Judicial error is distinguished from clerical error

It is well-settled that judgments or orders become final and executory by operation of law and not by judicial declaration. Thus, finality of judgment becomes an established fact upon the lapse of the reglementary period of appeal, if no appeal is perfected or motion for reconsideration or new trial is filed. The trial court need not even pronounce the finality of the order as the same becomes final by operation of law.[1] Thus, once a decision becomes final, even the court that rendered it can no longer alter or modify it, except to correct clerical errors or mistakes.[2] Likewise, any amendment or alteration made which substantially affects the final and executory judgment is null and void for lack of jurisdiction, including the entire proceedings held for that purpose.[3]

In Llanes & Company vs. Bocar,[4] we distinguished judicial error from clerical error:

The test to determine “whether an error in a judgment is a judicial one, not open to correction on motion in the court which made it, or a mere clerical one, which may be corrected any time on application in the court where it occurred, is whether the mistake relates to something the court did not consider and pass on, or considered and erroneously decided, or whether there was a failure to preserve or correctly represent in the record, in all respects, the actual decision of the court.” (Bostwick v. Van Vleck, 106 Wis. 387, 82 N.W. 302; 67 A.L.R. 826, 842; 126 A.L.R. 956, 977). The phrase “clerical error” has been employed in a broad sense to cover all errors, mistakes, or omissions which are not the result of the exercise of the judicial function. (Hubbard v. Hubbard, 213 Or. 482, 324 P. 2d 469, cited in 46 Am. Jur. 2d 446). The “power to correct clerical errors in judgments, orders or decrees, does not authorize the addition of terms never adjudged, or the entry of orders never made, although the court should have made such additions or entered such orders, ,and any error in that regard is a judicial error.” (126 A.L.R., 978, 979, italics supplied).

Thus, in Rebuldela vs. IAC,[5] we held that the interchange of the words “mortgagor” and “mortgagee” was merely a clerical error:

Petitioners assert that the trial court gravely abused its discretion, amounting to lack of jurisdiction, when it amended its Decision of October 22, 1982 ex parte, and in so doing, they were not given their day in court; and that the then Intermediate Appellate Court erred or gravely abused its discretion when it did not only affirm the decision of the trial court, but argued in favor of the respondents that the trial court has the right to change its decision ex parte because there was merely a typographical error which is not supported by facts and the law.

Such assertion is untenable. The court has inherent power to amend and control its process and orders so as to make them conformable to law and justice (Par. g, Section 5, Rule 124 of the Rules of Court), and when it finds that the ends of justice would be better served, the court may disregard technicalities and amend its order or process that has not become final (Manuel v. Manuel, 2 SCRA 155; Austria v. Reyes, 31 SCRA 754; and Villanueva v. CFI of Oriental Mindoro, 119 SCRA 288). And even if the decision has become final, it is already settled that clerical errors or mistakes or omissions plainly due to inadvertence or negligence may be corrected or supplied after the judgment has been entered (Ang Lin Chi v. Castelo, 83 Phil. 262). In the case at bar it will be observed that the trial court, as prayed for, corrected the dispositive portion as to the designation of the parties therein to make it conform with the body of the decision, which was not yet final.

Such correction obviously made to rectify clerical errors, which interchanged the mortgagors and the mortgagee is beyond dispute within the power of the court in accordance with the established jurisprudence above cited.

Likewise, in the case of Municipality of Antipolo vs. Zapanta,[6] we ruled that the changing of the phrase “heirs of Isabela Avendaño” to “heirs of Joaquin Avendaño” in the dispositive portion of its decision was a mere clerical error:

Acting on the Motion for Clarification of paragraph (3) of the Decision of December 26, 1984, filed by petitioner Municipality of Antipolo on September 16, 1986, the Opposition thereto filed by private respondent Aurelia L. Lavilla, the Comment of the Solicitor General, and the Rejoinder thereto by the same private respondent, the Court RESOLVED, inasmuch as what is involved is a mere clerical error, to CORRECT paragraph (3) of the dispositive portion of its Decision of December 26, 1984, to read Heirs of Joaquin Avendaño instead of Heirs of Isabela Avendaño.

According to the order correcting the decision, the judge committed glaring error in stating that the plaintiff, instead of defendant, was entitled to damages. Respondent really intended to award damages to defendant. It was therefore logical to change “defendant” to “plaintiff in the dispositive portion of the decision as it was a clerical error which could be corrected anytime even after the finality of judgment.



About Erineus

Born on December 28, 1965, Surallah, South Cotabato, Southern Mindanao, Philippines.
This entry was posted in Definitions, Judgment, Judicial and Legal Ethics and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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