G.R. No. L-22412 April 29, 1977
JOSE ORELLANO, plaintiff-appellant,
Dominador A. Alafriz & Associates for appellant.chanrobles virtual law library
Pedro Q. Quadra for appellee.
BARREDO, J.:chanrobles virtual law library
Appeal from the order of the Court of First Instance of Manila in Civil Case No. 55129, Jose Orellano vs. Romualdo Alvestir, dated November 18, 1963 dismissing appellant's action of unlawful detainer against appellee upon the ground that there is another action pending between the same parties, Civil Case No. 53664, also in the Court of First Instance of Manila, entitled Romualdo N. Alvestir et al. vs. Jose Orellano et al., as well as the order of December 12, 1963 denying reconsideration of the previous order of dismissal.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library
Appellee Alvestir is the occupant of a lot partly previously owned by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila, who sold the same to appellant Orellano. Upon consummation of this sale, Orellano wrote letters to Alvestir to formalize his occupancy of the part of appellant's land he was occupying by agreeing to pay corresponding rentals. Alvestir promised to do so, but even after several years had passed, he made no definite arrangement as requested. Apparently tired of waiting for appellee, appellant filed an ejectment suit in the City Court of Manila on June 4, 1963. On August 21, 1963, Alvestir filed his answer with affirmative defenses and a counterclaim as follows:
From an unfavorable decision of the City Court which made no reference at all to the above affirmative defenses and counterclaim, Alvestir appealed to the Court of First Instance of Manila, wherein upon reproduction of Orellano's complaint, he filed a motion to dismiss on two grounds: (1) "That the lower court has no jurisdiction over the subject matter of the instant case for ejectment filed by plaintiff; and (2) That there is a pending action between the same parties involving the same subject matter, namely, the better right of possession." chanrobles virtual law library
The trial court sustained the jurisdiction of the City Court and its own, but granted the motion to dismiss on the second ground in an order dated November 18, 1963 as follows:
A motion for reconsideration was filed by appellant on December 4, 1963, and after the appellee had filed his opposition, the trial court denied said motion on December 12, 1963 thus:
In brief, what happened here is this: Before Orellano could file his unlawful detainer case against Alvestir in the city court, the latter had already commenced Civil Case No. 53664 in the Court of First Instance, alleging as cause of action substantially the matters alleged by him in his affirmative defenses in the case before the city court. In other words, in his action in the Court of First Instance, Alvestir claimed the right to continue in possession of the land in dispute for according to his theory, he, being an occupant of said land, long before the sale thereof to Orellano, is entitled to priority over Orellano in purchasing the same from the Archbishop of Manila, pursuant to the provisions of Republic Act 1162 as amended by Republic Act No. 1599 to the effect that: "That no lot or portion thereof actually occupied by a tenant or occupant shall be sold by the landowner to any other person than such tenant or occupant, unless the latter renounces in a public instrument his right under this Act." He prayed for the rescission of the Archbishop's sale to Orellano. As already stated in his answer in the ejectment case, he already pleaded the pendency of this action as an affirmative defense. Later, in the Court of First Instance to where he appealed from the adverse decision of the city court, he made the same matter as a ground for a motion to dismiss, invoking in effect Section 1, par. (d) of Rule 8 of the Rules of Court of 1940, that is, "that there is another action pending between the same parties for the same cause." The trial judge sustained his motion and dismissed the complaint of Orellano.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library
We hold that His Honor acted correctly. In the final analysis, the real bone of contention between the parties is the right of possession over the land in controversy. In his complaint for ejectment appellant predicates his right to such possession on the sale to him of the said land by the Archbishop. On the other hand, appellee claims that that sale is violative of existing law which grants him, as occupant thereof, a right to priority in the purchase thereof, hence the sale to Orellano should be rescinded. Undoubtedly, as to who between appellant and appellee has the better right of possession depends on whether or not the sale to Orellano may be rescinded for being violative of the legal provisions relied upon by Alvestir.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library
It must be borne in mind that here the original action in the City Court of Manila was one of unlawful detainer, not of forcible entry. In the latter kind of action, the only issue is who has prior possession de facto. In unlawful detainer, however, the issue of rightful possession is the one decisive, for in such action, the defendant is the one in actual possession, and the cause of action of the plaintiff is the termination of defendant's right to continue in possession. Of course, it is elementary, in actions of forcible entry, that mere allegation of ownership by defendant in his answer does not deprive the inferior court of jurisdiction, but the moment it appears at the trial that the question of possession is inextricably connected or intertwined with the issue of title or ownership, the inferior court is ousted of jurisdiction to continue the case as one of unlawful detainer only. (3 Moran, Comments on the Rules of Court, p. 308, 1970 ed.) Similarly, when the defendant contends in his answer to a complaint of unlawful detainer that the claim of superior right of possession of the plaintiff is legally baseless or unfounded, the inferior court can continue trying the case only if at the trial, the matter on which such defense is grounded or predicated is one within its jurisdiction; otherwise, it must dismiss the case in order that the defendant's defense may be passed upon by a court of proper jurisdiction. (Cf. Aquino v. Deala, 63 Phil. 582.) chanrobles virtual law library
In the instant case, outside of the allegations in the answer of Alvestir to the complaint in the city court, there is rio indication in the record on appeal as to what happened at the trial. All that We can see is that the city court did not pass on the affirmative defenses of the defendant. Apparently, the city court paid no heed to the defendant's allegation that the issue of better right of possession was already being litigated in the Court of First Instance.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library
It is Our considered opinion that as held by the trial court, Orellano's claim of better right of possession in his complaint for ejectment is already in issue in Alvestir's action for rescission pending in the Court of First Instance. It does not matter that Orellano is defendant in that case whereas he is plaintiff in the city court, as long as the issues raised in the pleadings by either of the parties require the resolution of the same cause. There is no question here that the same parties are involved in both cases, albeit in Civil Case No. 53664, there are other parties who are not parties in the ejectment suit, (Alzua vs. Johnson, 21 Phil. 308; Juan vs. Go Cotay, 26 Phil. 328). The subject matter is possession of the Identical land in dispute. And the cause of Alvestir in the Court of First Instance case is the same cause he alleged as affirmative defense in the detainer case. In any event, it is beyond cavil of doubt that until the question of whether or not Alvestir has a right of priority, under the laws invoked by him, over Orellano to purchase the land in dispute is decided, the matter of who between appellant and appellee has the better right of possession over it cannot be determined. We are not in any way suggesting that appellee's action for rescission is clearly meritorious. What is apparent is that it is not on its face groundless. The contention of appellant that Alvestir cannot have any standing in law, even under the provisions of Republic Act 1162, as amended, invoked by him is a matter that We cannot resolve here. It is but proper, therefore, from any point of view, that Civil Case No. 53664 be allowed to follow its course and the ejectment suit be dismissed.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library
IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the orders appealed from are affirmed, with costs against appellant.
Fernando (Chairman), Antonio, Aquino and Martin, JJ., concur.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library
Concepcion Jr., took no part.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library
Martin J., was designated to sit in the Second Division.
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