Monday, January 17, 2011

Subdivision house and lot buyers; protections under PD 957; rule on mortgaged subdivision units.

G.R. No. 168646

G.R. No. 168666, January 12, 2011.


x x x.

The following are the issues raised by the two petitions:

1. Whether the Contract to Sell conveys ownership;

2. Whether the dacion en pago extinguished the loan obligation, such that DELTA has no more obligations to the BANK;

3. Whether the BANK is entitled to damages and attorney’s fees for being compelled to litigate; and

4. What is the effect of Enriquez’s failure to appeal the OP’s Decision regarding her obligation to pay the balance on the purchase price.

Our Ruling

Mortgage contract void

As the HLURB Arbiter and Board of Commissioners both found, DELTA violated Section 18 of PD 957 in mortgaging the properties in Delta Homes I (including Lot 4) to the BANK without prior clearance from the HLURB. This point need not be belabored since the parties have chosen not to appeal the administrative fine imposed on DELTA for violation of Section 18.

This violation of Section 18 renders the mortgage executed by DELTA void. We have held before that “a mortgage contract executed in breach of Section 18 of [PD 957] is null and void.”[61] Considering that “PD 957 aims to protect innocent subdivision lot and condominium unit buyers against fraudulent real estate practices,” we have construed Section 18 thereof as “prohibitory and acts committed contrary to it are void.”[62]

Because of the nullity of the mortgage, neither DELTA nor the BANK could assert any right arising therefrom. The BANK’s loan of P8 million to DELTA has effectively become unsecured due to the nullity of the mortgage. The said loan, however, was eventually settled by the two contracting parties via a dation in payment. In the appealed Decision, the CA invalidated this dation in payment on the ground that DELTA, by previously entering into a Contract to Sell, had already conveyed its ownership over Lot 4 to Enriquez and could no longer convey the same to the BANK. This is error, prescinding from a wrong understanding of the nature of a contract to sell.

Contract to sell does not transfer ownership

Both parties are correct in arguing that the Contract to Sell executed by DELTA in favor of Enriquez did not transfer ownership over Lot 4 to Enriquez. A contract to sell is one where the prospective seller reserves the transfer of title to the prospective buyer until the happening of an event, such as full payment of the purchase price. What the seller obliges himself to do is to sell the subject property only when the entire amount of the purchase price has already been delivered to him. “In other words, the full payment of the purchase price partakes of a suspensive condition, the non-fulfillment of which prevents the obligation to sell from arising and thus, ownership is retained by the prospective seller without further remedies by the prospective buyer.”[63] It does not, by itself, transfer ownership to the buyer.[64]

In the instant case, there is nothing in the provisions of the contract entered into by DELTA and Enriquez that would exempt it from the general definition of a contract to sell. The terms thereof provide for the reservation of DELTA’s ownership until full payment of the purchase price; such that DELTA even reserved the right to unilaterally void the contract should Enriquez fail to pay three successive monthly amortizations.

Since the Contract to Sell did not transfer ownership of Lot 4 to Enriquez, said ownership remained with DELTA. DELTA could then validly transfer such ownership (as it did) to another person (the BANK). However, the transferee BANK is bound by the Contract to Sell and has to respect Enriquez’s rights thereunder. This is because the Contract to Sell, involving a subdivision lot, is covered and protected by PD 957. One of the protections afforded by PD 957 to buyers such as Enriquez is the right to have her contract to sell registered with the Register of Deeds in order to make it binding on third parties. Thus, Section 17 of PD 957 provides:

Section 17. Registration. All contracts to sell, deeds of sale, and other similar instruments relative to the sale or conveyance of the subdivision lots and condominium units, whether or not the purchase price is paid in full, shall be registered by the seller in the Office of the Register of Deeds of the province or city where the property is situated.

x x x x (Emphasis supplied.)

The purpose of registration is to protect the buyers from any future unscrupulous transactions involving the object of the sale or contract to sell, whether the purchase price therefor has been fully paid or not. Registration of the sale or contract to sell makes it binding on third parties; it serves as a notice to the whole world that the property is subject to the prior right of the buyer of the property (under a contract to sell or an absolute sale), and anyone who wishes to deal with the said property will be held bound by such prior right.

While DELTA, in the instant case, failed to register Enriquez’s Contract to Sell with the Register of Deeds, this failure will not prejudice Enriquez or relieve the BANK from its obligation to respect Enriquez’s Contract to Sell. Despite the non-registration, the BANK cannot be considered, under the circumstances, an innocent purchaser for value of Lot 4 when it accepted the latter (together with other assigned properties) as payment for DELTA’s obligation. The BANK was well aware that the assigned properties, including Lot 4, were subdivision lots and therefore within the purview of PD 957. It knew that the loaned amounts were to be used for the development of DELTA’s subdivision project, for this was indicated in the corresponding promissory notes. The technical description of Lot 4 indicates its location, which can easily be determined as included within the subdivision development. Under these circumstances, the BANK knew or should have known of the possibility and risk that the assigned properties were already covered by existing contracts to sell in favor of subdivision lot buyers. As observed by the Court in another case involving a bank regarding a subdivision lot that was already subject of a contract to sell with a third party:

[The Bank] should have considered that it was dealing with a property subject of a real estate development project. A reasonable person, particularly a financial institution x x x, should have been aware that, to finance the project, funds other than those obtained from the loan could have been used to serve the purpose, albeit partially. Hence, there was a need to verify whether any part of the property was already intended to be the subject of any other contract involving buyers or potential buyers. In granting the loan, [the Bank] should not have been content merely with a clean title, considering the presence of circumstances indicating the need for a thorough investigation of the existence of buyers x x x. Wanting in care and prudence, the [Bank] cannot be deemed to be an innocent mortgagee. x x x[65]

Further, as an entity engaged in the banking business, the BANK is required to observe more care and prudence when dealing with registered properties. The Court cannot accept that the BANK was unaware of the Contract to Sell existing in favor of Enriquez. In Keppel Bank Philippines, Inc. v. Adao,[66] we held that a bank dealing with a property that is already subject of a contract to sell and is protected by the provisions of PD 957, is bound by the contract to sell (even if the contract to sell in that case was not registered). In the Court’s words:

It is true that persons dealing with registered property can rely solely on the certificate of title and need not go beyond it. However, x x x, this rule does not apply to banks. Banks are required to exercise more care and prudence than private individuals in dealing even with registered properties for their business is affected with public interest. As master of its business, petitioner should have sent its representatives to check the assigned properties before signing the compromise agreement and it would have discovered that respondent was already occupying one of the condominium units and that a contract to sell existed between [the vendee] and [the developer]. In our view, petitioner was not a purchaser in good faith and we are constrained to rule that petitioner is bound by the contract to sell.[67]

Bound by the terms of the Contract to Sell, the BANK is obliged to respect the same and honor the payments already made by Enriquez for the purchase price of Lot 4. Thus, the BANK can only collect the balance of the purchase price from Enriquez and has the obligation, upon full payment, to deliver to Enriquez a clean title over the subject property.[68]

Dacion en pago extinguished the loan obligation

The BANK then posits that, if title to Lot 4 is ordered delivered to Enriquez, DELTA has the obligation to pay the BANK the corresponding value of Lot 4. According to the BANK, the dation in payment extinguished the loan only to the extent of the value of the thing delivered. Since Lot 4 would have no value to the BANK if it will be delivered to Enriquez, DELTA would remain indebted to that extent.

