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  • G.R. No. 163495 - SAMUEL MALABANAN v. RURAL BANK OF CABUYAO, INC.

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  • G.R. NO. 178188, G.R. NO. 180674, G.R. NO. 181141 and G.R. NO. 183527 - OLYMPIC MINES AND DEVELOPMENT CORP., v. PLATINUM GROUP OF METALS CORP. / CITINICKEL MINES AND DEVELOPMENT CORP. v. HON. JUDGE BEIENVENIDO C. BLANCAFLOR, ET AL. / PLATINUM GROUP OF MET

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  • G.R. No. 184172 - PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES v. LUIS ANTONIO GARCHITORENA

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    G.R. No. 163495 - SAMUEL MALABANAN v. RURAL BANK OF CABUYAO, INC.

      G.R. No. 163495 - SAMUEL MALABANAN v. RURAL BANK OF CABUYAO, INC.

    PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

    SECOND DIVISION

    [G.R. NO. 163495 : May 8, 2009]

    SAMUEL MALABANAN, Petitioners, v. RURAL BANK OF CABUYAO, INC., Respondent.

    D E C I S I O N

    TINGA, J.:

    This Petition for Review on Certiorari 1 seeks to set aside the decision2 of the Court of Appeals dated 7 May 2004 in CA-G.R. SP No. 82223 which sustained the judgment3 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 55, Calamba City. The RTC, in the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction, reversed an earlier decision of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities4 (MTCC) and ordered the ejectment of herein petitioner.

    The following facts are uncontroverted.

    Samuel Malabanan (petitioner) was indebted to the Rural Bank of Cabuyao (respondent) in the amount of P5,000,000.00. To secure the payment of said loan, petitioner executed a Real Estate Mortgage5 (REM) on 18 April 1996 in favor of respondent over a parcel of land in Calamba, Laguna, with an area of 1,021 square meters, covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 255916.6

    When petitioner failed to settle his loan, he executed a dacion en pago over the mortgaged property in favor of respondent on 12 November 2001.7 By virtue thereof, the transfer of registration of said property was effected and TCT No. T-4935068 was subsequently issued in respondent's name. For refusal of petitioner to surrender possession of subject property despite repeated demands, respondent filed a complaint for unlawful detainer before the MTCC.9 It also prayed for the award of reasonable rental amounting to P100,000.00; another P100,000.00 as exemplary damages, and P300,000.00 as attorney's fees.10

    In his Answer,11 petitioner denied having executed a dacion en pago, stated that he never appeared before the Notary Public, and that its Executive Vice-President/General Manager, Renato Delfino, who purportedly represented respondent, was no longer officially connected with the latter since 1999. He also made a counterclaim for damages.12

    Prior to the filing of the ejectment case, however, petitioner had already filed an action for an Annulment of the dacion en pago and TCT No. T-493506 and reconveyance before Branch 35, RTC-Calamba.13

    In the preliminary conference held on 18 July 2003, the parties agreed and stipulated on the following facts:

    1. The execution of the real estate mortgage in favor of herein plaintiff executed by defendant Samuel Malabanan.

    2. That prior to the institution of this instant case, Civil Case No. 3316-2002 for the Annulment of Dacion En Pago and Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-493506 and Reconveyance with Damages and Temporary Restraining Order and/or Injunction entitled Samuel [Malabanan] v. Rural Bank of Cabuyao Inc., Renato Delfino, Notary Public Ruben Avenido and The Register of Deeds for Calamba City, Laguna was filed on September 25, 2002.

    3. That the alleged Dacion en Pago refers to TCT-T-255916.

    4. The existence and receipt of the demand letter dated August 12, 2002.14

    On 8 September 2003, the MTCC dismissed the complaint, as well as the counterclaim, for lack of merit.15 The lower court noted that respondent was not able to prove that petitioner's continued occupancy of the subject premises was by mere tolerance in order to sustain a cause of action for unlawful detainer.16

    On appeal, the RTC reversed the MTCC decision and ordered petitioner to vacate the subject property and to pay respondent P100,000.00 for rentals and P20,000.00 as attorney's fees.17

    Petitioner elevated the case to the Court of Appeals by way of Petition for Review with Urgent Prayer for Issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction.18 Petitioner imputed error on the part of the trial court in not dismissing the complaint for unlawful detainer on the ground of litis pendencia. He also faulted the RTC for not simultaneously resolving the ejectment case and the annulment of dacion en pago.

