Supreme Court E-Library
Information At Your Fingertips

  View printer friendly version

G.R. No. 128703


[ G.R. No. 128703, December 18, 2000 ]




C. G. DIZON CONSTRUCTION INC. and CENEN DIZON in this petition for review seek the reversal of the 24 July 1996 Decision of the Court of Appeals dismissing their appeal for lack of merit and affirming in toto the decision of the trial court holding them liable to Asia Pacific Finance Corporation in the amount of P87,637.50 at 14% interest per annum in addition to attorney's fees and costs of suit, as well as its 21 March 1997 Resolution denying reconsideration thereof.[2]

On 20 March 1981 Asia Pacific Finance Corporation (ASIA PACIFIC for short) filed a complaint for a sum of money with prayer for a writ of replevin against Teodoro Bañas, C. G. Dizon Construction and Cenen Dizon. Sometime in August 1980 Teodoro Bañas executed a Promissory Note in favor of C. G. Dizon Construction whereby for value received he promised to pay to the order of C. G. Dizon Construction the sum of P390,000.00 in installments of "P32,500.00 every 25th day of the month starting from September 25, 1980 up to August 25, 1981."[3]

Later, C. G. Dizon Construction endorsed with recourse the Promissory Note to ASIA PACIFIC, and to secure payment thereof, C. G. Dizon Construction, through its corporate officers, Cenen Dizon, President, and Juliette B. Dizon, Vice President and Treasurer, executed a Deed of Chattel Mortgage covering three (3) heavy equipment units of Caterpillar Bulldozer Crawler Tractors with Model Nos. D8-14A, D8-2U and D8H in favor of ASIA PACIFIC.[4] Moreover, Cenen Dizon executed on 25 August 1980 a Continuing Undertaking wherein he bound himself to pay the obligation jointly and severally with C. G. Dizon Construction.[5]

In compliance with the provisions of the Promissory Note, C. G. Dizon Construction made the following installment payments to ASIA PACIFIC: P32,500.00 on 25 September 1980, P32,500.00 on 27 October 1980 and P65,000.00 on 27 February 1981, or a total of P130,000.00. Thereafter, however, C. G. Dizon Construction defaulted in the payment of the remaining installments, prompting ASIA PACIFIC to send a Statement of Account to Cenen Dizon for the unpaid balance of P267,737.50 inclusive of interests and charges, and P66,909.38 representing attorney's fees. As the demand was unheeded, ASIA PACIFIC sued Teodoro Bañas, C. G. Dizon Construction and Cenen Dizon.

While defendants (herein petitioners) admitted the genuineness and due execution of the Promissory Note, the Deed of Chattel Mortgage and the Continuing Undertaking, they nevertheless maintained that these documents were never intended by the parties to be legal, valid and binding but a mere subterfuge to conceal the loan of P390,000.00 with usurious interests.

Defendants claimed that since ASIA PACIFIC could not directly engage in banking business, it proposed to them a scheme wherein plaintiff ASIA PACIFIC could extend a loan to them without violating banking laws: first, Cenen Dizon would secure a promissory note from Teodoro Bañas with a face value of P390,000.00 payable in installments; second, ASIA PACIFIC would then make it appear that the promissory note was sold to it by Cenen Dizon with the 14% usurious interest on the loan or P54,000.00 discounted and collected in advance by ASIA PACIFIC; and, lastly, Cenen Dizon would provide sufficient collateral to answer for the loan in case of default in payment and execute a continuing guaranty to assure continuous and prompt payment of the loan. Defendants also alleged that out of the loan of P390,000.00 defendants actually received only P329,185.00 after ASIA PACIFIC deducted the discounted interest, service handling charges, insurance premium, registration and notarial fees.

Sometime in October 1980 Cenen Dizon informed ASIA PACIFIC that he would be delayed in meeting his monthly amortization on account of business reverses and promised to pay instead in February 1981. Cenen Dizon made good his promise and tendered payment to ASIA PACIFIC in an amount equivalent to two (2) monthly amortizations. But ASIA PACIFIC attempted to impose a 3% interest for every month of delay, which he flatly refused to pay for being usurious.

Afterwards, ASIA PACIFIC allegedly made a verbal proposal to Cenen Dizon to surrender to it the ownership of the two (2) bulldozer crawler tractors and, in turn, the latter would treat the former's account as closed and the loan fully paid. Cenen Dizon supposedly agreed and accepted the offer. Defendants averred that the value of the bulldozer crawler tractors was more than adequate to cover their obligation to ASIA PACIFIC.

