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361 Phil. 989


[ G.R. No. 125986, January 28, 1999 ]




This petition for review assails the decision of the respondent Court of Appeals dated March 15, 1996,[1] which affirmed with modification the judgment of default rendered by the Regional Trial Court of Muntinlupa, Branch 276, in Civil Case No. 92-2592 granting all the reliefs prayed for in the complaint of private respondent James Builder Construction and/or Jaime T. Bravo.

As culled from the record, the facts are as follows:

Petitioner Aida M. Posadas and her two (2) minor children co-owned a 1.6 hectare property in Sucat, Muntinlupa, which was occupied by squatters.  Petitioner Posadas entered into negotiations with private respondent Jaime T. Bravo regarding the development of the said property into a residential subdivision.  On May 3, 1989, she authorized private respondent to negotiate with the squatters to leave the said property.  With a written authorization, respondent Bravo buckled down to work and started negotiations with the squatters.

Meanwhile, some seven (7) months later, on December 11, 1989, petitioner Posadas and her two (2) children, through a Deed of Assignment, assigned the said property to petitioner Luxuria Homes, Inc., purportedly for organizational and tax avoidance purposes.  Respondent Bravo signed as one of the witnesses to the execution of the Deed of Assignment and the Articles of Incorporation of petitioner Luxuria Homes, Inc.

Then sometime in 1992, the harmonious and congenial relationship of petitioner Posadas and respondent Bravo turned sour when the former supposedly could not accept the management contracts to develop the 1.6 hectare property into a residential subdivision, the latter was proposing.  In retaliation, respondent Bravo demanded payment for services rendered in connection with the development of the land.  In his statement of account dated 21 August 1991[2] respondent demanded the payment of P1,708,489.00 for various services rendered, i.e., relocation of squatters, preparation of the architectural design and site development plan, survey and fencing.

Petitioner Posadas refused to pay the amount demanded.  Thus, in September 1992, private respondents James Builder Construction and Jaime T. Bravo instituted a complaint for specific performance before the trial court against petitioners Posadas and Luxuria Homes, Inc.  Private respondents alleged therein that petitioner Posadas asked them to clear the subject parcel of land of squatters for a fee of P1,100,000.00 for which they were partially paid the amount of P461,511.50, leaving a balance of P638,488.50.  They were also supposedly asked to prepare a site development plan and an architectural design for a contract price of P450,000.00 for which they were partially paid the amount of P25,000.00, leaving a balance of P425,000.00.  And in anticipation of the signing of the land development contract, they had to construct a bunkhouse and warehouse on the property which amounted to P300,000.00, and a hollow blocks factory for P60,000.00.  Private respondents also claimed that petitioner Posadas agreed that private respondents will develop the land into a first class subdivision thru a management contract and that petitioner Posadas is unjustly refusing to comply with her obligation to finalize the said management contract.

The prayer in the complaint of the private respondents before the trial court reads as follows:
“WHEREFORE, premises considered, it is respectfully prayed of this Honorable Court that after hearing/trial judgment be rendered ordering defendant to:

a)  Comply with its obligation to deliver/finalize Management Contract of its land in Sucat, Muntinlupa, Metro Manila and to pay plaintiff its balance in the amount of P1,708,489.00;

b)  Pay plaintiff moral and exemplary damages in the amount of P500,000.00;

c)  Pay plaintiff actual damages in the amount of P500,000.00 (Bunkhouse/warehouse – P300,000.00, Hollow-block factory – P60,000.00, lumber, cement, etc., P120,000.00, guard – P20,000.00);

d)  Pay plaintiff attorney’s fee of P50,000 plus P700 per appearance in court and 5% of that which may be awarded by the court to plaintiff re its monetary claims;

e)  Pay cost of this suit.”[3]
On September 27, 1993, the trial court declared petitioner Posadas in default and allowed the private respondents to present their evidence ex-parte.  On March 8, 1994, it ordered petitioner Posadas, jointly and in solidum with petitioner Luxuria Homes, Inc., to pay private respondents as follows:
1.  x x x the balance of the payment for the various services performed by Plaintiff with respect to the land covered by TCT NO. 167895 previously No. 158290 in the total amount of P1,708,489.00.

