Exceptions to immutability of judgment

Gross ignorance of the law by a judge presupposes an appalling lack of familiarity with simple rules of law or procedures and well-established jurisprudence that tends to erode the public trust in the competence and fairness of the court which he personifies.[1]  Indeed, under the doctrine of finality of judgment or immutability of judgment, a decision that has acquired finality becomes immutable and unalterable, and may no longer be modified in any respect.[2] Like any other rule, however, there are recognized exceptions to this general rule such as (1) the correction of clerical errors, the so-called nunc pro tunc entries which cause no prejudice to any party, (2) void judgments, and (3) whenever circumstances transpire after the finality of the decision rendering its execution unjust and inequitable.[3]

Under the second exception, a void judgment for want of jurisdiction is no judgment at all. It neither is a source of any right nor the creator of any obligation. All acts performed pursuant to it and all claims emanating from it have no legal effect. Hence, it can never become final and any writ of execution based on it is void. It may be said to be a lawless thing which can be treated as an outlaw and slain at sight, or ignored wherever and whenever it exhibits its head.[4]

In the case of Abalos v. Philex Mining Corporation,[5] the Supreme Court reiterated the third exception, concerning unjust and inequitable judgments.

Under the law, the court may modify or alter a judgment even after the same has become executory whenever circumstances transpire rendering its execution unjust and inequitable, as where certain facts and circumstances justifying or requiring such modification or alteration transpired after the judgment has become final and executory.[6]

In other words, if there are facts and circumstances that would render a judgment void or unjust after its finality, and render its execution a complete nullity, such judgment cannot exude immutability.

[1] Beckett v. Sarmiento, Jr., A.M. No. RTJ-12-2326, January 30, 2013.

[2] FGU Insurance v. RTC, G.R. No. 161282, February 23, 2011, 644 SCRA 50.

[3] Hulst v. PR Builders, Inc., 558 Phil. 683 (2007).

[4] Secretary of the DAR v. Dumagpi, G.R. No. 195412, February 4, 2015.

[5] 441 Phil. 386 (2002), citing Gallardo-Corro v. Gallardo, 403 Phil. 498 (2001).

[6] Id. at 392-393.