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G.R. No.

198356, April 20, 2015 learned that the Spouses de Jesus occupied one house while Macario
occupied the other one.9
ESPERANZA SUPAPO AND THE HEIRS OF ROMEO SUPAPO, NAMELY:
ESPERANZA, REX EDWARD, RONALD TROY, ROMEO, JR., SHEILA The Spouses Supapo demanded from the respondents the immediate
LORENCE, ALL SURNAMED SUPAPO, AND SHERYL FORTUNE SUPAPO- surrender of the subject lot by bringing the dispute before the appropriate
SANDIGAN, Petitioners, v. SPOUSES ROBERTO AND SUSAN DE JESUS, Lupong Tagapamayapa. The Lupon issued a Katibayan Upang Makadulog sa
MACARIO BERNARDO, AND THOSE PERSONS CLAIMING RIGHTS UNDER Hukuman (certificate to file action) for failure of the parties to settle
THEM, Respondent. amicably.10

DECISION The Spouses Supapo then filed a criminal case11 against the respondents for
violation of Presidential Decree No. 772 or the Anti-Squatting Law.12 The
trial court convicted the respondents. The dispositive portion of the decision
BRION, J.:
reads:
We resolve the petition for review on certiorari1 filed by petitioners WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, this Court finds accused ROBERTO
Esperanza Supapo and Romeo Supapo2 (Spouses Supapo) to assail the DE JESUS, SUSAN DE JESUS and MACARIO BERNARDO, GUILTY beyond
February 25, 2011 decision3 and August 25, 2011 resolution 4 of the Court of reasonable doubt for Violation of Presidential Decree No. 772, and each
Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 111674. accused is hereby ordered to pay a fine of ONE THOUSAND PESOS
(P1,000.00), and to vacate the subject premises.
Factual Antecedents
SO ORDERED.13 (Emphasis supplied.)
The Spouses Supapo filed a complaint5 for accion publiciana against Roberto
and Susan de Jesus (Spouses de Jesus), Macario Bernardo (Macario), and
persons claiming rights under them (collectively, the respondents), with the The respondents appealed their conviction to the CA.14 While the appeal
Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) of Caloocan City. was pending, Congress enacted Republic Act (RA) No. 8368, otherwise
known as "An Act Repealing Presidential Decree No. 772," which resulted to
The complaint sought to compel the respondents to vacate a piece of land the dismissal of the criminal case.15
located in Novaliches, Quezon City, described as Lot 40, Block 5 (subject lot).
The subject lot is covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. C-284416 On April 30, 1999, the CA's dismissal of the criminal case became final. 16
registered and titled under the Spouses Supapo's names. The land has an
assessed value of thirty-nine thousand nine hundred eighty pesos Notwithstanding the dismissal, the Spouses Supapo moved for the
(39,980.00) as shown in the Declaration of Real Property Value (tax execution of the respondents' civil liability, praying that the latter vacate the
declaration) issued by the Office of the City Assessor of Caloocan. 7 subject lot. The Regional Trial Court (RTC) granted the motion and issued the
writ of execution. The respondents moved for the quashal of the writ but
The Spouses Supapo did not reside on the subject lot. They also did not the RTC denied the same. The RTC also denied the respondents' motion for
employ an overseer but they made sure to visit at least twice a year.8 During reconsideration.
one of their visits in 1992, they saw two (2) houses built on the subject lot.
The houses were built without their knowledge and permission. They later The respondents thus filed with the CA a petition for certiorari to challenge
the RTC's orders denying the quashal of the writ and the respondent's From the MeTC's ruling, the respondents filed a petition for certiorari with
motion for reconsideration.17 The CA granted the petition and held that with the RTC.24
the repeal of the Anti-Squatting Law, the respondents' criminal and civil
liabilities were extinguished.18 The dispositive portion of the decision reads: The RTC Ruling25

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition for certiorari with prayer for The RTC granted the petition for certiorari on two grounds, viz.: (i) the action
injunction is GRANTED. The orders dated June 5, 2003 and July 24, 2003 of has prescribed; and (ii) accion publiciana falls within the exclusive
Branch 131 of the Regional Trial Court of Caloocan City in Criminal Case No. jurisdiction of the RTC.
C-45610 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Said court is hereby permanently
ENJOINED from further executing or implementing its decision dated March It held that in cases where the only issue involved is possession, the MeTC
18, 1996. has jurisdiction if the action for forcible entry or unlawful detainer is filed
within one (1) year from the time to demand to vacate was made.
SO ORDERED. Otherwise, the complaint for recovery of possession should be filed before
the RTC.
The CA, however, underscored that the repeal of the Anti-Squatting Law
The dispositive portion of the RTC decision reads:
does not mean that people now have unbridled license to illegally occupy
lands they do not own, and that it was not intended to compromise the
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant petition is hereby GRANTED.
property rights of legitimate landowners.19 In cases of violation of their
property rights, the CA noted that recourse may be had in court by filing the
The Orders dated October 24, 2008 and February 23, 2009 are hereby
proper action for recovery of possession.
declared NULL and VOID.
The Spouses Supapo thus filed the complaint for action publiciana.20
The Public Respondent is hereby directed to DISMISS Civil Case No. 08-
21 29245 for lack of jurisdiction.
After filing their Answer, the respondents moved to set their affirmative
defenses for preliminary hearing22 and argued that: (1) there is another
SO ORDERED.26
action pending between the same parties; (2) the complaint for accion
publiciana is barred by statute of limitations; and (3) the Spouses Supapo's
cause of action is barred by prior judgment. In their motion for reconsideration,27 the Spouses Supapo emphasized that
the court's jurisdiction over an action involving title to or possession of land
The MeTC Ruling23 is determined by its assessed value; that the RTC does not have an exclusive
jurisdiction on all complaints for accion publiciana; and that the assessed
The MeTC denied the motion to set the affirmative defenses for preliminary value of the subject lot falls within MeTC's jurisdiction.
hearing. It ruled that the arguments advanced by the respondents are
evidentiary in nature, which at best can be utilized in the course of the trial. The RTC denied the petitioners' motion for reconsideration.
The MeTC likewise denied the respondents' motion for reconsideration.
It held that although the MeTC had jurisdiction based on the assessed value
of the subject lot, the Spouses Supapos' cause of action had already
prescribed, the action having been filed beyond the ten (l0)-year (2) prescription had not yet set in because their cause of action is
prescriptive period under Article 555 of the Civil Code. 28 As it was not proven imprescriptible under the Torrens system.
when the actual demand to vacate was made, the RTC ruled that the
reckoning period by which the ejectment suit should have been filed is The Respondents' Case33
counted from the time the certificate to file action was issued. The
certificate to file action was issued on November 25, 1992, while the The respondents argue that the complaint for accion publiciana was (1) filed
complaint for accion publiciana was filed only on March 7, 2008, or more in the wrong court; (2) barred by prescription; and (3) barred by res judicata.
than ten (10) years thereafter.
Issues
Dissatisfied with the RTC ruling, the Spouses Supapo appealed to the CA. 29
The issues for resolution are:
The CA Ruling30
I. Whether the MeTC properly acquired jurisdiction;
The CA dismissed the appeal and held that the complaint for accion II. Whether the cause of action has prescribed; and
publiciana should have been lodged before the RTC and that the period to III. Whether the complaint for accion publiciana is barred by res
file the action had prescribed. judicata.

The dispositive portion of the CA decision reads:


Our Ruling
WHEREFORE, the appeal is DENIED. The Decision dated June 30, 2009 and
Order dated October 19, 2009 are AFFIRMED. The petition is meritorious.

SO ORDERED We hold that: (1) the MeTC properly acquired jurisdiction; (2) the cause of
action has not prescribed; and (3) the complaint is not barred by res judicata.
The Spouses Supapo moved31 but failed32 to secure a reconsideration of the
CA decision; hence, they came to us through the present petition. Accion Publiciana and
the Jurisdiction of the
The Petition MeTC

In seeking reversal of the CA's ruling, the Spouses Supapo essentially argue Accion publiciana is an ordinary civil proceeding to determine the better
that: right of possession of realty independent of title. It refers to an ejectment
suit filed after the expiration of one year from the accrual of the cause of
(1) the MeTC exercises exclusive original jurisdiction over accion action or from the unlawful withholding of possession of the realty. 34
publiciana where the assessed value of the property does not
exceed P20,000.00, or P50,000.00 if the property is located in In the present case, the Spouses Supapo filed an action for the recovery of
Metro Manila; and that possession of the subject lot but they based their better right of possession
on a claim of ownership.
This Court has held that the objective of the plaintiffs in accion publiciana is property, or any interest therein, where the assessed value of the property
to recover possession only, not ownership. However, where the parties raise involved exceeds Twenty thousand pesos (P20,000.00) or, for civil actions
the issue of ownership, the courts may pass upon the issue to determine in Metro Manila, where such value exceeds Fifty thousand pesos
who between the parties has the right to possess the property. 35 (P50,000.00) x x x. (Emphasis supplied.)

This adjudication is not a final determination of the issue of ownership; it is Section 3 of the same law provides:
only for the purpose of resolving the issue of possession, where the issue of
Section. 3. Section 33 of the same law is hereby amended to read as follows:
ownership is inseparably linked to the issue of possession. The adjudication
Section. 33. Jurisdiction of Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts
of the issue of ownership, being provisional, is not a bar to an action and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts in Civil Cases. - Metropolitan Trial Courts,
between the same parties involving title to the property. The adjudication, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts shall exercise:
in short, is not conclusive on the issue of ownership. 36
xxxx
Thus, while we will dissect the Spouses Supapo's claim of ownership over
the subject property, we will only do so to determine if they or the (3) Exclusive original jurisdiction in all civil actions which involve title to, or
respondents should have the right of possession. possession of, real property, or any interest therein where the assessed
value of the property or interest therein does not exceed Twenty thousand
Having thus determined that the dispute involves possession over a real pesos (P20,000.00) or, in civil actions in Metro Manila, where such
property, we now resolve which court has the jurisdiction to hear the case. assessed value does not exceed Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00)
exclusive of interest, damages of whatever kind, attorney's fees, litigation
Under Batas Pambansa Bilang 129,37 the jurisdiction of the RTC over actions expenses and costs x x x. (Emphasis supplied.)
involving title to or possession of real property is plenary. 38

RA No. 7691,39 however, divested the RTC of a portion of its jurisdiction and In view of these amendments, jurisdiction over actions involving title to or
granted the Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts and Municipal possession of real property is now determined by its assessed value.40 The
Circuit Trial Courts the exclusive and original jurisdiction to hear actions assessed value of real property is its fair market value multiplied by the
where the assessed value of the property does not exceed Twenty Thousand assessment level. It is synonymous to taxable value. 41
Pesos (P20,000.00), or Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00), if the property is
located in Metro Manila. In Quinagoran v. Court of Appeals,42 we explained:

Section 1 of RA No. 7691 states: [D]oes the RTC have jurisdiction over all cases of recovery of possession
regardless of the value of the property involved?
Section 1. Section 19 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, otherwise known as the
"Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980," is hereby amended to read as The answer is no. The doctrine on which the RTC anchored its denial of
follows: petitioner's Motion to Dismiss, as affirmed by the CA � that all cases of
Section. 19. Jurisdiction in civil cases. - Regional Trial Courts shall exercise recovery of possession or accion publiciana lies with the regional trial courts
exclusive original jurisdiction: regardless of the value of the property � no longer holds true. As tilings
now stand, a distinction must be made between those properties the
(2) In all civil actions which involve the title to, or possession of, real
assessed value of which is below P20,000.00, if outside Metro Manila; and
P50,000.00, if within.43 (Emphasis supplied.) The respondents point out that the Spouses Supapo filed the complaint for
accion publiciana on March 7, 2008 or more than ten (10) years after the
certificate to file action was issued on November 25, 1992. The respondents
In this regard, the complaint must allege the assessed value of the real
contend that the Spouses Supapo may no longer recover possession of the
property subject of the complaint or the interest thereon to determine
which court has jurisdiction over the action. This is required because the subject property, the complaint having been filed beyond the period
provided by law.
nature of the action and the court with original and exclusive jurisdiction
over the same is determined by the material allegations of the complaint,
the type of relief prayed for by the plaintiff, and the law in effect when the Further, while the respondents concede that the Spouses Supapo hold a TCT
action is filed, irrespective of whether the plaintiffs are entitled to some or over the subject property, and assuming a Torrens title is imprescriptible
and indefeasible, they posit that the latter have lost their right to recover
all of the claims asserted therein.44
possession because of laches.
In the present case, the Spouses Supapo alleged that the assessed value of
On their part, the Spouses Supapo admit that they filed the complaint for
the subject lot, located in Metro Manila, is P39,980.00. This is proven by the
accion publiciana more than ten (10) years after the certificate to file action
tax declaration45 issued by the Office of the City Assessor of Caloocan. The
was issued. Nonetheless, they argue that their cause of action is
respondents do not deny the genuineness and authenticity of this tax
declaration. imprescriptible since the subject property is registered and titled under the
Torrens system.
Given that the Spouses Supapo duly complied with the jurisdictional
requirements, we hold that the MeTC of Caloocan properly acquired We rule that the Spouses Supapo's position is legally correct.
jurisdiction over the complaint for accion publiciana.
At the core of this controversy is a parcel of land registered under the
Torrens system. The Spouses Supapo acquired the TCT on the subject lot in
The cause of action
has not prescribed 1979.46 Interestingly, the respondents do not challenge the existence,
authenticity and genuineness of the Supapo's TCT.47
The respondents argue that the complaint for accion publiciana is
In defense, the respondents rest their entire case on the fact that they have
dismissible for being filed out of time.
allegedly been in actual, public, peaceful and uninterrupted possession of
They invoke Article 555 of the Civil Code, which states: Art. 555. A possessor the subject property in the concept of an owner since 1992. The
may lose his possession: respondents contend that they built their houses on the subject lot in good
faith. Having possessed the subject lot for more than ten (10) years, they
xxxx claim that they can no longer be disturbed in their possession. 48

(4) By the possession of another, subject to the provisions of Article 537, if Under the undisputed facts of this case, we find that the respondents'
the new possession has lasted longer than one year. But the real right of contentions have no legal basis.
possession is not lost till after the lapse of ten years. (Emphasis supplied.)
In a long line of cases, we have consistently ruled that lands covered by a
title cannot be acquired by prescription or adverse possession. We have
also held that a claim of acquisitive prescription is baseless when the land
involved is a registered land because of Article 1126 49 of the Civil Code in By respecting the imprescriptibility and indefeasibility of the Spouses
relation to Act 496 [now, Section 47 of Presidential Decree (PD) No. Supapo's TCT, this Court merely recognizes the value of the Torrens System
152950].51 in ensuring the stability of real estate transactions and integrity of land
registration.
The Spouses Supapo (as holders of the TCT) enjoy a panoply of benefits
under the Torrens system. The most essential insofar as the present case is We reiterate for the record the policy behind the Torrens System, viz.:
concerned is Section 47 of PD No. 1529 which states:
The Government has adopted the Torrens system due to its being the most
Section 47. Registered land not subject to prescriptions. No title to registered effective measure to guarantee the integrity of land titles and to protect
land in derogation of the title of the registered owner shall be acquired by their indefeasibility once the claim of ownership is established and
prescription or adverse possession. recognized. If a person purchases a piece of land on the assurance that the
seller's title thereto is valid, he should not run the risk of being told later that
In addition to the imprescriptibility, the person who holds a Torrens Title his acquisition was ineffectual after all, which will not only be unfair to him
as the purchaser, but will also erode public confidence in the system and will
over a land is also entitled to the possession thereof. 52 The right to possess
force land transactions to be attended by complicated and not necessarily
and occupy the land is an attribute and a logical consequence of
conclusive investigations and proof of ownership. The further consequence
ownership.53 Corollary to this rule is the right of the holder of the Torrens
Title to eject any person illegally occupying their property. Again, this right will be that land conflicts can be even more abrasive, if not even violent. 58
is imprescriptible.54
With respect to the respondents' defense59 of laches, suffice it to say that
55
In Bishop v. CA, we held that even if it be supposed that the holders of the the same is evidentiary in nature and cannot be established by mere
Torrens Title were aware of the other persons' occupation of the property, allegations in the pleadings.60 In other words, the party alleging laches must
regardless of the length of that possession, the lawful owners have a right adduce in court evidence proving such allegation. This Court not being a trier
to demand the return of their property at any time as long as the possession of facts cannot rule on this issue; especially so since the lower courts did not
was unauthorized or merely tolerated, if at all. 56 pass upon the same.

Even if the defendant attacks the Torrens Title because of a purported sale Thus, without solid evidentiary basis, laches cannot be a valid ground to
or transfer of the property, we still rule in favor of the holder of the Torrens deny the Spouses Supapo's petition.61 On the contrary, the facts as culled
Title if the defendant cannot adduce, in addition to the deed of sale, a duly- from the records show the clear intent of the Spouses Supapo to exercise
registered certificate of title proving the alleged transfer or sale. their right over and recover possession of the subject lot, viz.: (1) they
brought the dispute to the appropriate Lupon; (2) they initiated the criminal
A case in point is Umpoc v. Mercado57 in which we gave greater probative complaint for squatting; and (3) finally, they filed the action publiciana. To
weight to the plaintiffs TCT vis-a-vis the contested unregistered deed of sale our mind, these acts negate the allegation of laches.
of the defendants. Unlike the defendants in Umpoc, however, the
respondents did not adduce a single evidence to refute the Spouses With these as premises, we cannot but rule that the Spouses Supapo's right
Supapo's TCT. With more reason therefore that we uphold the to recover possession of the subject lot is not barred by prescription.
indefeasibility and imprescriptibility of the Spouses Supapo's title.
The action is not barred (4) There must be between the first and second actions, identity of parties,
by prior judgment subject matter, and cause of action.

As a last-ditch effort to save their case, the respondents invoke res judicata.
Res judicata is not present in this case.
They contend that the decision of the CA in CA-G.R. SP No. 78649 barred the
filing of the action publiciana. While requisites one to three may be present, it is obvious that the there is
no identity of subject matter, parties and causes of action between the
To recall, CA-G.R. SP No. 78649 is the petition for certiorari filed by the
criminal case prosecuted under the Anti-Squatting Law and the civil action
respondents to challenge the RTC's issuance of the writ enforcing their civil for the recovery of the subject property.
liability (i.e., to vacate the subject property) arising from their conviction
under the Anti-Squatting Law. The CA granted the petition and permanently
First, there is no identity of parties. The criminal complaint, although
enjoined the execution of the respondents' conviction because their
initiated by the Spouses Supapo, was prosecuted in the name of the people
criminal liability had been extinguished by the repeal of the law under which of the Philippines. The accion publiciana, on the other hand, was filed by and
they were tried and convicted. It follows that their civil liability arising from
in the name of the Spouses Supapo.
the crime had also been erased.
Second, there is no identity of subject matter. The criminal case involves the
The respondents' reliance on the principle of res judicata is misplaced. prosecution of a crime under the Anti-Squatting Law while the accion
publiciana is an action to recover possession of the subject property.
Res judicata embraces two concepts: (1) bar by prior judgment as
enunciated in Rule 39, Section 47(b) of the Rules of Civil Procedure; and (2) And third, there is no identity of causes of action. The people of the
conclusiveness of judgment in Rule 39, Section 47(c).62 Philippines filed the criminal case to protect and preserve governmental
interests by prosecuting persons who violated the statute. The Spouses
"Bar by prior judgment" means that when a right or fact had already been
Supapo filed the accion publiciana to protect their proprietary interests over
judicially tried on the merits and determined by a court of competent the subject property and recover its possession.
jurisdiction, the final judgment or order shall be conclusive upon the parties
and those in privity with them and constitutes an absolute bar to
Even casting aside the requirement of identity of causes of action, the
subsequent actions involving the same claim, demand or cause of action. 63
defense of res judicata has still no basis.
The requisites64 for res judicata under the concept of bar by prior judgment
The concept of "conclusiveness of judgment" does not require that there is
are:
identity of causes of action provided that there is identity of issue and
identity of parties.65
(1) The former judgment or order must be final;
Under this particular concept of res judicata, any right, fact, or matter in
(2) It must be a judgment on the merits;
issue directly adjudicated or necessarily involved in the determination of an
action before a competent court in which judgment is rendered on the
(3) It must have been rendered by a court having jurisdiction over the
merits is conclusively settled by the judgment therein and cannot again be
subject matter and the parties; and
litigated between the parties and their privies, whether or not the claim,
demand, purpose, or subject matter of the two actions is the same. 66

As already explained, there is no identity of parties between the criminal


complaint under the Anti-Squatting law and the civil action for accion
publiciana. For this reason alone, "collusiveness of judgment" does not
apply.

Even if we assume, for the sake of argument, that there is identity of parties,
"conclusiveness of judgment" still does not apply because there is no
identity of issues. The issue in the criminal case is whether the respondents
(accused therein) committed the crime alleged in the information, while the
only issue in accion publiciana is whether the Spouses Supapo have a better
right than the respondents to possess and occupy the subject property.

For all these reasons, the defense of res judicata is baseless.

Final Note

As a final note, we stress that our ruling in this case is limited only to the
issue of determining who between the parties has a better right to
possession. This adjudication is not a final and binding determination of the
issue of ownership. As such, this is not a bar for the parties or even third
persons to file an action for the determination of the issue of ownership.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, we GRANT the petition, and


consequently REVERSE and SET ASIDE the February 25, 2011 decision and
August 25, 2011 resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 111674.
G.R. No. 164560

Present: Promulgated:

July 22, 2009

ANA DE GUIA SAN PEDRO


YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.,

and ALEJO DOPEO,


Chairperson,

Petitioners, CHICO-NAZARIO,

VELASCO, JR.,

NACHURA, and

- versus -
PERALTA, JJ. x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

HON. FATIMA G. ASDALA, in her capacity as the


DECISION
Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon
City, Branch 87; HON. MANUEL TARO, in his capacity as
the Presiding Judge of the Metropolitan Trial Court of
Quezon City, Branch 42; and the HEIRS OF SPOUSES
APOLONIO V. DIONISIO and VALERIANA DIONISIO PERALTA, J.:
(namely, ALLAN GEORGE R. DIONISIO and ELEANOR R.
DIONISIO, herein represented by ALLAN GEORGE R.
DIONISIO),

Respondents.
This resolves the petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules petitioners' Transfer Certificate of Title over their alleged property was
of Court, praying that the Resolutions1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) dated spurious. Private respondents then prayed that they be declared the sole
September 15, 2003 and June 1, 2004, respectively, in CA-G.R. SP No. 78978, and absolute owners of the subject property; that petitioners be ordered to
be reversed and set aside. surrender possession of subject property to them; that petitioners and
Wood Crest and/or its members be ordered to pay actual and moral
The antecedent facts are as follows. damages, and attorney's fees.