    On 7 May 2004, the Fifth Division of the Court of Appeals promulgated the assailed decision affirming in toto the RTC ruling.19

    In the present petition, petitioner raises substantially the same issues brought before the Court of Appeals, which can be summarized into two: (1) whether the complaint for unlawful detainer can be dismissed on ground of litis pendencia and forum shopping; and (2) whether the allegations in the complaint make out a case of unlawful detainer.20

    Petitioner asserts that there is a pending case for annulment of dacion en pago and TCT No. T-493506 before the RTC in which the issue to be resolved also involves possession as in this case. The allegations and the evidence to be presented in both complaints are identical. Hence, the instant complaint for unlawful detainer must be dismissed on grounds of litis pendencia and forum shopping.21 Assuming without conceding that the complaint cannot be dismissed, petitioner urges at least the suspension of the ejectment proceedings pending resolution of the annulment case.

    The Court of Appeals squarely addressed this issue, viz:

    It is established that in ejectment cases, the only issue for resolution is who is entitled to the physical possession or material possession of the property involved, independent of any claim of ownership set forth by any of the party-litigants.

    While it is true that both parties raised the issue of ownership over the subject property, yet it is emphasized that in ejectment cases, even if the question of ownership is raised in the pleadings, the court may pass upon such issue but only to determine the question of possession especially if the former is inseparably linked with the latter, but such determination of ownership is not clothed with finality and neither will it affect ownership of the property nor constitute a binding and conclusive adjudication on the merits with respect to the issue of ownership. Therefore, the judgment in the present case would not amount to res judicata in the other case which is the pending Annulment of Dacion En Pago.22

    Forum-shopping exists where the elements of litis pendentia are present, namely: (a) identity of parties or at least such as representing the same interests in both actions; (b) identity of rights asserted and reliefs prayed for, the relief being founded on the same facts; and (c) the identity in the two cases should be such that the judgment that may be rendered in one would, regardless of which party is successful, amounts to res judicata in the other.23

    Petitioner and respondent are the same parties in the annulment and ejectment cases. The issue of ownership was likewise being contended, with same set of evidence being presented in both cases. However, it cannot be inferred that a judgment in the ejectment case would amount to res judicata in the annulment case, and vice-versa.

    This issue is hardly a novel one. It has been laid to rest by heaps of cases iterating the principle 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.24

    It bears emphasizing that in ejectment suits, the only issue for resolution is the physical or material possession of the property involved, independent of any claim of ownership by any of the party litigants. However, the issue of ownership may be provisionally ruled upon for the sole purpose of determining who is entitled to possession de facto.25 Therefore, the provisional determination of ownership in the ejectment case cannot be clothed with finality.

    Corollarily, the incidental issue of whether a pending action for annulment would abate an ejectment suit must be resolved in the negative.

    A pending action involving ownership of the same property does not bar the filing or consideration of an ejectment suit, nor suspend the proceedings. This is so because an ejectment case is simply designed to summarily restore physical possession of a piece of land or building to one who has been illegally or forcibly deprived thereof, without prejudice to the settlement of the parties' opposing claims of juridical possession in appropriate proceedings.26

    The crux of the controversy centers on the propriety of the unlawful detainer suit. In unlawful detainer, one unlawfully withholds possession thereof after the expiration or termination of his right to hold possession under any contract, express or implied.27 In such case, the possession was originally lawful but became unlawful by the expiration or termination of the right to possess; hence, the issue of rightful possession is decisive for, in such action, the defendant is in actual possession and the plaintiff's cause of action is the termination of the defendant's right to continue in possession.28

    The pertinent allegations in the complaint read:

    4. That on various occasion, defendant Samuel Malabanan obtained loans from plaintiff in the total principal amount of FIVE MILLION PESOS (P5,000,000.00) Philippine currency using as collateral that parcel of land located in Bo. Parian, Calamba, Laguna consisting of 1,021 sq. m. including all the improvements found therein and covered by TCT No. T-265916 of the Registry of Deeds of Calamba, Laguna (hereinafter referred to as "subject property" for brevity). x x x

    5. Unfortunately, however, defendant Malabanan failed to pay his loans with the plaintiff;

    6. On November [12, 2001], to settle his loans with plaintiff, defendant Samuel Malabanan executed a dacion en pago (deed of assignment in payment of debt). x x x

    7. Through the said dacion en pago, plaintiff was able to effect [the] transfer of registration of the subject property in its name on [February 14, 2002] as evidenced by TCT No. T-493506 issued by the Registry of Deeds of Calamba, Laguna in its name. x x x

