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327 Phil. 764


[ G.R. No. 106413, July 05, 1996 ]




This is a petition for certiorari  to set aside the two resolutions of the Second Division[1] of the Sandiganbayan for having been allegedly issued with grave abuse of discretion. These are (1) the resolution dated October 1, 1991 declaring the previous resolution of June 28, 1989, which ordered the return of the Price Mansion to private respondents, to be final and executory, and therefore ordering petitioner to comply with such directive; and (2) the resolution dated July 23, 1992 denying petitioner’s motion for reconsideration for being moot and academic. In the alternative, the present petition prays for the issuance of a writ of mandamus to compel the Sandiganbayan to conduct a hearing and determine whether the Price Mansion in Tacloban City, subject of the case in the Sandiganbayan, is ill-gotten property.

The facts are as follows:

On March 18, 1986, the newly-organized Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), placed under sequestration two parcels of land and a building thereon, which are collectively known as the Price Mansion, in Tacloban City, believing that it belonged to Benjamin "Kokoy" Romualdez. Private respondent Tacloban City Ice Plant (TCIP), a family corporation, asserting ownership of the Price Mansion, sought the lifting of the order of sequestration. It claimed that the Price Mansion had been sold to it by the children and heirs of the original owners, Walter Scott Price and Simeona K. Price, in a Deed of Extrajudicial Partition and Sale dated March, 1978.[2] In view of this claim, the PCGG conducted hearings at which Engineer Wilson Chan, director of TCIP, and Professor Esteban A. Ocampo of the National Historical Commission testified. According to Engr. Chan, the Price Mansion, located beside TCIP’s Tacloban Plaza Pensione, had been acquired by TCIP in 1978 for the purpose of converting it into a commercial complex. TCIP in fact commenced construction immediately after the purchase by making the necessary excavations and laying out the scaffoldings but was not able to proceed with its plan in view of local opposition to the commercialization of what was thought a historical landmark. Prof. Ocampo corroborated TCIP’s claim. He testified that when he went to Tacloban City in 1978 in behalf of the National Historical Commission, he met Mr. Joseph Ch. Chan, TCIP president, who assured him that TCIP was not going to demolish the Price Mansion. It was his impression that the Chan family owned the property.

On the basis of these testimonies, the PCGG held that TCIP had "sufficiently substantiated its claim to the bonafide ownership of the subject property" and that "the [Price Mansion] does not constitute ill-gotten wealth as defined by Executive Order Nos. 1, 2 and 14, as amended, series of 1986." The dispositive portion of the order, dated February 27, 1987, reads:

WHEREFORE, the sequestration of the property known as the Price Mansion, covered by Transfer Certificates of Titles Nos. T-14733 and T-14734, Registry of Deeds for the City of Tacloban, is hereby LIFTED.


However, despite its order lifting the sequestration, the PCGG did not give up its possession of the Price Mansion. Instead it listed the property as Asset No. 29 of Benjamin "Kokoy" Romualdez against whom, among others, it filed a case (Civil Case No. 0035[4]) in the Sandiganbayan on August 13, 1987. The Price Mansion was also included as Asset No. 293 in a list appended to a complaint earlier filed against Alfredo "Bejo" Romualdez, which was docketed as Civil Case No. 0010.

Private respondent TCIP called the attention of the PCGG and the Solicitor General to the order of February 23, 1987 lifting the order of sequestration on the Price Mansion. On June 17, 1988 TCIP requested them to file a motion to withdraw the property from the list of assets in both cases.

The Price Mansion was deleted from the list of assets of Alfredo "Bejo" Romualdez in Civil Case No. 0010, but in Civil Case No. 0035, the Solicitor General merely informed private respondent that "the property will be excluded in an amendment we intend to make."[5] The PCGG, for its part, advised private respondent that the property would be returned to it as soon as the Sandiganbayan had approved the amendment of the complaint.[6]

