Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Invalid compromise


“x x x.

The central issue in this case is whether the Compromise Agreement entered into between petitioner and respondent, duly approved by RTC-Branch 9 in its Decision dated 21 February 2000 in Special Proceeding No. 8830-CEB, constitutes res judicata in Special Proceeding No. 12562-CEB still pending before RTC-Branch 24.

The doctrine of res judicata is a rule that pervades every well- regulated system of jurisprudence and is founded upon two grounds embodied in various maxims of the common law, namely: (1) public policy and necessity, which makes it in the interest of the State that there should be an end to litigation, interest reipublicae ut sit finis litium, and (2) the hardship of the individual that he should be vexed twice for the same cause, nemo debet bis vexari pro eadem causa.⁠3 

For res judicata, to serve as an absolute bar to a subsequent action, the following requisites must concur: (1) there must be a final judgment or order; (2) the court rendering it must have jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties; (3) it must be a judgment or order on the merits; and (4) there must be, between the two cases, identity of parties, subject matter, and causes of action.⁠4 

It is undeniable that Special Proceeding No. 8830-CEB, previously before RTC-Branch 9, and Special Proceeding No. 12562-CEB, presently before RTC-Branch 24, were both actions for the issuance of a decree of illegitimate filiation filed by petitioner against respondent. Hence, there is apparent identity of parties, subject matter, and causes of action between the two cases. However, the question arises as to whether the other elements of res judicata exist in this case.

The court rules in the negative.

A compromise is a contract whereby the parties, by making reciprocal concessions, avoid a litigation or put an end to one already commenced.⁠5 In Estate of the late Jesus S. Yujuico v. Republic,⁠6 the Court pronounced that a judicial compromise has the effect of res judicata. A judgment based on a compromise agreement is a judgment on the merits.

It must be emphasized, though, that like any other contract, a compromise agreement must comply with the requisites in Article 1318 of the Civil Code, to wit: (a) consent of the contracting parties; (b) object certain that is the subject matter of the contract; and (c) cause of the obligation that is established. And, like any other contract, the terms and conditions of a compromise agreement must not be contrary to law, morals, good customs, public policy and public order. Any compromise agreement that is contrary to law or public policy is null and void, and vests no rights in and holds no obligation for any party. It produces no legal effect at all.⁠7 

In connection with the foregoing, the Court calls attention to Article 2035 of the Civil Code, which states:

ART. 2035. No compromise upon the following questions shall be valid:

(1) The civil status of persons;

(2) The validity of a marriage or a legal separation;

(3) Any ground for legal separation;

(4) Future support;

(5) The jurisdiction of courts;

(6) Future legitime. (Emphases ours.)

The Compromise Agreement between petitioner and respondent, executed on 18 February 2000 and approved by RTC-Branch 9 in its Decision dated 21 February 2000 in Special Proceeding No. 8830-CEB, obviously intended to settle the question of petitioner’s status and filiation, i.e., whether she is an illegitimate child of respondent. In exchange for petitioner and her brother Allan acknowledging that they are not the children of respondent, respondent would pay petitioner and Allan P2,000,000.00 each. Although unmentioned, it was a necessary consequence of said Compromise Agreement that petitioner also waived away her rights to future support and future legitime as an illegitimate child of respondent. Evidently, the Compromise Agreement dated 18 February 2000 between petitioner and respondent is covered by the prohibition under Article 2035 of the Civil Code.

Advincula v. Advincula⁠8 has a factual background closely similar to the one at bar. Manuela Advincula (Manuela) filed, before the Court of First Instance (CFI) of Iloilo, Civil Case No. 3553 for acknowledgment and support, against Manuel Advincula (Manuel). On motion of both parties, said case was dismissed. Not very long after, Manuela again instituted, before the same court, Civil Case No. 5659 for acknowledgment and support, against Manuel. This Court declared that although Civil Case No. 3553 ended in a compromise, it did not bar the subsequent filing by Manuela of Civil Case No. 5659, asking for the same relief from Manuel. Civil Case No. 3553 was an action for acknowledgement, affecting a person’s civil status, which cannot be the subject of compromise.

It is settled, then, in law and jurisprudence, that the status and filiation of a child cannot be compromised. Public policy demands that there be no compromise on the status and filiation of a child.⁠9Paternity and filiation or the lack of the same, is a relationship that must be judicially established, and it is for the Court to declare its existence or absence. It cannot be left to the will or agreement of the parties.⁠10 

Being contrary to law and public policy, the Compromise Agreement dated 18 February 2000 between petitioner and respondent is void ab initio and vests no rights and creates no obligations. It produces no legal effect at all. The void agreement cannot be rendered operative even by the parties’ alleged performance (partial or full) of their respective prestations.⁠11 

X x x.”