We are not persuaded. Like in all contracts, the intention of the parties to the dation in payment is paramount and controlling. The contractual intention determines whether the property subject of the dation will be considered as the full equivalent of the debt and will therefore serve as full satisfaction for the debt. “The dation in payment extinguishes the obligation to the extent of the value of the thing delivered, either as agreed upon by the parties or as may be proved, unless the parties by agreement, express or implied, or by their silence, consider the thing as equivalent to the obligation, in which case the obligation is totally extinguished.”[69]

In the case at bar, the Dacion en Pago executed by DELTA and the BANK indicates a clear intention by the parties that the assigned properties would serve as full payment for DELTA’s entire obligation:


This instrument, made and executed by and between:

x x x x

THAT, the ASSIGNOR acknowledges to be justly indebted to the ASSIGNEE in the sum of ELEVEN MILLION EIGHT HUNDRED SEVENTY-EIGHT THOUSAND EIGHT HUNDRED PESOS (P11,878,800.00), Philippine Currency as of August 25, 1998. Therefore, by virtue of this instrument, ASSIGNOR hereby ASSIGNS, TRANSFERS, and CONVEYS AND SETS OVER [TO] the ASSIGNEE that real estate with the building and improvements existing thereon, more particularly described as follows:

x x x x

of which the ASSIGNOR is the registered owner being evidenced by TCT No. x x x issued by the Registry of Deeds of Trece Martires City.

THAT, the ASSIGNEE does hereby accept this ASSIGNMENT IN PAYMENT OF THE TOTAL OBLIGATION owing to him by the ASSIGNOR as above-stated;[70]

Without any reservation or condition, the Dacion stated that the assigned properties served as full payment of DELTA’s “total obligation” to the BANK. The BANK accepted said properties as equivalent of the loaned amount and as full satisfaction of DELTA’s debt. The BANK cannot complain if, as it turned out, some of those assigned properties (such as Lot 4) are covered by existing contracts to sell. As noted earlier, the BANK knew that the assigned properties were subdivision lots and covered by PD 957. It was aware of the nature of DELTA’s business, of the location of the assigned properties within DELTA’s subdivision development, and the possibility that some of the properties may be subjects of existing contracts to sell which enjoy protection under PD 957. Banks dealing with subdivision properties are expected to conduct a thorough due diligence review to discover the status of the properties they deal with. It may thus be said that the BANK, in accepting the assigned properties as full payment of DELTA’s “total obligation,” has assumed the risk that some of the assigned properties (such as Lot 4) are covered by contracts to sell which it is bound to honor under PD 957.

A dacion en pago is governed by the law of sales.[71] Contracts of sale come with warranties, either express (if explicitly stipulated by the parties) or implied (under Article 1547 et seq. of the Civil Code). In this case, however, the BANK does not even point to any breach of warranty by DELTA in connection with the Dation in Payment. To be sure, the Dation in Payment has no express warranties relating to existing contracts to sell over the assigned properties. As to the implied warranty in case of eviction, it is waivable[72] and cannot be invoked if the buyer knew of the risks or danger of eviction and assumed its consequences.[73] As we have noted earlier, the BANK, in accepting the assigned properties as full payment of DELTA’s “total obligation,” has assumed the risk that some of the assigned properties are covered by contracts to sell which must be honored under PD 957.

x x x

Balance to be paid by Enriquez

As already mentioned, the Contract to Sell in favor of Enriquez must be respected by the BANK. Upon Enriquez’s full payment of the balance of the purchase price, the BANK is bound to deliver the title over Lot 4 to her. As to the amount of the balance which Enriquez must pay, we adopt the OP’s ruling thereon which sustained the amount stipulated in the Contract to Sell. We will not review Enriquez’s initial claims about the supposed violation of the price ceiling in BP 220, since this issue was no longer pursued by the parties, not even by Enriquez, who chose not to file the required pleadings[76] before the Court. The parties were informed in the Court’s September 5, 2007 Resolution that issues that are not included in their memoranda shall be deemed waived or abandoned. Since Enriquez did not file a memorandum in either petition, she is deemed to have waived the said issue.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appealed November 30, 2004 Decision of the Court of Appeals, as well as its June 22, 2005 Resolution in CA-G.R. SP No. 81280 are hereby AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATIONS that Delta Development and Management Services, Inc. is NOT LIABLE TO PAY Luzon Development Bank the value of the subject lot; and respondent Angeles Catherine Enriquez is ordered to PAY the balance of the purchase price and the interests accruing thereon, as decreed by the Court of Appeals, to the Luzon Development Bank, instead of Delta Development and Management Services, Inc., within thirty (30) days from finality of this Decision. The Luzon Development Bank is ordered to DELIVER a CLEAN TITLE to Angeles Catherine Enriquez upon the latter’s full payment of the balance of the purchase price and the accrued interests.


Administrative complaint against judges/justices and court personnel; formalities.

A.M. OCA IPI No. 08-127-CA-J

A.M. OCA IPI No. 08-127-CA-J
January 11, 20111


x x x.

After an assiduous study of the parties’ allegations and counter-allegations, with due consideration of the documents they submitted to bolster their respective positions, the Court is constrained to dismiss the instant case for being unsubstantiated.

Both the letter-complaints of April 30, 2008 and June 18, 2008 are unverified, while the June 3, 2010 Omnibus Reply and Manifestation of complainants is not under oath. It must be noted that most of the complainants are lawyers, and are presumed and ought to know the formal requirement of verification for administrative complaints as stated under Section 1, Rule 140:

SECTION 1. How instituted.¾Proceedings for the discipline of Judges of regular and special courts and Justices of the Court of Appeals and the Sandiganbayan may be instituted motu proprio by the Supreme Court or upon a verified complaint, supported by affidavits of persons who have personal knowledge of the facts alleged therein or by documents which may substantiate their allegations, or upon an anonymous complaint, supported by public records of indubitable integrity. The complaint shall be in writing and shall state clearly and concisely the acts and omissions constituting violations of standards of conduct prescribed for Judges by law, the Rules of Court, or the Code of Judicial Conduct. (Emphasis supplied.)

The above rule provides three ways by which administrative proceedings against judges may be instituted: (1) motu proprio by the Supreme Court; (2) upon verified complaint with affidavits of persons having personal knowledge of the facts alleged therein or by documents which may substantiate said allegations; or (3) upon an anonymous complaint supported by public records of indubitable integrity.[21]

Indeed, complainants not only failed to execute a verified complaint but also never submitted their affidavits showing personal knowledge of the allegations embodied in their letter-complaints. To cover this procedural deficiency, they assert that the Court properly recognized their letter-complaints as an anonymous complaint, relying on Sinsuat v. Hidalgo.[22]

In Sinsuat, the Court took cognizance of the unverified motion and subsequent letters of complainants submitted to the Office of the Court Administrator as an anonymous complaint, since therein respondent Judge Hidalgo admitted complainants’ material allegations and “the motion and letters sufficiently averred the specific acts upon which respondent’s alleged administrative liability was anchored. And the averments are verifiable from the records of the trial court and the CA’s Decision.”[23] In short, the unverified complaint was properly considered as an anonymous complaint, since the material allegations were not only admitted by respondent judge but are also verifiable from public records of indubitable integrity, i.e., records of the trial court, as aptly found by the CA.

