Sunday, August 2, 2015

Prejudicial question; when not appreciated in ejectment case

RESTITUTO M. SIBAL vs. GREGORIO T. LANTIN, in his capacity as Presiding Judge of the Court of First Instance of Manila, Branch VII, THE SPOUSES LORENZO & INOCENCIA VALDEZ, ET AL., G.R. No. L-20920, December 18, 1968

“x x x.

The sublessees argue that the issues therein are, also, raised in CFI Case No. 51476, which was filed before the ejectment cases, and that a determination of the issue in CFI Case No. 51476 is a "prejudicial" question. This pretense is untenable, both as to its premise and as to the conclusion drawn therefrom. Indeed:

(1) The parties in CFI Case No. 51476 are Valleson, on the one hand, and Sibal and Guison, on the other. The sublessees are not parties therein, in much the same way as Valleson is not a party in the ejectment cases.

(2) The issue in CFI Case No. 51476 is: To whom did Guison lease the Angela Building under the first contract oflease, to Sibal or to Valleson? The issue in the ejectment cases is: who subleased portions of said building to the sublessees — was it Sibal or Valleson? Guison is absolutely alien to this issue. CFI Case No. 51476 deals with thelease, whereas the ejectment cases are concerned with the subleases.

(3) Not being parties in CFI Case No. 51476, whatever may be the decision therein rendered would not bind the sublessees.

(4) The right of Sibal to eject the sublessees does not depend necessarily upon his being Guison's lessee. Even a usurper — as regards the owner of land — may seek the ejectment of those who, having obtained possession thereof by agreement with the former, refuse to surrender it to him, after the expiration of the term of said agreement.

(5) The defense set up by the sublessees in the ejectment cases impugns Sibal's cause of action, and does not affect the jurisdiction of the municipal court to hear and decide said cases.

(6) The term of the first contract of lease has admittedly expired, so that, even if Sibal had made it on behalf of Valleson — which is denied by Sibal and
Guison — Valleson's alleged right of lease had already been extinguished. It is not true that said contract gave the lessee the right to renew it under the same terms and conditions stipulated therein. The contract provided that it was "to be renewed only upon agreement of both parties," which means that the lessee could not renew the contract without the lessor's consent. The record further shows that Valleson and Guison could not agree on said renewal, and that, accordingly, Guison executed the second contract of lease in favor of Sibal.

(7) The first and the second contracts of lease appear on the face thereof, to have been made by Sibal, in his ownbehalf, not in representation of another. This circumstance is bolstered up by two (2) facts, namely: (a) Guison, the lessor, confirms it; and (b) the first contract was made on September 4, 1955, or coetaneously with the "Contract of Transfer of Management", between Valleson, Sibal and Guison. Thus, the acts performed by the parties at the time of the execution of said contract of transfer of management bolster up the position taken by Sibal and Guison in CFI Cases Nos. 51476 and 52866. In short, the records of both show that Sibal and Guison are prima facie right, so that, if any abuse of discretion was committed, it was not by Judge Cornejo in setting the ejectment cases for hearing, but by Judge Lantin, in issuing his order of January 31, 1963, authorizing the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction to restrain Judge Cornejo from proceeding with the hearing and determination of said ejectment cases.

Inasmuch as Judge Cornejo had, not only authority to hear and decide the ejectment cases, but, also, exclusivejurisdiction therefor, and there had been no abuse of discretion on his part, in setting those cases for hearing, it follows necessarily that, prima facie, the sublessees were not entitled to the writ of certiorari and/or prohibition applied for in CFI Case No. 52866 and that a grave abuse of discretion, amounting to excess of jurisdiction, had been committed by respondent Judge Lantin in issuing his order of January 31, 1963, authorizing the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction against Judge Cornejo, and in actually issuing said writ on February 1, 1963.4

X x x.”