Saturday, August 1, 2015

When to hold the ejectment proceedings in abeyance until after a determination of the administrative case

RTC JUDGE CAMILO E. TAMIN, Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 23, Molave, Zamboanga del Sur and the MUNICIPALITY OF DUMINGAG, ZAMBOANGA DEL SUR; represented by MAYOR DOMICIANO E. REAL vs.COURT OF APPEALS, VICENTE MEDINA and FORTUNATA ROSELLON, G.R. No. 97477, May 8, 1992

“x x x.

Considering therefore, the nature and purpose of the Cadastral proceedings, the outcome of said proceedings becomes a prejudicial question which must be addressed in the resolution of the instant case. We apply by analogy the ruling in the case of Quiambao v. Osorio (158 SCRA 674 [1988]), to wit:

The instant controversy boils down to the sole question of whether or not the administrative case between the private parties involving the lot subject matter of the ejectment case constitutes a prejudicial question which would operate as a bar to said ejectment case.

A prejudicial question is understood in law to be that which arises in a case the resolution of which is a logical antecedent of the issue involved in said case and the cognizance of which pertains to another tribunal. (Zapanta v. Montesa, 4 SCRA 510 [1962]; People v. Aragon, 50 O.G. No. 10, 4863) The doctrine of prejudicial question comes as in to play generally in a situation where civil and criminal actions are pending and the issues involved in bath cases are similar or so closely-related that an issue must be pre-emptively resolved in the civil case before the criminal action can proceed. Thus, the existence it a prejudicial question in a civil case is alleged in the criminal case to cause the suspension of the latter pending final determination of the former.

The essential elements of a prejudicial question as provided under Section 5, Rule 111 of the Revised Rules of Court area: [a] the civil action involves an issue similar or intimately related to the issue in the criminal action; and [b] the resolution of such issue determines whether or not the criminal action may proceed.

The actions involved in the case at bar being respectively civil and administrative in character, it is obvious that technically, there is no prejudicial question to speak of. Equally apparent, however, is the intimate correlation between said two [2] proceedings, stemming from the fact that the right of private respondents to eject petitioner from the disputed portion depends primarily on the resolution of the pending administrative case. For while it may be true that private respondents had prior possession of the lot in question, at the time of the institution of the ejectment case, such right of possession had been terminated, or at the very least, suspended by the cancellation by the Land Authority of the Agreement to Sell executed in their favor. Whether or not private respondents can continue to exercise their right of possession is but a necessary, logical consequence of the issue involved in the pending administrative case assailing the validity of the cancellation of the Agreement to Sell and the subsequent award of the disputed portion to petitioner. If the cancellation of the agreement, to Sell and the subsequent award to petitioner are voided, then private respondent's right of possession is lost and so would their right to eject petitioner from said portion.

Faced with these distinct possibilities, the more prudent course for the trial court to have taken is to hold the ejectment proceedings in abeyance until after a determination of the administrative case. Indeed, logic and pragmatism, if not jurisprudence, dictate such move. To allow the parties to undergo trial notwithstanding the possibility of petitioner's right of possession being upheld in the pending administrative case is to needlessly require not only the parties but the court as well to expend time, effort in what may turn out to be a sheer exercise in futility. Thus, 1 Am Jur 2d tells us:

The court in which an action is pending may, in the exercise of a sound discretion, upon proper application for a stay of that action, hold the action in abeyance to abide the outcome of another pending in another court, especially where the parties and the issues are the same, for there is power inherent in every court to control the disposition of causes an its dockets with economy of time and effort for itself, for counsel, and for litigants. Where the rights of parties in the record action cannot be properly determined until the questions raised in the first action are settled the second action should be stayed.
While this rule is properly applicable to instances involving two [2] court actions, the existence in the instant case of the same considerations of identity of parties and issues, economy of time and effort for the court, the counsels and the parties as well as the need to resolve the parties' right of possession before the ejectment case may be properly determined, justifies the rule's analogous application to the case at bar.

Technically, a prejudicial question shall not rise in the instant case since the two actions involved are both civil in nature. However, we have to consider the fact that the cadastral proceedings will ultimately settle the real owner/s of the disputed parcel of land. In case respondent Vicente Medina is adjudged the real owner of the parcel of land, then the writ of possession and writ of demolition would necessarily be null and void. Not only that. The demolition of the constructions in the parcel of land would prove truly unjust to the private respondents.

Parenthetically, the issuance of the writ of possession and writ of demolition by the petitioner Judge in the ejectment proceedings was premature. What the petitioner should have done was to stop the proceedings in the instant case and wait for the final outcome of the cadastral proceedings.

X x x.”