Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Mandatory "unbroken chain of custody of evidence" under Section 21 (1) of R.A. No. 9165

 

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, VS. MUSTAFA SALI Y ALAVVADDIN A.K.A. "TAPANG/PANG," Accused-Appellant.  G.R. No. 236596,  January 29, 2020.  

"x x x. 

The prosecution failed to establish the chain of custody of the seized sachets of shabu from the time they were recovered from Sali up to the time they were presented in court. Section 1 (b) of Dangerous Drugs Board Regulation No. 1, Series of 2002,21 which implements the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, defines chain of custody as follows:

Chain of Custody means the duly recorded authorized movements and custody of seized drugs or controlled chemicals or plant sources of dangerous drugs or laboratory equipment of each stage, from the time of seizure/confiscation to receipt in the forensic laboratory to safekeeping to presentation in court for destruction. Such record of movements and custody of seized item shall include the identity and signature of the person who held temporary custody of the seized item, the date and time when such transfer of custody were made in the course of safekeeping and use in court as evidence, and the final disposition[.]

To ensure an unbroken chain of custody, Section 21 (1) of R.A. No. 9165 specifies:

(1) The apprehending team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall, immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically inventory and photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel, a representative from the media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official who shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof[.]

Supplementing the above-quoted provision, Section 21 (a) of the IRR of R.A. No. 9165 provides:

(a) The apprehending officer/team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall, immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically inventory and photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel, a representative from the media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official who shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof: Provided, that the physical inventory and photograph shall be conducted at the place where the search warrant is served; or at the nearest police station or at the nearest office of the apprehending officer/team, whichever is practicable, in case of warrantless seizures; Provided, further, that non­ compliance with these requirements under justifiable grounds, as long as the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending officer/team, shall not render void and invalid such seizures of and custody over said items[.]

On July 15, 2014, R.A. No. 10640 was approved to amend R.A. No. 9165. Among other modifications, it essentially incorporated the saving clause contained in the IRR, thus:

(1) The apprehending team having initial custody and control of the dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment shall, immediately after seizure and confiscation, conduct a physical inventory of the seized items and photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel, with an elected public official and a representative of the National Prosecution Service or the media who shall, be required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof: Provided, That the physical inventory and photograph shall be conducted at the place where the search warrant is served; or at the nearest police station or at the nearest office of the apprehending officer/team, whichever is practicable, in case of warrantless seizures: Provided, finally, That noncompliance of these requirements under justifiable grounds, as long as the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending officer/team, shall not render void and invalid such seizures and custody over said items.

In the present case, the physical inventory and photograph, as evidenced by the Certificate of inventory,22 were done at the PDEA, Regional Office 9, Upper Calarian, Zamboanga City, and not where the buy-bust operation was conducted. Although these processes may be excused in cases where the safety and security of the apprehending officers, witnesses required by law and item seized are threatened by immediate danger, the present case is not one of those. The allegation that the physical inventory and photograph were not done in the crime scene because of security reason will not suffice. The prosecution failed to expound what security threats the law enforcement agents were facing at the time of the buy-bust operation.

In the Joint-Affidavit of Arrest of IO1 Lanza and IO2 Natividad, it was mentioned that it was only after Sali was brought to their office, which is at the PDEA, Regional Office 9, when the proper documentation happened and not immediately upon seizure and arrest. There is also no justification contained in the Joint-Affidavit of Arrest of why the physical inventory and photograph were done away from the crime scene. It is hard to imagine that the apprehending officers were able to mark the items seized at the crime scene but were not able to photograph the same.

Moreover, it is apparent from the Certificate of Inventory that it was signed by the representatives from the media and the Department of Justice, and by an elected public official, but there is no signature of Sali or his representative. No evidence was proffered to indicate that the inventory was conducted in the presence of Sali or his duly authorized representative. The photographs submitted as evidence could not conclusively determine whether Sali was present during the inventory.

Hence, the prosecution failed to prove valid causes for non-compliance with the procedure laid down in Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165, as amended. Worse, there is no showing that earnest efforts were done to secure the attendance of Sali 's representative. The witnesses' testimonies in open court and in the Joint-Affidavit miserably failed to mention the causes for non­ compliance with Section 21.

The Court stressed in People of the Philippines v. Vicente Sipin y De Castro:23

The prosecution bears the burden of proving a valid cause for non­ compliance with the procedure laid down in Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165, as amended. It has the positive duty to demonstrate observance thereto in such a way that during the trial proceedings, it must initiate in acknowledging and justifying any perceived deviations from the requirements of law. Its failure to follow the mandated procedure must be adequately explained, and must be proven as a fact in accordance with the rules on evidence. It should take note that the rules require that the apprehending officers do not simply mention a justifiable ground, but also clearly state this ground in their sworn affidavit, coupled with a statement on the steps they took to preserve the integrity of the seized items. Strict adherence to Section 21 is required where the quantity of illegal drugs seized is miniscule, since it is highly susceptible to planting, tampering or alteration of evidence.

The non-observance of the procedure mandated by Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165, as amended, casts serious doubt if the illegal drugs presented in court are the same illegal drugs seized from Sali. It is worthy to note the quantities of the illegal drugs seized which are only 0.0241 gram and 0.0155 gram. They are extremely small amounts which are highly susceptible to planting and tampering. This is the very reason why strict adherence to Section 21 is a must.

X x x. "


Robbery with rape - "Finally, for the crime of robbery with rape, the law does not distinguish whether the rape was committed before, during, or after the robbery, but only that it punishes robbery that was accompanied by rape. The facts do not bear out that the robbery was a mere afterthought, considering that AAA testified that accused-appellant "took time to disable her and then got away with her personal belongings."

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, V. PIO SALEN, JR. Y SENA, Accused-Appellant. G.R. No. 231013,  January 29, 2020. 

"x x x. 

For this Court's resolution is the lone issue of whether or not accused-appellant Pio Salen, Jr. y Sena is guilty beyond reasonable doubt of robbery with rape.

This Court dismisses the appeal and affirms accused-appellant's conviction.

Great respect is given to the trial court's factual findings, particularly when affirmed by the Court of Appeals. This is the general rule, unless the lower courts have "overlooked or misconstrued substantial facts which could have affected the outcome of the case."42

This case is no exception. A scrutiny of the records shows no cogent reason for this Court to reverse the Regional Trial Court's findings and assessment of the witnesses' credibility, as affirmed by the Court of Appeals.

The crime of robbery with rape is punished under Article 294(1) of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 7659:

ARTICLE 294. Robbery with violence against or intimidation of persons - Penalties. - Any person guilty of robbery with the use of violence against or intimidation of any person shall suffer:

The penalty of reclusion perpetua to death, when by reason or on occasion of the robbery, the crime of homicide shall have been committed, or when the robbery shall have been accompanied by rape or intentional mutilation or arson.

The elements of robbery with rape are the following:

(1) the taking of personal property is committed with violence or intimidation against persons; (2) the property taken belongs to another; (3) the taking is characterized by intent to gain or animus lucrandi; and (4) the robbery is accompanied by rape.43

Here, the prosecution has sufficiently showed that the elements of the crime are present.

AAA testified clearly and unequivocally to how accused-appellant raped then robbed her. While her testimony was uncorroborated, this Court has ruled in a plethora of cases that "[t]he victim's testimony alone, if credible, suffices to convict."44 The testimony of AAA, whom the trial court found to be a credible witness, was clear and straightforward.

Accused-appellant admitted that he had sex with AAA-insisting that it was consensual-and denied robbing her. However, these self-serving, unsubstantiated defenses of denial fail against the victim's positive identification.

What further bolsters the prosecution's case is the medico-legal officer's corroborative testimony. The medico-legal report showed that AAA had sustained "hematoma, abrasions, [and] lacerated and punctured wounds all over her body."45 These findings corroborate AAA's testimony that "accused-appellant stabbed her with a pointed weapon and inflicted force and violence against her in order for her to submit to him."46

The records back the trial court's ruling. Thus, contrary to accused­ appellant's contention, there is no reason to believe that the Regional Trial Court's presiding judge was biased.

