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513 Phil. 595


[ G.R. NO. 140984, December 13, 2005 ]


G.R. NO. 148970




These consolidated cases before Us involve two Petitions for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Civil Procedure. The Petition in G.R. No. 140984 seeks to set aside as null and void the Order[1] of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 60, Angeles City, in Civil Case No. 9399, dismissing the complaint for Annulment of Judgment filed by Emiliano D. Joven, as well as the Order dated 29 November 1999 denying the latter's Motion for Reconsideration.

In G.R. No. 148970, the Petition asks that the Decision[2] of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 53006 which reversed and set aside the Order of the RTC in Civil Case No. 9314 disqualifying Atty. Carmelino M. Roque,[3] ordering all the pleadings filed by said counsel to be expunged from the records, and denying Joven's motion to suspend further proceedings, as well as the Resolution dated 09 July 2001, denying the Motion for Reconsideration, be annulled and set aside.

Both petitions trace their origin from the action for unlawful detainer filed by Federico S. Calilung against Emiliano D. Joven before the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC), Branch II, Angeles City.[4] The complaint prayed that Joven, his agents, assigns, employees, and all persons found in the leased premises be ordered to vacate and restore possession thereof to Calilung; that Joven be directed to pay just and reasonable compensation for the use of the leased premises pending trial of the case in the amount of P110,000.00 per month plus interest of 25% per annum with an escalation of 10% for each passing year from date of the filing of the complaint; and that the latter be ordered to pay attorney's fee in the amount of P200,000.00 and the costs of suit.

On 04 December 1998, Judge Wilfred Suriaga rendered a decision in favor of Calilung, the dispositive portion reads:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the plaintiff, Mr. Federico Calilung and against the defendant, Emiliano Joven ordering the latter and all persons claiming rights under him to vacate the subject premises and to return the premises to the plaintiff. Defendant is also ordered to pay plaintiff a monthly rent of P110,000.00 from February 1998 until he vacates with interest at 25% per annum, and to pay P50,000.00 as and for attorney's fees plus costs of suit.[5]
Aggrieved over the adverse decision, Joven elevated the matter on appeal on 23 December 1998 before RTC Branch 58, then presided by Judge Philbert Iturralde. Despite the Notice of Appeal, Calilung filed a Motion for Execution before MTCC Br. II, but said court denied the said motion. Upon the transmittal of the records of the case,[6] Calilung filed before said court a Motion to Dismiss the appeal, which was subsequently denied.

Thereafter, on 16 April 1999, Calilung gave a sworn statement to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) denouncing Judge Suriaga for demanding and receiving P300,000.00 from him in consideration of the favorable decision in Civil Case No. 98-116 which was then under appeal before RTC Br. 58. Calilung further claimed in his sworn statement that Judge Suriaga approached him again and assured him of a favorable decision in the appeal (Civil Case No. 9314) before Judge Iturralde in consideration of P250,000.00. On the basis of Calilung's sworn statement, the NBI conducted an entrapment operation on 19 April 1999 against Judges Suriaga and Iturralde, resulting in the arrest of Judge Suriaga.

On 04 May 1999, the Court issued a Resolution[7] placing respondent Judge Wilfred S. Suriaga and Judge Philbert I. Iturralde under preventive suspension.

In view of the preventive suspension of Judge Iturralde, Presiding Judge of RTC Branch 60, Ofelia Tuazon-Pinto, acted as Pairing Judge of RTC Branch 58, where the appealed ejectment case filed by Joven against Calilung (Civil Case No. 9314) was pending.

Joven subsequently got hold of the Sworn Statement given to the NBI by Calilung on 16 April 1999, detailing how the latter paid Judge Suriaga P300,000.00 in order to obtain a favorable judgment in the said ejectment case. On 10 May 1999, Joven filed a complaint for annulment of judgment before the RTC of Angeles City, which sought to annul Judge Suriaga's decision in the ejectment case dated 04 December 1998, on the ground of extrinsic fraud. The complaint also prayed that a new trial be ordered. Said complaint was docketed as Civil Case No. 9399 and raffled to Judge Ofelia Tuazon-Pinto, Presiding Judge of RTC Branch 60 of Angeles City, for resolution.

In light of the filing of the complaint for annulment of judgment, Joven filed in Civil Case No. 9314, before RTC Branch 58, a Motion to Suspend Further Proceedings in the appeal, contending that (a) the appealed judgment, being a product of corruption, is void; and (b) there is a need to await the resolution of the Complaint for Annulment of Judgment (Civil Case No. 9399) filed before RTC Branch 60.

