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TUMPAG V.

TUMPAG
29 Septmeber 2014 | J. Brion | Jurisdiction: Determined by the allegations of the initiatory pleading

PETITIONERS: Esperanza Tumpag, substituted by her son, Pablito Tumpag Belnas, Jr.
RESPONDENTS: Samuel Tumpag

SUMMARY:
Petitioner Esperanza Tumpag filed a complaint for reeovery of possession with damages against Samuel Tumpag before the RTC Branch
61, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental. Defendant moved to dismiss for failure to state cause of action and lack of jurisdiction. RTC denied
the motion to dismiss and ruled in favor of the plaintiff. Defendant appealed before the CA questioning the RTCs lack of jurisdiction. CA
granted appeal and held that petitioners failure to allege in her complaint the assessed value of the disputed property warranted the
complaints dismissal. Petitioner moved to reconsider but CA denied, hence the filing of a petition for review on certiorari with the SC.
Petitioner argues that the dismissal of her complaint was unwarranted as she attached a copy of the Declaration of Real Property which
indicated the assessed valued of the disputed property to her complaint. SC granted the petition, stating that the general rule is that the court
should only look into the facts alleged in the complaint to determine whether or not it is within its jurisdiction, however, in instances where
rigid application of the rule would defeat substantial justice, the rule may be relaxed, especially in the instant case, considering that a mere
reference to the attached document would resolve the question of the value of the property involved and which court had proper jurisdiction.

DOCTRINE:
It is well-settled that jurisdiction over a subject matter is conferred by law, not by the parties action or conduct, and is, likewise, determined
from the allegations in the complaint. Generally, the court should only look into the facts alleged in the complaint to determine whether a
suit is within its jurisdiction. There may be instances, however, when a rigid application of this rule may result in defeating substantial justice
or in prejudice to a partys substantial right. In the present case, we find reason not to strictly apply the above-mentioned general rule, and to
consider the facts contained in the Declaration of Real Property attached to the complaint in determining whether the RTC had jurisdiction
over the petitioners case. A mere reference to the attached document could facially resolve the question on jurisdiction and would have
rendered lengthy litigation on this point unnecessary.

FACTS:
1. Esperanza Tumpag (petitioner) filed a complaint for recovery of possession with against Samuel Tumpag (respondent) before the RTC,
Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental. Her complaint alleged that:
a. She is the absolute owner of a parcel of land with area 12,992sqm situated in Brgy Tuyom, Cauayan, Neg. Occ. With Transfer
Certificate issued by the Register of Deeds;
b. Defendant Samuel Tumpag has been occupying more or less 1,000sqm of the said parcel of land for more than 10 years at the
tolerance of Esperanza;
c. Sometime in 1987, she wanted to recover the portion occupied by defendant but the latter refused to vacate despite repeated demands.
The defendant has even instigated his other relatives to file a case against Esperanza for cancellation of title;
d. The case was dismissed by the lower court and was elevated on appeal to the CA which likewise dismissed the appeal;
e. Esperanza demanded defendant to vacate but the latter continued to refuse so the issue was submitted for conciliation before the
barangay captain. Still, defendant refused to vacate;
f. Esperanza prays for recovery of the property as well as payment of damages.
2. Defendant moved to dismiss on the grounds of: failure to state cause of action, action was barred by prior judgment and lack of
jurisdiction.
3. RTC denied the motion to dismiss and proceeded with pre-trial and trial. During the pendency of the case, Esperanza died and was
substituted by her son Pablito Belnas Jr. RTC ruled in favor of plaintiff and ordered the return of property and payment of damages.
4. Defendant appealed before the CA questioning the RTCs lack of jurisdiction. CA granted the appeal and nullified the RTCs decision. It
held that the petitioner's failure to allege in her complaint the assessed value of the disputed property warranted the complaint's dismissal,
although without prejudice, because the court's jurisdiction over the case should be "determined by the material allegations of the
complaint" and "cannot be made to depend upon the defenses set up in court or upon a motion to dismiss for, otherwise, the question
of jurisdiction would depend almost entirely on the defendant."
5. The petitioner moved to reconsider but the CA denied her motion. The CA's ruling and denial of the motion for reconsideration gave
rise to the present petition for review on certiorari filed with this Court. The petitioner argues that the dismissal of her complaint was not
warranted considering that she had a meritorious case as attached to her complaint was a copy of a Declaration of Real Property indicating
that the assessed value of the disputed property is P20,790.00.
ISSUES/HELD:
1. W/N the RTC acquired jurisdiction YES
2. W/N respondent, after actively participating in all stages of the proceedings is now estopped from assailing the RTCs
jurisdiction NO

RATIO: Petition granted; RTC decision reinstated.


1. It is well-settled that jurisdiction over a subject matter is conferred by law, not by the parties' action or conduct, and
is, likewise, determined from the allegations in the complaint.

Under Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, as amended by Republic Act No. 7691, the jurisdiction of Regional Trial Courts over
civil actions involving title to, or possession of, real property, or any interest therein, is limited to cases where the
assessed value of the property involved exceeds Twenty thousand pesos (P20,000.00) or, for civil actions in Metro
Manila, where such value exceeds Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00), except actions for forcible entry into and unlawful
detainer of lands or buildings.

Here, the petitioner filed a complaint for recovery of possession of real property before the RTC but failed to allege
in her complaint the property's assessed value. Attached, however, to the petitioner's complaint was a copy of a
Declaration of Real Property showing that the subject property has a market value of P51,965.00 and assessed value
of P20,790.00. The CA was fully aware of this attachment but still proceeded to dismiss the petitioner's complaint.

Generally, the court should only look into the facts alleged in the complaint to determine whether a suit is within its
jurisdiction. There may be instances, however, when a rigid application of this rule may result in defeating substantial
justice or in prejudice to a party's substantial right. In the present case, we find reason not to strictly apply the above-
mentioned general rule, and to consider the facts contained in the Declaration of Real Property attached to the
complaint in determining whether the RTC had jurisdiction over the petitioner's case. A mere reference to the attached
document could facially resolve the question on jurisdiction and would have rendered lengthy litigation on this point
unnecessary.

2. We rule that the respondent is not estopped from assailing the RTC's jurisdiction over the subject civil case. Records
show that the respondent has consistently brought the issue of the court's lack of jurisdiction in his motions, pleadings
and submissions throughout the proceedings, until the CA dismissed the petitioner's complaint, not on the basis of a
finding of lack of jurisdiction, but due to the insufficiency of the petitioner's complaint, i.e. failure to allege the assessed
value of the subject property.

Lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter of the case can always be raised anytime, even for the first time on appeal,
since jurisdictional issues, as a rule, cannot be acquired through a waiver or enlarged by the omission of the parties or
conferred by the acquiescence of the court. Thus, the respondent is not prevented from raising the question on the
court's jurisdiction in his appeal