    8. Under the circumstances, plaintiff is entitled to the immediate possession of the subject property;

    9. But through tolerance, plaintiff allowed defendant Malabanan to remain in the subject property without requiring him to pay any rentals;

    10. However, when the need of the plaintiff for the subject property arose, plaintiff has demanded unto defendant Malabanan to peacefully surrender the possession of the subject property, the last of which was received by defendant on September [1, 2002] sent by [the] undersigned counsel which was received by defendant on September 16, 2002. x x x

    x x x

    12. Defendant Malabanan has been unlawfully detaining the subject property from plaintiff and defendant Malabanan and all persons acting his authority should be ejected therefrom and possession thereof surrendered to plaintiff;

    x x x29

    An examination of the complaint reveals that initially, petitioner exercised possession over the subject property as the registered owner. He executed a real estate mortgage in favor of respondent and for his failure to pay his obligation, he purportedly executed a dacion en pago, whereby ownership over the property was transferred to respondent. Subsequently, a new TCT was issued in respondent's name. Thus, respondent became entitled to possession.

    Petitioner insists that the allegations in the complaint were not supported by sufficient evidence to justify the remedy of an action for unlawful detainer. He challenges the allegations of how respondent came "to possess" the subject property and anchors his claim on the alleged simulated dacion en pago. To prove fraud in the execution of said deed, petitioner points out that the subject property is formerly covered by TCT No. T-265916 in his name while the subject of the dacion en pago refers to TCT No. T-255916, registered in the name of Ledesco Development Corporation.30

    While petitioner harps on the supposed variance between the two certificate of titles, he failed to explain why the supposed erroneous TCT No. T-255916 covers the property subject of the Real Estate Mortgage, which he himself admitted to having executed. To bolster the reasonable conclusion that indeed it was a mere typographical error, the technical description of the mortgaged property clearly refers to the lot situated in Calamba, Laguna.

    In dismissing petitioner's contention, the trial court observed that the variance in the TCT numbers appearing on the title and the deed may be attributed to a typographical oversight because the technical descriptions of the properties covered by TCT No. T-255916 and TCT No. T-265916 would clearly show that the properties covered therein refer to one and the same property, which is the property in dispute.31 The appellate court added that what is controlling is the technical description of the property. Moreover, petitioner admitted having executed the Real Estate Mortgage which also bears the erroneous TCT No. T-255916.32

    Petitioner accuses respondent of employing fraudulent means and pretenses in procuring his signature in the said deed as he never consented to its execution. He further denies appearing before the Notary Public and that the Community Tax Certificate Number appearing on the document was not his.

    It can readily be inferred that petitioner is primarily asserting his ownership over the subject property. It should be reiterated, at the point of being repetitive, that in an unlawful detainer case, the only issue to be resolved is who between the parties is entitled to the physical or material possession of the property in dispute. The trial court and the appellate court were one in saying that respondent had overwhelmingly established its right of possession by virtue of the dacion en pago and the torrens title.ςηαñrοblεš νιr υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

    At this juncture, it may not be amiss to note that in a Petition for Review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, only questions of law may be raised for the simple reason that the Court is not a trier of facts. It is not duty-bound to analyze and weigh again the evidence considered in the proceedings below. The factual findings of the trial court, especially when adopted and affirmed by the Court of Appeals as in the present case, are final and conclusive and may not be reviewed on appeal.33

    In the case at bar, both the trial court and the appellate court lent more credence to the validity of the dacion en pago and respondent's title. This determination, however, is regarded merely as provisional. It is a settled doctrine that courts in ejectment cases may determine questions of ownership whenever necessary to decide the question of possession.34 In any case, we sustain the finding that the respondents have the better right to possess the subject property.

    Well-established is the rule that if possession is by tolerance as has been alleged in the complaint such possession becomes illegal upon demand to vacate, with the possessor refusing to comply with such demand.35 ςηαñrοblεš νιr υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

    Going over the allegations in the complaint, it is clear that respondent's action for unlawful detainer is based on petitioner's possession by mere tolerance. From the time the title to the property was transferred in the name of respondent, petitioner's possession was converted into one by mere tolerance of the owner. The forbearance ceased when respondent made a demand on petitioner to vacate the lot. Thenceforth, petitioner's occupancy had become unlawful.