This is not the case in this instant. Complainants’ reliance on Sinsuat is misplaced. For one, even a passing perusal of the Comment and Supplemental Comment does not show respondent Justice Elbinias admitting the allegations in the letter-complaints. For another, the averments and material allegations of complainants are neither verifiable from public records of indubitable integrity nor supported or substantiated by other competent evidence submitted by complainants.

The formal faux pas of complainants could have been remedied by the submission under oath of their subsequent pleadings, particularly the Omnibus Reply, where they traversed the points and defenses raised by respondent vis-à-vis their allegations. And they could have appended thereto their respective affidavits attesting to their personal knowledge of the facts of their material allegations. But, as it is, complainants chose not to place their Omnibus Reply under oath, much less submitted their affidavits. Verily, after receiving copies of respondent’s Comment and Supplemental Comment, they had ample opportunity but chose not to correct the deficiencies of their complaints while submitting the instant case for resolution based on the pleadings filed sans their affidavits.

x x x.

In Anonymous Complaint against Pershing T. Yared, Sheriff III, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Canlaon City, this Court reiterated the rule pertaining to anonymous complaints, thus:

At the outset, the Court stresses that an anonymous complaints is always received with great caution, originating as it does from an unknown author. However, a complaint of such sort does not always justify its outright dismissal for being baseless or unfounded for such complaint may be easily verified and may, without much difficulty, be substantiated and established by other competent evidence.[27] (Emphasis supplied.)

In the instant case, the charges of Gross Inefficiency; Bribe Solicitation; Drinking Liquor in Office Premises; Personal Use of Government Property and Resources; Falsification of a Favored Employee’s Daily Time Record; Disrespect Towards fellow Justices; Oppression through Intemperate, Oppressive and Threatening Language; and Grave Abuse of Authority are neither supported by public records nor substantiated by competent evidence.

Public records do not support any of the allegations. The incident involving Engr. Rowell T. Magalang, Administrative Officer, Maintenance and Utility Unit of the CA Mindanao – Station merely shows a misunderstanding between respondent and the engineer concerned.[28] As regards those of complainants Roxas and Abugho relative to their unauthorized absence on March 19, 2008, it is embodied in the letter[29] of even date by Justice Elbinias to the Personnel Officer of the CA Mindanao – Station, Ruby Jane B. Rivera, which evidently shows what it is. Complainants allege the nastiness of respondent in marking absent Abugho and Roxas that day even if they were present, only on account of their going out of the office for a few minutes to buy food. Respondent counters that both were absent and not around when he looked for them on March 19, 2008, as he would not have informed the CA Personnel Officer if it were not so. Since the utility worker and the driver are expected to be at the office during office hours, then it is logical that if they were not around, then they could not be present.

It is well-settled that in administrative proceedings, the burden of proof that respondent committed the acts complained of rests on the complainant.[30] In the instant case, complainants have not shown, much less submitted, substantial evidence supporting their allegations.

x x x.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Proclamation No. 75 | Official Gazette of the Philippines

Proclamation No. 75 | Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines

Proclamation No. 75


WHEREAS, it is recognized that certain active and former personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and their supporters have or may have committed crimes punishable under the Revised Penal Code, the Articles of War and other laws in connection with, in relation or incident to the July 27, 2003 Oakwood Mutiny, the February 2006 Marines Stand-Off and the November 29, 2007 Manila Pen Incident;

WHEREAS, there is a clamor from certain sectors of society urging the President to extend amnesty to said AFP personnel and their supporters;

WHEREAS, Section 19, Article VII of the Constitution expressly vests the President the power to grant amnesty;

WHEREAS, the grant of amnesty in favor of the said active and former personnel of the AFP and PNP and their supporters will promote an atmosphere conducive to the attainment of a just, comprehensive and enduring peace and is in line with the Government’s peace and reconciliation initiatives;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BENIGNO S. AQUINO III, President of the Philippines, by virtue of the powers vested in me by Section 19, Article VII of the Philippine Constitution, do hereby DECLARE and PROCLAIM:

SECTION 1. Grant of Amnesty. – Amnesty is hereby granted to all active and former personnel of the AFP and PNP as well as their supporters who have or may have committed crimes punishable under the Revised Penal Code, the Articles of War or other laws in connection with, in relation or incident to the July 27, 2003 Oakwood Mutiny, the February 2006 Marines Stand-Off and the November 29, 2007 Manila Peninsula Incident who shall apply therefor; Provided that amnesty shall not cover rape, acts of torture, crimes against chastity and other crimes committed for personal ends.

SECTION 2. Where to Apply. – The concerned AFP and PNP personnel and their supporters may apply for amnesty under this Proclamation with the ad hoc committee Department of National Defense (DND) which is hereby tasked with receiving and processing applications – including oppositions thereto, if any – for amnesty pursuant to this proclamation and determining whether the applicants are entitled to amnesty pursuant to this proclamation. The final decisions or determination of the DND shall be appealable to the Office of the President by any party to the application. The decision, however, shall be immediately executory even if appealed.

SECTION 3. Period of Application. – Applications for the grant of amnesty under this proclamation shall be filed under oath with the DND within a period of ninety (90) days following the date of the publication of this proclamation in two (2) newspapers of general circulation as concurred in by a majority of all members in Congress. The DND shall forthwith act on the same with dispatch.

SECTION 4. Effects. –

(a) Amnesty pursuant to this proclamation shall extinguish any criminal liability for acts committed in connection, incident or related to the July 27, 2003 Oakwood Mutiny, the February 2006 Marines Stand-Off and the November 29, 2007 Peninsula Manila Hotel Incident without prejudice to the grantee’s civil liability for injuries or damages caused to private persons.

(b) Except as provided below, the grant of amnesty shall effect the restoration of civil and political rights or entitlement of grantees that may have been suspended, lost or adversely affected by virtue of any executive, administrative or criminal action or proceedings against the grantee in connection with the subject incidents, including criminal conviction or any form, if any.

(c) All enlisted personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines with the rank of up to Technical Sergeant and personnel of the PNP with the rank of up to Senior Police Officer 3, whose applications for amnesty would be approved shall be entitled to reintegration or reinstatement, subject to existing laws and regulations. However, they shall not be entitled to back pay during the time they have been discharged or suspended from service or unable to perform their military or police duties.

(d) Commissioned and Non-commissioned officers of the AFP with the rank of Master Sergeant and personnel of the PNP with the rank of at least Senior Police Officer 4 whose application for amnesty will be approved shall not be entitled to remain in the service, reintegration or reinstatement into the service nor back pay.

