FELICIDAD L. ORONCE and ROSITA L. FLAMINIANO vs. HON. COURT OF APPEALS and PRICILIANO B. GONZALES DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, G.R. No. 125766, October 19, 1998
“x x x.
In fine, had the MTC exercised its bounden duty to study the complaint, it would have dismissed the same for lack of cause of action upon a provisional ruling on the issue of ownership based on the allegations and annexes of the complaint. Or, exercising caution in handling the case, considering petitioners' bare allegations of ownership, it should have required the filing of an answer to the complaint and, having been alerted by the adverse claim of ownership over the same property, summarily looked into the issue of ownership over the property. As this Court declared in Hilario v. Court of Appeals:
It is underscored, however, that the allegations in the complaint for ejectment should sufficiently make out a case for forcible entry or unlawful detainer, as the case may be; otherwise, jurisdiction would not vest in the inferior court. Jurisdiction over the subject matter is, after all, determined by the nature of the action as alleged or pleaded in the complaint. Thus, even where the defendant alleges ownership or title to the property in his or her answer, the inferior court will not be divested of its jurisdiction. A contrary rule would pave the way for the defendant to trifle with the ejectment suit, which is summary in nature, as he could easily defeat the same through the simple expedient of asserting ownership. 40
As discussed above, even a perusal of the complaint without going over the claims of private respondent in his answer would have sufficed to arrive at a provisional determination of the issue of ownership. The importance of such provisional ruling on the issue of ownership is demanded by the fact that, in the event that the claim of the plaintiff in an ejectment case is controverted as in this case, any ruling on the right of possession would be shaky, meaningless and fraught with unsettling consequences on the property rights of the parties. After all, the right of possession must stand on a firm claim of ownership. Had the MTC made a provisional ruling on the issue of ownership, the parties would have availed of other remedies in law early on to thresh out their conflicting claims.
Private respondent's action for reformation of instrument was in fact a step in the right direction. However, its failure to pursue that action 41 did not imply that private respondent had no other remedy under the law as regards the issue of ownership over the Gilmore property. There are other legal remedies that either party could have availed of. Some of these remedies, such as an action for quieting of title, have been held to coexist with actions for unlawful detainer. 42There is a policy against multiplicity of suits but under the circumstances, only the institution of proper proceedings could settle the controversy between the parties in a definitive manner.
Hence, although the Court of Appeals resolved the appeal under the misconception that the action for reformation of instrument was still viable, it correctly held that the controversy between the parties was beyond the ordinary issues in an ejectment case. Because of the opposing claims of the parties as to the true agreement between them, the issue of ownership was in a sense a prejudicial question that needed determination before the ejectment case should have been filed. To reiterate, a decision reached in the ejectment case in favor of any of the parties would have nonetheless spawned litigation on the issue of ownership. At any rate, proceedings would have been facilitated had the inferior courts made even a provisional ruling on such issue.
The contentious circumstances surrounding the case were demonstrated by an occurrence during the pendency of this petition that cries out for the resolution of the issue of ownership over the Gilmore property.
X x x.”