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Opinion

Finality of a court order

A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison - The Philippine Star

This is a case involving Anti Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004 (Republic Act 9262) which grants support and all other reliefs in a permanent protection order so as to prevent further acts of violence against the victims, safeguard them from harm, minimize disruptions in their life and help them regain control of it. The main issue resolved here is whether the permanent protection order issued by the lower court is immediately executory even if the case is still appealed. This is the case of Willy and Alice.

The story of Willy and Alice started with a sweet and romantic episode of courtship but ended in a marriage that eventually turned sour and unbearable. After about 18 years of marriage and with two children, Alice already applied with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) for a Permanent Protection Order (PPO) against Willy pursuant to R.A. 9262. She alleged that she was physically, emotionally and economically abused by Willy during their marriage. At that time, Willy was a lawyer with a law office and was connected with a consultancy and trading firm where he earns monthly incomes.

After due hearing, the RTC granted Alice’s petition and issued a PPO directing Willy to provide support to Alice and their child Cathy and even Betty, who is already of age if still studying and unemployed. The support is equivalent to 50 percent of the income or salaries from his law office and other partnerships and firms, which will be withheld regularly by his employer or partnership/companies to be automatically remitted to Alice. Failure of said law office, partnership or company to remit and/or withhold or delay their remittance without justifiable cause shall render Willy and said firm and companies liable for indirect contempt.

As Willy did not appeal this PPO, it became final and executory. But it was only about five years after said PPO was issued when Alice filed a Motion for Execution of the order for support, alleging that Willy still has not complied with the portion of the PPO pertaining to support even if the decision has already become final and executory. Willy opposed the motion, alleging among others that the said motion was belatedly filed.

The RTC, however, still granted Alice’s motion, maintaining that the PPO issued five years before will commence only from the date the Motion for Execution was filed. This ruling was affirmed by the Court of Appeals (CA) declaring that the Motion for Execution was timely filed within the five-year period. Were the RTC and the CA, correct?

The Supreme Court (SC) ruled that the Writ of Execution was timely issued. According to the SC, when a judgment has become final and executory, it may be executed upon the filing of the motion within five years from the date of its entry. A judgment becomes final and executory if no appeal was filed and the period of appeal has lapsed. Thus, while a PPO is immediately implemented, it is not deemed final and executory as long as the judgment ordering its issuance may still be contested during the period of appeal. Accordingly, even if Willy was immediately excluded from the conjugal dwelling and prevented from leaving the country, he may still contest the ruling against him through a timely period of appeal.

The period to file appeal is crucial when parties may still contest the ruling but also when the judgment will be final and executory. Here the PPO became final and executory only about five years after it was issued and Alice filed a Motion for Execution about six months thereafter. Thus, the Motion for Execution was filed within the reglementary period.

The period to file an appeal is crucial as it not only determines when the parties can contest the ruling, but also when the judgment will be final and executory. Thus, contrary to Willy’s arguments, the period to move for execution is not reckoned from the time the judgment is promulgated but from the time it becomes final and executory (Ruiz vs. AAA G.R. 231619, Nov. 15, 2021).

ACT

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