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388 Phil. 835


[ G.R. No. 115117, June 08, 2000 ]




This is a petition to review the decision of the Court of Appeals rendered on April 20, 1994 reversing the judgment of the Regional Trial Court of Caloocan City in an action for recovery of sum of money filed by private respondent against petitioner. In said decision, the appellate court decreed:
"WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, the appealed judgment is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Appellee [petitioner herein] is hereby ordered to pay appellant [private respondent herein] the sum of P763,101.70, with legal interest thereon, from the date of the filing of the Complaint, until fully paid.

The RTC judgment reversed by the Court of Appeals had disposed of the complaint as follows:
"WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered:

Ordering plaintiff [herein private respondent] to pay defendant [herein petitioner] the sum of P27,222.60 as compensatory and actual damages after deducting P763,101.70 (value of materials received by defendant) from P790,324.30 representing compensatory damages as defendant's unrealized profits;

Ordering plaintiff to pay defendant the sum of P100,000.00 as moral damages;

Ordering plaintiff to pay the sum of P30,000.00 for attorney's fees; and to pay the costs of suit.

The facts, as culled from the records, are as follows:

Petitioner and private respondent executed on May 5, 1978, an order agreement whereby private respondent bound itself to deliver to petitioner 3,450 reams of printing paper, coated, 2 sides basis, 80 lbs., 38" x 23", short grain, worth P1,040,060.00 under the following schedule: May and June 1978--450 reams at P290.00/ream; August and September 1978--700 reams at P290/ream; January 1979--575 reams at P307.20/ream; March 1979--575 reams at P307.20/ream; July 1979--575 reams at P307.20/ream; and October 1979--575 reams at P307.20/ream. In accordance with the standard operating practice of the parties, the materials were to be paid within a minimum of thirty days and maximum of ninety days from delivery.

Later, on June 7, 1978, petitioner entered into a contract with Philippine Appliance Corporation (Philacor) to print three volumes of "Philacor Cultural Books" for delivery on the following dates: Book VI, on or before November 1978; Book VII, on or before November 1979 and; Book VIII, on or before November 1980, with a minimum of 300,000 copies at a price of P10.00 per copy or a total cost of P3,000,000.00.

As of July 30, 1979, private respondent had delivered to petitioner 1,097 reams of printing paper out of the total 3,450 reams stated in the agreement. Petitioner alleged it wrote private respondent to immediately deliver the balance because further delay would greatly prejudice petitioner. From June 5, 1980 and until July 23, 1981, private respondent delivered again to petitioner various quantities of printing paper amounting to P766,101.70. However, petitioner encountered difficulties paying private respondent said amount. Accordingly, private respondent made a formal demand upon petitioner to settle the outstanding account. On July 23 and 31, 1981 and August 27, 1981, petitioner made partial payments totalling P97,200.00 which was applied to its back accounts covered by delivery invoices dated September 29-30, 1980 and October 1-2, 1980.[3]

Meanwhile, petitioner entered into an additional printing contract with Philacor. Unfortunately, petitioner failed to fully comply with its contract with Philacor for the printing of books VIII, IX, X and XI. Thus, Philacor demanded compensation from petitioner for the delay and damage it suffered on account of petitioner's failure.

On August 14, 1981, private respondent filed with the Regional Trial Court of Caloocan City a collection suit against petitioner for the sum of P766,101.70, representing the unpaid purchase price of printing paper bought by petitioner on credit.

In its answer, petitioner denied the material allegations of the complaint. By way of counterclaim, petitioner alleged that private respondent was able to deliver only 1,097 reams of printing paper which was short of 2,875 reams, in total disregard of their agreement; that private respondent failed to deliver the balance of the printing paper despite demand therefor, hence, petitioner suffered actual damages and failed to realize expected profits; and that petitioner's complaint was prematurely filed.