(e) All AFP and PNP personnel granted amnesty who are not reintegrated or reinstated shall be entitled to retirement and separation benefits, if qualified under existing laws and regulation, as of the time separation, unless they have forfeited such retirement benefits for reasons other than the acts covered by this Proclamation. Those reintegrated or reinstated shall be entitled to their retirement and separation benefit upon their actual retirement.

SECTION 5. Repealing Clause. – This proclamation supersedes Proclamation No. 50 issued on 11 October 2010 which hereby deemed recalled.

SECTION 6. Effectivity. – This Proclamation shall take effect upon concurrence of a majority of all the Members of the Congress.

DONE in the City of Manila, 24th day of November in the year of our Lord, Two Thousand and Ten.


By the President:


Executive Secretary

Funding the Judiciary: briefer on the Judicial budget for FY 2011 | Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines

Funding the Judiciary: briefer on the Judicial budget for FY 2011 | Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines

Click the link above.

Malacanang: "Why are members of the Judiciary claiming that their budget was cut? All the agencies that submitted their budgets to the DBM did not get the desired amounts that they wanted, given the country’s fiscal situation. The Judicial branch asked for a budget of P26.375 billion, which simply could not be granted—this has always been the case."

Dismissal of action; when prescription inapplicable.

G.R. No. 157852

HEIRS OF DOMINGO VALIENTES vs. Hon. ReInerio (Abraham) B. Ramas, et. al.,
G.R. No. 157852
December 15, 2010


x x x.

We rule in favor of private respondent Minor on this issue.

Firstly, it stretches the bounds of credulity for petitioners to argue that a defendant in a case should appeal the dismissal order she prayed for just because other grounds for dismissal were not considered by the court.

Secondly, and more importantly, Section 1, Rule 9 of the Rules of Court provides:

Section 1. Defenses and objections not pleaded. – Defenses and objections not pleaded either in a motion to dismiss or in the answer are deemed waived. However, when it appears from the pleadings or the evidence on record that the court has no jurisdiction over the subject matter, that there is another action pending between the same parties for the same cause, or that the action is barred by a prior judgment or by statute of limitations, the court shall dismiss the claim.

The second sentence of this provision does not only supply exceptions to the rule that defenses not pleaded either in a motion to dismiss or in the answer are deemed waived, it also allows courts to dismiss cases motu proprio on any of the enumerated grounds – (1) lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter; (2) litis pendentia; (3) res judicata; and (4) prescription – provided that the ground for dismissal is apparent from the pleadings or the evidence on record.

We therefore rule that private respondent Minor cannot be deemed to have waived the defense of prescription, and that the Court of Appeals may consider the same motu proprio. Furthermore, as regards the pronouncement by the Court of Appeals that Civil Case No. 98-021 is likewise heavily infirmed with laches, we rule that the Court of Appeals is not in error when it considered the same motu proprio. While not included in the above enumeration under Section 1, Rule 9 of the Rules of Court, we have ruled in previous cases that laches need not be specifically pleaded and may be considered by the court on its own initiative in determining the rights of the parties.[15]

Having thus determined the authority of the Court of Appeals to dismiss the Complaint on the grounds of prescription and laches despite private respondent Minor’s failure to appeal the dismissal Order, We shall now proceed to determine whether or not prescription or laches has already set in to bar the filing of Civil Case No. 98-021.

Imprescriptibility of Quieting of Title

After the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of petitioners on the issue of whether Civil Case No. 98-021 is already barred by forum shopping, res judicata or litis pendentia, the appellate court, nevertheless, affirmed the dismissal order, but on the grounds of prescription and laches:

Be that as it may, this Court is imbued with sufficient discretion to review matters, not otherwise assigned as errors on appeal, if it finds that their consideration is necessary in arriving at a complete and just resolution of the case (Heirs of Ramon Durano, Sr. vs. Uy, 344 SCRA 238).

The case cannot prosper because an action for reconveyance is a legal remedy granted to a landowner whose property has been wrongfully or erroneously registered in another’s name, which must be filed within ten years from the issuance of the title since such issuance operates as a constructive notice (Declaro vs. Court of Appeals, 346 SCRA 57). Where a party has neglected to assert his rights over a property in question for an unreasonably long period, he is estopped from questioning the validity of another person’s title to the property (Ibid.) Long inaction and passivity in asserting one’s rights over a disputed property precludes him from recovering said property (Po Lam vs. Court vs. Court of Appeals, 347 SCRA 86).

In conclusion, petitioners’ cause of action has already prescribed and now heavily infirmed with laches.[16]

Petitioners claim that although the complaint was captioned for “CANCELLATION OF TRANSFER CERTIFICATE OF TITLE NO. T-5,427, RECONVEYANCE, WITH ACCOUNTING, RECEIVERSHIP, AND APPLICATION FOR A WRIT OF PRELIMINARY PROHIBITORY INJUNCTION PLUS DAMAGES,” the complaint is substantially in the nature of an action to quiet title which allegedly does not prescribe. Petitioners also allege that the cases cited by the Court of Appeals in ruling that prescription has set in, particularly that of Declaro v. Court of Appeals,[17] which in turn cites Tenio-Obsequio v. Court of Appeals,[18] are inapplicable to the case at bar since neither fraud nor forgery was attendant in said cases.

As regards petitioners’ claim that the complaint in Civil Case No. 98-021 is really one of quieting of title which does not prescribe, it appears that petitioners are referring to the doctrine laid down in the often-cited case of Heirs of Jose Olviga v. Court of Appeals,[19] wherein we held:

With regard to the issue of prescription, this Court has ruled a number of times before that an action for reconveyance of a parcel of land based on implied or constructive trust prescribes in ten years, the point of reference being the date of registration of the deed or the date of the issuance of the certificate of title over the property (Vda. de Portugal vs. IAC, 159 SCRA 178). But this rule applies only when the plaintiff is not in possession of the property, since if a person claiming to be the owner thereof is in actual possession of the property, the right to seek reconveyance, which in effect seeks to quiet title to the property, does not prescribe.[20]

The cause of action of petitioners in Civil Case No. 98-021, wherein they claim that private respondent Minor’s predecessor-in-interest acquired the subject property by forgery, can indeed be considered as that of enforcing an implied trust. In particular, Article 1456 of the Civil Code provides:

Art. 1456. If property is acquired through mistake or fraud, the person obtaining it is, by force of law, considered a trustee of an implied trust for the benefit of the person from whom the property comes.

However, the Court made a clear distinction in Olviga: when the plaintiff in such action is not in possession of the subject property, the action prescribes in ten years from the date of registration of the deed or the date of the issuance of the certificate of title over the property. When the plaintiff is in possession of the subject property, the action, being in effect that of quieting of title to the property, does not prescribe. In the case at bar, petitioners (who are the plaintiffs in Civil Case No. 98-021) are not in possession of the subject property. Civil Case No. 98-021, if it were to be considered as that of enforcing an implied trust, should have therefore been filed within ten years from the issuance of TCT No. T-5,427 on December 22, 1969. Civil Case No. 98-021 was, however, filed on August 20, 1998, which was way beyond the prescriptive period.