2.  x x x actual damages incurred for the construction of the warehouses/bunks, and for the materials used in the total sum of P1,500,000.00.

3.  Moral and exemplary damages of P500,000.00.

4.  Attorney’s fee of P50,000.00.

5.  And cost of this proceedings.
Defendant Aida Posadas as the Representative of the Corporation Luxuria Homes, Incorporated, is further directed to execute the management contract she committed to do, also in consideration of the various undertakings that Plaintiff rendered for her.”[4]
Aggrieved by the aforecited decision, petitioners appealed to respondent Court of Appeals, which, as aforestated, affirmed with modification the decision of the trial court.  The appellate court deleted the award of moral damages on the ground that respondent James Builder Construction is a corporation and hence could not experience physical suffering and mental anguish.  It also reduced the award of exemplary damages.  The dispositive portion of the decision reads:
“WHEREFORE, the decision appealed from is hereby AFFIRMED with the modification that the award of moral damages is ordered deleted and the award of exemplary damages to the plaintiffs-appellee should only be in the amount of FIFTY THOUSAND (P50,000.00) PESOS.”[5]
Petitioners’ motion for reconsideration was denied, prompting the filing of this petition for review before this Court.

On January 15, 1997, the Third Division of this Court denied due course to this petition for failing to show convincingly any reversible error on the part of the Court of Appeals.  This Court however deleted the grant of exemplary damages and attorney’s fees.  The Court also reduced the trial court’s award of actual damages from P1,500,000.00 to P500,000.00 reasoning that the grant  should not exceed the amount prayed for in the complaint.  In the prayer in the complaint respondents asked for actual damages in the amount of P500,000.00 only.

Still feeling aggrieved with the resolution of this Court, petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration.  On March 17, 1997, this Court found merit in the petitioners’ motion for reconsideration and reinstated this petition for review.

From their petition for review and motion for reconsideration before this Court, we now synthesize the issues as follows:

1.  Were private respondents able to present ex-parte sufficient evidence to substantiate the allegations in their complaint and entitle them to their prayers?

2.  Can petitioner Luxuria Homes, Inc., be held liable to private respondents for the transactions supposedly entered into between petitioner Posadas and private respondents?

3.  Can petitioners be compelled to enter into a management contract with private respondents?

Petitioners who were declared in default assert that the private respondents who presented their evidence ex-parte nonetheless utterly failed to substantiate the allegations in their complaint and as such cannot be entitled to the reliefs prayed for.

A perusal of the record shows that petitioner Posadas contracted respondents Bravo to render various services for the initial development of the property as shown by vouchers evidencing payments made by petitioner Posadas to respondents Bravo for squatter relocation, architectural design, survey and fencing.

Respondents prepared the architectural design, site development plan and survey in connection with petitioner Posadas’ application with the Housing and Land Regulatory Board (HLRUB) for the issuance of the Development Permit, Preliminary Approval and Locational Clearance.[6] Petitioner benefited from said services as the Development Permit and the Locational Clearance were eventually issued by the HLURB in her favor.  Petitioner Posadas is therefore liable to pay for these services rendered by respondents.  The contract price for the survey of the land is P140,000.00.  Petitioner made partial payments totaling P130,000.00 leaving a payable balance of P10,000.00.

In his testimony,[7] he alleged that the agreed price for the preparation of the site development plan is P500,000.00 and that the preparation of the architectural designs is for P450,000, or a total of P950,000.00 for the two contracts.  In his complaint  however, respondent Bravo alleged that he was asked “to prepare the site development plan and the architectural designs x x x for a contract price of P450,000.00 x x x.”[8] The discrepancy or inconsistency was never reconciled and clarified.