Meanwhile, on 21 April 1981 the trial court issued a writ of replevin against defendant C. G. Dizon Construction for the surrender of the bulldozer crawler tractors subject of the Deed of Chattel Mortgage. Of the three (3) bulldozer crawler tractors, only two (2) were actually turned over by defendants - D8-14A and D8-2U - which units were subsequently foreclosed by ASIA PACIFIC to satisfy the obligation. D8-14A was sold for P120,000.00 and D8-2U for P60,000.00 both to ASIA PACIFIC as the highest bidder.

During the pendency of the case, defendant Teodoro Bañas passed away, and on motion of the remaining defendants, the trial court dismissed the case against him. On the other hand, ASIA PACIFIC was substituted as party plaintiff by International Corporate Bank after the disputed Promissory Note was assigned and/or transferred by ASIA PACIFIC to International Corporate Bank. Later, International Corporate Bank merged with Union Bank of the Philippines. As the surviving entity after the merger, and having succeeded to all the rights and interests of International Corporate Bank in this case, Union Bank of the Philippines was substituted as a party in lieu of International Corporate Bank.[6]

On 25 September 1992 the Regional Trial Court ruled in favor of ASIA PACIFIC holding the defendants jointly and severally liable for the unpaid balance of the obligation under the Promissory Note in the amount of P87,637.50 at 14% interest per annum, and attorney's fees equivalent to 25% of the monetary award.[7]

On 24 July 1996 the Court of Appeals affirmed in toto the decision of the trial court thus -

Defendant-appellants' contention that the instruments were executed merely as a subterfuge to skirt banking laws is an untenable defense. If that were so then they too were parties to the illegal scheme. Why should they now be allowed to take advantage of their own knavery to escape the liabilities that their own chicanery created?

Defendant-appellants also want us to believe their story that there was an agreement between them and the plaintiff-appellee that if the former would deliver their 2 bulldozer crawler tractors to the latter, the defendant-appellants' obligation would fully be extinguished. Again, nothing but the word that comes out between the teeth supports such story. Why did they not write down such an important agreement? Is it believable that seasoned businessmen such as the defendant-appellant Cenen G. Dizon and the other officers of the appellant corporation would deliver the bulldozers without a receipt of acquittance from the plaintiff-appellee x x x x In our book, that is not credible.

The pivotal issues raised are: (a) Whether the disputed transaction between petitioners and ASIA PACIFIC violated banking laws, hence, null and void; and (b) Whether the surrender of the bulldozer crawler tractors to respondent resulted in the extinguishment of petitioners' obligation.

On the first issue, petitioners insist that ASIA PACIFIC was organized as an investment house which could not engage in the lending of funds obtained from the public through receipt of deposits. The disputed Promissory Note, Deed of Chattel Mortgage and Continuing Undertaking were not intended to be valid and binding on the parties as they were merely devices to conceal their real intention which was to enter into a contract of loan in violation of banking laws.

We reject the argument. An investment company refers to any issuer which is or holds itself out as being engaged or proposes to engage primarily in the business of investing, reinvesting or trading in securities.[8] As defined in Sec. 2, par. (a), of the Revised Securities Act,[9] securities "shall include x x x x commercial papers evidencing indebtedness of any person, financial or non-financial entity, irrespective of maturity, issued, endorsed, sold, transferred or in any manner conveyed to another with or without recourse, such as promissory notes x x x x" Clearly, the transaction between petitioners and respondent was one involving not a loan but purchase of receivables at a discount, well within the purview of "investing, reinvesting or trading in securities" which an investment company, like ASIA PACIFIC, is authorized to perform and does not constitute a violation of the General Banking Act.[10] Moreover, Sec. 2 of the General Banking Act provides in part -

Sec. 2. Only entities duly authorized by the Monetary Board of the Central Bank may engage in the lending of funds obtained from the public through the receipt of deposits of any kind, and all entities regularly conducting such operations shall be considered as banking institutions and shall be subject to the provisions of this Act, of the Central Bank Act, and of other pertinent laws (underscoring supplied).

Indubitably, what is prohibited by law is for investment companies to lend funds obtained from the public through receipts of deposit, which is a function of banking institutions. But here, the funds supposedly "lent" to petitioners have not been shown to have been obtained from the public by way of deposits, hence, the inapplicability of banking laws.

On petitioners' submission that the true intention of the parties was to enter into a contract of loan, we have examined the Promissory Note and failed to discern anything therein that would support such theory. On the contrary, we find the terms and conditions of the instrument clear, free from any ambiguity, and expressive of the real intent and agreement of the parties. We quote the pertinent portions of the Promissory Note

- FOR VALUE RECEIVED, I/We, hereby promise to pay to the order of C.G. Dizon Construction, Inc. the sum of THREE HUNDRED NINETY THOUSAND ONLY (P390,000.00), Philippine Currency in the following manner:

P32,500.00 due every 25th of the month starting from September 25, 1980 up to August 25, 1981.

