G.R. No. L-25897. August 21, 1976 (Case Brief / Digest)

### Title:
Dormitorio vs. Fernandez: An Examination of Novation and Execution of Judgments

### Facts:
In the entangled legal dispute between the Dormitorios and Serafin Lazalita, originating from overlapping property claims, a series of legal actions unfolded, culminating in a critical examination by the Supreme Court of the Philippines. Initially, the battle over land ownership led the Dormitorios to file a suit for ejectment against Lazalita, identified as Civil Case No. 5111. The court favored the Dormitorios, instructing Lazalita to vacate the disputed lot. However, Lazalita did not appeal this decision.

Subsequently, in a twist of legal strategy, Lazalita initiated another lawsuit (Civil Case No. 6553), implicating not just the Dormitorios but also the Municipality of Victorias. The crux of this case was a contested lot misallocation revelation, suggesting Lazalita’s property was mistakenly identified as belonging to the Dormitorios. The resolution of this subsequent case was founded on an “Agreed Stipulation of Facts” between the involved parties, essentially nullifying the enforcement of the prior ejectment ruling (Civil Case No. 5111) in favor of compensating Lazalita for his expenses and relocating his house to an alternative lot provided by the Municipality of Victorias.

When the Dormitorios, leveraging an ex-parte motion, erroneously initiated the execution of the original judgment against Lazalita, the complexity of the legal situation further escalated. This prompted Lazalita to petition for relief, culminating in the trial court’s judge, Respondent Judge Jose Fernandez, overturning the writ of execution in light of the “Agreed Stipulation of Facts.” The Dormitorios responded by filing a certiorari petition, unsuccessfully arguing that Judge Fernandez gravely abused his discretion by setting aside the writ of execution.

### Issues:
1. Whether the “Agreed Stipulation of Facts” arising from Civil Case No. 6553 effectively novated the original judgment in Civil Case No. 5111, rendering its execution moot.
2. Whether the issuance of a writ of execution based on the judgment of Civil Case No. 5111 constituted grave abuse of discretion after the parties entered into a subsequent agreement.
3. Whether the petitioners (Dormitorios) were denied procedural due process when the writ of execution was set aside without their being informed.

### Court’s Decision:
The Supreme Court dismissed the certiorari petition, affirming that no grave abuse of discretion was committed by Judge Fernandez. The Court elucidated that the “Agreed Stipulation of Facts,” which served as the foundation of the judgment in Civil Case No. 6553, constituted a clear intention by the parties to supersede the previous judgment (Civil Case No. 5111), characterizing this as animus novandi (an intention to novate). This agreement, thus, invalidated the Dormitorios’ basis for executing the original judgment against Lazalita.

Additionally, the Court highlighted that the agreement reached by the parties and approved as judgment was binding and had the effect of res judicata, making any attempt by the Dormitorios to execute the earlier judgment an act of bad faith.

On the issue of procedural due process, the Court determined that any procedural lapse was cured when the Dormitorios were allowed to file a motion for reconsideration against the order setting aside the writ of execution—a motion that was subsequently denied.

### Doctrine:
This case reiterates the doctrine that a subsequent agreement between the parties to a case that clearly supersedes the original judgment constitutes an animus novandi, rendering the original judgment unenforceable. Furthermore, such an agreement, when recognized and incorporated into a judgment, has the effect of res judicata, binding the parties to its terms.

### Class Notes:
– **Animus Novandi**: A clear intention by the parties to a legal dispute to create a new agreement that supersedes the previous judgment.
– **Res Judicata**: A matter that has been adjudicated by a competent court and therefore may not be pursued further by the same parties.
– **Procedural Due Process**: The legal requirement that the state must respect all legal rights owed to a person, including the chance to be heard.

**Key Statutory Provisions**:
– Execution of Judgments: Highlighting the conditions under which a judgment becomes final and executory, and the circumstances that might render its execution moot or unjust.
– Novation: Defined by the Civil Code, emphasizing the importance of the parties’ intentions to replace or extinguish an obligation with a new one.

### Historical Background:
This case underscores the intricacies of property disputes and the legal proceedings in the Philippines, illustrating the vital importance of clear agreements between disputing parties and the impact of such agreements on subsequent legal actions. It serves as a pivotal reference on the application of novation in litigation, especially in cases involving property rights and the execution of judgments.


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