Meanwhile, Calilung filed in the appeal proceedings a Motion to Withdraw Monthly Rental Deposits and another motion to disqualify Joven's counsel on the ground of conflict of interest, and to expunge all pleadings filed by the said counsel.

On 24 May 1999, Judge Pinto issued the assailed order, which resolved the following pending incidents: the motion to withdraw monthly rental, the motion to disqualify Joven's counsel, and the motion to suspend the appeal proceedings. The dispositve portion of the said order reads:
WHEREFORE, the court hereby resolves:

1. To grant the first motion,

a) Ordering the Clerk of Court of this Court to release to plaintiff the monthly rental for March 1999 in the amount of P133,100.00 under O.R. No. 84583962 dated March 3, 1999; and

b) Ordering the Manila Insurance Co., Inc. to release and/or pay to plaintiff the supersedeas bond in the sum of P1,004,000.00.

2. To grant the second motion,

a) Ordering the disqualification of Atty. Carmelino Roque to appear in this case as counsel for the defendant; and

b) Expunging/striking out from the record of this case all pleadings that Atty. Carmelino Roque has filed in this case.

3) To deny the third motion for want of merit.[8]
Two days later, or on 26 May 1999, Judge Pinto promulgated her decision affirming in toto the judgment of Judge Suriaga in the ejectment case.

Questioning the issuance of the aforesaid Order and Decision, Joven filed a Petition for Certiorari, Prohibition and Mandamus with Prayer for a Restraining Order/Preliminary Injunction before the Court of Appeals. On 03 June 1999, the appellate court directed Judge Pinto to "maintain the status quo and refrain from enforcing the Order dated 24 May 1999, and the Decision dated 26 May 1999, and from further proceeding on Civil Case No. 9314 until further orders from this Court. . . ."[9]

Meanwhile, on 16 August 1999, RTC Br. 60 issued an Order dismissing Joven's petition for Annulment of Judgment, the dispositive portion of which reads:
Under the circumstances, the MTC Decision dated December 4, 1998 has been superseded by the Regional Trial Court decision dated May 26, 1999. In fact, it is now the subject of plaintiff's "Petition for Certiorari, Prohibition and Mandamus with Prayer for Restraining Order/Preliminary Injunction before the Honorable Court of Appeals.

As correctly pointed out by defendant movant [Calilung], this Court has no jurisdiction to take cognizance of the case as it is now within the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals. The matter has become moot and academic. It results in a situation where a decision (dated December 4, 1998) rendered by Municipal Trial Court and affirmed by the Regional Trial Court would still be the subject of an annulment proceedings in the Regional Trial Court.

Wherefore, the cause of action in this case having become moot and academic. The motion is granted and this case is hereby ordered dismissed.

The Motion for Inhibition is now considered moot.[10]
Joven sought a reconsideration of said Order on the ground that: (1) The RTC Br. 58 Decision of 26 May 1999 could not be deemed to have superseded the MTCC Decision of 04 December 1998 because the enforceability of said RTC Decision has been enjoined by the Court of Appeals and the same RTC decision is the present subject of a Petition For Certiorari; (2) The action to annul the judgment of MTCC Br. II dated 04 December 1998, based on extrinsic fraud, may be filed within four (4) years from the discovery of the fraud, and the subsequent Decision of RTC Br. 58 affirming the said MTCC Decision; and (3) Honorable Judge Pinto should have, in good grace, inhibited from deciding the instant case for Annulment of Judgment. On 07 December 1999, Joven received an Order dated 29 November 1999 denying his Motion for Reconsideration.

Assailing that serious errors of law were committed by Judge Pinto in dismissing the Petition for Annulment of Judgment, Joven filed directly with this Court herein Petition for Review on Certiorari on 20 January 2000.

Meanwhile, an event of great significance to the disposition of the issues contained in the two consolidated petitions had taken place. In a Decision rendered by the Court on 31 August 2000 in the administrative case filed against Judge Suriaga and Judge Iturralde, the former was found guilty of irregular activities (bribery) amounting to serious misconduct in office. According to the Court:
As regards to respondent Suriaga, the Investigating Justice observed that the testimonies of the Calilung spouses were replete with important details that could not be ignored. He pointed out that mere denials and an unsatisfactory refutation on the part of Judge Suriaga to prove his innocence do not persuade to establish the falsity of complainant's testimony and that of his wife. It was no less than a bribe for Judge Suriaga to demand and receive money from a party in a case before him for which act he has no place in the judiciary. Neither is respondent judge's improper and illegal act, of asking from complainant the amount of P250,000.00 to be given to Judge Iturralde, to be condoned.