No action was taken upon the matter, however. On June 14, 1989, on advice of the Solicitor General and the PCGG, private respondent filed a Motion to Exclude Sequestered Property and/or Approve Lifting of Sequestration. At the hearing held on June 19, 1989, counsel for petitioner Republic appeared and told the court that the PCGG had informed the Solicitor General of the fact that it (the PCGG) had already lifted the sequestration of the Price Mansion and that the PCGG did not have any objection to the exclusion of the property from Annex "A" of the complaint. Accordingly, on June 28, 1989, the Sandiganbayan granted the motion of TCIP and ordered the deletion of the Price Mansion from the list of assets or properties of Benjamin "Kokoy" Romualdez and its turnover to TCIP. The dispositive portion of the resolution reads:[7]

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing premises, We hereby decide, and so rule, to grant the relief as prayed for. Accordingly, the lots and building of "Price Mansion" is hereby ordered deleted from the list of assets/properties of Benjamin "Kokoy" Romualdez (No. 293, Amended Complaint) in the above-entitled case. Accordingly, the Presidential Commission on Good Government and the Office of the Solicitor General are hereby directed to effect the turnover of said property to herein movant Tacloban City Ice Plant, Incorporation at the soonest possible time.


It appears, however, that despite the assurance earlier given by it that it would abide by the order of the Sandiganbayan, the PCGG did not turn over the Price Mansion to private respondent. Instead it remained in possession and custody of it or at least of a portion occupied by an antenna/tower of the PRTV-12.

In February 1990, TCIP sold the Price Mansion to the other private respondent Allied Banking Corporation (Allied) as trustee for the College Assurance Plan Philippines, Inc. (CAPP). TCIP undertook to remove the antenna/tower built by PRTV-12 (another sequestered entity) on the premises and thereafter to transfer possession of the property to Allied, failing which it was bound to pay a penalty of P15,000.00 a month starting September 1990 until the transfer of possession is finalized.

In a letter to TCIP’s Engr. Chan and Atty. Quimbo dated April 7, 1990, the PCGG and the PRTV-12 expressed their willingness to remove the antenna/tower provided it was given financial assistance for doing so by TCIP.[8]

On March 22, 1991 TCIP filed with the Sandiganbayan a Motion for Compliance to compel petitioner, represented by the PCGG, to make a complete turnover of the property to it (TCIP).[9] In its motion, TCIP stated:

2. The term "soonest possible time" was interpreted by the PCGG as a period of almost three (3) years because up to the present time, it has not turned over a portion of the "lots" mentioned in the afore-quoted RESOLUTION (June 28, 1989)." (Italics supplied)

In its comment, petitioner opposed TCIP’s motion on the ground that the transfer might cause financial loss to PRTV-12 and, therefore, unnecessary hardship on petitioner. Petitioner averred that, in any event, it was not bound by the terms and conditions of the sale to Allied.

On April 26, 1991 petitioner’s motion was heard. The parties submitted oral arguments. On October 1, 1991 the Sandiganbayan issued the first questioned resolution,[10] granting, over petitioner’s objection, respondent TCIP’s motion for compliance and declaring its resolution of June 28, 1989 final and executory on the ground that petitioner did not appeal or file a motion for reconsideration. It reiterated its stance that the continued possession of the PCGG of a portion of the mansion was an impairment without legal basis of TCIP’s right of ownership.

Petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration.[11] It alleged that it had been furnished by Francisco Tantuico, former Chairman of the Commission on Audit, who was also a defendant in Civil Case No. 0035, with copies of documents showing that prior to its sequestration, the Price Mansion had been sold by TCIP to Universal Broadcasting Corp. (UBC), which is listed as Asset No. 56 of Benjamin Romualdez.[12] It contended that the lifting of the sequestration order was obtained through false representation of TCIP that the Price Mansion had never been sold to Romualdez. It insisted that the mansion, though released from sequestration, "may be ill-gotten" after all because UBC is a sequestered corporation and its incorporator and majority stockholder, Zenaida Ocampo, is also a defendant in the aforesaid Civil Case No. 0035.[13] Petitioner prayed that the order to turn over the Price Mansion to TCIP be suspended pending resolution of the issues raised in its motion for reconsideration, because to compel petitioner to comply with the Sandiganbayan resolution directing the turnover could result in irreparable injury to the rights and interests of the Republic.