Sometime in July 2001, private respondents, heirs of spouses


Apolonio and Valeriana Dionisio, filed with the Metropolitan Trial Court
Petitioners, for their part, filed a Motion to Dismiss3 said complaint
(MeTC) of Quezon City, Branch 42, a Complaint2 against herein petitioners
on the ground that the MeTC had no jurisdiction over the subject matter of
and Wood Crest Residents Association, Inc., for Accion Reivindicatoria,
the action, as the subject of litigation was incapable of pecuniary estimation.
Quieting of Title and Damages, with Prayer for Preliminary Mandatory
Injunction. Private respondents alleged that subject property located in
Batasan Hills, Quezon City, with an assessed value of P32,100.00, was titled
in the name of spouses Apolonio and Valeriana Dionisio; but petitioners, The MeTC then issued an Order4 dated July 4, 2002 denying the

with malice and evident bad faith, claimed that they were the owners of a motion to dismiss, ruling that, under Batas Pambansa (B.P.) Blg. 129, as

parcel of land that encompasses and covers subject property. Private amended, the MeTC had exclusive original jurisdiction over actions involving

respondents had allegedly been prevented from entering, possessing and title to or possession of real property of small value.

using subject property. It was further alleged in the Complaint that


Petitioners then filed with the Court of Appeals another petition for
certiorari, insisting that both the MeTC and RTC acted with grave abuse of
Petitioners' Motion for Reconsideration of said Order dated July 4, 2002 was discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction by not ordering the
denied. dismissal of the complaint for Accion Reivindicatoria, for lack of jurisdiction
over the same. In the assailed CA Resolution dated September 15, 2003, the
CA dismissed the petition outright, holding that certiorari was not available
to petitioners as they should have availed themselves of the remedy of
Petitioners assailed the aforementioned Order by filing a petition
appeal. Petitioners' motion for reconsideration of the resolution of dismissal
for certiorari with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City, Branch 87.
was denied per Resolution8 dated June 1, 2004.
However, in its Decision5 dated March 10, 2003, the RTC dismissed the
petition, finding no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the MeTC
Presiding Judge. The RTC sustained the MeTC ruling, stating that, in
accordance with Section 33(3) of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 7691, amending Thus, petitioners filed the instant petition and, in support thereof,
B.P. Blg. 129, the MeTC had jurisdiction over the complaint for Accion they allege that:
Reivindicatoria, as it involves recovery of ownership and possession of real
property located in Quezon City, with an assessed value not exceeding
P50,000.00. A Motion for Reconsideration6 of the Decision was filed by
petitioners, but was denied in an Order7 dated July 3, 2003.

THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ACTED WITH GRAVE


ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OR IN (SIC)
EXCESS OF JURISDICTION IN DENYING THE PETITION FOR
CERTIORARI AND FOR FAILURE TO RESOLVE THE ISSUE The settled rule is that appeals from judgments or final orders or
RAISED IN THE CERTIORARI REGARDING THE
resolutions of the CA should be by a verified petition for review on certiorari,
JURISDICTION OF THE METROPOLITAN TRIAL COURT TO
TAKE COGNIZANCE OF A CASE OF ACCION as provided for under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Civil Procedure. Thus,
REINVINDICATORIA.
in Pasiona, Jr. v. Court of Appeals,10 the Court expounded as follows:
THE HONORABLE PUBLIC RESPONDENT FATIMA
GONZALES-ASDALA, AS PRESIDING JUDGE OF RTC
BRANCH 87, QUEZON CITY, ACTED WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF
DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OR IN EXCESS OF (SIC)
JURISDICTION IN DISMISSING THE PETITION FOR The aggrieved party is proscribed from assailing a
CERTIORARI AND IN RESOLVING THAT A CASE OF ACCION decision or final order of the CA via Rule 65, because such
REINVINDICATORIA IS WITHIN THE JURISDICTION OF THE recourse is proper only if the party has no plain, speedy
METROPOLITAN TRIAL COURT. and adequate remedy in the course of law. In this case,
petitioner had an adequate remedy, namely, a petition
THE HONORABLE PUBLIC RESPONDENT MANUEL TARO AS for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of
PRESIDING JUDGE MeTC, BRANCH 42, QUEZON CITY, Court. A petition for review on certiorari, not a special
ACTED WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING civil action for certiorari was, therefore, the correct
TO LACK OR IN (SIC) EXCESS OF JURISDICTION IN SO remedy.
TAKING COGNIZANCE OF THE COMPLAINT FOR ACCION
REINVINDICATORIA IN CIVIL CASE NO. 27434 ENTITLED, xxxx
HEIRS OF SPS. APOLONIO V. DIONISIO AND VALERIANA
DIONISIO, ETC. VS. ANA DE GUIA SAN PEDRO, ET. AL.9 Settled is the rule that where appeal is available
to the aggrieved party, the special civil action for certiorari
will not be entertained remedies of appeal and certiorari
are mutually exclusive, not alternative or successive.
The present Petition for Certiorari is doomed and should not have Hence, certiorari is not and cannot be a substitute for a
lost appeal, especially if one's own negligence or error in
been entertained from the very beginning. one's choice of remedy occasioned such loss or lapse. One
of the requisites of certiorari is that there be no available
appeal or any plain, speedy and adequate remedy. Where
an appeal was available, as in this case, certiorari will not
prosper, even if the ground therefor is grave abuse of
discretion. Petitioner's resort to this Court by Petition for
Certiorari was a fatal procedural error, and the instant xxxx
petition must, therefore, fail.11
x x x Thus, under the old law, there was no
substantial effect on jurisdiction whether a case is one,
For the very same reason given above, the CA, therefore, acted the subject matter of which was incapable of pecuniary
estimation, under Section 19(1) of B.P. 129, or one
properly when it dismissed the petition for certiorari outright, on the ground involving title to property under Section 19(2). The
that petitioners should have resorted to the remedy of appeal instead of distinction between the two classes became crucial with
the amendment introduced by R.A. No. 7691 in 1994,
certiorari. Verily, the present Petition for Certiorari should not have been which expanded the exclusive original jurisdiction of the
given due course at all. first level courts to include "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
Moreover, since the period for petitioners to file a petition for (P20,000.00) or, in civil actions in Metro Manila, where
review on certiorari had lapsed by the time the instant petition was filed, such assessed value does not exceed Fifty thousand
pesos (P50,000.00) exclusive of interest, damages of
the assailed CA Resolutions have attained finality. whatever kind, attorney's fees, litigation expenses and
costs." Thus, under the present law, original jurisdiction
over cases the subject matter of which involves "title to,
Nevertheless, just to put the matter to rest, the Court reiterates the possession of, real property or any interest therein"
under Section 19(2) of B.P. 129 is divided between the
ruling in Heirs of Valeriano S. Concha, Sr. v. Spouses Lumocso,12 to wit: first and second level courts, with the assessed value of
the real property involved as the benchmark. This
amendment was introduced to "unclog the overloaded
dockets of the RTCs which would result in the speedier
In a number of cases, we have held that actions
administration of justice."13
for reconveyance of or for cancellation of title to or to
quiet title over real property are actions that fall under the
classification of cases that involve title to, or possession
of, real property, or any interest therein.
Clearly, the RTC and the CA ruled correctly that the MeTC had The Antecedents
jurisdiction over private respondents' complaint for Accion Reivindicatoria.
On September 3, 1996, petitioners Cesar, Ibarra, Nestor, Lina and
Prescilla, all surnamed Hilario, filed a complaint with the Regional Trial Court
(RTC) of Romblon, Romblon, Branch 71, against private respondent Allan T.
Salvador. They alleged therein, inter alia, as follows:
IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the petition is DISMISSED for utter
2. That, the plaintiffs are co-owners by inheritance from
lack of merit. The Resolutions of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. Concepcion Mazo Salvador of a parcel of land designated as
Cad. Lot No. 3113-part, located at Sawang, Romblon,
78978, dated September 15, 2003 and June 1, 2004, are AFFIRMED.
Romblon, which property was [adjudged] as the hereditary
share of their father, Brigido M. Hilario, Jr. when their father
was still single, and which adjudication was known by the
plaintiffs[] fathers co-heirs;