As an alternative argument, petitioners claim that the prescriptive period for filing their complaint is thirty years, pursuant to Article 1141 of the Civil Code, in connection with Articles 1134 and 1137 thereof, which respectively provide:

Art. 1141. Real actions over immovables prescribe after thirty years.

This provision is without prejudice to what is established for the acquisition of ownership and other real rights by prescription.

Art. 1134. Ownership and other real rights over immovable property are acquired by ordinary prescription through possession of ten years.

Art. 1137. Ownership and other real rights over immovables also prescribe through uninterrupted adverse possession thereof for thirty years, without need of title or of good faith.

The theory of petitioners is that the Motion to Dismiss hypothetically admits the allegations of the complaint, including the allegations thereon that the spouses Belen were successful in fraudulently acquiring TCT No. T-5,427 in their favor by means of the forged VENTA DEFINITIVA. Thus, for purposes of ruling on a Motion to Dismiss, it is hypothetically admitted that private respondent Minor’s predecessors-in-interest are in bad faith. The applicable prescriptive period, therefore, is that provided in Article 1141 in relation to Article 1137 of the Civil Code, which is thirty years. Civil Case No. 98-021 was filed on August 20, 1998, 28 years and eight months from the issuance of TCT No. T-5,427 on December 22, 1969.

Articles 1141, 1134 and 1137 of the Civil Code, however, are general rules on prescription which should give way to the special statute on registered lands, Presidential Decree No. 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree. Under the Torrens System as enshrined in P.D. No. 1529, the decree of registration and the certificate of title issued become incontrovertible upon the expiration of one year from the date of entry of the decree of registration, without prejudice to an action for damages against the applicant or any person responsible for the fraud.[21]

As previously discussed, however, we have allowed actions for reconveyance based on implied trusts even beyond such one-year period, for such actions respect the decree of registration as incontrovertible. We explained this in Walstrom v. Mapa, Jr.[22]:

We have ruled before in Amerol vs. Bagumbaran that notwithstanding the irrevocability of the Torrens title already issued in the name of another person, he can still be compelled under the law to reconvey the subject property to the rightful owner. The property registered is deemed to be held in trust for the real owner by the person in whose name it is registered. After all, the Torrens system was not designed to shield and protect one who had committed fraud or misrepresentation and thus holds title in bad faith.

In an action for reconveyance, the decree of registration is respected as incontrovertible. What is sought instead is the transfer of the property, in this case the title thereof, which has been wrongfully or erroneously registered in another person's name, to its rightful and legal owner, or to one with a better right. This is what reconveyance is all about.

Yet, the right to seek reconveyance based on an implied or constructive trust is not absolute nor is it imprescriptible. An action for reconveyance based on an implied or constructive trust must perforce prescribe in ten years from the issuance of the Torrens title over the property.[23]

As discussed above, Civil Case No. 98-021 was filed more than 28 years from the issuance of TCT No. T-5,427. This period is unreasonably long for a party seeking to enforce its right to file the appropriate case. Thus, petitioners’ claim that they had not slept on their rights is patently unconvincing.

As a final note, it should be pointed out that in choosing to file a Petition for Certiorari before this Court, petitioners are required to prove nothing less than grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Court of Appeals. We have consistently held that “certiorari will not be issued to cure errors in proceedings or correct erroneous conclusions of law or fact. As long as a court acts within its jurisdiction, any alleged errors committed in the exercise of its jurisdiction will amount to nothing more than errors of judgment which are reviewable by timely appeal and not by a special civil action of certiorari.”[24] In the case at bar, petitioners proved neither grave abuse of discretion, nor even a simple error of judgment on the part of the Court of Appeals. The present petition should, therefore, fail.

x x x.

Indispensable parties

G.R. No. 182645

In the Matter of the Heirship (Intestate Estates) of the Late Hermogenes Rodriguez, Antonio Rodriguez, Macario J. Rodriguez, Delfin Rodriguez, and Consuelo M. Rodriguez and Settlement of their Estates,
G.R. No. 182645
December 15, 2010


x x x.
The Court finds partial merit in the instant motion.

Petitioner admitted in his Comment and Opposition to Robles' Motion that in the instant petition he filed, only the CA and the RTC were impleaded as respondents.

Section 5, Rule 65 of the Rules of Court provides:

Section 5. Respondents and costs in certain cases. – When the petition filed relates to the acts or omissions of a judge, court, quasi-judicial agency, tribunal, corporation, board, officer or person, the petitioner shall join as private respondent or respondents with such public respondent or respondents, the person or persons interested in sustaining the proceedings in the court; and it shall be the duty of such private respondents to appear and defend, both in his or their own behalf and in behalf of the public respondent or respondents affected by the proceedings, and the costs awarded in such proceedings in favor of the petitioner shall be against the private respondents only, and not against the judge, court, quasi-judicial agency, tribunal, corporation, board, officer or person impleaded as public respondent or respondents.

Unless otherwise specifically directed by the court where the petition is pending, the public respondents shall not appear in or file an answer or comment to the petition or any pleading therein. If the case is elevated to a higher court by either party, the public respondents shall be included therein as nominal parties. However, unless otherwise specifically directed by the court, they shall not appear or participate in the proceedings therein.[4]

In Lotte Phil. Co., Inc. v. Dela Cruz,[5] this Court ruled as follows:

An indispensable party is a party-in-interest without whom no final determination can be had of an action, and who shall be joined either as plaintiffs or defendants. The joinder of indispensable parties is mandatory. The presence of indispensable parties is necessary to vest the court with jurisdiction, which is “the authority to hear and determine a cause, the right to act in a case.” Thus, without the presence of indispensable parties to a suit or proceeding, judgment of a court cannot attain real finality. The absence of an indispensable party renders all subsequent actions of the court null and void for want of authority to act, not only as to the absent parties but even as to those present.[6]

In the case at bar, Robles is an indispensable party. He stands to be injured or benefited by the outcome of the petition. He has an interest in the controversy that a final decree would necessarily affect his rights, such that the courts cannot proceed without his presence.[7] Moreover, as provided for under the aforequoted Section 5, Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, Robles is interested in sustaining the assailed CA Decision, considering that he would benefit from such judgment. As such, his non-inclusion would render the petition for certiorari defective.[8]

Petitioner, thus, committed a mistake in failing to implead Robles as respondent.

The rule is settled that the non-joinder of indispensable parties is not a ground for the dismissal of an action.[9] The remedy is to implead the non-party claimed to be indispensable.[10] Parties may be added by order of the court on motion of the party or on its own initiative at any stage of the action and/or at such times as are just.[11] If petitioner refuses to implead an indispensable party despite the order of the court, the latter may dismiss the complaint/petition for the plaintiff’s/petitioner's failure to comply therewith.[12]

x x x.

Jurisdiction; agrarian cases.

G.R. No. 152086

FEDERICO SORIANO, et. al. vs. ANA SHARI B. BRAVO, et. al., G.R. No. 152086, December 15, 2010


x x x.