Finally, for the crime of robbery with rape, the law does not distinguish whether the rape was committed before, during, or after the robbery, but only that it punishes robbery that was accompanied by rape. The facts do not bear out that the robbery was a mere afterthought, considering that AAA testified that accused-appellant "took time to disable her and then got away with her personal belongings."47

In sum, the prosecution established accused-appellant's guilt beyond reasonable doubt. He was correctly convicted of the special complex crime of robbery with rape under Article 294 of the Revised Penal Code.

X x x." 


Evident premeditation not present

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, V. GREG ANTONIO Y PABLEO @ TOKMOL, Accused-Appellant. G.R. No. 229349, January 29, 2020.

"x x x. 

Meanwhile, to substantiate the claim of evident premeditation, this Court instructed in People v. Borbon70 that it is indispensable that the facts on "how and when the plan to kill was hatched"71 are presented into evidence. In People v. Ordona,72 we added that "[t]he requirement of deliberate planning should not be based merely on inferences and presumptions but on clear evidence."73

Here, the prosecution failed to establish in its version of the events that accused-appellant and his family members had schemed to kill Villalobos. Fresado's testimony merely showed that Villalobos followed Lorna to Delpan Bridge, and that he was later attacked by accused-appellant, Lorna, and Lorna's husband. The Regional Trial Court merely inferred that there was a plan in place because accused-appellant's act of stabbing Villalobos five (5) times implied that "[s]ufficient time elapsed from the time [accused-appellant] determined to kill the victim up to the time he actually committed the act[.]"74 In fact, no evidence was presented to show the how and when of the plan to kill Villalobos.

Thus, the Court of Appeals was correct in reversing the Regional Trial Court's finding of evident premeditation:

The prosecution failed to establish by clear and positive evidence the time when the accused-appellant resolved to kill the accused (sic) with respect to the time when it was actually accomplished; mere presumptions and inferences of evident premeditation, no matter how logical and probable, are insufficient. Also, mere determination to commit the crime does not of itself establish evident premeditation for it must appear, not only that the accused made a decision to commit the crime prior to the moment of execution, but also that his decision was the result of meditation, calculation or reflection or persistent attempt. Apropos, there is much to be desired from David 's testimony on this respect.75 (Citations omitted)

Nonetheless, because treachery is present in the killing, accused­ appellant's conviction for murder is affirmed. Moreover, this Court modifies the awards of civil indemnity, moral damages, and exemplary damages to P100,000.00 each, in accordance with People v. Jugueta.76

WHEREFORE, the February 18, 2016 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 06744 is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. Accused-appellant Greg Antonio y Pableo @ Tokmol is found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of murder and is sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole.

Accused-appellant is ordered to pay the heirs of the victim, Arthuro B. Villalobos, civil indemnity, moral damages, and exemplary damages worth P100,000.00 each. All damages awarded shall be subject to interest at the rate of six percent (6%) from the finality of this Decision until fully paid.77

X x x. "


Murder and treachery - "Treachery is defined as "the swift and unexpected attack on the unarmed victim without the slightest provocation on his [or her] part." To substantiate its allegation of treachery, the prosecution must prove: "(1) that at the time of the attack, the victim was not in a position to defend himself, and (2) that the offender consciously adopted the particular means, method or form of attack employed by him."

 PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, V. GREG ANTONIO Y PABLEO @ TOKMOL, Accused-Appellant. G.R. No. 229349, January 29, 2020.


"x x x. 

Accused-appellant was charged with murder, which is defined and penalized under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code:

ARTICLE 248. Murder. - Any person who, not falling within the provisions of Article 246, shall kill another, shall be guilty of murder and shall be punished by reclusion perpetua to death if committed with any of the following attendant circumstances:

With treachery, taking advantage of superior strength, with the aid of armed men, or employing means to weaken the defense, or of means or persons to insure or afford impunity.

In consideration of a price, reward, or promise.

By means of inundation, fire, poison, explosion, shipwreck, stranding of a vessel, derailment or assault upon a railroad, fall of an airship, by means of motor vehicles, or with the use of any other means involving great waste and ruin.

On occasion of any of the calamities enumerated in the preceding paragraph, or of an earthquake, eruption of a volcano, destructive cyclone, epidemic, or any other public calamity.

With evident premeditation.

With cruelty, by deliberately and inhumanly augmenting the suffering of the victim, or outraging or scoffing at his person or corpse.

The Regional Trial Court found that Villalobos' killing was attended by treachery and evident premeditation, thereby qualifying it to murder.64 For its part, the Court of Appeals only appreciated treachery, ruling that there was a want of evidence for evident premeditation.65

The Court of Appeals is correct. Only treachery is present here.

Treachery is defined as "the swift and unexpected attack on the unarmed victim without the slightest provocation on his [or her] part."66 To substantiate its allegation of treachery, the prosecution must prove: "(1) that at the time of the attack, the victim was not in a position to defend himself, and (2) that the offender consciously adopted the particular means, method or form of attack employed by him."67

Here, both the Regional Trial Court and the Court of Appeals found that treachery attended accused-appellant's attack on Villalobos. The Court of Appeals held:

Clearly, treachery in this case is evident from the fact that: accused-appellant grabbed the victim's arm by surprise and simultaneously stabbing him with a foot-long knife despite being unarmed. To the Court, these are methods employed which rendered Arthuro helpless as it left him with no opportunity to defend himself or even to retaliate; ultimately causing his death.68 (Citation omitted)

The lower courts' finding of treachery finds substantial basis in Fresado's testimony, which both courts found to be convincing and believable.69

X x x. "

Factual findings of lower courts.

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, V. GREG ANTONIO Y PABLEO @ TOKMOL, Accused-Appellant. G.R. No. 229349, January 29, 2020.

"x x x. 

This Court sees no reason to reverse the factual findings of the lower courts. After all, when it comes to the credibility of witnesses, the trial court's findings and its calibration of their testimonies' probative weight are accorded high respect and even finality. The trial court's unique vantage point allows it to observe the witnesses during trial, putting it in the best position to determine whether a witness is telling the truth.60

In People v. Cirbeto,61 this Court underscored that an appellate court can only overturn the trial court's factual findings and replace it with its own factual findings if "there is a showing that the [trial court] overlooked facts or circumstances of weight and substance that would affect the result of the case."62 This rule "finds an even more stringent application where the findings of the [trial court] are sustained by the [Court of Appeals]."63

X x x." 

Self-defense - "An admission of self-defense or defense of a relative frees the prosecution from the burden of proving that the accused committed the act charged against him or her. The burden is shifted to the accused to prove that his or her act was justified."

 PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, V. GREG ANTONIO Y PABLEO @ TOKMOL, Accused-Appellant. G.R. No. 229349, January 29, 2020.

"x x x.

Accused-appellant's defense centers on his claim of self-defense and defense of his sister, invoking the first and second justifying circumstances under Article 11 of the Revised Penal Code:

ARTICLE 11. Justifying Circumstances. - The following do not incur any criminal liability:

1. Anyone who acts in defense of his person or rights, provided that the following circumstances concur:

First. Unlawful aggression;

Second. Reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel it;

Third. Lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending himself.

2. Anyone who acts in defense of the person or rights of his spouse, ascendants, descendants, or legitimate, natural or adopted brothers or sisters, or of his relatives by affinity in the same degrees, and those by consanguinity within the fourth civil degree, provided that the first and second requisites prescribed in the next preceding circumstance are present, and the further requisite, in case the provocation was given by the person attacked, that the one making defense had no part therein.

