Sps Delos Santos vs Metrobank (GR No. G.R. No. 153852 October 24, 2012)

Sps Delos Santos vs Metropolitan Bank & Trust Company
G.R. No. 153852 October 24, 2012

Facts: From December 9, 1996 until March 20, 1998, the petitioners took out several loans totaling P12,000,000.00 from Metrobank, Davao City Branch, the proceeds of which they would use in constructing a hotel on their 305-square-meter parcel of land located in Davao City and covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. I-218079 of the Registry of Deeds of Davao City. They executed various promissory notes covering the loans, and constituted a mortgage over their parcel of land to secure the performance of their obligation. The stipulated interest rates were 15.75% per annum for the long term loans (maturing on December 9, 2006) and 22.204% per annum for a short term loan of P4,400,000.00 (maturing on March 12, 1999). The interest rates were fixed for the first year, subject to escalation or de-escalation in certain events without advance notice to them. The loan agreements further stipulated that the entire amount of the loans would become due and demandable upon default in the payment of any installment, interest or other charges. On December 27, 1999, Metrobank sought the extrajudicial foreclosure of the real estate mortgage after the petitioners defaulted in their installment payments. The petitioners were notified of the foreclosure and of the forced sale being scheduled on March 7, 2000. The notice of the sale stated that the total amount of the obligation was P16,414,801.36 as of October 26, 1999. On April 4, 2000, prior to the scheduled foreclosure sale (i.e., the original date of March 7, 2000 having been meanwhile reset to April 6, 2000), the petitioners filed in the RTC a complaint (later amended) for damages, fixing of interest rate, and application of excess payments (with prayer for a writ of preliminary injunction). They alleged therein that Metrobank had no right to foreclose the mortgage because they were not in default of their obligations; that Metrobank had imposed interest rates (i.e., 15.75% per annum for two long-term loans and 22.204% per annum for the short term loan) on three of their loans that were different from the rate of 14.75% per annum agreed upon; that Metrobank had increased the interest rates on some of their loans without any basis by invoking the escalation clause written in the loan agreement; that they had paid P2,561,557.87 instead of only P1,802,867.00 based on the stipulated interest rates, resulting in their excess payment of P758,690.87 as interest, which should then be applied to their accrued obligation; that they had requested the reduction of the escalated interest rates on several occasions because of its damaging effect on their hotel business, but Metrobank had denied their request; and that they were not yet in default because the long-term loans would become due and demandable on December 9, 2006 yet and they had been paying interest on the short-term loan in advance.

Issue: Whether or not injunction may issue pending extrajudicial foreclosure.

Held: Yes. No writ of preliminary injunction to enjoin an impending extrajudicial foreclosure sale should issue except upon a clear showing of a violation of the mortgagors’ unmistakable right to the injunction.

Injunction will not protect contingent, abstract or future rights whose existence is doubtful or disputed. Indeed, there must exist an actual right, because injunction will not be issued to protect a right not in esse and which may never arise, or to restrain an act which does not give rise to a cause of action. At any rate, an application for injunctive relief is strictly construed against the pleader.

Nor do we discern any substantial controversy that had any real bearing on Metrobank’s right to foreclose the mortgage. The mere possibility that the RTC would rule in the end in the petitioners’ favor by lowering the interest rates and directing the application of the excess payments to the accrued principal and interest did not diminish the fact that when Metrobank filed its application for extrajudicial foreclosure they were already in default as to their obligations and that their short-term loan of P4,400,000.00 had already matured. Under such circumstances, their application for the writ of preliminary injunction could not but be viewed as a futile attempt to deter or delay the forced sale of their property.

Escalation clauses are valid and do not contravene public policy. These clauses are common in credit agreements as means of maintaining fiscal stability and retaining the value of money on long-term contracts. To avoid any resulting one sided situation that escalation clauses may bring, we required in Banco Filipino the inclusion in the parties’ agreement of a de-escalation clause that would authorize a reduction in the interest rates corresponding to downward changes made by law or by the Monetary Board.

The validity of escalation clauses notwithstanding, we cautioned that these clauses do not give creditors the unbridled right to adjust interest rates unilaterally. As we said in the same Banco Filipino case, any increase in the rate of interest made pursuant to an escalation clause must be the result of an agreement between the parties. The minds of all the parties must meet on the proposed modification as this modification affects an important aspect of the agreement. There can be no contract in the true sense in the absence of the element of an agreement, i.e., the parties’ mutual consent. Thus, any change must be mutually agreed upon, otherwise, the change carries no binding effect. A stipulation on the validity or compliance with the contract that is left solely to the will of one of the parties is void; the stipulation goes against the principle of mutuality of contract under Article 1308 of the Civil Code.

As with all equitable remedies, injunction must be issued only at the instance of a party who possesses sufficient interest in or title to the right or the property sought to be protected. It is proper only when the applicant appears to be entitled to the relief demanded in the complaint, which must aver the existence of the right and the violation of the right, or whose averments must in the minimum constitute a prima facie showing of a right to the final relief sought. Accordingly, the conditions for the issuance of the injunctive writ are: (a) that the right to be protected exists prima facie; (b) that the act sought to be enjoined is violative of that right; and (c) that there is an urgent and paramount necessity for the writ to prevent serious damage. An injunction will not issue to protect a right not in esse, or a right which is merely contingent and may never arise; or to restrain an act which does not give rise to a cause of action; or to prevent the perpetration of an act prohibited by statute. Indeed, a right, to be protected by injunction, means a right clearly founded on or granted by law or is enforceable as a matter of law.

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