SO ORDERED. 3. That, sometime in 1989, defendant constructed his dwelling


unit of mixed materials on the property of the plaintiffs
father without the knowledge of the herein plaintiffs or their
predecessors-in-interest;
[G.R. No. 160384. April 29, 2005]
4. That, demands have been made of the defendant to vacate
the premises but the latter manifested that he have (sic)
asked the prior consent of their grandmother, Concepcion
Mazo Salvador;
CESAR T. HILARIO, for himself and as Attorney-in-Fact of IBARRA, NESTOR,
LINA and PRESCILLA, all surnamed HILARIO, petitioners, vs. ALLAN 5. That, to reach a possible amicable settlement, the plaintiffs
T. SALVADOR, respondent. brought the matter to the Lupon of Barangay Sawang, to no
avail, evidenced by the CERTIFICATE TO FILE ACTION hereto
HEIRS OF SALUSTIANO SALVADOR, namely, REGIDOR M. SALVADOR and
attached as ANNEX B;
VIRGINIA SALVADOR-LIM, respondents-intervenors.
6. That, the unjustified refusal of the defendant to vacate the
DECISION property has caused the plaintiffs to suffer shame,
humiliation, wounded feelings, anxiety and sleepless nights;
CALLEJO, SR., J.:
7. That, to protect their rights and interest, plaintiffs were
This is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Revised constrained to engage the services of a lawyer.[3]
Rules of Court of the Decision [1] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV The petitioners prayed that, after due proceedings, judgment be
No. 63737 as well as its Resolution[2] denying the motion for the rendered in their favor, thus:
reconsideration of the said decision.
WHEREFORE, it is prayed of this Honorable Court that after of the land in question cannot exceed P20,000.00 and, as such, it
due process (sic), an order be issued for the defendant to vacate falls within the jurisdiction of the Municipal Trial Court of
and peacefully turn over to the plaintiffs the occupied property Romblon and should have been filed before said Court rather
and that defendant be made to pay plaintiffs: than before the RTC. [6]
a. actual damages, as follows: The petitioners opposed the motion.[7] They contended that the RTC
had jurisdiction over the action since the court can take judicial notice of the
a.1. transportation expenses in connection with market value of the property in question, which was P200.00 per square
the projected settlement of the case
meter and considering that the property was 14,797 square meters, more
amounting to P1,500.00 and for the
or less, the total value thereof is P3,500,000.00. Besides, according to the
subsequent attendance to the hearing of
petitioners, the motion to dismiss was premature and the proper time to
this case at P1,500.00 each schedule; interpose it is when the [petitioners] introduced evidence that the land is of
a.2. attorneys fees in the amount of P20,000.00 such value.
and P500.00 for every court appearance;
On November 7, 1996, the RTC issued an Order[8] denying the motion
b. moral and exemplary damages in such amount incumbent to dismiss, holding that the action was incapable of pecuniary estimation,
upon the Honorable Court to determine; and and therefore, cognizable by the RTC as provided in Section 19(1) of B.P. Blg.
129, as amended.
c. such other relief and remedies just and equitable under
the premises.[4] After the denial of the motion to dismiss, the private respondent filed
his answer with counterclaim.[9] Traversing the material allegations of the
The private respondent filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on the complaint, he contended that the petitioners had no cause of action against
ground of lack of jurisdiction over the nature of the action, citing Section 33 him since the property in dispute was the conjugal property of his
of Batas Pambansa (B.P.) Blg. 129, as amended by Section 3(3) of Republic grandparents, the spouses Salustiano Salvador and Concepcion Mazo-
Act (R.A.) No. 7691.[5] He averred that Salvador.
(1) the complaint failed to state the assessed On April 8, 1997, Regidor and Virginia Salvador filed their Answer-in-
value of the land in dispute; Intervention[10] making common cause with the private respondent. On her
(2) the complaint does not sufficiently identify own motion, however, Virginia Salvador was dropped as intervenor. [11]
and/or describe the parcel of land referred to as the
subject-matter of this action; During trial, the petitioners adduced in evidence Tax Declaration No.
8590-A showing that in 1991 the property had an assessed value of
both of which are essential requisites for determining the P5,950.00.[12]
jurisdiction of the Court where the case is filed. In this case,
however, the assessed value of the land in question is totally On June 3, 1999, the trial court rendered judgment finding in favor of
absent in the allegations of the complaint and there is nothing in the petitioners. The dispositive portion of the decision reads:
the relief prayed for which can be picked-up for determining the
WHEREFORE, as prayed for, judgment is rendered:
Courts jurisdiction as provided by law.
Ordering the defendant to vacate and peacefully turn over
In the face of this predicament, it can nevertheless be
to the plaintiffs the occupied property; and
surmised by reading between the lines, that the assessed value
Dismissing defendants counterclaim. The Ruling of the Court
SO ORDERED.[13]
Aggrieved, the private respondent and respondent-intervenor Regidor The lone issue for our resolution is whether the RTC had jurisdiction
over the action of the petitioners, the plaintiffs in the RTC, against the
Salvador appealed the decision to the CA, which rendered judgment on May
private respondent, who was the defendant therein.
23, 2003 reversing the ruling of the RTC and dismissing the complaint for
want of jurisdiction. The fallo of the decision is as follows: The petitioners maintain that the RTC has jurisdiction since their action
IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the appealed decision is is an accion reinvindicatoria, an action incapable of pecuniary estimation;
thus, regardless of the assessed value of the subject property, exclusive
REVERSED, and the case DISMISSED, without prejudice to its
jurisdiction falls within the said court. Besides, according to the petitioners,
refilling in the proper court.
in their opposition to respondents motion to dismiss, they made mention of
SO ORDERED.[14] the increase in the assessed value of the land in question in the amount of
P3.5 million. Moreover, the petitioners maintain that their action is also one
The CA declared that the action of the petitioners was one for the
for damages exceeding P20,000.00, over which the RTC has exclusive
recovery of ownership and possession of real property. Absent any
jurisdiction under R.A. No. 7691.
allegation in the complaint of the assessed value of the property, the
Municipal Trial Court (MTC) had exclusive jurisdiction over the action, The petition has no merit.
conformably to Section 33[15] of R.A. No. 7691.
It bears stressing that the nature of the action and which court has
The petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration of the said decision, original and exclusive jurisdiction over the same is determined by the
which the appellate court denied.[16] Hence, they filed the instant petition, material allegations of the complaint, the type of relief prayed for by the
with the following assignment of errors: plaintiff and the law in effect when the action is filed, irrespective of
whether the plaintiffs are entitled to some or all of the claims asserted
I
therein.[18] The caption of the complaint is not determinative of the nature
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED GRAVE of the action. Nor does the jurisdiction of the court depend upon the answer
REVERSIBLE ERROR IN HOLDING THAT THE INSTANT CASE, of the defendant or agreement of the parties or to the waiver or
ACCION REINVINDICATORIA, FALLS WITHIN THE EXCLUSIVE acquiescence of the parties.
ORIGINAL JURISDICTION OF THE MUNICIPAL TRIAL COURT OF
We do not agree with the contention of the petitioners and the ruling
ROMBLON, AND NOT WITH THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF of the CA that the action of the petitioners in the RTC was an accion
ROMBLON.
reinvindicatoria. We find and so rule that the action of the petitioners was
II an accion publiciana, or one for the recovery of possession of the real
property subject matter thereof. An accion reinvindicatoria is a suit which
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED SERIOUS has for its object the recovery of possession over the real property as owner.
REVERSIBLE ERROR IN ORDERING THE REFILING OF THE CASE IN It involves recovery of ownership and possession based on the said
THE [PROPER] COURT, INSTEAD OF DECIDING THE CASE ON THE ownership. On the other hand, an accion publiciana is one for the recovery
MERITS BASED ON THE COMPLETE RECORDS ELEVATED BEFORE of possession of the right to possess. It is also referred to as an ejectment
SAID APPELLATE COURT AND IN NOT AFFIRMING IN TOTO THE suit filed after the expiration of one year after the occurrence of the cause
DECISION OF THE TRIAL COURT.[17] of action or from the unlawful withholding of possession of the realty.[19]
The action of the petitioners filed on September 3, 1996 does not Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal
involve a claim of ownership over the property. They allege that they are co- Circuit Trial Courts.
owners thereof, and as such, entitled to its possession, and that the private
The jurisdiction of the court over an action involving title to or
respondent, who was the defendant, constructed his house thereon in 1989
possession of land is now determined by the assessed value of the said
without their knowledge and refused to vacate the property despite
property and not the market value thereof. The assessed value of real
demands for him to do so. They prayed that the private respondent vacate
the property and restore possession thereof to them. property is the fair market value of the real property multiplied by the
assessment level. It is synonymous to taxable value.[20] The fair market value
When the petitioners filed their complaint on September 3, 1996, R.A. is the price at which a property may be sold by a seller, who is not compelled
No. 7691 was already in effect. Section 33(3) of the law provides: to sell, and bought by a buyer, who is not compelled to buy.
Sec. 33. Jurisdiction of Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Even a cursory reading of the complaint will show that it does not
Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts in Civil Cases. contain an allegation stating the assessed value of the property subject of
Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts and Municipal the complaint.[21] The court cannot take judicial notice of the assessed or
Circuit Trial Courts shall exercise: market value of lands.[22] Absent any allegation in the complaint of the
assessed value of the property, it cannot thus be determined whether the
(3) Exclusive original jurisdiction in all civil actions which
RTC or the MTC had original and exclusive jurisdiction over the petitioners
involve title to, or possession of, real property, or any interest
action.
therein where the assessed value of the property or interest
therein does not exceed Twenty Thousand Pesos (P20,000.00) or, We note that during the trial, the petitioners adduced in evidence Tax
in civil actions in Metro Manila, where such assessed value does Declaration No. 8590-A, showing that the assessed value of the property in
not exceed Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) exclusive of 1991 was P5,950.00. The petitioners, however, did not bother to adduce in
interest, damages of whatever kind, attorneys fees, litigation evidence the tax declaration containing the assessed value of the property
expenses and costs: Provided, That in cases of land not declared when they filed their complaint in 1996. Even assuming that the assessed
for taxation purposes, the value of such property shall be value of the property in 1991 was the same in 1995 or 1996, the MTC, and
determined by the assessed value of the adjacent lots. not the RTC had jurisdiction over the action of the petitioners since the case
involved title to or possession of real property with an assessed value of less
Section 19(2) of the law, likewise, provides that: than P20,000.00.[23]
Sec. 19. Jurisdiction in civil cases. The Regional Trial Court
We quote with approval, in this connection, the CAs disquisition:
shall exercise exclusive original jurisdiction:
The determining jurisdictional element for the accion
(2) In all civil actions, which involve the title to, or possession
reinvindicatoria is, as RA 7691 discloses, the assessed value of the
of, real property, or any interest therein, where the assessed property in question. For properties in the provinces, the RTC has
value of the property involved exceeds Twenty Thousand Pesos
jurisdiction if the assessed value exceeds P20,000, and the MTC,
(P20,000.00) or, for civil actions in Metro Manila, where such
if the value is P20,000 or below. An assessed value can have
value exceeds Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) except actions reference only to the tax rolls in the municipality where the
for forcible entry into and unlawful detainer of lands or buildings,
property is located, and is contained in the tax declaration. In the
original jurisdiction over which is conferred upon the
case at bench, the most recent tax declaration secured and
presented by the plaintiffs-appellees is Exhibit B. The loose
remark made by them that the property was worth 3.5 million expenses, and costs or the value of the property in controversy
pesos, not to mention that there is absolutely no evidence for exceeds One Hundred Thousand Pesos (P100,000.00) or, in such
this, is irrelevant in the light of the fact that there is an assessed other cases in Metro Manila, where the demand, exclusive of the
value. It is the amount in the tax declaration that should be above-mentioned items exceeds Two Hundred Thousand Pesos
consulted and no other kind of value, and as appearing in Exhibit (P200,000.00).
B, this is P5,950. The case, therefore, falls within the exclusive
original jurisdiction of the Municipal Trial Court of Romblon which The said provision is applicable only to all other cases other than an
action involving title to, or possession of real property in which the assessed
has jurisdiction over the territory where the property is located,
value is the controlling factor in determining the courts jurisdiction. The said
and not the court a quo.[24]
damages are merely incidental to, or a consequence of, the main cause of
It is elementary that the tax declaration indicating the assessed value action for recovery of possession of real property.[26]
of the property enjoys the presumption of regularity as it has been issued
Since the RTC had no jurisdiction over the action of the petitioners, all
by the proper government agency.[25]
the proceedings therein, including the decision of the RTC, are null and void.
Unavailing also is the petitioners argumentation that since the The complaint should perforce be dismissed.[27]
complaint, likewise, seeks the recovery of damages exceeding P20,000.00,
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The assailed Decision and
then the RTC had original jurisdiction over their actions. Section 33(3) of B.P.
Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 63737 are AFFIRMED.
Blg. 129, as amended, quoted earlier, explicitly excludes from the
Costs against the petitioners.
determination of the jurisdictional amount the demand for interest,
damages of whatever kind, attorneys fees, litigation expenses, and costs. SO ORDERED.
This Court issued Administrative Circular No. 09-94 setting the guidelines in
the implementation of R.A. No. 7691, and paragraph 2 thereof states that
2. The exclusion of the term damages of whatever kind in
determining the jurisdictional amount under Section 19(8) and
Section 33(1) of B.P. Blg. 129, as amended by R.A. 7691, applies
to cases where the damages are merely incidental to or a
consequence of the main cause of action. However, in cases
where the claim for damages is the main cause of action, or one
of the causes of action, the amount of such claim shall be
considered in determining the jurisdiction of the court.
Neither may the petitioners find comfort and solace in Section 19(8) of
B.P. Blg. 129, as amended, which states:
SEC. 19. Jurisdiction in civil cases. Regional Trial Courts shall
exercise exclusive original jurisdiction:
(8) In all other cases in which the demand, exclusive of
interest, damages of whatever kind, attorney's fees, litigation
his maid, Praxedes Seguisabal, after which the couple resided in the
property of Socorro Chiong,[4] which abutted the property of the petitioner
and a portion of the property of the Spouses Vicente and Susana Paras. The
petitioner thus became a tenant of Socorro Chiong. Teotimo further
narrated that sometime in 1989 and 1990, the petitioner transferred his
house to the property of his son, the respondent, in the process destroying
coconut trees planted on the property to pave the way for the construction
of the barangay hall. According to the witness, he reported the incident to
the office of the chief of police and the barangay captain. However, the
[G.R. No. 140973. November 11, 2004] matter was not acted upon.[5]
Teotimo also testified that his son, the respondent, purchased the
property from his uncle, Mariano Paras, who, in turn, bought the same from
his parents, the Spouses Vicente and Susana Paras.[6] Based on the said sale,
JUSTINO LARESMA, petitioner, vs. ANTONIO P. ABELLANA, respondent. the Register of Deeds issued TCT No. 47171 over the property under the
name of the respondent on April 2, 1980.[7] The respondent had since then
DECISION declared the property for taxation purposes,[8] and paid the realty taxes
CALLEJO, SR., J.: therefor.[9] Teotimo declared that he requested Geodetic Engineer Lordeck
Abella to relocate the property, and the engineer prepared a sketch plan
showing that the said lot abutted the property of Socorro Chiong on the
On May 24, 1994, respondent Antonio P. Abellana filed a Complaint
northeast and that of Agnes Abellana on the north.[10] He admitted that he
with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Toledo, Cebu, Branch 29, against
and the respondent were informed that the property had been placed under
petitioner Justino Laresma, a farmer, for recovery of possession of Lot 4-E of
the Operation Land Transfer (OLT), and that they refused to acknowledge
subdivision plan psd. 271428, a parcel of agricultural land located in Tampa-
the information.[11]
an, Aloguinsan, Cebu. The lot had an area of 21,223 square meters covered
by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 47171. He alleged, inter alia, that The respondents aunt, Socorro Chiong, testified that on October 14,
since 1985, the petitioner had been a lessee of a certain Socorro Chiong, 1972, she and Felicidad Paras Montecillo purchased from her parents, the
whose agricultural land adjoined his own; and that sometime in 1985, the Spouses Vicente and Susana Paras, a 19-hectare land in Tampa-an,
petitioner, by means of threat, strategy, and stealth, took possession of his Aloguinsan, Cebu, Lot 4-C of Psd. 271428 Lot 4-E, covered by Tax Declaration
property and deprived him of its possession.[1] The respondent prayed that, No. 009088.[12] Chiongs parents died in 1977. In an Order dated November
after due proceedings, judgment be rendered in his favor, ordering the 8, 1994, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) affirmed the July 11,
petitioner to vacate the property and pay him actual damages, attorneys 1988 Ruling of the DAR Regional Director that the deed of sale over the
fees, and expenses of litigation.[2] Appended to the complaint was a contract property executed by her parents in her favor was valid; that the tenants
of lease[3] executed by the petitioners wife, Praxedes Seguisabal Laresma, therein, including Justino Laresma and his wife, were bound by the said sale;
on March 1, 1977, over a parcel of land owned by Socorro Chiong covered and that the tenanted portion of the property, including that portion leased
by Tax Declaration No. 05561. to Praxedes Laresma, was outside the scope of the OLT. [13] She confirmed
that the property of the respondent abutted her property on the north. [14]
To support his complaint, the respondent presented his father,
Teotimo Abellana, as witness. Teotimo testified that the petitioner married
In his answer to the complaint, the petitioner averred that the dispute where he was a tenant.[22] He delivered one-half of the produce from the
between him and the respondent was agrarian in nature, within the land to Susana Paras and kept the rest as his share. Shortly thereafter, the
exclusive jurisdiction of the DAR, involving as it did his right of possession Spouses Paras sold a portion of the property to the respondent. Sometime
covered by Certificate of Land Transfer (CLT) No. 0-031817 issued to his wife in 1976 or 1977, the subject property was placed under the OLT.[23] The
Praxedes. He alleged that the property titled in the name of the respondent respondent and Roque Paras protested the inclusion of the property, which
consisted of a portion of that property owned by the Spouses Vicente and was, however, rejected.[24] The petitioner also testified that after the death
Susana Paras covered by Original Certificate of Title No. 780 which was of the Spouses Paras, he gave the share of the produce to the spouses
placed under OLT under Presidential Decree No. 27. Being a beneficiary of daughter, Socorro Chiong.[25]
the agrarian reform program of the government, his wife was issued CLT No.
The petitioner further testified that on July 13, 1982, his wife was
0-031817 on July 13, 1982 over a portion of the property, Lot No. 00013,
with an area of 0.1700 hectares. Since then, he and his wife became owners issued CLT No. 0-031817 over Lot No. 00013, the property he was
cultivating. The lot had an area of 0.1700 hectares and was located at
of the property and, as such, were entitled to the possession thereof.
Tampa-an, Aloguinsan, Cebu. Because of lack of funds, his wife was able to
The parties agreed to defer further proceedings for the conduct of an make only partial payments of her amortizations for the property to the
ocular inspection of the property to determine whether Lot No. 00013 Land Bank of the Philippines for which she was issued receipts. [26] After CLT
covered by CLT No. 0-031817 was, indeed, a part of Lot 4-E covered by TCT No. 0-031817 was issued to his wife, he kept all the produce from the land.
No. 47171. On January 13, 1995, the trial court issued an Order allowing the
The petitioner also presented Felix Navarro and Alberto Epan who
said inspection with Socorro Chiong in attendance.[15] The parties were
advised to make a report on the same. The court designated its process affirmed their respective reports on the conduct of the inspection on the
property.
server, Felix Navarro, as its representative during the inspection. [16] The
Municipal Agrarian Reform Office, for its part, designated Municipal On October 30, 1998, the trial court rendered judgment in favor of the
Agrarian Reform Technologist Alberto Epan as its representative. respondent and against the petitioner. The fallo of the decision reads:
On February 16, 1995, Epan inspected the property in the presence of WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby
the petitioner. The petitioner pointed to Epan eight of the ten OLT rendered in favor of plaintiff as against defendant declaring:
muniments. Epan also noticed that there were coconuts scattered on the
property, that corn was planted in the plan area, and that the house of the 1 - That plaintiff as the lawful owner in fee simple of the
respondent was in the property titled to the petitioner. On February 17, entire real property covered by Transfer Certificate
1995, the parties respective counsels, including Navarro and Epan, of Title No. 47171 [Exhibit D]; and, declaring further
inspected the property. Epan, thereafter, submitted his Report dated that plaintiff is entitled to recover possession thereof
February 22, 1995,[17] with a sketch at the dorsal portion showing the from defendant;
respective locations of the property cultivated by the respondent, his house 2 - That the occupation, use, and possession of defendant
and the OLT muniments.[18] Navarro submitted a separate report on March under the latters claim as bona fide tenant of plaintiff
7, 1995,[19] where it was indicated that the parties had agreed that the house over the latters property is null and void ab initio in
of the petitioner was located at the respondents property. violation of aforecited provision of the Code of
The petitioner denied being the tenant of the respondent. He testified Agrarian Reform, R.A. 3884;
and adduced evidence that he and his wife were married on September 23, 3 - That defendant, his wife, Praxedes Laresma and their
1953,[20] and, thereafter, resided in the property of the Spouses Paras [21] children and his agents or representative are hereby
ordered to vacate and to surrender the entire prior to October 21, 1972, which transfer was registered with the Register
possession, use, and occupation of said real property of Deeds only on December 21, 1977. He contends that since the
covered by TCT No. 47171 to and in favor of plaintiff; landholding was already placed under the scope of OLT, the respondent
merely stepped into the shoes of the Spouses Paras. Moreover, having
4 - That defendant is hereby declared liable and ordered to
become owners of the property on October 21, 1972, the petitioner and his
pay plaintiff the sum of P70,000.00 as actual
wife were not obliged to pay damages to the respondent; as such, there was
damages, the sum of P10,000.00 as attorneys fees, no factual basis for the award of actual damages in the amount of P70,000
and P5,000.00 as costs of suit.
in favor of the latter.
SO ORDERED.[27]
In his comment on the petition, the respondent avers that the
The court ruled that, as evidenced by the contract of lease executed by threshold issue in this case is factual; hence, the remedy of the petitioner
Praxedes Laresma and Socorro Chiong, the petitioner was the tenant of was to appeal the decision of the trial court to the Court of Appeals by a writ
Chiong and not of the respondent. Thus, the court had jurisdiction over the of error under Rule 41 of the Rules of Court. He contends that he did not, in
case. The court rejected the reports of Epan and Navarro, and considered his complaint, attack the CLT issued to Praxedes Laresma because the
the same as barren of probative weight, considering that the said reports property covered by it is a portion of the property of Socorro Chiong, and
failed to take into account the technical descriptions of Lot 4-C owned by not that of his property covered by TCT No. 47171. He also posits that the
Chiong, Lot 4-E covered by TCT No. 47171, and Lot 00013 covered by CLT said title is valid and insists that the petitioner had actual knowledge of the
No. 0-031817. sale of the property to him. The petitioner cites the ruling of this Court in
Antonio v. Estrella[28] to bolster his claim.
Hence, the present petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of
the Rules of Court. As gleaned from the petition, the comment thereon, and the
memoranda of the parties, the issues for resolution are the following: (a)
The petitioner points out that the property subject of the complaint is whether the action of the respondent in the trial court is in reality an indirect
covered by a CLT issued by the DAR in the name of his wife. The petitioner attack on the validity of CLT No. 0-031817 issued to Praxedes Laresma in the
avers that although the complaint of the respondent appeared to be one for guise of an action for recovery of possession (accion publiciana) of the
the recovery of possession of the said property (accion publiciana), by property covered by TCT No. 47171; (b) whether the RTC had jurisdiction
claiming that the petitioner was the tenant of Socorro Chiong, the over the action of the respondent; and (c) whether the petitioner is liable
respondent indirectly attacked the said CLT. Hence, the action is within the for damages in favor of the respondent.
exclusive jurisdiction of the Department of Agrarian Reform and
Adjudication Board (DARAB) under Republic Act No. 6657. The petitioner On the first two issues, the petitioner avers that he and his wife
asserts that, by declaring that the landholding was not legally possessed by Praxedes became owners of Lot No. 00013 by virtue of CLT No. 0-031817
him and that he was not a de jure tenant, the trial court thereby declared which was awarded in the latters favor. As such, they are entitled to the
him as having forfeited his rights under the CLT. He was, thus, prevented possession of the lot. The petitioner contends that unless and until CLT No.
from paying his monthly amortizations over the property to the Land Bank 0-031817 is nullified in a direct action for the said purpose before the
of the Philippines as required by law. DARAB, they cannot be evicted from the said property. He posits that the
action of the respondent against him in the RTC for recovery of possession
The petitioner further asserts that he was the agricultural tenant of the of real property is, in reality, an indirect attack on the CLT issued to his wife
Spouses Paras, the original owners of the property. His right as a farmer which is proscribed by the ruling of this Court in Miranda v. Court of
subsisted, notwithstanding the transfer of the property of the deceased Appeals.[29] He asserts that the decision of the trial court declaring him in
illegal possession of the property and not a de jure tenant of the respondent This particular contract of lease [Exhibit B] does not show
operates as an illegal forfeiture or cancellation of the CLT. that plaintiff is a privy (sic) to it. It is (sic) goes to show that
plaintiff is [not] bound by the terms and conditions thereof.
For his part, the respondent asserts that his complaint against the
petitioner did not indirectly assail the CLT issued to the latters wife. He In the order of DAR under DARRO Adm. Case No. VII-98-88
contends that his action was one for the recovery of his possession of a dated November 8, 1994 [Exhibit A] which is actually a decision
portion of his property Lot 4-E covered by TCT No. 47171, and not that of arising from the tenancy relationship between Socorro Chiong
Lot No. 00013 covered by CLT No. 0-031817 which is a portion of Lot 4-C and defendant Justino Laresma, the DAR had expressly ruled that
owned by his aunt Socorro Chiong. He notes that the petitioner himself defendant is the tenant of Socorro Chiong of her property but
admits that he has never been his agricultural tenant over his property. limited to an actual area of 3.7316 hectares and excluding the
Consequently, the respondent concludes, the trial court correctly ruled that area of 4.4905 [page 3, Decision] from the scope of the operation
the dispute between him and the petitioner is civil in nature and within its of Operation Land Transfer. It was further ruled therein that the
exclusive jurisdiction. landholding of Socorro Chiong was a part of the total landholding
owned by her parents, Vicente N. Paras and Susana Paras, both
We agree with the respondent that the DARAB had no jurisdiction over deceased, which was, subsequently, sold by her parents to her as
his action against the petitioner. The bone of contention of the parties and
evidenced by a deed of sale dated October 14, 1972 [Exhibit C].
the decisive issue in the trial court was whether or not Lot No. 00013
This deed of conveyance was affirmed by the DAR as validly
covered by CLT No. 0-031817 is a portion of Lot 4-E covered by TCT No.
executed between Socorro Chiong and defendant Justino
47171 under the name of the respondent. This is the reason why the parties Laresma because the latter had actual knowledge and recognition
agreed to have Lot No. 00013 resurveyed in relation to Lot 4-C owned by
of the said transaction between Socorro and her deceased
Socorro Chiong and to Lot 4-E titled in the name of the respondent. After a
parents. This actual transfer of ownership of said parcel of land
calibration of the evidence on record and the reports of Epan and Navarro,
from Socorro Chiong[s] deceased parents to her was evidenced
the trial court ruled that Lot No. 00013 formed part of Lot 4-C owned by by the execution of the contract of lease between her and
Socorro Chiong and not of Lot 4-E titled in the name of the respondent:
defendant on March 10, 1977 (sic) [Exhibit B].
Plaintiff unabashedly claims that defendant has never been
But in the said ruling of the DFAR (sic), defendant has been
his tenant over the formers property, Lot No. 4-E, but defendant expressly declared by DAR as a bona fide tenant of Socorro
claims otherwise. The evidence of plaintiff tends to establish that
Chiong but his farmholding inside her property is limited to an
defendant is not his or has never been his tenant over his
actual area of 3.7316 hectares and excluding the area of 4.4905
agricultural land, Lot 4-E, but defendant Justino Laresma is rather
[page 3, Decision] from the scope of the operation of Operation
the tenant of Socorro Chiong over her property, Lot 4-C. In Land Transfer.
support of this contention that defendant is not plaintiffs own
tenant but that of Socorro Chiong, plaintiff offered and adduced If defendant were (sic) truly a tenant of plaintiff, he would
the contract of lease duly entered by and between Socorro have also asked plaintiff or his predecessor-in-interest to execute
Chiong and defendant [Exhibit B] in 1977 wherein it was clearly that necessary contract of lease like the instrument, which
stipulated [that] Socorro Chiong as the agricultural lessor leased Socorro Chiong executed in favor of defendant as her tenant. In
a portion of her land to defendant, in the latters capacity as the absence of said instrument to establish his tenancy over
agricultural lessee of Lot 4-C with the obligation to pay Socorro plaintiffs landholding, this Court cannot just presume the
Chiong rentals during the stipulated crop years.
existence of an agricultural leasehold relationship between the question of jurisdiction would depend almost entirely on the
plaintiff and defendant.[30] defendant.[34] Once jurisdiction is vested, the same is retained up to the end
of the litigation. We also held in Arcelona v. Court of Appeals[35] that, in
However, this Court cannot accept these ocular reports and
American jurisprudence, the nullity of a decision arising from lack of
the accompanying sketches thereof so as to correctly reflect the
jurisdiction may be determined from the record of the case, not necessarily
identity of defendants farmholding and to establish its exact
from the face of the judgment only.
location within the land of plaintiff in view of the absence of
pertinent technical description of said farmholding in relation to It must be stressed that the regular court does not lose its jurisdiction
the metes and bounds of plaintiffs land whose technical over an ejectment case by the simple expedient of a party raising as a
description is clearly mentioned in plaintiffs Transfer Certificate defense therein the alleged existence of a tenancy relationship between the
of Title No. 47171 [Exhibit D]. The said technical description of the parties.[36] But it is the duty of the court to receive evidence to determine
defendants farmholding is required to clearly pinpoint its identity the allegations of tenancy.[37] If, after hearing, tenancy had, in fact, been
with its area and boundaries in relation to the titled property of shown to be the real issue, the court should dismiss the case for lack of
plaintiff. Without said technical description, it is very difficult to jurisdiction.[38]
identify defendants landholdings to be within plaintiffs real
It is axiomatic that the nature of an action and the jurisdiction of a
property.
tribunal are determined by the material allegations of the complaint and the
In view of the absence of the above-mentioned law at the time the action was commenced. Jurisdiction of the tribunal over
indispensable requisites or any one of them in order to establish the subject matter or nature of an action is conferred only by law and not
the existence of an agricultural leasehold relationship between by the consent or waiver upon a court which, otherwise, would have no
plaintiff and defendant, as earlier mentioned, does not make jurisdiction over the subject matter or nature of an action.[39] Lack of
defendant a de jure tenant under the Land Reform Program of jurisdiction of the court over an action or the subject matter of an action
the government under existing tenancy laws. [Caballes v. DAR, cannot be cured by the silence, acquiescence, or even by express consent of
ibid.].[31] the parties.[40] If the court has no jurisdiction over the nature of an action, it
may dismiss the same ex mero motu or motu proprio. A decision of the court
The petitioner has not assailed the aforequoted findings of the trial
without jurisdiction is null and void; hence, it could never logically become
court in the petition at bar; hence, he is bound by the said findings. final and executory. Such a judgment may be attacked directly or
We agree with the ruling of the RTC that, as gleaned from the material collaterally.
averments of his complaint, the action of the respondent against the
We agree with the ruling of the trial court that based on the material
petitioner is not an agrarian dispute within the exclusive jurisdiction of the
allegations of the respondents complaint and even on the admission of the
DARAB. The well-entrenched principle is that the jurisdiction of the court petitioner, the latter had never been an agricultural tenant of the
over the subject matter of the action is determined by the material
respondent. In fact, the respondent claimed that based on the CLT issued to
allegations of the complaint and the law, irrespective of whether or not the
his wife, they became the owner of the property covered therein. As such,
plaintiff is entitled to recover all or some of the claims or reliefs sought the DARAB had no jurisdiction over the said action. The dispute between the
therein.[32] In Movers-Baseco Integrated Port Services, Inc. v. Cyborg Leasing
respondent, as plaintiff, and the petitioner, as defendant, in the RTC
Corporation,[33] we ruled that the jurisdiction of the court over the nature of
involving the de jure possession of Lot 4-E covered by TCT No. 47171 is not
the action and the subject matter thereof cannot be made to depend upon
an agrarian dispute. Decisive of the issue is our ruling in Heirs of the Late
the defenses set up in the court or upon a motion to dismiss for, otherwise, Herman Rey Santos v. Court of Appeals:[41]
Rule II, Section 1 of the Revised Rules of Procedure of the In the case of Morta, Sr. v. Occidental, et al., this Court held:
DARAB, provides:
For DARAB to have jurisdiction over a case, there
Section 1. Primary, Original and Appellate must exist a tenancy relationship between the parties.
Jurisdiction. The Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board In order for a tenancy agreement to take hold over a
shall have primary jurisdiction, both original and dispute, it would be essential to establish all its
appellate, to determine and adjudicate all agrarian indispensable elements to wit: 1) that the parties are
disputes, cases, controversies, and matters or incidents the landowner and the tenant or agricultural lessee; 2)
involving the implementation of the Comprehensive that the subject matter of the relationship is an
Agrarian Reform Program under Republic Act No. agricultural land; 3) that there is consent between the
6657, Executive Order Nos. 229, 228, and 129-A, parties to the relationship; 4) that the purpose of the
Republic Act No. 3844, as amended, by Republic Act relationship is to bring about agricultural production;
No. 6389, P.D. No. 27, and other agrarian laws and 5) that there is personal cultivation on the part of the
their implementing rules and regulations. (Italics tenant or agricultural lessee; and 6) that the harvest is
supplied) shared between the landowner and the tenant or
agricultural lessee. In Vda. de Tangub v. Court of
Agrarian dispute is defined under Section 3(d) of Republic
Appeals (191 SCRA 885), we held that the jurisdiction
Act No. 6657 (CARP Law), as:
of the Department of Agrarian Reform is limited to the
(d) Agrarian Dispute refers to any controversy following: a) adjudication of all matters involving
relating to tenurial arrangements, whether leasehold, implementation of agrarian reform; b) resolution of
stewardship or, otherwise, over lands devoted to agrarian conflicts and land tenure-related problems;
agriculture, including disputes concerning and c) approval and disapproval of the conversion,
farmworkers associations or representation of persons restructuring or readjustment of agricultural lands into
in negotiating, fixing, maintaining, changing or seeking residential, commercial, industrial, and other non-
to arrange terms or conditions of such tenurial agricultural uses.
arrangements. Petitioners and private respondent have no tenurial,
It includes any controversy relating to leasehold, or any agrarian relations whatsoever that could have
compensation of lands acquired under this Act and brought this controversy under the ambit of the agrarian reform
other terms and conditions of transfer of ownership laws. Consequently, the DARAB has no jurisdiction over the
from landowners to farmworkers, tenants and other controversy and should not have taken cognizance of private
agrarian reform beneficiaries, whether the disputants respondents petition for injunction in the first place.[42]
stand in the proximate relation of farm operator and
However, we find and so hold that the RTC had no jurisdiction over the
beneficiary, landowner and tenant, or lessor and action of the respondent. In this case, the respondent filed his complaint
lessee.
against the petitioner on May 24, 1994. Hence, the jurisdiction of the regular
Clearly, no agrarian dispute is involved in this case. In fact, court over the nature of this action is governed by Republic Act No. 7691,
both are contending parties for the ownership of the subject which took effect on April 15, 1994. Section 3 thereof amended Section 33
property. of Batas Pambansa (B.P.) Blg. 129, and reads:
Sec. 33. Jurisdiction of Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal 4. That defendant is the tenant of the land of Socorro P.
Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts in Civil Cases. Chiong, which adjoins the parcel of land owned by the plaintiff as
Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal shown by a leasehold contract hereto attached as Annex A and
Circuit Trial Courts shall exercise: made an integral part hereof;
(3) Exclusive original jurisdiction in all civil actions which 5. That sometime in 1985, by means of threats, strategy, and
involve title to, or possession of, real property, or any interest stealth, the herein defendant took possession of the parcel of
therein where the assessed value of the property or interest land owned by herein plaintiff, thus effectively depriving plaintiff
therein does not exceed Twenty Thousand Pesos (P20,000.00) or, of the possession thereof;
in civil actions in Metro Manila, where such assessed value does
6. That the defendants, while illegally occupying the land of
not exceed Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) exclusive of
interest, damages of whatever kind, attorneys fees, litigation herein plaintiff, cut trees, and harvested the fruits of said land
causing damages to the plaintiff in the amount of P50,000.00;
expenses and costs: Provided, That in cases of land not declared
for taxation purposes, the value of such property shall be 7. That despite demand, defendant has refused to vacate
determined by the assessed value of the adjacent lots. said land and return the possession thereof to herein plaintiff,
thus compelling the plaintiff to file the present action;
On the other hand, Section 1 of the Rule amending Section 19 of B.P.
Blg. 129 reads: 8. In filing the present action, the plaintiff engaged the
services of counsel for P10,000.00 and expects to incur expenses
SEC. 19. Jurisdiction in civil cases. Regional Trial Courts shall
exercise exclusive original jurisdictions: of litigation in the amount of P5,000.00.[43]
The complaint does not contain any allegation of the assessed value of
(2) In all civil actions which involve the title to, or
Lot 4-E covered by TCT No. 47171. There is, thus, no showing on the face of
possession of, real property, or any interest therein,
the complaint that the RTC had exclusive jurisdiction over the action of the
where the assessed value of the property involved
exceeds Twenty Thousand Pesos (P20,000.00) or for respondent. Moreover, as gleaned from the receipt of realty tax payments
issued to the respondent, the assessed value of the property in 1993 was
civil actions in Metro Manila, where such value
P8,300.00.[44] Patently then, the Municipal Trial Court of Aloguinsan, Cebu,
exceeds Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) .
and not the Regional Trial Court of Toledo City, had exclusive jurisdiction
The actions envisaged in the aforequoted provisions are accion over the action of the respondent.[45] Hence, all the proceedings in the RTC,
publiciana and reinvindicatoria. To determine which court has jurisdiction including its decision, are null and void.
over the action, the complaint must allege the assessed value of the real
In light of the foregoing disquisitions of the court, there is no longer a
property subject of the complaint or the interest thereon. In this case, the
complaint of the respondent against the petitioner for recovery of need to still resolve the third issue.
possession of real property (accion publiciana) reads: WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The assailed decision of the
Regional Trial Court of Toledo, Cebu City, Branch 29, in Civil Case No. T-466
3. That plaintiff is the owner and possessor of Lot 4-E
covered by TCT No. T-47171 of the Registry of Deeds of the is NULLIFIED for lack of jurisdiction of the trial court over the action of the
respondent against the petitioner. No costs.
Province of Cebu located at Tampa-an, Aloguinsan, Cebu;
SO ORDERED.
premises but the respondents refused to heed. They also tailed to settle
amicably when the case was brought before the barangay for conciliation.