An admission of self-defense or defense of a relative frees the prosecution from the burden of proving that the accused committed the act charged against him or her. The burden is shifted to the accused to prove that his or her act was justified:

It is settled that when an accused admits [harming] the victim but invokes self-defense to escape criminal liability, the accused assumes the burden to establish his plea by credible, clear and convincing evidence; otherwise, conviction would follow from his admission that he [harmed] the victim. Self-defense cannot be justifiably appreciated when uncorroborated by independent and competent evidence or when it is extremely doubtful by itself. Indeed, in invoking self-defense, the burden of evidence is shifted and the accused claiming self-defense must rely on the strength of his own evidence and not on the weakness of the prosecution.42

For the justifying circumstance of self-defense to be appreciated in the accused's favor, the accused must prove the following: "(1) unlawful aggression on the part of the victim; (2) reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel such aggression; and (3) lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person resorting to self-defense."43 The justifying circumstance of defense of a relative likewise requires the first two (2) requisites, but in lieu of the third requirement, it requires that "in case the provocation was given by the person attacked, that the one making the defense had no part therein."44

The first requisite of unlawful aggression is defined as the actual or imminent threat to the person invoking self-defense.45 This requirement is an indispensable condition of both self-defense and defense of a relative; after all, if there is no unlawful aggression, the assailant would have nothing to prevent or repel.46 In People v. Caratao,47 this Court emphasized that if unlawful aggression is not proven, "self-defense will not have a leg to stand on and this justifying circumstance cannot and will not be appreciated, even if the other elements are present."48

As for the second requisite, "reasonable necessity of means employed to prevent or repel such aggression" envisions a rational equivalence between the perceived danger and the means employed to repel the attack.49 This Court in People v. Encomienda50 recognized that in circumstances that lead to self-defense or defense of a relative, the instinct for self-preservation will outweigh-rational thinking.51 Thus, "when it is apparent that a person has reasonably acted upon this instinct, it is the duty of the courts to sanction the act and hold the act irresponsible in law for the consequences."52

Finally, the third requisite of lack of sufficient provocation requires the person invoking self-defense to not have antagonized the attacker.53 This Court explained in People v. Nabora54 that a provocation is deemed sufficient if it is "adequate to excite the person to commit the wrong and must accordingly be proportionate to its gravity."55

X x x."

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, V. GREG ANTONIO Y PABLEO @ TOKMOL, Accused-Appellant. G.R. No. 229349, January 29, 2020.


Thursday, July 1, 2021

Whether the Deed of Sale is invalid because it does not appear in a public document

 

THE ESTATE OF PEDRO C. GONZALES and HEIRS OF PEDRO C. GONZALES, Petitioners, vs. THE HEIRS OF MARCOS PEREZ, Respondents. G.R. No. 169681, November 5, 2009.

 

“On the question of whether the subject Deed of Sale is invalid on the ground that it does not appear in a public document, Article 1358 of the same Code enumerates the acts and contracts that should be embodied in a public document, to wit:

 

Art. 1358. The following must appear in a public document:

 

(1) Acts and contracts which have for their object the creation, transmission, modification or extinguishment of real rights over immovable property; sales of real property or of an interest therein are governed by Articles 1403, No. 2 and 1405;

 

(2) The cession, repudiation or renunciation of hereditary rights or of those of the conjugal partnership of gains;

 

(3) The power to administer property, or any other power which has for its object an act appearing or which should appear in a public document, or should prejudice a third person; and

 

(4) The cession of actions or rights proceeding from an act appearing in a public document.

 

All other contracts where the amount involved exceeds five hundred pesos must appear in writing, even a private one. But sales of goods, chattels or things in action are governed by Articles 1403, No. 2 and 1405.

 

On the other hand, pertinent portions of Article 1403 of the Civil Code provide as follows:

 

Art. 1403. The following contracts are unenforceable, unless they are ratified:

 

x x x x

 

(2) Those that do not comply with the Statute of Frauds as set forth in this number. In the following cases an agreement hereafter made shall be unenforceable by action, unless the same, or some note or memorandum thereof, be in writing, and subscribed by the party charged, or by his agent; evidence, therefore, of the agreement cannot be received without the writing, or a secondary evidence of its contents:

 

(a) An agreement that by its terms is not to be performed within a year from the making thereof;

 

x x x x

 

(e) An agreement for the leasing for a longer period than one year, or for the sale of real property or of an interest therein; x x x27

 

Under Article 1403(2), the sale of real property should be in writing and subscribed by the party charged for it to be enforceable.28 In the case before the Court, the Deed of Sale between Pedro and Marcos is in writing and subscribed by Pedro and his wife Francisca; hence, it is enforceable under the Statute of Frauds.

 

However, not having been subscribed and sworn to before a notary public, the Deed of Sale is not a public document and, therefore, does not comply with Article 1358 of the Civil Code.

 

Nonetheless, it is a settled rule that the failure to observe the proper form prescribed by Article 1358 does not render the acts or contracts enumerated therein invalid. It has been uniformly held that the form required under the said Article is not essential to the validity or enforceability of the transaction, but merely for convenience.29 The Court agrees with the CA in holding that a sale of real property, though not consigned in a public instrument or formal writing, is, nevertheless, valid and binding among the parties, for the time-honored rule is that even a verbal contract of sale of real estate produces legal effects between the parties.30 Stated differently, although a conveyance of land is not made in a public document, it does not affect the validity of such conveyance. Article 1358 does not require the accomplishment of the acts or contracts in a public instrument in order to validate the act or contract but only to insure its efficacy.31 Thus, based on the foregoing, the Court finds that the CA did not err in ruling that the contract of sale between Pedro and Marcos is valid and binding.”

Whether the Deed of Sale is authentic and duly executed.

 

THE ESTATE OF PEDRO C. GONZALES and HEIRS OF PEDRO C. GONZALES, Petitioners, vs. THE HEIRS OF MARCOS PEREZ, Respondents. G.R. No. 169681, November 5, 2009.

 

“In their second assignment of error, petitioners question the authenticity and due execution of the Deed of Sale executed by Pedro in favor of Marcos. Petitioners also argue that even assuming that Pedro actually executed the subject Deed of Sale, the same is not valid because it was not notarized as required under the provisions of Articles 1403 and 1358 of the Civil Code.

 

The Court is not persuaded.

 

The RTC, in its abbreviated discussion of the questions raised before it, did not touch on the issue of whether the Deed of Sale between Pedro and Marcos is authentic and duly executed. However, the CA, in its presently assailed Decision, adequately discussed this issue and ruled as follows:

 

x x x In the present case, We are convinced that plaintiffs-appellants [herein respondents] have substantially proven that Pedro, indeed, sold the subject property to Marcos for 9,378.75. The fact that no receipt was presented to prove actual payment of consideration, in itself, the absence of receipts, or any proof of consideration, would not be conclusive since consideration is always presumed. Likewise, the categorical statement in the trial court of Manuel P. Bernardo, one of the witnesses in the Deed of Sale, that he himself saw Pedro sign such Deed lends credence. This was corroborated by another witness, Guillermo Flores. Although the defendants-appellees [herein petitioners] are assailing the genuineness of the signatures of their parents on the said Deed, they presented no evidence of the genuine signatures of their parents as would give this Court a chance to scrutinize and compare it with the assailed signatures. Bare allegations, unsubstantiated by evidence, are not equivalent to proof under our Rules.24

 

In the instant petition, petitioners would have us review the factual determinations of the CA. However, settled is the rule that the Court is not a trier of facts and only questions of law are the proper subject of a petition for review on certiorari in this Court.25 While there are exceptions to this rule,26 the Court finds that the instant case does not fall under any of them. Hence, the Court sees no reason to disturb the findings of the CA, which are supported by evidence on record.”

The ownership of the thing sold is acquired by the vendee from the moment it is delivered to him in any of the ways specified in Articles 1497 to 1501, or in any other manner signifying an agreement that the possession is transferred from the vendor to the vendee.

 

THE ESTATE OF PEDRO C. GONZALES and HEIRS OF PEDRO C. GONZALES, Petitioners, vs. THE HEIRS OF MARCOS PEREZ, Respondents. G.R. No. 169681, November 5, 2009.

 

“Article 1496 of the Civil Code provides:

 

The ownership of the thing sold is acquired by the vendee from the moment it is delivered to him in any of the ways specified in Articles 1497 to 1501, or in any other manner signifying an agreement that the possession is transferred from the vendor to the vendee.

 

In conjunction with the above-stated provision, Article 1497 of the Civil Code states that:

 

The thing sold shall be understood as delivered when it is placed in the control and possession of the vendee.

 

In the present case, there is no dispute that Pedro took control and possession of the said lot immediately after his bid was accepted by the Municipal Government of Marikina. In fact, herein petitioners, in their Answer with Compulsory Counterclaim admit that both Pedro and Marcos, together with their respective heirs, were already occupying the subject property even before the same was sold to Pedro and that, after buying the same, Pedro allowed Marcos and his family to stay thereon.21 This only shows that upon perfection of the contract of sale between the Municipality of Marikina and Pedro, the latter acquired ownership of the subject property by means of delivery of the same to him.

