JOAQUIN BERBANO, TRINIDAD BERBANO, and MELCHOR BERBANO, Petitioners vs. HEIRS OF ROMAN TAPULAO, namely: ALBERT D. TAPULAO,* DANILO D. TAPULAO,** MARIETA TAPULAO-REYES, LINDA TAPULAORAMIREZ, and JOSEFINA TAPULAO-DACANAY, represented by Attorney-in- fact JOSEFINA TAPULAO-DACANAY, Respondents. G.R. No. 227482, July 1, 2019’
“x x x.
Jurisdiction is defined as the power and authority of a court to hear, try, and decide a case. 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. 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. 15
Section 19 of Batas Pambansa 129, as amended by Republic Act No. 7691 (RA 7691),16 enumerates the cases falling within the jurisdiction of the RTCs, viz:
Sec. 19. Jurisdiction in civil cases. - Regional Trial Courts shall exercise exclusive original jurisdiction:
1) In all civil actions in which the subject of the litigation is incapable of pecuniary estimation;
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 (P20,000.00) or, for civil actions in Metro Manila, where such value exceeds Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) except actions for forcible entry into and unlawful detainer of lands or buildings, original jurisdiction over which is conferred upon the Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts.
On the other hand, Section 33 of BP 129 enumerates the cases falling within the jurisdiction of the MTCs, Metropolitan Trial Courts (MeTCs ), and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts (MCTCs ), viz:
Sec. 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:
x x x x
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 (P20,000.00) or, in civil actions in Metro Manila, where such assessed value does not exceed Fifty Thousand Pesos (950,000.00) exclusive of interest, damages of whatever kind, attorney's fees, litigation expenses and costs: Provided, That in cases of land not declared for taxation purposes, the value of such property shall be determined by the assessed value of the adjacent lots.
The Court has repeatedly held that jurisdiction over the subject matter is determined by examining the material allegations of the complaint and the relief sought. 17
Here, the Complaint reads:
x x x x x x x x x
3. Plaintiffs are the children of deceased spouses Roman Tapulao and Catalina Casabar, who both died intestate;
4. Deceased Roman Tapulao is the registered owner of a parcel of land denominated as Lot No. 1072, Pls-492-D located at Taguing, Baggao, Cagayan, and embraced under Original Certificate of Title No. P-9331 x x x
x x x x x x x x x
5. The above-described parcel of land is declared for taxation purposes and with an assessed value of Twenty Two Thousand and Seventy Pesos (Php22,070.00) as evidenced by Tax Declaration No. 03- 06042-00175 issued by the Municipal Assessor of Baggao, Cagayan x x x 18
x x x x x x x x x
Indeed, the Complaint clearly alleged that the assessed value of the lot subject of the case is P22,070.00. In accordance with BP 129, as amended by RA 7691, since the value of the subject matter exceeds P20,000.00, the same falls within the jurisdiction of the RTCs. Hence, the RTC-Branch 1, Tuguegarao City, Cagayan had jurisdiction over the subject matter of the case.
Too, petitioners' claim that the property in dispute is only a specific portion of the lot or only 6,804 square meters, which supposedly carries the proportional assessed value of P8,111.72, is irrelevant. It does not alter what is actually alleged in the complaint. Besides, it is not for petitioners to define the allegations in their adversaries' complaint. That is the respondents' prerogative as plaintiffs below. Additionally, petitioners cannot limit the dispute to the alleged area actually being contested. This is because the rest of the contiguous portion of the lot could be relevant to the remedy or remedies flowing therefrom. For example, who bears the burden of paying for improvements; what are the indicators of good and bad faith by petitioners? The point is this: respondents' allegations in their complaint cannot be at once deemed to be a case of bad and false pleading.
Lastly, but no less important, petitioners never questioned the trial court's jurisdiction in the proceedings before it. In fact, petitioners even filed their Answer and sought affirmative relief therein. The trial court summarized petitioners' prayer in their Answer, to wit:
Because of the groundless filing of the case, the defendants suffered mental anguish, wounded feelings, social humiliation and they also incurred actual damages. They were likewise compelled to engage the services of a counsel and incurred actual damages. Thus, defendants pray for the dismissal of the case, that the plaintiffs be ordered to execute the necessary documents to cause the transfer and registration of the lot in suit in the name of the defendants and the award of actual, moral and exemplary damages. 19
It is only after the case was decided against them that they challenged it for the first time via their motion for reconsideration. In Tijam, et al. v. Sibonghanoy, et al., 20 the Court held that a party cannot. invoke the jurisdiction of a court and ask for affirmative relief against his opponent and, after obtaining or failing to obtain such relief, repudiate or question that same jurisdiction. So must it be.
All told, the Court of Appeals did not err in affirming the trial court's jurisdiction over the case below.
X x x.”