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Republic of the Philippines

SUPREME COURT
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 202354 September 24, 2014

AMADA C. ZACARIAS, Petitioner,


vs.
VICTORIA ANACAY, EDNA ANACAY, CYNTHIAANACAYGUISIC, ANGELITO ANACAY, JERMIL
ISRAEL, JIMMY ROY ISRAEL and all other persons claiming authority under them,
Respondents.

DECISION

VILLARAMA, JR., J.:

Assailed in this petition for review under Rule 45 is the Decision1 dated June 20, 2012 of the
Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 123195 which reversed the Decision2 dated August
22, 2011 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Cavite, Branch 18, Tagaytay City and affirmed the
Decision3 dated October 8, 2010 of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) of Amadeo-
Silang, Cavite, Branch 17 in Civil Case No. 862.

The present controversy stemmed from a complaint4 for Ejectment with Damages/Unlawful
Detainer filed on December 24, 2008 by petitioner Amada Zacarias thru her son and
attorney-in-fact, Cesar C. Zacarias, against the above-named respondents, Victoria Anacay
and members of her household. Said respondents are the occupants of a parcel of land with
an area of seven hundred sixty-nine (769) square meters, situated at Barangay Lalaan 1st,
Silang, Cavite and covered by Tax Declaration No. 18-026-01182 in the name of petitioner and
issuedby Municipal Assessor Reynaldo L. Bayot on August 31, 2007.

The parties were ordered to proceed to the Philippine Mediation Center pursuant to Section
2(a), Rule 18 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended. Mediation was unsuccessful
and thus the case was returned to the court.5

After due proceedings, the MCTC rendered a Decision dismissing the complaint, the
dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is, hereby, rendered in favor of defendants


Victoria Anacay, Edna Anacay, Santiago Amerna, Raymond and Cynthia Guisic, Angelito
Anacay and Myrlinda Yalo, and all persons acting under them, and against plaintiff Amada C.
Zacarias, represented by her attorney-in-fact, Cesar C. Zacarias, the instant Complaint for
ejectment with damages, Unlawful Detainer is, hereby, DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.6

The MCTC held that the allegations of the complaint failed to state the essential elements of
an action for unlawful detainer as the claim that petitioner had permitted or tolerated
respondents occupation of the subject property was unsubstantiated. It noted that the
averments in the demand letter sent by petitioners counsel that respondents entered the
property through stealth and strategy, and in petitioners own "Sinumpaang Salaysay", are
more consistent withan action for forcible entry which should have been filed within one
year from the discovery of the alleged entry. Since petitioner was deprived of the physical
possession of her property through illegal means and the complaint was filed after the lapse
of one year from her discovery thereof, the MCTC ruled that it has no jurisdiction over the
case.

On appeal to the RTC, petitioner argued that unlawful detainer was the proper remedy
considering that she merely tolerated respondents stay in the premises after demand to
vacate was made upon them, and they had in fact entered into an agreement and she was
only forced to take legal action when respondents reneged on their promise to vacate the
property after the lapse of the period agreed upon.

In reversing the MCTC, the RTC pointed out that in her complaint, petitioner did not state
that respondents entered her property through stealth and strategy but that petitioner was
in lawful possession and acceded to the request of respondents to stay in the premises until
May 2008 but respondents reneged on their promise to vacate the property by that time. It
held that the suit is one for unlawful detainer because the respondents unlawfully withheld
the property from petitioner after she allowed them to stay there for one year.

With the subsequent oral agreement between the parties, the RTC ruled that respondents
occupation ofthe property without petitioners consent can be converted to a contract, such
agreement not being prohibited by law nor contrary to morals or good customs. Having
satisfied the requisites for an unlawful detainer action, the RTC found that petitioners
complaint was filed within the prescribed one-year period counted from the time the final
demand to vacate was received by the respondents on July 24, 2008.

The falloof the Decision of the RTC states:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Decision of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Silang-
Amadeo dated October 8, 2010 is hereby REVERSED AND SET ASIDE and a new one is
entered ordering the defendants and all claiming under their rights to: (1) vacate the subject
property and surrender possession and control over the same to the plaintiff; Pay the sum of
Two Thousand (2,000.00) Pesos each as rentals or compensation for the use thereof
starting from July 2008 until the same is paid in full, with interests thereon at twelve (12%)
percent per annum; (2) pay the sum of Fifty Thousand (50,000.00) Pesos, as moral
damages; (3) pay the sum of Ten Thousand (10,000.00) Pesos, as exemplary damages; and
(4) pay the sum of Twenty Thousand (20,000.00) Pesos, as attorneys fees.
SO ORDERED.7

With the failure of respondents to file a notice of appeal within the reglementary period, the
above decision became final and executory.8

On November 28, 2011, petitioner filed a motion for issuance of a writ of execution. At the
hearing heldon January 4, 2012,respondents were given a period of ten days within which to
file their comment. At the next scheduled hearing on February 6, 2012,respondents counsel
appeared and submitted a Formal Entry of Appearancewith Manifestation informing the
court that on the same day they had filed a petition for certiorari with prayer for injunction
before the CA, copies ofwhich were served to petitioner thru her counsel and to the RTC.
Nonetheless, in its Order dated February 6, 2012, the RTC stated that said manifestation was
"tantamount to [a] comment to the pending motion" and thus gave petitioners counsel a
period of ten (10) days within which to fileher Reply and thereafter the incident will be
submitted for resolution.9

On June 20, 2012, the CA rendered its Decision, the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. Accordingly, the assailed Order dated August 22, 2011
rendered by the Regional Trial Court of Cavite, 4th Judicial Region, Branch 18, Tagaytay City
is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Decision dated October 8, 2010 rendered by the Municipal
Circuit Trial Court, Branch 17 is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.10

The CA held that the MCTC clearlyhad no jurisdiction over the case as the complaint did not
satisfy the jurisdictional requirement of a valid cause for unlawful detainer. Since the
prescriptive period for filing an action for forcible entry has lapsed, petitioner could not
convert her action into one for unlawful detainer, reckoning the one-year period to file her
action from the time of her demand for respondents to vacate the property.

Further, the CA said that while petitioner has shown that she is the lawful possessor of the
subject property,she availed of the wrong remedy to recover possession but nevertheless
may still file an accion publicianaor accion reivindicatoria with the proper regional trial court.

Petitioner contends that the CA erred and committed grave abuse of discretion amounting
to lack and/or excess of jurisdiction in nullifying the judgment of the RTC which has long
become final and executory. She argues that the suspension of the strictadherence to
procedural rules cannot be justified by unsupported allegationsof the respondents as to
supposed non-receipt of documents concerning this case.