We reiterate that we cannot award an amount higher than what was claimed in the complaint.  Consequently for the preparation of both the architectural design and site development plan, respondent is entitled to the amount of P450,000.00 less partial payments made in the amount of P25,000.00.  In Policarpio v. RTC of Quezon City,[9] it was held that a court is bereft of jurisdiction to award, in a judgment by default, a relief other than that specifically prayed for in the complaint.

As regards the contracts for the ejectment of squatters and fencing, we believe however that respondents failed to show proof that they actually fulfilled their commitments therein.  Aside from the bare testimony of respondent Bravo, no other evidence was presented to show that all the squatter were ejected from the property.  Respondent Bravo failed to show how many shanties or structures were actually occupying the property before he entered the same, to serve as basis for concluding whether the task was finished or not.  His testimony alone that he successfully negotiated for the ejectment of all the squatters from the property will not suffice.

Likewise, in the case of fencing, there is no proof that it was accomplished as alleged.  Respondent Bravo claims that he finished sixty percent (60%) of the fencing project but he failed to present evidence showing the area sought to be fenced and the actual area fenced by him.  We therefore have no basis to determining the veracity respondent’s allegations.  We cannot assume that the said services rendered for it will be unfair to require petitioner to pay the full amount claimed in case the respondents obligations were not completely fulfilled.

For respondents’ failure to show proof of accomplishment of the aforesaid services, their claims cannot be granted.  In P.T. Cerna Corp. v. Court of Appeals,[10] we ruled that in civil cases, the burden of proof rests upon the party who, as determined by the pleadings or the nature of the case, asserts the affirmative of an issue.  In this case the burden lies on the complainant, who is duty bound to prove the allegations in the complaint.  As this Court has held, he who alleges a fact has the burden of proving it and A MERE ALLEGATION IS NOT EVIDENCE.

And the rules do not change even if the defendant is declared in default.  In the leading case of Lopez v. Mendezona,[11] this Court ruled that after entry of judgment in default against a defendant who has neither appeared nor answered, and before final judgment in favor of the plaintiff, the latter must establish by competent evidence all the material allegations of his complaint upon which he bases his prayer for relief.  In De los Santos v. De la Cruz¸[12] this Court declared that a judgment by default against a defendant does not imply a waiver of rights except that of being heard and of presenting evidence in his favor.  It does not imply admission by the defendant of the facts and causes of action of the plaintiff, because the codal section requires the latter to adduce his evidence in support of his allegations as an indispensable condition before final judgment could be given in his favor.  Nor could it be interpreted as an admission by the defendant that the plaintiff’s causes of action finds support in the law or that the latter is entitled to the relief prayed for.

We explained the rule in judgments by default in Pascua v. Florendo,[13] where we said that nowhere is it stated that the complainants are automatically entitled to the relief prayed for, once the defendants are declared in default.  Favorable relief can be granted only after the court has ascertained that the evidence offered and the facts proven by the presenting party warrant the grant of the same.  Otherwise it would be meaningless to require presentation of evidence if everytime the other party is declared in default, a decision would automatically be rendered in favor of the non-defaulting party and exactly according to the tenor of his prayer.  In Lim Tanhu v. Ramolete[14] we elaborated and said that a defaulted defendant is not actually thrown out of court.  The rules see to it that any judgment against him must be in accordance with law.  The evidence to support the plaintiff’s cause is, of course, presented in his absence, but the court is not supposed to admit that which is basically incompetent.  Although the defendant would not be in a position to object, elementary justice requires that only legal evidence should be considered against him.  If the evidence presented should not be sufficient to justify a judgment for the plaintiff, the complaint must be dismissed.  And if an unfavorable judgment should be justifiable, it cannot exceed the amount or be different in kind from what is prayed for in the complaint.