 

Hence, the issuance of TCT No. 223361, as well as the execution of the Deed of Absolute Transfer of Real Property on February 7, 1992 by the Municipal Mayor of Marikina, could not be considered as the operative acts which transferred ownership of Lot C to Pedro. Pedro already acquired ownership of the subject property as early as 1966 when the same was delivered to him by the Municipality of Marikina, and the execution of the Deed of Absolute Transfer of Real Property as well as the consequent issuance of TCT No. 223316 are simply a confirmation of such ownership.1avvphi1

 

It may not be amiss to point out at this juncture that the Deed of Absolute Transfer of Real Property executed by the Mayor of Marikina was no longer subject to approval by the Provincial Governor of Rizal because Marikina already became part of Metro Manila on November 7, 1975.22 On December 8, 1996, Marikina became a chartered city.23”

When the government of a municipality is a party to a deed or an instrument which conveys real property or any interest therein or which creates a lien upon the same, such deed or instrument shall be executed on behalf of the municipal government by the mayor, upon resolution of the council, with the approval of the governor.

 

THE ESTATE OF PEDRO C. GONZALES and HEIRS OF PEDRO C. GONZALES, Petitioners, vs. THE HEIRS OF MARCOS PEREZ, Respondents. G.R. No. 169681, November 5, 2009.

 

“In their first and last assigned errors, petitioners contend that Marcos, who is respondents' predecessor-in-interest, could not have legally bought the disputed parcel of land from petitioners' predecessor-in-interest, Pedro, in September 1966 because, during that time, Pedro had not yet acquired ownership of the subject lot. Petitioners' assertion is based on the premise that as of February 29, 1968, the Deed of Sale between Pedro and the Municipality of Marikina was still subject to approval by the Provincial Governor of Rizal, as required under Section 2196 of the Revised Administrative Code. Considering that on the supposed date of sale in favor of Marcos, the requisite approval of the Provincial Governor was not yet secured, petitioners conclude that Pedro could not be considered as the owner of the subject property and, as such, he did not yet possess the right to transfer ownership thereof and, thus, could not have lawfully sold the same to Marcos.

 

The Court does not agree.

 

Section 2196 of the Revised Administrative Code provides:

 

SECTION 2196. Execution of deeds. – When the government of a municipality is a party to a deed or an instrument which conveys real property or any interest therein or which creates a lien upon the same, such deed or instrument shall be executed on behalf of the municipal government by the mayor, upon resolution of the council, with the approval of the governor.

 

In Municipality of Camiling v. Lopez,16 the Court found occasion to expound on the nature and effect of the provincial governor's power to approve contracts entered into by a municipal government as provided for under Section 2196 of the Revised Administrative Code. The Court held, thus:

 

x x x The approval by the provincial governor of contracts entered into and executed by a municipal council, as required in [S]ection 2196 of the Revised Administrative Code, is part of the system of supervision that the provincial government exercises over the municipal governments. It is not a prohibition against municipal councils entering into contracts regarding municipal properties subject of municipal administration or control. It does not deny the power, right or capacity of municipal councils to enter into such contracts; such power or capacity is recognized. Only the exercise thereof is subject to supervision by approval or disapproval, i.e., contracts entered in pursuance of the power would ordinarily be approved if entered into in good faith and for the best interests of the municipality; they would be denied approval if found illegal or unfavorable to public or municipal interest. The absence of the approval, therefore, does not per se make the contracts null and void.17

 

This pronouncement was later reiterated in Pechueco Sons Company v. Provincial Board of Antique,18 where the Court ruled more emphatically that:

 

In other words, as regards the municipal transactions specified in Section 2196 of the Revised Administrative Code, the Provincial Governor has two courses of action to take – either to approve or disapprove the same. And since absence of such approval does not necessarily render the contract entered into by the municipality null and void, the transaction remains voidable until such time when by subsequent unfavorable action of the governor, for reasons of public interest, the contract is thereby invalidated.19

 

It is clear from the above-quoted pronouncements of the Court that, pending approval or disapproval by the Provincial Governor of a contract entered into by a municipality which falls under the provisions of Section 2196 of the Revised Administrative Code, such contract is considered voidable. In the instant case, there is no showing that the contract of sale entered into between Pedro and the Municipality of Marikina was ever acted upon by the Provincial Governor. Hence, consistent with the rulings enunciated above, the subject contract should be considered voidable. Voidable or annullable contracts, before they are set aside, are existent, valid, and binding, and are effective and obligatory between the parties.20

 

In the present case, since the contract was never annulled or set aside, it had the effect of transferring ownership of the subject property to Pedro. Having lawfully acquired ownership of Lots A and C, Pedro, in turn, had the full capacity to transfer ownership of these parcels of land or parts thereof, including the subject property which comprises a portion of Lot C.”

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Forum shopping not present

 

THE LIGA NG MGA BARANGAY NATIONAL, petitioner, vs. THE CITY MAYOR OF MANILA, HON. JOSE ATIENZA, JR., and THE CITY COUNCIL OF MANILA, respondents. G.R. No. 154599, January 21, 2004.

 

We hesitate to rule that the petitioner and the intervenor are guilty of forum-shopping. Forum-shopping exists where the elements of litis pendentia are present or when a final judgment in one case will amount to res judicata in the other. For litis pendentia to exist, the following requisites must be present: (1) identity of parties, or at least such parties as are representing the same interests in both actions; (2) identity of rights asserted and reliefs prayed for, the reliefs being founded on the same facts; and (3) identity with respect to the two preceding particulars in the two cases, such that any judgment that may be rendered in the pending case, regardless of which party is successful, would amount to res judicata in the other case.20

 

In the instant petition, and as admitted by the respondents, the parties in this case and in the alleged other pending cases are different individuals or entities; thus, forum-shopping cannot be said to exist. Moreover, even assuming that those five petitions are indeed pending before the RTC of Manila and the Court of Appeals, we can only guess the causes of action and issues raised before those courts, considering that the respondents failed to furnish this Court with copies of the said petitions.”

Doctrine of hierarchy of courts applied

 

THE LIGA NG MGA BARANGAY NATIONAL, petitioner, vs. THE CITY MAYOR OF MANILA, HON. JOSE ATIENZA, JR., and THE CITY COUNCIL OF MANILA, respondents. G.R. No. 154599, January 21, 2004.

 

“Third, even granting arguendo that the present petition is ripe for the extraordinary writ of certiorari, there is here a clear disregard of the hierarchy of courts. No special and important reason or exceptional and compelling circumstance has been adduced by the petitioner or the intervenor why direct recourse to this Court should be allowed.

 

We have held that this Court’s original jurisdiction to issue a writ of certiorari (as well as of prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, habeas corpus and injunction) is not exclusive, but is concurrent with the Regional Trial Courts and the Court of Appeals in certain cases. As aptly stated in People v. Cuaresma:16

 

This concurrence of jurisdiction is not, however, to be taken as according to parties seeking any of the writs an absolute, unrestrained freedom of choice of the court to which application therefor0 will be directed. There is after all a hierarchy of courts. That hierarchy is determinative of the venue of appeals, and also serves as a general determinant of the appropriate forum for petitions for the extraordinary writs. A becoming regard of that judicial hierarchy most certainly indicates that petitions for the issuance of extraordinary writs against first level ("inferior") courts should be filed with the Regional Trial Court, and those against the latter, with the Court of Appeals. A direct invocation of the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction to issue these writs should be allowed only when there are special and important reasons therefor, clearly and specifically set out in the petition. This is [an] established policy. It is a policy necessary to prevent inordinate demands upon the Court’s time and attention which are better devoted to those matters within its exclusive jurisdiction, and to prevent further over-crowding of the Court’s docket.

 

As we have said in Santiago v. Vasquez,17 the propensity of litigants and lawyers to disregard the hierarchy of courts in our judicial system by seeking relief directly from this Court must be put to a halt for two reasons: (1) it would be an imposition upon the precious time of this Court; and (2) it would cause an inevitable and resultant delay, intended or otherwise, in the adjudication of cases, which in some instances had to be remanded or referred to the lower court as the proper forum under the rules of procedure, or as better equipped to resolve the issues because this Court is not a trier of facts.