On their part, respondents maintain that they were not aware of the proceedings before the
RTC and were not furnished a copy of the said courts adverse decision. They also stress that
resort to certiorari was proper and the suspension of procedural rules was justified by
compelling circumstances such as the imminentdestruction of the only property possessed
by respondents who are indigent, respondents lack of awareness of unfavorable judgment
rendered on appeal by the RTC, substantive merits of the case insofar as the jurisdictional
requirements in a suit for unlawful detainer, lack of showing that resortto certiorari petition
was frivolous and dilatory, and there being no prejudice caused to the other party.

After a thorough review of the records and the parties submissions, we find neither
reversible error nor grave abuse of discretion committed by the CA.

The invariable rule is that what determines the nature of the action, as well as the court
which has jurisdiction over the case, are the allegations in the complaint.11 In ejectment
cases, the complaint should embody such statement of facts as to bring the party clearly
within the class of cases for which Section 112 of Rule 70 provides a summary remedy, and
must show enough on its face to give the court jurisdiction without resort to parol
evidence.13 Such remedy is either forcibleentry or unlawful detainer. In forcible entry, the
plaintiff is deprived of physical possession of his land or building by means of force,
intimidation, threat, strategy or stealth. In illegal detainer, the defendant unlawfully
withholds possession after the expiration or termination of his right thereto under any
contract, express or implied.14

The MCTC and CA both ruled thatthe allegations in petitioners complaint make out a case
for forcible entry but not for unlawful detainer.

In Cabrera v. Getaruela,15 the Court held that a complaint sufficiently alleges a cause of
action for unlawful detainer if it recites the following:

(1) initially, possession of property by the defendant was by contract with or by toleranceof
the plaintiff;

(2) eventually, such possession became illegal upon notice by plaintiff to defendant of the
termination ofthe latters right of possession;

(3) thereafter, the defendant remained in possession of the property and deprived the
plaintiff of the enjoyment thereof; and

(4) within one year from the last demand on defendant to vacate the property, the plaintiff
instituted the complaint for ejectment.16

In this case, the Complaint alleged the following:

3. Plaintiff is the owner of that parcel of land situated at Barangay Lalaan 1st, Silang, Cavite
with an area of SEVEN HUNDRED SIXTY NINE (769) SQUARE METERS, and covered by Tax
Declaration No. 18-026-01182 issued by the Municipal Assessor of Silang, Cavite. Copy of said
tax declaration is hereto attached as Annex "B";
4. Plaintiff was in lawful possession and control over the subject property. She had it planted
to Bananas and other fruit bearing trees. However, sometime in May, 2007, she discovered
that the defendants have entered the subject property and occupied the same;

5. Consequently, Plaintiff demanded that they leave the premises. The defendants
requested for time toleave and she acceded to said request. The defendants committed to
vacate the subject property by the end of May, 2008;

6. Inspite of several repeateddemands, defendants unjustifiably refused to vacate the


subject premises prompting the Plaintiff to seek the assistance of a lawyer who wrote them
a FORMAL and FINAL DEMAND to vacate the premises and to pay reasonable compensation
for their illegal use and occupancy of the subject property. A copy of the DEMAND LETTER is
hereto attached as Annex "C";

7. Plaintiff also referred this matter to the Lupon Tagapamayapa of Barangay Lalaan 1st for
possible conciliation but to no avail as the defendants still refused to vacate the subject
property. Thus, the said Barangay issued a CERTIFICATION TOFILE ACTION, as evidenced by
a copy thereto attached as Annex "D";

x x x x17

The above complaint failed to allegea cause of action for unlawful detainer as it does not
describe possession by the respondents being initially legal or tolerated by the petitioner
and which became illegal upon termination by the petitioner of suchlawful possession.
Petitioners insistence that she actually tolerated respondents continued occupation after
her discovery of their entry into the subject premises is incorrect. As she had averred, she
discovered respondentsoccupation in May 2007. Such possession could not have been legal
from the start as it was without her knowledge or consent, much less was it based on any
contract, express or implied. We stress that the possession ofthe defendant in unlawful
detainer is originally legal but became illegal due to the expiration or termination of the right
to possess.18

In Valdez v. Court of Appeals,19 the Court ruled that where the complaint did not satisfy the
jurisdictional requirement of a valid cause for unlawful detainer, the municipal trial court had
no jurisdiction over the case. Thus:

To justify an action for unlawful detainer, it is essential that the plaintiffs supposed acts of
tolerance must have been present right from the start of the possession which is later
sought to be recovered. Otherwise, if the possession was unlawful from the start, an action
for unlawful detainer would be an improper remedy. As explained in Sarona v. Villegas:

But even where possession preceding the suit is by tolerance of the owner, still, distinction
should be made.
If right at the incipiencydefendants possession was with plaintiffs tolerance, we do not
doubt that the latter may require him to vacate the premises and sue before the inferior
court under Section 1 of Rule 70, within one year from the date of the demand to vacate.

xxxx

A close assessment of the law and the concept of the word "tolerance" confirms our view
heretofore expressed that such tolerance must be present right from the start of possession
sought to be recovered, to categorize a cause of action as one of unlawful detainer - not of
forcible entry. Indeed, to hold otherwise would espouse a dangerous doctrine. And for two
reasons:First. Forcible entry into the land is an open challenge tothe right of the possessor.
Violation of that right authorizes the speedy redress in the inferior court - provided for in
the rules. If one year from the forcible entry is allowed to lapse before suit is filed, then the
remedy ceases to bespeedy; and the possessor is deemed to have waived his right to seek
relief in the inferior court. Second,if a forcible entry action in the inferior courtis allowed
after the lapse of a number of years, then the result may well be that no action of forcible
entry can really prescribe. No matter how long such defendant is in physical possession,
plaintiff will merely make a demand, bring suit in the inferior court upon a plea of tolerance
to prevent prescription to set in - and summarily throw him out of the land. Such a
conclusion is unreasonable. Especially if we bear in mind the postulates that proceedings of
forcible entry and unlawful detainer are summary in nature, and that the one year time-bar
to suit is but in pursuance of the summary nature of the action. (Italics and underscoring
supplied)

It is the nature of defendants entry into the land which determines the cause of action,
whether it is forcible entry or unlawful detainer. If the entry is illegal, then the action which
may be filed against the intruder is forcible entry. If, however, the entry is legal but the
possession thereafter becomes illegal, the case is unlawful detainer.

Indeed, to vest the court jurisdiction to effect the ejectment of an occupant, it is necessary
that the complaint should embody such a statement of facts as brings the party clearly
within the class of cases for which the statutes provide a remedy, as these proceedings are
summary in nature. The complaint must show enough on its face the court jurisdiction
without resort to parol testimony.