After filing its reply and answer to the counterclaim, private respondent moved for admission of its supplemental complaint, which was granted. In said supplemental complaint, private respondent alleged that subsequent to the enumerated purchase invoices in the original complaint, petitioner made additional purchases of printing paper on credit amounting to P94,200.00. Private respondent also averred that petitioner failed and refused to pay its outstanding obligation although it made partial payments in the amount of P97,200.00 which was applied to back accounts, thus, reducing petitioner's indebtedness to P763,101.70.

On July 5, 1990, the trial court rendered judgment declaring that petitioner should pay private respondent the sum of P763,101.70 representing the value of printing paper delivered by private respondent from June 5, 1980 to July 23, 1981. However, the lower court also found petitioner's counterclaim meritorious. It ruled that were it not for the failure or delay of private respondent to deliver printing paper, petitioner could have sold books to Philacor and realized profit of P790,324.30 from the sale. It further ruled that petitioner suffered a dislocation of business on account of loss of contracts and goodwill as a result of private respondent's violation of its obligation, for which the award of moral damages was justified.

On appeal, the respondent Court of Appeals reversed and set aside the judgment of the trial court. The appellate court ordered petitioner to pay private respondent the sum of P763,101.70 representing the amount of unpaid printing paper delivered by private respondent to petitioner, with legal interest thereon from the date of the filing of the complaint until fully paid.[4] However, the appellate court deleted the award of P790,324.30 as compensatory damages as well as the award of moral damages and attorney's fees, for lack of factual and legal basis.

Expectedly, petitioner filed this instant petition contending that the appellate court's judgment is based on erroneous conclusions of facts and law. In this recourse, petitioner assigns the following errors:







In our view, the crucial issues for resolution in this case are as follows:

(1) Whether or not private respondent violated the order agreement, and;

(2) Whether or not private respondent is liable for petitioner's breach of contract with Philacor.

Petitioner's contention lacks factual and legal basis, hence, bereft of merit.

Petitioner contends, firstly, that private respondent violated the order agreement when the latter failed to deliver the balance of the printing paper on the dates agreed upon.

The transaction between the parties is a contract of sale whereby private respondent (seller) obligates itself to deliver printing paper to petitioner (buyer) which, in turn, binds itself to pay therefor a sum of money or its equivalent (price).[6] Both parties concede that the order agreement gives rise to a reciprocal obligations[7] such that the obligation of one is dependent upon the obligation of the other. Reciprocal obligations are to be performed simultaneously, so that the performance of one is conditioned upon the simultaneous fulfillment of the other.[8] Thus, private respondent undertakes to deliver printing paper of various quantities subject to petitioner's corresponding obligation to pay, on a maximum 90-day credit, for these materials. Note that in the contract, petitioner is not even required to make any deposit, down payment or advance payment, hence, the undertaking of private respondent to deliver the materials is conditional upon payment by petitioner within the prescribed period. Clearly, petitioner did not fulfill its side of the contract as its last payment in August 1981 could cover only materials covered by delivery invoices dated September and October 1980.

There is no dispute that the agreement provides for the delivery of printing paper on different dates and a separate price has been agreed upon for each delivery. It is also admitted that it is the standard practice of the parties that the materials be paid within a minimum period of thirty (30) days and a maximum of ninety (90) days from each delivery.[9] Accordingly, the private respondent's suspension of its deliveries to petitioner whenever the latter failed to pay on time, as in this case, is legally justified under the second paragraph of Article 1583 of the Civil Code which provides that:
"When there is a contract of sale of goods to be delivered by stated installments, which are to be separately paid for, and the seller makes defective deliveries in respect of one or more installments, or the buyer neglects or refuses without just cause to take delivery of or pay for one or more installments, it depends in each case on the terms of the contract and the circumstances of the case, whether the breach of contract is so material as to justify the injured party in refusing to proceed further and suing for damages for breach of the entire contract, or whether the breach is severable, giving rise to a claim for compensation but not to a right to treat the whole contract as broken." (Emphasis supplied)
In this case, as found a quo petitioner's evidence failed to establish that it had paid for the printing paper covered by the delivery invoices on time. Consequently, private respondent has the right to cease making further delivery, hence the private respondent did not violate the order agreement. On the contrary, it was petitioner which breached the agreement as it failed to pay on time the materials delivered by private respondent. Respondent appellate court correctly ruled that private respondent did not violate the order agreement.