Meanwhile UBC filed a Motion for Leave of Court to Intervene, claiming ownership of the Price Mansion.[14] According to UBC, sometime in May 1978, TCIP offered to sell the property to it. However, at the time of the transaction, UBC was not yet incorporated, so the sale was consummated on its behalf by its incorporator and stockholder Zenaida Ocampo, and the Deed of Absolute Sale was notarized only on December 15, 1981. The titles to the property were subsequently delivered to UBC, it was alleged, but the sale still could not be registered in UBC’s name. Nonetheless, UBC was able to gain possession of the property, erecting thereon an antenna/tower for PRTV-12. Thereafter, feigning loss of its titles, TCIP succeeded in obtaining new owner’s duplicate certificates of title and had the lots surveyed anew and divided into three portions. It was in this form, and using three new certificates of title, that the children of Joseph Ch. Chan allegedly sold the Price Mansion to Allied.

On June 16, 1992, the Sandiganbayan denied the Motion for Leave of Court to Intervene, opining that the dispute between UBC and TCIP could best be resolved in a separate action before a regular court.

On July 23, 1992, the Sandiganbayan issued the second questioned resolution denying petitioner’s motion for reconsideration of the October 1, 1991 resolution for lack of merit. The court declared petitioner’s motion for reconsideration moot and academic in view of the finality of the resolution of June 28, 1989, with the result that the Sandiganbayan had lost its jurisdiction over the subject property. It ruled that although the Price Mansion was formerly a sequestered asset of Benjamin Romualdez and under custodia legis, from the moment the Sandiganbayan ordered the deletion of the property from the list of assets of Romualdez, the property lost its character as ill-gotten and the Sandiganbayan lost its jurisdiction over the property. The Sandiganbayan further held that even if the Price Mansion were eventually adjudicated in favor of UBC in a separate proceeding, the mansion would not revert to its status as ill-gotten property because the UBC itself is not a party defendant in this case.

Hence this petition. Petitioner charges the Sandiganbayan with grave abuse of its discretion in declaring petitioner’s motion for reconsideration moot and academic. Petitioner contends:

(a) The resolution (Annex "E-1") is a mere interlocutory order that can never acquire finality;

(b) The lifting of sequestration or delisting of the subject property in the list of sequestered properties does not necessarily render the property "clean" or "not ill-gotten";

(c) The respondent Court ignored the allegations of the Amended Complaint as well as those detailed factual allegations in the Complaint in Intervention which, had the court so done, it would not have come to the erroneous conclusion that plaintiff had not alleged facts showing that the subject property was acquired by defendant Benjamin (Kokoy) Romualdez, because the said allegations, taken together, would have resulted in a contrary conclusion; and,

(d) The non-inclusion or the failure to implead Universal Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) did not in any way affect the jurisdiction of the respondent Court over the controversy between UBC and TCIP notwithstanding the ruling of this Honorable Tribunal in the Interco case.[15]

Contrary to petitioner’s argument, the resolution dated June 28, 1989, delisting the Price Mansion and ordering its turnover to private respondent, was a final and definitive determination that the Price Mansion did not belong to defendant Benjamin "Kokoy" Romualdez. As the Sandiganbayan stated in that resolution:

We find merit in movant’s motion. The record shows that the "Price Mansion" consisting of lots and building owned by herein movant Tacloban City Ice Plant, Inc., was originally listed as one of the "ill-gotten wealth" and sequestered by the PCGG in the honest belief that it was part of the assets of former Leyte Governor Benjamin "Kokoy" Romualdez. However, the sequestration has been lifted by the PCGG in its Order, dated February 23, 1987 (pp. 6044-6045, Ibid.). The ownership of herein movant of "Price Mansion" had been admittedly established but no physical turnover of said property to its true and legal owner had been effected nor was the property deleted in the list of sequestered property filed against Benjamin "Kokoy" Romualdez in Civil Case No. 0035 (PCGG No. 35) up to date despite the movant’s request, thus, impairing the full exercise of herein movant’s right of ownership to develop the property, one of which is the intended expansion program of the Tacloban Plaza Pensione. The right to possession is an attribute of one’s right to ownership, therefore, it is but just and equitable that herein movant be restored to its full control and enjoyment of its own property.[16]

The Sandiganbayan’s finding followed the earlier finding of the PCGG that "petitioner [TCIP] has sufficiently substantiated its claim to the bonafide ownership of the subject property."[17] The Sandiganbayan reiterated its finding in its resolution of October 1, 1991[18] in which it ordered the PCGG "to effect and cause the complete turnover of the lots and building of the ‘Price Mansion’ to Tacloban City Ice Plant, Inc. within thirty (30) days from receipt hereof," after noting that the failure of the PCGG "to vacate the premises, remove improvements therein and turn-over complete possession of said property to herein movants . . . [was] depriving the herein movants of their right to enjoy their property." There is therefore no basis for petitioner’s claim that the lifting of sequestration or delisting is not a final judgment, because a sequestration order is merely provisional.