The jurisdictional facts must appear on the face of the complaint. When the complaint fails
to aver facts constitutive of forcible entry or unlawful detainer, as where it does not state
how entry was affected or how and when dispossession started, the remedy should either
be an accion publicianaor an accion reivindicatoria in the proper regional trial court. Thus, in
Go, Jr. v. Court of Appeals, petitioners filed an unlawful detainer case against respondent
alleging that they were the owners of the parcel of land through intestate succession which
was occupied by respondent by mere tolerance of petitioners as well as their deceased
mother. Resolving the issue on whether or not petitioners case for unlawful detainer will
prosper, the court ruled:
Petitioners alleged in their complaint that they inherited the property registered under TCT
No. C-32110 from their parents; that possession thereof by private respondent was by
tolerance of their mother, and after her death, by their own tolerance; and that they had
served written demand on December, 1994, but that private respondent refused to vacate
the property. x x x

It is settled that one whose stay is merely tolerated becomes a deforciant illegally occupying
the land the moment he is required to leave. It is essential in unlawful detainer cases of this
kind, that plaintiffs supposed acts of tolerance must have been present right from the start
of the possession which is later sought to be recovered. This is where petitioners cause of
action fails. The appellate court, in full agreement with the MTC made the conclusion that
the alleged tolerance by their mother and after her death, by them, was unsubstantiated. x x
x

The evidence revealed that the possession of defendant was illegal at the inception and not
merely tolerated as alleged in the complaint, considering that defendant started to occupy
the subject lot and then built a house thereon without the permission and consent of
petitioners and before them, their mother. xxx Clearly, defendants entry into the land was
effected clandestinely, without the knowledge of the owners, consequently, it is
categorized as possession by stealth which is forcible entry. As explained in Sarona vs.
Villegas, cited in Muoz vs. Court of Appeals[224 SCRA 216 (1992)] tolerance must be present
right from the start of possession sought to be recovered, to categorize a cause of action as
one of unlawful detainer not of forcible entry x x x.

xxxx

In the instant case, the allegations in the complaint do not contain any averment of fact that
would substantiate petitioners claim that they permitted or tolerated the occupation of the
property by respondents. The complaint contains only bare allegations that "respondents
without any color of title whatsoever occupies the land in question by building their house in
the said land thereby depriving petitioners the possession thereof." Nothing has been said
on how respondents entry was effected or how and when dispossession started.
Admittedly, no express contract existed between the parties. This failure of petitioners to
allege the key jurisdictional facts constitutive of unlawful detainer is fatal. Since the
complaint did not satisfy the jurisdictional requirement of a valid cause for unlawful
detainer, the municipal trial court had no jurisdiction over the case.It is in this light that this
Court finds that the Court of Appeals correctly found that the municipal trial court had no
jurisdiction over the complaint. (Emphasis supplied.)

The complaint in this case is similarly defective as it failed to allege how and when entry was
effected. The bare allegation of petitioner that "sometime in May, 2007, she discovered that
the defendants have enterep the subject property and occupied the same", as correctly
found by the MCTC and CA, would show that respondents entered the land and built their
houses thereon clandestinely and without petitioner's consent, which facts are constitutive
of forcible entry, not unlawful detainer. Consequently, the MCTC has no jurisdiction over the
case and the RTC clearly erred in reversing the lower court's ruling and granting reliefs
prayed for by the petitioner.

Lastly, petitioner's argument that the CA gravely erred in nullifying a final and executory
judgment of the RTC deserves scant consideration.

It is well-settled that a court's jurisdiction may be raised at any stage of the proceedings,
even on appeal. The reason is that jurisdiction is conferred by law, and lack of it affects the
very authority of the court to take cognizance of and to render judgment on the action.20
Indeed, a void judgment for want of jurisdiction is no judgment at all. It cannot be the source
of any right nor the creator of any obligation. All acts performed pursuant to it and all claims
emanating from it have no legal effect. Hence, it can never become final and any writ of
execution based on it is void.21

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED for lack of merit. The Decision dated June 20, 2012 of
the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 123195 is hereby AFFIRMED.

No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 118328 October 8, 1998

MARCIANA SERDONCILLO, petitioner,


vs.
SPOUSES FIDEL and EVELYN BENOLIRAO, MELITON CARISIMA, and COURT OF APPEALS,
respondents.

MARTINEZ, J.:

This petition for review assails the decision of the Court of Appeals dated July 14, 1994 in CA
G.R. CV No. 392511 which affirmed the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Pasay City,
(Branch 108) in Civil Case No. 7785, dated June 30, 1992 directing herein petitioner to
demolish and remove all illegal structures which she constructed in front of the subject lot,
to vacate the said property and right of way, and return possession thereof to the
respondents.

The antecedent facts:

The subject premises was formerly part of the estate of H. V. Ongsiako, comprising of 1,806
square meters, more or less, located at the corner of Pilapil and N. Domingo Streets, Pasay
City. The legal heirs of H.V. Ongsiako organized the United Complex Realty and Trading
Corporation (UCRTC) which subdivided the property into fourteen (14) lots, Lots 555-A to
666-N. The subdivided lots were then offered for sale with first priority to each of the
tenants, including the private respondents and petitioner.2 Lot 666-H has an area of 248
square meters, consisting of two (2) parts. One part is the residential portion with an area of
112 square meters purchased by private respondents-spouses Benolirao3 while the second
part is the right of way for Lot 666-I and the aforesaid residential portion.4 Private
respondent Carisima purchased Lot 666-I. Petitioner, who was occupying the western end
and front portions of the aforesaid lots declined the offer to purchase any of the lots offered
for sale by UCRTC.7

Petitioner continued paying rentals to H.V. Ongsiako's wife, Mrs. Rosario de Jesus.
Thereafter, the collection of rentals was stopped prompting petitioner to file on June 30,
1987, Civil Case No. 5456 before the Metropolitan Trial Court of Pasay City for consignation
of rentals against UCRTC, Rosario de Jesus and the spouses Carisima. The consignation was
granted by the trial court and was eventually affirmed on appeal by the Regional Trial Court
of Pasay City, Branch 109 on October 25, 1989.6

On May 5, 1989, UCRTC executed a deed of absolute sale in favor of private respondents-
spouses Benolirao for Lot 666-H.7 This sale was annotated at the back of UCRTC's title on
Lot 666-H.8

On June 2, 1989, after unsuccessful oral and written demands were made upon petitioner,
UCRTC instituted an action against her for recovery of possession of the subject premises
before the Regional Trial Court of Pasay City, Branch 114 docketed as Civil Case No 6652.9 On
July 15, 1990, the trial court rendered its decision dismissing the complaint of UCRTC, stating
in part, to wit:

It is clear, therefore, that plaintiff, not having been authorized in writing for
the purpose, may not validly bring an action to enforce a perceived easement
of right of way pertaining to the owners of Lots 666-H and 666-I or the
Benolirao and Carisima families, while Benjamin Ongsiako possessed the
authority to institute the case (Exhibit "G"), plaintiff is not the real party in
interest. Furthermore, the situation obtaining does not call for the
enforcement of an easement of right of way. Defendant Seldoncillo is not the
owner of and has never claimed ownership over the portion of Lot 666-H on
which her house is erected. A servitude is an encumbrance imposed upon an
immovable for the benefit of another immovable belonging to a different
owner (Article 613, New Civil Code). In the present case the ejectment of
defendant Serdoncillo from the portion of Lot 666-H occupied by the house at
the instance of the proper party (Renato Bolinarao's family ) would remove
the obstruction.

xxx xxx xxx

WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing consideration, the complaint against


the defendant Marciana Serdonillo, as well as defendant's counterclaim, is
dismissed for lack of merit. Without pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.10

UCRTC did not appeal the aforesaid decision of the Regional Trial Court, hence, the same
became final.