The Court agrees with [sic] the foregoing findings and conclusion of Justice Ramirez. The culpability of respondent Judge Suriaga for serious misconduct has been established not just by substantial evidence which suffices in an administrative investigation but by an overwhelming preponderance thereof. . . .


Given the factual circumstances prevailing in this case, the Court does not hesitate to conclude that "[r]espondent Judge tainted the image of the judiciary to which he owes fealty and the obligation to keep it all times unsullied and worthy of the people's trust."  A judge should conduct himself at all times in a manner which would reasonably merit the respect and confidence of the people for he is the visible representation of the law. Rule 2.01 of Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct directs that a judge should behave at all times to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the Judiciary. In National Bureau of Investigation vs. Judge Ramon B. Reyes, whose factual milieu is similar to this case, the Court said:
Bribery is a serious charge punishable by, inter alia, dismissal from service with forfeiture of benefits and disqualification from reinstatement or appointment to any public office including government-owned or controlled corporations. In the case at bench, we find sufficient bases in the charge of malfeasance in office against respondent. On past occasions where we had the disagreeable task of disciplining mulcting magistrates, we did not hesitate to impose the penalty of dismissal. Conformably, as he has demonstrated his unsuitability to remain a member of the bench, respondent is deservingly dismissed from the service with all its attendant consequences.

Perforce, the penalty of dismissal from the service is the most appropriate penalty under the circumstances for respondent Judge Suriaga's malfeasance in office.


WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, judgment is hereby rendered:

1.] Respondent Wilfred S. Suriaga is DISMISSED from the service with forfeiture of all retirement benefits and leave credits and with prejudice to re-employment in any branch or instrumentality of the government, including government-owned or controlled corporations;

2.] The administrative complaint against respondent Philbert I. Iturralde is REFERRED[11] back to the Office of the Court Administrator for further investigation. In the meantime, his preventive suspension is hereby LIFTED.[12]
On 19 March 2001, the Court of Appeals rendered the decision assailed in G.R. No. 148970 resolving the petition filed by Joven questioning, among other things, the denial of his motion to suspend the appeal proceedings. According to the appellate court:
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED, and the assailed order of respondent judge dated May 24, 1999 is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE

The effectivity of the judgment in Civil Case No. 9314 dated May 26, 1999 is ordered SUSPENDED pending the final termination of Civil Case No. 9399.

The Executive Judge of the RTC of Angeles City is further ordered to reraffle Civil Case No. 9399 to another judge.

Let the writ of preliminary injunction issued on September 17, 1999 be converted to a FINAL INJUNCTION.[13]
After the denial of his Motion for Reconsideration, Calilung filed on 31 August 2001 a Petition for Review on Certiorari before this Court. Said Petition was ordered consolidated with the Petition for Review filed by Joven on 20 January 2000 since both petitions have the ultimate common issue of whether or not the judgment dated 04 December 1998 of (then) Judge Wilfred Suriaga in the ejectment case should be nullified on the ground of extrinsic fraud.

With the judgment of guilt against Suriaga, it cannot be denied that the judgment he rendered in the ejectment case against Joven has been irrevocably tainted with corruption when Suriaga demanded and received money from Calilung in order that the latter may secure the favorable outcome of the case. As a result of the acts of both Calilung and Suriaga, Joven was prevented from receiving a fair and just trial.

Consequently, there is only one conclusion that may be ascertained at this point, that the judgment rendered by Suriaga must be annulled for said decision was procured by the prevailing party through extrinsic fraud.

