estate

Sotto vs Palicte ( G.R. No. 159691 June 13, 2013)

Heirs of Marcelo Sotto vs Palicte
G.R. No. 159691 June 13, 2013

Facts: Filemon had four children, namely: Marcelo Sotto (Marcelo), Pascuala SottoPahang (Pascuala), Miguel Barcelona (Miguel), and Matilde. Marcelo was the administrator of the Estate of Sotto. Marcelo and Miguel were the predecessorsin-interest of petitioners. In June 1967, Pilar Teves (Pilar) and other heirs of Carmen Rallos (Carmen), the deceased wife of Filemon, filed in the Court of First Instance (CFI) of Cebu City a complaint against the Estate of Sotto (Civil Case No. R-10027) seeking to recover certain properties that Filemon had inherited from Carmen, and damages. The CFI rendered judgment awarding to Pilar and other heirs of Carmen damages of P233,963.65, among other reliefs. To satisfy the monetary part of the judgment, levy on execution was effected against six parcels of land and two residential houses belonging to the Estate of Sotto. The levied assets were sold at a public auction. Later on, Matilde redeemed four of the parcels of land in her own name (i.e., Lots No. 1049, No. 1051, No. 1052 and No. 2179-C), while her sister Pascuala redeemed one of the two houses because her family was residing there. On July 9, 1980, the Deputy Provincial Sheriff of Cebu executed a deed of redemption in favor of Matilde, which the Clerk of Court approved. On July 24, 1980, Matilde filed in Civil Case No. R-10027 a motion to transfer to her name the title to the four properties. However, the CFI denied her motion, and instead declared the deed of redemption issued in her favor null and void, holding that Matilde, although declared in Special Proceedings No. 2706-R as one of the heirs of Filemon, did not qualify as a successor-in-interest with the right to redeem the four properties. Matilde directly appealed the adverse ruling to the Court via petition for review, and on September 21, 1987, the Court, reversing the CFI’s ruling, granted Matilde’s petition for review but allowed her co-heirs the opportunity to join Matilde as co-redemptioners for a period of six months before the probate court (i.e., RTC of Cebu City, Branch 16) would grant her motion to transfer the title to her name. In November 1998, the heirs of Miguel filed a motion for reconsideration in Civil Case No. R-10027 of the RTC of Cebu City, Branch 16, praying that the order issued on October 5, 1989 be set aside, and that they be included as Matilde’s co-redemptioners. After the RTC denied the motion for reconsideration for its lack of merit on April 25, 2000, they assailed the denial by petition for certiorari and prohibition (C.A.-G.R. SP No. 60225). The CA dismissed the petition for certiorari and prohibition on January 10, 2002. Thereafter, they elevated the matter to the Court via petition for certiorari (G.R. No. 154585), which the Court dismissed on September 23, 2002 for being filed out of time and for lack of merit. On September 10, 1999, the heirs of Marcelo, specifically: Lolibeth Sotto Noble, Danilo C. Sotto, Cristina C. Sotto, Emmanuel C. Sotto, Filemon C. Sotto, and Marcela C. Sotto; and the heirs of Miguel, namely: Alberto, Arturo and Salvacion, all surnamed Barcelona (herein petitioners), instituted the present action for partition against Matilde in the RTC of Cebu City, Branch 20 (Civil Case No. CEB24293).2 Alleging in their complaint that despite the redemption of the four properties having been made in the sole name of Matilde, the four properties still rightfully belonged to the Estate of Sotto for having furnished the funds used to redeem the properties, they prayed that the RTC declare the four properties as the assets of the Estate of Sotto, and that the RTC direct their partition among the heirs of Filemon.

Issue: Whether or not res judicata is applicable in the case at bar.

Held: Yes. All these judgments and order upholding Matilde’s exclusive ownership of the subject properties became final and executory except the action for partition which is still pending in this Court. The judgments were on the merits and rendered by courts having jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties. There is substantial identity of parties considering that the present case and the previous cases involve the heirs of Filemon.

There is identity of parties not only when the parties in the case are the same, but also between those in privity with them, such as between their successors-in-interest. Absolute identity of parties is not required, and where a shared identity of interest is shown by the identity of relief sought by one person in a prior case and the second person in a subsequent case, such was deemed sufficient. There is identity of causes of action since the issues raised in all the cases essentially involve the claim of ownership over the subject properties. Even if the forms or natures of the actions are different, there is still identity of causes of action when the same facts or evidence support and establish the causes of action in the case at bar and in the previous cases.

Res judicata exists when as between the action sought to be dismissed and the other action these elements are present, namely; (1) the former judgment must be final; (2) the former judgment must have been rendered by a court having jurisdiction of the subject matter and the parties; (3) the former judgment must be a judgment on the merits; and (4) there must be between the first and subsequent actions (i) identity of parties or at least such as representing the same interest in both actions; (ii) identity of subject matter, or of the rights asserted and relief prayed for, the relief being founded on the same facts; and, (iii) identity of causes of action in both actions such that any judgment that may be rendered in the other action will, regardless of which party is successful, amount to res judicata in the action under consideration.

The first three elements were present. The decision of the Court in G.R. No. 55076 (the first case), the decision of the Court in G.R. No. 131722 (the second case), the order dated October 5, 1989 of the RTC in Civil Case No. R-10027 as upheld by the Court in G.R. No. 154585 (the third case), and the decision in G.R. No. 158642 (the fourth case) – all of which dealt with Matilde’s right to the four properties – had upheld Matilde’s right to the four properties and had all become final. Such rulings were rendered in the exercise of the respective courts’ jurisdiction over the subject matter, and were adjudications on the merits of the cases.

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