In their Motion to Dismiss,7 respondents claimed that the complaint failed


to state the assessed value of the property which is needed in determining
G.R. No. 215640, November 28, 2016 the correct amount of docket fees to be paid. Also, Cabrera did not fulfill an
essential condition prior to the filing of the complaint which was submission
NESTOR CABRERA, Petitioner, v. ARNEL CLARIN AND WIFE; MILAGROS of a government approved technical survey plan to prove the alleged
BARRIOS AND HUSBAND; AURORA SERAFIN AND HUSBAND; AND encroachment. Cabrera anchors his claim of ownership in the certificate of
BONIFACIO MORENO AND WIFE, Respondents. title registered in his and his father Ciriaco Cabrera's name. Cabrera did not
aver that it was his portion of property that respondents have intruded as
DECISION there was no proof of partition of the property since his father who was an
American citizen died in the United States of America.8
PERALTA, J.:
In an Order dated June 19, 2007, the RTC denied respondents' motion, and
For resolution of this Court is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule directed them to file their Answer.9 The RTC cited the case of Aguilon v.
45 of the Rules of Court filed by petitioner Nestor Cabrera (Cabrera) assailing Bohol10 in ruling that based on the allegations in the complaint, the case is
the Decision1 dated July 25, 2014 and Resolution2 dated November 21, 2014 the plenary action of accion publiciana which clearly falls within its
of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 100950, which reversed and jurisdiction. The trial court, in an Order11 dated October 19, 2007, declared
set aside the Decision3 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Malolos, Bulacan, respondents in default upon tailing to file their Answer, and allowed Cabrera
Branch 10, in Civil Case No. 752-M-2006. to present his evidence ex parte. On February 5, 2009, respondents filed an
Omnibus Motion12 to set aside the order of default, to admit Answer, and to
The facts are as follows:cralawlawlibrary set the hearing for the presentation of their evidence.

The instant petition originated from a Complaint4 for accion publiciana with In a Decision dated May 30, 2012, the RTC ruled in favor of Cabrera. The
damages filed before the RTC by Cabrera5 against respondents Arnel Clarin dispositive portion reads:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
(Clarin) and wife, Milagros Barrios (Barrios) and husband, Aurora Serafin
(Serafin) and husband, and Bonifacio Moreno (Moreno) and wife.6 Cabrera WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, judgment is hereby rendered in
alleged that he is the lawful and registered owner of a parcel of agricultural favor of the [petitioner]:cralawlawlibrary
land located at Barangay Maysulao, Calumpit, Bulacan, with a total area of
60,000 square meters (sq. m.) covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) 1. ORDERING the [respondents] and all other persons claiming rights under
No. T-4439. He was in actual and physical possession of the land until he them to vacate the subject portions of [the] land and surrender possession
discovered the encroachment of respondents sometime in December 2005. thereof to the plaintiff;ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
By means of fraud, strategy and stealth, respondents usurped and occupied
portions of the said property, viz.: Clarin with 63 sq. m. thereof, Barrios with 2. ORDERING the [respondents] to pay attorney's fees in the amount of Fifty
41 sq. m. thereof, Serafin with 30 sq. m. thereof, and Moreno with 11 sq. m. Thousand Pesos ([P]50,000.00) and Ten Thousand Pesos ([P]10,000.00)
thereof. He made numerous oral and written demands to vacate the litigation expenses.
amended by Republic Act (R.A.) No. 7691
SO ORDERED.13 provides:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
x x x x
Aggrieved, respondents elevated the case before the CA which then
reversed and set aside the decision of the RTC in a Decision dated July 25,
Section 19. Jurisdiction in civil cases. - Regional Trial Courts shall exercise
2014. The fallo of the decision reads:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
WHEREFORE, the appeal is hereby GRANTED. The Decision dated May 30, exclusive original jurisdiction.
2012 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 10, Malolos, Bulacan is REVERSED
(2) In all civil actions which involve the title to, or possession of, real
and SET ASIDE. In lieu thereof, the complaint for accion publiciana with
damages filed by [petitioner] Nestor Cabrera is DISMISSED without property, or any interest therein, where the assessed value of the property
prejudice for lack of jurisdiction. 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
SO ORDERED.14
lands or buildings, original jurisdiction over which is conferred upon the
Finding no cogent reason to deviate from its previous ruling, the CA denied Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial
the Motion for Reconsideration filed by Cabrera. Courts;ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

Hence, the instant petition raising the following x x x x


issues:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Sec. 33. Jurisdiction of Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and
A. The Honorable Court of Appeals committed a reversible Municipal Circuit Trial Courts in Civil Cases. - Metropolitan Trial Courts,
error when it held that "since [petitioner] failed to allege Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts shall
the assessed value of the subject property, the court a quo exercise:cralawlawlibrary
has not acquired jurisdiction over the action and all
proceedings thereat are null and void," as such conclusion (3) Exclusive original jurisdiction in all civil actions which involve title to, or
is contradictory to the doctrine of estoppel. possession of, real property, or any interest therein where the assessed
value of the property or interest therein docs not exceed Twenty thousand
B. The Honorable Court of Appeals committed a reversible pesos (P20,000.00) or, in civil actions in Metro Manila, where such assessed
error when it failed to take into consideration the tax value does not exceed Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) exclusive of
declaration annexed to the Appellee's Brief which interest, damages of whatever kind, attorney's fees, litigation expenses and
provided the assessed value of the property subject costs: Provided, That in cases of land not declared for taxation purposes, the
matter of the case. value of such property shall be determined by the assessed value of the
adjacent lots.
The instant petition lacks merit.
x x x15
In essence, the issue presented before this Court is whether or not estoppel Before the amendments, the plenary action of accion publiciana was to be
bars respondents from raising the issue of lack of jurisdiction. brought before the RTC regardless of the value of the property. With the
modifications introduced by R.A. No. 7691 in 1994, the jurisdiction of the
Batas Pambansa Bilang 129, (the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980), as
first level courts has been expanded to include jurisdiction over other real hereof;ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
actions where the assessed value does not exceed P20,000.00, P50,000.00
where the action is filed in Metro Manila. Accordingly, the jurisdictional That notwithstanding numerous and persistent demands, both oral and
element is the assessed value of the property.16 written, extended upon the defendants to vacate the subject parcel of land,
they failed and refused and still fail and refuse to vacate and surrender
A perusal of the complaint readily shows that Cabrera failed to state the possession of the subject parcel of land to the lawful owner who is plaintiff
assessed value of the disputed land, thus:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary in this case. Copy of the last formal demand dated January 18, 2006 is hereto
x x x x attached and marked as Annex " " and the registry receipt as well as the
registry return card as "D" Annexes "D-1," and "D-2,"
[T]he plaintiffs are the lawful and the registered owner of a parcel of respectively;ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
agricultural land and more particularly described under Transfer Certificate
of Title No. T-4439, a copy of which is hereto attached and marked as Annex That because of this unjustifiable refusal of the defendants to vacate the
"A" and made an integral part hereof;ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary premises in question which they now unlawfully occupy, plaintiffs [were]
constrained to engage the services of counsel in an agreed amount of FIFTY
[T]he defendants had illegally encroached the property of the plaintiff by THOUSAND PESOS ([P]50,000.00) Philippine Currency, as acceptance fee
means of fraud and stealth and with force and intimidation. Defendant Arnel and THREE THOUSAND PESOS ([P]3,000.00) Philippine Currency, per day of
Clarin had encroached an approximate area of SIXTY THREE (63) SQUARE Court appearance, which amount the defendants should jointly and
METERS, while defendant Milagros Barrios had encroached an approximate solidarity pay the plaintiffs, copy of the retaining contract is hereto attached
area of FORTY-ONE (41) SQUARE METERS, defendant Aurora Serafin had and marked as Annex "E" and made an integral part of this
encroached an approximate area of THIRTY (30) SQUARE METERS while complaint;ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
defendant Bonifacio Moreno had encroached an approximate area of
ELEVEN (11) SQUARE METERS, copy of the relocation plan is hereto attached That in order to protect the rights and interest of the plaintiffs, litigation
and marked as Annex "B" and made an integral part of this expenses will be incurred in an amount no less than TEN THOUSAND PESOS
complaint;ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary ([P]10,000.00), which amount the defendants should jointly and solidarily
pay the plaintiffs;ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
The plaintiffs had already informed the defendants of the illegal
encroachment but the defendants refused to heed the call of the plaintiffs That the amount of THREE THOUSAND PESOS ([P]3,000.00) per month
to vacate the land in question and threaten plaintiff with bodily should be adjudicated in favor of the plaintiff as against the defendants by
harm;ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary way of beneficial use, to be counted from the day the last formal demand
until they fully vacate and surrender possession of the premises in question
That prior to the discovery of the encroachment on or about December to the plaintiffs. x x x.17
2005, plaintiff was in actual and physical possession of the premises.
In dismissing the case, the CA noted such fact, to
wit:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
That this matter was referred to the attention of the Office of the Barangay
In the case at bench, the complaint for accion publiciana filed by [Cabrera]
Chairman of Barangay Maysulao, Calumpit, Bulacan and a Lupong failed to allege the assessed value of the real property subject of the
Tagapamayapa was constituted but no conciliation was reached and the
complaint or the interest therein. Not even a tax declaration was presented
Lupon issued a Certificate to File Action, copy of the Certificate to File Action
before the court a quo that would show the valuation of the subject
is hereto attached and marked as Annex "C" and made an integral part
property. As such, there is no way to determine which court has jurisdiction The exception to the basic rule mentioned operates on the principle of
over the action or whether the court a quo has exclusive jurisdiction over estoppel by laches whereby a party may be barred by laches from invoking
the same. Verily, the court a quo erred in denying the motion to dismiss filed the lack of jurisdiction at a late hour for the purpose of annulling everything
by [respondents] and in taking cognizance of the instant case. 18 done in the case with the active participation of said party invoking the plea.
In the oft-cited case of Tijam v. Sibonghanoy,25 the party-surety invoked the
Indeed, nowhere in the complaint was the assessed value of the subject
property ever mentioned. On its face, there is no showing that the RTC has jurisdictions of both the trial and appellate courts in order to obtain
affirmative relief, and even submitted the case for final adjudication on the
jurisdiction exclusive of the MTC. Absent any allegation in the complaint of
merits. It was only after the CA had rendered an adverse decision that the
the assessed value of the property, it cannot readily be determined which
court had original and exclusive jurisdiction over the case at bar. The courts party-surety raised the question of jurisdiction for the first time in a motion
cannot take judicial notice of the assessed or market value of the land.19 to dismiss almost fifteen (15) years later. Hence, the Court adjudicated a
party estopped from assailing the court's jurisdiction, to
wit:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
We note that Cabrera, in his Comment/Opposition to the Motion to
Dismiss,20 maintained that the accion publiciana is an action incapable of x x x x
pecuniary interest under the exclusive jurisdiction of the RTC. 21 Thereafter,
[a] party cannot invoke the jurisdiction of a court to secure affirmative
he admitted in his Brief before the CA that the assessed value of the subject
relief against his opponent and, after obtaining or failing to obtain such
property now determines which court has jurisdiction over accion publiciana
cases. In asse1iing the trial court's jurisdiction, petitioner averred that his relief, repudiate or question that same jurisdiction. . . ., it was further said
that the question whether the court had jurisdiction either of the subject
failure to allege the assessed value of the property in his Complaint was
matter of the action or of the parties was not important in such cases
merely innocuous and did not affect the jurisdiction of the RTC to decide the
case. because the party is barred from such conduct not because the judgment or
order of the court is valid and conclusive as an adjudication, but for the
reason that such practice cannot be tolerated - obviously for reasons of
Cabrera alleges that the CA erred in concluding that the RTC has not
public policy.
acquired jurisdiction over the action in the instant case being contrary to the
doctrine of estoppel as elucidated in Honorio Bernardo v. Heirs of Villegas.22
x x x26
Estoppel sets in when respondents participated in all stages of the case and
voluntarily submitting to its jurisdiction seeking affirmative reliefs in However, it was explicated in Calimlim v. Ramirez27 that Tijam is an
addition to their motion to dismiss due to lack of jurisdiction. exceptional case because of the presence of laches.
Thus:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
We are not persuaded. It is axiomatic that the nature of an action and the The lack of jurisdiction of a court may be raised at any stage of the
jurisdiction of a tribunal are determined by the material allegations of the proceedings, even on appeal. This doctrine has been qualified by recent
complaint and the law at the time the action was commenced.23 A court's pronouncements which stemmed principally from the ruling in the cited
jurisdiction may be raised at any stage of the proceedings, even on appeal case of Sibonghanoy. It is to be regretted, however, that the holding in said
for the same is conferred by law, and lack of it affects the very authority of case had been applied to situations which were obviously not contemplated
the court to take cognizance of and to render judgment on the action.24 It therein. The exceptional circumstance involved in Sibonghanoy which
applies even if the issue on jurisdiction was raised for the first time on appeal justified the departure from the accepted concept of non-waivability of
or even after final judgment. objection to jurisdiction has been ignored and, instead a blanket doctrine
had been repeatedly upheld that rendered the supposed ruling in
Sibonghanoy not as the exception, but rather the general rule, virtually
overthrowing altogether the time-honored principle that the issue of However, if the lower court had jurisdiction, and the case was heard and
jurisdiction is not lost by waiver or by estoppel. decided upon a given theory, such, for instance, as that the court had no
jurisdiction, the party who induced it to adopt such theory will not be
In Sibonghanoy, the defense of lack of jurisdiction of the court that rendered permitted, on appeal, to assume an inconsistent position - that the lower
the questioned ruling was held to be barred by estoppel by laches. It was court had jurisdiction. Here, the principle of estoppel applies. The rule that
ruled that the lack of judsdictiou having been raised for the first time in a jurisdiction is conferred by law, and does not depend upon the will of the
motion to dismiss filed almost fifteen (15) years after the questioned ruling parties, has no bearing thereon. x x x.30
had been rendered, such a plea may no longer be raised for being barred Guided by the abovementioned jurisprudence, this Court rules that
by laches. As defined in said case, laches is failure or neglect, for an respondents are not estopped from assailing the jurisdiction of the RTC over
unreasonable and unexplained length of time, to do that which, by
the subject civil case. Records reveal that even before filing their Answer,
exercising due diligence, could or should have been done earlier; it is
respondents assailed the jurisdiction of the RTC through a motion to dismiss
negligence or omission to assert a right within a reasonable time, as there was no mention of the assessed value of the property in the
warranting a presumption that the party entitled to assert has abandoned
complaint. We note that the RTC anchored its denial of respondents' motion
it or declined to assert it.28
to dismiss on the doctrine enunciated in a 1977 case - that all cases of
In the case of La Naval Drug Corporation v. Court of Appeals,29 We illustrated recovery of possession or accion publiciana lie with the RTC regardless of
the rule as to when jurisdiction by estoppel applies and when it does not, as the value - which no longer holds true. Thereafter, the respondents filed
follows:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary their Answer through an omnibus motion to set aside order of default and
x x x x to admit Answer.

Lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter of the suit is yet another matter. The circumstances of the present case are different from the Heirs of
Whenever it appears that the court has no jurisdiction over the subject Villegas31 case. First, petitioner Bernardo in the Heirs of Villegas case actively
matter, the action shall be dismissed (Section 2, Rule 9, Rules of Court). This participated during the trial by adducing evidence and filing numerous
defense may be interposed at any time, during appeal (Roxas vs. Rafferty, pleadings, none of which mentioned any defect in the jurisdiction of the
37 Phil. 957) or even after final judgment (Cruzcosa vs. Judge Concepcion, RTC, while in this case, respondents already raised the issue of lack of
et al., 101 Phil. 146). Such is understandable, as this kind of jurisdiction is jurisdiction in their Motion to Dismiss filed before their Answer. Second, it
conferred by law and not within the courts, let alone the parties, to was only on appeal before the CA, after he obtained an adverse judgment in
themselves determine or conveniently set aside. In People vs. Casiano (111 the trial court, that Bernardo, for the first time, came up with the argument
Phil. 73, 93-94), this Court, on the issue or estoppel, that the decision is void because there was no allegation in the complaint
held:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary about the value of the property; on the other hand, herein respondents
The operation of the principle of estoppel on the question of jurisdiction raised the issue before there was judgment on the merits in the trial court.
seemingly depends upon whether the lower court actually had jurisdiction Respondents never assumed inconsistent position in their appeal before the
or not. If it had no jurisdiction, but the case was tried and decided upon CA.
the theory that it had jurisdiction, the parties are not barred, on appeal,
from assailing such jurisdiction, for the same 'must exist as a matter of law, Furthermore, the unfairness and inequity that the application of estoppel
and may not be conferred by consent of the parties or by estoppel' (5 C.J.S., seeks to avoid espoused in the Tijam case, which the Heirs of Villegas
861-863). adheres to, are not present. The instant case does not involve a situation
where a party who, after obtaining affirmative relief from the court, later complaint. Thus, jurisdiction was not acquired.
on turned around to assail the jurisdiction of the same court that granted
such relief by reason of an unfavorable judgment. Respondents did not We find Cabrera's application of Section 5, Rule 10 of the Rules of Court to
obtain affirmative relief from the trial court whose jurisdiction they are support his claim that failure of the respondents to object to his
assailing, as their motion to dismiss was denied and they eventually lost presentation of the tax declaration before the CA constitutes an implied
their case in the proceedings below. consent which then treated the issue of assessed value as if it had been
raised in the pleadings specious. Such rule contemplates an amendment to
Anent the issue of the CA's failure to consider the tax declaration annexed conform to or authorize presentation of evidence before the trial court
in the Appellee's Brief, Cabrera insists that its attachment in his Brief without during the trial on the merits of the case. As held in Bernardo, Sr. v. Court of
objection from the other party sealed the issue of the RTC's jurisdiction, and Appeals,39 this Court expounded:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
cured the defect of failure to allege the assessed value of the property in the It is settled that even if the complaint he defective, but the parties go to
complaint as provided in Section 5,32 Rule 10 of the Rules of Court. trial thereon, and the plaintiff, without objection, introduces sufficient
evidence to constitute the particular cause of action which it intended to
Such averments lack merit. The Rules of Court provides that the court shall allege in the original complaint, and the defendant voluntarily produces
consider no evidence which has not been formally offered. 33 A formal offer witnesses to meet the cause of action thus established, an issue is joined as
is necessary because judges are mandated to rest their findings of facts and fully and as effectively as if it had been previously joined by the most
their judgment only and strictly upon the evidence offered by the parties at perfect pleadings. Likewise, when issues not raised by the pleadings are
the trial. Its function is to enable the trial judge to know the purpose or tried by express or implied consent of the parties, they shall be treated in all
purposes for which the proponent is presenting the evidence. Conversely, respects as if they had been raised in the pleadings. 40 (Emphases supplied)
this allows opposing parties to examine the evidence and object to its It bears emphasis that the ruling in Tijam establishes an exception which is
admissibility. Moreover, it facilitates review as the appellate court will not to be applied only under extraordinary circumstances or to those cases
be required to review documents not previously scrutinized by the trial
similar to its factual situation.41 The general rule is that the lack of a court's
court.34 We relaxed the foregoing rule and allowed evidence not formally
jurisdiction is a non-waivable defense that a party can raise at any stage of
offered to be admitted and considered by the trial court provided the the proceedings in a case, even on appeal; the doctrine of estoppel, being
following requirements are present, viz.: first, the same must have been duly
the exception to such non-waivable defense, must be applied with great
identified by testimony duly recorded and, second, the same must have
care and the equity must be strong in its favor.42
been incorporated in the records of the case.35
All told, We find no error on the part of the CA in dismissing the Complaint
Based on the petitioner's admission, he presented the Tax Declaration 2006-
for lack of jurisdiction and for not reviewing the document belatedly filed.
07016-0039436 dated November 13, 2006 purporting to prove the assessed
Consequently, all proceedings in the RTC are null and void. Indeed, a void
value of the property for the first time on appeal before the CA in his Brief. 37 judgment for want of jurisdiction is no judgment at all, and cannot be the
There was no proof or allegation that he presented the same during the trial
source of any right nor the creator of any obligation. All acts performed
or that the court examined such document.38 Since the tax declaration was
pursuant to it and all claims emanating from it have no legal effect. 43
never duly identified by testimony during the trial albeit incorporated in the
Appellee's Brief, the CA will not be required to review such document that WHEREFORE, petition for review on certiorari filed by petitioner Nestor
was not previously scrutinized by the RTC. As the assessed value is a
Cabrera is hereby DENIED. The assailed Decision dated July 25, 2014 and
jurisdictional requirement, the belated presentation of document proving
Resolution dated November 21, 2014 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV
such value before the appellate court will not cure the glaring defect in the
No. 100950 are hereby AFFIRMED. the respondents are their legitimate children. The documents they sought
to annul are (1) the Deed of Transfer of Rights and Interest including
SO ORDERED.ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary Improvements thereon dated October 3, 1960 allegedly executed by
Fernando in favor of Eugenio de Ungria, petitioner's father; and (2) the
Affidavit of Relinquishment dated November 23, 1960 executed by Eugenio
in favor of petitioner.

G.R. No. 165777 July 25, 2011 Petitioner Ceferina filed a Motion to Dismiss4 (Ex-Abundante Ad Cautelam)
on the following grounds: (1) the claim or demand has been extinguished by
CEFERINA DE UNGRIA [DECEASED], substituted by her HEIRS, represented virtue of the valid sale of Lot No. 1615 to Eugenio; (2) the action is barred by
by LOLITA UNGRIA SAN JUAN-JAVIER, and RHODORA R. PELOMIDA as extraordinary acquisitive prescription; (3) the action is barred by laches; and
their Attorney-in-fact, Petitioner, (4) plaintiff failed to state a cause of action, or filed the case prematurely for
vs. failure to resort to prior barangay conciliation proceedings.
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, THE HONORABLE REGIONAL TRIAL
COURT OF GENERAL SANTOS CITY, BRANCH 35, ROSARIO DIDELES VDA. Petitioner also filed an Addendum to the Motion to Dismiss5 raising the
DE CASTOR, NEPTHALIE CASTOR ITUCAS, FEROLYN CASTOR FACURIB, following additional grounds: (1) plaintiffs have no legal capacity to sue; and
RACHEL DE CASTOR, LEA CASTOR DOLLOLOSA, and ROSALIE CASTOR (2) the court has no jurisdiction over the case for failure of plaintiffs to pay
BENEDICTO, Respondents. the filing fee in full. Respondents filed their Opposition thereto.