 

Thus, we shall reaffirm the judicial policy that this Court will not entertain direct resort to it unless the redress desired cannot be obtained in the appropriate courts, and exceptional and compelling circumstances justify the availment of the extraordinary remedy of writ of certiorari, calling for the exercise of its primary jurisdiction.18

 

Petitioner’s reliance on Pimentel v. Aguirre19 is misplaced because the non-observance of the hierarchy-of-courts rule was not an issue therein. Besides, what was sought to be nullified in the petition for certiorari and prohibition therein was an act of the President of the Philippines, which would have greatly affected all local government units. We reiterated therein that when an act of the legislative department is seriously alleged to have infringed the Constitution, settling the controversy becomes the duty of this Court. The same is true when what is seriously alleged to be unconstitutional is an act of the President, who in our constitutional scheme is coequal with Congress.”

Petition for declaratory relief; Supreme Court has only appellate, not original, jurisdiction.

 THE LIGA NG MGA BARANGAY NATIONAL, petitioner, vs. THE CITY MAYOR OF MANILA, HON. JOSE ATIENZA, JR., and THE CITY COUNCIL OF MANILA, respondents. G.R. No. 154599, January 21, 2004.

 

Second, although the instant petition is styled as a petition for certiorari, in essence, it seeks the declaration by this Court of the unconstitutionality or illegality of the questioned ordinance and executive order. It, thus, partakes of the nature of a petition for declaratory relief over which this Court has only appellate, not original, jurisdiction.14 Section 5, Article VIII of the Constitution provides:

 

Sec. 5. The Supreme Court shall have the following powers:

 

(1) Exercise original jurisdiction over cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and over petitions for certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, and habeas corpus.

 

(2) Review, revise, reverse, modify, or affirm on appeal or certiorari as the law or the Rules of Court may provide, final judgments and orders of lower courts in:

 

(a) All cases in which the constitutionality or validity of any treaty, international or executive agreement, law, presidential decree, proclamation, order, instruction, ordinance, or regulation is in question. (Italics supplied).

 

As such, this petition must necessary fail, as this Court does not have original jurisdiction over a petition for declaratory relief even if only questions of law are involved.15”

Certiorari must be directed against a tribunal, board, or officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions

 

THE LIGA NG MGA BARANGAY NATIONAL, petitioner, vs. THE CITY MAYOR OF MANILA, HON. JOSE ATIENZA, JR., and THE CITY COUNCIL OF MANILA, respondents. G.R. No. 154599, January 21, 2004.

 

“First, the respondents neither acted in any judicial or quasi-judicial capacity nor arrogated unto themselves any judicial or quasi-judicial prerogatives. A petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure is a special civil action that may be invoked only against a tribunal, board, or officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions.

 

Section 1, Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure provides:

 

SECTION 1. Petition for certiorari. — When any tribunal, board or officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions has acted without or in excess of its or his jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, and there is no appeal, or any plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law, a person aggrieved thereby may file a verified petition in the proper court, alleging the facts with certainty and praying that judgment be rendered annulling or modifying the proceedings of such tribunal, board or officer, and granting such incidental reliefs as law and justice may require.

 

Elsewise stated, for a writ of certiorari to issue, the following requisites must concur: (1) it must be directed against a tribunal, board, or officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions; (2) the tribunal, board, or officer must have acted without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion amounting lack or excess of jurisdiction; and (3) there is no appeal or any plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.

 

A respondent is said to be exercising judicial function where he has the power to determine what the law is and what the legal rights of the parties are, and then undertakes to determine these questions and adjudicate upon the rights of the parties.11

 

Quasi-judicial function, on the other hand, is "a term which applies to the actions, discretion, etc., of public administrative officers or bodies … required to investigate facts or ascertain the existence of facts, hold hearings, and draw conclusions from them as a basis for their official action and to exercise discretion of a judicial nature."12

 

Before a tribunal, board, or officer may exercise judicial or quasi-judicial acts, it is necessary that there be a law that gives rise to some specific rights of persons or property under which adverse claims to such rights are made, and the controversy ensuing therefrom is brought before a tribunal, board, or officer clothed with power and authority to determine the law and adjudicate the respective rights of the contending parties.13

 

The respondents do not fall within the ambit of tribunal, board, or officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions. As correctly pointed out by the respondents, the enactment by the City Council of Manila of the assailed ordinance and the issuance by respondent Mayor of the questioned executive order were done in the exercise of legislative and executive functions, respectively, and not of judicial or quasi-judicial functions. On this score alone, certiorari will not lie.”

Monday, May 31, 2021

Tender of excluded evidence

 

FORTUNE TOBACCO CORPORATION, Petitioner, vs. COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE, Respondent. G.R. No. 192024, July 1, 2015.

 

“Section 40, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court provides:

 

Sec. 40. Tender of excluded evidence. – If documents or things offered in evidence are excluded by the court, the offeror may have the same attached to or made part of the record. If the evidence excluded is oral, the offeror may state for the record the name and other personal circumstances of the witness and the substance of the proposed testimony.

 

The rule is that evidence formally offered by a party may be admitted or excluded by the court. If a party's offered documentary or object evidence is excluded, he may move or request that it be attached to form part of the records of the case. If the excluded evidence is oral, he may state for the record the name and other personal circumstances of the witness and the substance of the proposed testimony. These procedures are known as offer of proof or tender of excluded evidence and are made for purposes of appeal. If an adverse judgment is eventually rendered against the offeror, he may in his appeal assign as error the rejection of the excluded evidence.”

 

PHILIP S. YU, Petitioner, vs. HON. COURT OF APPEALS, Second Division, and VIVECA LIM YU, Respondents. G.R. No. 154115, November 29, 2005.

 

“Section 40, Rule 132 provides:

 

Sec.40. Tender of excluded evidence.—If documents or things offered in evidence are excluded by the court, the offeror may have the same attached to or made part of the record. If the evidence excluded is oral, the offeror may state for the record the name and other personal circumstances of the witness and the substance of the proposed testimony.

 

It is thus apparent that before tender of excluded evidence is made, the evidence must have been formally offered before the court. And before formal offer of evidence is made, the evidence must have been identified and presented before the court. While private respondent made a "Tender of Excluded Evidence," such is not the tender contemplated by the above-quoted rule, for obviously, the insurance policy and application were not formally offered much less presented before the trial court. At most, said "Tender of Excluded Evidence" was a manifestation of an undisputed fact that the subject documents were declared inadmissible by the trial court even before these were presented during trial. It was not the kind of plain, speedy and adequate remedy which private respondent could have resorted to instead of the petition for certiorari she filed before the Court of Appeals. It did not in any way render the said petition moot.”

 

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Appeal to RTC from MTC order dismissing case without trial; or for lack of jurisdiction.

 See -  G.R. No. 179457 (lawphil.net) 


WILFREDO DE VERA, EUFEMIO DE VERA, ROMEO MAPANAO, JR., ROBERTO VALDEZ, HIROHITO ALBERTO, APARICIO RAMIREZ, SR., ARMANDO DE VERA, MARIO DE VERA, RAMIL DE VERA, EVER ALMOGELA ALDA, JUANITO RIBERAL, represented by PACITA PASENA CONDE, ANACLETO PASCUA, ISIDRO RAMIREZ, represented by MARIANO BAINA, SPOUSES TRUDENCIO RAMIREZ and ESTARLITA HONRADA, ARNEL DE VERA, ISABELO MIRETTE, and ROLANDO DE VERA, Petitioners, vs. SPOUSES EUGENIO SANTIAGO, SR., and ESPERANZA H. SANTIAGO, SPOUSES RAMON CAMPOS and WARLITA SANTIAGO, SPOUSES ELIZABETH SANTIAGO and ALARIO MARQUEZ, SPOUSES EFRAEM SANTIAGO and GLORIA SANTIAGO, SPOUSES EUGENIO SANTIAGO, JR. and ALMA CAASI, JUPITER SANTIAGO, and JON-JON CAMOS, Respondents. G.R. No. 179457, June 22, 2015

 

“x x x.