On November 20, 1989, Serdoncillo instituted Civil Case No. 7749 for the Exercise of
Preferential Rights of First Refusal against UCRTC and private respondents-spouses a Fidel
and Evelyn Benolirao praying for the annulment of sale of a portion of lot 666-H sold to the
Benolirao spouses on the ground that said transfer or conveyance is illegal. She claimed that
she has the preferred right to buy the said property and that the same was not offered to
her under the same terms and conditions, hence, it is null and void. UCRTC and private
respondents prevailed and this case was dismissed. On appeal to the Court of Appeals, the
same was dismissed on July 9, 1992.11

On November 20, 1990, private respondents made their final demand on petitioner
reiterating their previous demands to vacate the property.12 On December 13, 1990, private
respdndents filed their complaint for recovery of possession of the subject premises against
petitioner before the Regional Trial Court of Pasay City, Branch 108, docketed as Civil Case
No. 7735, which compiaint alleges these material facts:

5. That plaintiffs, being then registered owners of the properties designated


as lot 666-H and 666-I, are likewise the owners/grantees of the right of way
granted by United Complex Realty and Trading Corporation which was
correspondingly annotated in its title (Annex "B-3" ) under Entry No. 205154/T-
172291 of the Register of Deeds of Pasay City;

6. That since 1982 the defendant has built and constructed a residence and pig
pen on the plaintiffs' right of way as well as on the front portions of the
latter's properties leaving them virtually obstructed with no ingress or egress
from the main road;

7. That verbal and written demands made upon the defendant by the plaintiffs
to remove and demolish her structures had been ignored, the last of which
was on November 20, 1990, xerox copy of which is hereto attached as Annex
"C" and taken as an integral part hereof, but despite such demands, the
defendant failed and refused and still fails and refuses to remove and vacate
her illegal structures on the portion of the properties as well as on the right of
way of plaintiffs.

8. That plaintiffs in compliance with the Katarungang Pambarangay Law


lodged a complaint before the Barangay Captain, Barangay 84, Zone 10 of
Pasay City, which certified filing of the same in court, xerox copy of said
certification is hereto attached as Annex "D" and taken as integral part
hereof;

9. That due to the unjustified refusal of the defendant, the plaintiffs are
suffering the unnecessary inconvinience of the absence of decent and
sufficient ingress and egress on their properties, and will continue to suffer
the same unless the illegal structures are finally demolished and/or removed
by the defendants;13

Petitioner, in her Answer, put up the defense that she is the legitimate tenant of said lots in
question since 1956, pertinent portions of which are quoted hereunder, thus:
13. That Lot 666-H and Lot 666-I mentioned in the complaint are formerly
portions of a big track(sic) of land consisting of 1,806 square meters then
owned by H.V. Ongsiako;

14. That since 1956 and before the 1,806 square meters of lot owned by H.V.
Ongsiako was subdivided into fourteen (14) lots in 1982, defendant is (sic)
already a legitimate tenant and occupant family of around 400 square meters
of the 1,806 square meters of the said land then owned by H.V. Ongsiako by
erecting her residential house thereon at the agreed monthly rental of P15.00
and increased to P 100.00;

15. That upon the death of H.V. Ongsiako his heirs continued collecting the
monthly rental of the premises from the defendants;

16. That the heirs of H.V. Ongsiako formed a corporation known as UNITED
COMPLEX REALTY AND TRADING CORPORATION and the big parcel of land
consisting of 1,806 square meters was transferred to the said corporation and
subdivided in 1982 into fourteen (14) lots, two (2) of which lots are the very
same lots leased by the defendant from H.V. Ongsiako and later from his heirs
and then from United Complex Realty and Trading Corporation as alleged in
the preceding pars. l3, 14, and 15;14

The issues having been joined, trial on the merits ensued. On June 30, 1992, the trial court
rendered its decision in favor of private respondent, the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, IN VIEW of the foregoing, and finding preponderance of


evidence in plaintiffs' favor, judgment is hereby rendered as follows:

1) Ordering the defendant to demolish and remove all illegal structures she
constructed on the front portions of the subject lots and on the right of way
of the plaintiff;

2.) Ordering the defendant to vacate the property and right of way and return
possession thereof to the plaintiffs,

3) Ordering the defendant to pay the cost of suit.

As to the damages (actual and moral) no award is given. In the absence of


proof of fraud and bad faith by the defendants, the latter are (sic) not liable
for damages (Escritor Jr. vs. IAC, 155 SCRA 577).

Actual and compensatory damages require substantial proof. In the absence


of malice and bad faith, moral damages cannot be awarded (Capco vs.
Macasaet, 189 SCRA SCRA 561).
As to the attorney's fees, each party should shoulder his/her expenses.

SO ORDERED.15

Aggrieved by the trial court's decision, petitioner appealed to the Court of Appeals alleging
that: 1) the lower court should have dismissed the complaint of private respondents
considering that based on the letter of demand dated November 20, 1990, the action filed
should have been unlawful detainer and not an action for recovery of possession; 2) the
action filed by private respondents is barred by res judicata considering that the present
action is identical with that of Civil Case No. 6652; 3) the lower court erred in not dismissing
the complaint for lack of cause of action with respect to enforcement of right of way vis a vis
defendant; and 4) the lower court erred in ordering that defendants vacate the properties in
question since the lease of defendants thereon was still in existence and had not yet been
terminated.16

On July 14, 1994, the respondent Court of Appeals rendered its decision sustaining the
findings of the trial court and dismissed the appeal of petitioner, stating in part as follows:

The issue as to the proper action has been resolved by the respondent court,
to wit:

The defense that what should have been filed is an ejectment


case and not recovery of possession, is not also correct. The
filing of this case for recovery of possession, instead of an
ejectment case, is not altogether unjustified. The Benoliraos
and Carisima became the owners as early as May, 1989. Verbal
and written demands had been ignored. There is an immediate
need for plaintiffs to use the right of way, which up to the
present time is obstructed. At most, what surfaced is a
technicality which should be abandoned.