It is provisional, to abide the final outcome of the action. But in this case there was a final determination already, at least as far as the question whether the Price Mansion belonged to Benjamin "Kokoy" Romualdez was concerned. A court order is final in character if it puts an end to the particular matter resolved or settles definitely the matter therein disposed of, such that no further questions can come before the court except the execution of the order. Such an order or judgment may validly refer to the entire controversy or to some definite and separate branch thereof.[19]

The resolution of June 28, 1989 of the Sandiganbayan must be regarded as having put an end at least to the question whether the Price Mansion belonged to Benjamin "Kokoy" Romualdez. It would be intolerable if one day the Price Mansion would be considered property of Romualdez and another day it would not be so considered, depending on what evidence each side would be able to bring forward, no matter how long it has been since the last order was made. And yet that would be the mischievous result of adopting petitioner’s theory.

On the other hand, we think the Sandiganbayan should have looked more closely into the allegations that the property in question actually belonged to the Universal Broadcasting Corp., which is listed in the amended complaint in Civil Case No. 0035 as among several corporations controlled by Benjamin "Kokoy" Romualdez. As already noted, UBC filed a complaint in intervention in Civil Case No. 0035, in which it was alleged that on December 15, 1981 it had purchased the Price Mansion from respondent TCIP. Attached to the complaint is a xerox copy of a Deed of Absolute Sale, covering the property in question, which respondent TCIP allegedly executed in favor of UBC.

Respondent TCIP opposed the motion for intervention, contending that, under Rule 12, §2 of the Rules of Court, intervention may be allowed only before or during the trial and here the resolution of June 28, 1989, declaring the Price Mansion to be the property of TCIP, had already become final. But the intervention was sought in the pending Civil Case No. 0035. While TCIP’s own intervention might have long been settled, UBC’s intervention is another one. And since up to then the complete turnover of the property to the TCIP had not been effected, it was in the power of the Sandiganbayan to resolve the claim of the UBC, in the meantime holding in abeyance the delivery of the property to the TCIP.

Indeed, what is intriguing is by what authority the UBC or the PRTV-12 antenna/tower got installed on a portion of the lots forming part of the Price Mansion. TCIP studiously avoided discussing the Deed of Absolute Sale allegedly executed by it way back on December 15, 1981 in favor of the UBC. This document could possibly explain how UBC was able to construct the antenna/tower on a portion of the lots in question. All that TCIP said in its 10-page opposition to the motion for intervention of the UBC is the following:

These discrepancies and inconsistencies are being pointed out if only to show that the "Price Mansion" was not sold by the Tacloban City Ice Plant, Inc. either to Universal Broadcasting Corporation, Zenaida Ocampo or Benjamin "Kokoy" Romualdez.[20]

On the other hand, the petitioner’s predicament is largely due to the seeming inability of the PCGG to resolve whose property the Price Mansion is ¾ whether it is Benjamin "Kokoy" Romualdez’s or it is UBC’s. It was only in October 1991, four years after it had lifted the sequestration on the Price Mansion on the theory that it did not belong to Romualdez, that the PCGG questioned the return of the property to TCIP, on the ground that it belonged to UBC. Until then it would appear that the PCGG was disposed to return possession of the Price Mansion, so that by October 1, 1991, when the Sandiganbayan ordered full compliance with its June 28, 1989 resolution, only a small portion of the lots, which was occupied by the antenna/tower had not been delivered to TCIP. In its resolution on UBC’s motion for intervention dated June 16, 1992, the Sandiganbayan in fact noted:

From the foregoing premises it is quite clear that the sequestration of the ‘Price Mansion’ has not only been lifted but the property had already been turned over to the Tacloban City Ice Plant, Inc.[21]

