July 2016 - Philippine Supreme Court Decisions/Resolutions
G.R. No. 198925, July 13, 2016 - SPOUSES ARCHIBAL LATOJA AND CHARITO LATOJA, Petitioners, v. HONORABLE ELVIE LIM, PRESIDING JUDGE, BRANCH 1, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, BORONGAN, EASTERN SAMAR, ATTY. JESUS APELADO, REGISTER OF DEEDS, BORONGAN, EASTERN SAMAR, ALVARO CAPITO, AS SHERIFF, BRANCH 2, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, BORONGAN, EASTERN SAMAR, AND TERESITA CABE, REPRESENTED BY ADELINA ZAMORA, Respondents.
G.R. No. 198925, July 13, 2016
SPOUSES ARCHIBAL LATOJA AND CHARITO LATOJA, Petitioners, v. HONORABLE ELVIE LIM, PRESIDING JUDGE, BRANCH 1, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, BORONGAN, EASTERN SAMAR, ATTY. JESUS APELADO, REGISTER OF DEEDS, BORONGAN, EASTERN SAMAR, ALVARO CAPITO, AS SHERIFF, BRANCH 2, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, BORONGAN, EASTERN SAMAR, AND TERESITA CABE, REPRESENTED BY ADELINA ZAMORA, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
This is a Petition1 for Certiorari, Prohibition, and Mandamus under Rule 65 of the 1997 Revised Rules of Court assailing the Order2 in Civil Case No. 3488 issued by Hon. Elvie P. Lim (Judge Lim) as acting presiding judge of Regional Trial Court Branch 2 (RTC-Br. 2), Borongan, Eastern Samar. The assailed Order granted the Motion for Issuance of Writ of Possession in favor of respondent Teresita Cabe over the property covered by Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. 41.
The Petition likewise prays for the issuance of a preliminary injunction and/or temporary restraining order (TRO) to enjoin the execution of the assailed Order.
On 21 May 1997, respondent Cabe, together with Donato A. Cardona II (Cardona II), executed a Deed of Sale with Pacto de Retro3 over a parcel of land covered by OCT No. 41, registered under the "Heirs of Donato Cardona represented by Jovita T. Cardona."4 The sale was with the conformity of Jovita Cardona and spouses Rhodo and Myrna Cardona (Spouses Cardona), who are Cardona II's grandmother and parents, respectively.
For failure of Cardona II to repurchase the property from her within one year as agreed upon in the deed, Cabe filed a Petition for Consolidation xof Ownership5 over OCT No. 41 pursuant to Article 1607 of the Civil Code.6 Docketed as Civil Case No. 3488 (consolidation case) and assigned to RTC-Br. 2, the Petition was granted by the trial court through a Decision dated 20 May 2002.7chanrobleslaw
Cardona II questioned the trial court's Decision by filing with the Court of Appeals (CA) a Rule 65 Petition for Certiorari8 which was dismissed by the CA.9 Cardona II further appealed to the Supreme Court, but his appeal was also denied and, on 13 July 2005, an Entry of Judgment issued.10chanrobleslaw
Pursuant to this Court's Resolution denying Cardona IPs appeal, respondent Cabe filed a motion for execution of the RTC Decision in the consolidation case11 which was granted.12chanrobleslaw
RTC-Br. 2 then issued a Writ of Execution.13 Pursuant thereto, the Register of Deeds cancelled OCT No. 41 and issued, in lieu thereof, Transfer Certificate of Title No. 114-2011000028 under the name of respondent Cabe.14chanrobleslaw
Thereafter, Cabe prayed for the issuance of a Writ of Possession. This was granted through the assailed Order15 of Judge Lim as acting Presiding Judge of RTC-Br. 2.16 In accordance with the assailed Order, a Writ of Possession was issued in favor of Cabe.17 Subsequently, a Notice of Demand to Vacate18 was issued by the court sheriff of RTC-Br. 2 pursuant to the Writ of Possession.
