Res judicata; eminent domain, just compensation


CASE DIGEST: G.R. No. 159515. JOSE T. FLORES, Petitioner v. SECRETARY OF DEPARTMENT OF AGRARIAN REFORM and LAND BANK OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondents. August 5, 2015.

The petitioner seeks the reversal of the amended decision promulgated on August 7, 2003,[1] whereby the Court of Appeals (CA) reconsidered its original decision promulgated on August 15, 2001 in order to adjust the just compensation,[2] thereby modifying the judgment rendered on August 5, 1998 in Agrarian Case No. 149 by the Regional Trial Court, Branch 63, in Tarlac, Tarlac (RTC).[3]

On February 8, 1989, the petitioner voluntarily offered to sell his land with an area of 60.1588 hectares to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) pursuant to the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988.[4] He would be selling at P2.00/square meter, for the total value of P1,200,000.00.[5] However, his voluntary offer was converted to compulsory acquisition by the Government when he withdrew his offer on September 3, 1991, and claimed that the value had increased to P2,000,000.00/hectare after only three years.[6]

Subsequently, the Provincial Adjudication Board (PAB) reduced the area of the petitioner's land to be acquired by DAR to only 37.5733 hectares.[7] It appears that the Department of Agriculture had meanwhile submitted its report to the effect that 20 hectares of his land were hilly and unsuitable for agriculture.[8]

The PAB then fixed the valuation of the petitioner's land at Pl,976,237.54;[9] and directed the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) to immediately pay him P893,289.12.[10] DAR consequently issued the corresponding writ of execution.[11] LBP refused to pay, however, and contended instead that such value should only be P893,289.12 in accordance with Administrative Order No. 6.[12] This refusal of LBP to pay prompted him to file his petition for the enforcement of the PAB's determination, which he converted into a petition for the determination of just compensation.[13]

After trial, the RTC rendered judgment fixing the just compensation for the petitioner's land at Pl0.00/square meter for the irrigated portion and the sugarland, and P7.50/square meter for the unirrigated portion.[14]

LBP and DAR separately moved for reconsideration, but the RTC denied their motions.[15]

Meanwhile, the petitioner, unsatisfied by the RTC's valuation, appealed to the CA.

At first, the CA denied the petitioner's petition for review,[17] but upon his motion for reconsideration,[18] it promulgated its now assailed amended decision.
Still unsatisfied, the petitioner has come to the Court,[20] assailing the amended decision, and reserving his right to amend his petition subject to the CA's resolution of the DAR's and LBP's respective motions for reconsideration.[21]

The records indicate that LBP likewise appealed to seek the review and reversal of the amended decision (G.R. No. 162238).[22]

On January 30, 2007, the petitioner submitted his manifestation/notice of intention to withdraw his petition for review, citing urgent health and financial reasons as justification.[23]

On March 5, 2007, the Court promulgated its resolution allowing the withdrawal of the petitioner's petition for review, and declaring the case closed and terminated.[24]

LBP opposed the withdrawal of the appeal and moved for the reinstatement of the appeal;[25] and prayed that the Court should uphold its earlier submission that the valuation of the petitioner's land was only P893,289.12.[26]

On June 6, 2007, the Court reinstated the petition for review.[27]

Ruling of the Court

The Supreme Court DENIED the petition for review on certiorari.

The Supreme Court noted that LBP's appeal in G.R. No. 162238 was dismissed because the Court found no reversible error in the CA's amended decision. There is no question that the amended decision focused on the correct amount of just compensation due to the petitioner, which is the very same issue to be resolved herein. With the resolution in G.R. No. 162238 having attained finality, the correctness of the CA's computation became conclusive against both the petitioner and LBP, and immutable on the issue of just compensation. LBP's attempt to assail such valuation is already barred by res judicata because the valuation related to one and the same land, and involved the same parties or interests.

The application of the principle of res judicata was exhaustively discussed in Oropeza Marketing Corporation v. Allied Banking Corporation[28] to wit:Res judicata literally means a matter adjudged; a thing judicially acted upon or decided; a thing or matter settled by judgment. Res judicata lays the rule that an existing final judgment or decree rendered on the merits, and without fraud or collusion, by a court of competent jurisdiction, upon any matter within its jurisdiction, is conclusive of the rights of the parties or their privies, in all other actions or suits in the same or any other judicial tribunal of concurrent jurisdiction on the points and matters in issue in the first suit.

The principle of res judicata has two aspects, namely: (a) bar by prior judgment as enunciated in Rule 39, Section 49 (b) of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure; and (b) conclusiveness of judgment which is contained in Rule 39, Section 47 (c).

There is bar by prior judgment when, as between the first case where the judgment was rendered and the second case that is sought to be barred, there is identity of parties, subject matter, and causes of action. In this instance, the judgment in the first case constitutes an absolute bar to the second action. Otherwise put, the judgment or decree of the court of competent jurisdiction on the merits concludes the litigation between the parties, as well as their privies, and constitutes a bar to a new action or suit involving the same cause of action before the same or any other tribunal.

But where there is identity of parties in the first and second cases, but NO IDENTITY of causes of action, the first judgment is conclusive only as to those matters actually and directly controverted and determined and not as to matters merely involved therein. This is the concept of res judicata known as conclusiveness of judgment. Stated differently, any right, fact, or matter in issue directly adjudicated or necessarily involved in the determination of an action before a competent court in which judgment is rendered on the merits is conclusively settled by the judgment therein and cannot again be litigated between the parties and their privies whether or not the claim, demand, purpose, or subject matter of the two actions is the same.

The elements of res judicata are: (1) the judgment sought to bar the new action must be final; (2) the decision must have been rendered by a court having jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties; (3) the disposition of the case must be a judgment on the merits; and (4) there must be as between the first and second action, identity of parties, subject matter, and causes of action. The existence here of the first three requisites is not disputed. With respect to the fourth element, however, the parties disagree.

We must, therefore, focus now on whether identity of parties, subject matter, and causes of action are present in the two civil cases below. Should identity of parties, subject matter, and causes of action be shown in the two cases, then res judicata in its aspect as a bar by prior judgment would apply. If as between the two cases, only identity of parties can be shown, but not identical causes of action, then res judicata as conclusiveness of judgment applies.[29]

[1] Rollo, pp. 59-70, penned by Associate Justice Perlita J. Tria Tirana (retired), and concurred in by Associate Justice Eugenio S. Labitoria (retired) and Associate Justice Eloy R. Bello, Jr. (retired)

[2] Id. at 59.
[3] Id. at 368-370.
[4] Id. at 59.
[5] Id. at 60.
[6] Id.
[7] Id.
[8] Id.
[9] Id..
[10] Id.
[11] Id.
[12] Id.
[13] Id.
[14] Id. at 61.
[15] Id.
[16] Id. at 61-62.
[17] Id. at 62.
[18] Id.
[19] Id. at 69.
[20] Id. at 10-54.
[21] Id at 10.
[22] Id at 1013.
[23] Id. at 963-966.
[24] Id. at 968.
[25] Id at 974-979, 981 -991, 994-1000.
[26] Id. at 977, 989, 997-998.
[27] Id. at 1026.
[28] G.R. No. 129788, December 3, 2002, 393 SCRA 278.
[29] Id. at 285-287.

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