A plain reading of the complaint shows that plaintiff-appellees cause of action


is for recovery of possession of their property which was encroached upon by
defendant-appellant.17

A motion for reconsideration of the aforesaid decision filed by petitioner on August 8,


199418 was denied by the respondent on September 23, 1994.19

Hence, this petition.

Petitioner ascribes one single error committed by the respondent court, to wit:

THE RESPONDENT REGIONAL TRIAL COURT AND THE COURT OF APPEALS (Sp. Fifteenth
Division) COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF JURISDICTION IN DECIDING AS AN ACCION
PUBLICIANA AN EJECTMENT OR UNLAWFUL DETAINER CASE (THE JURISDICTION OF
WHICH CLEARLY PERTAINS TO THE INFERIOR COURT), A CASE BASICALLY INVOLVING AN
EASEMENT OF RIGHT OF WAY.

Petitioner asserts that the respondent court erred in sustaining the trial court's finding that
the complaint filed by private respondents for recovery of possession of the subject
premises is an accion publiciana notwithstanding the fact that the action was filed within one
(1) year from demand. Petitioner contends that private respondents should have filed an
action for unlawful detainer and not an action for recovery of possession against petitioner.
Consequently, the trial court is without jurisdiction to hear and determine Civil Case No.
7785. In support of her contention, petitioner cited the cases of Bernabe vs. Luna20 and
Medina vs. Court of Appeals,21 which she states is strikingly similar to the facts of this case.
Consequently, the rulings of this Court in these two cases are squarely applicable and
controlling in the case at bar.

Private respondents, however, aver that they were merely successors-in-interest of UCRTC
and therefore step into the shoes of the latter. They claim that the demand to vacate
required by law should at the very least be reckoned from June 2, 1989, the date of the filing
of the complaint in Civil Case No. 6652 considering that their demands are simply a
reiteration of UCRTC's demands against petitioner. Private respondents further contend
that the allegations in the complaint determine the jurisdiction of the court. Thus, the
complaint in Civil Case No. 7785 specifically alleged that private respondents are the owners
of lots 666-I and 666-H as evidenced by transfer certificates of title and prayed for recovery
of possession of a portion thereof including its right of way illegally and unlawfully
possessed by petitioner.

Petitioner's position is without merit.

It is an elementary rule of procedural law that jurisdiction of the court over the subject
matter is determined by the allegations of the complaint irrespective of whether or not the
plaintiff is entitled to recover upon all or some of the claims asserted therein. As a necessary
consequence, the jurisdiction of the court cannot be made to depend upon the defenses set
up in the answer or upon the motion to dismiss, for otherwise, the question of jurisdiction
would almost entirely depend upon the defendant.22 What determines the jurisdiction of
the court is the nature of the action pleaded as appearing from the allegations in the
complaint. The averments therein and the character of the relief sought are the ones to be
consulted.23 Accordingly, the issues in the instant case can only be properly resolved by an
examination and evaluation of the allegations in the complaint in Civil Case No. 7785.24

In this regard, to give the court jurisdiction to effect the ejectment of an occupant or
deforciant on the land, it is necessary that the complaint must sufficiently show such a
statement of facts as to bring the party clearly within the class of cases for which the
statutes provide a remedy, without resort to parol testimony, as these proceedings are
summary in nature.25 In short, the jurisdictional facts must appear on the face of the
complaint. When the complaint fails to aver facts constitutive of forcible entry or unlawful
detainer, as where it does not state how entry was effected or how and when dispossession
started, the remedy should either be an accion publiciana or an accion reivindicatoria.26

In the case of Javier vs. Veridiano II 27 this Court held that the doctrine in Emilia v. Bado,28
decided more than twenty-five years ago, is still good law. It preserved the age-old remedies
available under existing laws and jurisprudence to recover possession of real property,
namely: (1) accion interdictal, which is the summary action for either forcible entry or
detentacion, where the defendant's possession of the property is illegal ab initio; or for
unlawful detainer or desahucio, where the defendant's possession was originally lawful but
ceased to be must be so by the expiration of his right to possess, both of which must be
brought within one year from the date of actual entry on the land, in case of forcible entry;
and from the date of last demand, in case of unlawful detainer, in the proper municipal trial
court or metropolitan court; (2) accion publiciana which is a plenary action for recovery of
the right to possess and which should be brought in the proper regional trial court when the
dispossession has lasted for more than one year; and, (3) accion reivindicatoria or accion de
reivindicacion which seeks the recovery of ownership and includes the jus possidendi brought
in the proper regional trial court.

Accion reivindicatoria or accion de reivindicacion is thus an action whereby plaintiff alleges


ownership over a parcel of land and seeks recovery of its full possession. It is different from
accion interdictal or accion publiciana where plaintiff merely alleges proof of a better right to
possess without claim of title. In Banayos vs. Susana Realty, Inc.,29 this Court held that:

We have consistently held that a complaint for forcible entry, as distinguished


from that of unlawful detainer, in order to vest jurisdiction upon the inferior
court, must allege plaintiff's prior physical possession of the property, as well
as the fact that he was deprived of such possession by any of the means
provided in Section 1, Rule 70 of the Rules of Court, namely: force,
intimidation, threats, strategy and stealth, "for if the dispossession did not
take place by any of these means, the courts of first instance, not the
municipal courts, have jurisdiction.

xxx xxx xxx

The aforesaid Rule 70 does not, however, cover all of the cases of
dispossession of lands. Thus, "whenever the owner is dispossessed by any
other means than those mentioned he may maintain his action in the Court of
First Instance, and it is not necessary for him to wait until the expiration of
twelve months before commencing an action to be repossessed or declared
to be owner of the land." Courts of First Instance have jurisdiction over
actions to recover possession of real property illegally detained, together with
rents due and damages, even though one (1) year has not expired from the
beginning of such illegal detention, provided the question of ownership of
such property is also involved. In other words, if the party illegally
dispossessed desires to raise the question of illegal dispossession as well as
that of the ownership over the property he may commence such action in the
Court of First Instance immediately or at any time after such illegal
dispossession. If he decides to raise the question of illegal dispossession only,
and the action is filed more than one (1) year after such deprivation or
withholding of possession, then the Court of First Instance will have original
jurisdiction over the case. The former is an accion de reivindicacion which seeks
the recovery of ownership as well as possession, while the latter refers to an
accion publiciana, which is the recovery of the right to possess and is a plenary
action in an ordinary proceeding in the Court of First Instance.

