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G.R. No.

199146, March 19, 2014


HEIRS OF PACIFICO POCDO, NAMELY, RITA POCDO GASIC, GOLIC POCDO,
MARCELA POCDO ALFELOR, KENNETH POCDO, NIXON CADOS, JACQUELINE
CADOS LEE, EFLYN CADOS, AND GIRLIE CADOS DAPLIN, HEREIN REPRESENTED BY
THEIR ATTORNEYINFACT JOHN POCDO, Petitioners, v. ARSENIA AVILA AND
EMELINDA CHUA, Respondents.
RE S O LUTI ON
CARPIO, J.:
The Case
This petition for review1 assails the 12 October 2011 Decision 2 of the Court of Appeals in CAG.R.
CV No. 91039. The Court of Appeals affirmed the 14 January 2008 Resolution of the Regional Trial
Court of Baguio City, Branch 61, in Civil Case No. 4710R, dismissing the complaint for lack of
jurisdiction.
The Facts
In June 2000, Pacifico Pocdo, who was later substituted by his heirs upon his death, filed a complaint
to quiet title over a 1,728square meter property (disputed property) located in Camp 7, Baguio City,
and covered by Tax Declaration 9606008106641. Pacifico claimed that the disputed property is part
of Lot 43, TS39, which originally belonged to Pacificos father, Pocdo Pool. The disputed property is
allegedly different from the onehectare portion alloted to Polon Pocdo, the predecessorininterest of
the defendants Arsenia Avila and Emelinda Chua, in a partition made by the heirs of Pocdo Pool.
Pacifico alleged that the defendants unlawfully claimed the disputed property, which belonged to
Pacifico.
The facts of the case were summarized by the Court of Appeals as follows:

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As it appears, in 1894, Pocdo Pool, who died in 1942, began his occupation and claim on
three lots that were eventually surveyed in his name as Lot 43, TS 39SWO36431, Lot 44,
TS 39SWO36420 and Lot 45 TS 39SWO36429 with an area of 144,623 [sq.m.],
64,112 [sq.m.], and 9,427 square meters, respectively, and situated at Residence Section 4,
Baguio City. These lots were the subject of a petition to reopen judicial proceedings filed
by the Heirs of Pocdo Pool with the CFI of Baguio City in Civil Reservation Case No. 1,
LRC Case 211. The registration of the lots in the names of the petitioners were [sic] granted
in October 1964, but since the decision was not implemented within the 10 years [sic]
prescribed period, the Heirs filed their ancestral land claims with the DENR. In August
1991, Certificates of Ancestral Lands Claims (CALS) were issued by the DENR for Lots 44
and 45, but Lot 43 was not approved due to Memorandum Order 9815 issued by the
DENR
Secretary
in
September
199 8.
In the meantime, on September 14, 1960, Polon Pocdo, an heir of Pocdo Pool, ceded his
rights over the three lots to Pacifico Pocdo in exchange for a one hectare lot to be taken

from Lot 43. However, Pacifico entered into a contract with Florencio Pax and Braulio
Yaranon on November 21, 1968 revoking the agreement with Polon. In the contract, the
4,875 square meters where Polons house was located became part of the 1hectare given to
Pax and Yaranon in exchange for their services in the titling of Pacificos lands.
Polon filed a complaint in August 1980 [with] the Office of the Barangay Captain at Camp
7, Baguio City, which was settled by an amicable settlement dated September 3, 1980
between Pacifico and Polon. They agreed that Polon would again retain the 4,875 square
meters and Pacifico would give the 5,125 square meter area, the remaining portion of the
1hectare share of Polon, to be taken from Lot 43 after a segregation.
On April 18, 1981, Polon entered into a Catulagan with Arsenia Avila authorizing the latter
to undertake the segregation of his onehectare land from Lot 43 in accord with the
amicable settlement of September 3, 1980. In exchange, Polon would award to her 2,000
square meters from the 1hectare lot. After spending time, money and effort in the
execution of the survey, Avila gave the survey results to Polon prompting Polon to execute
a Waiver of Rights dated January 21, 1987. Accordingly, the subdivided lots were declared
for tax purposes and the corresponding tax declaration issued to Polon and Arsenia, with
8,010 square meters going to Polon and 1,993 square meters to Avila.
On March 10, 2000, finding the amicable settlement, the Catulagan and Waiver of Rights in
order, the CENRO of Baguio City issued in favor of Avila a Certificate of Exclusion of 993
square meters from the Ancestral Land Claim of the Heirs of Pocdo Pool over Lot 43.
On April 27, 2000, however, the Heirs of Polon Pocdo and his wife Konon filed an affidavit
of cancellation with OICCENRO Teodoro Suaking and on that basis, Suaking cancelled
the Certificate of Exclusion. On May 8, 2000, Avila complained to the Regional Executive
Director or RED the unlawful cancellation of her Certificate of Exclusion, and on June 1,
2000, the RED issued a memorandum setting aside the revocation and restoring the
Certificate of Exclusion. On August 13, 2001, Avila filed an administrative complaint
against Suaking, and on July 16, 2002, the RED dismissed the lettercomplaint of Avila and
referred
the
administrative
complaint
to
the
DENR
Central
Office.
Acting on the motion for reconsideration by Avila [against oppositors Pacifico Pocdo, et
al.], the RED in an Order on October 28, 2002 set aside the July 16, 2002 order. The
Affidavit of Cancellation dated April 27, 2002 filed by the heirs of Polon Pocdo was
dismissed for lack of jurisdiction and the validity of the Amicable Settlement, Catulagan
and Deed of Waiver of Rights were recognized. The letter dated April 28, 2000 and
certification issued on May 31, 2000 by Suaking were ordered cancelled. Accordingly, the
RED held that the TSA applications of Arsenia Avila and others under TSA Application
15313, 15314, 15409 and 15410 should be given due course subject to compliance with
existing
laws
and
regulations.
The DENR Secretary affirmed his Order in [his] Decision of May 14, 2004 in DENR Case
5599, with the modification that the TSAs fo[r] the appellee Avila could now be made the
basis of disposition through public bidding and the appellant may participate in the bidding
if
qualified.
Pacifico Pocdo, as the appellant, went on appeal to the Office of the President which