Petitioner-spouses Archibal and Charito Latoja (Spouses Latoja) now come to us alleging grave abuse of discretion on the part of Judge Lim.19 They allege that in 2006, this same Judge Lim rendered a Judgment by Compromise20 in an Action for Partition of Real Properties. This action was filed by Spouses Latoja against Spouses Cardona, who are the parents of Cardona II, respondent in the consolidation case.21 Among the properties included in the partition case was OCT No. 41,22 the same property subject of the consolidation case. The Judgment by Compromise awarded OCT No. 41 on a 50/50 pro indiviso ownership to Spouses Latoja and Spouses Cardona pursuant to their Compromise Agreement.23chanrobleslaw
Spouses Latoja contend that Judge Lim, as acting presiding judge of RTC-Br. 2, wrongly granted the motion for the issuance of a Writ of Possession to Cabe despite the Judgment by Compromise he had previously rendered in the partition case. Judge Lim was then the presiding judge of RTC-Br. 1, Borongan, Eastern Samar when he awarded half of the same property to petitioners.24 Alleging that they are in possession of a portion of the subject property,25cralawred petitioners also pray for the issuance of a TRO to enjoin the implementation of the assailed Order in view of the issuance of the Notice to Vacate issued by the court sheriff.26 In a Resolution dated 14 December 2011, this Court granted the TRO prayed for.27chanrobleslaw
In her Comment,28 respondent Cabe contends that the Decision in the consolidation case had become final on 13 July 2005 after this Court dismissed the appeal of Cardona II and before the Judgment by Compromise was rendered in 2006. Therefore, Judge Lim was simply guided by the rule on the finality of judgment when he issued the assailed Order. Cabe asserts that she is therefore entitled to the writ of possession prayed for.29chanrobleslaw
The crucial issue in this case is whether public respondent Judge Lim committed grave abuse of discretion when he issued the Order granting the Motion for Issuance of Writ of Possession in favor of private respondent Cabe in the consolidation case.
We grant the Petition for reasons as follows.
The Petition warrants a relaxation of procedural rules.
At the outset, We note some procedural lapses in the Petition filed before Us.
The Court enjoins the observance of the established policy on the hierarchy of courts.30 Here, petitioners filed the present Petition for Certiorari directly before this Court instead of the CA. Such a course of action ought to be disallowed.31chanrobleslaw
Moreover, it is a rule that a motion for reconsideration of an assailed order is a condition precedent before filing a petition for certiorari under Rule 65.32 In the present case, petitioners failed to file a motion for reconsideration of the Order granting the Motion for the Issuance of Writ of Possession, thereby depriving RTC-Br. 2 of the opportunity to correct an error it might have unwittingly committed.33chanrobleslaw
Despite these procedural lapses, the Court deems it prudent to provide a resolution of the substantial issues raised by the parties. The resolution of these issues is pursuant to the policy that cases should as much as possible be resolved on the merits, and not on technicalities.34 Strict adherence to rules of procedure must not get in the way of achieving substantial justice.35 The Court, on compelling and meritorious grounds, has overlooked procedural flaws, such as (1) lack of a motion for reconsideration prior to a Rule 65 petition;36 (2) non-exhaustion of administrative remedies;37 (3) a disregard of the hierarchy of courts;38 and (4) an erroneous service of a petition on the opposing party, instead of the counsel of record.39chanrobleslaw
Indeed, the exceptional circumstances in the instant case demand that the Court forego a rigid application of the technicalities, so as to allow the parties to determine their respective rights and liabilities under the law. In particular, we take note of the fact that the case involved here has been dragging on for years, with the consolidation case commencing as early as 1999.40 Further, the merits of the present case, as will be shown later, justify the relaxation of procedural technicalities.
Judge Lim committed grave abuse of discretion in granting the Motion for Issuance of Writ of Possession.
We find that Judge Lim committed grave abuse of discretion when he issued the Order for the issuance of the Writ of Possession prayed for by respondent Cabe in the consolidation case. We make this finding on grounds other than those posited by petitioners as will further be explained below.
