Exceptions to the general rule that final and executory judgments are immutable and unalterable

As a general rule, final and executory judgments are immutable and unalterable, except under these recognized exceptions, to wit: (a) clerical errors; (b) nunc pro tunc entries which cause no prejudice to any party; and (c) void judgments.[17] What the CA rendered on December 10, 2004 was a nunc pro tunc order clarifying the decretal portion of theAugust 29, 2002 Decision.

In Briones-Vazquez v. Court of Appeals,[18] nunc pro tunc judgments have been defined and characterized as follows:

The object of a judgment nunc pro tunc is not the rendering of a new judgment and the ascertainment and determination of new rights, but is one placing in proper form on the record, the judgment that had been previously rendered, to make it speak the truth, so as to make it show what the judicial action really was, not to correct judicial errors, such as to render a judgment which the court ought to have rendered, in place of the one it did erroneously render, nor to supply nonaction by the court, however erroneous the judgment may have been.[19]

By filing the instant petition for review with Us, petitioners would like to appeal anew the merits of the illegal dismissal case filed by respondent against petitioners raising the same arguments which had long been passed upon and decided in the August 29, 2002 CA Decision which had already attained finality. As the CA said in denying petitioners’ motion for reconsideration of the assailedDecember 10, 2004Resolution, to wit:

It is basic that once a decision becomes final and executory, it is immutable and unalterable. Private respondents’ (herein petitioners) motion for reconsideration seeks a modification or reversal of this Court’s August 29, 2002 decision, which has long become final and executory, as in fact, it is already in its  execution  stage.  It may no longer be modified by this Court or even by the Highest Court of the land.

It should be sufficiently clear to private respondents (herein petitioners) that the December 10, 2004 Resolution  was issued merely to clarify a seeming ambiguity in the decision but as stressed therein, it is neither an amendment nor a rectification of a perceived error therein.  The instant motion for reconsideration has, therefore, no merit at all.[20]

We find that petitioners’ action is merely a subterfuge to alter or modify the final and executory Decision of the CA which we cannot countenance without violating procedural rules and jurisprudence.

In Navarro v. Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company,[21]  We discussed the rule on immutability of judgment and said:

                        No other procedural law principle is indeed more settled than that once a judgment becomes final, it is no longer subject to change, revision, amendment or reversal, except only for correction of clerical errors, or the making of nunc pro tunc entries which cause no prejudice to any party, or where the judgment itself is void. The underlying reason for the rule is two-fold: (1) to avoid delay in the administration of justice and thus make orderly the discharge of judicial business, and (2) to put judicial controversies to an end, at the risk of occasional errors, inasmuch as controversies cannot be allowed to drag on indefinitely and the rights and obligations of every litigant must not hang in suspense for an indefinite period of time. As the Court declared in Yau v. Silverio,

Litigation must end and terminate sometime and somewhere, and it is essential to an effective and efficient administration of justice that, once a judgment has become final, the winning party be, not through a mere subterfuge, deprived of the fruits of the verdict. Courts must therefore guard against any scheme calculated to bring about that result. Constituted as they are to put an end to controversies, courts should frown upon any attempt to prolong them.

                        Indeed, just as a losing party has the right to file an appeal within the prescribed period, the winning party also has the correlative right to enjoy the finality of the resolution of his case by the execution and satisfaction of the judgment. Any attempt to thwart this rigid rule and deny the prevailing litigant his right to savor the fruit of his victory must immediately be struck down. Thus, in Heirs of Wenceslao Samper v. Reciproco-Noble, we had occasion to emphasize the significance of this rule, to wit:

                        It is an important fundamental principle in our Judicial system that every litigation must come to an end x x x Access to the courts is guaranteed. But there must be a limit thereto. Once a litigant’s rights have been adjudicated in a valid final judgment of a competent court, he should not be granted an unbridled license to come back for another try. The prevailing party should not be harassed by subsequent suits. For, if endless litigations were to be encouraged, then unscrupulous litigants will multiply in number to the detriment of the administration of justice.[22]


About Erineus

Born on December 28, 1965, Surallah, South Cotabato, Southern Mindanao, Philippines.
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