DECISION On November 19, 1999, the RTC issued an Order6 denying the motion to
dismiss, to wit:
PERALTA, J.:
After the motion to dismiss and its addendum have been received, it is now
Assailed in this petition for review on certiorari are the Decision1 dated May ripe for resolution. One of the grounds alleged in the complaint is for the
26, 2004 and the Resolution 2 dated September 17, 2004 of the Court of recovery of conjugal share on Lot No. 1615, of Pls-209 D with damages.
Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 60764.
It is alleged that the late Fernando Castor and Rosario Dideles Vda. de Castor
On August 26, 1999, respondents Rosario Dideles Vda. de Castor (Rosario), were married on September 15, 1952, and the application to the land was
Nepthalie Castor Itucas, Ferolyn Castor Facurib (Ferolyn), Rachel De Castor, dated January 17, 1952 and the patent was issued by the President on
Lea Castor Dollolosa and Rosalie Castor Benedicto, filed with the Regional November 19, 1954.
Trial Court (RTC) of General Santos City a Complaint 3 for ownership,
possession and damages, and alternative causes of action either to declare The said land was sold to the defendant on October 3, 1960 (Annex C) and
two documents as patent nullities, and/or for recovery of Rosario's conjugal an Affidavit of Relinquishment dated November 23, 1960 which was made a
share with damages or redemption of the subject land against petitioner part thereof as Annex "D." Considering the marriage of September 15, 1992,
Ceferina de Ungria, defendants Avelino Gumban, Dolores Cagaitan, Zacasio the said land became conjugal as of the date of the marriage and, therefore,
Poutan, PO1 Jonas Montales, Ignacio Olarte and alias Dory. Respondent ½ thereof belongs to the wife, Rosario Dideles Vda. de Castor.
Rosario is the surviving wife of the late Fernando Castor, while the rest of
Thus, considering the above, the motion to dismiss is DENIED. 7 The defendant shall file their answer within fifteen (15) days from receipt of
this order.13
Petitioner Ceferina filed a Motion for Reconsideration, 8 which the RTC
denied in an Order9 dated February 4, 2000. From this Order, petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration and
clarification on whether plaintiffs should be allowed to continue prosecuting
Petitioner filed an Omnibus Motion10 asking the RTC to resolve the issues of the case as indigent litigants.
(1) whether or not the complaint should be dismissed or expunged from the
records pursuant to Supreme Court (SC) Circular No. 7; (2) reconsidering the On March 30, 2000, the RTC issued a Clarificatory Order14 reading as follows:
findings contained in the Order dated February 4, 2000; and (3) holding in
abeyance the submission of the answer to the complaint. As has been said, the plaintiff asserted in its motion that they are charging
defendants actual and compensatory damages as has been proved during
Pending resolution of the motion, respondents filed a Motion to Allow 11 the hearing of this case. So also are attorney's fees and moral damages all
them to continue prosecuting this case as indigent litigants. to be proved during the hearing of this case.

On March 8, 2000, the RTC resolved the Omnibus Motion in an Order 12 that Since there was no hearing yet, they are not in a possession (sic) to
read in this wise: determine how much is to be charged.

On the omnibus motion regarding filing fees, the plaintiffs asserted in its At any rate, after hearing, the Clerk of Court determines that the filing fee is
motion that they are charging defendant actual and compensatory damages still insufficient, the same shall be considered as lien on the judgment that
such as are proved during the hearing of this case. So also are attorney’s fees may be entered.
and moral damages, all to be proved during the hearing of this case.
As to the motion seeking from the Honorable Court allowance to allow
Since there was no hearing yet, they are not in a possession (sic) to plaintiff to continue prosecuting this case as indigent litigants, suffice it to
determine how much is to be charged. say that the same is already provided for in this order.

At any rate, if after hearing the Clerk of Court determine that the filing fees WHEREFORE, the defendants shall file their answer within fifteen (15) days
is still insufficient, considering the total amount of the claim, the Clerk of from receipt of this Order.15
Court should determine and, thereafter, if any amount is found due, he must
require the private respondent to pay the same x x x. In an Order dated May 31, 2000, the RTC again denied petitioner's motion
for reconsideration.
As to the second issue, the same has already been decided in its order
dated February 4, 2000. Petitioner filed with the CA a petition for certiorari and prohibition with
prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order and/or writ of
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the omnibus motion is DENIED. preliminary injunction. Petitioner sought the nullification of the Order dated
November 19, 1999 and the subsequent orders issued by the RTC thereto
for having been issued with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or
excess of jurisdiction. Respondents filed their Comment thereto.
In a Decision dated May 26, 2004, the CA dismissed the petition. The CA DISCRETION IN DENYING PETITIONER'S MOTION TO DISMISS
found that SC Circular No. 7 would not apply where the amount of damages DESPITE RESPONDENTS' NON-PAYMENT OF THE CORRECT DOCKET
or value of the property was immaterial; that the Circular could be applied FEES.
only in cases where the amount claimed or the value of the personal
property was determinative of the court's jurisdiction citing the case of THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN NOT FINDING THAT THE
Tacay v. RTC of Tagum, Davao del Norte.16 The CA found that respondents ACTION OF PRIVATE RESPONDENTS IS BARRED BY LACHES AND
had paid the corresponding docket fees upon the filing of the complaint, EXTRAORDINARY ACQUISITIVE PRESCRIPTION.18
thus, the RTC had acquired jurisdiction over the case despite the failure to
state the amount of damages claimed in the body of the complaint or in the We find the petition without merit.
prayer thereof. The CA found that the RTC did not commit grave abuse of
discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction when it denied petitioner's
Preliminarily, although not raised as an issue in this petition, we find it
motion to dismiss. It noted that the RTC's Clarificatory Order dated March
necessary to discuss the issue of jurisdiction over the subject matter of this
30, 2000, which stated that "if after hearing the Clerk of Court determines
case. Respondents' complaint was filed in 1999, at the time Batas Pambansa
that the filing fee is still insufficient, the same shall be considered as lien on
Blg. (BP) 129, the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980, was already
the judgment that may be entered" was in accordance with the rule laid
amended by Republic Act (RA) No. 7691, An Act Expanding the Jurisdiction
down in Sun Insurance Office, Ltd. v. Asuncion.17 The CA proceeded to state
of the Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal
that a judicious examination of the complaint pointed to a determination of
Circuit Trial Courts, amending for the purpose BP Blg. 129.19 Section 1 of RA
the respective rights and interests of the parties over the property based on
7691, amending BP Blg. 129, provides that the RTC shall exercise exclusive
the issues presented therein which could only be determined in a full-blown
original jurisdiction on the following actions:
trial on the merits of the case.
Section 1. Section 19 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, otherwise known as the
Petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration, which the CA denied in a
"Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980," is hereby amended to read as
Resolution dated September 17, 2004. The CA ruled, among others, that the
follows:
defenses of acquisitive prescription and laches were likewise unavailing. It
found that the subject property is covered by a Torrens title (OCT No. V-
Sec. 19. Jurisdiction in civil cases. – Regional Trial Courts shall exercise
19556); thus, it is axiomatic that adverse, notorious and continuous
exclusive original jurisdiction:
possession under a claim of ownership for the period fixed by law is
ineffective against a Torrens title; that unless there are intervening rights of
third persons which may be affected or prejudiced by a decision directing (1) In all civil actions in which the subject of the litigation is
the return of the lot to petitioner, the equitable defense of laches will not incapable of pecuniary estimation;
apply as against the registered owner.
(2) In all civil actions which involve the title to, or possession of,
Hence, this petition for review on certiorari where petitioner raises the real property, or any interest therein, where the assessed value of
following assignment of errors: the property involved exceeds Twenty Thousand Pesos
(₱20,000.00) or for civil actions in Metro Manila, where such value
exceeds Fifty Thousand Pesos (₱50,000.00), except actions for
THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN NOT FINDING THAT
forcible entry into and unlawful detainer of lands or buildings,
RESPONDENT TRIAL COURT COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF
original jurisdiction over which is conferred upon the
Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal means of livelihood; that respondent Rosario and Fernando thought that
Circuit Trial Courts; x x x when the latter's mother died in 1980, the subject land was in the
enjoyment of the second family of his mother, but later learned that the
Section 3 of RA No. 7691 expanded the exclusive original jurisdiction of the subject land was leased by petitioner Ceferina; that sometime in August
first level courts, thus: 1999, respondents learned of the existence of the Deed of Transfer of Rights
and Interest including Improvements thereon dated October 3, 1960, where
Section 3. Section 33 of the same law (BP Blg. 129) is hereby amended to Fernando had allegedly transferred his rights and interests on the subject
read as follows: land in favor of Eugenio, petitioner Ceferina's father, as well as an Affidavit
of Relinquishment dated November 23, 1960 executed by Eugenio in favor
of petitioner Ceferina; that Fernando's signature in the Deed of Transfer was
Sec. 33. Jurisdiction of Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts and
not his but a forgery; and the Affidavit of Relinquishment was also void as it
Municipal Circuit Trial Courts in Civil Cases. – Metropolitan Trial Courts,
was a direct result of a simulated Deed of Transfer.
Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts shall exercise:

Respondents prayed that they be declared as absolute and lawful owners of


xxxx
the subject land and to order petitioner and the other defendants to vacate
the premises and restore respondents to its possession and enjoyment
(3) Exclusive original jurisdiction in all civil actions which involve title to, or
therefore. On their second cause of action, they prayed that the Deed of
possession of, real property, or any interest therein where the assessed
Transfer of Rights and Interest Including Improvements Thereon be declared
value of the property or interest therein does not exceed Twenty Thousand
as a forgery, purely simulated and without any consideration; hence,
Pesos (₱20,000.00) or, in civil actions in Metro Manila, where such assessed
inexistent, void ab initio and/or a patent nullity, as well as the Affidavit of
value does not exceed Fifty Thousand Pesos (₱50,000.00) exclusive of
Relinquishment which was the direct result of the Deed of Transfer.
interest, damages of whatever kind, attorney's fees, litigation expenses and
Respondents also prayed in the alternative that if the Deed be finally upheld
costs: Provided, That in cases of land not declared for taxation purposes, the
as valid, to order petitioner to reconvey to respondent Rosario the
value of such property shall be determined by the assessed value of the
undivided one-half portion of the subject land as conjugal owner thereof
adjacent lots.
and to account and reimburse her of its usufruct; and/or to allow them to
redeem the subject land.
Respondents filed their Complaint with the RTC; hence, we would first
determine whether the RTC has jurisdiction over the subject matter of this It would appear that the first cause of action involves the issue of recovery
case based on the above-quoted provisions.
of possession and interest of the parties over the subject land which is a real
action. Respondents alleged that the assessed value of the subject land was
The Complaint filed by respondents in the RTC was for ownership, ₱12,780.00 based on Tax Declaration No. 15272. Thus, since it is a real action
possession and damages, and alternative causes of action either to declare with an assessed value of less than ₱20,000.00, the case would fall under
two documents as patent nullities and/or for recovery of conjugal share on the jurisdiction of the MTC as provided under the above-quoted Section 33
the subject land with damages or redemption of the subject land. In their (3) of BP 129, as amended.
Complaint, respondents claimed that Rosario and Fernando are the
registered owners of the subject land with an assessed value of ₱12,780.00;
Notably, however, respondents in the same Complaint filed alternative
that the couple left the cultivation and enjoyment of the usufruct of the
causes of action assailing the validity of the Deed of Transfer of Rights and
subject land to Fernando's mother and her second family to augment their
Interest executed by Fernando in favor of petitioner's father. Respondents SEC. 7. Clerks of Regional Trial Courts. - (a) For filing an action or a permissive
also sought for the reconveyance to respondent Rosario of the undivided counter-claim or money claim against an estate not based on judgment, or
one-half portion of the subject land as conjugal owner thereof in case the for filing with leave of court a third-party, fourth-party, etc. complaint, or a
Deed of Transfer of Rights and Interest will be upheld as valid; and/or for complaint-in-intervention, and for all clerical services in the same, if the
redemption of the subject land. Clearly, this is a case of joinder of causes of total-sum claimed, exclusive of interest, or the stated value of the property
action which comprehends more than the issue of possession of, or any in litigation, is:
interest in the real property under contention, but includes an action to
annul contracts and reconveyance which are incapable of pecuniary xxxx
estimation and, thus, properly within the jurisdiction of the RTC. 20
(b) For filing:
In Singson v. Isabela Sawmill,21 we held that:
1. Actions where the value of the subject matter
In determining whether an action is one the subject matter of which is not
capable of pecuniary estimation this Court has adopted the criterion of first cannot be estimated ........ ₱400.00
ascertaining the nature of the principal action or remedy sought. If it is
primarily for the recovery of a sum of money, the claim is considered capable
2. x x x
of pecuniary estimation, and whether jurisdiction is in the municipal courts
or in the courts of first instance would depend on the amount of the claim.
In a real action, the assessed value of the property, or if there is
However, where the basic issue is something other than the right to recover
none, the estimated value thereof shall be alleged by the claimant
a sum of money, where the money claim is purely incidental to, or a
and shall be the basis in computing the fees.25
consequence of, the principal relief sought, this Court has considered such
actions as cases where the subject of the litigation may not be estimated in
terms of money, and are cognizable exclusively by courts of first instance Since we find that the case involved the annulment of contract which is not
(now Regional Trial Courts).22 susceptible of pecuniary estimation, thus, falling within the jurisdiction of
the RTC, the docket fees should not be based on the assessed value of the
subject land as claimed by petitioner in their memorandum, but should be
Thus, respondents correctly filed their Complaint with the RTC.
based on Section 7(b)(1) of Rule 141. A perusal of the entries in the Legal
Fees Form attached to the records would reflect that the amount of ₱400.00
It is a settled rule in this jurisdiction that when an action is filed in court, the
was paid to the Clerk of Court, together with the other fees, as assessed by
complaint must be accompanied by the payment of the requisite docket and
the Clerk of Court. Thus, upon respondents' proof of payment of the
filing fees.23 It is not simply the filing of the complaint or appropriate
assessed fees, the RTC has properly acquired jurisdiction over the complaint.
initiatory pleading, but the payment of the prescribed docket fee, that vests
Jurisdiction once acquired is never lost, it continues until the case is
a trial court with jurisdiction over the subject matter or nature of the
terminated. 26
action.24
Notably, petitioner’s claim that the RTC did not acquire jurisdiction in this
Section 7(b)(1) of Rule 141 of the Rules of Court provides:
case is premised on her contention that respondents violated SC Circular No.
7 issued on March 24, 1998 requiring that all complaints must specify the
amount of damages sought not only in the body of the pleadings but also in
the prayer to be accepted and admitted for filing. Petitioner argues that SC Circular No. 7 was brought about by our ruling in Manchester
respondents alleged in paragraph 13 of their Complaint that: Development Corporation v. Court of Appeals, 29 where we held that a
pleading which does not specify in the prayer the amount of damages being
(T)he reasonable rental for the use of the [subject] land is ₱2,000.00 per asked for shall not be accepted or admitted, or shall otherwise be expunged
hectare, every crop time, once every four months, or ₱6,000.00 a year per from the record; and that the Court acquires jurisdiction over any case only
hectare; that defendants in proportion and length of time of their respective upon the payment of the prescribed docket fee.
occupancy is and/or are jointly and severally liable to plaintiffs of the
produce thereby in the following proportions, viz: (a) for defendant Ceferina However, in Sun Insurance Office, Ltd. v. Asuncion,30 we laid down the
de Ungria for a period of time claimed by her as such; (b) for defendants following guidelines in the payment of docket fees, to wit:
Dolores Cagautan, a certain alias "Dory," and PO1 Jonas Montales, of an
undetermined area, the latter having entered the area sometime in 1998 1. It is not simply the filing of the complaint or appropriate
and defendant alias "Dory," only just few months ago; that defendant initiatory pleading, but the payment of the prescribed docket fee,
Ignacio Olarte and Zacasio Puutan of occupying about one-half hectare that vests a trial court with jurisdiction over the subject matter or
each.27 nature of the action. Where the filing of the initiatory pleading is
not accompanied by payment of the docket fee, the court may
and in their prayer asked: allow payment of the fee within a reasonable time but in no case
beyond the applicable prescriptive or reglementary period.
x x x Ordering the defendants, jointly and severally, in proportion to the
length and area of their respective occupancy, to pay reasonable rentals to 2. The same rule applies to permissive counterclaims, third-party
the plaintiffs in the proportion and amount assessed in paragraph 13 of the claims and similar pleadings, which shall not be considered filed
First Cause of Action. until and unless the filing fee prescribed therefor is paid. The
court may also allow payment of said fee within a reasonable time
xxxx but also in no case beyond its applicable prescriptive or
reglementary period.
(a) Ordering the defendants, jointly and severally, to pay plaintiffs
actual and compensatory damages such as are proved during the 3. Where the trial court acquires jurisdiction over a claim by the
hearing of this case; filing of the appropriate pleading and payment of the prescribed
filing fee but, subsequently, the judgment awards a claim not
(b) Ordering the defendants, jointly and severally, to pay plaintiffs specified in the pleading, or if specified the same has been left for
attorneys' fees and moral damages, all to be proved during the determination by the court, the additional filing fee therefor shall
hearing of this case.28 constitute a lien on the judgment. It shall be the responsibility of
the Clerk of Court or his duly-authorized deputy to enforce said
lien and assess and collect the additional fee.
Thus, the RTC should have dismissed the case, since respondents did not
specify the amount of damages in their prayer.
Subsequently, in Heirs of Bertuldo Hinog v. Melicor,31 we said:
We are not persuaded.
Furthermore, the fact that private respondents prayed for payment of We are not persuaded.
damages "in amounts justified by the evidence" does not call for the
dismissal of the complaint for violation of SC Circular No. 7, dated March 24, It is a well-entrenched rule in this jurisdiction that no title to registered land
1988 which required that all complaints must specify the amount of in derogation of the rights of the registered owner shall be acquired by
damages sought not only in the body of the pleadings but also in the prayer prescription or adverse possession.33 Prescription is unavailing not only
in order to be accepted and admitted for filing. Sun Insurance effectively against the registered owner but also against his hereditary successors. 34 In
modified SC Circular No. 7 by providing that filing fees for damages and this case, the parcel of land subject of this case is a titled property, i.e., titled
awards that cannot be estimated constitute liens on the awards finally in the name of the late Fernando Castor, married to Rosario Dideles.
granted by the trial court.
Petitioner claims that respondent had impliedly admitted the fact of sale by
x x x judgment awards which were left for determination by the court or as Fernando to Eugenio in August 1952, but only according to respondents, the
may be proven during trial would still be subject to additional filing fees sale was null and void because it violated the provisions of the Public Land
which shall constitute a lien on the judgment. It would then be the Act. Petitioner argues that the application of Fernando, dated January 17,
responsibility of the Clerk of Court of the trial court or his duly-authorized 1952, was not the homestead application referred to in Sections 118 and
deputy to enforce said lien and assess and collect the additional fees. 32 124 of the Public Land Act; and that Fernando's application was only as
settler, or for the allocation of the subject land to him vice the original settler
A reading of the allegations in the complaint would show that the amount Cadiente.
of the rental due can only be determined after a final judgment, since there
is a need to show supporting evidence when the petitioner and the other Such argument does not persuade.
defendants started to possess the subject land. Thus, we find no reversible
error committed by the CA when it ruled that there was no grave abuse of The trial in this case has not yet started as in fact no answer has yet been
discretion committed by the RTC in issuing its Order dated March 30, 2000, filed. We find that these issues are factual which must be resolved at the
where the RTC stated that "since there was no hearing yet, respondents are trial of this case on the merits wherein both parties will be given ample
not in a position to determine how much is to be charged and that after opportunity to prove their respective claims and defenses.
hearing, the Clerk of Court determines that the filing fee is still insufficient,
the same shall be considered as lien on the judgment that may be entered."
Anent petitioner's defense of laches, the same is evidentiary in nature and
cannot be established by mere allegations in the pleadings. Without solid
Petitioner claims that the action is barred by extraordinary acquisitive evidentiary basis, laches cannot be a valid ground to dismiss respondents'
prescription and laches. Petitioner contends that she took possession of the complaint.35 Notably, the allegations of respondents in their petition filed
land in the concept of an owner, open, exclusive, notorious and continuous before the RTC which alleged among others:
since 1952 through her predecessor-in-interest, Eugenio, and by herself up
to the present; that the late Fernando and private respondents had never
7. That sometime between the years 1965 to 1970, defendant
taken possession of the land at any single moment; and that, granting
Ceferina de Ungria, accompanied by Miss Angela Jagna-an,
without admitting that the transfer of rights between Fernando and Eugenio
appeared in the residence of plaintiff Rosario Dideles Vda. de
was null and void for any reason whatsoever, petitioner's possession of the
Castor in Bo.1, Banga, South Cotabato, and requested her to sign
land had already ripened into ownership after the lapse of 30 years from
a folded document with her name only appearing thereon, telling
August 1952 by virtue of the extraordinary acquisitive prescription.
her that it has something to do with the land above-described, of
which she refused telling her that she better return it to the x x x x36
person who requested her to do so (referring to her mother-in-
law), more so that her husband was out at that time; would not conclusively establish laches.1avvphil Thus, it is necessary for
petitioners to proceed to trial and present controverting evidence to prove
8. That when the matter was brought home to Fernando Castor, the elements of laches.
the latter just commented that [his] mother desires the land
above-described to be sold to defendant Ceferina de Ungria which WHEREFORE, the petition for review is DENIED.
however he was opposed to do so even as they occasionally come
into heated arguments everytime this insistence on the same SO ORDERED.
subject propped up;

9. That even after the death of the mother of the late Fernando
Castor in Bo. Bula, City of General Santos, sometime in 1980, the
latter and his surviving wife thought all the while that the land
above-described was in the enjoyment of his late mother's family
with his 2nd husband; that it was only after sometime when
plaintiff Rosario Dideles Vda. de Castor heard that the land above-
described had even been leased by defendant Ceferina de Ungria
with the Stanfilco and Checkered farm;

