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[G.R. No. 145914.June 20, 2001]

GONZALES, et al. vs. CA, et al.

FIRST DIVISION

Gentlemen:

Quoted hereunder, for your information, is a resolution of this Court dated JUN 20 2001.

G.R. No. 145914(Eugenio C. Gonzales and Diana C. Gonzales (minor) represented by her Father/Guardian Eugenio C. Gonzales vs. The Honorable Court of Appeals and Vera P. Quianzon and her children, namely: Ma. Teresita Quianzon, Ma. Cecilia Quianzon, Noli P. Quianzon, through his Guardian, Gloria Quianzon.)

Petitioners seek a review of the decision of the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the order of the Regional Trial Court denying petitioner's prayer for a preliminary injunction. The facts as found by the Court of Appeals are as follows:

In a Memorandum of Agreement dated March 13, 1997, Manuel Quianzon Jr., agreed to sell to Diana Gonzales, a minor, represented by her father Eugenio C. Gonzales, a parcel of land located at San Mariano, Roxas, Oriental Mindoro with an area of 60,026 square meters for six hundred thousand (P600,000.00) pesos. The signature of Manuel's wife, Vera P. Quianzon, appears on the document indicating her conformity to the agreement (Annex "A-I", Petition, pp. 39-43, Rollo).

As the title to the subject property was still in the name of its previous owner under TCT No. T-24713, the parties agreed that Diana would pay P200,000.00 to Manuel upon the execution of the Deed of Sale; that before the payment of the balance of the purchase price the latter would deliver to the former the duplicate copy of the title to the property, tax declaration, receipt of realty tax payment clearance, estate tax payment and clearance from the Bureau of Internal Revenue; and that the payment of the purchase price in full shall be made upon the transfer of the said parcel of land in Diana's name (p. 41, id.).

Eugenio C. Gonzales paid P200,000.00 pursuant to the Agreement plus the amount of P100,000.00, receipt of which was acknowledged by Manuel (Annex "A-2", Petition, p. 45, id.). Thereafter, Manuel obtained TCT No. T-25191 in his name which he delivered to Eugenio (par 5, p. 4, Amended Complaint, p. 34, id.). Said title however covered only 6,026 square meters of property so that at the instance of Eugenio, Manuel caused the correction of the area of the said property par. Nos. 3-6 pp. 5-6, Amended Answer with Compulsory Counterclaim; pp. 57-58, id.). The title was rectified and Eugenio accepted the correction in Manuel's title with reservation for the strict observance of Section 108 of P.D. No. 1529 (Annex "A-3", pp. 46-47, id.).

Manuel died on December 24, 1997 (p. 59, id.).

On August 14, 1998, Eugenio, apparently unaware then of Manuel's death, demanded from the spouses Quianzon to deliver the documents as provided in the Agreement as well as TCT No. 25191 corrected pursuant to Section 108 of P.D. No. 1529 (Annex "A-11", Petition, pp. 46-47, Rollo).

Subsequently, Eugenio tendered to Mrs. Quianzon the payment of the entire amount of P300,000.00 for the satisfaction in full of the purchase price contained in the Agreement. Mrs. Quianzon refused to accept the same. Demands were further made by Eugenio's counsel but to no avail (Annex "A-4" to "A-5", pp. 49-51, id.).

As a consequence, plaintiff Eugenio for himself and on behalf of his minor daughter, plaintiff Diana, initiated a complaint with respondent RTC against the Heirs of Manuel Quianzon, Jr. (Heirs for brevity) claiming that plaintiff Eugenio agreed to buy the subject property to secure the future of minor plaintiff Diana, seeking to consign the amount of P300,000.00 as full payment for the purchase of the subject property in accordance with the Agreement and praying for the payment of moral and exemplary damages as well as damages for the acts of defendants in entering the subject property and gathering fruits from the trees planted on the property, and, costs of suit (Annex "A", pp. 31-36, id.).

Defendants Heirs filed their Answer with Compulsory Counterclaim claiming inter alia that they are the owners of the subject parcel of land as the Memorandum of Agreement is null and void considering that the buyer therein (plaintiff Diana) is a minor who has no capacity to enter into a contract (par. 5, p. 54, id.); that even assuming that plaintiff Eugenio did in fact represent plaintiff Diana, the Agreement is still unenforceable as the former had no authority to so represent the latter and that it is not true that the deceased Manuel did not comply with his obligation under the Agreement (par. 6, pp. 54-55, id.).

On October 19, 1999, plaintiffs filed an Application and/or Motion for Writ of Injunction with Temporary Restraining Order claiming that defendants are disturbing their possession of the subject land by entering the same and gathering the fruits thereof, thereby violating the Agreement (Annex "D", pp. 67-69, id.).