Even with respect to this portion, it would appear that the PCGG was willing to make a turn-over to TCIP provided it was given financial assistance in removing the antenna/tower and transferring it to another site. Thus, in a letter of April 7, 1990 to respondent TCIP, PCGG Asset Monitor Miguel Genotiva and PRTV-12 Station Manager Abellanosa stated:

In view of the present financial condition of PRTV-12, it cannot afford to shoulder the Cost of Transfer and therefore we seek your assistance and that of College Assurance Plan, so that the transfer will be effected. We propose the ff. conditions if you agree to help us: . . . [22]

Considering these questions, it behooved the Sandiganbayan to conduct a hearing to determine the truth of UBC’s claim. For whether the Price Mansion had been acquired by the UBC is a question that was not decided in the June 28, 1989 resolution of the Sandiganbayan. Rule 39, §49(c) of the Rules of Court provides:

(c) In any other litigation between the same parties or their successors in interest, that only is deemed to have been adjudged in a former judgment which appears upon its face to have been so adjudged, or which was actually and necessarily included therein or necessary thereto.

As Chief Justice Moran explains with characteristic lucidity:

[W]here between the first case wherein the judgment is rendered, and the second case wherein such judgment is invoked, there is identity of parties, but there is no identity of causes of action, the judgment is conclusive in the second case, only as to those matters actually and directly controverted and determined, and not as to matters merely involved therein. This is what is termed "conclusiveness of the judgment." Thus, a judgment rendered upon one installment of a contract, is conclusive between the same parties in a subsequent action upon another installment, but only as to those matters that have been actually or directly controverted and decided in the first case, and no others. Accordingly, the defense of fraud or want of consideration may be pleaded and proved in the second case, if it has not been presented and actually decided in the first case.[23]

It is noteworthy that TCIP is itself named in the amended complaint in Civil Case No. 0035 as among the corporations controlled by Benjamin "Kokoy" Romualdez. It would therefore seem that it would make no difference whether the Price Mansion is declared the property of TCIP or that of UBC since in either case it might be considered property of a corporation owned or controlled by Benjamin "Kokoy" Romualdez.

WHEREFORE, petitioner’s alternative prayer is GRANTED and the Sandiganbayan is ORDERED to conduct a hearing and determine the claim of ownership of the Universal Broadcasting Corporation and the right of the Republic of the Philippines, through the PCGG, to retain possession of the property in question. In the meantime, the resolutions dated October 1, 1991 and July 23, 1992 of the Sandiganbayan are SUSPENDED, subject to the decision of the Sandiganbayan on the aforesaid claim of UBC.


Regalado, (Chairman), Romero, Puno, and Torres, Jr., JJ., concur.

Per Associate Justice Romeo M. Escareal, Chairman, and concurred in by Associate Justices Jose S. Balajadia and Nathanael M. Grospe.

[2] Annex D, Rollo, p. 106.

[3] Rollo, p. 50.

[4] Amended Complaint in Civil Case No. 0035, Rollo, p. 91.

[5] Letter, Solicitor General, Rollo, p. 128.

[6] Letter, PCGG Commissioner Augusto E. Villarin, Rollo, p. 129.

[7] Annex E-1, Rollo, p. 143.

[8] Rollo, p. 144.

[9] Annex E, Rollo, p. 136.

[10] Annex F, Rollo, p. 153.

[11] Annex G, Rollo, p. 158.

[12] Annex C, Rollo, p. 93.

[13] Annex C, Rollo, p. 59.

[14] Annex I, Rollo, p. 167.

[15] Rollo, pp. 15-16.

[16] Rollo, pp. 142-143.

[17] PCGG order dated February 23, 1987, Rollo, pp. 122-23.

[18] Rollo, p. 150.

[19] De la Cruz v. Paras, 69 SCRA 556 (1976); Bairan v. Tan Siu Lay, 18 SCRA 1239 (1966).

[20] Annex J, Opposition, Rollo, p. 184.

[21] Annex E, Motion for Compliance, Rollo, p. 136.

[22] Annex E-2, Rollo, p. 144.

[23] 2 Manuel V. Moran, Comments on The Rules of Court 360 (1979).

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