As has been enunciated by the Court in the case of Canlas v. Court of Appeals:[14]
. . . Annulment of judgment, we have had occasion to rule, rests on a single ground: extrinsic fraud. What "extrinsic fraud" means is explained in Macabingkil v. People's Homesite and Housing Corporation:

It is only extrinsic or collateral fraud, as distinguished from intrinsic fraud, however, that can serve as a basis for the annulment of judgment. Fraud has been regarded as extrinsic or collateral, within the meaning of the rule, "where it is one the effect of which prevents a party from having a trial, or a real contest, or from presenting all of his case to the court, or where it operates upon matters pertaining, not to the judgment itself, but of the manner in which it was procured so that there is not a fair submission of the controversy." In other words, extrinsic fraud refers to any fraudulent act of the prevailing party in the litigation which is committed outside of the trial of the case, whereby the defeated party has been prevented from exhibiting fully his side of the case, by fraud or deception practiced on him by his opponent.[15]
Acts that shall warrant annulment of a judgment were further explained by the Court in the case of  Ybañez v. Court of Appeals:[16]
The kind of fraud that justifies the annulment of a judgment is extrinsic fraud. This refers to some act or conduct of the prevailing party which has prevented the aggrieved party from having a trial or presenting his case to the court, or was used to procure judgment without a fair submission of the controversy. Extrinsic fraud refers to acts outside the trial.[17]
In the case at bar, it is evident that extrinsic fraud has been committed against Joven. The receipt of the money demanded by Suriaga from Calilung is clearly an act used to procure judgment without a fair submission of the controversy. It was a fraudulent act of the prevailing party done outside the trial which could not be litigated and determined at the trial of the case.

Even if it is argued that Joven has been given his day in court and has indeed been able to present evidence to prove his case, it cannot be discounted that because of the bribery, the controversies involved in the ejectment case have already been predetermined to prejudice him. Neither can it be denied that despite the opportunity given to Joven to participate in the trial of the case, there has been no actual submission of the controversy, nor had there been a fair appreciation of the evidence presented because the outcome of the case has already been predetermined to favor Calilung who has given Suriaga the amount of P300,000.00 to assure his success in the case.

Based on the foregoing, it is clear that extrinsic fraud has indeed been perpetrated by Calilung and Suriaga in the disposition of the ejectment proceedings. Thus, the judgment dated 04 December 1998 must be annulled.

Furthermore, in the face of the fact that bribery was attendant in the procurement of the subject decision, this Court will not sit back and allow any judgment obtained through illegal and immoral means to take legal effect. This Court will not condone the inappropriate acts of a dismissed member of the judiciary by permitting a patently void decision to attain legitimacy by recognizing such judgment as binding and conferring legal rights to the parties involved. The Court will not consent to any act of impropriety that may taint the integrity of the judiciary as well as corrode the people's respect for the law.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered as follows:
The Petition in G.R. No. 140984 is hereby GRANTED. The Decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 60, Angles City, dismissing the Complaint for Annulment of Judgment is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Decision of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Br. II, Angeles City, is hereby DECLARED NULL and VOID. Let trial on the merits be held anew.

The Petition in G.R. No. 148970 is hereby DENIED for being moot in view of the declaration of nullity of the Decision of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities.
No Costs.


Puno, (Chairman), Austria-Martinez, Callejo, Sr., and Tinga, JJ., concur.

Dated 16 August 1999, penned by Judge Ofelia Tuazon-Pinto, Rollo, pp. 155-156.

[2] Dated 19 March 2001, penned by Justice Delilah Vidallon-Magtolis with Justices Teodoro P. Regino and Josefina Guevara-Salonga concurring, Rollo, pp. 35-46.

[3] Counsel for Emiliano D. Joven.

[4] Docketed as Civil Case No. 98-116.

[5] G.R. No. 140984, Rollo, p. 28.

[6] Docketed as Civil Case No. 9314.

[7] A.M. No. 99-4-51 MTCC entitled, "Re: NBI's Entrapment Operation Involving Judge Wilfredo S.   Suriaga, MTCC Angeles City, Pampanga."

[8] G.R. No. 148970, Rollo, p. 55.

[9] CA Rollo, p. 46.

[10] G.R. No. 140984, Rollo, p. 79.

[11] In a Resolution dated 21 November 2000, the Court denied the Motion for Reconsideration filed by Wilfred S. Suriaga and DISMISSED the administrative complaint against Judge Philbert I. Iturralde.

[12] Calilung v. Suriaga, A.M. No. MTJ-99-1191 and A.M. No. RTJ-99-1437, 31 August 2000, 339 SCRA 340.

[13] G.R. No. 148970, Rollo, p. 45.

[14] G.R. No. L-77691, 08 August 1988, 164 SCRA 160.

[15] Id., p. 170.

[16] G.R. No. 117499, 09 February 1996, 253 SCRA 540.

[17] Id., p. 551.

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