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Tan vs. Rodil Enterprises Case Digest


Facts:

Rodil Enterprises filed a Complaint for Unlawful Detainer filed against Luciano Tan, alleging that under a Contract of Sublease, Tan bound himself to pay P13,750.00 as monthly rentals. However, Tan refused to pay the rentals from September 1997 up to the time of the filing of the Complaint.

In his Answer, Luciano Tan insists that he is a legitimate tenant of the government who owns the Ides ORacca Building and not of Rodil Enterprises. He, thus, prayed for the dismissal of the Complaint, and for the return of whatever amount Rodil Enterprises had collected from 1987 to 1997, or during such time when he was still paying rentals to the latter.

On 27 June 2000, the MeTC issued an Order, recognizing an agreement entered into in open court by Luciano Tan and Rodil Enterprises. The Order, inter alia, declared, thus:

On second call, the parties and counsel agreed in principle in open court to the following terms to put an end to this civil case for ejectment between them:

1.) that [Luciano Tan] will pay P440,000.00 representing rentals from September, 1997 up to the present, which is the outstanding obligation of [Luciano Tan] as of June, 2000, on or before June 30, 2000; and

2.) [Luciano Tan] will pay the monthly rentals computed at P13,750.00 on or before the 5th day of each month after June 30, 2000. 

Tan filed a Motion to Allow Defendant to Deposit Rentals, averring therein that he had agreed to pay all the rentals due on the subject premises and to pay the subsequent monthly rentals as they fall due; that the rentals in arrears from September 1997 amounted to P467,500.00; and in line with his good faith in dealing with Rodil Enterprises, he would like to deposit the aforesaid amount, and the subsequent monthly rentals as they fall due. He prayed that he be allowed to deposit the Managers Check for the amount of P467,500.00, made payable to the City Treasurer of Manila. However, on 15 August 2000, the MeTC denied the Motion on the rationalization that Luciano Tan's prayer to deposit the specified sum with the City Treasurer of Manila contravenes Section 19, Rule 70 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.

The MeTC rendered a Decision in favor of Rodil Enterprises.  

According to the MeTC, notwithstanding the evidentiary norm in civil cases that an offer of compromise is not an admission of any liability, and is not admissible in evidence against the offeror, the court cannot overlook the frank representations by Luciano Tan's counsel of the former's liability in the form of rentals, coupled with a proposal to liquidate. The foregoing gestures, as appreciated by the MeTC, were akin to an admission of a fact, like the existence of a debt which can serve as proof of the loan, and was thus, admissible. The court pronounced that Luciano Tan had explicitly acknowledged his liability for the periodic consideration for the use of the subleased property. Estoppel, thus, precludes him from disavowing the fact of lease implied from the tender of payment for the rentals in arrears.

Petitioner posits that the aforesaid admission, made in open court, and then, reiterated in his Motion to Allow Defendant to Deposit Rentals, cannot be taken as an admission of his liability, citing Section 27, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court, which states, inter alia, that an offer of compromise in a civil case is not a tacit admission of liability.


Issue:

Can the admission of Tan, made in open court and reiterated in his Motion to Allow Defendant to Deposit Rentals be taken as an admission of his liability?


Held:

Yes. The general rule is an offer of compromise in a civil case is not an admission of liability. It is not admissible in evidence against the offeror.

The rule, however, is not iron-clad. This much was elucidated by this Court in Trans-Pacific Industrial Supplies, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, to wit:

To determine the admissibility or non-admissibility of an offer to compromise, the circumstances of the case and the intent of the party making the offer should be considered. Thus, if a party denies the existence of a debt but offers to pay the same for the purpose of buying peace and avoiding litigation, the offer of settlement is inadmissible. If in the course thereof, the party making the offer admits the existence of an indebtedness combined with a proposal to settle the claim amicably, then, the admission is admissible to prove such indebtedness. Indeed, an offer of settlement is an effective admission of a borrowers loan balance.
  
Similarly, in the case of Varadero de Manila v. Insular Lumber Co. the Court applied the exception to the general rule. In Varadero there was neither an expressed nor implied denial of liability, but during the course of the abortive negotiations therein, the defendant expressed a willingness to pay the plaintiff. Finding that there was no denial of liability, and considering that the only question discussed was the amount to be paid, the Court did not apply the rule of exclusion of compromise negotiations.

In the case at bar, the MeTC and the Court of Appeals properly appreciated petitioners admission as an exception to the general rule of inadmissibility. The petitioner did not contest the existence of the sublease, and his counsel made frank representations anent the former's liability in the form of rentals. This expressed admission was coupled with a proposal to liquidate. The Motion to Allow Defendant to Deposit Rentals was as an explicit acknowledgment of petitioners liability on the subleased premises. The existence of the Contract of Lease, dated 18 October 1999 was not denied by petitioner. The contracts that were assailed by petitioner are the contracts dated 18 and 25 May 1992, the validity of which has been upheld by this Court in the consolidated cases of G.R. No. 129609 and G.R. No. 135537. (Tan vs. Rodil Enterprises, G. R. No. 168071, December 18, 2006)

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