The Supreme Court is the Highest Court in the country. Whatever decision they render in a certain case is considered part of the law of the land. Whether a case is decided en banc or by division, the judgment rendered is final and executory. Parties in the case are no longer allowed to appeal.
With this fact, a question is asked, "Then why does Supreme Court reopen cases it already decided?" The answer to this remains a mystery to many of us. I, myself, cannot understand the various reasons and justifications why the SC keep on reinstating the cases which they have already rendered final and executory judgments. Just recently, SC reopened the case of Pioneer vs. Keppel without stating the reasons why they did so. What's worse was that the previous judgment was modified. The amount for the award of the damages granted was reduced.
Whatever compelled the Supreme Court to reopen the case must be something big. I have nothing against SC and I respect it as the Highest Court in the Philippines. I guess, if they can only explain the various reasons why they always keep on reviewing and reinstating previous decided cases, then all the doubts and issues will be resolved. When will we ever have a stable sysytem?
Please take some time to read the short article below to understand more about this issue.
New SC flip-flopping bared by Corona impeachment prosecutor.
Another case of flip-flopping in the Supreme Court surfaced anew as it appeared that the High Court also retracted and even reversed a decision that was already recorded in the Book of Entries of Judgment in relation to an insurance liability suit filed by a property insurance company against a Singapore-based multinational company.
According to Atty. Arthur Lim, who was one of the private prosecutors in the impeachment case of former Chief Justice Renato Corona, the case involves a P329- Million liability claim being pursued by Pioneer Insurance and Surety Corporation from Keppel Cebu Shipyard Inc, which is a subsidiary of Keppel Group, a Singapore-based multinational company with interests in offshore and marine services, real estate and property development and investment.
According to Lim, the SC threw out the window nearly every rule in the country's justice system when it recently decided to reverse its decision dated September 25,2009 awarding Pioneer P329,747,351 in total liability and ordered Keppel to pay the amount for its negligence that resulted in a devastating fire that gutted down a WG&A “Superferry” vessel which was insured under Pioneer.
In its decision, the SC ordered Keppel to pay Pioneer the amount of P360 Million (full value of the loss), less P30,252,648 salvage proceeds realized by WG&A from the sale of the vessel's wreck or a net amount of P329,747,351 with 6% interest per annum counted from August 22, 2000 until finality and 12% interest on the total value from date of finality until fully paid.
After denying two motions for consideration filed by Keppel, the SC ruling favoring Pioneer's liability claim became final and executory, and was recorded in the Book of Entries of Judgments on November 4,2010.
“ If a decision of court is recorded in the Book of Entries of Judgement, it becomes a permanent evidence of the rendition by the court of a judgment and becomes a part of our statutes. Under ordinary circumstances especially in ordinary civil cases such as the case of Pioneer and Keppel, decisions that have reached entry of judgment are considered final and can no longer be challenged,” Lim said.
Lim said that he was shocked to learn that the SC, despite the finality of its decision, suddenly issued another ruling last September, which is nearly two years after declaring the finality of its September 25,2010 decision, lifting entry judgment of its decision on the mere basis of a December 6, 2010 letter made by Keppel to then Chief Justice Corona bewailing the the Court’s decision.
In its September 18,2012 decision, the SC reduced Keppel's liability to Pionner from the original award of P329,747,351 (excluding interests) to a mere P50,000,000 (excluding interest at 6% ). It also held WG&A and Keppel liable as jointly negligent and applied the limitation of liability to P50 Million as contained in their Shiprepair Agreement.
According to Lim, this SC's action to completely set aside a ruling that has already reached entry of judgment is legally unsound and could undermine the country's justice system as expounded by Associate Justice Arturo Brion in his dissenting opinion.
“In acting as it did, the Court violated the most basic principle underlying the legal system – the immutability of final judgments – thereby acting without authority and outside of its jurisdiction. It grossly glossed over the violation of technical rules in its haste to override its own final and executory ruling,”Brion said.
Brion added in his dissenting opinion that “a basic principle that supports the stability of a judicial system, as well as the social, economic and political ordering of society, is the principle of immutability of judgments.”
“Any decision that has acquired finality becomes immutable and unalterable, and may no longer be modified in any respect even if the modification is meant to correct erroneous conclusions of fact or law and whether it [will be] made by court that rendered it or by the highest court of the land.
Once a judgment or order becomes final, all the issues between the parties are deemed resolved and laid to rest. No additions can be made to the decision, and no other action can be taken on it, except to order its execution,” he pointed out.
Another dissenting magistrate, Associate Justice Bienvenido L. Reyes issued an equally strong and well-reasoned dissent centering on the Court’s abandonment of the doctrinal ruling as per existing jurisprudence which struck down as invalid a similar limitation of liability clause.
“It is not without reason that limited liability provisions had been struck down void for being against public policy. It is indeed distasteful and an affront to one’s sense of justice and fairness that: (a) ship owners would render themselves unqualified to the services of ship repairers and owners of docking facilities should they refuse to accede to a limited liability clause; and (b) ship repairers and owners of docking facilities would be relieved of liability to a significant degree even if it was by their fault or negligence that the vessel was placed in utter ruin. The consent of a ship owner to a limited liability clause is not freely given in a certain sense, most especially if the ship owner is confronted with no choice but to engage the services of that ship repairer for being the only one available. Such cutthroat practice is what this Court would intend to avoid by declaring such a limited liability clause invalid,” he said.
Disclaimer: Italized words are not written by me.