G. R. No. 143976 - April 3, 2003
Spouses OSCAR and HAYDEE BADILLO, Petitioners, vs. Hon. ARTURO G. TAYAG as Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 79, Malolos, Bulacan; and the NATIONAL HOUSING AUTHORITY, Respondents.
G. R. No. 145846 April 3, 2003
Spouses OSCAR and HAYDEE BADILLO, Petitioners, vs. Hon. BASILIO A. GABO JR. as Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 11, Malolos, Bulacan; and the NATIONAL HOUSING AUTHORITY, Respondents.
The National Housing Authority (NHA), a government-owned and controlled corporation, is exempt from paying appellate docket fees when it sues or is sued in relation to its governmental function of providing mass housing. It is likewise exempt from filing a supersedeas bond that will stay the execution of a forcible entry case. In order to have some bases for fixing the reasonable amount of rent in a forcible entry case, courts must rely on the evidence presented by the parties.
Before us are two (2) consolidated Petitions for Review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, seeking to set aside two rulings of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Malolos, Bulacan. The first one is the July 19, 2000 Order1 issued by Branch 79 in Case No. P-410-M-2000, annulling both the May 23, 2000 Order2 and the May 30, 2000 Writ of Execution3 issued by the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of San Jose del Monte, Bulacan. The dispositive portion of this assailed RTC Order reads as follows:
The second ruling being contested is the October 23, 2000 Decision5 of Branch 11 in Civil Case No. 512-M-2000, which modified the February 1, 2000 Decision6 of the MTC of San Jose del Monte, Bulacan. The challenged RTC Decision disposed as follows:
Since the parties were the same and the issues related, the two Petitions were consolidated by this Court in its Resolution of October 17, 2001.8
Petitioners are plaintiffs in a forcible entry/ejectment case docketed as Civil Case No. 263-94 in the MTC of San Jose del Monte, Bulacan, entitled "Spouses Oscar and Haydee Badillo v. Triad Construction and Development Corporation and National Housing Authority." In its February 1, 2000 Decision,9 the MTC ordered the NHA to vacate the disputed land; to return possession thereof to petitioners; to pay rental for its use and occupation at the rate of P10 per square meter per month; and to shoulder the attorneys fees, the litigation expenses and the costs of suit.
The disputed parcel of land was part of the Bagong Silang Resettlement Project (BSRP) of the NHA. The NHA contended that the property was part of the Tala Estate and was among the 598 hectares reserved by the government for its housing resettlement site, pursuant to Presidential Proclamation No. 843 issued by then President Ferdinand E. Marcos on April 26, 1971.
In June 1994, the NHA offered for bidding the development of certain portions of the BSRP. It eventually contracted with the Triad Construction and Development Corporation ("Triad") for the development of parts of the site. These were then developed and subdivided into smaller lots that were allocated, awarded and distributed by the NHA to qualified beneficiaries.
On the other hand, petitioners claimed that they were the owners and exclusive possessors of a portion of the land that had been awarded by the NHA to Triad. They argued that the NHA intruded on, occupied and developed their property despite their protests.
Upon receipt of the February 1, 2000 Decision of the MTC, the NHA filed a Notice of Appeal10 with the same court on February 24, 2000. The NHA, however, did not pay the appellate docket fees within the reglementary period. Consequently, petitioners filed with that court a Motion for the immediate issuance of a writ of execution and demolition.11 They contended that because of the NHAs failure to pay the appellate docket fees within the prescribed period, the MTC Decision became final.
After a hearing on the Motion, the MTC promulgated an Order on May 23, 2000, authorizing the issuance of a writ of execution in favor of petitioners:
Thereafter, the Writ of Execution13 was actually issued by the MTC on May 30, 2000. Pursuant thereto, the sheriff14 served a Notice of Garnishment of NHAs funds in the Landbank of the Philippines. The bank, however, refused to release the garnished amount.