Defendants Heirs opposed plaintiffs' motion claiming that they are the lawful owners of the subject property being the heirs of deceased Manuel; that they did not confirm the Agreement which is in fact being contested by them; that the alleged sale was without the conformity of the late Manuel's wife; that the Agreement is null and void hence, without legal effect; that TCT No. T-25191 must be returned to them; that plaintiffs' case against defendants consists only of a money claim and that plaintiffs have no legal right to enjoin defendants from entering the property and gathering the fruits of their land (Annex "E", pp. 72-76, id.).

After hearing plaintiffs' motion, the RTC issued an Order on November 25, 1999 denying the same after finding that:

"x x x what stood out in bold relief from the testimony of Libertad Marciano is that the plaintiffs have not been in material occupation of the subject property either personally or constructively through their tenants (TSN, pp. 91-94).

"Movants through counsel likewise concede that the principal action is purely a petition for consignation and the cancellation of the title of the defendants and the issuance of a new title in their names.

"The court is not inclined to grant the petitioner's (sic) prayer for restraining and/or the writ of preliminary injunctions. Our reasons: The preliminary purpose of an injunction is to preserve the status quo, that is the last actual peaceable uncontested status which preceded the controversy (Rivera vs. Florendo, 144 SCRA 643). Thus, granting the reliefs prayed by plaintiffs will disturb the status quo. In effect, it will be a case of transferring the possession of property during the pendency of the case similar to a grant of preliminary mandatory injunction which is not being asked for by movants in the first place.

"Moreover, the defendants are assailing the validity of the Memorandum of Agreement which is the source of the obligation on the ground that the principal party therein is a minor. This is intricately interwoven with the principal action for consignation. In fact, in their counterclaim defendants are in effect, seeking that the Memorandum of Agreement be declared null and void. Clearly, at this stage of the proceedings the validity of the said agreement has yet to be determined." (p. 81, Rollo; emphasis supplied).

On February 8, 2000, the RTC issued an Order denying plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration, as follows:

"What then is the last, actual, peaceable uncontested status which immediately preceded the filing of this case? Undoubtedly, this is a matter of evidence.

"To the mind of the court, the status quo in this case is not the purported symbolic possession of the subject property acquired allegedly by movants through the execution of the Memorandum of Agreement (Exhibit "B"), the validity of which is being assailed by oppositors because it is clearly a contested issue. Moreover, based on the tenor of Exhibit "O", it appears that plaintiffs were in constructive possession of only a small portion of the subject property and the large portion of which is still in actual possession of defendants-oppositors.

"Evidently, the status quo in this case is the actual, material, and uninterrupted physical possession and material occupancy of the property by the defendants before and after the contested transaction as admitted by no less than the sole witness of movants, Libertad Marciano, (T.S.N., October 29, 1999, p. 89-90). The philosophy behind the maintenance of status quo during the pendency of the case is to preserve and maintain peace within the community where the property being litigated is located for the sake of an orderly administration of justice. The court honestly believes that for the same reason the present set-up should not be disturbed during the pendency of the case with the issuance of the Writ Of Injunction sought for by movants."1 Rollo, pp. 58-61.

Petitioners sought relief from these Orders by filing a petition for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus before the Court of Appeals. The appellate court denied the petition, rationalizing thus:

Of sole concern to this Court then is whether or not respondent court committed grave abuse of discretion in the appreciation of the status quo which led to the denial of petitioners' motion for issuance of a temporary restraining order and writ of injunction.

In their complaint below, petitioners are seeking to compel private respondents to accept their tender of payment and the approval of the consignation of their payment in court. Petitioners advance no other reason for their complaint except that they are enforcing their right to the subject property pursuant to a document which appears to be duly executed and notarized, i.e., the Memorandum of Agreement which provides in part:

"That before the payment of the remaining balance of the purchase price by the BUYER the SELLER binds himself to deliver to the BUYER Duplicate Copy of Transfer Certificate of Title Tax Declaration, receipt of realty Tax payment clearance issued by the Provincial Assessor, estate tax payment and clearance from the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

"That payment of the remaining balance of the purchase price or the sum of FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND (P400,000.00) PESOS, shall be made upon the Transfer of the above-described parcel of land free and clear of all liens and encumbrances in the name of the BUYER, the expenses for the transfer of title in the name of the BUYER, such as Capital Gain Tax, Estate Tax and Realty Tax, Registration fees and other taxes shall be at (sic) the sole account of the SELLER." (pp. 41-42, Rollo)

In effect, petitioners are claiming that the only thing left undone in the agreement is the, delivery of the title to the subject property in their names as they are willing and able to pay the balance of the purchase price.

On the other hand, private respondents maintain that being the heirs of deceased Manuel, they are the owners of the subject property who remained to be in possession thereof, there being no actual transfer of possession to petitioners; that though there could have been a symbolic delivery of the subject property in accordance with the terms of the Agreement, the same is not enough to confer upon petitioners the ownership and right of possession over the same property (pp. 114-115, id.).

