501 Phil. 568

FIRST DIVISION

[ G.R. No. 122317, July 14, 2005 ]

FERNANDO JARAMILLO, LYDIA SORIANO AND LOURDES CALDERON, PETITIONERS, VS. HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, HON. AMADO S. CAGUIOA, PRESIDING JUDGE, BRANCH 3, MUNICIPAL TRIAL COURT OF BAGUIO CITY, SHERIFF BIENVENIDO C. ARAGONES, AND THE HEIRS OF THE LATE EDUARDO AND ESPERANZA BELLO, RESPONDENTS.

DECISION

AZCUNA, J.:

This is a petition for certiorari as a special civil action under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court against the Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 30870, dated January 20, 1995,[1] as well as the writ of execution issued by the Municipal Trial Court in Cities of Baguio City in Civil Case No. 8919, dated October 23, 1995,[2] ordering the execution of the aforesaid Decision.

The case involves a complaint for unlawful detainer over a parcel of land, specifically, Lot No. 8, SWD-1-010399, a portion of Lot No. 100-A, Baguio Townsite, Baguio City, situated at Engineer's Hill, with an area of 208 square meters, more or less, covered by and embraced in Proclamation No. 63, Series of 1925, and the improvements therein, in the possession of petitioners Fernando Jaramillo, Lydia Soriano and Lourdes Calderon.[3]

Private respondents filed the complaint for unlawful detainer against petitioners, alleging that they are the owners of the parcel of land in dispute on the basis of a deed of sale in their favor (Exh. A). Said document, executed on March 2, 1987, is a sale pursuant to Republic Act No. 1361, as amended by Republic Act No. 5941, by the Government, through the Building Services and Real Property Management Office, of the disputed land in favor of the Heirs of Eduardo Bello, represented by the surviving spouse Esperanza Bello.  The sale was for the sum of P32,240, payable in ten equal monthly installments, which has been fully paid.  Esperanza Bello had died and was survived by the present private respondents, Heirs of Eduardo and Esperanza Bello, namely, Ricarte, Eduardo, Jr., Manuela and Divina, all surnamed Bello.

Petitioners, as defendants, answered the complaint, alleging that they were allowed to possess the bunkhouses on the disputed land which was built by the Government for the exclusive use of the Department of Public Works and Highways employees and their dependents.  They further alleged that defendant Lourdes Calderon was born and raised there, her father being an employee of said Department who was allocated a portion of said bunkhouse; that defendant Lydia Soriano's father was also an employee of said Department and was authorized to reside therein with his family since 1968; that defendant Fernando Jaramillo was an employee of the Department and was authorized to reside therein since 1969; that complainants never had actual and continuous possession of the parcel of land in dispute nor were they employees of the Department; that complainants' predecessors-in-interests resided in the same area but possessed only a portion of the bunkhouse of one Rodolfo Aspillaga upon his tolerance, on a parcel of land different and far from the one in dispute; and that the awarded deed of sale in complainants' favor is of dubious validity because the first preference over the said parcel of land belongs to its actual and long-time occupants.

After hearing, the Municipal Trial Court of Baguio rendered judgment dismissing the complaint on the ground that complainants' deed of sale was conditional in nature and their title was not yet perfected, and also because they failed to prove their claim that their father occupied the premises in question.

Subsequently, the Regional Trial Court of Baguio City, Branch 7, affirmed in toto the aforesaid judgment, noting various deficiencies in the deed of sale, e.g., the deed of sale was required to be approved by the Administrator of the General Services Administration, which was not shown to have been complied with; and it was not shown to have been ratified by the President or the appropriate Cabinet Secretary, thereby making it unenforceable, and rendering complainants with no "real interest" on the property.

On appeal to the Court of Appeals, said court, on January 20, 1995, reversed the decision of the Regional Trial Court, stating that:

. . .
The parcel of land in dispute used to be owned by the Government.  As provided in Republic Act No. 1361, as amended by Republic Act No. 5941, it may be sold to qualified individuals.  On March 2, 1987, under the said law, the Government, thru the Building Services and Real Property Management, sold it unto the heirs of Eduardo Bello for and in consideration of the sum of P32,240 (Exh. A).

For the sole purpose of determining the question of possession de facto, the only issue in a case for detainer, the deed of sale (Exh. A) in favor petitioners is evidence of their title over the land and improvements and of their nature and extent of possession (Sec. 4, Rule 70).  Being the owners, petitioners have the right to enjoy the disputed land and the right of action against the holder and possessor of the said land in order to recover it (Art. 428, New Civil Code).  As owners of the parcel of land in dispute, to whom it was sold by the Republic, petitioners are entitled to its CA [sic] - material and physical possession and have a right of action for detainer against the holder and possessor thereof.  Until and unless the sale of the parcel of land in dispute is nullified in the proper proceeding before a competent court, petitioners cannot be deprived of their right to possess the parcel of land in dispute.  Any question regarding the regularity of the sale unto petitioners as well as ownership of the disputed land must be resolved in the proper action if brought before the proper court and not in this summary action for detainer.

