Caluag vs Pecson (82 Phil 8)

Caluag vs Pecson (82 Phil 8)
82 Phil 8 [GR No. L-1403 October 29, 1948]

Facts: This is a petition for certiorari and prohibition filed by the petitioners on the ground that the respondent judge acted without or in excess of the jurisdiction of the court in rendering the resolution dated April 1, 1947, which declares the petitioners guilty of contempt of court for not complying or performing the order of the court of January 7, 1947, in case No. 5486 of the Court of First Instance of Bulacan, requiring the petitioners to execute a deed of sale in favor of plaintiff over one-half of the land pro indiviso in question, within ten days from the receipt of copy of said resolution, and which orders that the petitioners be imprisoned until they perform the said act. The first ground on which the petition is based is that the judgment of the court which the petitioners are ordered to perform has not yet become final. This ground is unfounded. From the pleadings and annexes it appears that the judgment of the lower against the petitioners was appealed to the Court of Appeals and was affirmed by the latter in its decision promulgated on May 30, 1944; that the petition to appeal to the Supreme Court by certiorari filed by the petitioners was denied on July 24, 1944; that a motion for reconsideration filed by the petitioners was also denied on August 21, 1944; that the record of the case, having been destroyed during the liberation, was reconstituted; that on September 24, 1945, the Deputy Clerk of this Court wrote a letter to and notified the petitioners of the resolution of the Court declaring said record reconstituted, together with the copies of the decision of the Court of Appeals and resolutions of the Supreme Court during Japanese occupation of June 24 and August 21, 1944; and that on October 23, 1946, the clerk of Court of First Instance of Bulacan notified the attorneys for both parties of the said decision of the Court of Appeals and resolutions of the Supreme Court. There can be no question, therefore, that the judgment of the Court of First Instance above-mentioned, as affirmed by the Court of Appeals, has become final and executory.

Issue: Whether or not the lower court has jurisdiction to declare the petitioners in contempt.

Held: No. It is well settled that jurisdiction of the subject matter of a particular case is something more than the general power conferred by law upon a court to take cognizance of cases of the general class to which the particular case belongs. It is not enough that a court has power in abstract to try and decide the class of litigations to which a case belongs; it is necessary that said power be properly invoked, or called into activity, by the filing of a petition, complaint or other appropriate pleading. A Court of First Instance has an abstract jurisdiction or power to try and decide criminal cases for homicide committed within its territorial jurisdiction; but it has no power to try and decide a criminal case against a person for homicide committed within its territory, unless a complaint or information against him be filed with the said court. And it has also power to try civil cases involving title to real estate situated within its district; but it has no jurisdiction to take cognizance of a dispute or controversy between two persons over title of real property located in his province, unless a proper complaint be filed with its court. So, although the Court of First Instance of Bulacan has power conferred by law to punish as guilty of indirect contempt a party who disobeys its order or judgment, it did not have or acquire jurisdiction of the particular case under consideration to declare the petitioners guilty of indirect contempt, and order their confinement until they have executed the deed of conveyance in question, because neither a charge has been filed against them nor a hearing thereof held as required by law.

The respondent Judge Angel Mojica acted not only without jurisdiction in proceeding against and declaring the petitioners guilty of contempt, but also in excess of jurisdiction in ordering the confinement of the petitioners, because it had no power to impose such punishment upon the latter.

The respondent judge has no power under the law to order the confinement of the petitioners until they have complied with the order of the court. Section 9, Rule 39, in connection with section 7 of Rule 64, provides that if a person is required by a judgment or order of the court to perform any other act than the payment of money or sale or delivery of real or personal property, and said person disobeys such judgment or order while it is yet in his power to perform it, he may be punished for contempt and imprisoned until he performs said order. This provision is applicable only to specific acts other than those provided for or covered by section 10 of the same Rule, that is, it refers to a specific act which the party or person must personally do, because his personal qualification and circumstances have been taken into consideration in accordance with the provision of article 1161 of the Civil Code. But if a judgment directs a party to execute a conveyance of land or to deliver deeds or other documents or to perform any specific act which may be performed by some other person, or in some other way provided by law with the same effect, as in the present case, section 10, and not said section 9 of Rule 39 applies; and under the provision of said section 10, the court may direct the act to be done at the cost of the disobedient party, by some other person appointed or designated by the court, and the act when so done shall have like effect as if done by the party himself.

It is also well settled by the authorities that a judgment may be void for want of power to render the particular judgment, though the court may have had jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties. A wrong decision made within the limits of the court’s authority is erroneous and may be corrected on appeal or other direct review, but a wrong, or for that matter a correct, decision is void, and may be set aside either directly or collaterally, where the court exceeds its jurisdiction and power in rendering it. Hence though the court has acquired jurisdiction over the subject matter and the particular case has been submitted properly to it for hearing and decision, it will overstep its jurisdiction if it renders a judgment which it has no power under the law to render. A sentence which imposes upon the defendant in a criminal prosecution a penalty different from or in excess of the maximum which the court is authorized by law to impose for the offense of which the defendant was convicted, is void for want or excess of jurisdiction, as to the excess in the latter case. And a judgment of imprisonment which the court has no constitutional or statutory power to impose, as in the present case, may also be collaterally attacked for want or rather in excess of jurisdiction.

In the present case, in view of the failure of the petitioners to execute the deed of conveyance directed in the judgment of the court, the respondent may, under section 10, Rule 39, either order its execution by some other person appointed or designated by the court at the expense of the petitioners, or enter a judgment divesting the title of the petitioner over the property in question and vesting it in Leon Alejo, administrator of estate of the deceased Fortunato Alejo, and such judgment has the force and effect of a conveyance executed in due form of law.

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