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GABRIEL L. DUERO, petitioner, vs. HON.

COURT OF APPEALS, and


BERNARDO A. ERADEL, respondents.
Facts: Sometime in 1988, PR Eradel entered and occupied Ps land in Baras, San Miguel, Surigao Del Sur with an
assessed value of PHP 5,240. P informed PR that the land was his and requested the latter to vacate said land. PR
however refused and threatened P with bodily harm. Despite repeated demands from P, PR occupied said land.
On June 16 1995, P filed a complaint for Recovery of Possession and Ownership with Damages and
Attorneys Fees against PR, Apolinario and Inocencio Ruena before the RTC Tandag, Surigao del Sur. The Ruenas
entered into a compromise agreement with P that the former shall bound themselves to respect the ownership and
possession of P. PR was not a party to the agreement and was declared in default for failure to file his answer. P
presented his evidence ex parte sometime in February 1996 and on May 8 1996, judgment was rendered in favor of
him. PR was ordered to peacefully vacate and turn over the land and to pay P PHP2000 as annual rentals from 1988
until the time he vacated said land. He was also ordered to pay PHP 5000 as attorneys fees. PR received a copy of
the decision on May 25, 1996. On June 10, 1996, PR filed a Motion for New Trial alleging that he has been occupying
the land as a tenant of Artemio Laurente, Sr., since 1958. He explained that he turned over the complaint and summons
to Laurente in the honest belief that as landlord, the latter had a better right to the land and was responsible to defend
any adverse claim on it. However, the trial court denied the motion for new trial
Meanwhile, an administrative case between P and applicant-contestants Romeo, Artemio and Jury Laurente,
remained pending with the Office of the Regional Director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources
in Davao City. Eventually, it was forwarded to the DENR Regional Office in Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur.
On July 24, 1996, PR filed before the RTC a Petition for Relief from Judgment, reiterating the same
allegation in his Motion for New Trial. He averred that unless there is a determination on who owned the land, he
could not be made to vacate the land. The trial court issued an order denying the Petition for Relief from Judgment. In
a MR of said order, PR alleged that the RTC had no jurisdiction over the case, since the value of the land was only
P5,240 and therefore it was under the jurisdiction of the municipal trial court. The RTC denied the MR.
On January 1997, P filed a Motion for Execution, which the RTC granted. Entry of Judgment was made of record
and a writ of execution was issued by the RTC on February 27, 1997. On March 12, 1997, PR filed his petition for
certiorari before the Court of Appeals.
The CA granted PRs petition. It declared the RTCs decision, Orders and Writs of execution null and void.

Issues:
(1) Jurisdiction of the RTC over the case;
(2) WON PR was not estopped from questioning the jurisdiction of the RTC even after it successfully sought
affirmative relief therefrom; and
(3) WON PRs failure to file his answer was justified.

Ruling:
(1) Jurisdiction
The MTC has JURISDICTION over the case.
SEC. 32. Jurisdiction of Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial
Courts in Criminal Cases.- Except in cases falling within the exclusive original jurisdiction of Regional Trial
Courts and of the Sandiganbayan, Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit
Trial Courts shall exercise:
xxx
(3) Exclusive original jurisdiction in all civil actions which involve title to, or possession of, real property,
or any interest therein where the assessed value of the property or interest therein does not exceed Twenty
thousand pesos (P20,000.00) or, in civil actions in Metro Manila, where such assessed value does not exceed
Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) exclusive of interest, damages of whatever kind, attorneys fees, litigation
expenses and costs: Provided, That in cases of land not declared for taxation purposes, the value of such
property shall be determined by the assessed value of the adjacent lots.

Grave abuse of discretion is meant such capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment which is equivalent
to an excess or a lack of jurisdiction. The abuse of discretion must be so patent and gross as to amount to an evasion
of a positive duty or a virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law, or to act at all in contemplation of law as
where the power is exercised in an arbitrary and despotic manner by reason of passion or hostility. When complaint
was filed by P RA 7691 amending BP 129 had become effective, such that jurisdiction already belongs not to the RTC
but to the MTC pursuant to said amendment.

