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517 Phil. 123


[ G.R. NO. 153860, February 06, 2006 ]




By this petition for review on certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, petitioner Valeriano B. Cano seeks the reversal and setting aside of the following issuances of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 64308, to wit:
  1. Decision[1] dated January 23, 2002, reversing that of the Regional Trial Court of Davao City, Branch 10,  which, in turn, set aside, for want of jurisdiction, an earlier "Judgment" of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC), Davao City, in an unlawful detainer case thereat commenced by the herein respondents against petitioner; and

  2. Resolution[2] dated June 6, 2002, denying petitioner's motion for reconsideration.       
Stripped of unessentials, the facts are: 

Herein respondents, the spouses Vicente Jumawan and Susan Jumawan, are the owners of a parcel of agricultural land with an area of about 24,025 square meters at Barangay Malagos, Baguio District, Davao City and registered in their names under Transfer Certificate of Title No. 185776 of the Davao City Registry of Deeds. 

On February 24, 1999, petitioner and respondents entered into a notarized document entitled "Agreement,"[3] whereunder, for "humanitarian consideration," the spouses, designated in said document as "OWNERS," allowed petitioner, therein referred to as "BUILDER," to construct a house of light materials in an area of about twenty (20) square meters at the eastern portion of their property. Good for a term of two (2) years starting March 1, 1997 and terminating on March 1, 1999, the "Agreement" specifically provides:
  1. No rental shall be paid by petitioner for his occupancy of said portion of respondents' landholding; and

  2. Upon the expiration of the agreed period of two (2) years, petitioner "shall voluntarily remove" his small house/shanty thereon, unless an extension is granted him by the respondents.
Following the expiration of the aforementioned "Agreement," respondents demanded the petitioner to vacate the area occupied by him and to pay a rent of not less than P300.00 a month until he shall have vacated the same.  Petitioner refused. Hence, after conciliation proceedings before the local barangay lupon  proved futile, respondents filed against petitioner a complaint[4] for unlawful detainer before the Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) of Davao City on September 20, 1999. 

In his answer,[5] petitioner, while qualifiedly admitting the existence and execution of his 2-year agreement with the respondents, alleged that " he has long been an agricultural tenant" of the latter, adding that the ejectment suit was merely resorted to by respondents as leverage after  he had filed an agrarian case against them before the Barangay Agrarian Reform Council (BARC) which elevated said case to the Provincial Agrarian Reform Office (PARO) for adjudication by the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB). He thus interposed in his answer the specific and affirmative defense of lack of jurisdiction on the part of the MCTC, contending that the suit before it was an "agrarian dispute" properly cognizable by the DARAB. 

After the parties had filed their respective position papers, the MCTC came out with a "Judgment"[6] on July 26, 2000, finding for the respondents, to wit:
"WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered IN FAVOR of the [respondents] and against the [petitioner], as follows:

a) Ordering [petitioner] and any person in his behalf, to vacate subject premises and yield possession thereof to [respondents]; 

b) Directing [petitioner] to pay the sum of P300.00 per month from  March 1, 1999 until he vacates the subject premises; 

c) Sentencing [petitioner] to pay P10,000.00 as attorney's fees and to pay the cost.

SO ORDERED. (Words in brackets ours)
Therefrom, petitioner went to the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Davao City where the appeal was raffled to Branch 10 thereof.  In a decision[7] dated December 29, 2000, said court reversed the appealed "Judgment" of the MCTC for lack of jurisdiction, saying that the latter court "should have dismissed the case and allowed the Department of Agrarian Reform to resolve the agrarian case...." We quote the dispositive portion of the decision:
WHEREFORE, the JUDGMENT rendered by the Court a quo  is reversed and this case is dismissed for want of jurisdiction. Consequently, the MOTION FOR EXECUTION PENDING APPEAL is denied. 

With their motion for reconsideration having been denied by the RTC in its Order of March 2, 2001,[8] respondents went to the CA on a petition for review, thereat docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 64308.

