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563 Phil. 262


[ G.R. NO. 164305, November 20, 2007 ]




In this Petition for Review on Certiorari[1] under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, petitioner Juliana Sudaria (petitioner) assails the Decision[2] dated 8 March 2004 of the Ninth Division of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 75560 and its Resolution[3] dated 10 June 2004 denying her Motion for Reconsideration.[4]

The antecedents follow.

On 11 October 2001, respondent Maximilliano Quiambao filed a Complaint[5] for unlawful detainer against petitioner before the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of San Miguel, Bulacan docketed as Civil Case No. 2557. Respondent stated that he was the owner of a parcel of land with an area of 354 sq m situated in Barrio Sta. Rita, Bata, San Miguel, Bulacan and covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-113925. He also averred that in 1965, by virtue of a Kasunduan,[6] his predecessor-in-interest, Alfonsa C. Vda. de Viola, leased the said piece of land to petitioner’s late husband, Atanacio Sudaria, for a monthly rental of P2.00 which was later increased to P873.00 per annum in 1985. According to respondent, in the same year, petitioner, who took over the lease after her husband’s death, stopped paying the rentals on the property. In April 2001, respondent made a demand[7] for petitioner to pay the overdue rentals and vacate the premises. However, petitioner refused to leave the premises despite the lapse of the fifteen (15-) day period given by respondent. Because no settlement was reached at the conciliation proceedings before the barangay captain, respondent was constrained to file the ejectment case. [8]

In her Answer with Motion to Dismiss,[9] petitioner averred that the subject property was previously owned by Alfonsa C. Vda. de Viola and later inherited by Leticia and Asuncion Viola as evidenced by an agricultural leasehold contract. She claimed that she had not been remiss in paying the lease rentals, as the payment for the years between 1980 and 1999 were evidenced by receipts except that the receipts for 1998 and 1999 were withheld by respondent. Petitioner also maintained that she refused to pay the lease rentals to respondent because he was not the registered lessor, and that as bona fide tenant-successor of her deceased husband, she was entitled to security of tenure, as well as to the homelot which formed part of the leasehold under agrarian laws. She further contended that the MTC could not have taken cognizance of the case as there had been no prior recourse to the Barangay Agrarian Reform Council as provided for in Section 53 of Republic Act No. 6657. Finally, petitioner asserted that the MTC had no jurisdiction over the case as it involved an agrarian dispute.[10]

In a Decision[11] dated 10 May 2002, the MTC held that there existed a tenancy relationship between the parties and that since the subject lot was petitioner’s homelot, the instant controversy is an agrarian dispute over which the courts have no jurisdiction.[12]

On appeal, the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Malolos, Bulacan, Branch 9 reversed the decision of the MTC.[13] The key portions of said decision read as follows:
To begin with, it bears stressing that the 354-square meter residential lot covered by the KASUNDUAN (Exh. B) and the 1.076-hectare parcel of riceland covered by both the Agricultural Leasehold Contract (Exh. 1) and the Kasunduan Buwisan Sa Sakahan (Exh. 3) are separate and distinct from one another; they are parcels of realty differently located.

Having been originally established in December 1979 (Exh. 1), the agricultural leasehold relation between herein contending parties, specifically with respect to a “home lot,” is governed by pertinent provisions of Rep. Act No. 3844 (“Agricultural Land Reform Code”) which took effect upon its approval on August 8, 1968, as amended by Rep. Act No. 6389 (“Code of Agrarian Reforms of the Philippines”) which took effect upon its approval on September 10, 1971. Having taken effect upon its approval on August 30, 1954, Rep. Act No. 1199 is not applicable to herein parties’ leasehold relation (Bunye v. Aquino, 342 SCRA 360, 369).

x x x

With the aforecited provisions of prevailing agrarian laws to go by, it becomes all too clear that the 354-square meter residential lot aforementioned, located as it is outside the 1.076-hectare landholding, cannot be considered a “home lot” inasmuch as the same has not yet been expropriated by the Department of Agrarian Reform for “resale at cost” to herein defendant-appellee. By such token, the instant controversy falls under the jurisdiction of civil courts to the exclusion of the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board.[14]
Consequently, petitioner elevated the case to the Court of Appeals in a petition for review under Rule 42 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.