resulted in an affirmance of DENR Secretarys decision on April 19, 2005 in OP Case 04


H360.
As mentioned, having exhausted administrative remedies, the Heirs of Pacifico Pocdo
challenged the OP resolution before the Court of Appeals, but this petition was dismissed
for having been filed late. The Supreme Court dismissed the Heirs appeal from this
decision.
The instant case, Civil Case 4710R, before the Regional Trial Court of Baguio City,
Branch 61 was filed by Pacifico Pocdo against Arsenia Avila and Emelinda Chua in June
2000, just after the RED set aside Suakings revocation on April 28, 2000 and ordered the
restoration of Avilas Certificate of Exclusion. Since then, the judicial proceedings have run
parallel to the administrative case.3

In a Resolution4 dated 14 January 2008, the Regional Trial Court dismissed the case for lack of
jurisdiction. The trial court held that the DENR had already declared the disputed property as public
land, which the State, through the DENR, has the sole power to dispose. Thus, the claim of petitioners
to quiet title is not proper since they do not have title over the disputed property. The trial court agreed
with the DENR Secretarys ruling that petitioner may participate in the public bidding of the disputed
property
if
qualified
under
applicable
rules.
Petitioners appealed to the Court of Appeals, asserting that the case is not limited to quieting of title
since there are other issues not affected by the DENR ruling, particularly the validity of the Waiver of
Rights and the Catulagan. Petitioners maintained that the DENRs ruling that the disputed property is
public land did not preclude the court from taking cognizance of the issues on who is entitled
possession to the disputed property and whether the questioned documents are valid and enforceable
against Pacifico and his heirs.
The Ruling of the Court of Appeals
The Court of Appeals ruled that petitioners, in raising the issue of quieting of title, failed to allege any
legal or equitable title to quiet. Under Article 477 of the Civil Code, in an action to quiet title, the
plaintiff must have legal or equitable title to, or interest in the real property which is the subject matter
of the action. Instead of an action to quiet title or accion reivindicatoria, the Court of Appeals stated
that petitioners should have filed an accion publiciana based merely on the recovery of possession de
jure.
On the validity of the Catulagan and the Waiver of Rights, the Court of Appeals held that petitioners
have no right to question these since they were not parties to said documents had not participated in any
manner in their execution. The Court of Appeals ruled that only the contracting parties are bound by the
stipulations of the said documents. Those not parties to the said documents, and for whose benefit they
were not expressly made, cannot maintain an action based on the said documents.

Thus, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial courts resolution, subject to the right of petitioners to file
the appropriate action.
The Issues
Petitioners raise the following issues:

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THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN RULING THAT THE PETITIONERS SHOULD


JUST FILE THE NECESSARY ACTION FOR RECOVERY OF POSSESSION
BECAUSE SAID COURT HAS FAILED TO TAKE INTO CONSIDERATION THAT
RECOVERY OF POSSESSION IS PRECISELY ONE OF THE CAUSES OF ACTION IN
THE
PRESENT
CASE.
THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN RULING THAT THE RTC HAD NO
JURISDICTION SINCE IT IS THE COURTS, NOT THE DENR, THAT HAS
JURISDICTION OVER ACTIONS INVOLVING POSSESSION OF LANDS, EVEN
ASSUMING WITHOUT ADMITTING, THAT THE LAND IS A PUBLIC LAND.
THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN UPHOLDING THE DISMISSAL OF THE CASE
BECAUSE THERE ARE OTHER CAUSES OF ACTION OVER WHICH THE RTC HAS
JURISDICTION, i.e. RECOVERY OF POSSESSION, DECLARATION OF NULLITY OF
DOCUMENTS.
THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE PETITIONERS HAVE
NO TITLE TO THE PROPERTY THAT WOULD SUPPORT AN ACTION FOR
QUIETING OF TITLE WHEN TRIAL HAD NOT YET COMMENCED.
NONETHELESS, THE RECORD IS REPLETE OF PROOF THAT THE PETITIONERS
HAVE RIGHTS/TITLE OVER THE SUBJECT PROPERTY.5

The Ruling of the Court


We

find

the

petition

without

merit.

