G.R. No. 134230 - July 17, 2002
JOVENAL OUANO, Petitioner, vs. PGTT INTERNATIONAL INVESTMENT CORPORATION and HON. JUDGE RAMON G. CODILLA, JR., Respondents.
PGTT International Investment Corporation (PGTT), respondent, is a corporation duly organized under existing laws, with address at YASCO Bldg., M. J. Cuenco Ave., Cebu City.
On December 11, 1997, PGTT filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 20, Cebu City, a verified complaint against Jovenal Ouano, petitioner, docketed as Civil Case No. CEB- 21319, entitled "PGTT INTERNATIONAL INVESTMENT CORPORATION, Plaintiff, vs. JUVENAL OUANO, Defendant," for "Recovery of Ownership and Possession of Real Property and Damages."1 In its complaint, PGTT alleged that it is the owner of Lot Nos. 1-10, Block 2 of the Sunnymeade Crescent Subdivision located at Pit-os, Talamban, Cebu City. Sometime in October of 1996, PGTT found that Ouano uprooted the concrete monuments of the said lots, plowed them and planted corn thereon. Despite PGTT's demand that he vacate the lots and restore them to their original condition, Ouano refused, claiming he is the owner and lawful possessor of the 380 square meters he occupied. Due to Ouano's wrongful act, PGTT was deprived of the use of its property and suffered damages in the amount of
On February 5, 1998, Ouano filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on the ground that it is the Municipal Trial Court (MTC), not the RTC, which has jurisdiction over it considering that the assessed value of the lots involved is only
In its opposition to Ouano's motion, PGTT contends that the RTC has jurisdiction since the market value of the lots is
On March 6, 1998, the RTC, presided by Judge Ramon G. Codilla, Jr., issued an Order denying the motion to dismiss, holding that:
Ouano filed a motion for reconsideration but was likewise denied by the RTC in its Order dated May 27, 1998. The trial court ruled it has jurisdiction over the case because "(i)t is of judicial knowledge that the real properties situated in Cebu City command a higher valuation than those indicated in the tax declaration. The observation of plaintiff's (PGTT's) counsel as to the issue on damages is likewise sustained considering that, being a corporation, it may have incurred damages in the form of unrealized profits."7
Hence the present petition for certiorari filed by Ouano under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, assailing the Orders of respondent judge dated March 6, 1998 and May 27, 1998 as having been issued with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.
At the outset, it is necessary to stress that a direct recourse to this Court is highly improper, for it violates the established policy of strict observance of the judicial hierarchy of courts.8 We need to reiterate, for the guidance of petitioner, that this Court's original jurisdiction to issue a writ of certiorari (as well as prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, habeas corpus and injunction) is concurrent with the Court of Appeals (CA), as in the present case, and with the RTCs in proper cases within their respective regions.9 However, this concurrence of jurisdiction does not grant a party seeking any of the extraordinary writs the absolute freedom to file his petition with the court of his choice. This Court is a court of last resort, and must so remain if it is to satisfactorily perform the functions assigned to it by the Constitution and immemorial tradition.10 The hierarchy of courts determines the appropriate forum for such petitions. Thus, petitions for the issuance of such extraordinary writs against the first level ("inferior") courts should be filed with the RTC, and those against the latter, with the CA.11 A direct invocation of this Court's original jurisdiction to issue these writs should be allowed only when there are special and important reasons therefor, clearly and specifically set out in the petition. This is the established policy. It is a policy that is necessary to prevent inordinate demands upon this Court's time and attention which are better devoted to those matters within its exclusive jurisdiction, and to prevent further over-crowding of its docket.12 Unfortunately, the instant petition does not allege any special and compelling reason to justify a direct recourse to this Court. However, we deem it more appropriate and practical to resolve the controversy in order to avoid further delay, but only in this instance.
The lone issue for our resolution is whether the RTC has jurisdiction over Civil Case No. CEB-21319.
The complaint seeks to recover from private respondent the ownership and possession of the lots in question and the payment of damages. Since the action involves ownership and possession of real property, the jurisdiction over the subject matter of the claim is determined by the assessed value, not the market value, thereof, pursuant to Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, as amended by R.A. 7691. Section 33 (paragraph 3) of the said law provides:
Likewise, Section 19 (paragraph 2) of the same law reads:
It is undisputed that the assessed value of the property involved, as shown by the corresponding tax declaration, is only
The finding of respondent judge that the value of the lots is higher than that indicated in the tax declaration and that, therefore, the RTC has jurisdiction over the case is highly speculative. It is elementary that the tax declaration indicating the assessed value of the property enjoys the presumption of regularity as it has been issued by the proper government agency.
Respondent judge further held that since the complaint also seeks the recovery of damages exceeding
The above provision does not apply to the instant case. It is applicable only to "all other cases" other than an action involving title to, or possession of real property in which the assessed value is the controlling factor in determining the court's jurisdiction. Besides, the same provision explicitly excludes from the determination of the jurisdictional amount the demand for "interest, damages of whatever kind, attorney's fees, litigation expenses, and costs". The exclusion of such damages is reiterated in Section 33, paragraph 3 of the same Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, as amended, quoted earlier. The said damages are merely incidental to, or a consequence of, the main cause of action for recovery of ownership and possession of real property. In this connection, this Court issued Administrative Circular No. 09-94 setting the guidelines in the implementation of R.A. 7691. Paragraph 2 states:
We thus find that in issuing the assailed orders denying petitioner's motion to dismiss, thus taking cognizance of the case, the RTC committed grave abuse of discretion.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED. The assailed Orders issued by respondent RTC on March 6, 1998 and May 27, 1998 in Civil Case No. CEB-21319 are SET ASIDE. Accordingly, the complaint is ordered DISMISSED.
Puno, Panganiban, and Carpio, JJ., concur.
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