While this digest is not about a labor case, it is included in this work since it involves an employee of a bus company who was convicted of reckless imprudence resulting in serious physical injuries and the trial court commenced proceeding to determine the employer’s subsidiary liability.
The trial court set the case for hearing to determine the subsidiary liability but the employer assailed the Order for being tainted with grave abuse of discretion.
Davao ACF Bus Lines, Inc. vs. Rogelio Ang
G.R. No. 218516, March 27, 2019
Employer’s subsidiary liability; Grave abuse of discretion; Immutability of judgment; Jurisdiction; Jurisdiction is not determined by the amount ultimately awarded or substantiated
The present controversy is a consequence of the execution of judgment in the case of “People of the Phils. vs. Rodolfo Borja Tanio,” for Reckless Imprudence Resulting in Serious Physical Injuries filed before the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) wherein accused Rodolfo Borja Tanio (Tanio), then the driver of a Daewoo Bus, registered under the name of ACF was charged with reckless imprudence resulting in serious physical injuries.
The crime charged was an offshoot of an incident wherein Tanio bumped a Mitsubishi sedan driven by Leo B. Delgara causing damage to the said vehicle and inflicting serious physical injuries upon its passenger, respondent Rogelio Bajao Ang (Ang).
In a Judgment dated December 27, 2005, the MTCC convicted Tanio and awarded in favor of Ang the following damages: P500,000.00 as nominal damages; P250,000.00 as moral damages; P100,000.00 as exemplary damages; and P50,000.00 as attorney’s fees. No appeal from the judgment was interposed, and in time, the decision became final and executory.
In view of its finality, the prosecution filed a Motion for Execution against the accused Tanio which was granted. However, the writ was returned unsatisfied as the latter had allegedly no properties that can be levied to satisfy the money judgment. Hence, upon motion, the MTCC issued a writ of execution against ACF, being the employer of accused Tanio.
However, the implementation of the Writ of Execution issued against ACF Bus Lines, Inc. was ordered held in abeyance pending the determination of the existence of the requisites for subsidiary liability under Article 103 of the Revised Penal Code to attach.
For this reason, the MTCC intended to determine (1) the existence of an employer-employee relationship; (2) that the employer is engaged in some kind of industry; (3) that the employee is adjudged guilty of the wrongful act and found to have committed the offense in the discharged (sic) of his duties (not necessarily any offense he commits “while” in the discharge of such duties; (4) that said employee is insolvent. The case was set for hearing in said Order where both the prosecution and ACF were required to present evidence to prove or disprove the existence of the foregoing elements.
Consequently, ACF filed a Motion to Recall and/or Quash The Writ of Execution against it which was, however, denied by the MTCC. ACF moved for reconsideration of the said Order but it was denied by the MTCC.
In view of the denial, petitioner filed before RTC a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, praying among others, that the Orders of the MTCC be nullified.
The MTCC denied the motion.
ACF moved for reconsideration of the said Order but it was denied by the MTCC.
The RTC denied ACF’s petition for certiorari.
ACF’s motion for reconsideration was denied by the RTC. ACF filed a Notice of Appeal.
The CA denied the appeal filed by ACF.
The CA held that the RTC did not err in holding that the MTCC did not commit grave abuse of discretion in issuing its Order denying ACF’s Motion to Recall and/or Quash The Writ of Execution and ordering the conduct of a hearing to determine whether ACF should be held subsidiarily liable under Article 103 of the Revised Penal Code for the civil liability ex delicto of its employee, accused Tanio.
ACF filed a Motion for Reconsideration assailing the aforesaid Decision of the CA, which was eventually denied by the latter. Hence, ACF filed the Petition under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, asking the Supreme Court to reverse the CA’s assailed Decision and Resolution.
Whether or not the trial court committed grave abuse of discretion in ordering the hearing of subsidiary liability of employer for civil indeminity of its employee
Whether or not certiorari lies in an action assailing the correctness of judgment in awarding damages against the employer
Whether or not the final and executory judgment against an employee can be assailed by the employer in an execution as to propriety of monetary award
Whether or not the substantiated award of P900,000 is beyond the jurisdiction of the MTCC
The SC denied the petition.
The SC held that first and foremost, it must be stressed that the basic factual premise of ACF is mistaken. ACF alleges that the MTCC has ordered the execution upon ACF as regards the subsidiary civil liability ex delicto of ACF’ s employee, accused Tanio. The facts clearly belie that assertion.
In the Order dated issued by the MTCC, which ACF alleges is tainted with grave abuse of discretion, the MTCC actually ordered that “the implementation of the Writ of Execution issued against ACF Bus Lines, Inc. is hereby ordered to be held in abeyance pending the determination of the existence of the requisites for subsidiary liability under Article 103 of the Revised Penal Code to attach.”
In fact, the MTCC ordered the conduct of a hearing “where both, the prosecution and ACF shall be required to present evidence to prove or disprove the existence of the foregoing elements.” Hence, with the very act alleged to be stained with grave abuse of discretion on the part of the MTCC, i.e., the implementation of the Writ of Execution against ACF, having not been committed at all, on this point alone, the instant Petition should already be dismissed for lack of merit.
Certiorari is a remedy designed for the correction of errors of jurisdiction, not errors of judgment. When a court exercises its jurisdiction, an error committed while so engaged does not deprive it of the jurisdiction being exercised when the error was committed. Otherwise, every error committed by a court would deprive it of its jurisdiction and every erroneous judgment would be a void judgment. This cannot be allowed.
The supposed errors merely pertain only to mistakes of law and not of jurisdiction, thus putting them beyond the ambit of certiorari.
Furthermore, ACF’s act of assailing the award of damages made by the MTCC in its Judgment is tantamount to an attack against a final and executory judgment, being a clear violation of the doctrine of immutability of judgment. It must be emphasized that the aforesaid Judgment of the MTCC awarding civil indemnity, which is now being assailed by ACF, was not appealed; thus making it final and executory.
Hence, ACF cannot now assail the MTCC’s Judgment lest the elementary principle of immutability of judgments be disregarded. It is established that once a judgment attains finality, it thereby becomes immutable and unalterable. Such judgment may no longer be modified in any respect, even if the modification is meant to correct what is perceived to be an erroneous conclusion of fact or law, and regardless of whether the modification is attempted to be made by the court rendering it or by the highest Court of the land. The doctrine is founded on considerations of public policy and sound practice that, at the risk of occasional errors, judgments must become final at some definite point in time.
Lastly, ACF inserted a novel argument raised for the first time on appeal in the instant Petition that assuming arguendo that Ang is entitled to civil indemnity, the MTCC was supposedly divested with jurisdiction to render judgment on the damages “considering that the aggregate amount of damages is P900,000.00 which amount is way beyond the jurisdiction of the MTCC to grant. ”
Not only is the foregoing assertion an argument that should be denied for being raised for the first time on appeal, such argument is patently erroneous. As it is a basic rule that jurisdiction over the subject matter is determined by the allegations in the complaint, it is an established principle that jurisdiction is not determined by the amount ultimately substantiated and awarded by the trial court.