for the doctrine is all too plain for one to see and discern. The defendant in an ejectment case must be accorded an opportunity to make adequate arrangements and find a place for the transfer of her personal belongings and other property to avoid damage to her properties, and at the same time, ascertain if the writ is timely and properly issued by the court.”[13]

In the case at bar, the writ of execution was issued by the trial court on August 30, 1985. Petitioner served the same on respondents on September 2, 1985. Petitioner, therefore, had three days from the issuance of the writ until its service within which to give notice to respondents. There was no notice given. Respondents only learned of the issuance of the writ of execution at the time it was being enforced by petitioner.

Time and again, this Court has stressed the doctrine requiring that notice be given to the defendant in ejectment cases. In Reformina v. Adriano,[14] we declared that, “the immediate enforcement of the writ of ejectment execution is carried out by giving the defendant notice of such writ, and making a demand that defendant comply therewith within a reasonable period, normally from three (3) to five (5) days, and it is only after such period that the sheriff enforces the writ by the bodily removal of the defendant and his belongings.”[15] This was reiterated in City of Manila v. Court of Appeals,[16] to wit:

The Court notes with disapproval the arbitrary manner in which Sheriff Dominandor Cacpal and Deputy Sheriff Reynaldo Cordero acted in delivering possession of the leased premises to the petitioner. The evidence shows that they enforced the writ of execution on the same date they received it, forcibly taking out movables from the said premises, including chandeliers, furniture and furnishings, music organs, stereo components, lighting fixtures and computers. They turned off the water, cut off the electricity and disconnected the telephones. They also unreasonably prevented ANC members from entering the premises to get their personal belongings.

Cacpal and Cordero are hereby sternly reprimanded and warned that a repetition of similar arbitrariness will be dealt with more severely. Their conduct was a clear violation of the requirement that:

“Under the Rules of Court the immediate enforcement of a writ of ejectment execution is carried out by giving the defendant notice of such writ, and making demand that defendant comply therewith within a reasonable period, normally from three (3) to five (5) days, and it is only after such period that the sheriff enforces the writ by the bodily removal of the defendant and his personal belongings.”

Contrary to petitioner’s contention, the foregoing rulings apply to the case at bar. The two cases were decided under the provisions of the 1964 Rules of Court, invoked by petitioner. As stated, the doctrine is based not on any specific rule but on the rudiments of justice and fair play. It frowns upon arbitrariness and oppressive conduct in the execution of an otherwise legitimate act. It is an amplification of the provision that “[e]very person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith.”[17]

Anent the appellate court’s award of damages, we find that the same is reasonable and supported by the evidence on record.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the instant petition is DENIED. The decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 48659, which reversed the decision of the trial court in Civil Case No. 85-33241 and ordered petitioner Leody Manuel to pay respondent Daisy Escalante the amounts of P20,000.00 by way of moral damages, P10,000.00 by way of exemplary damages and P5,000.00 by way of attorney’s fees, is AFFIRMED in toto.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman), Vitug, and Austria-Martinez, JJ., concur.



[1] Rollo, pp. 45-63; penned by Associate Justice Romeo J. Callejo, Sr.; concurred in by Associate Justices Angelina Sandoval Gutierrez and Omar U. Amin.
[2] Ibid., p. 65.
[3] Record, pp. 24-25.
[4] Record, p. 30.
[5] Exhibit B.
[6] Rollo, p. 51.
[7] Record, pp. 63-64.
[8] Rollo, pp. 62-63.
[9] Rollo, p. 20.
[10] Trinidad Francisco v. Government Service Insurance System, 7 SCRA 577 (1963)
[11] CA Rollo, p. 156.
[12] Rollo, p. 65.
[13] Rollo, p. 21.
[14] 189 SCRA 723 1990.
[15] Ibid., at 726.
[16] 204 SCRA 362 1991.
[17] Civil Code, Article 19.



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