    A person who occupies the land of another with the latter's tolerance or permission, without any contract between them, is necessarily bound by an implied promise that he will vacate upon demand, failing which a summary action for ejectment is the proper remedy against him.36

    There is no doubt that the plaintiff in an ejectment case is entitled to damages caused by his loss of the use and possession of the premises. Damages in the context of Section 17, Rule 70 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure is limited to "rent" or fair rental value or the reasonable compensation for the use and occupation of the property.37

    Respondent, as the plaintiff in the complaint for unlawful detainer brought before the MTCC, had sought therein the award of P100,000.00 a month as reasonable rental.38 Before this Court, petitioner asserts that respondent had failed to prove his claim that the reasonable rental value is P100,000.00 a month.39 Respondent, as the plaintiff in the complaint before the MTCC, had the burden to adduce evidence to prove the fair rental value or reasonable compensation for the subject property,40 but it failed to discharge its burden. All that it did was to make through his counsel a self-serving and uncorroborated assertion in the unverified Position Paper41 before the MCTC that "(g)iven the size and strategic location of the subject property the reasonable rentals" for its use "can be safely estimated at P100,000.00 a month."42 Neither did the trial court make any ratiocination when it granted the rentals rentals prayed for by respondent.

    WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Petition is GRANTED IN PART. The Decision dated 7 May 2004 of the Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED WITH MODIFICATION in that its

    affirmation of the Regional Trial Court's award of reasonable rentals in favor of respondent is DELETED and SET ASIDE,

    SO ORDERED.

    Endnotes:


    * Acting Chairperson.

    ** Per Special Order No. 619, Justice Teresita J. Leonardo-De Castro is hereby designated as additional member of the Second Division in lieu of Justice Leonardo A. Quisumbing, who is on official leave

    1 Rollo, pp. 3-51.

    2 Id. at 53-59; Penned by Associate Justice Eugenio S. Labitoria and concurred in by Associate Justices Jose L. Sabio, Jr. and Hakim S. Abdulwahid.

    3 Id. at 68-71. Presided by Judge Romeo C. De Leon.

    4 Presided by Judge Wilhelmina B. Jorge-Wagan.

    5 Id. at 164-165.

    6 Id. at 143-144. Per the terms of the Real Estate Mortgage, the mortgaged property was covered by TCT No. 255916, however, based on the technical description, it appears that the TCT should have been 265916.

    7 Id. at 166-168.

    8 Id. at 169-170.

    9 Id. at 158-163.

    10 Id. at 158.

    11 Id. at 173-185.

    12 Rollo, pp. 246-247.

    13 Id. at 244.

    14 Id. at 213.

    15 Id. at 65.

    16 Id.

    17 Id. at 71.

    18 Id. at 72-112.

    19 Supra note 2.

    20 Id. at 20.

    21 Id. at 33-35.

    22 Id. at 56-57.

    23 Abines v. Bank of the Philippine Islands, G.R. No. 167900, 13 February 2006, 482 SCRA 421, 429.

    24 Barnes v. Padilla, G.R. No. 160753, 28 June 2005, 461 SCRA 503, 543.

    25 Heirs of Rosendo Lasam v. Umengan, G.R. No. 168156, 6 December 2006, 510 SCRA 496, 507.

    26 Barnes v. Padilla, G.R. No. 160753, 28 June 2005, 461 SCRA 533, 543.

    27 Racaza v. Gozum, G.R. No. 148759, 8 June 2006, 490 SCRA 302, 312.

    28 Go, Jr. v. Court of Appeals, 415 Phil. 172, 184 (2001).

    29 Rollo, pp. 158-160.

    30 Id. at 18.

    31 Id. at 64.

    32 Id. at 57.

    33 Umpoc v. Mercado, G.R. No. 158166, 21 January 2005, 449 SCRA 220, 235.

    34 Rivera v. Rivera, 453 Phil. 404, 411-412 (2002).

    35 Odsigue v. Court of Appeals, et.al., G.R. No. 111179, 4 July 1994, 233 SCRA 626.

    36 Ballesteros v. Abion, G.R. No. 143361, 9 February 2006, 482 SCRA 23, 28.

    37 Sps. Catungal v. Hao, G.R. No. 134972, 22 March 2001, 407 Phil. 309, 320 (2001).

    38 CA rollo, p. 102.

    39 Rollo, pp. 29-32, 647.

    40 Josefa v. San Buenaventura, G.R. No. 163429, 3 March 2006, 484 SCRA 49, 63.

    41 CA rollo, pp. 217-224.

    42 Id. at 221.

    G.R. No. 163495 - SAMUEL MALABANAN v. RURAL BANK OF CABUYAO, INC.


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