358 Phil. 833


[ G.R. No. 125055, October 30, 1998 ]




This is a petition for review on certiorari of the decision rendered on February 29, 1996 by the Court of Appeals[1] reversing, in toto, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City in Civil Case No. 62290, as well as the appellate court’s resolution of May 7, 1996 denying reconsideration.

Petitioner A. Francisco Realty and Development Corporation granted a loan of P7.5 Million to private respondents, the spouses Romulo and Erlinda Javillonar, in consideration of which the latter executed the following documents: (a) a promissory note, dated November 27, 1991, stating an interest charge of 4% per month for six months; (b) a deed of mortgage over realty covered by TCT No. 58748, together with the improvements thereon; and (c) an undated deed of sale of the mortgaged property in favor of the mortgagee, petitioner A. Francisco Realty.[2]

The interest on the said loan was to be paid in four installments: half of the total amount agreed upon (P900,000.00) to be paid in advance through a deduction from the proceeds of the loan, while the balance to be paid monthly by means of checks post-dated March 27, April 27, and May 27, 1992. The promissory note expressly provided that upon "failure of the MORTGAGOR [private respondents] to pay the interest without prior arrangement with the MORTGAGEE [petitioner], full possession of the property will be transferred and the deed of sale will be registered."[3] For this purpose, the owner’s duplicate of TCT No. 58748 was delivered to petitioner A. Francisco Realty.

Petitioner claims that private respondents failed to pay the interest and, as a consequence, it registered the sale of the land in its favor on February 21, 1992. As a result, TCT No. 58748 was cancelled and in lieu thereof TCT No. PT-85569 was issued in the name of petitioner A. Francisco Realty.[4]

Private respondents subsequently obtained an additional loan of P2.5 Million from petitioner on March 13, 1992 for which they signed a promissory note which reads:

For value received, I promise to pay A. FRANCISCO REALTY AND DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, the additional sum of Two Million Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (P2,500,000.00) on or before April 27, 1992, with interest at the rate of four percent (4%) a month until fully paid and if after the said date this note and/or the other promissory note of P7.5 Million remains unpaid and/or unsettled, without any need for prior demand or notification, I promise to vacate voluntarily and willfully and/or allow A. FRANCISCO REALTY AND DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION to appropriate and occupy for their exclusive use the real property located at 56 Dragonfly, Valle Verde VI, Pasig, Metro Manila.[5]
Petitioner demanded possession of the mortgaged realty and the payment of 4% monthly interest from May 1992, plus surcharges. As respondent spouses refused to vacate, petitioner filed the present action for possession before the Regional Trial Court in Pasig City.[6]

In their answer, respondents admitted liability on the loan but alleged that it was not their intent to sell the realty as the undated deed of sale was executed by them merely as an additional security for the payment of their loan. Furthermore, they claimed that they were not notified of the registration of the sale in favor of petitioner A. Francisco Realty and that there was no interest then unpaid as they had in fact been paying interest even subsequent to the registration of the sale. As an alternative defense, respondents contended that the complaint was actually for ejectment and, therefore, the Regional Trial Court had no jurisdiction to try the case. As counterclaim, respondents sought the cancellation of TCT No. PT-85569 as secured by petitioner and the issuance of a new title evidencing their ownership of the property.[7]

On December 19, 1992, the Regional Trial Court rendered a decision, the dispositive portion of which reads as follows:
WHEREFORE, prescinding from the foregoing considerations, judgment is hereby rendered declaring as legal and valid, the right of ownership of A. Francisco Realty And Development Corporation, over the property subject of this case and now registered in its name as owner thereof, under TCT No. 85569 of the Register of Deeds of Rizal, situated at No. 56 Dragonfly Street, Valle Verde VI, Pasig, Metro Manila.

Consequently, defendants are hereby ordered to cease and desist from further committing acts of dispossession or from withholding possession from plaintiff, of the said property as herein described and specified.

Claim for damages in all its forms, however, including attorney’s fees, are hereby denied, no competent proofs having been adduced on record, in support thereof.[8]
Respondent spouses appealed to the Court of Appeals which reversed the decision of the trial court and dismissed the complaint against them. The appellate court ruled that the Regional Trial Court had no jurisdiction over the case because it was actually an action for unlawful detainer which is exclusively cognizable by municipal trial courts. Furthermore, it ruled that, even presuming jurisdiction of the trial court, the deed of sale was void for being in fact a pactum commissorium which is prohibited by Art. 2088 of the Civil Code.