Jurisprudence provides only these four instances when a writ of possession may issue: (1) land registration proceedings; (2) extrajudicial foreclosure of mortgage of real property; (3) judicial foreclosure of property, provided that the mortgagor has possession, and no third party has intervened; and (4) execution sales.41chanrobleslaw
Here, respondent Cabe sought the writ as a consequence of the trial court's Decision ordering the consolidation of the title over the subject property and vesting absolute ownership thereof in her name. Since the instant case clearly does not fall among the four instances enumerated above, the issuance of the Writ of Possession was not proper.
It is apparent that Cabe availed herself of the wrong remedy in seeking possession of the property via a Writ of Possession. She contends that she is entitled as a matter of right to the issuance of the writ as she has in her favor a court judgment, a writ of execution, and a new TCT under her own name.42 This contention lacks merit.
The consolidation of title prescribed in Article 160743 of the Civil Code is merely for the purpose of registering and consolidating title to the property in case of a vendor a retro's failure to redeem.44 Here, the trial court's Decision (affirmed by both the CA and the SC) merely resolved the issue of consolidation of ownership over the subject property.45 Possession and ownership are distinct legal concepts.46 A judgment in favor of ownership, therefore, does not necessarily include possession as a necessary incident.47chanrobleslaw
To further seek possession of the land would violate the established rule that a writ of execution must conform to the dispositive portion of the decision it seeks to enforce and cannot vary the terms thereof.48 Otherwise, the execution is void.49 Since the Writ of Possession in this case was issued as part of the execution process,50 it is likewise subject to this rule. Consequently, as the judgment being executed does not involve a disposition on Cabe's right of possession, the Writ of Possession itself is a patent nullity.
Deprived of possession, Cabe's remedy is not a Writ of Possession, but any of the available actions for the recovery of possession of real property, specifically the following: accion interdictal, when the dispossession has not lasted for more than one year; accion publiciana, when the dispossession has lasted for more than one year; or accion reivindicatoria, which seeks the recovery of ownership and necessarily includes possession.51chanrobleslaw
Judge Lim overlooked the nature of the Pacto de Retro sale entered into by Cabe and Cardona II. It is basic that in a pacto de retro sale, the title and ownership of the property sold are immediately vested in the vendee a retro.52 As a result, the vendee a retro has a right to the immediate possession of the property sold, unless otherwise agreed upon.53chanrobleslaw
Therefore, the right of respondent Cabe to possess the subject property must be founded on the terms of the Pacto de Retro Sale itself, and not on the Decision in the consolidation case. It would be erroneous to conclude that she is entitled as a matter of right to possession of the subject property by virtue of the Decision on consolidation which has become final and executory.54chanrobleslaw
Judge Lim committed grave abuse of discretion in issuing the Order granting Cabe's motion for the issuance of a writ of possession, as he went against basic law and established jurisprudence.
It must be emphasized that this Petition is confined to the resolution of Judge Lim's authority to order the issuance of the assailed Writ of Possession. Any contention raised as to the validity of the judgments, contracts, or titles involved in this case may be properly threshed out by the parties in a proper action for that purpose.
WHEREFORE, the Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 is GRANTED. Hereby SET ASIDE are the (a) Order dated 29 September 2011 issued by Hon. Elvie P. Lim granting the Motion for Issuance of Writ of Possession; (b) the Writ of Possession dated 25 October 2011; and (c) the Notice of Demand to Vacate dated 25 October 2011. Accordingly, the Court's Temporary Restraining Order dated 14 December 201155 is hereby made PERMANENT.
Leonardo-De Castro, Bersamin, Perlas-Bernabe, and Caguioa, JJ., concur.
1Rollo, pp. 3-19.
2 Id. at 20-21; Order dated 29 September 2011.
3Rollo, pp. 177-178.
4 Id. at 22-23.
5 Id. at 32-35
6 Art. 1607 provides: "In case of real property, the consolidation of ownership in the vendee by virtue of the failure of the vendor to comply with the provisions of Article 1616 shall not be recorded in the Registry of Property without a judicial order, after the vendor has been duly heard."