In resolving the issue of whether the CA erred in annulling the RTC Decision for lack of jurisdiction, the Court is guided by the well-settled rule that "jurisdiction over the subject matter of a case is conferred by law and determined by the allegations in the complaint which comprise a concise statement of the ultimate facts constituting the plaintiff's cause of action. The nature of an action, as well as which court or body has jurisdiction over it, is determined based on the allegations contained in the complaint of the plaintiff, irrespective of whether or not the plaintiff is entitled to recover upon all or some of the claims asserted therein. The averments in the complaint and the character of the relief sought are the ones to be consulted. Once vested by the allegations in the complaint, jurisdiction also remains vested irrespective of whether or not the plaintiff is entitled to recover upon all or some of the claims asserted therein."13

 

The jurisdictions of the RTC and the MTC over civil actions involving title to, or possession of real property or interest therein, like petitioners' action for reconveyance of ownership and possession with damages, are distinctly set forth under Section 19 (2) and Section 33 (3) of B.P. Blg. 129, as amended:

 

Section 19. Jurisdiction in civil cases.– Regional Trial Courts shall exercise exclusive original jurisdiction:

 

(2) In all civil actions which involve the title to, or possession of, real property, or any interest therein, where the assessed value of the property involved exceeds Twenty thousand pesos (20,000.00) or for civil actions in Metro Manila, where such the value exceeds Fifty thousand pesos (50,000.00) except actions for forcible entry into and unlawful detainer of lands or buildings, original jurisdiction over which is conferred upon Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts;

 

Section 33. Jurisdiction of Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts in civil cases.– Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts shall exercise:

 

(3) Exclusive original jurisdiction in all civil actions which involve title to, or possession of, real property, or any interest therein where the assessed value of the property or interest therein does not exceed Twenty thousand pesos (20,000.00) or, in civil actions in Metro Manila, where such assessed value does not exceed Fifty thousand pesos (50,000.00) exclusive of interest, damages of whatever kind, attorney's fees, litigation expenses and costs: Provided, That value of such property shall be determined by the assessed value of the adjacent lots. (as amended by R.A. No. 7691)

 

A careful perusal of the allegations in their complaint for reconveyance of ownership and possession with damages, would show that petitioners failed to indicate the assessed value of the subject real property. At any rate, based on the Tax Declarations14 attached to their complaint, the disputed land located in Bolinao, Pangasinan, has a total assessed value of 54,370.00. In line with the above-quoted statutory provisions, therefore, the RTC has jurisdiction over petitioners' civil action involving title to a real property outside Metro Manila with a total assessed value in excess of 20,000.00.

 

Thus, while the CA is correct in ruling that the MTC has no jurisdiction over the case for reconveyance and recovery of ownership and possession of a land with an assessed value over 20,000.00, the same cannot be said of its ruling with respect to the RTC. Under Section 8, Rule 40 of the Rules of Court, if the MTC tried a case on the merits despite having no jurisdiction over the subject matter, its decision may be reviewed on appeal by the RTC, to wit:

 

Sec. 8. Appeal from orders dismissing case without trial; lack of jurisdiction.

 

If an appeal is taken from an order of the lower court dismissing the case without a trial on the merits, the Regional Trial Court may affirm or reverse it, as the case may be. In case of affirmance and the ground of dismissal is lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter, the Regional Trial Court, if it has jurisdiction thereover, shall try the case on the merits as if the case was originally filed with it. In case of reversal, the case shall be remanded for further proceedings.

 

If the case was tried on the merits by the lower court without jurisdiction over the subject matter, the Regional Trial Court on appeal shall not dismiss the case if it has original jurisdiction thereof, but shall decide the case in accordance with the preceding section, without prejudice to the admission of amended pleadings and additional evidence in the interest of justice.15

 

In Serrano v. Spouses Gutierrez,16 the Court explained that the first paragraph of Section 8, Rule 40 contemplates an appeal from an order of dismissal issued without trial of the case on the merits, while the second paragraph deals with an appeal from an order of dismissal but the case was tried on the merits. Both paragraphs, however, involve the same ground for dismissal, i.e., lack of jurisdiction. Verily, the second paragraph refutes respondents' contention that Section 8, Rule 40 refers solely to cases where the MTC dismissed a case filed therein without a trial on the merits and an appeal to the RTC was taken from the order of dismissal. Therefore, the RTC correctly proceeded to decide the case on the merits despite the MTC's lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter.

 

In contrast, the CA erroneously reversed and set aside the RTC Decision for lack of jurisdiction. Indeed, the RTC has appellate jurisdiction over the case and its decision should be deemed promulgated in the exercise of that jurisdiction. The RTC’s appellate jurisdiction, as contrasted to its original jurisdiction, is provided in Section 22 of B.P. Blg.129, as amended, thus:

 

SECTION 22. Appellate jurisdiction.–Regional Trial Courts shall exercise appellate jurisdiction over all cases decided by Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts in their respective territorial jurisdictions. Such cases shall be decided on the basis of the entire record of the proceedings had in the court of origin such memoranda and/or briefs as may be submitted by the parties or

 

The above-quoted provision vests upon the RTC the exercise of appellate jurisdiction over all cases decided by the Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts in their respective territorial jurisdictions. Clearly then, the amount involved is immaterial for purposes of the RTC’s appellate jurisdiction; all cases decided by the MTC are generally appealable to the RTC irrespective of the amount involved.17 Hence, the CA grossly erred in nullifying the RTC Decision for lack of jurisdiction, and in declaring as moot and academic the factual issues raised in the respondents' petition for review when it should have proceeded to review on appeal the factual findings of the RTC. This is because the RTC not only has exclusive original jurisdiction over petitioners' action for reconveyance of ownership and possession with damages, but also appellate jurisdiction over the MTC Decision itself.

 

On a final note, it bears emphasis that in a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, only questions of law may be raised by the parties and passed upon by this Court. This restriction of the review to questions of law has been institutionalized in Section 1, Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, the second sentence of which provides that the petition shall raise only questions of law which must be distinctly set forth. Indeed, in the exercise of its power of review, the Court is not a trier of facts and, subject to certain exceptions, it does not normally undertake the reexamination of the evidence presented by the parties during trial.18 In certain exceptional cases, however, the Court may be urged to probe and resolve factual issues, viz.:

 

(a) When the findings are grounded entirely on speculation, surmises, or conjectures;

 

(b) When the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd, or impossible;

 

(c) When there is grave abuse of discretion;

 

(d) When the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts;

 

(e) When the findings of facts are conflicting;

 

(f) When in making its findings the CA went beyond the issues of the case, or its findings are contrary to the admissions of both the appellant and the appellee;

 

(g) When the CA’s findings are contrary to those by the trial court;

 

(h) When the findings are conclusions without citation of specific evidence on which they are based;

 

(i) When the facts set forth in the petition, as well as in the petitioner’s main and reply briefs, are not disputed by the respondent;

 

(j) When the findings of fact are premised on the supposed absence of evidence and contradicted by the evidence on record; or

 

(k) When the CA manifestly overlooked certain relevant facts not disputed by the parties, which, if properly considered, would justify a different conclusion.19

 

Not one of those exceptions was shown to obtain in the instant case as would justify a liberal interpretation of procedural rules and a determination of factual issues by the Court. A perusal of petitioners' sole assigned error would readily show that the only issue raised is one of law. There is a question of law when the doubt or difference arises as to what the law is on certain state of facts and which does not call for an existence of the probative value of the evidence presented by the parties-litigants.20 Undeniably, the issue whether the CA erred in annulling the RTC Decision for lack of jurisdiction is a question of law. The resolution of such issue rests solely on what the law [B.P. Blg. 129, as amended] provides on the given set of circumstances as alleged in petitioners' complaint for reconveyance of ownership and possession with damages. Meanwhile, the factual questions necessitating a review of the evidence presented by the parties are raised in the respondents' petition for review filed with the CA. An issue is factual when the doubt or difference arises as to the truth or falsehood of alleged facts, or when the query invites calibration of the whole evidence, considering mainly the credibility of witnesses, existence and relevancy of specific surrounding circumstances, their relation to each other and to the whole, and the probabilities of the situation.21 Without doubt, the following issues duly raised before the CA but it failed to resolve are all questions of fact which are beyond the province of a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45:

 

I. THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, BR. 54, ALAMINOS CITY, PANGASINAN, ERRED IN ORDERING OCT (FP) NO. 15820 IN THE NAME OF JUPITER SANTIAGO, OCT (FP) NO. 15819 IN THE NAME OF EFRAEM SANTIAGO AND GLORIA SANTIAGO; OCT NO. 15765 IN THE NAME OF SPS. ELIZABETH SANTIAGO AND ALMARIO MARQUEZ; OCT (FP) 15755 IN THE NAME OF SPS. EUGENIO SANTIAGO, JR. AND ALMACAASI; OCT (FP) NO 15754 IN THE NAME OF JON-JON SANTIAGO AND OCT (FP) NO. 15818 IN THE NAME OF RAMON CAMPOS, NULL AND VOID, AND ORDERING THEM TO RECONVEY THE AREA INDICATED IN THEIR FREE PATENTS TITLES TO RESPONDENTS (DEFENDANTS IN THE RTC CIVIL CASE NO. A-2750) AND FOR RESPONDENTS TO DIVIDE AMONG THEMSELVES SAID PROPERTY;