The prayer for actual damages in the amount of P500,000.00, supposedly for the bunkhouse/warehouse, hollow-block factory, lumber, cement, guard, etc., which the trial court granted and even increased to P1,500,000.00, and which this Court would have rightly reduced to the amount prayed for in the complaint, was not established, as shown upon further review of the record.  No receipts or vouchers were presented by private respondents to show that they actually spent the amount.  In Salas v. Court of Appeals,[15] we said that the burden of proof of the damages suffered is on the party claiming the same.  It his duty to present evidence to support his claim for actual damages.  If he failed to do so, he has only himself to blame if no award for actual damages is handed down.

In fine, as we declared in PNOC Shipping & Transport Corp. v. Court of Appeals,[16] basic is the rule that to recover actual damages, the amount of loss must not only be capable of proof but must actually be proven with reasonable degree of certainty, premised upon competent proof or best evidence obtainable of the actual amount thereof.

We go to the second issue of whether Luxuria Homes, Inc., was a party to the transactions entered into by petitioner Posadas and private respondents and thus could be held jointly and severally with petitioner Posadas.  Private respondents contend that petitioner Posadas surreptitiously formed Luxuria Homes, Inc., and transferred the subject parcel of land to it to evade payment and defraud creditors, including private respondents.  This allegation does not find support in the evidence on record.

On the contrary we hold that respondents Court of Appeals committed a reversible error when it upheld the factual finding of the trial court that petitioners’ liability was aggravated by the fact that Luxuria Homes, Inc., was formed by petitioner Posadas after demand for payment had been made, evidently for her to evade payment of her obligation, thereby showing that the transfer of her property to Luxuria Homes, Inc., was in fraud of creditors.

We easily glean from the record that private respondents sent demand letters on 21 August 1991 and 14 September 1991, or more than a year and a half after the execution of the Deed of Assignment on 11 December 1989, and the issuance of the Articles of Incorporation of petitioner Luxuria Homes on 26 January 1990.  And, the transfer was made at the time the relationship between petitioner Posadas and private respondents was supposedly very pleasant.  In fact the Deed of Assignment dated 11 December 1989 and the Articles of Incorporation of Luxuria Homes, Inc., issued 26 January 1990 were both signed by respondent Bravo himself as witness.  It cannot be said then that the incorporation of petitioner Luxuria Homes and the eventual transfer of the subject property to it were in fraud of private respondent as such were done with the full knowledge of respondent Bravo himself.

Besides petitioner Posadas is not the majority stockholder of petitioner Luxuria Homes, Inc., as erroneously stated by the lower court.  The Articles of Incorporation of petitioner Luxuria Homes, Inc., clearly show that petitioner Posadas owns approximately 33% only of the capital stock.  Hence petitioner Posadas cannot be considered as an alter ego of petitioner Luxuria Homes, Inc.

To disregard the separate juridical personality of a corporation, the wrongdoing must be clearly and convincingly established.  It cannot be presumed.  This is elementary.  Thus in Bayer-Roxas v. Court of Appeals,[17] we said that the separate personality of the corporation may be disregarded only when the corporation is used as a cloak or cover for fraud or illegality, or to work injustice, or where necessary for the protection of the creditors.  Accordingly in Del Rosario v. NLRC,[18] where the Philsa International Placement and Services Corp. was organized and registered with the POEA in 1981, several years before the complainant was filed a case in 1985, we held that this cannot imply fraud.

Obviously in the instant case, private respondents failed to show proof that petitioner Posadas acted in bad faith.  Consequently since private respondents failed to show that petitioner Luxuria Homes, Inc., was a party to any of the supposed transactions, not even to the agreement to negotiate with and relocate the squatters, it cannot be held liable, nay jointly and in solidum, to pay private respondents.  In this case since it was petitioner Aida M. Posadas who contracted respondent Bravo to render the subject services, only she is liable to pay the amounts adjudged herein.