10. That sometime in 1997, defendant Ceferina de Ungria sent


overtures to plaintiffs through Ester Orejana, who is the half
sister-in-law of plaintiff Rosario Dideles Vda. de Castor that she
desires to settle with them relating to the land above-described;
that the overtures developed into defendant Ceferina de Ungria
meeting for the purpose plaintiff Ferolyn Castor Facurib where the
negotiation continued with Lolita Javier as attorney-in-fact after
defendant Ceferina de Ungria left to reside in Manila and which
resulted later to the attorney-in-fact offering the plaintiffs
₱100,000.00 to quitclaim on their rights over the said land, which
offer, however, was refused by plaintiffs as so [insignificant] as
compared to the actual value of the same land; that in that
negotiation, defendant Ceferina de Ungria was challenged to
show any pertinent document to support her claim on the land in
question and where she meekly answered by saying at the time
that she does not have any of such document;
Before this Court is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the
Rules of Court seeking the reversal of the Decision14[1] dated 22
November 2006 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 94800. The Court
of Appeals, in its assailed Decision, affirmed the Order15[2] dated 24
March 2006 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 22, of Naga City, in
THIRD DIVISION Civil Case No. RTC-2006-0030, ordering petitioner Ruby Shelter Builders
and Realty Development Corporation to pay additional docket/filing fees,
G.R. No. 175914 : February 10, 2009
computed based on Section 7(a) of Rule 141 of the Rules of Court, as
RUBY SHELTER BUILDERS AND REALTY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, amended. chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Petitioner, vs. HON. PABLO C. FORMARAN III, Presiding Judge of
Regional Trial Court Branch 21, Naga City, as Pairing Judge for Regional
Trial Court Branch 22, Formerly Presided By HON. NOVELITA VILLEGAS-
LLAGUNO (Retired 01 May 2006), ROMEO Y. TAN, ROBERTO L. OBIEDO
and ATTY. TOMAS A. REYES, Respondents. The present Petition arose from the following facts:
chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
DECISION

Petitioner obtained a loan16[3] in the total amount of P95,700,620.00 from


CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:
respondents Romeo Y. Tan (Tan) and Roberto L. Obiedo (Obiedo), secured
by real estate mortgages over five parcels of land, all located in Triangulo,
Naga City, covered by Transfer Certificates of Title (TCTs) No. 38376,17[4] Deeds of Absolute Sale would be uniformly dated 2 January 2006, and state
No. 29918,18[5] No. 38374,19[6] No. 39232,20[7] and No. 39225,21[8] that petitioner sold to respondents Tan and Obiedo the parcels of land for
issued by the Registry of Deeds for Naga City, in the name of petitioner. the following purchase prices: chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
When petitioner was unable to pay the loan when it became due and
demandable, respondents Tan and Obiedo agreed to an extension of the
TCT No. Purchase Price
same. chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
38376 P 9,340,000.00

29918 P 28,000,000.00

38374 P 12,000,000.00
In a Memorandum of Agreement22[9] dated 17 March 2005, respondents
39232 P 1,600,000.00
Tan and Obiedo granted petitioner until 31 December 2005 to settle its
39225 P 1,600,000.00
indebtedness, and condoned the interests, penalties and surcharges
accruing thereon from 1 October 2004 to 31 December 2005 which chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

amounted to P74,678,647.00. The Memorandum of Agreement required, in


turn, that petitioner execute simultaneously with the said Memorandum, by
way of dacion en pago, Deeds of Absolute Sale in favor of respondents Tan Petitioner could choose to pay off its indebtedness with individual or all five
and Obiedo, covering the same parcels of land subject of the mortgages. The parcels of land; or it could redeem said properties by paying respondents
Tan and Obiedo the following prices for the same, inclusive of interest and
penalties: chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

The Memorandum of Agreement further provided that should petitioner


contest, judicially or otherwise, any act, transaction, or event related to or
TCT No. Redemption Price
necessarily connected with the said Memorandum and the Deeds of
38376 P 25,328,939.00
Absolute Sale involving the five parcels of land, it would pay respondents
29918 P 35,660,800.00
Tan and Obiedo P10,000,000.00 as liquidated damages inclusive of costs and
38374 P 28,477,600.00 attorneys fees. Petitioner would likewise pay respondents Tan and Obiedo
39232 P 6,233,381.00 the condoned interests, surcharges and penalties.23[10] Finally, should a
39225 P 6,233,381.00 contest arise from the Memorandum of Agreement, Mr. Ruben Sia (Sia),
President of petitioner corporation, personally assumes, jointly and
severally with petitioner, the latters monetary obligation to respondent Tan
and Obiedo. chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
In the event that petitioner is able to redeem any of the afore-mentioned
parcels of land, the Deed of Absolute Sale covering the said property shall
be nullified and have no force and effect; and respondents Tan and Obiedo
shall then return the owners duplicate of the corresponding TCT to Respondent Atty. Tomas A. Reyes (Reyes) was the Notary Public who
petitioner and also execute a Deed of Discharge of Mortgage. However, if notarized the Memorandum of Agreement dated 17 March 2005 between
petitioner is unable to redeem the parcels of land within the period agreed respondent Tan and Obiedo, on one hand, and petitioner, on the other.
upon, respondents Tan and Obiedo could already present the Deeds of chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Absolute Sale covering the same to the Office of the Register of Deeds for
Naga City so respondents Tan and Obiedo could acquire TCTs to the said
properties in their names. chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Pursuant to the Memorandum of Agreement, petitioner, represented by Mr. Complaint was docketed as Civil Case No. 2006-0030.
Sia, executed separate Deeds of Absolute Sale,24[11] over the five parcels chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
of land, in favor of respondents Tan and Obiedo. On the blank spaces
provided for in the said Deeds, somebody wrote the 3 rd of January 2006 as
the date of their execution. The Deeds were again notarized by respondent
Atty. Reyes also on 3 January 2006. chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary On the basis of the facts already recounted above, petitioner raised two
causes of action in its Complaint. chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

Without payment having been made by petitioner on 31 December 2005,


respondents Tan and Obiedo presented the Deeds of Absolute Sale dated 3 As for the first cause of action, petitioner alleged that as early as 27

January 2006 before the Register of Deeds of Naga City on 8 March 2006, as December 2005, its President already wrote a letter informing respondents

a result of which, they were able to secure TCTs over the five parcels of land Tan and Obiedo of the intention of petitioner to pay its loan and requesting

in their names. chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary a meeting to compute the final amount due. The parties held meetings on 3
and 4 January 2006 but they failed to arrive at a mutually acceptable
computation of the final amount of loan payable. Respondents Tan and
Obiedo then refused the request of petitioner for further dialogues.
On 16 March 2006, petitioner filed before the RTC a Complaint25[12] Unbeknownst to petitioner, despite the ongoing meetings, respondents Tan
against respondents Tan, Obiedo, and Atty. Reyes, for declaration of nullity and Obiedo, in evident bad faith, already had the pre-executed Deeds of
of deeds of sales and damages, with prayer for the issuance of a writ of Absolute Sale notarized on 3 January 2006 by respondent Atty. Reyes. Atty.
preliminary injunction and/or temporary restraining order (TRO). The Reyes, in connivance with respondents Tan and Obiedo, falsely made it
appear in the Deeds of Absolute Sale that Mr. Sia had personally
acknowledged/ratified the said Deeds before Atty. Reyes.
chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary In support of its second cause of action, petitioner narrated in its Complaint
that on 18 January 2006, respondents Tan and Obiedo forcibly took over,
with the use of armed men, possession of the five parcels of land subject of
the falsified Deeds of Absolute Sale and fenced the said properties with
Asserting that the Deeds of Absolute Sale over the five parcels of land were
barbed wire. Beginning 3 March 2006, respondents Tan and Obiedo started
executed merely as security for the payment of its loan to respondents Tan
demolishing some of the commercial spaces standing on the parcels of land
and Obiedo; that the Deeds of Absolute Sale, executed in accordance with
in question which were being rented out by petitioner. Respondents Tan and
the Memorandum of Agreement, constituted pactum commisorium and as
Obiedo were also about to tear down a principal improvement on the
such, were null and void; and that the acknowledgment in the Deeds of
properties consisting of a steel-and-concrete structure housing a motor
Absolute Sale were falsified, petitioner averred: chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
vehicle terminal operated by petitioner. The actions of respondents Tan and
Obiedo were to the damage and prejudice of petitioner and its
tenants/lessees. Petitioner, alone, claimed to have suffered at least
P300,000.00 in actual damages by reason of the physical invasion by
13.That by reason of the fraudulent actions by the [herein
respondents], [herein petitioner] is prejudiced and is now respondents Tan and Obiedo and their armed goons of the five parcels of
in danger of being deprived, physically and legally, of the land. chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
mortgaged properties without benefit of legal processes
such as the remedy of foreclosure and its attendant
procedures, solemnities and remedies available to a
mortgagor, while [petitioner] is desirous and willing to pay
its obligation and have the mortgaged properties
Ultimately, petitioners prayer in its Complaint reads:
released.26[13] chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
WHEREFORE, premises considered, it is most respectfully HEIRS OF VALERIANO S. CONCHA, G.R. No. 158121
prayed of this Honorable Court that upon the filing of this SR. NAMELY: TERESITA CONCHA-
complaint, a 72-hour temporary restraining order be PARAN, VALERIANO P. CONCHA,
forthwith issued ex parte: chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary JR., RAMON P. CONCHA, EDUARDO
P. CONCHA, REPRESENTED BY HIS
(a)Restraining [herein respondents] Tan and Obiedo, their LEGAL GUARDIAN, REYNALDO P.
agents, privies or representatives, from committing act/s CONCHA, ALBERTO P. CONCHA,
tending to alienate the mortgaged properties from the BERNARDO P. CONCHA and GLORIA Present:
[herein petitioner] pending the resolution of the case, P. CONCHA-NUNAG,
including but not limited to the acts complained of in Petitioners, PUNO, C.J., Chairperson,
paragraph 14, above; chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary YNARES-SANTIAGO,
SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,
– versus – CORONA, and
AZCUNA, JJ.
(b)Restraining the Register of Deeds of Naga City from SPOUSES GREGORIO J. LUMOCSO[1]
entertaining moves by the [respondents] to have and BIENVENIDA GUYA, CRISTITA
[petitioners] certificates of title to the mortgaged J. LUMOCSO VDA. DE DAAN, AND
properties cancelled and changed/registered in SPOUSES JACINTO J. LUMOCSO Promulgated:
[respondents] Tans and Obiedos names, and/or released and BALBINA T. LUMOCSO,[2]
to them; chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary Respondents. December 12, 2007
x––––––––––––––––––—––––––––––––x
DECISION
PUNO, C.J.:
On appeal by certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court are
the
(c)After notice and hearing, that a writ of preliminary
decision[3] and resolution[4] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA -
injunction be issued imposing the same restraints
G.R. SP No. 59499, annulling the resolutions[5] and order[6] of
indicated in the next preceding two paragraphs of this the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Dipolog City, Branch 9, in Civil
prayer; and chanroblesvirtual Case Nos. 5188, 5433 and 5434 which denied the separate
motions to dismiss and Joint Motion for Reconsideration filed by
the respondents.
The relevant facts are undisputed.
Petitioners, heirs of spouses Dorotea and Valeriano Concha, Sr.,
claim to be the rightful owners of Lot No. 6195 (Civil Case No.
5188), a one-hectare portion of Lot No. 6196 -A (Civil Case No.
5433), and a one-hectare portion of Lot Nos. 6196 -B and 7529-A
(Civil Case No. 5434), all situated in Cogon, Dipolog City, under total volume of 2000 board feet a[s] property of the plaintiff
Section 48(b) of Commonwealth Act No. 141 (C.A. No. 141), [they] being cut, collected and taken from the l and possessed,
otherwise known as the Public Land Act. Respondent siblings preserved, and owned by the plaintiffs;
Gregorio Lumocso (Civil Case No. 5188), Cristita Lumocso Vda. 6. The plaintiffs further pray for such other reliefs and
de Daan (Civil Case No. 5433) and Jacinto Lumocso (Civil Case remedies which this Honorable Court may deem just and
No. 5434), are the patent holders and registered owners of the equitable in the premises.[8]
subject lots.
The records show that on August 6, 1997, Valeriano Sr. [7] and On September 3, 1999, two separate complain ts for
his children, petitioners Valeriano Jr., Ramon, Ed uardo, Alberto, Reconveyance with Damages were filed by petitioners,[9] this
Bernardo, Teresita, Reynaldo, and Gloria, all surnamed Concha, time against “Cristita Lomocso Vda. de Daan” for a one -hectare
filed a complaint for Reconveyance and/or Annulment of Title portion of Lot No. 6196 -A and “Spouses Jacinto Lomocso and
with Damages against “Spouses Gregorio Lomocso and Balbina T. Lomocso” for a one -hectare portion of Lot Nos. 6196 -
Bienvenida Guya.” They sought to annul Free Patent No. (IX - B and 7529-A. The two complaints were also raffled to Branch 9
8)985 and the corresponding Original Certificate of Title (OCT) of the RTC of Dipolog City and docketed as Civil Case Nos. 5433
No. P-22556 issued in the name of “Gregorio Lumocso” covering and 5434,
Lot No. 6195. The case was raffled to the RTC of Dipolog City, respectively. In Civil Case No. 5433, petitioners prayed that
Branch 9, and docketed as Civil Case No. 5188. In their Amended judgment be rendered:
Complaint, petitioners prayed that judgment be rendered: 1. Declaring [a] portion of Lot 619 6-A titled under OCT (P23527)
1. Declaring Free Patent No. (IX -8)985 and Original 4888 equivalent to one hectare located at the western portion
Certificate of Title No. 22556 issued to defendants as null and of Lot 4888 as private property of the plaintiffs under Sec. 48(B)
void ab initio; CA 141 otherwise known as Public Land OCT ( sic) as amended by
2. Declaring Lot No. 6195 or 1.19122 -hectare as RA No. 1942;
private property of the plaintiffs under Sec. 48(b) of CA No. 141 2. Ordering the defendant to reconvey the equivalent of one (1)
otherwise known as the Public Land Act as amended by RA hectare forested portion of her property in question in favor of
1942; the plaintiffs within 30 days from the finality of the decision in
3. Ordering the defendant Lomocsos to reconvey the this case segregating one hectare from OCT (P23527) 4888,
properties (sic) in question Lot No. 6195 or the 1.19122 h ectares located at its Western portion and if she refuse ( sic), ordering
in favor of the plaintiffs within 30 days from the finality of the the Clerk of Court of this Honorable Court to execute the deed
decision in this case and if they refuse, ordering the Clerk of of reconveyance with like force and effect, as if executed by the
Court of this Honorable Court to execute the deed of defenda[n]t herself;
reconveyance with like force and effect as if executed by the 3. Ordering defendant to pay P30,000.00 for the 22 forest trees
defendant[s] themselves; illegally cut; P20,000.00 for moral damages; P20,000.00 for
4. Ordering defendant Lomocsos to pay P60,000.00 for Attorney’s fees; P20,000.00 for litigation expenses; and to pay
the 21 forest trees illegally cut; P50,000.00 for moral damages; the cost of the proceedings.[10]
P20,000.00 for Attorney’s fees; P20,000.00 for litigation
expenses; and to pay the cost of the proce edings; In Civil Case No. 5434, petitioners prayed that judgment be
5. Declaring the confiscated three ( sic) flitches kept in rendered:
the area of the plaintiffs at Dampalan San Jose, Dipolog with a
1. Declaring [a] portion of Lot 7529 -A under OCT (P -23207) intimidation, [and] stealth forcibly entered the premises,
12870 and Lot 6196 -B OCT (P-20845) 4889 equivalent to one illegally cut, collected, [and] disposed” of 21 trees (for Civil Case
hectare located as ( sic) the western portion of said lots as No. 5188), 22 trees (for Civil Case No. 5433) or 6 trees (for Civil
private property of the plaintiffs under Sec. 48(b) of [C.A. No.] Case No. 5434); f) that “the land is private land or that even
141 otherwise know[n] as the [P]ublic [L]and [A]ct as amended assuming it was part of the public domain, plaintiffs had alr eady
by RA 1942; acquired imperfect title thereto” under Sec. 48(b) of C.A. No.
2. Ordering the defendants to reconvey the equivalent of on e 141, as amended by Republic Act (R.A.) No. 1942; g) that
(1) hectare forested portion of their properties in question in respondents allegedly cut into flitches the trees felled in Lot No.
favor of the plaintiffs within 30 days from the finality of th e 6195 (Civil Case No. 5188) while the logs taken from the subjec t
decision in this case segregating one hectare from OCT (P -23207) lots in Civil Case Nos. 5433 and 5434 were sold to a timber dealer
12870 and OCT (T-20845)-4889 all of defendants, located at its in Katipunan, Zamboanga del Norte; h) that respondents
Western portion and if they refuse, ordering the Clerk of Court “surreptitiously” filed free patent applications over the lots
of this Honorable Court to execute the deed of reconveyance despite their full knowledge that petitioners owned the lots; i)
with like force and effect as if executed by the defendants that the geodetic engineers who conducted the original survey
themselves[;] over the lots never informed them of the
3. Ordering defendants to pay P20,000.00 for the six (6) forest survey to give them an opportunity to oppose respondents’
trees illegally cut; P20,000.00 for moral damages; P20,000.00 for applications; j) that respondents’ free patents and th e
Attorney’s fees; P20,000.00 for litigation expenses; and t o pay corresponding OCTs were issued “on accou nt of fraud, deceit,
the cost of the proceedings.[11] bad faith and misrepresentation”; and k) that the lots in
The three complaints[12] commonly alleged: a) that on May 21, question have not been transferred to an innocent purchaser.
1958, petitioners’ parents (spouses Valeriano Sr. and Dorotea On separate occasions, respondents moved for the dismissal of
Concha) acquired by homestead a 24 -hectare parcel of land the respective cases against them on the same grounds of: (a)
situated in Cogon, Dipolog City; b) that since 1931, spouses lack of jurisdiction of the RTC over the subject matters of the
Concha “painstakingly preserved” the forest in the 24 -hectare complaints; (b) failure to state causes of action for
land, including the excess four (4) hectares “untitled forest land” reconveyance; (c) prescription; and (d) waiver, abandonment,
located at its eastern portion; c) that they possessed this excess laches and estoppel.[13] On the issue of jurisdiction,
4 hectares of land (which consisted of Lot No. 6195, one -hectare respondents contended that the RTC has no jurisdiction over the
portion of Lot No. 6196 -A and one-hectare portion of Lot Nos. complaints pursuant to Section 19(2) of Batas Pambansa Blg.
6196-B and 7529-A) “continuously, publicly, notoriously, (B.P.) 129, as amended by R.A. No. 7691, as in each case, the
adversely, peacefully, in good faith and in concept of the ( sic) assessed values of the subject lots are less than P20,000.00.
owner since 1931;” d) that they c ontinued possession and Petitioners opposed,[14] contending that the instant cases
occupation of the 4 -hectare land after the death of Dorotea involve actions the subject matters of which are incapable of
Concha on December 23, 1992 and Valeriano Sr. on May 12, pecuniary estimation which, under Section 19(1) of B.P. 129, as
1999; e) that the Concha spouses “have preserved the forest amended by R.A. 7691, fall within the exclusive original
trees standing in [the subject lots] to the exclusion o f the jurisdiction of the RTCs. They also contended that they have two
defendants (respondents) or other persons from 1931” up to main causes of action: for reconveyance and for recovery of the
November 12, 1996 (for Civil Case No. 5188) or January 1997 (for value of the trees felled by respondents. Hence, the totality of
Civil Case Nos. 5433 and 5434) when respondents, “by force,
the claims must be considered which, if computed, allegedly falls COMPLY WITH THE MANDATORY REQUIREMENT OF SECTION 1
within the exclusive origina l jurisdiction of the RTC. RULE 65 OF THE RULES OF COURT TO SUBMIT CERTIFIED TRUE
The trial court denied the respective motions to dismiss of COPIES OF THE ASSAILED ORDERS OF THE TRIAL COURT WHICH
respondents.[15] The respondents filed a Joint Motion for RENDERED THEIR PETITION (CA G.R. 59499) DEFICIENT IN FORM
Reconsideration,[16] to no avail.[17] AND SUBSTANCE CITING THE CASE OF CATUIRA VS. COURT OF
Dissatisfied, respondents jointly filed a Petition for Certiorari, APPEALS (172 SCRA 136).[20]
Prohibition and Preliminary Injunction with Prayer for Issuance In their memorandum,[21] respondent s reiterated their
of Restraining Order Ex Parte[18] with the CA, docketed as CA - arguments in the courts below that: a) the complaints of the
G.R. SP No. 59499. In its Decision,[19] the CA reversed the petitioners in the trial court do not state causes of action for
resolutions and order of the trial court. It held that even reconveyance; b) assuming the complaints state causes of
assuming that the complaints state a cause of action, the same action for reconveyance, the same have already been barred by
have been barred by the statute of limitations. The CA ruled prescription; c) the RTC does not have jurisdiction over the
that an action for reconveyance based on fraud prescribes in subject matter of the instant cases; d) the claims for
ten (10) years, hence, the instant complaints must be dismissed reconveyance in the complaints are barred by waiver,
as they involve titles issued for at least twenty -two (22) years abandonment, or otherwise extinguished by laches and
prior to the filing of the complaints. The CA found it estoppel; and e) there is no special reason warranting a review
unnecessary to resolve the other issues. by this Court.
Hence, this appeal in which petitioners raise the following Since the issue of jurisdiction is determinative of the resolution
issues, viz: of the instant case yet the CA skirted the question, we resolved
FIRST – WHETHER OR NOT RESPONDENT COURT OF to require the parties to submit their respective Supplemental
APPEALS (FORMER FIRST DIVISION) ERRED IN REVERSING THE Memoranda on the issue of jurisdiction.[22]
ORDER OF THE COURT A QUO DENYING THE MOTION FOR In their Supplemental Memorandum,[23] petitioners contend
DISMISSAL, CONSIDERING THE DISMISSAL OF A PARTY that the nature of their complaints, as denominated therein and
COMPLAINT IS PREMATURE AND TRIAL ON THE MERITS SHOULD as borne by their allegations, are suits for reconveyance, or
BE CONDUCTED TO THRESH OUT EVID ENTIARY MATTERS. annulment or cancellation of OCT s and damages. The cases
SECOND – WHETHER OR NOT THE RESPONDENT COURT OF allegedly involve more than just the issue of
APPEALS (FORMER FIRST DIVISION) ERRED IN DISMISSING THE title and possession since the nullity of the OCTs issued to
PETITIONERS’ COMPLAINTS ON [THE] GROUND OF PRESCRIPTION. respondents and the reconveyance of the subject properties
THIRD – WHETHER OR NOT THE RESPONDENT COURT OF were also raised as issues. Thus, the RTC has jurisdiction under
APPEALS (FORMER FIRST DIVISION) ERRED IN CONCLUDING THAT Section 19(1) of B.P. 129, which provides that the RTC has
THERE IS NO DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE ON RECORD TO SHOW jurisdiction “[i]n all civil actions in which the subject of the
THAT PETITIONERS OWN THE SUBJECT FOREST litigation is incapable of pecuniary estimation.” Petitioners
PORTION OF THE PROPERTIES ERRONEOUSLY INCLUDED IN THE cited: a) Raymundo v. CA[24] which set the criteria for
TITLES OF PRIVATE RESPONDENTS. determining whether an action is one not capable of pecuniary
FOURTH – WHETHER OR NOT THE PETITION OF HEREIN PRIVATE estimation; b) Swan v. CA[25]Santos v. CA[26] where it was
RESPONDENTS FILED WITH THE RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS similarly held that an action for annulment of title, reversion and
(FORMER FIRST DIVISION) SHOULD HAVE BEEN DISMISSED damages was within the jurisdiction of the RTC; and d)
OUTRIGHTLY FOR PRIVATE RESPONDENTS’ THEREIN FAILURE TO Commodities Storage and ICE Plant Corporation v.
CA[27]P20,000.00). Hence, they contend that the RTC has forest standing in the area [of their 24 -hectare homestead]
jurisdiction under Section 19(2) of B.P. 129. where it was held including the four hectares untitled forest land located at th e
that an action for annulment of title is under the jurisdiction of eastern portion of the forest from 1931 when they were newly
the RTC; c) where it was held that “[w]here the action affects married, the date they acquired this property by occupation or
title to the property, it should be filed in the RTC where the possession;[35]
property is located.” Petitioners also contend that while it may (b) That spouses Valeriano S. Concha Sr. and Dorotea P. Concha
be argued that the assessed values of the subject properties ar e have preserved the forest trees standing in [these parcels] of
within the original jurisdiction of the municipal trial court (MTC), land to the exclusion of the defendants Lomocsos or other
they have included in their prayers “any interest included persons from 1931 up to November 12, 1996 [for Civil Case No.
therein” consisting of 49 felled natural grown trees illegally cut 5188] and January 1997 [for Civil Case Nos. 5433 and 5434] when
by respondents. Combining the assessed values of the defendants[,] by force, intimidation, [and] stealth[,] forcibly
properties as shown by their respective tax declarations and the entered the premises, illegal[ly] cut, collected, disposed a total
estimated value of the trees cut, the total amount prayed by of [twenty-one (21) trees for Civil Case No. 5188, twenty -two
petitioners exceeds twenty thousand pesos ( (22) trees for Civil Case No. 5433 and six (6) trees for Civil Case
Jurisdiction over the subject matter is the power to hear and No. 5434] of various sizes;[36]
determine cases of the genera l class to which the proceedings in (c) That this claim is an assertion that the land is private land
question belong.[28] It is conferred by law and an objection or that even assuming it was part o f the public domain, plaintiff
based on this ground cannot be waived by the parties.[29] To had already acquired imperfect title thereto under Sec. 48(b) of
determine whether a court has jurisdiction over the subject [C.A.] No. 141[,] otherwise known as the Public Land Act[,] as
matter of a case, it is important to d etermine the nature of the amended by [R.A.] No. [7691];[37]
cause of action and of the relief sought.[30] (d) That [respondents and their predecessors -in-interest knew
The trial court correctly held that the instant cases involve when they] surreptitiously filed[38] [their respective patent
actions for reconveyance.[31] An action for reconveyance applications and were issued their respective] free patents and
respects the decree of registration as incontrovertible but seek s original certificates of title [that the subject lots belonged to the
the transfer of property, which has been wrongfully or petitioners];[39]
erroneously registered in other persons’ names, to its rightful (e) [That respondents’ free patents an d the corresponding
and legal owners, or to those who claim to have a better original certificates of titles were issued] on account of fraud,
right.[32] There is no special ground for an action for deceit, bad faith and misrepresentation;[40] and
reconveyance. It is enough that the aggrieved party has a legal (f) The land in question has not been transferred to an innocent
claim on the property superior to that of the registered purchaser.[41]
owner[33] and that the property has not yet passed to the hands These cases may also be considered as ac tions to remove cloud
of an innocent purchaser for value.[34] on one’s title as they are intended to procure the cancellation
The reliefs sought by the petitioners in the instant cases typify of an instrument constituting a claim on petitioners’ alleged title
an action for reconveyance. The following are also the common which was used to injure or vex them in the enjoyment of their
allegations in the three complaints that are sufficient to alleged title.[42]
constitute causes of action for reconveyance, viz: Being in the nature of actions for reconveyance or actions to
(a) That plaintiff Valeriano S. Concha, Sr. together with his remove cloud on one’s title, the applicable law to determine
spouse Dorotea Concha have painstakingly preserve[d] th e
which court has jurisdiction is Section 19(2) of B.P. 129, as Metropolitan Trial Courts, [MTCs], and Municipal Circuit Trial
amended by R.A. No. 7691, viz: Courts (conferred upon the city and municipal courts under R.A.
Section 19. Jurisdiction in Civil Cases. – Regional Trial Courts 296, as amended).” Thus, under the old law, there was no
shall exercise exclusive original jurisdiction: x x x substantial effect on ju risdiction whether a case is one, the
(2) In all civil actions which involve the title to, or possession subject matter of which was incapable of pecuniary estimation,
of, real property, or any interest therein, where the assessed under Section 19(1) of B.P. 129 or one involving title to property
value of the property involved exceeds Twenty thousand pesos under Section 19(2). The distinction between the two classes
(P20,000.00) or for civil actions in Metro Manila, where such became crucial with the am endment introduced by R.A. No.
value exceeds Fifty thousand pesos ( P50,000.00) except actions 7691[48]where the assessed value of the property or interest
for forcible entry into and unlawful detainer of lands or therein does not exceed Twenty thousand pesos ( P20,000.00)
buildings, original jurisdiction over which is conferred upon the or, in civil actions in Metro Manila, where such assessed value
Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal does not exceed Fifty thousand pesos ( P50,000.00) exclusive of
Circuit Trial Courts; interest, damages of whatever kind, attorney’s fees, litigation
x x x. expenses and costs.” Thus, under the present law, original
In the cases at bar, it is undisputed that the subject lots are jurisdiction over cases the subject matter of which involves “title
situated in Cogon, Dipolog City and their assessed values are to, possession of, real property or any in terest therein” under
less than P20,000.00, to wit: Section 19(2) of B.P. 129 is divided between the first and second
Civil Case No. Lot No. Assessed Value level courts, with the assessed value of the real property
5188 6195 P1,030.00 involved as the benchmark. This amendment was introduced to
5433 6196-A 4,500.00 “unclog the overloaded dockets of the RTCs which would result
5434 6196-B 4,340.00 in the speedier administration of justice.”[49] in 1994 which
7529-A 1,880.00.[43] expanded the exclusive original jurisdiction of the first level
Hence, the MTC clearly has jurisdiction over the instant cases. courts to include “all civil actions which involve title to, or
Petitioners’ contention that this case is one that is incapable of possession of, real property, or any interest therein
pecuniary estimation under the exclusive o riginal jurisdiction of The cases of Raymundo v. CA[50] and Commodities Storage and
the RTC pursuant to Section 19(1) of B.P. 129 is erroneous. ICE Plant Corporation v. CA, [51] relied upon by the petitioners,
In a number of cases, we have held that actions for are inapplicable to the cases at bar. Raymundo involved a
reconveyance[44] of or for cancellation of title[45] to or to quiet complaint for mandatory injunction, not one for reconveyance
title[46] over real property are actions that fall u nder th e or annulment of title. The bone of contention was whether the
classification of cases that involve “title to, or possession of, real case was incapable of pecuniary estimation considering
property, or any interest therein.” petitioner’s contention that the pecuniary claim of the
The original text of Section 19(2) of B.P. 129 as well as its complaint was only attorney’s fees of P10,000, hence, the MTC
forerunner, Section 44(b) of R.A. 296,[47] as amended, gave the had jurisdiction. The Court defined the criterion for determining
RTCs (formerly courts of first instance) exclusive original whether an action is one that is incapable of pecuniary
jurisdiction “[i]n all civil actions which involve the title to, or estimation and held that the issue of whether petitioner violated
possession of, real property, or any interest therein, except the provisions of the Master Deed and Declaration of Restriction
actions for forcible entry into and unlawful detainer of lands or of the Corporation is one that is incapable of pecuniary
buildings, original jurisdiction over which is conferred upon estimation. The claim for attorney’s fees was merely incidental
to the principal action, hence, said amount was not value exceeds Fifty thousand pesos ( P50,000.00).” It is tru e
determinative of the court’s jurisdiction. Nor can Commodities that the recovery of the value of the trees cut from the subject
Storage and ICE Plant Corporation provide any comfort to properties may be included in the term “any interest
petitioners for the issue resolved by the Court in said case was therein.” However, the law is emphatic that in determining
venue and not jurisdiction. The action therein was for damages, which court has jurisdiction, it is only the assessed value of the
accounting and fixing of redemption period which was filed on realty involved that should be computed.[54] In this case, there
October 28, 1994, before the passage of R.A. No. 7691. In is no dispute that the assessed values of the subject properties
resolving the issue of venue, the Court held that “[w]here the as shown by their tax declarations are less than
action affects title to property, it should be instituted in th e P20,000.00. Clearly, jurisdiction over the instant cases belongs
[RTC] where the property is situated. The Sta. Maria Ice Plant & not to the RTC but to the MTC.
Cold Storage is located in Sta. Maria, Bulacan. The venue in Civil IN VIEW WHEREOF, the decision of the Court of Appeals is
Case No. 94-727076 was therefore improperly laid.” hereby AFFIRMED that the RTC of Dipolog City, Branch 9, has no
jurisdiction in Civil Case Nos. 5188, 5433 and 5434.
Worse, the cases of Swan v. CA[52] and Santos v. CA[53] cited No costs.
by the petitioners, contradict their own position that the nature SO ORDERED.
of the instant cases falls under Section 19(1) of B.P. 129. The
complaints in Swan and Santos were filed prior to the enactment
of R.A. No. 7691. In Swan, the Court held that the action being
one for annulment of title, the RTC had original jurisdiction
under Section 19(2) of B.P. 129. In Santos, the Court similarly
held that the complaint for cancellation of title, reversion and
damages is also one that involves title to and possession of real
property under Section 19(2) of B.P. 129. Thus, while the Court
held that the RTC had jurisdiction, the Court classified act ions
for “annulment of title” and “cancellation of title, reversion and
damages” as civil actions that involve “title to, or possession of,
real property, or any interest therein” under Section 19(2) of
B.P. 129.
Petitioners’ contention that the value of t he trees cut in the
subject properties constitutes “any interest therein (in the
subject properties)” that should be computed in addition to the
respective assessed values of the subject properties is
unavailing. Section 19(2) of B.P. 129, as amended by R .A. No.
7691, is clear that the RTC shall exercise jurisdiction “in all civil
actions which involve the title to, or possession of, real
property, or any interest therein, where the assessed value of
the property involved exceeds Twenty thousand pesos
(P20,000.00) or for civil actions in Metro Manila, where such
[G.R. No. 152526. November 25, 2004]