 

II – THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DECLARING THAT FREE PATENT TITLES OF HEREIN PETITIONERS WERE ACQUIRED THRU FRAUD, HENCE, NULL AND VOID;

 

III – THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT ERRED IN UPHOLDING THE VALIDITY OF TAX DECLARATIONS OF RESPONDENTS (PLAINTIFFS IN CIVIL CASE NO. 939-MTC, BOLINAO, PANGASINAN) OVER THE PROPERTIES IN QUESTION AND DID NOT GIVE DUE CREDENCE OF (SIC) THE TAX DECLARATION OF PETITIONERS;

 

IV - THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT ERRED IN ORDERING PETITIONERS TO PAY RESPONDENTS DAMAGES AS SPECIFIED IN SAID DECISION;

 

V - THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT ERRED IN REVERSING IN TOTO THE DECISION OF THE MUNICIPAL TRIAL COURT OF BOLINAO, PANGASINAN AND DECIDING THAT PETITIONERS ARE NOT THE OWNERS OF THE PROPERTIES SUBJECT MATTER OF THIS CASE (CIVIL CASE NO. 939-MTC, BOLINAO, PANGASINAN.22

 

In view of the foregoing discussion, the Court no longer finds any necessity to delve into the parties' contentions relative to the principles of indefeasibility and incontrovertibility of Torrens Titles, and immunity of such titles from collateral attack. However, a remand of the case to the CA is necessary in order to fully resolve all the above-quoted factual issues raised in the respondents' petition for review.

 

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition for review on certiorari is GRANTED. The Court of Appeals Decision dated May 29, 2007 and its Resolution dated August 22, 2007 in CA-G.R. SP No. 79769 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE, The case is REMANDED to the Court of Appeals for the prompt resolution of the factual issues raised in the respondents' petition for review of the Decision dated June 14, 2002 of the Regional Trial Court of Alaminos City, Pangasinan, Branch 64.

X x x.”

 


Jurisdictional amount; for purposes of filing fees vs. for purposes of trial

 See - G.R. No. 221815 (lawphil.net)


GLYNNA FORONDA-CRYSTAL, Petitioner vs. ANIANA LAWAS SON, Respondent. G.R. No. 221815, November 29, 2017.

 

“x x x.

 

On the Issue of Jurisdiction

 

Jurisdiction is defined as the power and authority of a court to hear, try, and decide a case.16 In order for the court or an adjudicative body to have authority to dispose of the case on the merits, it must acquire, among others, jurisdiction over the subject matter.17 It is axiomatic that jurisdiction over the subject matter is the power to hear and determine the general class to which the proceedings in question belong; it is conferred by law and not by the consent or acquiescence of any or all of the parties or by erroneous belief of the court that it exists.18

 

What is relevant in this case, therefore, is the delineation provided for by law which separates the jurisdictions of the second level courts—the Regional Trial Courts—and the first level courts—the Metropolitan Trial Courts (MeTC), Municipal Trial Courts (MTC), Municipal Circuit Trial Courts (MCTC), and Municipal Trial Courts in the Cities (MTCC).

 

This can be easily ascertained through a reading of the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980, as amended by Republic Act No. 7691.19

 

According to this law, in all civil actions which involve title to, or possession of, real property, or any interest therein, the RTC shall exercise exclusive original jurisdiction where the assessed value of the property exceeds 20,000.00 or, for civil actions in Metro Manila, where such value exceeds 50,000.00.20 For those below the foregoing threshold amounts, exclusive jurisdiction lies with the MeTC, MTC, MCTC, or MTCC.21

 

For a full discourse on the resolution of the present petition, emphasis must be given on the assessed values22 —not the fair market values—of the real properties concerned.

 

According to the case of Heirs of Concha, Sr. v. Spouses Lumocso,23 the law is emphatic that in determining which court has jurisdiction, it is only the assessed value of the realty involved that should be computed. Heirs of Concha, Sr. averred this definitive ruling by tracing the history of the The Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980, as amended. It said:

 

The original text of Section 19(2) of B.P. 129 as well as its forerunner, Section 44(b) of R.A. 296, as amended, gave the RTCs x x x exclusive original jurisdiction. x x x Thus, under the old law, there was no substantial effect on jurisdiction whether a case is one, the subject matter of which was incapable of pecuniary estimation, under Section 19(1) of B.P. 129 or one involving title to property under Section 19(2).

 

The distinction between the two classes became crucial with the amendment introduced by R.A. No. 7691 in 1994 which expanded the exclusive original jurisdiction of the first level courts. x x x. Thus, under the present law, original jurisdiction over cases the subject matter of which involves "title to, possession of, real property or any interest therein" under Section 19(2) of B.P. 129 is divided between the first and second level courts, with the assessed value of the real property involved as the benchmark. This amendment was introduced to "unclog the overloaded dockets of the RTCs which would result in the speedier administration of justice."24 (Emphasis, underscoring and formatting supplied, citations omitted)

 

Time and again, this Court has continuously upheld Heirs of Concha, Sr.'s ruling on this provision of law.25 In fact, in Malana, et al. v. Tappa, et al.26 the Court said that "the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980, as amended, uses the word 'shall' and explicitly requires the MTC to exercise exclusive original jurisdiction over all civil actions which involve title to or possession of real property where the assessed value does not exceed 20,000.00."27

 

To determine the assessed value, which would in turn determine the court with appropriate jurisdiction, an examination of the allegations in the complaint is necessary. It is a hornbook doctrine that the court should only look into the facts alleged in the complaint to determine whether a suit is within its jurisdiction.28 According to the case of Spouses Cruz v. Spouses Cruz, et al.,29 only these facts can be the basis of the court's competence to take cognizance of a case, and that one cannot advert to anything not set forth in the complaint, such as evidence adduced at the trial, to determine the nature of the action thereby initiated.30

 

It is not a surprise, therefore, that a failure to allege the assessed value of a real property in the complaint would result to a dismissal of the case. This is because absent any allegation in the complaint of the assessed value of the property, it cannot be determined whether the RTC or the MTC has original and exclusive jurisdiction over the petitioner's action. Indeed, the courts cannot take judicial notice of the assessed or market value of the land.31 This is the same ratio put forth by the Court in the case of Spouses Cruz v. Spouses Cruz, et al.,32 where the case was dismissed partly on the basis of the following:

 

The complaint did not contain any such allegation on the assessed value of the property. There is no showing on the face of the complaint that the RTC had jurisdiction over the action of petitioners. Indeed, absent any allegation in the complaint of the assessed value of the property, it cannot be determined whether it is the RTC or the MTC which has original and exclusive jurisdiction over the petitioners' action.33 (Citations omitted)

 

In Quinagoran v. Court of Appeals,34 the Court had no qualms in dismissing the case for failing to allege the assessed value of the subject property. Similar to Spouses Cruz,35 Quinagoran36 held that: "Considering that the respondents failed to allege in their complaint the assessed value of the subject property, the RTC seriously erred in denying the motion to dismiss. Consequently, all proceedings in the RTC are null and void, and the CA erred in affirming the RTC."

 

This is not to say, however, that there is no room for a liberal interpretation of this rule. In Tumpag v. Tumpag,37 the Court, through Justice Brion, provided for an instance when an exception to the strict application could be allowed. It said:

 

Generally, the court should only look into the facts alleged in the complaint to determine whether a suit is within its jurisdiction. There may be instances, however, when a rigid application of this rule may result in defeating substantial justice or in prejudice to a party's substantial right.38

 

In that case, there was also no allegation of the assessed value of the property. However, the Court pointed out that the facts contained in the Declaration of Real Property, which was attached to the complaint, could have facially resolved the question on jurisdiction and would have rendered the lengthy litigation on that very point unnecessary.39 In essence, the Court said that the failure to allege the real property's assessed value in the complaint would not be fatal if, in the documents annexed to the complaint, an allegation of the assessed value could be found.