Private respondents' position is well-taken. Respondent court did not commit any grave abuse of discretion when it declined to issue the injunction prayed for by petitioners.

It is true that the Agreement provides:

"That possession of the said property is deemed delivered to the BUYER by virtue of this agreement, and may proceed to develop the same, provided however, that eviction of any person found in the subject land whether tenant or not is the sole obligation of the SELLER." (p. 42, id.).

thereby giving the impression that constructive possession was acquired by petitioners by reason thereof.

However, we note that private respondents are in actual possession of the subject property. Petitioners themselves acknowledge that:

In the instant case, the petitioners' possession of the disputed property is deemed delivered to them. To allow private respondents to continue in the possession of subject property and gather the fruits or introduce improvements to jack up the price of the property would certainly work injustice to the petitioners. (pp. 25-26, Rollo)"

thus, admitting that what they obtained by the terms of the Agreement is mere constructive possession of the subject property and that said property is being retained by private respondents in their possession. This is further bolstered by petitioners' prayer in the instant petition for the issuance of a mandatory injunction which is intended "to compel private respondents to allow entry to the premises and take over possession of the property in accordance with the terms of the Memorandum of Agreement (p. 27, id.).

Thus, in Knecht vs. Court of Appeals (228 SCRA 1) it was held that:

"For petitioner to be entitled to the injunctive writ, he must show that there exists a right to be protected and that the facts against which the injunction is directed are violative of said right. (at p. 5)"

True, petitioners may have been granted by the Agreement constructive possession of the subject property. However, as between petitioners' constructive possession and private respondents' actual possession, the latter must be upheld while the trial on the merits of the case below continue up to its end.

"A preliminary mandatory injunction is not a proper remedy to take property, possession of which is being disputed, out of the possession and control of one party and to deliver the same to the other party. IT MAY ISSUE pendente lite ONLY IN CASES OF EXTREME URGENCY, WHERE the right to the possession, during the pendency of the main case, of the property involved is very clear: WHERE considerations of relative inconvenience bear strongly in favor of the complainant seeking the possession pendente lite; WHERE there was willful and unlawful invasion of plaintiffs rights, over his protest and remonstrance, the injury being a continuing one; WHERE the effect of the preliminary mandatory injunction is to re-establish and maintain a pre-existing and continuing relationship between the parties, recently and arbitrarily interrupted by the defendant, rather than to establish a new relationship during the pendency of the principal case (citing numerous cases). Obviously, it is for the party requesting the writ to demonstrate clearly the presence of one or more of the above grounds. (Raspado vs. Court of Appeals, 220 SCRA 650, 653, citing Merville Park Homeowners Association vs. Velez, 196 SCRA 189)

We find none of the grounds as above stated to be present in the case at bench in favor of petitioners. What appears clearly to us is the actual possession of the subject property by private respondents who should not be allowed to be displaced therefrom by means of a preliminary mandatory injunction. We take notice only of the present and actual possession by private respondents as we cannot in this petition for certiorari go beyond as to make further determination of the actual rights of the parties herein. That would have the effect of disposing of the main case without trial on the merits and evaluation of evidence, thus far presented before the RTC, which this Court has no authority to do in a petition for certiorari.

The Supreme Court has held that:

"Certiorari is a remedy narrow in its scope and inflexible in character. It is not a general utility tool in the legal workshop. (San Miguel Foods, Inc.-Cebu B-Meg Feeds Plant vs. Laguesma, 263 SCRA 68, 71)."

whose sole office

"is the correction of errors of jurisdiction including the commission of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction and does not include the correction of public respondent's evaluation of the evidence and factual findings based thereon. (Building Care Corp. vs. NLRC, 268 SCRA 666)."

Hence, this Court has no jurisdiction to determine the issues presented by petitioners, i.e., whether or not the letter of deceased Manuel to one Teresita Aguilar shows that petitioners are in possession only of a small portion of the subject property and whether or not petitioners did not have actual possession of the subject property due to the absence of their house or tenant on the same property. These are factual issues that should be properly ventilated in the RTC after trial on the merits.

Thus, while we find respondent court's pronouncement that:

"x x x, based on the tenor of Exhibit 'O', it appears that plaintiffs were in constructive possession of only a small portion of the subject property and the large portion of which is still in actual possession of defendants-oppositors."

to be improper/premature in resolving petitioners' motion for issuance of preliminary injunction, the same is not capricious or arbitrary as to constitute grave abuse of discretion.

In the absence of any showing that respondent court acted with manifest abuse in denying the issuance of a preliminary mandatory injunction, the discretion of the court taking cognizance of the case is generally not interfered with (Saulog vs. Court of Appeals, 263 SCRA 51).

x x x. [Rollo, pp. 64-68.]