In the administrative case involving the disputed property, which forms part of Lot 43, the DENR ruled
that Lot 43 is public land located within the Baguio Townsite Reservation. In his Decision dated 14
May 2004 in DENR Case No. 5599, the DENR Secretary stated:
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Lot 43 is public land and part of the Baguio Townsite Reservation. This has already been
settled by the decision of the Court of First Instance of Benguet and Mountain Province
dated 13 November 1922 in Civil Reservation Case No. 1. The fact that the heirs of Pocdo
Pool were able to reopen Civil Reservation Case No. 1, LRC Case No. 211 and secure a
decision in their favor for registration of Lot 43 is of no moment. As held in Republic v. Pio
R. Marcos (52 SCRA 238), the Court of First Instance of Baguio and Benguet had no
jurisdiction to order the registration of lands already declared public in Civil Reservation
Case No. 1. Lot 43 being part of the Baguio Townsite Reservation, disposition thereof is

under Townsite Sales Application (TSA). Precisely on this bone [sic] that Lot 43 was not
awarded a Certificate of Land Ancestral Claim [sic] under DENR Circular No. 03, series of
1990, because it is within the Baguio Townsite Reservation.6

The DENR Decision was affirmed by the Office of the President which held that lands within the
Baguio Townsite Reservation belong to the public domain and are no longer registrable under the Land
Registration Act.7 The Office of the President ordered the disposition of the disputed property in
accordance with the applicable rules of procedure for the disposition of alienable public lands within
the Baguio Townsite Reservation, particularly Chapter X of Commonwealth Act No. 141 on Townsite
Reservations
and
other
applicable
rules.
Having established that the disputed property is public land, the trial court was therefore correct in
dismissing the complaint to quiet title for lack of jurisdiction. The trial court had no jurisdiction to
determine who among the parties have better right over the disputed property which is admittedly still
part of the public domain. As held in Dajunos v. Tandayag:8
x x x The Tarucs action was for quieting of title and necessitated determination of the
respective rights of the litigants, both claimants to a free patent title, over a piece of
property, admittedly public land. The law, as relied upon by jurisprudence, lodges the
power of executive control, administration, disposition and alienation of public lands with
the Director of Lands subject, of course, to the control of the Secretary of Agriculture and
Natural
Resources.
In sum, the decision rendered in civil case 1218 on October 28, 1968 is a patent nullity. The
court below did not have power to determine who (the Firmalos or the Tarucs) were entitled
to an award of free patent title over that piece of property that yet belonged to the public
domain. Neither did it have power to adjudge the Tarucs as entitled to the true equitable
ownership thereof, the latters effect being the same: the exclusion of the Firmalos in favor
of the Tarucs.9

In an action for quieting of title, the complainant is seeking for an adjudication that a claim of title or
interest in property adverse to the claimant is invalid, to free him from the danger of hostile claim, and
to remove a cloud upon or quiet title to land where stale or unenforceable claims or demands exist. 10
Under Articles 47611 and 47712 of the Civil Code, the two indispensable requisites in an action to quiet
title are: (1) that the plaintiff has a legal or equitable title to or interest in the real property subject of the
action; and (2) that there is a cloud on his title by reason of any instrument, record, deed, claim,
encumbrance or proceeding, which must be shown to be in fact invalid or inoperative despite its prima
facie

appearance

of

validity.13

In this case, petitioners, claiming to be owners of the disputed property, allege that respondents are
unlawfully claiming the disputed property by using void documents, namely the Catulagan and the

Deed of Waiver of Rights. However, the records reveal that petitioners do not have legal or equitable
title over the disputed property, which forms part of Lot 43, a public land within the Baguio Townsite
Reservation. It is clear from the facts of the case that petitioners predecessorsininterest, the heirs of
Pocdo Pool, were not even granted a Certificate of Ancestral Land Claim over Lot 43, which remains
public land. Thus, the trial court had no other recourse but to dismiss the case.
There is no more need to discuss the other issues raised since these are intrinsically linked to
petitioners
action
to
quiet
title.
WHEREFORE, we DENY the petition. We AFFIRM the 12 October 2011 Decision of the Court of
Appeals
in
CAG.R.
CV
No.
91039.
SO ORDERED.

