Blanket Clause in Mortgage Contracts; Dragnet Clause

Obligations arising from contracts have the force of law between the contracting parties and should be complied with in good faith. When the terms of a contract are clear and leave no doubt as to the intention of the contracting parties, the literal meaning of its stipulations governs. In such cases, courts have no authority to alter the contract by construction or to make a new contract for the parties; a court's duty is confined to the interpretation of the contract the parties made for themselves without regard to its wisdom or folly, as the court cannot supply material stipulations or read into the contract words the contract does not contain. It is only when the contract is vague and ambiguous that courts are permitted to resort to the interpretation of its terms to determine the parties' intent.

Here, it cannot be denied that the real estate mortgage executed by the parties provided that it shall stand as security for any "subsequent promissory note or notes either as a renewal of the former note, as an extension thereof, or as a new loan, or is given any other kind of accommodations such as overdrafts, letters of credit, acceptances and bills of exchange, releases of import shipments on Trust Receipts, etc." The same real estate mortgage likewise expressly covered "any and all other obligations of the Mortgagor to the Mortgagee of whatever kind and nature whether such obligations have been contracted before, during or after the constitution of this mortgage." Thus, from the clear and unambiguous terms of the mortgage contract, the same has application even to future loans and obligations of the mortgagor of any kind, not only agricultural crop loans.

Such a "blanket clause" or "dragnet clause" in mortgage contracts has long been recognized in our jurisprudence. Thus, in another case, the Supreme Court held:

As a general rule, a mortgage liability is usually limited to the amount mentioned in the contract. However, the amounts named as consideration in a contract of mortgage do not limit the amount for which the mortgage may stand as security if, from the four corners of the instrument, the intent to secure future and other indebtedness can be gathered. This stipulation is valid and binding between the parties and is known as the "blanket mortgage clause" (also known as the "dragnet clause)."
In the present case, the mortgage contract indisputably provides that the subject properties serve as security, not only for the payment of the subject loan, but also for "such other loans or advances already obtained, or still to be obtained." The cross-collateral stipulation in the mortgage contract between the parties is thus simply a variety of a dragnet clause. After agreeing to such stipulation, the petitioners cannot insist that the subject properties be released from mortgage since the security covers not only the subject loan but the two other loans as well.

Moreover, petitioners’ reliance on Prudential Bank v. Alviar is sorely misplaced. In Prudential, the fact that another security was given for subsequent loans did not remove such loans from the ambit of the dragnet clause in a previous real estate mortgage contract. However, it was held in Prudential that the special security for subsequent loans must first be exhausted before the creditor may foreclose on the real estate mortgage. In other words, the creditor is allowed to hold on to the previous security (the real estate mortgage) in case of deficiency after resort to the special security given for the subsequent loans. Verily, even under the Prudential ruling cited by petitioners, they are not entitled to the release of the real estate mortgage and the titles to the properties mentioned therein.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court likewise find no reason to overturn the assailed ruling of the Court of Appeals that the contract of pledge between petitioners and PNB was not terminated by the Authorization letter issued by Luis Ramos in favor of PNB. The status of PNB as a pledgee of the sugar quedans involved in this case had long been confirmed by the Court in its Decision dated July 9, 1998 in Philippine National Bank v. Sayo, Jr. and the same is neither disputed in the instant case. The Supreme Court reiterate our ruling in Sayo that:

The creditor, in a contract of real security, like pledge, cannot appropriate without foreclosure the things given by way of pledge. Any stipulation to the contrary, termed pactum commissorio, is null and void. The law requires foreclosure in order to allow a transfer of title of the good given by way of security from its pledgor, and before any such foreclosure, the pledgor, not the pledgee, is the owner of the goods. x x x.

A close reading of the Authorization executed by Luis Ramos reveals that it was nothing more than a letter that gave PNB the authority to dispose of and sell the sugar quedans after the maturity date thereof. As held by the Court of Appeals, the said grant of authority on the part of PNB is a standard condition in a contract of pledge, in accordance with the provisions of Article 2087 of the Civil Code that "it is also of the essence of these contracts that when the principal obligation becomes due, the things in which the pledge or mortgage consists may be alienated for the payment to the creditor." More importantly, Article 2115 of the Civil Code expressly provides that the sale of the thing pledged shall extinguish the principal obligation, whether or not the proceeds of the sale are equal to the amount of the principal obligation, interest and expenses in a proper case. As the Supreme Court adverted to in Sayo, it is the foreclosure of the thing pledged that results in the satisfaction of the loan liabilities to the pledgee of the pledgors. Thus, prior to the actual foreclosure of the thing pleged, the sugar quedan financing loan in this case is yet to be settled.

As matters stand, with more reason that PNB cannot be compelled to release the real estate mortgage and the titles involved therein since the issue of whether the sugar quedan financing loan will be fully paid through the pledged sugar receipts remains the subject of pending litigation. (G.R. No. 178218; December 14, 2011)