As stated at the outset hereof, the CA, in a decision dated January 23, 2002, reversed and set aside that of the RTC and reinstated the earlier "Judgment" of the MCTC, thus:
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. Accordingly, the questioned decision dated December 29, 2000 and the Order dated March 2, 2001 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 10, of Davao City are hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Consequently, the Decision ["Judgment"] dated July 26, 2000 of the MTCC Branch 1 is hereby affirmed in toto

SO ORDERED. (Word in bracket ours)
With the CA's denial of his motion for reconsideration in its Resolution  of  June 6, 2002,  petitioner  is now with this Court via  the present recourse on the lone issue of his own formulation, to wit:
Actually, the issue thus formulated raises two distinct questions, namely: (1) whether the instant case involves, in the first place, agrarian reform matters; and (2) whether agrarian reform matters fall within the jurisdiction of municipal trial courts. 


To begin with, we note from the records that respondents' complaint for unlawful detainer was filed with the MCTC on September 20, 1999, as borne by the stamped "RECEIVED" appearing on the face thereof. It was filed after respondents were issued by the local barangay lupon  a Certificate to File Action  following the parties' failure to arrive at an amicable settlement before the lupon

On the other hand, as borne by the annexes to petitioner's Position Paper in the MCTC, particularly Annex "E"[9] thereof, he lodged a complaint for Harassment With Design to Eject  with the BARC only on September 21, 1999, which the BARC denominated as "agrarian dispute," and referred it to the Acting Municipal Agrarian Reform Officer, who conducted an Investigation Report[10] thereon. In turn, the Municipal Agrarian Reform Officer endorsed the case  to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Provincial Reform Officer, Davao City on September 28, 1999 with the recommendation, among others, that petitioner be declared as tenant pursuant to the provisions of Republic Act No. 3844. 

It can thus be seen that contrary to petitioner's pretense, his complaint for Harassment With Design to Eject  initiated before the BARC on September 21, 1999 and which evidently is the so-called "agrarian reform matters" referred to by him,  came only after respondents' complaint for unlawful detainer before the MCTC on September 20, 1999. This lends credence to respondents' claim that petitioner resorted to the DAR in order to pre-empt the civil action for ejectment earlier filed against him. 

In any event, and more importantly, the basic rule is that the material averments in the complaint determine the jurisdiction of a court. And jurisprudence dictates that a court does not lose its jurisdiction over an ejectment suit by the  simple expedient of a party raising as a defense therein the alleged existence of a tenancy relationship between the parties.[11]  The court continues to have the authority to hear and evaluate the evidence, precisely to determine whether or not it has jurisdiction, and, if, after hearing, tenancy is shown to exist, it shall dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction.[12] 

Here, the allegations in respondents' complaint before the MCTC clearly make out a case for unlawful detainer. Petitioner was allowed to construct his house/shanty on a portion of respondents' property without paying rental therefor but merely for "humanitarian consideration," pursuant to a notarized agreement which explicitly imposes on the petitioner the obligation to remove his construction thereon and vacate the premises upon the expiration of said agreement. The agreement had undoubtedly expired but despite respondents' demand to vacate, petitioner refused.  To the MCTC, "[T]he, 'Agreement' which [petitioner] admitted having signed ... clearly negates the claim of [petitioner] of a tenancy relationship between him and the [respondents]."

For sure, the very pieces of evidence submitted by the parties before the MCTC, consisting of annexes to their respective position papers, indubitably belie petitioner's claim of being a tenant of respondents. For one, there is no less the sworn affidavit[13] in the local dialect of his very own mother, Albina Cano, saying that her son is not a tenant of respondents but of one Rodolfo Evangelista, a declaration under oath which finds support in the equally sworn affidavits of Rodolfo Evangelista himself;[14] Nicasio Layan[15] and Maximo Roloos.[16] 

If ever, the only piece of evidence adduced by petitioner to buttress his self-serving claim of tenancy relationship is the sworn affidavit of Felisa  Tan,[17] proprietor of Golden Grains Harvest Trading, relevantly reading, as follows:
That I know and is (sic) known to VALERIANO CANO, who have (sic) been selling to us since 1992 to `995 a total of ONE HUNDRED TWENTY (120) CAVANS of palay, allegedly the share of SUSAN A. JUMAWAN, the lessor of the agricultural land from which the palay sold to us was harvested from.

