Lanuza v. Muoz : 147372 : May 27, 2004 : J. Quisumbing : Second
Division : Decision
[G.R. NO. 147372 : May 27, 2004]
LANUZA and ASTERIA LANUZA, Petitioners, v. MA. CONSUELO MUOZ, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
For review on certiorari
is the Decision2 dated December 28, 2000, of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 53780, which
(a) set aside the Decision3 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Muntinlupa City, Branch 256, in Civil Case
No. 99-083, and (b) remanded the case to the MTC of Muntinlupa City, for
further proceedings on respondents complaint for unlawful detainer.
The RTC had earlier affirmed the judgment4 of the MTC in Civil Case No. 3749, dismissing the complaint for lack of
Petitioners herein assail
also the CA Resolution5 dated March 7, 2001, denying their motion for reconsideration.
In her Complaint for Unlawful Detainer against herein
petitioner-spouses Caezar and Asteria Lanuza before the MTC of Muntinlupa City,
herein respondent Ma. Consuelo Muoz claimed that she was the owner of a parcel
of land located in Alabang, Muntinlupa, as evidenced by Transfer Certificate of
Title No. 207017, together with the nine-door apartment built on said
She said she acquired the lot
in 1996 from petitioners by virtue of a Deed of Absolute Sale.
Muoz as plaintiff below likewise averred
3.At the time
plaintiff acquired the said property on August 7, 1996, defendants [Caezar and
Asteria Lanuza] are occupying door no. 2 and in possession of door no. 3
thereof and plaintiff tolerated the same until January 1997 when said tolerance
was withdrawn with plaintiff demanding that as a condition to their continued
stay therein, they would have to pay rentals starting February 1997 at the rate
P5,000.00 for door no. 2 and P6,000.00 for door no. 3;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
4.Defendants had not
paid a signle [sic] centavo of the amounts being demanded nor did they vacate
the premises despite demands;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
5.The failure and
refusal of the defendants to vacate despite the cessation of their right to
occupy the same and their failure to pay the rentals being demanded despite
demands compelled plaintiff to litigate and to engaged [sic] the services of
P15,000.00 as attorneys fee and will expose her to
incur litigation expenses estimated to be not less than P15,000.00.6 cralawred
In their Answer, the Lanuzas alleged that they are the lawful
owners of the property in question.
They denied selling it to Muoz.
They also claimed that it was Francisco Muoz, Sr., the respondents
father, who persuaded them to sign an Absolute Deed of Sale on August 7, 1996,
purportedly in order to expedite the sale of the property as previously agreed
upon between herein petitioners and Francisco Muoz, Sr., on August 6,
Under this agreement, the
property would be sold once the apartment was repaired and remodeled, with the
profits divided into three portions, after deducting the renovation and
improvement expenses amounting to
P3.5 million, which was shouldered by
Francisco Muoz, Sr.
The Lanuzas declared that after several months when the property
was still unsold, Francisco Muoz, Sr., sent them a letter7 dated January 24, 1997.
informed them of the expiration of the agreement to sell.
Further, Francisco expressed his intention
to rent the property to the couple should they decide to continue occupying the
The letter reads:
January 24, 1997
Governor Caezar Z. Lanuza
Dear Governor:RE :
FROM THE SALE OF 9
Please be advised that the Side Agreement regarding the profit sharing
realized from the sale of the 9-door apartment ends February 7, 1997.
In view of the proximity of the expiry date, I highly recommend
that you and me (sic) will exert every effort to look for a right buyer,
otherwise, by February 8 I will start accepting rental application.
In the case of Baby Lanuza, if she wish (sic) to continue staying
in the apartment, I will charge her a preferential rental rate of P5,000.00 per
month subject to the payment of two (2) months deposit and one (1) month
advance upon signing of the Lease Contract.
Please give this matter your prompt and undivided attention.
Very truly yours,
(Signed) Francisco Muoz, Sr.
Petitioners then learned that respondent and her father,
Francisco Muoz, Sr., had registered the simulated Deed of Sale, which they had
signed to expedite the offering for sale of the property.
They protested Muozs act of registering
On June 3, 1997, the Lanuzas filed their complaint with the RTC
of Muntinlupa City for rescission of contract with damages against Muoz.
Docketed as Civil Case No. 97-101, that was
still pending, when herein respondent filed Civil Case No. 3749 on August 1,
1997, for unlawful detainer.
On January 14, 1999, the MTC disposed of Civil Case No. 3749 in
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the above-entitled case is
dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.
SO ORDERED.8 cralawred
In dismissing Civil Case No. 3749, the MTC observed that inasmuch
as herein respondent also sought the recovery of rentals in arrears, demand is
a jurisdictional requirement.
complaint was bare of any showing when demand to vacate was made, then it was
the RTC and not the MTC, which had jurisdiction.
Muoz appealed the foregoing decision to the RTC of Muntinlupa
City in Civil Case No. 99-083, but the RTC agreed with the MTCs factual
findings and upheld the MTCs judgment, thus:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, the Decision appealed from
is hereby AFFIRMED IN TOTO.
