G.R. No. 193809, March 23, 2015, SATURNINO NOVECIO, et. al. VS. HON. RODRIGO F. LIM, JR., et. al.
(THE LAWYER'S POST).
“X x x.
We note at the outset that the petition merely assails the interlocutory orders of the CA. Thus, the remedy of certiorari under Rule 65 is appropriate as the assailed resolutions are not appealable and there is no plain, speedy or adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.
Our decision in this case is without prejudice to the Petition for Review pending in the CA. Our judgment is limited to the resolutions of the C A denying the prayer for the issuance of a preliminary injunction.
Subject to this clarification, we find that the CA committed grave abuse of discretion when it denied the injunctive relief prayed for by the petitioners.
There is grave abuse of discretion when an act is (1) done contrary to the Constitution, the law or jurisprudence or (2) executed whimsically, capriciously or arbitrarily, out of malice, ill will or personal bias.
X x x.
Section 3, Rule 58 of the Rules of Court provides that a preliminary injunction may be granted when the following have been established:
1. That the applicant is entitled to the relief demanded, and the whole or part of such relief consist in restraining the commission or continuance of the act or acts complained of, or in requiring the performance of an act or acts, either for a limited period or perpetually;
2. That the commission, continuance or non-performance of the act or acts complained of during the litigation would probably work injustice to the applicant; or
3. That a party, court, agency or a person is doing, threatening, or is attempting to do, or is procuring or suffering to be done some act or acts probably in violation of the rights of the applicant respecting the subject of the action or proceeding, and tending to render the judgment ineffectual.
A preliminary injunction is proper when the plaintiff appears to be clearly entitled to the relief sought and has substantial interest in the right sought to be defended. As this Court has previously ruled, “while the existence of the right need not be conclusively established, it must be clear.”
A writ of preliminary injunction is generally based solely on initial or incomplete evidence. Such evidence need only be a sampling intended merely to give the court an evidence of justification for a preliminary injunction pending the decision on the merits of the case, and is not conclusive of the principal action which has yet to be decided.4
In a prayer for preliminary injunction, the plaintiff is not required to submit conclusive and complete evidence. He is only required to show that he has an ostensible right to the final relief prayed for in his complaint.
In this case, the petitioners have adequately shown their entitlement to a preliminary injunction. First, the relief demanded consists in restraining the execution of the RTC decision ordering their ejectment from the disputed land. Second, their ejectment from the land from which they derive their source of livelihood would work injustice to the petitioners. Finally, the execution of the RTC decision is probably in violation of the rights of the petitioners, tending to render the MTC judgment dismissing the forcible entry cases ineffectual.
Moreover, the court in granting or dismissing an application for a writ of preliminary injunction based on the pleadings of the parties and their respective evidence must state in its order the findings and conclusions based on the evidence and the law. This is to enable the appellate court to determine whether the trial court committed grave abuse of its discretion amounting to excess or lack of jurisdiction in resolving, one way or the other, the plea for injunctive relief.
Thus, we do not understand why the CA denied the prayer for preliminary injunction without citing any legal or factual basis for the denial. The CA resolution provides: “[We] find [the] petitioners not entitled to the relief demanded under Rule 58 of the Revised Rules of Civil Procedure.”
Neither does the resolution denying the petitioners’ Motion for Reconsideration contain any factual and legal bases for the denial. It only provides that “[u]pon careful evaluation of the petitioners’ Motion, We find no cogent and compelling reasons to warrant reversal of Our Resolution.”
We therefore have no idea why and how the CA came to the conclusion that the petitioners are not entitled to the injunctive relief. Hence, we are forced to go beyond the function of a certiorari under Rule 65 and examine the factual findings of the MTC and the RTC.
The MTC found that the petitioners have been in actual and physical possession of the land for more than two (2) years prior to the institution of the complaints for forcible entry. The MTC also found that the respondents were not even sure how the petitioners entered the land. In their complaints, they alleged that petitioners entered the land by means of “force, intimidation, threat, stealth and strategy,” a shotgun allegation which shows that respondents’ lack knowledge of how the petitioners entered the disputed property.
We quote the MTC decision with approval, viz:
xxx Force, intimidation[,] and threat usually connote actual knowledge of dispossession. One cannot force, intimidate or threaten another who is not around. In stealth and strategy[,] the actual entry is usually done without the knowledge of the plaintiff. If they are not sure how [the] defendants entered the land[,] the likelihood is that they also do not know when [the] defendants] entered the land. The court is apt to believe that [the] defendants have been in possession of the land for more than 2 years. And under Rule 70[,] the action of forcible entry must be filed within one year from dispossession. The filing of these cases was beyond the one-year period8.
The RTC, on the other hand, relied on a mere request for authority to conduct a land survey, allegedly showing that respondent Manuel V. Nieto was the occupant and tiller of the land.
However, this document does not prove prior possession of the subject land. It only points to the fact that there was an application for a land title in the name of one of the respondents, which application was not even shown to have been granted. This document merely authorized the survey of the land; the declaration regarding possession was just incidental to the application for land survey.
Between the clear findings of the MTC, which conducted the trial of the forcible entry cases, and the RTC acting as an appellate court, which relied on documentary evidence but without sufficiently explaining how such evidence would prove prior possession, we are inclined to give weight to the MTC’s ruling.
This Court has held:
xxx The Court generally recognizes the profundity of conclusions and findings of facts reached by the trial court and hence sustains them on appeal except for strong and cogent reasons inasmuch as the trial court is in a better position to examine real evidence and observe the demeanor of witnesses in a case. No clear specific contrary evidence was cited by the respondent appellate court to justify the reversal of the lower court’s findings. Thus, in this case, between the factual findings of the trial court and the appellate court, those of the trial court must prevail over that of the latter.9
Under this factual backdrop, we conclude that the CA committed grave abuse of discretion when it denied the prayer for preliminary injunction without explanation and justification.
We ought to remember that the grant of preliminary injunction would have only been provisional and would not be conclusively determinative of the principal action. The issuance of the writ would have served its purpose, i.e., to preserve the status quo or to prevent future wrongs in order to preserve and protect the interests of the petitioners during the pendency of the action.
X x x.”