On June 9, 2000, the NHA filed a Motion to set aside the Writ of Execution and the Notice of Garnishment.15 The Motion was, however, denied by the MTC in its June 23, 2000 Order.16
The NHA paid the appellate dockets fees only on June 29, 2000 -- four months late. It simultaneously filed a Petition for Certiorari, Prohibition, Mandamus and Injunction17 before the RTC of Malolos, Bulacan, assailing the MTCs May 23, 2000 Order and May 30, 2000 Writ of Execution.
Acting on the NHA Petition, RTC Executive Judge Danio A. Manalastas issued a 72-hour Temporary Restraining Order.18 Thereafter, the case was assigned to RTC Branch 79, which issued the first assailed July 19, 2000 Order annulling the Writ. After declaring that the NHA had been able to perfect its appeal on time, the RTC ordered the MTC to transmit the records of the case for appropriate appellate proceedings.
Upon transmittal of the records from the MTC, the case was raffled to RTC Branch 11, which issued the second assailed October 23, 2000 Decision. This Decision was appealed by the NHA to the Court of Appeals (CA). The appeal, docketed as CA-GR No. 61981, is still pending resolution.
Rulings of the RTC
The NHA was able to perfect its appeal on time despite its nonpayment of appellate docket fees, according to the ruling of RTC Branch 79. The NHA as a government-owned corporation was presumed to be always solvent and thus exempt from filing a supersedeas bond, which would stay the immediate execution of a forcible entry case. With the perfection of the appeal, the MTC lost jurisdiction to issue and enforce the Writ of Execution.
Partly affirming the MTC, RTC Branch 11 held that petitioners were entitled to the right of possession of the property and to the award of damages, but that the grant of rental was baseless.
Hence, this recourse.19
Petitioners raise the following issues for our consideration:
These issues can be more clearly restated thus:
Ruling of the Court
The Petitions are unmeritorious.
Payment of Appellate Docket Fees
Created by virtue of PD No. 757,22 the NHA is a government-owned and controlled corporation with an original charter. As a general rule, however, such corporations -- with or without independent charters -- are required to pay legal fees under Section 21 of Rule 141 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure:
On the other hand, the NHA contends that it is exempt from paying all kinds of fees and charges, because it performs governmental functions. It cites Public Estates Authority v. Yujuico,24 which holds that the Public Estates Authority (PEA), a government-owned and controlled corporation, is exempt from paying docket fees whenever it files a suit in relation to its governmental functions.
We agree. Peoples Homesite and Housing Corporation v. Court of Industrial Relations25 declares that the provision of mass housing is a governmental function:
While it has not always been easy to distinguish governmental from proprietary functions, the Courts declaration in the Decision quoted above is not without basis. Indeed, the characterization of governmental functions has veered away from the traditional constituent-ministrant classification that has become unrealistic, if not obsolete.26 Justice Isagani A. Cruz avers: "[I]t is now obligatory upon the State itself to promote social justice,27 to provide adequate social services to promote a rising standard of living,28 to afford protection to labor to formulate and implement urban and agrarian reform programs, and to adopt other measures intended to ensure the dignity, welfare and security of its citizens. x x x. These functions, while traditionally regarded as merely ministrant and optional, have been made compulsory by the Constitution."29
In addition, the NHA is mandated by PD No. 757 to develop and implement a comprehensive, integrated housing program30 for the greatest number of people.31 Thus, to be able to perform its governmental functions, the housing agency is vested with sovereign powers. Such powers include, among others, the exercise of the right of eminent domain or the right to acquire by purchase privately owned lands for purposes of housing development, resettlement, and related services and facilities.32
Furthermore, under the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992, the NHA, in cooperation with other government units and agencies, is mandated to identify and acquire lands for socialized housing for the underprivileged and the homeless.33
Notably, it was in its performance of this governmental function to provide mass housing that the NHA was sued by petitioners.
Perfection of the Appeal
We agree with the RTC that, insofar as appeals from the MTC to the RTC are concerned, the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure do not mandate the dismissal of an appeal as a consequence of the nonpayment of the required fee.