SECOND DIVISION
G.R. No. 176020, September 29, 2014
HEIRS OF TELESFORO JULAO, NAMELY, ANITA VDA. DE ENRIQUEZ, SONIA J.
TOLENTINO AND RODERICK JULAO, Petitioners, v. SPOUSES ALEJANDRO AND
MORENITA DE JESUS, Respondents.
DECISION
DEL CASTILLO, J.:
Jurisdiction over the subject matter is conferred by law and is determined by the material allegations of
the complaint.1 Thus, it cannot be acquired through, or waived by, any act or omission of the parties; 2
nor

can

it

be

cured

by

their

silence,

acquiescence,

or

even

express

consent. 3

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This Petition for Review on Certiorari4 under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court assails the Decision 5 dated
December 4, 2006 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 72845.
Factual

Antecedents

Sometime in the 1960s, Telesforo Julao (Telesforo) 6 filed before the Department of Environment and
Natural Resources (DENR), Baguio City, two Townsite Sales Applications (TSA), TSA No. V-2132
and TSA No. V-6667.7 Upon his death on June 1, 1971, his applications were transferred to his heirs. 8

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On April 30, 1979,9 Solito Julao (Solito) executed a Deed of Transfer of Rights, 10 transferring his
hereditary share in the property covered by TSA No. V-6667 to respondent spouses Alejandro and

Morenita De Jesus. In 1983, respondent spouses constructed a house on the property they acquired
Solito.11

from

In

1986,

Solito

missing.12

went

On March 15, 1996, the DENR issued an Order: Rejection and Transfer of Sales Rights,13 to wit:

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WHEREFORE, premises considered and it appearing that herein applicant is a holder of


two (2) applications in violation with established policy in the disposition [of] public lands
in the City of Baguio, TSA V-6667 is hereby ordered dropped from the records.
Accordingly, it is henceforth ordered that TSA 2132 in the name of TELESFORO JULAO
be, as [it is] hereby transferred to the heirs of TELESFORO JULAO, represented by
ANITA VDA. DE ENRIQUEZ, and as thus transferred, the same shall continue to be given
due course. For convenience of easy reference, it is directed that the [pertinent] records be
consolidated
in
the
name
of
the
latter.
SO ORDERED.14

Consequently, on December 21, 1998, Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. P-2446, 15 covering a
641-square

meter

property,

was

issued

in

favor

of

the

heirs

of

Telesforo. 16

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On March 2, 1999, petitioners Anita Julao vda. De Enriquez, Sonia J. Tolentino and Roderick Julao, 17
representing themselves to be the heirs of Telesforo, filed before the Regional Trial Court (RTC),
Baguio City, a Complaint for Recovery of Possession of Real Property,18 docketed as Civil Case No.
4308-R,19 against respondent spouses. Petitioners alleged that they are the true and lawful owners of a
641-square meter parcel of land located at Naguilian Road, Baguio City, covered by OCT No. P2446;20 that the subject property originated from TSA No. V-2132; 21 that respondent spouses house
encroached on 70 square meters of the subject property; 22 that on August 4, 1998, petitioners sent a
demand letter to respondent spouses asking them to return the subject property; 23 that respondent
spouses refused to accede to the demand, insisting that they acquired the subject property from
petitioners brother, Solito, by virtue of a Deed of Transfer of Rights; 24 that in the Deed of Transfer of
Rights, Solito expressly transferred in favor of respondent spouses his hereditary share in the parcel of
land covered by TSA No. V-6667;25 that TSA No. V-6667 was rejected by the DENR; 26 and that
respondent spouses have no valid claim over the subject property because it is covered by a separate
application,

TSA

No.

V-2132.27

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Respondent spouses filed a Motion to Dismiss28 on the ground of prescription, which the RTC denied
for lack of merit.29 Thus, they filed an Answer30 contending that they are the true and lawful owners
and possessors of the subject property; 31that they acquired the said property from petitioners brother,
Solito;32 and that contrary to the claim of petitioners, TSA No. V-6667 and TSA No. V-2132 pertain to
the

same

property.33

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During the trial, petitioners disputed the validity of the Deed of Transfer of Rights executed by Solito.
They presented evidence to show that Telesforo submitted two applications, TSA No. V-2132 and TSA
No. V-6667.34 The first one, TSA No. V-2132, resulted in the issuance of OCT No. P-2446 in favor of
the heirs of Telesforo, while the second one, TSA No. V-6667, was dropped from the records. 35 They
also presented evidence to prove that Solito had no hereditary share in the estate of Telesforo because
Solito was not Telesforos biological son, but his stepson, and that Solitos real name was Francisco
Bognot.36