That consequently after every sale of VALERIANO S. CANO, we issued to him receipts of his palay sale.

That  I am executing this affidavit to attest to the truth of the foregoing facts to declare that VALERIANO V. CANO have sold to us the above cited cavans of rice for whatever legal purposes this may serve from hereof (sic). (Emphasis supplied)   
Clear it is from the above, however, affiant Tan has no personal knowledge that the 120 cavans of palay sold to her by petitioner, allegedly the share of SUSAN A. JUMAWAN, were in fact harvested from respondents' land. 

Besides, it must be noted that the palay transaction referred to by Tan in her affidavit was from 1992 to 1995, or long before petitioner constructed his house on the eastern portion of respondents' land sometime in 1997 pursuant to the notarized "Agreement" earlier mentioned. No evidence was presented by petitioner that he was still selling palay harvested from respondents' land after 1995.  If indeed petitioner is respondents' tenant and his tenancy required the construction of a house on the latter's land, then it should have been as early as 1992, or, at the very least, between 1992 and 1995 when he was selling palay to Tan that he should have erected his house on a portion of respondents' landholding.

Given the reality that it was only after the execution of the "Agreement" in question that petitioner put up his house on respondents' property, the only clear and logical conclusion is that he was not a tenant of the latter and that it was merely out of "humanitarian  consideration" that he was allowed to stay thereat, but with the obligation on his part to vacate the place and yield possession thereof to respondents after the agreement shall have expired. 

Case law teaches that the essential requisites of an  agricultural tenancy relationship are: (1) the parties are the landowner and the tenant; (2) the subject is agricultural land; (3) there is consent; (4) the purpose is agricultural production; (5) there is personal cultivation; and (6) there is sharing of harvests.[18] All these requisites must concur for a tenancy relationship to exist. The absence of one does not  make an occupant of a parcel of land, or a cultivator thereof, or a planter thereon, a de jure  tenant. Unless a person establishes his status as de jure tenant, he is not entitled to security of tenure nor covered by the land reform program of the government under existing tenancy laws.[19]

Simply put, the pieces of evidence on record fail to yield the existence of the foregoing requisites between the herein parties. Quite the contrary, the pleadings filed and their annexes heavily preponderate on the absence of such relationship. 

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DISMISSED and the assailed decision and resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 64308  are AFFIRMED in toto.

Costs against petitioner. 


Puno, (Chairperson),  Sandoval-Gutierrez, Corona and Azcuna, JJ., concur.

Penned by Associate Justice Bienvenido C. Reyes with Associate Justices Ma. Alicia Austria-Martinez (now a member of this Court) and Roberto A. Barrios, concurring; Rollo, pp. 218-231.

[2] Rollo, pp. 246-247.

[3] Rollo, pp. 37-38.

[4] Rollo, pp. 33-36.

[5] Rollo, pp. 40-43.

[6] Rollo, pp. 79-85.

[7] Rollo, pp. 120-126.

[8] Rollo, pp. 154-155.

[9] Rollo, p. 75.

[10] Annex "F," Petitioner's Position Paper; Rollo, pp. 76-77.

[11] De la Cruz, et al. vs. Hon. Crispin Bautista, et al., 186 SCRA 517, 525 (1990).

Ignacio, et al. vs.  The Hon. CFI of Bulacan, et al., 42 SCRA 89 (1971).

[13] Marked as Annex "C," Rollo, p. 59.

[14] Rollo, p. 60.

[15] Rollo, p. 61.

[16] Rollo, p. 62.

[17] Rollo, p. 69.

[18] See Note #13, supra.

[19] Caballes vs. DAR, et al.,  168 SCRA 247 (1988).

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