Monday, January 30, 2012

Banogan vs. Zerna

Facts: The original decision in this case was rendered by the cadastral court way back on February 9, 1926, sixty one years ago. A motion to amend that decision was filed on March 6, 1957, thirty one years later. This was followed by an amended petition for review of the judgment on March 18, 1957, and an opposition thereto on March 26, 1957. On October 11, 1971, or after fourteen years, a motion to dismiss the petition was filed. The petition was dismissed on December 8, 1971, and the motion for reconsideration was denied on February 14, 1972. The petitioners then came to us on certiorari to question the orders of the respondent judge. The respondent court dismissed the petition for review of the decision rendered in 1926 on the ground that it had been filed out of time, indeed thirty one years too late. Laches, it was held, had operated against the petitioners.

The petitioners contend that the said judgment had not yet become final and executory because the land in dispute had not yet been registered in favor of the private respondents. The said judgment would become so only “after one year from the issuance of the decree of registration.” If anyone was guilty of laches, it was the private respondents who had failed to enforce the judgment by having the land registered in their the pursuant thereto.

For their part, the private respondents argue that the decision of February 9, 1926, became final and executory after 30 days, same not having been appealed by the petitioners during that period. They slept on their rights for thirty one years before it occurred to them to question the judgment of the cadastral court.

It is shown that it is against their contentions and that under this doctrine they should not have delayed in asserting their claim of fraud. Their delay was not only for thirty one days but for thirty one years. Laches bars their petition now. Their position is clearly contrary to law and logic and to even ordinary common sense.

Issue: Whether or not petitioners are already barred by laches.

Held: YES. This Court has repeatedly reminded litigants and lawyers alike that litigation must end and terminate sometime and somewhere, and it is assent essential to an effective and efficient administration of justice that, once a judgment has become final, the winning party be not, through a mere subterfuge, deprived of the fruits of the verdict. Courts must therefore guard against any scheme calculated to bring about that result. Constituted as they are to put an end to controversies, courts should frown upon any attempt to prolong them. There should be a greater awareness on the part of litigants that the time of the judiciary, much more so of this Court, is too valuable to be wasted or frittered away by efforts, far from commendable, to evade the operation of a decision final and executory, especially so, where, as shown in this case, the clear and manifest absence of any right calling for vindication, is quite obvious and indisputable.

One reason why there is a degree of public distrust for lawyers is the way some of them misinterpret the law to the point of distortion in a cunning effort to achieve their purposes. By doing so, they frustrate the ends of justice and at the same time lessen popular faith in the legal profession as the sworn upholders of the law. While this is not to say that every wrong interpretation of the law is to be condemned, as indeed most of them are only honest errors, this Court must express its disapproval of the adroit and intentional misreading designed precisely to circumvent or violate it. As officers of the court, lawyers have a responsibility to assist in the proper administration of justice. They do not discharge this duty by filing pointless petitions that only add to the workload of the judiciary, especially this Court, which is burdened enough as it is. A judicious study of the facts and the law should advise them when a case, such as this, should not be permitted to be filed to merely clutter the already congested judicial dockets. They do not advance the cause of law or their clients by commencing litigations that for sheer lack of merit do not deserve the attention of the courts.

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