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After petitioners rested their case, respondent spouses filed a Motion for Leave of Court to File a
Demurrer

to

Evidence.37

The

RTC,

however,

denied

Motion.38

the

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The heirs of Solito then moved to intervene and filed an Answer-In-Intervention, 39 arguing that their
father, Solito, is a legitimate son of Telesforo and that Solito sold his hereditary share in the estate of
his

father

to

respondent

spouses

by

virtue

of

Deed

of

Transfer

of

Rights. 40

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To refute the evidence presented by petitioners, respondent spouses presented two letters from the
DENR: (1) a letter dated April 27, 1999 issued by Amando I. Francisco, the Officer-In-Charge of
CENRO-Baguio City, stating that it can be concluded that TSA No. V-2132 and TSA No. V-6667
referred to one and the same application covering one and the same lot; 41 and (2) a letter42 dated
September 30, 1998 from the DENR stating that the land applied for with assigned number TSA No.
V-2132 was renumbered as TSA No. V-6667 as per 2nd Indorsement dated November 20, 1957 x x
x.43 They also presented two affidavits,44 both dated August 31, 1994, executed by petitioners Sonia
Tolentino and Roderick Julao,45 acknowledging that Solito was their co-heir and that he was the eldest
son

Telesforo.46

of

Ruling

of

the

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Regional

Trial

Court

On August 10, 2001, the RTC rendered a Decision47 in favor of petitioners. The RTC found that
although petitioners failed to prove their allegation that Solito was not an heir of Telesforo, 48 they were
nevertheless able to convincingly show that Telesforo filed with the DENR two applications, covering
two separate parcels of land, and that it was his first application, TSA No. V-2132, which resulted in the
issuance of OCT No. P-2446.49 And since what Solito transferred to respondent spouses was his
hereditary share in the parcel of land covered by TSA No. V-6667, respondent spouses acquired no
right over the subject property, which was derived from a separate application, TSA No. V-2132. 50
Thus, the RTC disposed of the case in this wise:
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WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the


[petitioners] and against the [respondents] who are hereby ordered to restore the possession

of the land in question consisting of an area of 70 square meters, more or less, which is a
portion of the land covered by [OCT] No. P-2446. The [respondents] are ordered to remove
the house and/or other improvements that they constructed over the said parcel of land and
to
vacate
the
same
upon
the
finality
of
this
decision.
SO ORDERED.51

Ruling
Aggrieved,

of

the

respondent

spouses

Court
elevated

the

of
case

Appeals
to

the

CA.

On December 4, 2006, the CA reversed the ruling of the RTC. The CA found the Complaint dismissible
on two grounds: (1) failure on the part of petitioners to identify the property sought to be recovered;
and (2) lack of jurisdiction. The CA noted that petitioners failed to pinpoint the property sought to be
recovered.52 In fact, they did not present any survey plan to show that respondent spouses actually
encroached on petitioners property.53 Moreover, the CA was not fully convinced that the two
applications pertain to two separate parcels of land since respondent spouses were able to present
evidence to refute such allegation.54 The CA likewise pointed out that the Complaint failed to establish
that the RTC had jurisdiction over the case as petitioners failed to allege the assessed value of the
subject property.55 Thus:

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WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appeal is GRANTED. The decision appealed


from is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The complaint is DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.56

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Issues
Hence, petitioners filed the instant Petition for Review on Certiorari, raising the following errors:

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I
THE [CA] COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN RULING THAT PETITIONERS
FAILED TO PROVE THE IDENTITY OF THE PROPERTY IN QUESTION.
II
THE [CA] COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN RULING THAT THE TRIAL
COURT DID NOT ACQUIRE JURISDICTION OVER THE COMPLAINT.57

At this juncture, it must be mentioned that in the Resolution 58 dated March 19, 2007, we required

respondent spouses to file their Comment to the Petition which they failed to comply with. Thus, in the
Resolution59 dated March 11, 2013, we dispensed with the filing of respondent spouses Comment. At
the same time, we required petitioners to manifest whether they are willing to submit the case for
resolution based on the pleadings filed. To date, petitioners have not done so.
Our Ruling

The

Petition

The
in
court

assessed
the
has

value
must
complaint
to
jurisdiction

lacks
be
determine
over

merit.
alleged
which
the

action.

Jurisdiction as we have said is conferred by law and is determined by the allegations in the complaint,
which contains the concise statement of the ultimate facts of a plaintiff's cause of action. 60

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Section 19(2) and Section 33(3) of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, as amended by Republic Act No. 7691,
provide:
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SEC. 19. Jurisdiction in Civil Cases. Regional Trial Courts shall exercise exclusive
original
jurisdiction:

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(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;
x

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:

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(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 (P50,000.00)
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.

