In this petition for review, we are asked to set aside the amended decision of the court of Appeals dated November 8, 1990 in "Corazon Jalbuena de Leon v. Uldarico Inayan," (CA-G.R. CV No. 19777) 1 which reversed its original decision dated May 24, 1990. 2
The subject property in the case at bench involves two parcels of irrigated riceland covering an area of 117, 785 square meter located in Barangays Guintas and Bingke, Napnod, Leganes, Iloilo. Jesus Jalbuena, the owner of the land, entered into a verbal lease contract in 1970 with Uldarico Inayan, for one year renewable for the same period. Inayan, private respondent herein, bound himself to deliver 252 cavans of palay each year as rental to be paid during the first ten days of January. Private respondents who was a godson of Jesus Jalbuena, was allowed to continue with the lease from year to year.
Petitioner Corazon Jalbuena de Leon is the daughter of Jesus Jalbuena and the transferee of the subject property.
Although private respondent cultivated the subject property through hired men, the cavans of palay were paid annually until 1983 when Inayan ceased paying and agreed rental and instead, asserted dominion over the land. When asked by the petitioner to vacate the land, he refused to do so, prompting the latter to bring an action in court.
In March 1984, herein petitioner filed a complaint against private respondents before the Regional Trial Court of Iloilo City for "Termination of Civil Law Lease; Recovery of Possession; Recovery of Unpaid Rentals and Damages."
Private respondent, in his Answer, claimed that the land had been tenanted by his father since 1938 and that he has already been issued Certificates of Land Transfer (CLT) for the subject property. These Certificates of Land Transfer were subsequently cancelled by the Ministry of Agrarian Reform on November 22, 1983 upon a finding that said lands were owned by Jesus Jalbuena and that the CLTs were erroneously issued. 3
On April 11, 1984, the lower court issued an order adopting the procedure in agrarian cases.
The dispositive portion of the trial court's decision dated February 26, 1988 in favor of petitioner De Leon reads:nadchanroblesvirtualawlibrary
"WHEREFORE, Premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered:nadchanroblesvirtualawlibrary
1 Declaring the lease contract between plaintiff and defendant as a Civil law lease, and that the same has already been terminated due to defendant's failure to pay his rentals from 1983 up to the present;
2. Ordering defendant Uldarico Inayan and his privies and successors-in-interest to immediately vacate the land subject-matter of this complaint and to return possession thereof to plaintiff;
3. Ordering defendant Uldarico Inayan to pay plaintiff Corazon Jalbuena de Leon, one thousand two hundred sixty (1,260) cavans of palay representing unpaid rentals from 1983 up to 1987, or its money equivalent computed at the current market price of palay, less whatever amount may have been deposited by defendant with the court during the pendency of this case, which deposit should be released in favor of plaintiff;
4. Ordering defendant Inayan to pay to plaintiff Jalbuena de Leon the sum of P38,501.28 representing the unpaid irrigation fees, and all fees thereafter until possession of the land has been transferred to the plaintiff;
5. Ordering defendant Inayan to pay to plaintiff Jalbuena de Leon the of P3,000.00 as attorney's fees; P1,000.00 as litigation expenses, and P2,000.00 as moral damages, plus costs; and
6. Dismissing defendant's counterclaim for lack of merit." 4
On appeal to the Court of Appeal, private respondents raised the sole issue of jurisdiction and alleged that the lower court, acting as Court of Agrarian Relations, had no jurisdiction over the action.
The respondent appellate court, on May 24, 1990, affirmed the trial court's decision, disposing as follows:nadchanroblesvirtualawlibrary
"WHEREFORE, premises considered, the decision appealed from should be, as it is hereby AFFIRMED, with a MODIFICATION that the period within which appellant should be ordered to pay the rentals in arrears now covers the years 1983 to 1990. Costs against appellant." 5
It held that while jurisdiction must exist as a matter of law, private respondent's attack on the jurisdiction of the lower court must fail for he is guilty of estoppel. 6 Despite several opportunities to question the jurisdiction of the lower court, he failed to do so. Moreover, it was he who insisted, through his misrepresentation, that the case, involving, as it does, purely agrarian issues, should be referred to the Ministry of Agrarian Reform. 7 Finally, the appellate court held that since regional trial courts, by express provision of B.P. 129, Section 24, now have exclusive original jurisdiction over agrarian cases, but still applying the special rules of agrarian procedure, it was no error for the court below, even if acting as an agrarian court, to resolve a controversy involving a civil lease. 8
Private respondent's motion to reconsider the above decision was granted by the Court of Appeals on November 8, 1990. Respondents court then set aside its earlier decision and dismissed the civil case filed by petitioner below (Civil Case No. 15628) for want of jurisdiction. In its amended decision, the appellate court held that petitioner's complaint below was anchored on acci
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