We now resolved the third and final issue.  Private respondents urge the court to compel petitioners to execute a management contract with them on the basis of the authorization letter dated May 3, 1989.  The full text of Exh “D” reads:
“I hereby certify that we have duly authorized the bearer, Engineer Bravo to negotiate, in our behalf, the ejectment of squatters from our property of 1.6 hectares, more or less, in Sucat, Muntinlupa.  This authority is extended to him as the representatives of the Managers, under our agreement for them to undertake the development of said area and the construction of housing units intended to convert the land into a first class subdivision.”
The aforecited document is nothing more than a “to-whom-it-may-concern” authorization letter to negotiate with the squatters.  Although it appears that there was an agreement for the development of the area, there is no showing that same was never perfected and finalized.  Private respondents presented in evidence only drafts of a proposed management contract with petitioner’s handwritten marginal notes but the management contract was not put in its final form.  The reason why there was no final uncorrected draft was because the parties could not agree on the stipulations of said contract, which even the private respondents admitted as found by the trial court.[19]  As a consequence the management drafts submitted by the private respondents should at best be considered as mere unaccepted offers.  We find no cogent reason, considering that the parties no longer are in a harmonious relationship, for the execution of a contract to develop a subdivision.

It is fundamental that there can be no contract in the true sense in the absence of the element of agreement, or of mutual assent of the parties.  To  compel petitioner Posadas, whether as representatives of petitioners Luxuria Homes or in her personal capacity, to execute a management contract under the terms and conditions of private respondents would be to violate the principle of  consensuality of contracts.  In Philippine National bank v. Court of Appeals,[20] we held that if the assent is wanting on the part of one who contracts, his act has no more efficacy than if it had been done under duress or by a person of unsound mind.  In ordering petitioner Posadas to execute a management contract with private respondents, the trial court in effect is putting her under duress.

The parties are bound to fulfill the stipulations in a contract only upon its perfection.  At anytime prior to the perfection of a contract, unaccepted offers and proposals remain as such and cannot be considered as binding commitments; hence not demandable.

WHEREFORE, the petition is PARTIALLY GRANTED.  The assailed decision dated March 15, 1996, of respondent Honorable Court of Appeals and its Resolution dated August 12, 1996, are MODIFIED ordering PETITIONER AIDA M. POSADAS to pay PRIVATE RESPONDENTS the amount of P435,000.00 as balance for the preparation of the architectural design, site development plan and survey.  All other claims of respondents are hereby DENIED for lack of merit.


Melo, Kapunan, and Pardo, JJ., concur.

Davide, Jr., C.J. (Chairman), no part former counsel of a party.

[1] Penned by Associate Justice Gloria C. Paras, Chairman, Fourth Division, and concurred in by Associate Justice Angelina Sandoval Gutierrez and Associate Justice Conrado M. Vasquez, Jr.

[2] Annex “I-1” of the Complaint dated June 1992 of James Builder Construction and/or Jaime Bravo.

[3] Complaint in Civil Case No. 92-2592; Annex “N,” Rollo, pp. 105-107.

[4] Decision in Civil Case No. 92-2592; Annex “M,” Rollo, pp. 99-104.

[5] Decision in CA-G.R. CV No. 45788; Annex “A,” Rollo, pp. 68-75.

[6] TSN, October 27, 1993, p. 79 & 143.

[7] Id., pp. 70 & 137.

[8] Complaint in Civil Case No. 92-2592, p. 2, paragraph 7.

[9] 235 SCRA 314 [1994].

[10] 221 SCRA 19 [1993].

[11] 11 Phil. 209 [1908].

[12]  37 SCRA 555 [1971].

[13] 136 SCRA 208 [1985].

[14] 66 SCRA 425 [1975].

[15] 191 SCRA 526 [1990].

[16] G.R. No. 107518, October 8, 1998.

[17] 211 SCRA 470 [1992].

[18] 187 SCRA 777 [1990].

[19] Decision of the trial court, p. 2.

[20] 238 SCRA 20 [1994].

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