G.R. No. 143994 - July 11, 2002
LOS BAOS RURAL BANK, INC., Petitioner, vs. PACITA O. AFRICA, GLORIA AFRICA, ANTONIO AFRICA, ARISTEO AFRICA, SOCORRO AFRICA, CONSUELO AFRICA, AND LOURDES AFRICA, Respondents.
A writ of preliminary injunction is issued to preserve the status quo ante, upon an applicant's showing of two important requisite conditions; namely, (1) the right to be protected exists prima facie, and (2) the acts sought to be enjoined are violative of that right. It must be proven that the violation sought to be prevented would cause an irreparable injustice.
Statement of the Case
Before us is a Petition for Review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, assailing the June 30, 2000 Decision1 of the Court of Appeals2 (CA) in CA-GR SP No. 53355. The decretal portion of the Decision reads as follows:
The Order of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City (Branch 220), which was reversed by the CA, reads as follows:
The factual antecedents of the case are summarized by the Court of Appeals in this wise:
Ruling of the Court of Appeals
The CA overturned the RTC Order dated April 19, 1999, and granted the issuance of a preliminary injunction to restrain petitioner from proceeding with the foreclosure and the consolidation of title over the subject property. The CA ruled that respondents had title to and possession of the property and were deprived thereof by petitioner. Thus, respondents had a clear and unmistakable right to protect their title and possession.6
Hence, this Petition.7
In its Memorandum, petitioner raises the following issues for the Court's consideration:
In sum, the issues boil down to whether the appellate court erred in issuing a writ of preliminary injunction to stop petitioner's consolidation of its title to the subject property.
This Court's Ruling
The Petition is not meritorious; it has not shown any reversible error in the CA's Decision.
Petitioner argues that respondents do not have a right to the relief demanded, because they merely have possession of the property, as the legal title is in the name of Macy Africa.9 Furthermore, it claims that the consolidation of title in its name does not constitute an "invasion of a right that is material and substantial."10
On the other hand, respondents maintain that they would suffer great irreparable damage if the writ of preliminary injunction is not granted.11 They likewise contend that if petitioner is allowed to consolidate its title to the subject property, they would lose their ancestral home, a loss that would result in unnecessary and protracted proceedings involving third parties.12
We agree with respondents.
The grounds for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction are enumerated in Rule 58, Section 3 of the Revised Rules of Court, which reads as follows:
Injunction is a preservative remedy aimed at no other purpose than to protect the complainant's substantive rights and interests13 during the pendency of the principal action.14 A preliminary injunction, as the term itself suggests, is merely temporary.15 It is to be resorted to only when there is a pressing necessity to avoid injurious consequences that cannot be remedied under any standard of compensation.16
Moreover, injunction, like other equitable remedies, should be issued only at the instance of a suitor who has sufficient interest in or title to the right or the property sought to be protected.17 It is proper only when the plaintiff appears to be entitled to the relief demanded in the complaint.18 In particular, the existence of the right and the violation thereof must appear in the allegations of the complaint19 and must constitute at least a prima facie showing of a right to the final relief.20 Thus, there are two requisite conditions for the issuance of a preliminary injunction, namely, (1) the right to be protected exists prima facie, and (2) the acts sought to be enjoined are violative of that right.21 It must be proven that the violation sought to be prevented would cause an irreparable injustice.
Further, while a clear showing of the right is necessary, its existence need not be conclusively established.22 In fact, the evidence required to justify the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction in the hearing thereon need not be conclusive or complete. The evidence need only be a "sampling" intended merely to give the court an idea of the justification for the preliminary injunction, pending the decision of the case on the merits.23 Thus, to be entitled to the writ, respondents are only required to show that they have the ostensible right to the final relief prayed for in their Complaint.24
In the case at bar, we find ample justification for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction.25 Evidently, the question on whether or not respondents possess the requisite right hinges on the prima facie existence of their legal title to the subject property.26 They have shown that they have that right, and that it is directly threatened by the act sought to be enjoined.27
First, as alleged in the Complaint,28 Respondent Pacita Africa is the registered owner of the subject property. Her ownership is evidenced by the reconstituted Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. RT-76140 (203492) PR-36463,29 issued by the Registry of Deeds of Quezon City. Second, the validity of the Deed of Sale30 dated December 29, 1992, is still in dispute because Respondent Pacita Africa claims that her signature was forged by the vendee, Macy Africa.31 Third, there is doubt as to the validity of the mortgage in favor of petitioner, because there exists on record two TCTs covering the mortgaged property: (1) TCT No. 8151932 registered in the name of Pacita Africa and (2) TCT No. 8151933 registered in the name of Macy Africa.