I/We agree that if any of the said installments is not paid as and when it respectively falls due, all the installments covered hereby and not paid as yet shall forthwith become due and payable at the option of the holder of this note with interest at the rate of 14% per annum on each unpaid installment until fully paid.

If any amount due on this note is not paid at its maturity and this note is placed in the hands of an attorney for collection, I/We agree to pay in addition to the aggregate of the principal amount and interest due, a sum equivalent to TEN PERCENT (10%) thereof as Attorney's fees, in case no action is filed, otherwise, the sum will be equivalent to TWENTY FIVE (25%) of the said principal amount and interest due x x x x

Makati, Metro Manila, August 25, 1980.

(Sgd) Teodoro Bañas


By: (Sgd.) Cenen Dizon
(Sgd.) Juliette B. Dizon

Likewise, the Deed of Chattel Mortgage and Continuing Undertaking were duly acknowledged before a notary public and, as such, have in their favor the presumption of regularity. To contradict them there must be clear, convincing and more than merely preponderant evidence. In the instant case, the records do not show even a preponderance of evidence in favor of petitioners' claim that the Deed of Chattel Mortgage and Continuing Undertaking were never intended by the parties to be legal, valid and binding. Notarial documents are evidence of the facts in clear and unequivocal manner therein expressed.[11]

Interestingly, petitioners' assertions were based mainly on the self-serving testimony of Cenen Dizon, and not on any other independent evidence. His testimony is not only unconvincing, as found by the trial court and the Court of Appeals, but also self-defeating in light of the documents presented by respondent, i.e., Promissory Note, Deed of Chattel Mortgage and Continuing Undertaking, the accuracy, correctness and due execution of which were admitted by petitioners. Oral evidence certainly cannot prevail over the written agreements of the parties. The courts need only rely on the faces of the written contracts to determine their true intention on the principle that when the parties have reduced their agreements in writing, it is presumed that they have made the writings the only repositories and memorials of their true agreement.

The second issue deals with a question of fact. We have ruled often enough that it is not the function of this Court to analyze and weigh the evidence all over again, its jurisdiction being limited to reviewing errors of law that might have been committed by the lower court.[12] At any rate, while we are not a trier of facts, hence, not required as a rule to look into the factual bases of the assailed decision of the Court of Appeals, we did so just the same in this case if only to satisfy petitioners that we have carefully studied and evaluated the case, all too mindful of the tenacity and vigor with which the parties, through their respective counsel, have pursued this case for nineteen (19) years.

Petitioners contend that the parties already had a verbal understanding wherein ASIA PACIFIC actually agreed to consider petitioners' account closed and the principal obligation fully paid in exchange for the ownership of the two (2) bulldozer crawler tractors.

We are not persuaded. Again, other than the bare allegations of petitioners, the records are bereft of any evidence of the supposed agreement. As correctly observed by the Court of Appeals, it is unbelievable that the parties entirely neglected to write down such an important agreement. Equally incredulous is the fact that petitioner Cenen Dizon, a seasoned businessman, readily consented to deliver the bulldozers to respondent without a corresponding receipt of acquittance. Indeed, even the testimony of petitioner Cenen Dizon himself negates the supposed verbal understanding between the parties -

You said and is it not a fact that you surrendered the bulldozers to APCOR by virtue of the seizure order?
There was no seizure order. Atty. Carag during that time said if I surrender the two equipment, we might finally close a deal if the equipment would come up to the balance of the loan. So I voluntarily surrendered, I pulled them from the job site and returned them to APCOR x x x x
You mentioned a certain Atty. Carag, who is he?
He was the former legal counsel of APCOR. They were handling cases. In fact, I talked with Atty. Carag, we have a verbal agreement if I surrender the equipment it might suffice to pay off the debt so I did just that (underscoring ours).[13]

In other words, there was no binding and perfected contract between petitioners and respondent regarding the settlement of the obligation, but only a conditional one, a mere conjecture in fact, depending on whether the value of the tractors to be surrendered would equal the balance of the loan plus interests. And since the bulldozer crawler tractors were sold at the foreclosure sale for only P180,000.00,[14] which was not enough to cover the unpaid balance of P267,637.50, petitioners are still liable for the deficiency.

Barring therefore a showing that the findings complained of are totally devoid of support in the records, or that they are so glaringly erroneous as to constitute serious abuse of discretion, we see no valid reason to discard them. More so in this case where the findings of both the trial court and the appellate court coincide with each other on the matter.