The Court of Appeals denied the petition and affirmed the decision of the RTC. The denial of the petition was based on petitioner’s failure to attach clearly legible copies of the judgments of the lower courts and of the pleadings and documents material to the judicious consideration of the case, in violation of Section 2, Rule 42[15] of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.[16] Even on the merits, the appellate court held that the petition must be denied as petitioner’s occupation of the subject property was in the concept of civil law lease and had no reference at all to agricultural lease.[17]

Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration of the Court of Appeals decision but the same was denied.[18] Hence, this appeal by certiorari, whereby she asserts that the Court of Appeals erred when it affirmed the decision of the RTC and ruled that the civil courts did have jurisdiction over the instant case.[19] She insists that since the subject property is her homelot, she is entitled to continue in the exclusive possession and enjoyment thereof.[20]

For his part, respondent maintains that petitioner occupied the subject property by virtue of a lease agreement and not by virtue of any tenancy relationship with its previous owner.[21]

The petition must fail.

First, the procedural aspects. The Court of Appeals correctly denied the petition for failure to attach clearly legible duplicate originals or photocopies of the MTC judgment and copies of the material portions of the record, specifically the Kasunduan dated 21 March 1965 which is integral to the complaint (Annex “B” thereof). The case of Atillo v. Bombay[22] reiterates the mandatory tenor of Section 2 (d), Rule 42 with respect to the requirement of attaching clearly legible duplicate originals or true copies of the judgments or final orders of the lower courts. As for the phrase “of the pleadings and other material portions of the record as would support the allegations of the petition” in the same provision of law, the Atillo case likewise tells us that while this contemplates the exercise of discretion on the part of the petitioner, such discretion in choosing the documents to be attached to the petition is not unbridled, to wit:
The [Court of Appeals] has the duty to check the exercise of this discretion to see to it that the submission of supporting documents is not merely perfunctory. The practical aspect of this duty is to enable the CA to determine at the earliest possible time the existence of prima facie merit in the petition. Moreover, Section 3 of Rule 42 of the Rules of Court provides that if petitioner fails to comply with the submission of “documents which should accompany the petition,” it “shall be sufficient ground for the dismissal thereof.”[23]
In any event, petitioner’s contentions on the substantive aspect of the case fail to invite judgment in her favor.

It is settled that jurisdiction of the court in ejectment cases is determined by the allegations of the complaint and the character of the relief sought.[24]

The Complaint[25] filed by petitioner alleged these material facts:

Cause of Action
  1. Plaintiff is the owner of that certain parcel of land situated in Bo. Sta Rita, Bata, San Miguel, Bulacan, with a total area of 354 square meters, more or less, and covered by TCT No. T-113925 of the Registry of Deeds for the Province of Bulacan. A copy of the said title hereto attached is made on (sic) integral part hereof as Annex “A.”

  2. On 21 May 1965, the said piece of land was leased to the defendant’s predecessor-in-interest, her late husband Atanacio Sudaria, for a monthly rental of P2.00 which was later increased to P873/year in 1985. A copy of the lease contract is hereto attached and is made an integral part hereof as Annex “B.”

  3. Defendant took over the lease of the said property after her husband’s death.

  4. In 1985, defendant stopped paying the rentals for the said property which, as of 4 April 2001, amounted to P13,095.00.

  5. On 4 April 2001, plaintiff sent [to] defendant a notice to vacate and demand to pay but the defendant refused, and still refuses, to vacate the leased property despite the lapse of the fifteen (15) day period given [to] her. A copy of the said notice is hereto attached and is made an integral part hereof as Annex “C.”[26]
It was clearly alleged that petitioner unlawfully withheld possession of the land despite respondent’s demand to vacate the premises, which demand respondent made after petitioner had failed to pay the rent. Based on the averment in the complaint, the MTC properly acquired jurisdiction over the ejectment case.