SO ORDERED.9 cralawred
Muoz then filed a Petition for Review with the Court of Appeals,
which the appellate court disposed of as follows:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is hereby GRANTED and the Decision
dated 01 June 1999 of the Regional Trial Court is SET ASIDE.
Let the records of the case be remanded to
the Metropolitan Trial Court of Muntinlupa City, Branch 80, which is hereby
ordered to give due course to the Complaint and to conduct further proceedings
with dispatch until full termination of the case.
SO ORDERED.10 cralawred
In concluding that the Complaint in Civil Case No. 3749 stated a
valid cause of action and the MTC had jurisdiction over said case, the Court of
Appeals declared that while demand to pay rent and to vacate is required by
Section 2,11 Rule 70 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure in ejectment suits for non-payment
of rents, Civil Case No. 3749 was not for non-payment of rentals; rather, it
was for termination of the right of the petitioners to occupy the premises
because of respondents withdrawal of tolerance to the petitioners continued
The appellate court noted
there was no showing that the parties had previously entered into a contract of
lease, but instead, paragraph 3 of the Complaint clearly showed that the cause
of action is the cessation of the tolerance extended to herein petitioners.
Petitioners duly moved for reconsideration, but the appellate
court denied the motion.
Hence, the instant petition alleging that:
A.HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS IN REVERSING THE
APTLY AND JUDICIOUS DECISION OF THE COURT A
QUO VIOLATED SECTION 2, RULE 70, OF THE 1997 RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE FOR
NOT SUSTAINING THE DISMISSAL OF THE COMPLAINT FOR EJECTMENT WITHOUT MAKING A
DEFINITE DEMAND TO VACATE PRIOR TO THE FILING OF THE EJECTMENT COMPLAINT;
B.HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS VIOLATED SUPREME
COURT RULING IN CASE OF GALLARDE VS.
MORAN ET AL., 14 SCRA 713 AND VDA. DE
MURGA VS. CHAN, 25 SCRA 441 WHICH DECREED THAT DEFINITE DEMAND TO VACATE
MUST BE FIRST MADE PRIOR TO THE FILING OF AN EJECTMENT.12 cralawred
Petitioners submissions may be reduced to one issue:
Did the Court of Appeals err in reversing
the decision of the Regional Trial Court and in remanding the unlawful detainer
case to the Municipal Trial Court?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
Petitioners contend that the Court of Appeals committed an error
of law in reversing the ruling of the RTC that a demand to vacate is necessary
for the present unlawful detainer case to prosper.They submit that the appellate courts ruling does not only
violate Section 2, Rule 70, of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, but it also
runs against the stream of prevailing case law. Petitioners insist that a demand to vacate should have been made
by respondent before she instituted Civil Case No. 3749 with the MTC since her
action was based on non-payment of rentals, and not withdrawal of tolerance as
ruled by the Court of Appeals.
Respondent counters that no reversible error was committed by the
Court of Appeals since it correctly found that in seeking to oust the
petitioners from the disputed property, she was relying upon the cessation of
her tolerance to their continued stay and not on their failure to pay rentals
on the property.
The appellate court found that:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
The cause of action is plainly stated in paragraph 3, that is,
cessation of the tolerance extended to the defendants.
The statement that defendants may continue
occupying the premises by paying rentals starting February 1997 was a mere
offer which does not appear to have been accepted.There is no proof that the parties assumed a lessor-lessee
relationship by entering into a contract of lease for the use of the premises
owned by the petitioner.
How then can
we say that private respondents failed to pay rentals when they are not tenants
obliged to pay rentals?
It follows that
non-payment of rentals cannot be invoked as ground for ejectment.
The complaint zeroed in on withdrawal of
tolerance as the cause of action, not non-payment of rentals as wrongly read
from the complaint by both lower courts.
This act of tolerance on the part of the petitioner carries with it
the implied obligation on the part of the respondents to vacate the property
upon demand by the petitioner.13 cralawred
On the basis of the records on hand, we find no cogent reason to
set aside the foregoing findings and conclusions of the Court of Appeals.
As a rule, the factual findings of the
appellate court are binding on the Supreme Court.14 In the instant case, as explained by the appellate court, a careful perusal of
the Complaint in Civil Case No. 3749 in its entirety would show that the
plaintiffs asserted basis for the ejectment suit is the alleged withdrawal of
tolerance of the Lanuzas stay in the property by Muoz, and not the failure by
the Lanuzas to pay rentals to her, as there was no lease agreed to by the
Petitioners reliance on Gallarde v. Moran,15 Murga v. Chan,16 and on Section 2, Rule 70, does not
help their cause.