Petitioners' claim for actual damages in the sum of P14,500.00 for the fair rental value cannot be awarded because, other than their own assertions in their joint affidavit and position paper, they failed to submit preponderating [sic] evidence to justify such an award.  Actual damages must be proved (Art. 2199, New Civil Code) by preponderance of evidence (Rule 133, Section 1, Revised Rules on Evidence).  Nor can attorney's fees be awarded, there being no evidence to show that the case falls under any of the instances enumerated in Article 2208 of the New Civil Code.

WHEREFORE, the judgment under review is REVERSED and SET ASIDE and another rendered ordering private respondents to vacate the parcel of land in dispute and surrender possession thereof to petitioners.  Costs against private respondents.

SO ORDERED.[4]
Said Decision became final as no appeal therefrom was taken by petitioners herein.  They now allege that "for about half-a-year," their lawyer did not inform them of the Decision of the Court of Appeals reversing the decisions of the Regional Trial Court and the Municipal Trial Court.[5]

As a result, the writ of execution herein assailed was issued by the Municipal Trial Court.

Petitioners now claim that upon learning of the Decision of the Court of Appeals on October 19, 1995, they filed with the Municipal Trial Court a motion to quash the writ of execution.  After failing therein, they filed, on October 30, 1995, the present special civil action with this Court.

The petition is without merit.

Firstly, petitioners lost their appeal through the negligence of their counsel who failed to inform them of the Decision of the Court of Appeals.  It is established doctrine that the special civil action of certiorari cannot be used as a substitute for a lost, and in this case, a long-lost, remedy of appeal.[6] The special civil action itself was also filed way out of its reglementary period, or more than half a year after service of the Decision on the counsel. It is equally settled that the negligence of counsel binds the client.[7] Neither has there been a showing, in this case, that the negligence was excusable.

Secondly, in any event, the Court of Appeals committed no grave abuse of discretion tantamount to lack of jurisdiction to warrant correction by the extraordinary writ of certiorari.

Said appellate court rightly held that as transferees of the property from the Government, pursuant to a deed of sale, private respondents and/or their predecessors-in-interests had the better right to possession of the property in question.  The alleged further requirements under the deed of sale were neither shown to have been fulfilled nor unfulfilled.  The Court of Appeals, therefore, cannot be faulted for applying the presumption of regularity in the performance of official functions.

Anent the argument of petitioners that respondents do not own the land because it was the Government who wrote them letters to vacate, suffice it to say that the seller of the property is obliged to place the buyer in possession, so that a demand by the seller to vacate is supportive of the sale.

Finally, the proceedings in the trial courts were summary in nature.  It is thus best to leave the determination of the fulfillment of the deed of sale's conditions, if any, to appropriate proceedings, especially since in this case the parties themselves did not present evidence thereon.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED.

No costs.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman), Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, and Carpio, JJ., concur.



[1] Penned by Associate Justice Pedro A. Ramirez and concurred in by Justices Quirino D.Abad Santos, Jr. and Eugenio S. Labitoria, of the Sixth Division, Rollo, p. 25.

[2] Per Judge Amado S. Caguioa, Rollo, p. 35.

[3] The Decision of the Court of Appeals narrates the antecedents, thus:
"On October 14, 1987, Fernando R. Dungca, Supervising Engineer II of the Building Services and Real Property Management Office, formally demanded of private respondents [herein petitioners] to vacate the "quarters you are occupying and is encroaching on a portion of the subject lot" within thirty (30) days from receipt of the demand, in view of petitioners' [herein respondents] desire, as awardees of the parcel of land in dispute, to construct a residence house thereon (Exhs. B, C, & D).

"On October 10, 1989, petitioners [herein respondents] paid in full the purchase price of the parcel of land in dispute (Exh. J).

"On May 21, 1990, Feliciano C. Liggayu, Regional Technical Director of the Lands Management Services, referring to the demand earlier made (Exhs. B, C, & D) gave final notice for private respondents [herein petitioners] to vacate the parcel of land in dispute within thirty (30) days from receipt (Exhs. E, F & G).

"On April 3, 1991, petitioners [herein respondents] filed their complaint for detainer seeking to evict private respondents [herein petitioners] alleging that they are the owners of the parcel of land in dispute as evidenced by the deed of sale in their favor (Exh. A) and that private respondents' [herein petitioners] possession was merely tolerated by them."  Rollo, p. 26.
[4] Rollo, pp. 31-32.

[5] Petition, par. 4.23; Rollo, p. 11.

[6] Land Bank of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 129368, August 25, 2003, 409 SCRA 455; Fajardo v. Bautista, G.R. Nos. 102193-97, May 10, 1994, 232 SCRA 291.

[7] Boaz International Trading Corporation v. Woodward Japan, Inc., G.R. No. 147793, December 11, 2003, 418 SCRA 287; People v. Mercado, G.R. No. 143676, February 19, 2003, 397 SCRA 747; Greenhills Airconditioning and Services, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Commission, G.R. No. 112850, June 27, 1995, 315 Phil. 409, 245 SCRA 384; Tesoro v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 36666, December 19, 1973, 54 SCRA 296.



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