RAMON R. JIMENEZ JR. and ANNABELLE L. JIMENEZ, petitioners, vs. JUAN


JOSE JORDANA, respondent.

DECISION
PANGANIBAN, J.:

Oft-repeated is the doctrine that the cause of action in a civil case is


determined by the allegations of the complaint, never by those of the
defendants answer. However, ambiguities and lapses in the language of
these allegations may be understood or clarified through a recourse to the
annexes of the complaint, related pleadings or other submissions of the
plaintiff.

The Case

Before us is a Petition for Review[1] under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court,


assailing the February 28, 2002 Decision[2] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in
CA-GR CV No. 66455. The CA disposed as follows:
In fine, then, we find and so declare that the [respondent]
had a cause of action against the [petitioner spouses] for Specific
Performance and Damages. Hence, the [c]ourt a quo committed
a reversible error in dismissing the Supplement to Amended
Complaint of the [respondent] as against the [petitioner
spouses].
Before we write finis to the present recourse, we stress that
our resolution of the issue on the nature of the transaction over
the property between the [respondent] and x x x Bunye is merely Unknown to [respondent], x x x Bunye executed a Special
provisional. The final resolution of the issue will have to be Power of Attorney on December 29, 1993, or a day after [she]
rendered by the court a quo after the parties shall have adduced accepted [his] offer to purchase the property, authorizing
their respective evidence on said issue. Lourdes Cuerva to sell the said property and to execute the
appropriate contract therefor. The latter did offer to sell the said
IN THE LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the appeal is
property to the [petitioners,] Spouses Ramon R. Jimenez, Jr. and
GRANTED. The Order of the [c]ourt a quo, dated February 1, Annabelle L. Jimenez, for the price of P14,350,000.00, and the
2000, is SET ASIDE. Let the records be remanded to the [c]ourt a
couple agreed. On August 5, 1994, x x x Bunye, through her
quo for further proceedings.[3]
attorney-in-fact, Lourdes Cuerva, as Seller, and [petitioner-
]spouses x x x as Buyers, executed a Contract to Sell over the said
property for said price, of which P4,500,000.00 was payable,
The Facts upon the execution of said deed, and the balance payable on or
before March 30, 1995 and with the understanding of the Seller
that:
The CA narrated the facts as follows:
2. Upon completion of payment, the SELLER
Madeliene S. Bunye was the owner of a parcel of residential agrees to execute a Deed of Absolute Sale over subject
land, located in Adelfa Street, Ayala Alabang Village, Alabang, property in favor of the BUYERS free from all liens and
Muntinlupa, Metro Manila, covered by Transfer Certificate of encumbrances, and in connection therewith, the
Title No. 17133 issued by the Register of Deeds. On December SELLER agrees to submit/surrender to the BUYERS all
27, 1993, [Respondent] Juan Jose Jordana wrote a letter to x x x documents and papers evidencing their right of
Bunye offering to purchase the said property for the price of ownership over the property subject of this Contract
P12,300,000.00 payable in cash, on January 31, 1994, and to necessary to formalize BUYERS title over the same, and
remit to her, by way of earnest money, the amount of undertake to sign all documents that may be necessary
P500,000.00 within five (5) days from his receipt of her for the purpose.
acceptance of said offer. On December 28, 1993, x x x Bunye
wrote a letter to [respondent] informing the latter that she Conformably with the said deed, [petitioner-spouses]
accepted his offer and requesting him to remit the earnest money remitted to x x x Cuerva, on August 5, 1994, the amount of
within five (5) days from his receipt of said letter. [Respondent] P4,500,000.00 as downpayment for the property for which x x x
received the letter, on December 29, 1993, and had until January Cuerva issued a Receipt. To protect their rights over the
3, 1994 within which to remit the earnest money. [Respondent] property, the spouses x x x executed an Affidavit of Adverse
did remit the P500,000.00 earnest money but x x x Bunye refused Claim over the property and had the same annotated, on August
to receive the money. On January 3, 1994, x x x Bunye wrote a 15, 1994, at the dorsal portion of Transfer Certificate of Title [TCT]
letter to [respondent] confirming her rejection of the earnest No. 171333.
money and that she can no longer accept his offer of
On March 1, 1995, [petitioners] wrote a letter to x x x Cuerva
P12,300,000.00 as her property was worth much more. She
informing her that they will be paying the balance of the purchase
apologized for any inconvenience caused to him. However, she
price of the property earlier, on March 3, 199[5], at 8:00 oclock in
added that she would be willing to sell her property to him for
the morning, x x x.
P16,000,000.00.
On March 7, 1995, [petitioners] received a letter from x and that no formal deed of sale has been executed between
x x Cuerva informing [them] that she was no longer the [respondent] and Bunye over the property.
attorney-in-fact of Bunye, who was then in the United States
On the same day, Bunye wrote a letter to [petitioners]
of America and suggested that [petitioners] communicate
informing them that she will be in the Philippines on March 23,
with her at her address in the United States stated in the
1995. [Bunye] requested the spouses to have the Deed of
letter.
Absolute Sale over the property prepared for her signature when
On March 10, 1995, the Register of Deeds cancelled the she arrived in Manila.
Adverse Claim of [petitioners] annotated at the dorsal portion of
On March 17, 1995, [respondent], through counsel, wrote a
[TCT] No. 171333.
letter to x x x Bunye in the United States informing her of the
On March 14, 1995, [petitioners] wrote a letter to Bunye, in filing, by [respondent] of his complaint against her, with the
the United States of America, informing her that they had already Regional Trial Court, for Specific Performance.
deposited the balance of the purchase price of the property, in
In the meantime, on March 19, 1995, [petitioners] wrote a
her account, with the Asian Bank, Greenbelt Branch, under
Savings Account No. 2006-13-00558-4. [They then] requested letter to Madeliene S. Bunye suggesting that she execute a
Special Power of Attorney authorizing Lourdes Cuerva to execute
Bunye to execute the appropriate Deed of Absolute Sale over the
the Deed of Absolute Sale over the property in their favor even
property in their favor and deliver to them the owners duplicate
before her arrival in the Philippines. Bunye agreed to the
of the title to the property under their names, within five (5) days
from her receipt thereof. appointment of an attorney-in-fact, in the person of Ernesto del
Rosario.
On March 15, 1995, or more than one (1) year from the
When Bunye received the letter of the counsel of
rejection by Bunye of his proferred earnest money, [Respondent]
[respondent], she wrote a letter to [petitioners], dated March 23,
Jordana filed a complaint against Bunye, with the Regional Trial
Court of Makati City, entitled and docketed as Juan Jose Jordana, 1995, informing them of the claim of [respondent] in his
complaint and that, as soon as she received the Special Power of
Plaintiff versus Madeliene S. Bunye, Defendant, Civil Case No.
Attorney from the Secretary of the State of Washington, she will
95-443, for Specific Performance and Damages praying that,
after due proceedings, judgment be rendered in her favor x x x. return to the Philippines.
In the meantime, [respondent] filed, on March 24, 1995, in
[Respondent] alleged, inter alia, in his complaint, that he
Civil Case No. 95-443, a Very Urgent Ex-Parte Motion, praying
and x x x Bunye had already entered into a perfected contract
that an x x x an Order [be] immediately issued directing the
over the property but that, despite his demand, she refused to
execute a Deed of Absolute Sale over the property despite his Register of Deeds of Makati to immediately annotate the [Notice
of] Lis Pendens on TCT No. 171333.
offer to remit the earnest money and his readiness to pay the
balance of the purchase price of the property. The summons and complaint in Civil Case No. 95-443 were
On March 15, 1995, [respondent] filed a Notice of Lis served on Bunye through her security guard, Joseph Ytac, on
March 23, 1995, as she was still in the United States of America.
Pendens with the Register of Deeds, for annotation at the dorsal
portion of [TCT] No. 171333. However, the Register of Deeds
refused claiming that the action of [respondent] was personal
On March 28, 1995, [petitioners] filed, in Civil Case No. 95- Before the Court could resolve the Motion to Dismiss of the
443, a Motion for Leave to Intervene x x x. However, [petitioners], [respondent] filed a Motion for Leave to File
[respondent] opposed the motion x x x. Supplement to Amended Complaint, impleading the Urban
Bank, as [p]arty-[d]efendant x x x.
[Petitioners, on the other hand,] opposed the motion of
[respondent] to compel the Register of Deeds to annotate the On February 7, 1996, [respondent] filed his Supplement to
Notice of Lis Pendens at the dorsal portion of [TCT] No. 171333. Amended Complaint x x x.
On March 30, 1995, [respondent] executed a Notice of [Petitioners] filed an Opposition to [respondents]
Adverse Claim and had the same annotated on March 31, 1995 motion. On July 2, 1996, the Court issued an Order granting the
at the dorsal portion of [TCT] No. 171333. motion of [respondent] and admitting [his] Supplement to
Amended Complaint. [Petitioners] filed a Motion for
On April 5, 1995, [TCT] No. 171333 was cancelled on the Reconsideration of the aforesaid Order of the Court. [Urban]
basis of the Deed of Absolute Sale executed on March 30, 1995
Bank likewise filed a Motion to Dismiss the Supplement to
by Bunye, pendente lite, in favor of [petitioners] and, on the same
Amended Complaint on the ground that it stated no cause of
day, the Register of Deeds issued [TCT] No. 200308 over the action against it. [Respondent] filed an Opposition to the Motion
property to and under the name of the said spouses. The
for Reconsideration of [petitioners] and the Motion to Dismiss of
Adverse Claim of [respondent] was carried over in said title, x x x,
the x x x bank. On February 1, 2000, the Court issued an Order
as Entry No. 18053.
granting the Motion to Dismiss of [Urban] Bank and the Motion
On June 13, 1995, [petitioners] secured a loan from the for Reconsideration of [petitioners] on the ground that the
Urban Bank in the amount of P12,000,000.00 and executed a Real Amended Complaint and the Supplement to Amended Complaint
Estate Mortgage over the said property, as security therefor did not state causes of action against [them].[4]
which deed was annotated, on June 14, 1995, at the dorsal
portion of [TCT] No. 200308.
On September 12, 1995, [respondent] filed an Amended Ruling of the Court of Appeals
Complaint impleading the [petitioners] as Parties-Defendants x x
x. The CA ruled that the trial court had erred in dismissing the
[Petitioner] spouses x x x filed a Motion to Dismiss the Supplement to Amended Complaint. The appellate court held that
Amended Complaint on the grounds that the Amended respondent alleged a sufficient cause of action against petitioners for the
Complaint did not state a cause of action against them and [for] recovery of the Adelfa property. The CA said that such action was real, not
laches. [Respondent] filed an Opposition to the Motion to personal.
Dismiss of [the] spouses. Moreover, the appellate court held that respondent and Bunye had
In the meantime, the Register of Deeds caused the entered into a Contract of Sale -- not a Contract to Sell -- which was
annotation, on October 24, 1995, of the Notice of Lis Pendens perfected by their mere consent thereto. Thus, Bunye was deemed to have
filed by [respondent] at the dorsal portion of [TCT] No. 200308. relinquished ownership of the property to respondent.
Regarding the double sale of the property, the CA said that the spouses The trial court and the CA differed in characterizing the suit of
could not have registered the second sale in good faith because they had respondent. The RTC opined that he failed to allege against petitioners a
prior knowledge of respondents claim. It noted that even the Deed of cause of action for specific performance. On the other hand, the appellate
Absolute Sale in favor of petitioners had been executed during the pendency court held that the action was actually for recovery of real property. Clearly
of the Complaint. then, the crux of the present controversy is the nature and the sufficiency
of respondents cause of action against petitioner-spouses.
Hence, this Petition.[5]
In resolving this issue, we shall begin with some basic rules and guiding
principles regarding cause of action, dismissal of suit, and the law on sales.
Issues

Cause of Action
In their Memorandum, petitioners raise the following issues:
1. Has Jordana alleged a sufficient cause of action against the
Cause of action is defined as the act or omission by which a party
Spouses Jimenez? violates a right of another.[7] It has the following elements: 1) the legal right
2. Did Jordana and Bunye execute a contract of sale or a contract of the plaintiff; 2) the correlative obligation of the defendant to respect that
to sell the subject property? legal right; and 3) an act or omission of the defendant that violates such
right.[8]
3. Did Jordana make a valid tender and consignation of payment
to Bunye? The nature of an action is determined by the material averments in the
complaint and the character of the relief sought,[9] not by the defenses
4. Did the Spouses Jimenez register their title to the subject asserted in the answer or motion to dismiss.[10] Thus, the complaint must
property in good faith? contain a concise statement of the ultimate or essential facts[11] constituting
5. Is Jordana guilty of laches?[6] the plaintiffs cause of action.[12]

