Petitioner Carlito Corpuz questions the decision of the Court of Appeals 1 affirming the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 10, dismissing the petition for review in Civil Case No. 92-62869.
Corpuz filed an action for unlawful detainer against private respondent Juanito Alvarado with the Metropolitan Trial Court of Manila, Branch 6, docketed as Civil Case No. 138532, for recovery of possession of the room being occupied by the latter, which Corpuz’ children allegedly needed for their own use.
Alvarado and Corpuz were two of the tenants of a certain Lorenzo Barredo who, in May 1988, decided to sell his property to the tenants. Due to economic difficulties, however, Alvarado and the other lessees executed an "Affidavit of Waiver" granting Barredo the right to sell his house to any person who can afford to purchase the same. Consequently, Barredo sold his house to Corpuz for P37,500.00. As a result of the sale, a tenancy relationship was established between Corpuz and Alvarado.
In October 1991, Corpuz sent a written notice to Alvarado demanding that he vacate the room which he was occupying because the children of Corpuz needed it for their own use. Alvarado refused to vacate the room as demanded, prompting Corpuz to seek his ejectment.
In his answer, Alvarado raised two major defenses, to wit: (1) the alleged "Affidavit of Waiver" executed between him and Barredo was a forgery; and (2) the dispute was not referred to the Lupong Tagapayapa.
Finding the defenses of Alvarado to be without merit, the MTC of Manila handed down on August 11, 1992 a decision ordering Alvarado to vacate the room. 2
Feeling aggrieved, Alvarado appealed to the RTC. On March 11, 1993, said court rendered its decision 3 which, in effect, reversed the MTC’s decision on the ground that the purported sale between Corpuz and Barredo was the subject of a controversy pending before the National Housing Authority (NHA) which must be resolved first by said agency. It also concluded that the "Affidavit of Waiver" executed by Alvarado and Barredo was a forgery. Consequently, it ordered the dismissal of the case for unlawful detainer, and ruled that Alvarado cannot be legally expelled from the subject premises.
His motion for reconsideration of said decision having been denied for lack of merit by the RTC 4 on July 16, 1993, Corpuz elevated his case to the Court of Appeals. The appellate court, however, found no reversible error in the assailed judgment and affirmed the same in its entirety in its assailed decision dated July 14, 1994. 5 A subsequent motion for reconsideration was likewise denied by the Court of Appeals in its resolution dated September 1, 1994. 6 Hence, this petition.
The main issues presented in this petition is whether Corpuz’ unlawful detainer suit filed before the MTC against Alvarado should be suspended until the resolution of the case lodged in the NHA impugning the sale of said property, and whether the "Affidavit of Waiver" between Corpuz and Barredo was authentic. Corpuz maintains that the mere assertion challenging his ownership over the said property is not a sufficient ground to divest the MTC of its exclusive jurisdiction. 7
The petition is impressed with merit.
It is elementary that the MTC has exclusive jurisdiction over ejectment cases. 8 As the law now stands, the only issue to be resolved in forcible entry and unlawful detainer cases is the physical or material possession over the real property, that is, possession de facto. 9
In the recent case of Refugia v. Court of Appeals, 10 however, we ruled that:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"In the case of De la Santa v. Court of Appeals, Et Al., this Court, in making a distinction between the reception of evidence and the resolution of the issue of ownership, held that the inferior court may look into the evidence of title or ownership and possession de jure insofar as said evidence would indicate or determine the nature of possession. It cannot, however, resolve the issue of ownership, that is, by declaring who among the parties is the true and lawful owner of the subject property, because the resolution of said issue would effect an adjudication on ownership which is not sanctioned in the summary action for unlawful detainer. With this as a premise and taking into consideration the amendment introduced by Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, it may be suggested that inferior courts are now conditionally vested with adjudicatory power over the issue of title or ownership raised by the parties in an ejectment suit."cralaw virtua1aw library
Consequently, since the present petition involves the issue of possession intertwined with the issue of ownership (i.e., the controversy pending in the NHA), the doctrinal pronouncement in Refugia is applicable.
Parenthetically speaking, the issue raised in this petition is far from novel. The prevailing doctrine is that suits or actions for the annulment of sale, title or document do not abate any ejectment action respecting the same property. 11
In Wilmor Auto Supply Construction Company Corporations, Et. Al. v. Court of Appeals, 12 Justice (now Chief Justice) Andres Narvasa outlined the following cases involving the annulment of the title or document over the property which should not be considered in the abatement of an ejectment suit, to wit:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"Neither do suits for annulment of sale, or title, or document affecting property operate to abate ejectment actions respecting the same property (Salinas v. Navarro [annulment of deed of sale with assumption of mortgage and/or to declare the same an equitable mortgage], 126 SCRA 167 ; Ang Ping v. RTC [annulment of sale and title], 154 SCRA 153 ; Caparros v. CA [annulment of title], 170 SCRA 758 ; Dante v. Sison [annulment of sale with damages], 174 SCRA 517; Galgala v. Benguet Consolidated, Inc. [annulment of document], 177 SCRA 288 )"
Clearly, the underlying reason for the above rulings is for the defendant not to trifle with the ejectment suit, which is summary in nature, by the simple expedient of asserting ownership thereon. Thus, the controversy pending before the NHA for the annulment of the Deed of Sale and assailing the authenticity of the "Affidavit of Joint Waiver" cannot deter the MTC from taking cognizance of the ejectment suit merely for the purpose of determining who has a better possessory right among the parties.chanrobles.com : virtual lawlibrary
It may be stressed that Alvarado is not without remedy. We have ruled that a judgment rendered in an ejectment case shall not bar an action between the same parties respecting title to the land or building nor shall it be conclusive as to the facts therein found in a case between the same parties upon a different cause of action involving possession. 13
Furthermore, Alvarado raises the issue in the instant petition that the ejectment suit was not referred to the Lupon Tagapayapa as required by Presidential Decree No. 1508.
We are not persuaded. This defense was only stated in a single general short sentence in Alvarado’s answer. We have held in Dui v. Court of Appeals 14 that failure of a party to specifically allege the fact that there was no compliance with the Barangay conciliation procedure constitutes a waiver of that defense. A perusal of Alvarado’s answer reveals that no reason or explanation was given to support his allegation, which is deemed a mere general averment.
In any event, the proceeding outlined in P.D. 1508 is not a jurisdictional requirement and non-compliance therewith cannot affect the jurisdiction which the lower court had already acquired over the subject matter and the parties therein.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED. The assailed decision dated July 14, 1994, of respondent Court of Appeals is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE, and the judgment of the Metropolitan Trial Court, Manila, Branch 6, in Civil Case No. 138532-CV dated August 11, 1992, is hereby REINSTATED.
Regalado, Puno, Mendoza and Torres, Jr., JJ.
1. CA-G.R. SP No. 31782 penned by Montenegro, J., and concurred in by Gonzaga Reyes and Vasquez, JJ.,; Rollo, pp. 49-53.
2. Rollo, pp. 27-29.
3. Ibid., pp. 30-32.
4. Id., p. 37.
5. Id., pp. 49-53.
6. Id., p. 57.
7. Petition, Rollo, p. 17.
8. Section 33 (2), B.P. 129 as amended by Republic Act 7691.
9. Vencilao v. Camarenta, 29 SCRA 473 (1969).
10. 258 SCRA 347 (1996).
11. Hilario v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 121865, August 7, 1996.
12. 208 SCRA 108 (1992).
13. Ang Ping, Et. Al. v. Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 40, Et Al., 154 SCRA 77 (1987).
14. 251 SCRA 472 (1995).