Judicial reluctance re annulment of judgment

FIRST DIVISION  [ G.R. No. 235993, April 02, 2018 ]  PACIFICO R. GONZALES, JR. VS. RENNIE C. TAN.

The Motion for Extension of Time filed by the petitioner seeking an additional period of 30 days from the expiration of the reglementary period on January 3, 2018 within which to file his Petition for Review on Certiorari is hereby GRANTED.

Considering the allegations, issues, and arguments adduced in the instant Petition for Review on Certiorari, the Court resolves to DENY the same for failure to show that the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 152263 committed any reversible error.

The CA found the petition, on its face, lacking in prima facie merit, noting, inter alia, the following reasons which it found fatal to support petitioner's cause: (1) that there was no statement in the petition as to when petitioner received a copy of the Decision dated July 16, 2012 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 146, Makati City (RTC) and; (2) that the petition is based on "uncertain allegations," i.e., petitioner averred that he was actually uncertain if he was still residing at the address where the sheriff effected substituted service of summons and that he was still trying to reconstruct his past to make a final determination of this matter.

The attitude of judicial reluctance towards the annulment of a judgment, final order or final resolution is understandable, for the remedy disregards the time-honored doctrine of immutability and unalterability of final judgments, a solid cornerstone in the dispensation of justice by the courts.[1] Rule 47 of the Rules of Court provides the following safeguards before allowing a petition for annulment of judgment:
Section 3. Period for filing action. — If based on extrinsic fraud, the action must be filed within four (4) years from its discovery; and if based on lack of jurisdiction, before it is barred by laches or estoppel.

Section 4. Filing and contents of petition. — The action shall be commenced by filing a verified petition alleging therein with particularity the facts and the law relied upon for annulment, as well as those supporting the petitioner's good and substantial cause of action or defense, as the case may be.x x x x

The petitioner shall also submit together with the petition affidavits of witnesses or documents supporting the cause of action or defense x x x
We have held that:
It must be stressed, however, that petitioners are required to allege with particularity in their petition the facts and the law relied upon for annulment as well as those supporting their cause of action or defense, as the case may be. Such requirement, as well as the requirement for petitioners to attach to the original copy of their petition the affidavits of their witnesses and documents supporting their cause of action or defense, are designed to convince the appellate court of the substantive merit of their petition to avoid its outright dismissal; or for the CA to make a finding of a prima facie merit in their petition and give due course thereto and order the service of the petition and summons on the respondents. xxx [2] ((Emphasis ours)
This Court has reviewed the petition for annulment and we agree with the CA in denying the same. Petitioner, other than raising the allegation that he discovered the questioned Decision of the RTC only sometime in June or July 2017, failed to state certain particularities. For instance, he has not provided the circumstances as to how he discovered the existence of the RTC judgment against him. We cannot also determine from the allegations of the petition whether the ground relied upon therein, i.e., the lack of jurisdiction, had not yet been barred by laches and/or estoppel considering that five years had already lapsed since the RTC rendered its assailed Decision.

Incidentally, petitioner argued that he is the sole witness in his petition and thus there is no need to append the affidavits of 'other witnesses.' However, his petition for annulment itself mentioned of a certain S/G Urieta, Romy De Vera - apparently the guard who received the summons on behalf of petitioner and who could be a witness to strengthen the ground relied upon in his petition for annulment. Nothing in the petition stated that petitioner exerted efforts to secure this security guard's affidavit, which brings back to the lack of particularity the facts relied upon for annulment of judgment.

ACCORDINGLY, the Court hereby resolves to AFFIRM the assailed September 13, 2017 Decision and December 8, 2017 Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 152263.

SO ORDERED. Sereno, C.J., on leave; De Castro, J., designated as Acting Chairperson of the First Division per Special Order No. 2540 dated February 28, 2018.

[1] Pinausukan Seafood House, Roxas Boulevard, Inc. vs. Far East Bank and Trust Company, now Bank of the Philippine Islands, G.R. No. 159926, January 24, 2014.

[2] Veneracion vs. Mancilla, 528 Phil 309, 323 (2006).

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