The foregoing questions point to only one main issue: the nature and In a motion to dismiss, a defendant hypothetically admits the truth of
the sufficiency of respondents cause of action, if any. the material allegations of the plaintiffs complaint. This hypothetical
admission extends to the relevant and material facts pleaded in, and the
inferences fairly deducible from, the complaint.[13] Hence, to determine
whether the sufficiency of the facts alleged in the complaint constitutes a
The Courts Ruling cause of action, the test is as follows: admitting the truth of the facts alleged,
can the court render a valid judgment in accordance with the prayer?[14]
The Petition has no merit. To sustain a motion to dismiss, the movant needs to show that the
plaintiffs claim for relief does not exist at all. On the contrary, the complaint
Main Issue:
is sufficient if it contains sufficient notice of the cause of action even though
Nature and Sufficiency
the allegations may be vague or indefinite, in which event, the proper
of Respondents Cause of Action
recourse would be, not a motion to dismiss, but a motion for a bill of 3. She informed him by letter, which he received on January 4, 1994,
particulars.[15] that she could no longer accept the offer of P12,300,000, but that she was
willing to sell it for P16,000,000; thus, she was declining to receive the
Generally, the court takes into account only the material allegations of
P500,000 earnest money he had sent.[22]
the complaint, without considering extraneous facts and circumstances. In
some cases, however, the court may also consider -- in addition to the 4. There was a perfected contract of sale, which Bunye breached by
complaint -- annexes or documents appended to it, other pleadings of the her unreasonable refusal to complete the sale.[23]
plaintiff, or admissions in the record.[16] It must then bear in mind that the
5. She unreasonably refused to heed his demand for compliance with
facts proving the existence of a cause of action do not have to be established
the contract, which she should be compelled to specifically perform.[24]
or alleged by the complaint and/or the other pleadings at the outset but,
under exceptional circumstances, even during the trial on the merits of the 6. On or about March 30, 1995, she sold the same property to
case.[17] petitioners, pursuant to which TCT No. 171333 was cancelled and TCT No.
200308 issued to the latter on April 3, 1995.[25]
7. Bunye and [the] Jimenezes should be compelled to execute a
Contracts of Sale
contract or deed of sale over the subject property in [his] favor x x x which
complies with the requirements of Article 1358 of the Civil Code[26] that a
The elements of a valid contract of sale under Article 1458 of the Civil contract involving real rights over immovable property must appear in a
Code are the following: (1) the parties consent or meeting of minds, (2) a public document.[27]
determinate subject matter, and (3) a price certain in money or its 8. As a result of Bunyes and the spouses unreasonable breach and
equivalent. Being consensual, a contract of sale is perfected upon the circumvention of the contract, he suffered actual damages.[28]
meeting of the minds of the buyer and the seller as to the object of the sale
and the cause or consideration.[18] From that moment on, the parties may 9. Having acted in a wanton, fraudulent, reckless, oppressive, or
reciprocally demand performance; that is, the vendee may compel the malevolent manner, Bunye and petitioners should be ordered to pay
transfer of the ownership of the object of the sale, and the vendor may exemplary damages.[29]
require the vendee to pay the price of the thing sold. 10. Their acts or omissions have compelled him to litigate, for which
We shall now apply the foregoing discussion to the issues at hand. they must be ordered to reimburse attorneys fees and litigation
expenses.[30]
In the present case, the cause of action of respondent against
petitioners was premised on the material averments in the Complaint as Specifically, respondent expressly prayed for a judgment ordering
follows: Bunye and petitioners to immediately and specifically perform on the
contract to sell the subject property to [him] for P12,300,000.00;[31] to
1. He offered to buy,[19] and Bunye agreed to sell[20] to him, the Adelfa execute a contract or deed of sale in [his] favor x x x over the subject
property for P12,300,000. property;[32] and to pay him actual and exemplary damages plus attorneys
2. As agreed, he tendered to her the sum of P500,000 on January 3, fees and litigation expenses.[33]
1994, but she refused to accept it.[21] What appears from all these contentions is that the action rests upon
the basic hypothesis that, prior to the second sale and delivery to
petitioners, there was already a perfected sale of the Adelfa property to
respondent. Hence, Bunye was duty-bound to execute a deed of sale; and By intervening[38] in Civil Case No. 95-443, petitioners made of record -
petitioners, to reconvey the property to him. From this hypothesis sprang - long before the Amended Complaint[39] and the Supplement to Amended
the CAs conclusion that the suit against petitioners was for recovery of Complaint[40] -- the essential factual allegation that they had actual notice
property. and knowledge of the claim of respondent against Bunye; but that, just the
same, they proceeded to purchase the subject property. Also, upon such
We agree with the appellate court. Indeed, what respondent
intervention, the faxed messages between them and Bunye regarding
instituted against petitioners was a real action for the recovery of respondents Complaint were inscribed in the record of the case.
property. It has been held that where a party makes a claim contrary to
ownership, and the relief prayed for cannot be granted without the court Likewise, the Oppositions[41] of respondent to the Motion for Leave to
deciding on who has a better right to the property, the suit is a real action.[34] Intervene and Motion to Dismiss filed by petitioners are heavy with
allegations of the latters actual notice and knowledge of the previous
The correctness of the ruling as to the nature of the case, however, sale. He averred thus:
answers only half of the issue. The other half is whether respondent has
alleged a sufficient cause of action for recovery of property against 4. In fact, Intervenors were officially notified on March 24,
petitioners. Like the CA, we find that he indeed has. There are at least three 1995 about plaintiffs earlier contract with Madeliene E. Bunye on
reasons for this conclusion. December 29, 1993 to purchase the same property. The sellers
refusal to honor the contract was highlighted in said letter which
First, it is readily apparent that respondent has stated a demandable
prompted [respondent] to file this suit to enforce his contract
right over the subject property. Assaying the allegations of the Supplement
against [Bunye], docketed as Civil Case No. 94-443.
to Amended Complaint -- allegations that were hypothetically admitted to
be correct for the purpose of the Motion to Dismiss -- he averred that 5. Earlier on March 15, 1995, a Notice of Lis Pendens was
through an exchange of letters,[35] a definite offer and an unqualified filed by plaintiff before the Register of Deeds, Makati, Metro
acceptance as to the object of the sale and the cause or consideration Manila informing the Honorable Office of the pendency of a case
therefor transpired between him and Bunye. Upon these allegations, a docketed as Civil Case No. 94-443 involving the property covered
contract of sale was deemed perfected as of December 29, 1993, the day he by TCT No. 17133.
received Bunyes letter of unqualified acceptance.[36] From that moment,
6. Based on these factual setting, it would readily reveal
respondent acquired the legal right to compel the transfer of ownership of
the property to him. that Intervenors are no longer buyers in good faith and as such
has no interest whatsoever against both [respondent] and
Second, respondent has the right to compel petitioners to respect, not [Bunye] much more on the property in question covered by TCT
violate, his rights as a prior buyer. His reference to the second sale to No. 171333 x x x.[42]
petitioners -- in paragraphs 8 and 10 of the Supplement to Amended
Complaint, in which he had alleged that they did not have any rightful or Clearly then, he has successfully shown their knowledge of his claim
prior to the actual sale of the property on March 30, 1995, before the
valid title to the subject property[37] -- was only for the purpose of
registration of the property in their names on April 3, 1995. In Voluntad v.
underscoring that fact.
Spouses Dizon,[43] we explained as follows:
Third, despite the discrepancies and the linguistic lapses in the material
x x x. It is a settled rule that a purchaser of real estate with
averments of the Supplement, the acts and/or the omissions that violated
knowledge of any defect or lack of title of the vendor cannot
respondents rights are fairly discernible from the records and the pleadings
claim that he has acquired title thereto in good faith as against
of the plaintiff. They more than compensate for such shortcomings.
the true owner of the land or interest therein. The same rule argue that the parties have no privity of contract. We stress that
applies to one with knowledge of facts which should have put him participation in a contract is not necessarily an element that determines the
on inquiry and investigation as might be necessary to acquaint existence of a cause of action.[49]
him with the defects in the title of his vendor. If circumstances
Having decided that the CA correctly ruled that respondent had a cause
exist that require a prudent man to investigate and he does not,
of action against petitioners, we deem it no longer necessary to take up the
he is deemed to have acted in mala fide. A partys mere refusal
to believe that a defect exists or his willful closing of his eyes to other issues. These questions deal with evidentiary facts that need to be
finally resolved by the trial court after trial on the merits.
the possibility of the existence of a defect in his vendors title will
not make him an innocent purchaser for value if it afterwards The Court must, however, emphasize the provisional nature of any
develops that the title was in fact defective. x x x.[44] ruling herein on the nature of the contract between respondent and Bunye,
Taken together, the allegations in the Complaint, the pleadings of the as we have premised such ruling only on the hypothetical admissions of
petitioners averments. Additionally, in determining that a cause of action
plaintiff and the record of the case sufficiently support a cause of action for
exists against petitioners, the Court has necessarily inquired only into the
recovery of property against petitioners. It is generally accepted that when
property belonging to a person is unlawfully or fraudulently taken by sufficiency, not the veracity, of the material allegations.[50] The truth of those
allegations, as well as petitioners defenses, can be determined only after the
another, the former has the right of action against the latter for the recovery
parties have adduced their respective sets of evidence.
of the property.[45]
WHEREFORE, the Petition is DENIED and the assailed Decision
Respondent himself recognizes that his causes of action against Bunye
and petitioners, which are subject to joinder under Section 5 of Rule 2 [46] of AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioners.
the Rules of Court, are entirely different. Notably, he stated in his SO ORDERED.
Opposition[47] to Urban Banks Motion to Dismiss that his case was one for
specific performance by Bunye and reconveyance by the Jimenezes.
Certainly, as he seeks the consummation of the Contract of Sale by Bunye,
so also must he ensure the recovery of the property, which was allegedly
wrongfully registered in petitioners name.
His averments as to Bunye are inclined to support the conclusion that
there was a breach of contract. Such breach gives rise to a cause of action
for specific performance, the remedy he has chosen as against rescission.[48]
To this effect, he contends that Bunye must be compelled to complete the
sale, to execute the Deed of Sale in accordance with the requirements of
Article 1358 of the Civil Code, and to pay him actual damages for the breach
and the circumvention of the contract. Article 1475 of the Civil Code gives
the parties to a perfected contract of sale the right to reciprocally demand
performance and to observe a particular form, if warranted.
On the other hand, respondent is not suing petitioners for contractual
breach but for a recovery of property. It is not relevant, therefore, even to
G.R. No. 174497 October 12, 2009

HEIRS OF GENEROSO SEBE AURELIA CENSERO SEBE and LYDIA SEBE,


Petitioners,
vs.
HEIRS OF VERONICO SEVILLA and TECHNOLOGY AND LIVELIHOOD
RESOURCE CENTER, Respondents.

DECISION

ABAD, J.:

This case concerns the jurisdiction of Municipal Trial Courts over actions
involving real properties with assessed values of less than ₱20,000.00.

The Facts and the Case

In this petition for review on certiorari1 petitioners seek to reverse the


Order2 dated August 8, 2006, of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Dipolog
City, Branch 9, in Civil Case 5435, for annulment of documents,
reconveyance and recovery of possession with damages. The trial court
dismissed the complaint for lack of jurisdiction over an action where the
assessed value of the properties is less than ₱20,000.00. Petitioners asked
for reconsideration3 but the court denied it.4
On August 10, 1999 plaintiff spouses Generoso and Aurelia Sebe and their The De Rivera involved the possession of a fishpond. The Supreme Court
daughter, Lydia Sebe, (the Sebes) filed with the RTC of Dipolog City 5 a there said that, since it also had to resolve the issue of the validity of the
complaint against defendants Veronico Sevilla and Technology and contracts of lease on which the opposing parties based their rights of
Livelihood Resources Center for Annulment of Document, Reconveyance possession, the case had been transformed from a mere detainer suit to one
and Recovery of Possession of two lots, which had a total assessed value of that was incapable of pecuniary estimation. Under Republic Act 296 or the
₱9,910.00, plus damages.6 On November 25, 1999 they amended their Judiciary Act of 1948, as amended, civil actions, which were incapable of
complaint7 to address a deed of confirmation of sale that surfaced in pecuniary estimation, came under the original jurisdiction of the Court of
defendant Sevilla’s Answer8 to the complaint. The Sebes claimed that they First Instance (now the RTC).18 The Sebes pointed out that, like De Rivera,
owned the subject lots but, through fraud, defendant Sevilla got them to the subject of their case was "incapable of pecuniary estimation" since they
sign documents conveying the lots to him. In his Answer 9 Sevilla insisted that asked the court, not only to resolve the dispute over possession of the lots,
he bought the lots from the Sebes in a regular manner. but also to rule on the validity of the affidavits of quitclaim, the deeds of
confirmation of sale, and the titles over the properties.19 Thus, the RTC
While the case was pending before the RTC, plaintiff Generoso Sebe died so should try the case.
his wife and children substituted him.10 Parenthetically, with defendant
Veronico Sevilla’s death in 2006, his heirs substituted him as respondents in The Copioso, on the other hand, involves the reconveyance of land the
this case.11 assessed value of which was allegedly ₱3,770.00. The Supreme Court ruled
that the case comprehended more than just the title to, possession of, or
On August 8, 2006 the RTC dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction over any interest in the real property. It sought the annulment of contracts,
the subject matter considering that the ultimate relief that the Sebes sought reconveyance or specific performance, and a claim for damages. In other
was the reconveyance of title and possession over two lots that had a total words, there had been a joinder of causes of action, some of which were
assessed value of less than ₱20,000.00. Under the law,12 said the RTC, it has incapable of pecuniary estimation. Consequently, the case properly fell
jurisdiction over such actions when the assessed value of the property within the jurisdiction of the RTC. Here, petitioners argued that their case
exceeds ₱20,000.00,13 otherwise, jurisdiction shall be with the first level had the same causes of actions and reliefs as those involved in Copioso.
courts.14 The RTC concluded that the Sebes should have filed their action Thus, the RTC had jurisdiction over their case.
with the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Dipolog City.
On August 31, 2006 the RTC denied the Sebes’s motion for reconsideration,
On August 22, 2006 the Sebes filed a motion for reconsideration. They 15 pointing out that the Copioso ruling had already been overturned by
pointed out that the RTC mistakenly classified their action as one involving Spouses Huguete v. Spouses Embudo.20 Before the Huguete, cancellation of
title to or possession of real property when, in fact, it was a case for the titles, declaration of deeds of sale as null and void and partition were actions
annulment of the documents and titles that defendant Sevilla got. Since incapable of pecuniary estimation. Now, however, the jurisdiction over
such an action for annulment was incapable of pecuniary estimation, it actions of this nature, said the RTC, depended on the valuation of the
squarely fell within the jurisdiction of the RTC as provided in Section 19 of properties. In this case, the MTC had jurisdiction because the assessed value
Batas Pambansa 129, as amended. of the lots did not exceed ₱20,000.00.

To illustrate their point, the Sebes drew parallelisms between their case and The Issue
the cases of De Rivera v. Halili16 and Copioso v. Copioso.17
The issue in this case is whether or not the Sebes’s action involving the two moral41 and exemplary damages.42 They thus asked the RTC a) to declare
lots valued at less than ₱20,000.00 falls within the jurisdiction of the RTC. void the affidavits of quitclaim and the deeds of confirmation of sale in the
case; b) to declare the Sebes as lawful owners of the two lots; c) to restore
The Court’s Ruling possession to them; and d) to order defendant Sevilla to pay them
₱140,000.00 in lost produce from June 3, 1991 to the date of the filing of the
Whether a court has jurisdiction over the subject matter of a particular complaint, ₱30,000.00 in moral damages, ₱100,000.00 in attorney’s fee,
action is determined by the plaintiff’s allegations in the complaint and the ₱30,000.00 in litigation expenses, and such amount of exemplary damages
principal relief he seeks in the light of the law that apportions the jurisdiction as the RTC might fix.43
of courts.21
Based on the above allegations and prayers of the Sebes’s complaint, the
The gist of the Sebes’s complaint is that they had been the owner for over law that applies to the action is Batas Pambansa 129, as amended. If this
40 years of two unregistered lots22 in Dampalan, San Jose, Dipolog City, case were decided under the original text of Batas Pambansa 129 or even
covered by Tax Declaration 012-239, with a total assessed value of under its predecessor, Republic Act 296, determination of the nature of the
₱9,910.00.23 On June 3, 1991 defendant Sevilla caused the Sebes to sign case as a real action would have ended the controversy. Both real actions
documents entitled affidavits of quitclaim.24 Being illiterate, they relied on and actions incapable of pecuniary estimation fell within the exclusive
Sevilla’s explanation that what they signed were "deeds of real estate original jurisdiction of the RTC.
mortgage" covering a loan that they got from him.25 And, although the
documents which turned out to be deeds conveying ownership over the two But, with the amendment of Batas Pambansa 129 by Republic Act 7601, the
lots to Sevilla for ₱10,000.0026 were notarized, the Sebes did not appear distinction between these two kinds of actions has become pivotal. The
before any notary public.27 Using the affidavits of quitclaim, defendant amendment expanded the exclusive original jurisdiction of the first level
Sevilla applied for28 and obtained free patent titles covering the two lots on courts to include real actions involving property with an assessed value of
September 23, 1991.29 Subsequently, he mortgaged the lots to defendant less than ₱20,000.00.44
Technology and Livelihood Resource Center for ₱869,555.00.30
The power of the RTC under Section 19 of Batas Pambansa 129, 45 as
On December 24, 1991 the Sebes signed deeds of confirmation of sale amended,46 to hear actions involving title to, or possession of, real property
covering the two lots.31 Upon closer examination, however, their signatures or any interest in it now covers only real properties with assessed value in
had apparently been forged.32 The Sebes were perplexed with the reason excess of ₱20,000.00. But the RTC retained the exclusive power to hear
for making them sign such documents to confirm the sale of the lots when actions the subject matter of which is not capable of pecuniary estimation.
defendant Sevilla already got titles to them as early as September. 33 At any Thus–
rate, in 1992, defendant Sevilla declared the lots for tax purposes under his
name.34 Then, using force and intimidation, he seized possession of the lots SEC. 19. Jurisdiction in Civil Cases. – Regional Trial Courts shall exercise
from their tenants35 and harvested that planting season’s yield36 of coconut exclusive original jurisdiction:
and palay worth ₱20,000.00.37
(1) In all civil actions in which the subject of the litigations is
Despite demands by the Sebes, defendant Sevilla refused to return the lots, incapable of pecuniary estimation.
forcing them to hire a lawyer38 and incur expenses of litigation.39 Further the
Sebes suffered loss of earnings over the years.40 They were also entitled to
(2) In all civil actions which involve the title to, or possession of, An action "involving title to real property" means that the plaintiff’s cause
real property, or any interest therein, where the assessed value of of action is based on a claim that he owns such property or that he has the
the property involved exceeds Twenty thousand pesos legal rights to have exclusive control, possession, enjoyment, or disposition
(₱20,000.00) or for civil actions in Metro Manila, where such value of the same.47 Title is the "legal link between (1) a person who owns
exceeds Fifty thousand pesos (₱50,000.00) except actions for property and (2) the property itself."48
forcible entry into and unlawful detainer of lands or buildings,
original jurisdiction over which is conferred upon the "Title" is different from a "certificate of title" which is the document of
Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal ownership under the Torrens system of registration issued by the
Circuit Trial Courts; x x x. government through the Register of Deeds.49 While title is the claim, right
or interest in real property, a certificate of title is the evidence of such claim.
Section 33, on the other hand provides that, if the assessed value of the real
property outside Metro Manila involved in the suit is ₱20,000.00 and below, Another way of looking at it is that, while "title" gives the owner the right to
as in this case, jurisdiction over the action lies in the first level courts. Thus— demand or be issued a "certificate of title," the holder of a certificate of title
does not necessarily possess valid title to the real property. The issuance of
SEC. 33. Jurisdiction of Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts and a certificate of title does not give the owner any better title than what he
Municipal Circuit Trial Courts in Civil Cases -- Metropolitan Trial Courts, actually has in law.50 Thus, a plaintiff’s action for cancellation or nullification
Municipal Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts shall exercise: of a certificate of title may only be a necessary consequence of the
defendant’s lack of title to real property. Further, although the certificate of
xxxx title may have been lost, burned, or destroyed and later on reconstituted,
title subsists and remains unaffected unless it is transferred or conveyed to
(3) Exclusive original jurisdiction in all civil actions which involve title to, or another or subjected to a lien or encumbrance.51
possession of, real property, or any interest therein where the assessed
value of the property or interest therein does not exceed Twenty thousand Nestled between what distinguishes a "title" from a "certificate of title" is
pesos (₱20,000.00) or, in civil actions in Metro Manila, where such assessed the present controversy between the Sebes and defendant Sevilla. Which of
value does not exceed Fifty thousand pesos (₱50,000.00) x x x. them has valid title to the two lots and would thus be legally entitled to the
certificates of title covering them?
But was the Sebes’s action one involving title to, or possession of, real
property or any interest in it or one the subject of which is incapable of The Sebes claim ownership because according to them, they never
pecuniary estimation? transferred ownership of the same to anyone. Such title, they insist, has
remained with them untouched throughout the years, excepting only that
The Sebes claim that their action is, first, for the declaration of nullity of the in 1991 they constituted a real estate mortgage over it in defendant Sevilla’s
documents of conveyance that defendant Sevilla tricked them into signing favor. The Sebes alleged that defendant Sevilla violated their right of
and, second, for the reconveyance of the certificate of title for the two lots ownership by tricking them into signing documents of absolute sale, rather
that Sevilla succeeded in getting. The subject of their action is, they than just a real estate mortgage to secure the loan that they got from him.
conclude, incapable of pecuniary estimation.1avvphi1
Assuming that the Sebes can prove that they have title to or a rightful claim
of ownership over the two lots, they would then be entitled, first, to secure
evidence of ownership or certificates of title covering the same and, second,
to possess and enjoy them. The court, in this situation, may in the exercise
of its equity jurisdiction and without ordering the cancellation of the Torrens
titles issued to defendant Sevilla, direct the latter to reconvey the two lots
and their corresponding Torrens titles to them as true owners. 52

The present action is, therefore, not about the declaration of the nullity of
the documents or the reconveyance to the Sebes of the certificates of title
covering the two lots. These would merely follow after the trial court shall
have first resolved the issue of which between the contending parties is the
lawful owner of such lots, the one also entitled to their possession. Based
on the pleadings, the ultimate issue is whether or not defendant Sevilla
defrauded the Sebes of their property by making them sign documents of
conveyance rather than just a deed of real mortgage to secure their debt to
him. The action is, therefore, about ascertaining which of these parties is the
lawful owner of the subject lots, jurisdiction over which is determined by the
assessed value of such lots.

Here, the total assessed value of the two lots subject of the suit is ₱9,910.00.
Clearly, this amount does not exceed the jurisdictional threshold value of
₱20,000.00 fixed by law. The other damages that the Sebes claim are merely
incidental to their main action and, therefore, are excluded in the
computation of the jurisdictional amount.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is DISMISSED. The Order


dated August 8, 2006, of the Regional Trial Court of Dipolog City, Branch 9,
in Civil Case 5435, is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.