Petitioner’s naked claim in her answer that the subject property is her homelot is not sufficient to divest the MTC of jurisdiction over the ejectment case. The court could not be deprived of jurisdiction over an ejectment case based merely on defendant’s assertion of ownership over the litigated property. The underlying reason for this rule is to prevent the defendant from trifling with the summary nature of an ejectment suit by the simple expedient of asserting ownership over the disputed property.[27]

Ejectment proceedings are summary proceedings intended to provide an expeditious means of protecting actual possession or right to possession of property. Title is not involved. The sole issue to be resolved is who is entitled to the physical or material possession of the premises or possession de facto.[28] On this point, the pronouncements in Pajuyo v. Court of Appeals[29] are enlightening, thus:
The only question that the courts must resolve in ejectment proceedings is who—is entitled to the physical possession of the premises, that is, to the possession de facto and not to the possession de jure. It does not even matter if a party’s title to the property is questionable, or when both parties intruded into public land and their applications to own the land have yet to be approved by the proper government agency. Regardless of the actual condition of the title to the property, the party in peaceable quiet possession shall not be thrown out by a strong hand, violence or terror. Neither is the unlawful withholding of property allowed. Courts will always uphold respect for prior possession.

Thus, a party who can prove prior possession can recover such possession even against the owner himself. Whatever may be the character of his possession, if he has in his favor prior possession in time, he has the security that entitles him to remain on the property until a person with a better right lawfully ejects him. To repeat, the only issue that the court has to settle in an ejectment suit is the right to physical possession.[30]
Anent the issue of rightful possession, it is clear that it belongs to respondent. Petitioner failed to show that the Department of Agrarian Reform had awarded the property in her favor as her homelot. Instead, the clear preponderance of evidence is on the side of respondent. He presented the Torrens title covering the lot in his name.

It must be stressed, however, that the Court has engaged in this initial determination of ownership over the lot in dispute only for the purpose of settling the issue of possession.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Decision dated 8 March 2004 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 75560 and its Resolution[31] dated 10 June 2004 are AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioner.


Quisumbing, (Chairperson), Carpio, Carpio-Morales, and Velasco, Jr., JJ., concur.

[1] Rollo, pp. 9-22; dated 9 August 2004.

[2] Id. at 118-123; penned by Associate Justice Eliezer R. De Los Santos with the concurrence of Associate Justices B.A. Adefuin-De La Cruz and Jose C. Mendoza.

[3] Id. at 133.

[4] Id. at 124-131; dated 19 March 2004.

[5] CA rollo, pp. 21-25.

[6] Exhibit “B” of the Complaint; id. at 40.

[7] Id. at 26.

[8] Id. at 23.

[9] Rollo, pp. 33-35; dated 24 October 2001.

[10] Id. at 33-34.

[11] CA rollo, pp. 70-76; penned by Hon. Teodulo B. Ronquillo.

[12] Id. at 74-75.

[13] Id. at 97-102; In a Decision dated 10 October 2002 in Civil Case No. 495-M-2002; penned by Hon. D. Roy A. Masadao, Jr.

[14] Id. at 99-100.

[15] RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE, Rule 42, Sec. 2 reads in part as follows:

SEC. 2. Form and contents.—The petition shall be filed in seven (7) legible copies, with the original copy intended for the court being indicated as such by the petitioner, and shall x x x (d) be accompanied by clearly legible duplicate originals or true copies of the judgments or final orders of the Regional Trial Court, the requisite number of plain copies thereof and of the pleadings and other material portions of the record as would support the allegations of the petition.

x x x x.

[16] Rollo, p. 120; Pursuant to Section 3, Rule 42 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure which states:

SEC. 3. Effect of failure to comply with requirements.—The failure of the petitioner to comply with any of the foregoing requirements regarding the payment of the docket and other lawful fees, the deposit for costs, proof of service of the petition, and the contents of and the documents which should accompany the petition shall be sufficient ground for the dismissal thereof.

[17] Rollo, p. 122.

[18] Rollo, p. 133; Resolution dated 10 June 2004.

[19] Rollo, p. 13.

[20] Id. at 16.

[21] Id. at 139.

[22] 404 Phil. 179, 188 (2001).

[23] Id. at 191-192.

[24] Cajayon v. Batuyong, G.R. No. 149118, 16 February 2006, 482 SCRA 461, 469.

[25] Supra note 5.

[26] CA rollo, p. 22.

[27] Tecson v. Gutierrez, G.R. No. 152978, 4 March 2005, 452 SCRA 781, 787.

[28] David v. Cordova, G.R. No. 152992, 28 July 2005, 464 SCRA 384, 402.

[29] G.R. No. 146364, 3 June 2004, 430 SCRA 492.

[30] Id. at 510-511.

[31] Supra note 18.

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