If indeed the Deed of Sale is a forgery, no parcel of land was ever transferred to the purported buyer34 who, not being the owner, could not have validly mortgaged the property.35 Consequently, neither has petitioner -- the buyer and mortgagee of the same lot -- ever acquired any title thereto.36 Significantly, no evidence was presented by petitioner to controvert these allegations put forward by respondents. Clearly then, on the basis of the evidence presented, respondents possess the right to prevent petitioner from consolidating the title in its name. The first requisite -- the existence of a right to be protected -- is thus present.37
As to the second requisite, what is sought to be enjoined by respondents is the consolidation of the title to the subject property in petitioner's name. After having discovered that the property had been mortgaged to petitioner, respondents filed on June 12, 1994 an action for Annulment of Title, Deed of Sale, and Mortgage to protect their rights over the property.38 This notwithstanding, petitioner foreclosed it on June 11, 1996.39 To enjoin petitioner from consolidating the title in its name, respondents then filed an Amended Complaint,40 praying for a writ of preliminary injunction.
Unless legally stopped, petitioner may consolidate title to the property in its name and enjoy the unbridled freedom to dispose of it to third persons, to the damage and prejudice of respondents.41 What respondents stand to lose is material and substantial.42 They would lose their ancestral home even without the benefit of a trial.43 Clearly, the act sought to be enjoined is violative of their proprietary right over the property.44
A writ of preliminary injunction is issued precisely to preserve threatened or continuous irremediable injury to some of the parties before their claims can be thoroughly studied and adjudicated.45 Denial of the application for the writ may make the Complaint of respondents moot and academic. Furthermore, it would render ineffectual a final judgment in their favor or, at the very least, compel them to litigate needlessly with third persons who may have acquired an interest in the property.46 Such a situation cannot be countenanced.47
Petitioner further contends that respondents are not entitled to the relief prayed for, because they caused a notice of lis pendens to be annotated at the back of TCT No. 81519, registered in the name of Macy P. Africa; thus, that notice provided ample protection of their rights and interests.48
We are not persuaded. A notice of lis pendens serves as an announcement to the whole world that a particular real property is in litigation and as a warning that those who acquire an interest in the property do so at their own risk -- they gamble on the result of the litigation over it.49 However, the cancellation of such notice may be ordered by the court that has jurisdiction over it at any given time.50 Its continuance or removal -- like the continuance or the removal of a preliminary attachment or injunction -- is not contingent on the existence of a final judgment on the action and ordinarily has no effect on the merits thereof.51 Thus, the notice of lis pendens does not suffice to protect herein respondents' rights over the property.52 It does not provide complete and ample protection.
Status Quo Ante
Petitioner further claims that the RTC erred in enjoining the foreclosure sale of the subject property.53 It argues that the foreclosure may no longer be enjoined, because it has long been effected since 1996.54 We agree with petitioner.
It is a well-entrenched rule that consummated acts can no longer be restrained by injunction55 whose sole objective is to preserve the status quo until the merits of the case are fully heard.56 Status quo is defined as the last actual peaceful uncontested situation that precedes a controversy, and its preservation is the office of an injunctive writ.57
In the instant case, the status quo was the situation of the parties at the time of the filing of the Amended Complaint58 with a prayer for a writ of preliminary injunction. It was that point at which petitioner had already foreclosed the subject property and, hence, could no longer be enjoined from going on with the foreclosure. However, the last actual uncontested status that preceded the controversy was when the property in dispute was still registered in the name of Macy Africa, petitioner not having consolidated in its name the title thereto.59 Thus, the issuance of the writ would no doubt preserve the status quo.60
We cannot rule on the allegation of petitioner that this case is a "scam perpetrated by private respondents" to defraud it.61 The truth or the falsity of that assertion cannot be ascertained by this Court at this time. Verily, we refrain from expressing any opinion on the merits of the case, pending a full consideration of the evidence that would be presented by the parties.62
WHEREFORE, the Petition is DENIED and the assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioner.
Puno, Sandoval-Gutierrez, and Carpio, JJ., concur.
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