Petitioner A. Francisco Realty filed a motion for reconsideration, but the Court of Appeals denied the motion in its resolution, dated May 7, 1996. Hence, this petition for review on certiorari raising the following issues:


On the first issue, the appellate court stated:

Ostensibly, the cause of action in the complaint indicates a case for unlawful detainer, as contra-distinguished from accion publiciana. As contemplated by Rule 70 of the Rules of Court, an action for unlawful detainer which falls under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Metropolitan or Municipal Trial Courts, is defined as withholding from by a person from another for not more than one year, the possession of the land or building to which the latter is entitled after the expiration or termination of the supposed rights to hold possession by virtue of a contract, express or implied. (Tenorio vs. Gamboa, 81 Phil. 54; Dikit vs. Dicaciano, 89 Phil. 44). If no action is initiated for forcible entry or unlawful detainer within the expiration of the 1 year period, the case may still be filed under the plenary action to recover possession by accion publiciana before the Court of First Instance (now the Regional Trial Court) (Medina vs. Valdellon, 63 SCRA 278). In plain language, the case at bar is a legitimate ejectment case filed within the 1 year period from the jurisdictional demand to vacate. Thus, the Regional Trial Court has no jurisdiction over the case. Accordingly, under Section 33 of B.P. Blg. 129 Municipal Trial Courts are vested with the exclusive original jurisdiction over forcible entry and unlawful detainer case. (Sen Po Ek Marketing Corp. vs. CA, 212 SCRA 154 [1990])[9]
We think the appellate court is in error. What really distinguishes an action for unlawful detainer from a possessory action (accion publiciana) and from a reivindicatory action (accion reivindicatoria) is that the first is limited to the question of possession de facto.
An unlawful detainer suit (accion interdictal) together with forcible entry are the two forms of an ejectment suit that may be filed to recover possession of real property. Aside from the summary action of ejectment, accion publiciana or the plenary action to recover the right of possession and accion reivindicatoria or the action to recover ownership which includes recovery of possession, make up the three kinds of actions to judicially recover possession.

Illegal detainer consists in withholding by a person from another of the possession of a land or building to which the latter is entitled after the expiration or termination of the former’s right to hold possession by virtue of a contract, express or implied. An ejectment suit is brought before the proper inferior court to recover physical possession only or possession de facto and not possession de jure, where dispossession has lasted for not more than one year. Forcible entry and unlawful detainer are quieting processes and the one-year time bar to the suit is in pursuance of the summary nature of the action. The use of summary procedure in ejectment cases is intended to provide an expeditious means of protecting actual possession or right to possession of the property. They are not processes to determine the actual title to an estate. If at all, inferior courts are empowered to rule on the question of ownership raised by the defendant in such suits, only to resolve the issue of possession. Its determination on the ownership issue is, however, not conclusive.[10]
The allegations in both the original and the amended complaints of petitioner before the trial court clearly raise issues involving more than the question of possession, to wit: (a) the validity of the transfer of ownership to petitioner; (b) the alleged new liability of private respondents for P400,000.00 a month from the time petitioner made its demand on them to vacate; and (c) the alleged continuing liability of private respondents under both loans to pay interest and surcharges on such. As petitioner A. Francisco Realty alleged in its amended complaint:
5. To secure the payment of the sum of P7.5 Million together with the monthly interest, the defendant spouses agreed to execute a Deed of Mortgage over the property with the express condition that if and when they fail to pay monthly interest or any infringement thereof they agreed to convert the mortgage into a Deed of Absolute Sale in favor of the plaintiff by executing Deed of Sale thereto, copy of which is hereto attached and incorporated herein as Annex "A";

6. That in order to authorize the Register of Deeds into registering the Absolute Sale and transfer to the plaintiff, defendant delivered unto the plaintiff the said Deed of Sale together with the original owner’s copy of Transfer Certificate of Title No. 58748 of the Registry of Rizal, copy of which is hereto attached and made an integral part herein as Annex "B";

7. That defendant spouses later secured from the plaintiff an additional loan of P2.5 Million with the same condition as aforementioned with 4% monthly interest;

8. That defendants spouses failed to pay the stipulated monthly interest and as per agreement of the parties, plaintiff recorded and registered the Absolute Deed of Sale in its favor on and was issued Transfer Certificate of Title No. PT-85569, copy of which is hereto attached and incorporated herein as Annex "C";

9. That upon registration and transfer of the Transfer Certificate of Title in the name of the plaintiff, copy of which is hereto attached and incorporated herein as Annex "C", plaintiff demanded the surrender of the possession of the above-described parcel of land together with the improvements thereon, but defendants failed and refused to surrender the same to the plaintiff without justifiable reasons thereto; Neither did the defendants pay the interest of 4% a month from May, 1992 plus surcharges up to the present;