 

A reading of the quoted cases would reveal a pattern which would invariably guide both the bench and the bar in similar situations. Based on the foregoing, the rule on determining the assessed value of a real property, insofar as the identification of the jurisdiction of the first and second level courts is concerned, would be two-tiered:

 

First, the general rule is that jurisdiction is determined by the assessed value of the real property as alleged in the complaint; and

 

Second, the rule would be liberally applied if the assessed value of the property, while not alleged in the complaint, could still be identified through a facial examination of the documents already attached to the complaint.

 

Indeed, it is by adopting this two-tiered rule that the Court could dispense with a catena of cases specifically dealing with issues concerning jurisdiction over real properties.

 

In upholding these afore-quoted rule, however, the Court is not unmindful of the cases of Barangay Piapi v. Talip40 and Trayvilla v. Sejas41 where the market value of the property, instead of the assessed value thereof, was used by the Court as basis for determining jurisdiction.

 

In Barangay Piapi,42 the complaint did not allege the assessed value of the subject property. What it alleged was the market value thereof. The Court held that, in the absence of an allegation of assessed value in the complaint, the Court shall consider the alleged market value to determine jurisdiction.

 

Notably, this case referred to Section 7(b), Rule 141 of the Rules of Court, which deals with Legal Fees, to justify its reliance on the market value. It said:

 

The Rule requires that "the assessed value of the property, or if there is none, the estimated value thereof, shall be alleged by the claimant." It bears reiterating that what determines jurisdiction is the allegations in the complaint and the reliefs prayed for. Petitioners' complaint is for reconveyance of a parcel of land. Considering that their action involves the title to or interest in real property, they should have alleged therein its assessed value. However, they only specified the market value or estimated value, which is 15,000.00. Pursuant to the provision of Section 33 (3) quoted earlier, it is the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Padada-Kiblawan, Davao del Sur, not the RTC, which has jurisdiction over the case.43 (Italics in the original, and emphasis supplied, citations omitted)

 

However, the rule alluded to above, while originally containing the sentence: "In a real action, the assessed value of the property, or if there is none, the estimated value thereof shall be alleged by the claimant and shall be the basis in computing the fees," has already been deleted through an amendment by A.M. No. 04-2-04-SC. As it currently stands, Section 7 of Rule 141 of the Rules of Court reads:

 

Section 7 Clerks of Regional Trial Courts.—

 

a) For filing an action or a permissive OR COMPULSORY counter-claim, CROSS-CLAIM, or money claim against an estate not based on judgment, or for filing a third-party, fourth-party, etc. complaint, or a complaint-in-intervention, if the total sum claimed, INCLUSIVE OF INTERESTS, PENALTIES, SURCHARGES, DAMAGES OF WHATEVER KIND, AND ATTORNEY'S FEES, LITIGATION EXPENSES AND COSTS and/or in cases involving property, the FAIR MARKET value of the REAL property in litigation STATED IN THE CURRENT TAX DECLARATION OR CURRENT ZONAL VALUATION OF THE BUREAU OF INTERNAL REVENUE, WHICHEVER IS HIGHER, OR IF THERE IS NONE, THE STATED VALUE OF THE PROPERTY IN LITIGATION OR THE VALUE OF THE PERSONAL PROPERTY IN LITIGATION AS ALLEGED BY THE CLAIMANT, is: x x x (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

 

Two things must be said of this: first, Rule 141 of the Rules of Court concerns the amount of the prescribed filing and docket fees, the payment of which bestows upon the courts the jurisdiction to entertain the pleadings to be filed;44 and second, the latest iteration of the same provision already deleted the phrase "estimated value thereof," such that the determination of the amount of prescribed filing and docket fees are now based on the following: (a) the fair market value of the real property in litigation stated in the current tax declaration or current zonal valuation of the Bureau of Internal Revenue; or (b) the stated value of the real or personal property in litigation as alleged by the claimant.

 

A reading of the discourse on this would indicate that the jurisdiction referred to above does not deal with the delineation of the jurisdictions of the first and second level courts, but with the acquisition of jurisdiction by the courts through the payment of the prescribed filing and docket fees.

 

This is the same tenor of the Court's decision in Trayvilla. In that case, where no assessed value was likewise alleged in the complaint, the Court determined jurisdiction by considering the actual amount by which the property was purchased and as written in the Amended Complaint. The Court stated that:

 

However, the CA failed to consider that in determining jurisdiction, it could rely on the declaration made in the Amended Complaint that the property is valued at 6,000,00. The handwritten document sued upon and the pleadings indicate that the property was purchased by petitioners for the price of 6,000.00. For purposes of filing the civil case against respondents, this amount should be the stated value of the property in the absence of a current tax declaration or zonal valuation of the BIR.45 (Emphasis supplied)

 

But then again, like the discussion on Barangay Piapi above, Trayvilla was one which dealt with the payment of the required filing and docket fees. The crux of the case was the acquisition of jurisdiction by payment of docket fees, and not the delineation of the jurisdiction of the first and second level courts. In fact, Trayvilla interchangeably used the terms "assessed value" and "market value" in a manner that does not even recognize a difference.

 

Like Barangay Piapi, therefore, Spouses Trayvilla must not be read in the context of jurisdiction of first and second level courts as contemplated in the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980, as amended,46 where the assessed values of the properties are required. These cases must perforce be read in the context of the determination of the actual amount of prescribed filing and docket fees provided for in Rule 141 of the Rules of Court.

 

Having laid out the essential rules in determining the jurisdiction of the first and second level courts for civil actions which involve title to, or possession of, real property, or any interest therein, the Court now shifts focus to the specific circumstances that surround the current case.

 

In here, the respondent failed to allege in her complaint the assessed value of the subject property. Rather, what she included therein was an allegation of its market value amounting to 200,000.00.47 In the course of the trial, the petitioner asserted that the assessed value of the property as stated in the tax declaration was merely 1,030.00, and therefore the RTC lacked jurisdiction.

 

The question thus posed before this Court was whether or not the RTC should have dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction, and in the affirmative, whether or not the RTC decision should be rendered void for being issued without jurisdiction.

 

As discussed above, settled is the requirement that the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980, as amended, required the allegation of the real property's assessed value in the complaint. That the complaint in the present case did not aver the assessed value of the property is a violation of the law, and generally would be dismissed because the court which would exercise jurisdiction over the case could not be identified.

 

However, a liberal interpretation of this law, as opined by the Court in Tumpag,48 would necessitate an examination of the documents annexed to the complaint. In this instance, the complaint referred to Tax Declaration No. 16408A, attached therein as Annex "B," which naturally would contain the assessed value of the property. A perusal thereof would reveal that the property was valued at 2,826.00.

 

On this basis, it is clear that it is the MTC, and not the RTC, that has jurisdiction over the case. The RTC should have upheld its Order dated November 8, 2006 which dismissed the same. Consequently, the decision that it rendered is null and void.

 

In the case of Maslag v. Monzon,49 the Court had occasion to rule that an order issued by a court declaring that it has original and exclusive jurisdiction over the subject matter of the case when under the law it has none cannot likewise be given effect. It amounts to usurpation of jurisdiction which cannot be countenanced. Since the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980, as amended, already apportioned the jurisdiction of the MTC and the RTC in cases involving title to property, neither the courts nor the petitioner could alter or disregard the same.

 

In yet another case, Diona v. Balangue,50 the Court ruled that void judgment for want of jurisdiction is no judgment at all. It cannot be the source of any right nor the creator of any obligation. No legal rights can emanate from a resolution that is null and void. As said by the Court in Cañero v. University of the Philippines:51

 

A void judgment is not entitled to the respect accorded to a valid judgment, but may be entirely disregarded or declared inoperative by any tribunal in which effect is sought to be given to it. It has no legal or binding effect or efficacy for any purpose or at any place. It cannot affect, impair or create rights. It is not entitled to enforcement and is, ordinarily, no protection to those who seek to enforce. In other words, a void judgment is regarded as a nullity, and the situation is the same as it would be if there was no judgment.52

 

Thus, considering the foregoing, it would be proper for the Court to immediately dismiss this case without prejudice to the parties' filing of a new one before the MTC that has jurisdiction over the subject property. Consequently, the other issues raised by the petitioner need not be discussed further.

 

X x x.”