(2) WON PR was estopped from questioning the jurisdiction of the RTC even after it successfully sought
affirmative relief therefrom
In this case, we are in agreement with the Court of Appeals that he was not estopped. While participation in all stages
of a case before the trial court, including invocation of its authority in asking for affirmative relief, effectively bars a
party by estoppel from challenging the courts jurisdiction, we note that estoppel has become an equitable defense that
is both substantive and remedial and its successful invocation can bar a right and not merely its equitable enforcement.
Hence, estoppel ought to be applied with caution. For estoppel to apply, the action giving rise thereto must be
unequivocal and intentional because, if misapplied, estoppel may become a tool of injustice.
The fundamental rule is that, the lack of jurisdiction of the court over an action cannot be waived by the parties, or
even cured by their silence, acquiescence or even by their express consent. Further, a party may assail the jurisdiction
of the court over the action at any stage of the proceedings and even on appeal. The appellate court did not err in
saying that the RTC should have declared itself barren of jurisdiction over the action. Even if private respondent
actively participated in the proceedings before said court, the doctrine of estoppel cannot still be properly invoked
against him because the question of lack of jurisdiction may be raised at anytime and at any stage of the action.
Precedents tell us that as a general rule, the jurisdiction of a court is not a question of acquiescence as a matter of fact,
but an issue of conferment as a matter of law. Also, neither waiver nor estoppel shall apply to confer jurisdiction upon
a court, barring highly meritorious and exceptional circumstances.
The point simply is that when a party commits error in filing his suit or proceeding in a court that lacks
jurisdiction to take cognizance of the same, such act may not at once be deemed sufficient basis of estoppel. It
could have been the result of an honest mistake, or of divergent interpretations of doubtful legal provisions. If
any fault is to be imputed to a party taking such course of action, part of the blame should be placed
on the court which shall entertain the suit, thereby lulling the parties into believing that they pursued
their remedies in the correct forum. Under the rules, it is the duty of the court to dismiss an action
whenever it appears that the court has no jurisdiction over the subject matter. (Sec. 2, Rule 9, Rules of
Court) Should the Court render a judgment without jurisdiction, such judgment may be impeached or
annulled for lack of jurisdiction (Sec. 30, Rule 132, Ibid), within ten (10) years from the finality of the same.
[Emphasis ours.]

This farmer, who is now the PR, ought not to be penalized when he claims that he made an honest mistake
when he initially submitted his motions before the RTC, before he realized that the controversy was outside the RTCs
cognizance but within the jurisdiction of the municipal trial court. To hold him in estoppel as the RTC did would
amount to foreclosing his avenue to obtain a proper resolution of his case. Furthermore, if the RTCs order were to
be sustained, he would be evicted from the land prematurely, while RED Conflict Case No. 1029 would remain
unresolved. Such eviction on a technicality if allowed could result in an injustice, if it is later found that he has a legal
right to till the land he now occupies as tenant-lessee.

(3) Justified failure of filing an answer


Suffice it to say that, given the circumstances in this case, no error was committed on this score by respondent
appellate court. Since the RTC had no jurisdiction over the case, private respondent had justifiable reason in law not
to file an answer, aside from the fact that he believed the suit was properly his landlords concern.
EROFERR REALTY CORPORATION, petitioner, vs. COURT OF
APPEALS and ERNESTO D. SANTIAGO, respondents.
[G.R. No. 139539. February 5, 2002]