An examination of
Section 2, Rule 70, readily shows that the rule is applicable only where there
is a lessor-lessee relationship under a lease contract, which does not exist in
Further, the rule applies
only in instances where the grounds relied upon for ejectment are non-payment
of rentals or violation of the conditions of the lease, as the case may
In those cited situations, notice
to vacate is crucial.17 A demand is a pre-requisite to an action for unlawful detainer, when the action
is based on failure to pay rent due or to comply with the conditions of his
lease, but not where the action is to terminate the lease because of the
expiration of its term.18 cralawred
The cases cited by the petitioners as precedents are inapplicable
to the present controversy.
milieu in Murga and in Gallarde is vastly different from that
of the present case.
In Murga, there was a lease contract which
provided that upon its expiration, the lessor had the option to purchase the
improvements introduced by the lessee on the leased premises; but in the event
that the lessor did not exercise such option, then the contract was
In Gallarde, there was an agreement to pay
rentals on the dates set by the parties.
Both Murga and Gallarde speak of a lease contract where
there is an agreement to pay rentals, a condition absent in the present case.
In any event, even assuming arguendo
that a demand to vacate was required for Civil Case No. 3749 to prosper, we
find that the respondents allegations in her complaint constitute sufficient
compliance with the jurisdictional requirement concerning previous demand to
establish a cause of action for unlawful detainer.The complaint alleged that the petitioners were occupying the
premises by tolerance, which respondent withdrew, but despite her demands,
herein petitioners did not vacate the premises.An allegation in an original complaint for illegal detainer that
in spite of demands made by the plaintiff the defendants had refused to restore
the property, is sufficient compliance with the jurisdictional requirement of
previous demand.19 cralawred
One final point, however, in regard to respondents submission to
In her memorandum,
respondent contends that the Court of Appeals erred in remanding the case to
She submits that the appellate
court could have decided the case on the merits based on the affidavits and
position papers submitted by the parties.
The respondent points out that all the evidence needed was already
before the appellate court.
to her, both the MTC and RTC already decided the case on the merits, but
erroneously appreciated the evidence.
Any remand, she argues, would result in a second judgment on the
Hence, respondent now prays
that this Court decide the case on the merits to prevent circuitous and
Regrettably, respondents contentions are untenable.
The petition before the Court of Appeals was
filed pursuant to Rule 42 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.
Said rule provides for the remedy of Petition for Review by the Court of Appeals of a decision rendered by the RTC
in the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction.
In said Petition for Review the issues that may be resolved are limited
to errors of fact or law committed by the RTC.
In this case, it must be noted that the MTC dismissed Civil Case No.
3749 for lack of jurisdiction on the ground that the unlawful detainer case is
one involving allegedly the non-payment of rentals; hence, the complaint should
have alleged that a prior demand to vacate had been made by the plaintiff.
Plainly viewed, what the Court of Appeals
resolved in CA-G.R. SP No. 53780 was the validity of said dismissal by the MTC
as affirmed by the RTC on appeal.
Crucial to this narrow issue was the question of whether the cause of
action in Civil Case No. 3749 is non-payment of rentals or withdrawal of
tolerance in order to determine jurisdiction.
The Court of Appeals could not have resolved the controversy on the
merits, since issues involving the merits of the respective claims of the
parties, such as those concerning rights of possession by herein Petitioners, were not properly raised before the appellate court.Those claims have yet to be ventilated before the proper trial
In this petition now before us, only questions of law may be
reviewed.20 Resolving this case on the merits, as prayed by respondent, would involve a
determination of factual issues which, we hasten to add, are not within the
province of this Court.
At the risk of
being tedious, we must stress that this Court is not a trier of facts.
We are confined to the review of errors of
law ascribed to the Court of Appeals, whose findings of fact are conclusive,
absent any showing that such findings are entirely devoid of any substantiation
on record.21 The remand of the detainer case for further proceedings by the municipal trial
court is clearly in order.
assailed Decision dated December 28, 2000 and the Resolution dated March 7,
2001, of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 53780 are AFFIRMED.
No pronouncement as to costs.
Austria-Martinez, Callejo, Sr., and
TINGA, JJ., concur.
Puno, J., (Chairman),
on official leave.
1 Caesar and Cesar in some parts of the records.
2 Rollo, pp. 26-32.
Associate Justice Romeo A. Brawner, with Associate Justices Cancio C. Garcia
and Andres B. Reyes, Jr. concurring.
3 Id. at 96-98.
Presiding Judge Alberto L. Lerma.
11 SEC. 2. Lessor
against lessee only after
demand. Unless otherwise stipulated, such action by the lessor shall be commenced only
after demand to pay or comply with the conditions of the lease and to vacate is
made upon the lessee, or by
serving written notice of such demand upon the person found on the premises, or
by posting such notice on the premises if no person be found thereon, and the lessee fails to comply therewith
after fifteen (15) days in the case of land or five (5) days in the case of
(Underscoring and emphasis supplied.)
15 No. L-19572, 30 July 1965, 14 SCRA 713.
16 No. L-24680, 7 October 1968, 25 SCRA
18 Co Tiamco v. Diaz, No. L-7, 22
January 1946, 75 Phil 672, 677.
19 Sumulong v. Court of Appeals, G.R.
No. 108817, 10 May 1994, 232 SCRA 372, 387.
Back to Home | Back to Main