A reading of the averments of the complaint in Civil Case No. 7785 undisputably show that
plaintiffs (private respondents herein) clearly set up title to themselves as being the
absolute owner of the disputed premises by virtue of their transfer certificates of title and
pray that petitioner Serdoncillo be ejected therefrom. There is nothing in the complaint in
Civil Case No. 7785 alleging any of the means of dispossession that would constitute forcible
entry under Section (1) Rule 70 of the Rules of Court, nor is there any assertion of
defendant's possession which was originally lawful but ceased to be so upon the expiration
of the right to possess. It does not characterize petitioner's alleged entry into the land, that
is, whether the same was legal or illegal nor the manner in which petitioner was able to
construct the house and the pig pens thereon. The complaint merely avers that a portion of
the lot owned by private respondents and its right of way have been occupied by petitioner
and that she should vacate. The action therefore is neither one of forcible nor of unlawful
detainer but essentially involves a dispute relative to the ownership of 4.1 square meters of
land allegedly encroached upon by petitioner and its adjoining right of way. Indeed, the
Ocular Inspection Report of the Branch Clerk of Court, states that:

. . . (T)he right of way hit directly the defendant Serdoncillo's property


consisting of a two-storey residential house made of wood and GI sheets and
occupying the entire width of the rear portion of the right of way. A coconut
tree stands on the middle of the road, at the back of which is a shanty made of
rotten G.I. sheets around it which is used as pigpens and place of washing
clothes extended from defendant's house. To gain access to plaintiff's
property, the group turned right and passed between an "aratiris" tree and
cemented firewall owned by Mr. Belarmino making only one person at a time
to pass. This passageway has only a width of 0.5 meter which is being used by
the defendant and her members of the family aside from the plaintiffs.

. . . Two (2) monuments of the lot boundary of the plaintiff's property are
existing, but the rest are nowhere to be found. According to Mrs. Benolirao,
they are located within the premises of the defendant's house. At the back of
Benolirao is a private property gutted by fire.
. . . Upon request, the group wass granted permission by the relatives of the
defendant to inspect the place. The group further noticed that defendant's
improvements were even encroaching on the plaintiff's lot by approximately
4.1 meters, more or less. The house of the defendant is facing the plaintiff's
property; there is a small chicken house and there is also a dog house standing
near it.30

It is noted that at the time of the filing of said complaint, Civil Case No. 7749, an action for
annulment of the sale between UCRTC and private respondents Benolirao of Lot 666-H
initiated by petitioner was likewise pending in another court. This case puts in issue the
validity of private respondents' acquisition of the subject lots and ultimately their ownership
of Lot 666-H.

Thus, what is noticeable in the complaint is that private respondents definitely gave
petitioner notice of their claim of exclusive and absolute ownership, including their right to
possess which is an elemental attribute of ownership.31 It is immaterial whether or not
private respondents instituted their complaint one month from date of last demand or a
year thereafter. What is of paramount importance is that the allegations in complaint are of
the nature of either an accion publiciana or an accion reivindicatoria.

Petitioner's reliance on the Bernabe and Medina cases, which she claims to be squarely
applicable under the circumstances herein, is entirely misplaced. While it is true that in these
two cases the complaints were filed before the one-year period had expired from date of
last demand, the allegations in the complaint failed to state material facts which are
indicative of a case of either an accion publiciana or accion reivindicatoria. Thus, the Court in
Bernabe stated that:

In their complaint, plaintiffs (petitioners herein) allege that they are the
owners of a parcel of land with an area of 199.4 square meters more or less,
located in Tondo, Manila, that defendant (private respondent herein)
constructed a house on said lot without plaintiff's permission; that on
November 14, 1980, plaintiffs thru counsel made a written demand for the
removal of said house as well as for the recovery of damages for the
reasonable use and occupation thereof; and that defendant refused and failed
to comply despite repeated demands.

xxx xxx xxx

We have noted that while petitioners allege in their complaint that they are
the owners of the lot on which the house of the private respondent is
constructed, their attached TCT shows that the lot is still in the name of
Fejosera Investment Incorporated, Private respondent and said company
entered into a contract of lease in 1950 for the use and occupation of said lot.
Petitioners allegedly bought the lot in question in 1973, and they must have
been fully aware of the occupancy of the private respondent of the premises
in question. Yet, they did not take any action to remove the house of the
private respondent or to inform the respondent that they had become the
new owners of the lot in question. It is clear therefore that the lease was
allowed to continue.

xxx xxx xxx

Consequently, the possession of private respondent over the lot in question


became illegal only on November 14, 1980, when the formal demand to pay
and vacate the premises was sent to him.32

The allegations in the complaint clearly show that plaintiffs were already the owners of the
property when defendant constructed a house on the disputed lot without their permission.
That despite formal demand defendant failed to vacate and surrender possession of the
property to them. Indeed, the averments in plaintiffs' complaint present jurisdictional facts
which do not illustrate plaintiffs' action as either an action publiciana or accion reivindicatoria
but that of forcible entry or unlawful detainer. Thus, the trial court correctly dismissed
plaintiffs' complaint, pertinent portion of which is quoted hereunder:

It is clear on the face of the complaint that at the time of the filing of this case
on February 19, 1981, the defendant was in possession, as a tenant, of the
premises. When plaintiff's counsel, therefore sent a written notice on
November 4, 1980 requiring defendant to vacate the premises when this
action was brought, the one (1) year period after the unlawful deprivation or
withholding of possession has not yet set in. It is clear that this is an ejectment
case within the exclusive jurisdiction of the City Court of Manila.

SO ORDERED.33

We likewise find the Medina case, relied upon by petitioner, to be inappropriate. The facts
distinctly show that the complaint filed by the owners of the property before the
Metropolitan Trial Court of Manila, Branch 47, was for unlawful detainer. It was the action
resorted to by the plaintiffs after advising the defendant (the lessee of the premises in
question) that a member of the family, Dr. Igama, urgently needed the house and after
repeated demands to vacate made on the lessee proved to be unsuccessful. All these
incidents, from notification to the filing of the complaint dated May 16, 1985, transpired
within a period of six (6) months. Indeed, the factual background of this case is a classic
illustration of an action for unlawful detainer. Verily, the facts are therefore diametrically
opposite to the facts or case at bar.

Petitioner has therefore no legal basis to insist that the present case is similar to the
Bernabe and Medina cases and from which this Court should base its findings and
conclusions. The doctrine laid down in Tenorio vs. Gomba is still controlling. In that case the
Court ruled that courts of first instance have jurisdiction over all actions involving possession
of land except forcible entry and illegal datainer, and therefore the lower court has
jurisdiction over the action alleged in the appellant's complaint because it is neither of illegal
detainer nor of forcible entry.34

Petitioner maintains that her leasehold right as a tenant of the subject premises had been
settled in Civil Case No. 5456, an action for consignation, which she won before the
Metropolitan Trial Court and affirmed on appeal by the Regional Trial Court of Pasay City,
Branch 109. Said court ruled that the latter is a tenant of the site or premises in question and
that she cannot be ejected therefrom, even on the assumption that her house and pig pen
are allegedly standing on a right of way. She claims that pursuant to Section 49 (b) (now
Section 47) Rule 39, Rules of Court, the issue of tenancy in said case is now conclusive
between her and private respondent with respect to the subject premises in question.