On the second assigned error, petitioner contends that private respondent should be held liable for petitioner's breach of contract with Philacor. This claim is manifestly devoid of merit.

As correctly held by the appellate court, private respondent cannot be held liable under the contracts entered into by petitioner with Philacor. Private respondent is not a party to said agreements. It is also not a contract pour autrui. Aforesaid contracts could not affect third persons like private respondent because of the basic civil law principle of relativity of contracts which provides that contracts can only bind the parties who entered into it, and it cannot favor or prejudice a third person,[10] even if he is aware of such contract and has acted with knowledge thereof.[11]

Indeed, the order agreement entered into by petitioner and private respondent has not been shown as having a direct bearing on the contracts of petitioner with Philacor. As pointed out by private respondent and not refuted by petitioner, the paper specified in the order agreement between petitioner and private respondent are markedly different from the paper involved in the contracts of petitioner with Philacor.[12] Furthermore, the demand made by Philacor upon petitioner for the latter to comply with its printing contract is dated February 15, 1984, which is clearly made long after private respondent had filed its complaint on August 14, 1981. This demand relates to contracts with Philacor dated April 12, 1983 and May 13, 1983, which were entered into by petitioner after private respondent filed the instant case.

To recapitulate, private respondent did not violate the order agreement it had with petitioner. Likewise, private respondent could not be held liable for petitioner's breach of contract with Philacor. It follows that there is no basis to hold private respondent liable for damages. Accordingly, the appellate court did not err in deleting the damages awarded by the trial court to petitioner.

The rule on compensatory damages is well established. True, indemnification for damages comprehends not only the loss suffered, that is to say actual damages (damnum emergens), but also profits which the obligee failed to obtain, referred to as compensatory damages (lucrum cessans). However, to justify a grant of actual or compensatory damages, it is necessary to prove with a reasonable degree of certainty, premised upon competent proof and on the best evidence obtainable by the injured party, the actual amount of loss.[13] In the case at bar, the trial court erroneously concluded that petitioner could have sold books to Philacor at the quoted selling price of P1,850,750.55 and by deducting the production cost of P1,060,426.20, petitioner could have earned profit of P790,324.30. Admittedly, the evidence relied upon by the trial court in arriving at the amount are mere estimates prepared by petitioner.[14] Said evidence is highly speculative and manifestly hypothetical. It could not provide sufficient legal and factual basis for the award of P790,324.30 as compensatory damages representing petitioner's self-serving claim of unrealized profit.

Further, the deletion of the award of moral damages is proper, since private respondent could not be held liable for breach of contract. Moral damages may be awarded when in a breach of contract the defendant acted in bad faith, or was guilty of gross negligence amounting to bad faith, or in wanton disregard of his contractual obligation.[15] Finally, since the award of moral damages is eliminated, so must the award for attorney's fees be also deleted.[16]

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DENIED. The decision of the Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioner.


Bellosillo, (Chairman), Mendoza, Buena, and De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur.

[1] Rollo, p. 34.

[2] Id. at 42.

[3] Id. at 35-36.

[4] Id. at 34.

[5] Id. at 90, 93, 97.

[6] De Leon, Comments and Cases on Sales, p. 5 (1995)

[7] Rollo, pp. 48, 92.

[8] Tolentino IV Civil Code of the Philippines, p. 175 (1985)

[9] Rollo, pp. 92, 117.

[10] Ramos vs. CA, 302 SCRA 589, 599 (1999)

[11] Tolentino IV Civil Code of the Philippines, p. 428 (1985)

[12] Rollo, p. 125.

[13] Coca-Cola Bottlers Phils. Inc. vs. Roque, GR-118985, June 14, 1999, p. 8.

[14] Rollo, p. 131.

[15] J. Vitug. Compendium of Civil Law and Jurisprudence, p. 841 (1993)

[16] Bernardo vs. CA, 275 SCRA 413, 432 (1997)

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