Section 50 of the CARL bestows upon the DAR quasi-judicial powers:

SEC. 50. Quasi-Judicial Powers of the DAR. – The DAR is hereby vested with primary jurisdiction to determine and adjudicate agrarian reform matters and shall have exclusive original jurisdiction over all matters involving the implementation of agrarian reform, except those falling under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

In Sta. Rosa Realty Development Corporation v. Amante,[20] the Court pointed out that the jurisdiction of the DAR under the aforequoted provision is two-fold. The first is essentially executive and pertains to the enforcement and administration of the laws, carrying them into practical operation and enforcing their due observance, while the second is judicial and involves the determination of rights and obligations of the parties.

Jurisdiction over agrarian disputes lies with the DARAB. Section 3(d) of the CARL defines an agrarian dispute as follows:

(d) Agrarian dispute refers to any controversy relating to tenurial arrangements, whether leasehold, tenancy, stewardship or otherwise, over lands devoted to agriculture, including disputes concerning farmworkers associations or representation of persons in negotiating, fixing, maintaining, changing or seeking to arrange terms or conditions of such tenurial arrangements.

It includes any controversy relating to compensation of lands acquired under this Act and other terms and conditions of transfer of ownership from landowners to farmworkers, tenants and other agrarian reform beneficiaries, whether the disputants stand in the proximate relation of farm operator and beneficiary, landowner and tenant, or lessor and lessee. (Emphasis supplied.)

At the time the present controversy arose, the conduct of proceedings before the Board and its adjudicators were governed by the DARAB New Rules of Procedures, which were adopted and promulgated on May 30, 1994, and came into effect on June 21, 1994 after publication (1994 DARAB Rules).[21] The 1994 DARAB Rules identified the cases over which the DARAB shall have jurisdiction, viz:


SECTION 1. Primary and Exclusive Original and Appellate Jurisdiction. – The Board shall have primary and exclusive jurisdiction, both original and appellate, to determine and adjudicate all agrarian disputes involving the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) under Republic Act No. 6657, Executive Order Nos. 228, and 129-A, Republic Act No. 3844 as amended by Republic Act No. 6389, Presidential Decree No. 27 and other agrarian laws and their implementing rules and regulations. Specifically, such jurisdiction shall include but not be limited to cases involving the following:

a) The rights and obligations of persons, whether natural or juridical, engaged in the management, cultivation and use of all agricultural lands covered by the CARP and other agrarian laws;

b) The valuation of land, and the preliminary determination and payment of just compensation, fixing and collection of lease rentals, disturbance compensation, amortization payments, and similar disputes concerning the functions of the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP);

c) The annulment or cancellation of lease contracts or deeds of sale or their amendments involving lands under the administration and disposition of the DAR or LBP;

d) Those case arising from, or connected with membership or representation in compact farms, farmers’ cooperatives and other registered farmers’ associations or organizations, related to lands covered by the CARP and other agrarian laws;

e) Those involving the sale, alienation, mortgage, foreclosure, pre-emption and redemption of agricultural lands under the coverage of the CARP or other agrarian laws;

f) Those involving the issuance, correction and cancellation of Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOAs) and Emancipation Patents (EPs) which are registered with the Land Registration Authority;

g) Those cases previously falling under the original and exclusive jurisdiction of the defunct Court of Agrarian Relations under Section 12 of Presidential No. 946, except sub-paragraph (Q) thereof and Presidential Decree No. 815.

It is understood that the aforementioned cases, complaints or petitions were filed with the DARAB after August 29, 1987.

Matters involving strictly the administrative implementation of Republic Act No. 6657, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARP) of 1988 and other agrarian laws as enunciated by pertinent rules shall be the exclusive prerogative of and cognizable by the Secretary of the DAR.

h) And such other agrarian cases, disputes, matters or concerns referred to it by the Secretary of the DAR. (Emphasis supplied.)

SECTION 2. Jurisdiction of the Regional and Provincial Adjudicator. – The RARAD and the PARAD shall have concurrent original jurisdiction with the Board to hear, determine and adjudicate all agrarian cases and disputes, and incidents in connection therewith, arising within their assigned territorial jurisdiction.

On the other hand, cases involving agrarian law implementation fall within the jurisdiction of the DAR Secretary. DAR Administrative Order No. 6, series of 2000, otherwise known as the Rules of Procedure for Agrarian Law Implementation (ALI) Cases, were promulgated only on August 30, 2000, and became effective on September 15, 2000 after publication (2000 Rules for ALI Cases).[22] Rule I, Section 2 of said Rules delineates the jurisdiction of the DAR Secretary, thus:

SEC. 2. Cases Covered – These Rules shall govern cases falling within the exclusive jurisdiction of the DAR Secretary which shall include the following:

(a) Classification and identification of landholdings for coverage under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), including protests or oppositions thereto and petitions for lifting of coverage;

(b) Identification, qualification or disqualification of potential farmer-beneficiaries;

(c) Subdivision surveys of lands under CARP;

(d) Issuance, recall or cancellation of Certificates of Land Transfer (CLTs) and CARP Beneficiary Certificates (CBCs) in cases outside the purview of Presidential Decree (PD) No. 816, including the issuance, recall or cancellation of Emancipation Patents (EPs) or Certificates of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs) not yet registered with the Register of Deeds;

(e) Exercise of the right of retention by landowner;

(f) Application for exemption under Section 10 of RA 6657 as implemented by DAR Administrative Order No. 13 (1990);

(g) Application for exemption pursuant to Department of Justice (DOJ) Opinion No. 44 (1990) as implemented by DAR Administrative Order No. 6 (1994);

(h) Application for exemption under DAR Administrative Order No. 9 (1993);

(i) Application for exemption under Section 1 of RA 7881, as implemented by DAR Administrative Order No. 3 (1995);

(j) Issuance of certificate of exemption for lands subject of Voluntary Offer to Sell (VOS) and Compulsory Acquisition (CA) found unsuitable for agricultural purposes pursuant to DAR Memorandum Circular No. 34 (1997);

(k) Application for conversion of agricultural lands to residential, commercial, industrial or other non-agricultural uses including protests or oppositions thereto;

(l) Right of agrarian reform beneficiaries to homelots;

(m) Disposition of excess area of the farmer-beneficiary’s landholdings;

(n) Transfer, surrender or abandonment by the farmer-beneficiary of his farmholding and its disposition;

(o) Increase of awarded area by the farmer-beneficiary;

(p) Conflict of claims in landed estates and settlements; and

(q) Such other matters not mentioned above but strictly involving the administrative implementation of RA 6657 and other agrarian laws, rules and regulations as determined by the Secretary.

Rule I, Section 3 of the 2000 Rules for ALI Cases explicitly excludes from the application thereof cases that fall within the exclusive original jurisdiction of the DARAB.

In determining whether the DARAB or the DAR Secretary had jurisdiction over the subject matter of DARAB Case Nos. 01-689 to 710-WP-’95, the Court adverts to the following rules on jurisdiction which it had established in Heirs of Julian dela Cruz and Leonora Talaro v. Heirs of Alberto Cruz[23]:

It is axiomatic that the jurisdiction of a tribunal, including a quasi-judicial officer or government agency, over the nature and subject matter of a petition or complaint is determined by the material allegations therein and the character of the relief prayed for, irrespective of whether the petitioner or complainant is entitled to any or all such reliefs. Jurisdiction over the nature and subject matter of an action is conferred by the Constitution and the law, and not by the consent or waiver of the parties where the court otherwise would have no jurisdiction over the nature or subject matter of the action. Nor can it be acquired through, or waived by, any act or omission of the parties. Moreover, estoppel does not apply to confer jurisdiction to a tribunal that has none over the cause of action. The failure of the parties to challenge the jurisdiction of the DARAB does not prevent the court from addressing the issue, especially where the DARAB’s lack of jurisdiction is apparent on the face of the complaint or petition.