Petitioner's contention is devoid of merit.

Sec. 49 (now Section 47), provides that:

Sec. 49. Effects of Judgments. the effect of a judgment or final order


rendered by a court or judge of the Philippines having jurisdiction to
pronounce the judgment or order, may be as follows:

(a) xxx xxx xxx

(b) In other cases the judgment or order is, with respect to the matter directly
adjudged or as to any other matter that could have been raised in relation
thereto, conclusive between the parties and their successors-in-interest by
title subsequent to the commencement of the action or special proceeding,
litigating for the same thing and under the same title and in the same capacity;

The fundamental principle upon which the doctrine of res judicata rests is that parties ought
not be permitted to litigate the same issue more than once, that when the right or fact has
been judicially determined, the judgment of the court, so long as it remains unreversed,
should be conclusive upon the parties and those in privity with them in law or estate.35

Thus, for res judicata to bar the institution of a subsequent action the following requisites
must concur: (1) the former judgment must be final; (2) it must have been rendered by a
court having jurisdiction of the subject matter and the parties; (3) it must be a judgment on
the merits; and, (4) there must be between the first and second actions; (a) identity of
parties; (b) identity of subject matter; and (c) identity of cause of action.36

There is no dispute as to the presence of the first three (3) requirements and the identity of
the subject matter. The only issues remaining are whether as between Civil Case No. 5456
and Civil Case No. 7785, there is identity of parties and of causes of action in Civil Case No.
5456 to bar the institution of Civil Case No. 7785.

There is identity of parties. The record shows that the parties in Civil Case No. 5456 are
petitioner as plaintiff while the defendants were UCRTC, the spouses Meliton and Efremia
Carisima and Rosario de Jesus. Private respondents-spouses Fidel and Evelyn Benolirao
acquired lot 666-H from UCRTC and are therefore the successors-in-interest of UCRTC by
title subsequent to the commencement and termination of the first action. As such, private
respondents merely stepped into the shoes of UCRTC and acquired whatever capacity and
title the former had over the same property or subject matter of the action. Indeed, there is
actual, if not substantial, identity of parties between the two actions.37

There is however, no identity of causes of action in both cases. In the case of Garcia vs. Court
of Appeals,38 this Court held that the test of identity of causes of action lies not in the form
of an action but on whether the same evidence would support and establish the former and
the present causes of action. Petitioner's complaint in Civil Case No. 5456 is an action for
consignation of rentals while Civil Case No. 7785 is an action for recovery of possession.

In other words, the issue in Civil Case No. 5456 is whether or not consignation of rentals is
proper under the circumstances obtaining in that case. Private respondents action for
recovery of possession requires them to present evidence of their claim or title to the
subject premises and their right to possess the same from petitioner. Stated conversely, the
evidence in Civil Case No. 5456 is entirely different to that in Civil Case No. 7785. Thus, the
decision in Civil Case No. 5456 does not in any way affect nor bar Civil Case No. 7785.

Indeed, the Court noted that the parties had been at odds since 1987 when petitioner
initiated Civil Case No. 5456, and then Civil Case No. 7749. Private respondents' predecessor
UCRTC likewise initiated Civil Case No. 6652 and the present case under appeal, Civil Case
No. 7785, all because of the use of a right of way and an encroachment of only 4.1 meters of
the subject premises. At some point in time, all these squabbles must end. Thus, the
respondent court stated that:

It is true that it is the purpose and intention of the law that courts should
decide all questions submitted to them "as truth and justice require", and that
it is greatly to be desired that all judgments should be so decided; but
controlling and irresistible reasons of public policy and of sound practice in
the courts demand that at the risk of occasional errors, judgment of the
courts determining controversies submitted to them should become final at
some definite time fixed by law.39

In passing, We reiterate the time-honored doctrine that findings of facts of the Court of
Appeals are binding and conclusive upon the Supreme Court, and the Court, will not
normally disturb such factual findings unless the findings of the court are palpably
unsupported by the evidence or unless the judgment itself is based on misapprehension of
facts.40 In this case, We find the said decision to be totally supported by the evidence on
record.

Based on the foregoing premises, it is unnecessary to pass upon the other issues raised in
the petition.

WHEREFORE, the petition for review is hereby DISMISSED and the decision of the Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. CV NO. 39251 is AFFIRMED. No pronouncements as to costs.

SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 111915 September 30, 1999

HEIRS OF FERNANDO VINZONS, represented by LIWAYWAY VINZONS-CHATO, petitioners,


vs.
COURT OF APPEALS and MENA EDORIA, respondents.

GONZAGA-REYES, J.:

Before us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari seeking the reversal of the January 27, 1993 1
Decision and September 10, 1993 2 Resolution of the Court of appeals 3 in CA-G.R. SP No.
23948. The Court of Appeals (CA) set aside the Decision 4 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of
Daet, Camarines Norte in Civil Case No. 5832, affirming that of the Municipal Trial Court
(MTC) in Civil Case No. 2137 5, which ordered the ejectment of herein private respondent.

The factual antecedents of this case are:

Petitioners Heirs of Vinzons are co-owners of a parcel of land in Barangay 5, Daet, of which a
portion measuring 148.5 square meters is being occupied by respondent Mena Edoria as
lessee since 1951. Respondent built thereon a residential house worth P40,000.00. He
started paying a monthly rent of P4.00 which by 1986 had reached P13.00.

Sometime in 1986, an ejectment suit was filed by petitioners several others also occupying
the same lot owned by them, docketed as Civil Case No. 1923, on the ground, among others,
of non-payment of rentals. After trial, however, the case was dismissed on the finding that
respondent was not in arrears but was even advance in his rental payments. Both petitioner
and respondent appealed from said decision to the Regional Trial Court.

Sometime in 1988, while the aforesaid Case No. 1923 was pending appeal before the RTC,
petitioner filed another ejectment suit, docketed as Civil Case No. 2061, against respondent
and thirty-nine (39) others alleging that said defendants refused to enter into an agreement
with them as tenants-lessees and refused to pay the increased rent of P1.00 per square
meter per month. Respondent resisted the claim alleging, among others, lack of cause of
action and pendency of the earlier ejectment case. The trial court rendered its decision
dismissing the case against respondent in view of the pendency of Civil Case No. 1923 on
appeal. This decision was again elevated to the RTC.

While Civil Case No. 2061 was pending appeal in the RTC, petitioners again filed the instant
suit for ejectment docketed as Civil Case No. 2137 on the following grounds: (a) expiration of
lease contract as of 1984; (b) refusal to sign written renewal of contract of lease; and (c)
non-payment of rent for one (1) year and ten (10) months. In his answer, respondent sought
dismissal of the complaint on the following grounds; (a) it did not pass through barangay
conciliation; (b) no prior demand was made or if there was such a demand, it was made
more than one year prior to the filing of the case; (c) there was no cause of action as it was
in violation of PD 20 and BP Blg. 25; (d) the case is barred by prior judgment; and (e) there is
still pending appeal a similar case between the parties, Civil Case No. 2061.