10. That it was the understanding of the parties that if and when the defendants shall fail to pay the interest due and that the Deed of Sale be registered in favor of plaintiff, the defendants shall pay a monthly rental of P400,000.00 a month until they vacate the premises, and that if they still fail to pay as they are still failing to pay the amount of P400,000.00 a month as rentals and/or interest, the plaintiff shall take physical possession of the said property;[11]
It is therefore clear from the foregoing that petitioner A. Francisco Realty raised issues which involved more than a simple claim for the immediate possession of the subject property. Such issues range across the full scope of rights of the respective parties under their contractual arrangements. As held in an analogous case:
The disagreement of the parties in Civil Case No. 96 of the Justice of the Peace of Hagonoy, Bulacan extended far beyond the issues generally involved in unlawful detainer suits. The litigants therein did not raise merely the question of who among them was entitled to the possession of the fishpond of Federico Suntay. For all judicial purposes, they likewise prayed of the court to rule on their respective rights under the various contractual documents ¾ their respective deeds of lease, the deed of assignment and the promissory note ¾ upon which they predicate their claims to the possession of the said fishpond. In other words, they gave the court no alternative but to rule on the validity or nullity of the above documents. Clearly, the case was converted into the determination of the nature of the proceedings from a mere detainer suit to one that is "incapable of pecuniary estimation" and thus beyond the legitimate authority of the Justice of the Peace Court to rule on.[12]
Nor can it be said that the compulsory counterclaim filed by respondent spouses challenging the title of petitioner A. Francisco Realty was merely a collateral attack which would bar a ruling here on the validity of the said title.
A counterclaim is considered a complaint, only this time, it is the original defendant who becomes the plaintiff (Valisno v. Plan, 143 SCRA 502 (1986). It stands on the same footing and is to be tested by the same rules as if it were an independent action. Hence, the same rules on jurisdiction in an independent action apply to a counterclaim (Vivar v. Vivar, 8 SCRA 847 (1963); Calo v. Ajax International, Inc. v. 22 SCRA 996 (1968); Javier v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 171 SCRA 605 (1989); Quiason, Philippine Courts and Their Jurisdictions, 1993 ed., p. 203).[13]
On the second issue, the Court of Appeals held that, even "on the assumption that the trial court has jurisdiction over the instant case," petitioner’s action could not succeed because the deed of sale on which it was based was void, being in the nature of a pactum commissorium prohibited by Art. 2088 of the Civil Code which provides:
ART. 2088. The creditor cannot appropriate the things given by way to pledge or mortgage, or dispose of them. Any stipulation to the contrary is null and void.
With respect to this question, the ruling of the appellate court should be affirmed. Petitioner denies, however, that the promissory notes contain a pactum commissorium. It contends that ¾
What is envisioned by Article 2088 of the Civil Code of the Philippines is a provision in the deed of mortgage providing for the automatic conveyance of the mortgaged property in case of the failure of the debtor to pay the loan (Tan v. West Coast Life Assurance Co., 54 Phil. 361). A pactum commissorium is a forfeiture clause in a deed of mortgage (Hechanova v. Adil, 144 SCRA 450; Montevergen v. Court of Appeals, 112 SCRA 641; Report of the Code Commission, 156).

Thus, before Article 2088 can find application herein, the subject deed of mortgage must be scrutinized to determine if it contains such a provision giving the creditor the right "to appropriate the things given by way of mortgage without following the procedure prescribed by law for the foreclosure of the mortgage" (Ranjo v. Salmon, 15 Phil. 436). IN SHORT, THE PROSCRIBED STIPULATION SHOULD BE FOUND IN THE MORTGAGE DEED ITSELF.[14]
The contention is patently without merit. To sustain the theory of petitioner would be to allow a subversion of the prohibition in Art. 2088.

In Nakpil v. Intermediate Appellate Court,[15] which involved the violation of a constructive trust, no deed of mortgage was expressly executed between the parties in that case. Nevertheless, this Court ruled that an agreement whereby property held in trust was ceded to the trustee upon failure of the beneficiary to pay his debt to the former as secured by the said property was void for being a pactum commissorium. It was there held:
The arrangement entered into between the parties, whereby Pulong Maulap was to be "considered sold to him (respondent) x x x" in case petitioner fails to reimburse Valdes, must then be construed as tantamount to a pactum commissorium which is expressly prohibited by Art. 2088 of the Civil Code. For, there was to be automatic appropriation of the property by Valdez in the event of failure of petitioner to pay the value of the advances. Thus, contrary to respondent’s manifestations, all the elements of a pactum commissorium were present: there was a creditor-debtor relationship between the parties; the property was used as security for the loan; and, there was automatic appropriation by respondent of Pulong Maulap in case of default of petitioner.[16]
Similarly, the Court has struck down such stipulations as contained in deeds of sale purporting to be pacto de retro sales but found actually to be equitable mortgages.
It has been consistently held that the presence of even one of the circumstances enumerated in Art. 1602 of the New Civil Code is sufficient to declare a contract of sale with right to repurchase an equitable mortgage. This is so because pacto de retro sales with the stringent and onerous effects that accompany them are not favored. In case of doubt, a contract purporting to be a sale with right to repurchase shall be construed as an equitable mortgage.