Their motion for reconsideration having been denied, petitioners now turn to this Court, alleging that:

I

THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED A GRAVE MISAPPREHENSION OF THE FACTS AND MISAPPRECIATION OF THE EVIDENCE IN ITS DECISION.

II

THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED SERIOUSLY ERRED [sic] IN HOLDING THAT THE TRIAL COURT DID NOT COMMIT A GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION WHEN IT DECLINED TO ISSUE THE WRIT OF PRELIMINARY MANDATORY INJUNCTION, DESPITE THE FACT THAT PETITIONERS HAVE ESTABLISHED THEIR CLEAR AND UNMISTAKABLE RIGHT TO THE POSSESSION OF THE PROPERTY PENDENTE LITE, HENCE, THE ISSUANCE OF THE INJUNCTIVE WRIT IS WARRANTED UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THIS CASE.

III

THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN HOLDING THAT IT HAD NO JURISDICTION TO DETERMINE THE ISSUES PRESENTED BY PETITIONERS BEFORE IT, PARTICULARLY THE QUESTION OF POSSESSION OF THE SUBJECT PROPERTY, WHICH IS ALLEGEDLY A FACTUAL ISSUE THAT SHOULD BE PROPERLY VENTILATED IN THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT AFTER TRIAL ON THE MERITS.

IV

THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS SERIOUSLY ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE ORDER OF THE TRIAL COURT DENYING THE ISSUANCE OF A WRIT OF PRELIMINARY MANDATORY INJUNCTION IS A MERE INTERLOCUTORY ORDER WHICH CANNOT BE QUESTIONED BY WAY OF CERTIORARI OR APPEAL, WHICH RULING IS CONTRADICTED BY JURISPRUDENCE LAID DOWN BY THIS HONORABLE COURT.

V

THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN HOLDING THAT PETITIONERS' CLAIM FOR INTEREST UNDER THE CONSIGNED CHECK IS PREMATURE AS THE PROPRIETY OF THE CONSIGNMENT CASE BEFORE THE TRIAL COURT IS YET TO BE DETERMINED ON THE MERITS BY SAID TRIAL COURT, OVERLOOKING THE FACT THAT IF THE CONSIGNED CHECK DATED MAY 24, 1999 IN THE AMOUNT OF P300,000.00 HAD BEEN DEPOSITED IN AN AUTHORIZED GOVERNMENT DEPOSITORY BANK, THEN IT HAS BEEN EARNING INTEREST. THE APPELLATE COURT SHOULD HAVE ORDERED THE TRIAL COURT TO INFORM IT WHETHER THE CONSIGNED CHECK HAD BEEN DEPOSITED BEFORE AN AUTHORIZED GOVERNMENT DEPOSITORY BANK AND HOW MUCH INTEREST IT HAS EARNED SINCE ITS DEPOSIT UP TO THE PRESENT TIME.[Rollo, pp. 27-28.]

The second, third and fourth alleged errors may be encapsulated in one issue: whether the Regional Trial Court committed grave abuse of discretion in denying the writ of preliminary injunction. Petitioner contends in the main that they are "in constructive possession of the subject property under the memorandum of agreement." The constructive possession having been transferred, respondents cannot claim actual possession of the property, and, accordingly, the writ should have been granted.

It appears that the term "constructive possession" as used by petitioner and by the courts below has been misapplied and begs clarification. The doctrine of constructive possession applies when the possession is under title calling for the whole. The actual possession of part of the property is deemed to extend to the whole because possession in the eyes of the law does not mean that a man has to have his feet on every square meter of ground before it can be said that he is in possession (Ramos vs. Director of Lands, 39 Phil. 175 [1918]). What petitioner and the lower courts probably mean is that under the contract, possession of the disputed property was supposed to have been transferred to petitioner by means of symbolic delivery.

If at all, however, the possession transferred by virtue of the contract is possession de jure, not possession de facto, and whether petitioner is indeed entitled to possession de jure is yet to be determined in the proceedings below. As things stand, both the trial and appellate courts found that possession de facto remained in respondents, i.e., that at the time of the application of the writ, respondents had actual physical possession of the property. This is the status quo that the trial court was speaking of when it resolved not to issue the writ. Consequently, it correctly resolved that there was no need for the writ prayed for since the purpose of the writ was to preserve such status quo. Injunction will not, as a rule, be granted to take property out of the possession of one party and put it into that of another whose title has not been established by law (Devesa vs. Arbes, 13 Phil. 273 [1909]).

The Court finds the other issues raised by petitioner need not be resolved herein and are best addressed by the trial court in the proceedings below.

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the Court Resolved to DENY the petition.

Very truly yours,

(Sgd.) VIRGINIA ANCHETA-SORIANO
Clerk of Court


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