Indeed, the jurisdiction of the court or tribunal is not affected by the defenses or theories set up by the defendant or respondent in his answer or motion to dismiss. Jurisdiction should be determined by considering not only the status or the relationship of the parties but also the nature of the issues or questions that is the subject of the controversy. If the issues between the parties are intertwined with the resolution of an issue within the exclusive jurisdiction of the DARAB, such dispute must be addressed and resolved by the DARAB. The proceedings before a court or tribunal without jurisdiction, including its decision, are null and void, hence, susceptible to direct and collateral attacks.[24]

Guided accordingly by the foregoing jurisprudence, the Court turns to respondents’ Complaint before the DARAB, wherein they alleged:

2. That the [herein respondents] are the owners of less than five (5) hectares each of the 26 hectares of land located at barangays Tomling and Nalsian, Malasiqui, Pangasinan, x x x.

3. That of the aforesaid 26 hectares of land, only about 6 hectares are tenanted by seven agricultural [lessees] namely defendants Gervacio Sergote, Anacleto Torralba, Saturnino Idos, Faustino Bravo, Mariano Bravo, Teofilo Tantay, Idelfonso Tantay and Pelagio Tantay;

4. That 20 hectares portion of the said 26 hectares is not tenanted and although it is planted to 456 mango trees, the areas in between the rows of mango trees have never been cultivated and planted to any crop;

x x x x

6. That the [respondents] have decided to relocate the St. Martin’s Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and to construct a BRAVO AGRO-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX in the untenanted portions of the land in question x x x;

7. That in accordance with the relocation and development plans of the St. Martin’s Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and the construction of the BRAVO AGRO-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX, [respondents] and the defendants Teofilo Tantay, Celestino Manipon, Romeo Tantay, Gabriel dela Vega, Mariano Bravo, Cristina Torralba, Mauricio Rubio, Salvador Bautista, Faustino Bravo, Federico Soriano, Josefina Gutierrez, and Saturnino Idos executed their “Compromise Agreement” dated November 3, 1992 which provides for the relocation and transfer of their houses to a homelot of 240 square meters each within the land in question for them and their family to conveniently enjoy the benefits to be provided by the complex;

8. That the relocation of said defendants’ houses will not affect in any manner the security of tenure of the tenants on the riceland portion of the land in question;

9. That in 1993, the [respondents], relying on the compromise agreement they have with the defendants, started the implementation of their aforestated projects by strategically placing the “BRAVO AGRO-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX” sign board in the land in question and started making the needed concrete hollow blocks;

x x x x

11. Specific Performance. That the defendants in violation of their compromise agreement and on the instigation of a cult leader refused to comply with their compromise agreement;

12. That instead of transferring and relocating their respective houses, the said defendants illegally demanded of the Municipal Agrarian Reform Officer of Malasiqui, Pangasinan, for the compulsory coverage of the land in question under the OLT program of the government under Pres. Decree No. 27 and Rep. Act. 6657 otherwise known as the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988;

13. That because the land in question is not coverable under the OLT provisions of P.D. No. 27 and R.A. No. 6657 as the sellers from whom the [respondents] acquired the lands in question did not have five (5) hectares each and the latter likewise did not have five (5) hectares each, the Municipal Agrarian Reform Officer of Malasiqui, Pangasinan did not place the lands in question under the coverage of the OLT program under P.D. No. 27 nor under R.A. No. 6657;

x x x x

16. COLLECTION OF UNPAID RENTALS. That since the year 1992, the defendants have deliberately refused and still refuse to pay the lease rentals of their respective tillage on the riceland portions of the land in question;

x x x x

29. That the defendants, in their illegal desire to convert the untenanted portions of the land in question as parts of their tillage, have unlawfully started plowing the untenanted surrounding areas and the areas in between the rows of mango fruit bearing trees in the mango orchard portion of the land in question.[25]

In sum, the material allegations in respondents’ Complaint are: (1) that several of the defendants are the agricultural tenants/lessees of respondents’ rice lands; (2) that the defendants entered into a Compromise Agreement with respondents in which the former agreed to give up portions of the subject properties they were tilling in exchange for home lots also located on the subject properties; (3) that the Compromise Agreement shall not affect defendants’ security of tenure; (4) that instigated by a cult leader, defendants refused to comply with the Compromise Agreement and, instead, demanded from the MARO that the subject properties be compulsorily placed under the land transfer program of the Government; (5) that the defendants have also refused to pay rent for the portion of the rice lands they were tilling; and (6) that the defendants have also begun cultivating portions of the subject properties which are untenanted and planted with mango trees. Based on these allegations, respondents sought the following reliefs:

WHEREFORE, it is most respectfully prayed that an injunction order be issued against the defendants restraining them from performing farmworks on the non riceland portion of the land in question and restraining them from harvesting mango fruits from the mango trees in the mango orchard portion of the land in question and after due hearing judgment issue:

1. Ejecting the defendants from the land in question;

2. Ordering the defendants jointly and solidarily liable to [herein respondents’] attorneys to be proved hereinafter and pay [respondents] P500,000.00 moral damages and P500,00.00 Exemplary damages and P500,000.00 actual damages.

3. Ordering the defendants to pay the deliberately unpaid rentals of the lands in question since 1992 up to the present.

4. Making permanent the injunction order against the defendants;

5. Granting such other reliefs and remedies just and equitable in favor of the [respondents] under the premises.[26]

The material allegations and reliefs sought in respondents’ Complaint essentially established a case involving the rights and obligations of respondents and defendants as landlords and agricultural tenants/lessees, respectively, taking into account their Compromise Agreement; as well as the fixing and collection of lease rentals. The DARAB properly took cognizance of the case as it constituted agrarian disputes, well-within the jurisdiction of the DARAB under Rule II, Section 1, paragraphs (a) and (b) of the 1994 DARAB Rules.

Moreover, even when respondents alleged in their Complaint that the subject properties are not subject to the OLT program under the Tenants Emancipation Decree and the CARL because each of the respondents does not own more than five hectares, said allegation was not fundamental in establishing respondents’ causes of action against defendants. In fact, it was defendants who explicitly raised and discussed in their Position Paper before the DARAB the issue of whether the subject properties are covered by the Tenants Emancipation Decree and the CARL.[27] As part of their defense, defendants claimed that all of the subject properties, with a total area of 26 hectares,[28] are actually owned by respondent Ernesto S. Bravo alone, and are tenanted and planted with rice, corn, bananas, and root crops. They argued that under the Tenants Emancipation Decree, tenanted rice and corn lands in excess of the seven hectares a landowner is allowed to retain shall be awarded to the tenant-farmers.