Martinez v. Court of Appeals34 holds that in such appeals, "the failure to pay the appellate docket fees does not automatically result in the dismissal of the appeal, the dismissal being discretionary on the part of the appellate court." While that case was governed by Sections 2035 and 2336 of the Interim Rules and Guidelines issued by the Court on January 11, 1983 to implement the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1981 (BP Blg. 129), the present Rules lead to a similar conclusion.
Under the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, parties perfect an appeal from the judgment of the MTC to the RTC by filing a notice of appeal within the fifteen day reglementary period, as provided under Section 4 of Rule 40 and Section 9 of Rule 41:
Rule 40 --
Fontanar v. Bonsubre37 is a case in point. It holds that in appeals from the MTC to the RTC, failure to pay the appellate docket fee within the fifteen-day reglementary period bestows on the appellate court a directory, not a mandatory, power to dismiss an appeal. The Court ratiocinated as follows:
On the other hand, the cases cited by petitioners involve appeals -- not from the MTC to the RTC -- but from the RTC to the CA and from the CA to the SC, for which the payment of appellate fees is indeed mandatory according to the Rules.38 We quote Manalili v. Arsenio and De Leon:39
In the instant cases, when the NHA filed a Notice of Appeal on February 22, 2000 -- two days before the appeal period lapsed it perfected its appeal and the MTC thereby lost its jurisdiction. The MTC therefore acted without jurisdiction in issuing the May 23, 2000 Order and the May 30, 2000 Writ of Execution.
The Filing of a Supersedeas Bond
There is a rationale for requiring a losing party to file a supersedeas bond in order to stay the immediate execution of a judgment in an ejectment case. Such bond is required to assure the payment of damages to the winning party in case the appeal is found frivolous.
In the present cases, the posting of a supersedeas bond is not necessary to stay the execution of the MTC Order. When a case involves provable rents or damages incurred by a government-owned or controlled corporation, the real party in interest is the Republic of the Philippines. When the State litigates, it is not required to put up a bond for damages or even an appeal bond -- either directly or indirectly through its authorized officers -- because it is presumed to be always solvent.41
Thus, it would be unnecessary to ask the NHA to file a bond because to do so would be to indirectly require the government to submit the bond. And the State is not required to file a bond for the obvious reason that it is capable of paying its obligation.42 In any event, the NHA has already paid the appellate docket fees and filed the supersedeas bond as ordered by the RTC, albeit late.
The Award of Rentals
Citing Sia v. Court of Appeals,43 petitioners argue that the MTC may take judicial notice of the reasonable rental or the general price increase of land in order to determine the amount of rent that may be awarded to them. In that case, however, this Court relied on the CAs factual findings, which were based on the evidence presented before the trial court. In determining reasonable rent, the RTC therein took account of the following factors: 1) the realty assessment of the land, 2) the increase in realty taxes, and 3) the prevailing rate of rentals in the vicinity. Clearly, the trial court relied, not on mere judicial notice, but on the evidence presented before it.
Indeed, courts may fix the reasonable amount of rent for the use and occupation of a disputed property. However, petitioners herein erred in assuming that courts, in determining the amount of rent, could simply rely on their own appreciation of land values without considering any evidence. As we have said earlier, a court may fix the reasonable amount of rent, but it must still base its action on the evidence adduced by the parties.
In Herrera v. Bollos,44 the trial court awarded rent to the defendants in a forcible entry case. Reversing the RTC, this Court declared that the reasonable amount of rent could be determined not by mere judicial notice, but by supporting evidence:
In the instant cases, the RTC has already declared that there is no evidence on record to support the MTCs award of rent. We find no cogent reason to disturb this pronouncement.
Finally, the belated prayer of the NHA for the dismissal of the forcible entry case cannot be granted, because it appealed the RTC Decision to the CA, not to this Court. As a mere respondent in these appealed cases, the NHA is not entitled to any affirmative relief. Besides, we would not want to preempt the CAs action on the said appeal.
WHEREFORE, the Petitions are hereby DENIED. Costs against petitioners.
Puno, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Corona, and Carpio-Morales, JJ., concur.
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