Friday, August 12, 2016

Cause of action; real action vs. personal action; motion to dismiss vs. demurrer to evidence


“x x x.

A cause of action is an act or omission by which a person violates the right of another. Its essential elements are; (1) plaintiff’s right, which arises from or is created by whatever means, and is covered by whatever law; (2) defendant’s obligation not to violate such right; and, (3) defendant’s act or omission in violation of the such right and for which plaintiff’s may seek relief from defendant.⁠1 

When an action is filed, the defendant may, nevertheless, raise the issue of want of cause of action through a proper motion to dismiss, Thus, a distinction must be made between a motion to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action under Section 1(g)⁠2 of Rule 16, and the one under Rule 33⁠3 of the Rules of Court.⁠4 

In the first situation, the motion must be made before a responsive pleading is filed; and it can be resolved only on the basis of the allegations in the initiatory pleading. On the other hand, in the second instance, the motion to dismiss must be filed after the plaintiff rested his case; and it can be determined only on the basis of the evidence adduced by the plaintiff. In the first case, it is immaterial if the allegations in the complaint are true or false; however, in the second situation, the judge must determine the truth or falsity of the allegations based on the evidence presented.⁠5 

Stated differently, a motion to dismiss under Section 1(g) of Rule 16 is based on preliminary objections made before the trial while the motion to dismiss under Rule 33 is a demurrer to evidence on the ground of insufficiency of evidence, and is made only after the plaintiff rested his case.⁠6 

X x x.

In fine, the allegations in the Complaint provide that: Rosa is the owner of a residential house built on the lots owned by her children; by reason of the foreclosure of these lots, Bankcom acquired the lots and also appropriated Rosa’s house; thus, Rosa seeks recovery of damages against Bankcom.

Hypothetically admitting these allegations to be true, Rosa’s cause of action against Bancom involves a) her right over her house; b) Bankcom’s obligation to respect Rosa’s right to enjoy her house; and c) Bankcom’s violation of such right, which gave rise to this action for damages.

Notably, in granting Bankcom’s motion to dismiss, the RTC Olongapo took into consideration the arguments set forth in the motion, and ignored the assertions in the Complaint, to wit:

Bankcom acquired title and possession of the subject properties by virtue of the real estate mortgages executed by Rhodora, Pamaran and Spouses Leonardo and Rosemary P. Bernabe in favor of defendant (Bankcom), The mortgagors failed to settle their obligation; hence, defendant foreclosed the properties and was declared the’ highest bidder. The corresponding Certificates of Sale were issued in favor of defendant. Upon failure of the mortgagors to redeem their respective properties, Bankcom filed [petitions for issuance of writs of possession over the two parcels of land owned by the mortgagors, which were granted x x x and [corresponding titles were issued to Bankcom x x x Likewise, the real estate mortgages clearly provide that the subject thereof includes not only the parcels of land, but likewise ‘all the buildings and improvements now existing or may hereafter be erected or constructed thereon’. It is therefore safe to conclude that when the mortgagors executed and signed the same, they were aware that the mortgage does not pertain to the land only but also to all the buildings and improvements that may be found therein; otherwise, they should have refused x x x the contracts.⁠9 (Emphasis supplied)

Not only did the RTC Olongapo disregard the allegations in the Complaint, it also failed to consider that the Bankcom’s arguments necessitate the examination of the evidence that can be done through a full-blown trial. The determination of whether Rosa has a right over the subject house and of whether Bankcom violated this right cannot be. addressed in a. mere motion to dismiss. Such determination, requires the contravention of the allegations In the Complaint and the full adjudication of the merits of the case based on all the evidence adduced by the parties.⁠10 

In addition, the RTC supported its dismissal of the Complaint on the ground that the Complaint interfered with the jurisdiction of the RTC Muntinlupa, which had previously issued writs of possession to Bankcom. The RTC Olongapo decreed that since Rosa sought damages corresponding the value of her alleged house, she is, in effect, asking the invalidation of the writs of possession.

The position of me RTC Olongapo is unjustified.

In the Complaint, and in her Comment to Bankcom’s Affirmative Defenses, the late Rosa made it clear that this is a personal action for damages arising from Bankcom’s violation of her right to due process and equal protection; and her right to enjoy her house. She clarified that she does not question the writs issued by the RTC Muntinlupa, but she assails Bankcom’s use thereof in depriving her of the right to enjoy said house. She also stressed that since this is a personal action, then it was properly filed in RTC Olongapo, as she is a resident of Olongapo.

Section 1, Rule 4 of the Rules of Court, in relation to Section 2 thereof, defines a real action as one “affecting title to or possession of real property or interest therein;” and, all other actions are personal actions. A real action must be filed in the proper court which has jurisdiction over the subject real property, while a personal action may be filed where the plaintiff or defendant resides, or if the defendant is a non-resident, where he may be found, at the election of the plaintiff. Personal actions include those filed for recovery of personal property, or for enforcement of contract or recovery of damages for its breach, or for the recovery of damages for injury committed to a person or property.⁠11 

The Complaint (specifically allegations nos. 3 and 16 thereof) stated that this case is one for recovery of damages relating to the injury committed by Bankcom for violating Rosa’s right to due process, and right to enjoy her house. Rosa repeatedly averred that she does not seek recovery of its possession or title. Her interest to the house is merely incidental to the primary purpose for which the action is filed, that is, her claim for damages.

Clearly, this action involves Rosa’s interest in the value of the house but only in so far as to determine her entitlement to damages. She is not interested in the house itself. Indeed, the primary objective of the Complaint is to recover damages, and not to regain ownership or possession of the subject property.⁠12 Hence, this case is a personal action properly filed in the RTC Olongapo, where Rosa resided.

Finally, this action does not interfere with the jurisdiction of the RTC Muntinlupa. One, the nature of this action, which is for damages, is different from the petition before the RTC Muntinlupa, which is for issuance of writs of possession. Two, the laws relied upon in these actions vary; this damage suit is based on Rosa’s reliance on her right emanating from Article 32⁠13 of the Civil Code; while Bankcom’s Petition is pursuant to Act No. 3135,⁠14 as amended.

Third, this case involves a claim arising from Bankcom’s alleged violation of Rosa’s right to due process, and to the enjoyment of her house. On the other hand, the one for issuance of writs of possession involves Bankcom’s application to be placed in possession of the subject properties. Last, as already discussed, the former is a personal action while the latter is a real action affecting title to and possession of a real property.

Given these, the RTC erred in dismissing the Complaint on the grounds of lack of cause of action, and of improper venue.

X x x.”