Petitioner, to prove her claim, cannot rely on the stipulation in the contract providing that complete and absolute title shall be vested on the vendee should the vendors fail to redeem the property on the specified date. Such stipulation that the ownership of the property would automatically pass to the vendee in case no redemption was effected within the stipulated period is void for being a pactum commissorium which enables the mortgagee to acquire ownership of the mortgaged property without need of foreclosure. Its insertion in the contract is an avowal of the intention to mortgage rather that to sell the property.[17]
Indeed, in Reyes v. Sierra[18] this Court categorically ruled that a mortgagee’s mere act of registering the mortgaged property in his own name upon the mortgagor’s failure to redeem the property amounted to the exercise of the privilege of a mortgagee in a pactum commissorium.
Obviously, from the nature of the transaction, applicant’s predecessor-in-interest is a mere mortgagee, and ownership of the thing mortgaged is retained by Basilia Beltran, the mortgagor. The mortgagee, however, may recover the loan, although the mortgage document evidencing the loan was nonregistrable being a purely private instrument. Failure of mortgagor to redeem the property does not automatically vest ownership of the property to the mortgagee, which would grant the latter the right to appropriate the thing mortgaged or dispose of it. This violates the provision of Article 2088 of the New Civil Code, which reads:

The creditor cannot appropriate the things given by way of pledge or mortgage, or dispose by them. Any stipulation to the contrary is null and void.

The act of applicant in registering the property in his own name upon mortgagor’s failure to redeem the property would amount to a pactum commissorium which is against good morals and public policy.[19]
Thus, in the case at bar, the stipulations in the promissory notes providing that, upon failure of respondent spouses to pay interest, ownership of the property would be automatically transferred to petitioner A. Francisco Realty and the deed of sale in its favor would be registered, are in substance a pactum commissorium. They embody the two elements of pactum commissorium as laid down in Uy Tong v. Court of Appeals,[20] to wit:
The prohibition on pactum commissorium stipulations is provided for by Article 2088 of the Civil Code:

Art. 2088. The creditor cannot appropriate the things given by way of pledge or mortgagee, or dispose of the same. Any stipulation to the contrary is null and void.

The aforequoted provision furnishes the two elements for pactum commissorium to exist: (1) that there should be a pledge or mortgage wherein a property is pledged or mortgaged by way of security for the payment of the principal obligation; and (2) that there should be a stipulation for an automatic appropriation by the creditor of the thing pledged or mortgaged in the event of non-payment of the principal obligation within the stipulated period.[21]
The subject transaction being void, the registration of the deed of sale, by virtue of which petitioner A. Francisco Realty was able to obtain TCT No. PT-85569 covering the subject lot, must also be declared void, as prayed for by respondents in their counterclaim.

WHEREFORE, the decision of the Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED, insofar as it dismissed petitioner’s complaint against respondent spouses on the ground that the stipulations in the promissory notes are void for being a pactum commissorium, but REVERSED insofar as it ruled that the trial court had no jurisdiction over this case. The Register of Deeds of Pasig City is hereby ORDERED to CANCEL TCT No. PT-85569 issued to petitioner and ISSUE a new one in the name of respondent spouses.


Melo, (Acting Chairman), Puno and Martinez, JJ., concur.

[1] Per Justice Conrado M. Vasquez, Jr. and concurred in by Justices Gloria C. Paras and Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez.

[2] Rollo, p. 9.

[3] Records, p. 40.

[4] Rollo, pp. 9-10.

[5] Records, p. 41.

[6] Rollo, p. 10.

[7] Records, pp. 71-78.

[8] Id., p. 161.

[9] Rollo, p. 36.

[10] De Leon v. Court of Appeals, 245 SCRA 166, 173-174 (1995).

[11] Records, p. 25.

[12] De Rivera v. Halili, 9 SCRA 59, 63-64 (1963); reiterated in De Leon v. Court of Appeals, supra note 10.

[13] Vda. de Chua v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 229 SCRA 99, 108 (1994).

[14] Rollo, pp. 23-24 (emphasis petitioner’s).

[15] 225 SCRA 456 (1993).

[16] Id., pp. 467-468 (emphasis added).

[17] Olea v. Court of Appeals, 247 SCRA 274, 282-283 (1995).

[18] 93 SCRA 472 (1979).

[19] Id., p. 480.

[20] 161 SCRA 383 (1988).

[21] Id., at 388.

Source: Supreme Court E-Library
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