It bears to reiterate that jurisdiction over the nature of the action cannot be made to depend upon the defenses set up in the court or upon a motion to dismiss for, otherwise, the question of jurisdiction would depend almost entirely on the defendant. Once jurisdiction is vested, the same is retained up to the end of the litigation.[29] Therefore, the DARAB was only exercising the jurisdiction vested upon it over DARAB Case Nos. 01-689 to 710-WP-’95 when it directly addressed the issue raised by defendants themselves, and adjudged that the subject properties are not subject to the OLT program under the Tenants Emancipation Decree and the CARL since respondents each owned an area well-within the retention limits allowed landowners by said agrarian laws.

Incidentally, the DARAB also took into consideration and only stayed consistent with an earlier finding by the MARO that the subject properties are not within the coverage of the OLT program of the Government. And while it is true that the MARO’s ruling may still be appealed to higher DAR officials, petitioners failed to present any proof that such appeal had indeed been taken or that the said ruling had already been reversed.



A reading of the decisions of the PARAD, the DARAB, and the Court of Appeals easily belies petitioners’ contention that the tenancy issue was not appreciated. Based on the pleadings and evidence submitted by the parties, the PARAD found, and the DARAB and the Court of Appeals affirmed, that (1) merely six hectares of the subject properties are planted with rice, while the rest are planted with mango trees; (2) just the six hectares of rice lands are tenanted; (3) only the defendants Saturnino Idos, Teofilo Tantay, Faustino Bravo, Mariano Bravo, Idelfonso Tantay, Pelagio Tantay and Cristina Toralba, are the agricultural lessees of the rice lands; (4) the other defendants are ARBA members and agricultural lessees/tenants of lands not part of the subject properties; and (5) the recognized agricultural lessees of the rice lands have validly waived their rights to their respective landholdings by voluntarily executing the Compromise Agreement with respondent Ernesto S. Bravo.

As the Court had so often stressed, findings of the DARAB are entitled to great weight, nay, finality, considering that the findings of the Boards are unquestionably factual issues that have been discussed and ruled upon by them and affirmed by the Court of Appeals. The Court cannot depart from such findings. Findings of fact of administrative agencies and quasi-judicial bodies, which have acquired expertise because their jurisdiction is confined to specific matters, are generally accorded not only respect, but finality when affirmed by the Court of Appeals. Such findings deserve full respect and, without justifiable reason, ought not to be altered, modified, or reversed.[30]

x x x.

Pleadings; powers of corporate officers.

G.R. No. 173326



x x x.

Anent the first procedural issue, the Court had summarized the jurisprudential principles on the matter in Cagayan Valley Drug Corporation v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue.[15] In said case, we held that a President of a corporation, among other enumerated corporate officers and employees, can sign the verification and certification against of non-forum shopping in behalf of the said corporation without the benefit of a board resolution. We quote the pertinent portion of the decision here:

It must be borne in mind that Sec. 23, in relation to Sec. 25 of the Corporation Code, clearly enunciates that all corporate powers are exercised, all business conducted, and all properties controlled by the board of directors. A corporation has a separate and distinct personality from its directors and officers and can only exercise its corporate powers through the board of directors. Thus, it is clear that an individual corporate officer cannot solely exercise any corporate power pertaining to the corporation without authority from the board of directors. This has been our constant holding in cases instituted by a corporation.

In a slew of cases, however, we have recognized the authority of some corporate officers to sign the verification and certification against forum shopping. In Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority v. CA, we recognized the authority of a general manager or acting general manager to sign the verification and certificate against forum shopping; in Pfizer v. Galan, we upheld the validity of a verification signed by an “employment specialist” who had not even presented any proof of her authority to represent the company; in Novelty Philippines, Inc. v. CA, we ruled that a personnel officer who signed the petition but did not attach the authority from the company is authorized to sign the verification and non-forum shopping certificate; and in Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company v. WMC Resources International Pty. Ltd. (Lepanto), we ruled that the Chairperson of the Board and President of the Company can sign the verification and certificate against non-forum shopping even without the submission of the board’s authorization.

In sum, we have held that the following officials or employees of the company can sign the verification and certification without need of a board resolution: (1) the Chairperson of the Board of Directors, (2) the President of a corporation, (3) the General Manager or Acting General Manager, (4) Personnel Officer, and (5) an Employment Specialist in a labor case.

While the above cases do not provide a complete listing of authorized signatories to the verification and certification required by the rules, the determination of the sufficiency of the authority was done on a case to case basis. The rationale applied in the foregoing cases is to justify the authority of corporate officers or representatives of the corporation to sign the verification or certificate against forum shopping, being “in a position to verify the truthfulness and correctness of the allegations in the petition.”[16] (Emphases supplied.)

It must be stressed, however, that the Cagayan ruling qualified that the better procedure is still to append a board resolution to the complaint or petition to obviate questions regarding the authority of the signatory of the verification and certification.[17]

Nonetheless, under the circumstances of this case, it bears reiterating that the requirement of the certification of non-forum shopping is rooted in the principle that a party-litigant shall not be allowed to pursue simultaneous remedies in different fora, as this practice is detrimental to an orderly judicial procedure. However, the Court has relaxed, under justifiable circumstances, the rule requiring the submission of such certification considering that, although it is obligatory, it is not jurisdictional. Not being jurisdictional, it can be relaxed under the rule of substantial compliance.[18]

In the case at bar, the Court holds that there has been substantial compliance with Sections 4 and 5, Rule 7 of the 1997 Revised Rules on Civil Procedure on the petitioners’ part in consonance with our ruling in the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company v. WMC Resources International PTY LTD.[19] that we laid down in 2003 with the rationale that the President of petitioner-corporation is in a position to verify the truthfulness and correctness of the allegations in the petition. Petitioner Benzonan clearly satisfies the aforementioned jurisprudential requirement because he is the President of petitioner South Cotabato Communications Corporation. Moreover, he is also named as co-respondent of petitioner-corporation in the labor case which is the subject matter of the special civil action for certiorari filed in the Court of Appeals.

Clearly, it was error on the part of the Court of Appeals to dismiss petitioners’ special civil action for certiorari despite substantial compliance with the rules on procedure. For unduly upholding technicalities at the expense of a just resolution of the case, normal procedure dictates that the Court of Appeals should be tasked with properly disposing the petition, a second time around, on the merits.

The Court is mindful of previous rulings which instructs us that when there is enough basis on which a proper evaluation of the merits can be made, we may dispense with the time-consuming procedure in order to prevent further delays in the disposition of the case.[20] However, based on the nature of the two remaining issues propounded before the Court which involve factual issues and given the inadequacy of the records, pleadings, and other evidence available before us to properly resolve those questions, we are constrained to refrain from passing upon them.

After all, the Court has stressed that its jurisdiction in a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court is limited to reviewing only errors of law, not of fact, unless the findings of fact complained of are devoid of support by the evidence on record, or the assailed judgment is based on the misapprehension of facts.[21]

WHEREFORE, the petition is PARTIALLY GRANTED. The assailed Resolutions of the Court of Appeals are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The case is REMANDED to the Court of Appeals for proper disposition of CA-G.R. SP No. 00179-MIN.