Based on the foregoing, it is clear that in an action for recovery of possession, the assessed value of the
property

sought

to

be

recovered

determines

the

courts

jurisdiction. 61

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In this case, for the RTC to exercise jurisdiction, the assessed value of the subject property must exceed
P20,000.00. Since petitioners failed to allege in their Complaint the assessed value of the subject
property, the CA correctly dismissed the Complaint as petitioners failed to establish that the RTC had
jurisdiction over it. In fact, since the assessed value of the property was not alleged, it cannot be
determined which trial court had original and exclusive jurisdiction over the case.
Furthermore, contrary to the claim of petitioners, the issue of lack of jurisdiction was raised by
respondents in their Appellants Brief.62 And the fact that it was raised for the first time on appeal is of
no moment. Under Section 1,63 Rule 9 of the Revised Rules of Court, defenses not pleaded either in a
motion to dismiss or in the answer are deemed waived, except for lack of jurisdiction, litis pendentia,
res judicata, and prescription, which must be apparent from the pleadings or the evidence on record. In
other words, the defense of lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter may be raised at any stage of the
proceedings, even for the first time on appeal. 64 In fact, the court may motu proprio dismiss a
complaint at any time when it appears from the pleadings or the evidence on record that lack of
exists.65

jurisdiction
In
property

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an

action
must

to

recover,
be

the
identified.

Moreover, Article 434 of the Civil Code states that [i]n an action to recover, the property must be
identified, and the plaintiff must rely on the strength of his title and not on the weakness of the
defendants claim. The plaintiff, therefore, is duty-bound to clearly identify the land sought to be
recovered, in accordance with the title on which he anchors his right of ownership.66 It bears stressing
that the failure of the plaintiff to establish the identity of the property claimed is fatal to his case. 67

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In this case, petitioners failed to identify the property they seek to recover as they failed to describe the
location, the area, as well as the boundaries thereof. In fact, as aptly pointed out by the CA, no survey
plan was presented by petitioners to prove that respondent spouses actually encroached upon the 70square meter portion of petitioners property.68 Failing to prove their allegation, petitioners are not
entitled
to
the
relief
prayed
for
in
their
Complaint.
All told, we find no error on the part of the CA in dismissing the Complaint for lack of jurisdiction and
for
failing
to
identify
the
property
sought
to
be
recovered.

WHEREFORE, the Petition is hereby DENIED. The Decision dated December 4, 2006 of the Court
of
Appeals
in
CA-G.R.
CV
No.
72845
is
hereby
AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.

crala

. No. 199133, September 29, 2014


ESPERANZA TUMPAG, SUBSTITUTED BY HER SON, PABLITO TUMPAG BELNAS, JR.,
Petitioner, v. SAMUEL TUMPAG, Respondent.
DECISION
BRION, J.:
We resolve the petition for review on certiorari1 assailing the November 30, 2010 decision2 and the
September 28, 2011 resolution3 of the Court of Appeals (CA), Cebu City in CA-G.R. CV No. 78155.
The CA dismissed, without prejudice, the complaint for recovery of possession and damages that the
petitioner filed before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) because the complaint failed to allege the
assessed value of the disputed property in the case.
Brief Statement of Facts
On March 13, 1995, Esperanza Tumpag (petitioner) filed a complaint for recovery of possession with
damages (docketed as Civil Case No. 666) against Samuel Tumpag (respondent) before the RTC,
Branch 61, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental. The complaint alleged that:
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1) Plaintiff (referring to the petitioner) is of legal age, widow, Filipino citizen and a
resident of Barangay Tuyom, Cauayan, Negros Occidental, while Defendant (referring to
the respondent) is also of legal age, married, Filipino and a resident of Barangay Tuyom,
Cauayan, Negros Occidental, where he maybe served with summons and other processes of
this
Honorable
Court;
2) Plaintiff is the absolute owner of a parcel of land, identified as Lot No. 1880-A, Cauayan
Cadastre, containing an area of TWELVE THOUSAND NINE HUNDRED NINETY TWO
(12,992) SQUARE METERS, more or less, situated in Barangay Tuyom, Cauayan, Negros
Occidental, more particularly bounded and described in Transfer Certificate of Title No. T70184, dated April 27, 1983, issued by the Register of Deeds of Negros Occidental in favor
of Plaintiff, xerox copy of which is hereto attached as ANNEX A and made an integral
part
hereof;
3) Defendant has been occupying a portion of not less than ONE THOUSAND (1,000)
SQUARE METERS of the above-described parcel of land of the Plaintiff for more than
TEN
(10)
years,
at
the
tolerance
of
Plaintiff;
4) Sometime in 1987, Plaintiff wanted to recover the portion occupied by Defendant but
Defendant refused to return to Plaintiff or vacate said portion he has occupied inspite of
repeated demands from Plaintiff. And, to prevent Plaintiff from recovering the portion he

has occupied, Defendant instigated his other relatives to file a case against the herein
Plaintiff, and, in 1988, herein Defendant Samuel Tumpag, together with Luz Tagle Vda. De
Tumpag and other relatives, filed a civil case, number 400, before this court against herein
Plaintiff, Esperanza Tumpag, for cancellation of her title with damages;
5) Said Civil Case No. 400 was dismissed by this Honorable Court through its Resolution,
dated October 11, 1989, penned by the Presiding Judge, the late Artemio L. Balinas,
prompting the Plaintiffs in said case to elevate the said resolution of this Honorable Court
to the Court of Appeals, and their appeal is identified as C.A. G.R. No. CV-25699;
6) On June 28, 1991, the Court of Appeals rendered a decision in the said appealed case, the
dispositive portion of which read:
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PREMISES CONSIDERED, the appealed Resolution dated October 11, 1989