Facts:
On March 16, 1994, P filed a complaint for damages and injunction, with preliminary injunction with
RTC Branch 93 Quezon City. In the complaint, P prayed that PR and his agents be enjoined from - claiming possession
and ownership over Lot No. 68 of the Tala Estate Subdivision, Quezon City; that PR and his agents be prevented from
making use of the vacant lot as a jeepney terminal; that Santiago be ordered to pay P P650.00 daily as lost income for
the use of the lot until possession is restored to the latter; and that PR be directed to pay plaintiff Ceroferr moral, actual
and exemplary damages and attorneys fees, plus expenses of litigation. PR in his answer alleged that the disputed
vacant lot is within No. 90 of the Tala Estate Subdivision, covered by his TCT; that he was not claiming any portion
of Lot No. 68 claimed by P; that he had the legal right to fence Lot No. 90 since this belonged to him, and he had a
permit for the purpose; that P had no color of right over Lot No. 90 and, hence, was not entitled to an injunction to
prevent PR from exercising acts of ownership thereon; and that the complaint did not state a cause of action.
In the course of the proceedings, an important issue metamorphosed as a result of the conflicting claims of
the parties over the vacant lot actually used as a jeepney terminal the exact identity and location thereof. There was
a verification survey, followed by a relocation survey, whereby it would appear that the vacant lot is inside Lot No.
68. The outcome of the survey, however, was vigorously objected to by defendant who insisted that the area is inside
his lot. PR, in his manifestation, adverted to the report of a geodetic engineer, Mariano V. Flotildes, to the effect that
the disputed portion is inside the boundaries of Lot No. 90 of the subdivision, which is separate and distinct from, Lot
No. 68, and that the two lots are separated by a concrete fence.
PR filed a motion to dismiss the complaint premised primarily on his contention that the trial court cannot
adjudicate the issue of damages without passing over the conflicting claims of ownership of the parties over the
disputed lot.
On May 14, 1996, the trial court dismissed the case for lack of cause of action and lack of jurisdiction. The
court held that P was in effect impugning the title of PR which could not be done in the case for damages and injunction
before it. The court cited the hoary rule that a Torens certificate of title cannot be the subject of collateral attack but
can only be challenged through a direct proceeding. It concluded that it could not proceed to decide Ps claim for
damages and injunction for lack of jurisdiction because its judgment would depend upon a determination of the validity
of defendants title and the identity of the land covered by it.
P appealed to the CA insisting that P has a valid cause of action and, that in any event, the trial court could
proceed to try and decide the case before it since, under present law, there is now no substantial distinction between
the general jurisdiction vested in a regional trial court and its limited jurisdiction when acting as a land registration
court. The CA dismissed the appeal for lack of merit.

Issues:
(1) Whether Ceroferrs complaint states a sufficient cause of action and
(2) Whether the trial court has jurisdiction to determine the identity and location of the vacant lot involved in the case.

Ruling:
(1) Whether Ceroferrs complaint states a sufficient cause of action
The rules of procedure require that the complaint must state a concise statement of the ultimate facts or the
essential facts constituting the plaintiffs cause of action. A fact is essential if it cannot be stricken out without leaving
the statement of the cause of action inadequate. A complaint states a cause of action only when it has its three
indispensable elements, namely:
(1) a right in favor of the plaintiff by whatever means and under whatever law it arises or is created;
(2) an obligation on the part of the named defendant to respect or not to violate such right; and
(3) an act or omission on the part of such defendant violative of the right of plaintiff or constituting a breach
of the obligation of defendant to the plaintiff for which the latter may maintain an action for recovery of damages.
If these elements are not extant, the complaint becomes vulnerable to a motion to dismiss on the ground of
failure to state a cause of action.
These elements are present in the case at bar. Ps cause of action has been sufficiently averred in the
complaint. If it were admitted that the right of ownership of P to the peaceful use and possession of Lot 68 was violated
by PRs act of encroachment and fencing of the same, then P would be entitled to damages.
(2) Whether the trial court has jurisdiction to determine the identity and location of the vacant lot involved in
the case.
The trial court has jurisdiction to determine the identity and location of the vacant lot in question.
Jurisdiction over the subject matter is conferred by law and is determined by the allegations of the complaint
irrespective of whether the plaintiff is entitled to all or some of the claims asserted therein. The jurisdiction of a court
over the subject matter is determined by the allegations of the complaint and cannot be made to depend upon the
defenses set up in the answer or pleadings filed by the defendant.
While the lack of jurisdiction of a court may be raised at any stage of an action, nevertheless, the party raising
such question may be estopped if he has actively taken part in the very proceedings which he questions and he only
objects to the courts jurisdiction because the judgment or the order subsequently rendered is adverse to him.
In this case, PR may be considered estopped to question the jurisdiction of the trial court for he took an active
part in the case. In his answer, PR did not question the jurisdiction of the trial court to grant the reliefs prayed for in
the complaint. His geodetic engineers were present in the first and second surveys that the LRA conducted. It was
only when the second survey report showed results adverse to his case that he submitted a motion to dismiss.
Both parties in this case claim that the vacant lot is within their property. This is an issue that can be best
resolved by the trial court in the exercise of its general jurisdiction.
After the land has been originally registered, the Court of Land Registration ceases to have jurisdiction over
contests concerning the location of boundary lines. In such case, the action in personam has to be instituted before an
ordinary court of general jurisdiction.
The RTC has jurisdiction to determine the precise identity and location of the vacant lot used as a jeepney
terminal.