Immutability of judgment not applicable to void judgment

The doctrine of immutability of judgment is premised upon the existence of a final and executory judgment. It is, therefore, inapplicable where the judgment never attains finality, as in the case of void judgments.Void judgments produce "no legal [or] binding effect."[1] Hence, they are deemed non-existent.[2] They may result from the "lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter" or a lack of jurisdiction over the person of either of the parties.[3] They may also arise if they were rendered with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.[4]

In Gomez v. Concepcion,[5] the Supreme Court explained the nature and the effects of void judgments, thus:

A void judgment is in legal effect no judgment. B[y] it no rights are divested. From it no rights can be obtained. Being worthless in itself, all proceedings founded upon, it [is] equally worthless. It neither binds nor bars any one. All acts performed under it and all claims flowing out of it are void.[6]

A void judgment never acquires the status of a final and executory judgment.[7] Parties may, therefore, challenge them without running afoul of the doctrine of immutability of judgment. A direct attack may be brought either through a petition for annulment of judgment under Rule 47 of the Rules of Court or through a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court.[8] A void judgment may also be challenged collaterally "by assailing its validity in another action where it is invoked."[9]

In Gonzales v. Solid Cement Corporation,[10] the High Court held that a judgment or order that was issued in excess of jurisdiction has no legal effect and "cannot likewise be perpetuated by a simple reference to the principle of immutability of final judgment."[11]

[1] Go v. Echavez, 765 Phil. 410,424 (2015) [Per J. Brion, Second Division].

[2] Id.

[3] Imperial v. Armes, 178842, January 30, 2017 <> 11 [Per J. Jardeleza, Third Division].

[4] Id. citing Yu v. Judge Reyes-Carpio, 667 Phil. 474 (2011) [Per J. Velasco, Jr., First Division].

[5] 47 Phil. 717 (1925) [Per J. Ostrand, Second Division].

[6] Id. at 722.

[7] Nazareno v. Court of Appeals, 428 Phil. 32,41-42 (2002) [Per J. De Leon, Jr., Second Division).

[8] Imperial v. Armes, 178842, January 30, 2017 <> 12 [Per J. Jardeleza, Third Division].

[9] Estoesta v. Court of Appeals, 258-A Phil. 779, 790 (1989) [Per J. Paras, Second Division].

[10] 697 Phil. 619 (2012) [Per J. Brion, En Banc].

[11] Id. at 629-630.