is hereby AFFIRMED.
and, that the same has become final on March 11, 1994 and was entered, on August 26,
1994, in the Book of Entries of Judgment, xerox copy of said Entry of Judgment of the
Court of Appeals is hereto attached as ANNEX B and made part hereof;
7) Herein Plaintiff needs the portion occupied by Defendant and she has orally demanded
from Defendant of the return of the same, but Defendant refused and still refuses to do so.
Hence, Plaintiff brought the matter before the Office of the Barangay Captain of Barangay
Tuyom, Cauayan, Negros Occidental, for conciliation, on March 3, 1995. But,
unfortunately, Defendant refused to vacate or return the portion he occupies to Plaintiff.
Attached hereto as ANNEX C, and made part hereof, is the Certification of the Barangay
Captain of Barangay Tuyom, Cauayan, Negros Occidental, certifying that this matter was
brought
to
his
attention
for
conciliation;
8) Defendants refusal to return the portion he occupies to Plaintiff has caused Plaintiff to
suffer actual damages in the amount of not less than TEN THOUSAND PESOS
(P10,000.00),
per
annum;
9) Defendants unjustifiable refusal to return the portion he occupies to Plaintiff has caused
Plaintiff to suffer mental anguish, embarrassment, untold worries, sleepless nights, fright
and similar injuries, entitling her to moral damages moderately assessed at not less than
FIFTY
THOUSAND
PESOS
(P50,000.00);
10) To serve as deterrent (sic) to other persons similarly inclined and by way of example for
the public good, Defendant should be made to pay exemplary damages in the amount of not
less
than
TWENTY
FIVE
THOUSAND
PESOS
(P25,000.00);
11) The unjustifiable refusal of Defendant to return the property to the Plaintiff leaves
Plaintiff no other alternative but to file this present action, forcing her to incur litigation
expenses amounting to not less than ONE THOUSAND PESOS (P1,000.00), attorneys
fees in the amount of TWENTY THOUSAND PESOS (P20,000.00) plus ONE
THOUSAND PESOS (P1,000.00) for every court appearance.4
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xxxx

Together with his answer (which was later amended), the respondent moved to dismiss the complaint
on the following grounds: failure to state a cause of action; that the action was barred by prior
judgment;

and

lack

of

jurisdiction.5

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The RTC, in an order dated January 16, 1996, denied the respondents motion to dismiss and proceeded
with

pre-trial

and

trial.6

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During the pendency of the case, the petitioner died and was substituted by her son Pablito Tumpag
Jr.7

Belnas,

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In a decision8 dated June 3, 2002, the RTC ordered the respondent to return possession of the subject
portion of the property to the petitioner and to pay the petitioner P10,000.00 as actual damages,
P20,000.00
as
moral
damages,
and
P10,000.00
as
attorneys
fees.
In his appeal to the CA, among the grounds the respondent raised was the issue of the RTCs lack of
jurisdiction

over

the

case.9

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In its assailed decision,10 the CA agreed with the respondent and nullified the RTCs June 3, 2002
decision and all proceedings before the trial court. It held that the petitioners failure to allege in her
complaint the assessed value of the disputed property warranted the complaints dismissal, although
without prejudice, because the courts jurisdiction over the case should be determined by the material
allegations of the complaint11 and cannot be made to depend upon the defenses set up in court or
upon a motion to dismiss for, otherwise, the question of jurisdiction would depend almost entirely on
the defendant.12 The petitioner moved to reconsider but the CA denied her motion in its resolution 13
dated September 28, 2011. The CAs ruling and denial of the motion for reconsideration gave rise to the
present
petition
for
review
on
certiorari
filed
with
this
Court.
The petitioner now argues that the respondent, after having actively participated in all stages of the
proceedings in Civil Case No. 666, is now estopped from assailing the RTCs jurisdiction; that the
subject case had been litigated before the RTC for more than seven (7) years and was pending before
the CA for almost eight (8) years. Further, she argues that the dismissal of her complaint was not
warranted considering that she had a meritorious case as attached to her complaint was a copy of a
Declaration of Real Property indicating that the assessed value of the disputed property is
P20,790.00.
Our Ruling

We find MERIT in the present petition. The CAs dismissal of the petitioners complaint for recovery
of
possession
is
erroneous
and
unwarranted.
It is well-settled that jurisdiction over a subject matter is conferred by law, not by the parties action or
conduct,14

and

is,

likewise,

determined

from

the

allegations

in

the

complaint. 15

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Under Batas Pambansa Blg. 129,16 as amended by Republic Act No. 7691,17 the jurisdiction of
Regional Trial Courts over civil actions involving title to, or possession of, real property, or any interest
therein, is limited to cases 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.18