7 Id. at 110-119; the decision was penned by Hon. Arnulfo O. Bugtas as Presiding Judge of RTC-Br. 2.
8 Docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 77370
9 CA Decision in CA-G.R. SP No. 77370 dated 23 June 2004, penned by CA Associate Justice Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe (now a member of this Court) and concurred in by Associate Justices Isaias P. Dicdican and Ramon M. Bato, Jr.; rollo, pp. 124-126.
10 Id. at 128-129.
11 Id. at 130.
12 Id. at 137-138; the resolution was penned by Hon. Leandro C. Catalo as Presiding Judge of RTC Br. 2.
13 Id. at 45-46; dated 22 October 2010.
14 Id. at 53.
15 Dated 29 September 2011.
16Rollo, pp. 20-21.
17 Id. at 51-52.
18 Id. at 50.
19 On 28 August 2013, petitioners' counsel filed a Notice of Substitution of Party dated 2 August 2013, stating that petitioner Archibal Latoja died on 13 October 2012 and requesting that his children - Lindley Latoja, Liezl Latoja, Leslie Latoja, Archibal Latoja, Jr., and Lyndon Sixto Latoja - be considered as substitutes of their late father; rollo, pp. 262-263, 273.
20 Id. at 36-37.
21 Id. at 8.
22 Id. at 22-23.
23 Id. at 36-37.
24 Id. at 11.
25cralawred Id. at 194.
26 In the Notice of Demand to Vacate, Spouses Latoja were given until 18 November 2011 to turn over the property to respondent Cabe.
27 Id. at 65.
28 Id. at 81-103.
29 Id. at 91-92.
30Diocese of Bacolod v. COMELEC, 747 Phil. 1 (2015).
31 Although the Court, the CA, and the RTC have concurrence of jurisdiction over the issuance of writs of certiorari, petitioners cannot simply choose which among several courts their Petition for Certiorari will be filed in. (Baņez, Jr. v. Conception, 693 Phil. 399 ).
32Lepanto Consolidated Mining v. Lepanto Capataz Union, 704 Phil. 10 (2013).
33Estate of Salvador Serra Serra v. Heirs of Hernaez, 503 Phil. 736 (2005).
34Macedonia v. Ramo, G.R. No. 193516, 24 March 2014.
35Morillo v. People, G.R. No. 198270, 9 December 2015.
36Republic v. Bayao, 710 Phil. 279 (2013).
37Buklod ng Kawaning EIIB v. Zamora, 413 Phil. 281 (2001).
38Republic v. Caguioa, 704 Phil. 315 (2013).
40Rollo, pp. 32-35.
41Maglente v. Baltazar-Padilla, 546 Phil. 472 (2007), citing Canlas v. Court of Appeals, 247 Phil. 118 (1988); see also Mabale v. Alipasok, 177 Phil. 189 (1979).
42Rollo, p. 91.
43 Supra note 6.
44Spouses Cruz v. Leis, 384 Phil. 303 (2000).
45 The dispositive portion of the Decision goes as follows:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary"WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of petitioner and against respondent, consolidating the title so that real property covered by Original Certificate of Title No. 41 vesting ownership upon petitioner Teresita Cabe; declaring null and void said OCT No. 41; and ordering the Register of Deeds of Easter Samar to cancel said OCT No. 41 and to issue, in lieu thereof, another Certificate of title in favor of and in the name of TERESITA CABE.46Heirs of Soriano v. CA, 415 Phil. 299 (2001).
SO ORDERED." (Rollo, p. 119).
48Green Acres Holdings, Inc. v. Cabral, 710 Phil. 235 (2013).
50Rollo, p. 20.
51Suarez v. Emboy, Jr., G.R. No. 187944, 12 March 2014, citing Spouses Valdez v. Court of Appeals, 523 Phil. 39 (2006).
52Solid Homes, Inc. v. CA, 341 Phil. 261 (1997).
54Rollo, p. 20.
55 Id. at 65-66.