After trial, the MTC of Daet rendered its decision ordering respondent to vacate the
premises and pay the accrued rentals. On appeal to the RTC, the said decision was affirmed
in toto. The CA, however, reversed the two (2) earlier decisions by dismissing the complaint
on the ground of litis pendentia, failure to comply with the Katarungang Pambarangay Law
(PD 1508); and lack of evidence of prior demand to vacate before instituting the complaint.

Hence, this petition on the following grounds:

THAT THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN REVERSING THE DECISION OF THE


REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF CAMARINES NORTE IN A WAY NOT IN ACCORD
WITH LAW AND JURISPRUDENCE.

THAT THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN DENYING THE MOTION FOR


RECONSIDERATION UPON THE GROUND THAT THE GROUNDS THEREIN
AVERRED HAD ALREADY BEEN PASSED UPON IN ITS DECISION. 6

Petitioners argue that the CA was duty-bound, under the rules and jurisprudence, to give
weight to the findings of fact of the MTC since the same had already been affirmed in toto
by the RTC. Further, it is argued that the action is not barred by prior judgment and the
principle of litis pendentia does not apply; that the petitioners complied with the
requirements of PD 1508; and that demand to vacate is not necessary for judicial action in
case of expiration of the lease contract.

The petition is devoid of merit, we find that the MTC had improperly assumed jurisdiction
over the ejectment suit.

First, this case being one of unlawful detainer, it must have been filed within one year from
the date of last demand with the Municipal Trial Court, otherwise it is an accion publiciana
cognizable by the Regional Trial Court. 7 The rule is that the one-year period provided for in
Section 1, Rule 70 of the Rules of Court 8 within which a complaint for unlawful detainer can
be filed should be counted from the last letter of demand to vacate. 9 Accion publiciana is the
plenary action to recover the right of possession when dispossession has lasted for more
than one year. 10

There is no question that the petitioners' dispossession has lasted for more than one year. In
their Complaint and Position paper, petitioners alleged that the lease contract expired in
1984 11; that thereafter, private respondent became a lessee on a month-to-month basis 12;
and that before the filing of Civil Cases Nos. 1908, 1923 and 2061, demand to vacate had
already been made to defendant. 13 Since Civil Case No. 1908 was instituted in 1986; Civil Case
No. 1923 in 1986; and Civil Case No. 2061 in April 1988, the alleged demands to vacate to
abort an implied renewal of the lease on a month-to-month basis were made between 1986
and 1988, the last one, before April 1988. Verily, the instant Complaint for ejectment filed by
petitioner in October 1989, was filed more than one year from the termination of the month-
to-month lease some time before April 1988. It is well-established that what determines the
nature of an action and correspondingly the court which has jurisdiction over it is the
allegation made by the plaintiff in his complaint. 14

Second, the challenged decision correctly dismissed the case for failure of the plaintiffs, the
petitioners herein, to avail of the barangay conciliation process under PD 1508, preliminary
to judicial recourse. The Court of Appeals had found that "there is no clear showing that it
was brought before the Barangay Lupon or Pangkat of Barangay 5, Daet, Camarines Norte,
where the parties reside and the property subject of the case is situated, as there is no
barangay certification to file action attached to the complaint. 15

Paraphrasing Peaflor vs. Panis 16, "the Lupong Barangay is with jurisdiction under PD 1508 to
pass upon an ejectment controversy where the parties are residents in the same barangay or
in barangays within the same city or in barangays adjoining each other." It is clearly averred
in the Complaint that herein petitioners, then represented by the widow of the late
Fernando Vinzons, resided in the same barangay, hence, covered by the said law. In Royales
vs. Intermediate Appellate Court 17, this Court ruled that "non-compliance with the condition
precedent prescribed by PD 1508 could affect the sufficiency of the plaintiff's cause of action
and make his complaint vulnerable to dismissal on the ground of lack of cause of action or
prematurity." Defendants, private respondents herein, objected to the failure of the parties
to undergo a confrontation at the barangay level in their answer and even during the entire
proceedings a quo to no avail as the trial courts merely brushed aside this issue. Hence, the
Court of Appeals had to rectify this error by the trial courts.

In refutation of the said findings of the Court of Appeals, petitioners submit that "it is clear
in the findings of fact of the MTC of Daet, as affirmed by the RTC of Daet that before the
filing of Civil Cases Nos. 1908, 1923 and 2061, demand to vacate had already been made to
the defendant after efforts to settle the controversy at the barangay level had failed." 18 This
is not a factual finding of the MTC, but an allegation in petitioners' Complaint. As mentioned
earlier, the MTC merely brushed aside the issue of non-recourse to barangay conciliation.
This allegation in petitioners' Complaint that efforts to settle the controversy at the
barangay level had failed in Civil Cases Nos. 1908, 1923 and 2061, does not constitute
compliance with the requirements of PD 1508 for purposes of filing the Complaint in Civil
Case No. 2137. Section 6 of PD 1508 insofar as pertinent provides:

Sec. 6. Conciliation, pre-condition to filing of complaint. No complaint,


petition, action or proceeding involving any matter within the authority of the
Lupon as provided in Section 2 hereof shall be filed or instituted in court or
any other government office for adjudication unless there has been a
confrontation of the parties before the Lupon chairman or the Pangkat . . . .

Referral to the Lupon Chairman or the Pangkat should be made prior to the filing of the
ejectment case under PD 1508. Legal action for ejectment is barred when there is non-
recourse to barangay court. 19 The Complaint for unlawful detainer, docketed as Civil Case
No. 2137, should have been coursed first to the barangay court. Petitioners cannot rely on
the barangay conciliation proceedings held in the other cases and consider the same as
compliance with the law.

Third, petitioners rely heavily on the general rule that findings of trial courts deserve to be
respected and affirmed by appellate courts. Almost as well-recognized as the general rule is
the exception that the factual findings of the trial court may nonetheless be reversed by the
Court of Appeals if by the evidence on record or the lack of it, it appears that the trial court
erred. 20 Considering that the trial courts and the Court of Appeals arrived at different
factual findings, we have reviewed the evidence on record and have found as aforesaid, the
improper assumption by the MTC of the case due to non-recourse to barangay conciliation
and the lapse of the one-year period for bringing the case for unlawful detainer.

Having arrived at the above conclusion, the Court finds no need to discuss the other issues,
specifically, those bearing on the application of the principles of litis pendentia and/or res
judicata. Moreover, the records of Civil Cases Nos. 1923 and 2061 are not before us to enable
us to determine the presence of the elements thereof in the instant case.

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is hereby DENIED, and the assailed decision of the Court of
Appeals is hereby AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.