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Here, the petitioner filed a complaint for recovery of possession of real property before the RTC but
failed to allege in her complaint the propertys assessed value. Attached, however, to the petitioners
complaint was a copy of a Declaration of Real Property showing that the subject property has a market
value of P51,965.00 and assessed value of P20,790.00. The CA was fully aware of this attachment
but still proceeded to dismiss the petitioners complaint:
Record shows that the complaint was filed with the Regional Trial Court on December 13,
1995. There is no allegation whatsoever in the complaint for accion publiciana concerning
the assessed value of the property involved. Attached however to the complaint is a copy
of the Declaration of Real Property of subject land which was signed by the owner
stating that its market value is P51,965 and its assessed value is P20,790.00. (Emphasis
ours)19
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Generally, the court should only look into the facts alleged in the complaint to determine whether a suit
is within its jurisdiction.20 There may be instances, however, when a rigid application of this rule may
result in defeating substantial justice or in prejudice to a partys substantial right. 21 In Marcopper
Mining Corp. v. Garcia, 22 we allowed the RTC to consider, in addition to the complaint, other
pleadings submitted by the parties in deciding whether or not the complaint should be dismissed for
lack of cause of action. In Guaranteed Homes, Inc. v. Heirs of Valdez, et al., 23 we held that the factual
allegations in a complaint should be considered in tandem with the statements and inscriptions on the
documents
attached
to
it
as
annexes
or
integral
parts.
In the present case, we find reason not to strictly apply the above-mentioned general rule, and to
consider the facts contained in the Declaration of Real Property attached to the complaint in
determining whether the RTC had jurisdiction over the petitioners case. A mere reference to the
attached document could facially resolve the question on jurisdiction and would have rendered lengthy
litigation
on
this
point
unnecessary.

In his comment24 to the present petition, the respondent contends that the assessed value of the
property subject of the case is actually much below than the value stated in the attached Declaration of
Real Property. However, the test of the sufficiency of the facts alleged in the complaint is whether,
admitting the facts alleged, the court can render a valid judgment upon the complaint in accordance
with the plaintiffs prayer.25 The defendant, in filing a motion to dismiss, hypothetically admits the
truth of the factual and material allegations in the complaint, 26 as well as the documents attached to a
complaint whose due execution and genuineness are not denied under oath by the defendant; these
attachments must be considered as part of the complaint without need of introducing evidence
thereon.27

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Lastly, we note that the present petitioner's situation comes close with those of the respondents in
Honorio Bernardo v. Heirs of Eusebio Villegas,28 where the Villegas heirs, in filing their complaint for
accion publiciana before the RTC, failed to allege the assessed value of the subject property. On the
complaints omission, the defendant questioned the RTCs jurisdiction in his answer to the complaint
and,
again,
in
his
appeal
before
the
CA.
In Bernardo v. Heirs of Villegas,29 we affirmed the CA ruling that upheld the RTCs jurisdiction over
the case despite the complaints failure to allege the assessed value of the property because the
defendant-petitioner was found to have actively participated in the proceedings before the trial court
and was already estopped from assailing the jurisdiction of the RTC. While we mention this case and
its result, we cannot, however, apply the principle of estoppel (on the question of jurisdiction) to the
present
respondent.
We rule that the respondent is not estopped from assailing the RTCs jurisdiction over the subject civil
case. Records show that the respondent has consistently brought the issue of the courts lack of
jurisdiction in his motions, pleadings and submissions throughout the proceedings, until the CA
dismissed the petitioners complaint, not on the basis of a finding of lack of jurisdiction, but due to the
insufficiency of the petitioners complaint, i.e. failure to allege the assessed value of the subject
property. Even in his comment filed before this Court, the respondent maintains that the RTC has no
jurisdiction
over
the
subject
matter
of
the
case.
Lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter of the case can always be raised anytime, even for the first
time on appeal,30 since jurisdictional issues, as a rule, cannot be acquired through a waiver or enlarged
by the omission of the parties or conferred by the acquiescence of the court. 31 Thus, the respondent is
not prevented from raising the question on the courts jurisdiction in his appeal, if any, to the June 3,
2002
decision
of
the
RTC
in
Civil
Case
No.
666.
WHEREFORE, premised considered, we GRANT the present petition for review on certiorari and

SET ASIDE the decision dated November 30, 2010 and resolution dated September 28, 2011 of the
Court
of
Appeals,
Cebu
City
in
CA-G.R.
CV
No.
78155.
Accordingly, we REINSTATE the decision dated June 3, 2002 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 61,
Kabankalan
City,
Negros
Occidental
in
Civil
Case
No.
666.
SO ORDERED