With regard to the computation of petitioners' liability, the records show that petitioners actually paid to respondent a total sum of P130,000.00 in addition to the P180,000.00 proceeds realized from the sale of the bulldozer crawler tractors at public auction. Deducting these amounts from the principal obligation of P390,000.00 leaves a balance of P80,000.00, to which must be added P7,637.50 accrued interests and charges as of 20 March 1981, or a total unpaid balance of P87,637.50 for which petitioners are jointly and severally liable. Furthermore, the unpaid balance should earn 14% interest per annum as stipulated in the Promissory Note, computed from 20 March 1981 until fully paid.

On the amount of attorney's fees which under the Promissory Note is equivalent to 25% of the principal obligation and interests due, it is not, strictly speaking, the attorney's fees recoverable as between the attorney and his client regulated by the Rules of Court. Rather, the attorney's fees here are in the nature of liquidated damages and the stipulation therefor is aptly called a penal clause. It has been said that so long as such stipulation does not contravene the law, morals and public order, it is strictly binding upon the obligor. It is the litigant, not the counsel, who is the judgment creditor entitled to enforce the judgment by execution.[15]

Nevertheless, it appears that petitioners' failure to fully comply with their part of the bargain was not motivated by ill will or malice, but due to financial distress occasioned by legitimate business reverses. Petitioners in fact paid a total of P130,000.00 in three (3) installments, and even went to the extent of voluntarily turning over to respondent their heavy equipment consisting of two (2) bulldozer crawler tractors, all in a bona fide effort to settle their indebtedness in full. Article 1229 of the New Civil Code specifically empowers the judge to equitably reduce the civil penalty when the principal obligation has been partly or irregularly complied with. Upon the foregoing premise, we hold that the reduction of the attorney's fees from 25% to 15% of the unpaid principal plus interests is in order.

Finally, while we empathize with petitioners, we cannot close our eyes to the overriding considerations of the law on obligations and contracts which must be upheld and honored at all times. Petitioners have undoubtedly benefited from the transaction; they cannot now be allowed to impugn its validity and legality to escape the fulfillment of a valid and binding obligation.

WHEREFORE, no reversible error having been committed by the Court of Appeals, its assailed Decision of 24 July 1996 and its Resolution of 21 March 1997 are AFFIRMED. Accordingly, petitioners C.G. Construction Inc. and Cenen Dizon are ordered jointly and severally to pay respondent Asia Pacific Finance Corporation, substituted by International Corporate Bank (now known as Union Bank of the Philippines), P87,637.50 representing the unpaid balance on the Promissory Note, with interest at fourteen percent (14%) per annum computed from 20 March 1981 until fully paid, and fifteen percent (15%) of the principal obligation and interests due by way of attorney's fees. Costs against petitioners.


Mendoza, Quisumbing, Buena and De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur.


[*] Petitioner Teodoro Bañas should not have been included in the caption of this case as his name was ordered excluded by the trial court on 23 October 1997 since he died during the pendency of the case thereat.

[1] This case was originally titled "Teodoro Bañas, C.G. Dizon Construction, Inc., and Cenen Dizon v. Court of Appeals and Asia Pacific Finance Corporation." The Court of Appeals, which was inadvertently made party-respondent, was excluded on motion of petitioners since the court which rendered the decision appealed from is not required to be joined as party-respondent (Rule 45, 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure).

[2] Penned by Justice Hilarion L. Aquino, concurred in by Justices Jainal D. Rasul and Hector L. Hofileña.

[3] Exh. "A."

[4] Exh. "C."

[5] Exh. "D."

[6] This case however continued to be prosecuted and defended in the names of ASIA PACIFIC and Teodoro Bañas, among other defendants, respectively, notwithstanding the Orders of 22 August 1985 on substitution of party-plaintiff and of 23 October 1987 re dismissal of the case against deceased defendant Teodoro Bañas, both issued by the trial court.

[7] Decision penned by Judge Domingo R. Garcia, RTC-Br. 157, Pasig City.

[8] See Sec. 4, RA 2629.

[9] B.P. Blg. 178.

[10] RA 337.

[11] Salame v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 104373, 22 December 1994, 239 SCRA 356.

[12] Remalante v. Tibe, G.R. No. 59514, 25 February 1988, 158 SCRA 138.

[13] TSN, 15 November 1988, pp. 7-8.

[14] Exh. "F."

[15] See South Surety and Insurance Co., Inc. v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 102253, 2 June 1995, 244 SCRA 744.

© Supreme Court E-Library 2019
This website was designed and developed, and is maintained, by the E-Library Technical Staff in collaboration with the Management Information Systems Office.