After the recent 'circus' at Philippine Supreme Court that involved the former Chief Justice Renato Corona, here's another one. I've read from the article of Jarius Bondoc from The Philippine Star that, "There’s this case involving P360 million that was decided with finality and an entry of judgment made in Nov. 2010. The case dubiously was reopened in June 2011 during Corona’s reign. Then came his impeachment and conviction. And yet the present SC not only continued to reconsider the closed case. It even reversed the old ruling last September, after Corona had left."
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 Ship repair Agreement.
I'm not a lawyer but I know what "final & executory" means. This recent flip-flopping at SC is really alarming especially now that Filipinos are slowly putting their trust on the government again. I think this just means that from now on, no final judgment will ever remain final. I believe that a stable judicial system is the cornerstone of a healthy economic and business environment. Local and foreign investors will be encouraged to invest in a place where they are assured that courts will function normally, will observe the rule of law, and will level the playing field for everyone.
I respectfully appeal to the Supreme Court not to abandon the sacred and time honored principle of immutability of judgments but to continue applying it and thereby restore and preserve the stability of our judicial system.
photo from ladyjusticeforall.blogspot.com