May 2004 - Philippine Supreme Court Decisions/Resolutions
Varona v. CA: 124148 : May 20, 2004 : J. Azcuna : First Division : Decision
[G.R. NO. 124148 : May 20, 2004]
PACITA G. VARONA, ORLANDO AYSON, MILA CASTILLO-SI and ANGELITA P. SABINO, Petitioners, v. COURT OF APPEALS and EVANGELINE LIM, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
Before us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari of the decision of the Court of Appeals, in CA-G.R. SP No. 37806, affirming the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Angeles City, Branch 59, in Civil Cases Nos. 7767-7770.
The facts, as stated by the Court of Appeals, are as follows:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
On February 16, 1994, petitioners Orlando Ayson, Pacita Varona, Mila Castillo-Si and Angelita Sabino were issued Mayors Permits to occupy Market Stalls Nos. 311, 312, 313, 314, respectively, in the New Pampang Public Market in Angeles City.1 cralawred
By virtue of the Mayors Permits issued to them, petitioners sought to evict private respondent who was then the occupant of the disputed stalls. Thus, on March 8, 1994, petitioners Orlando Ayson and Pacita Varona filed Complaints for ejectment against private respondent before the Municipal Trial Court of Angeles City, Branch I, docketed as Civil Cases Nos. 94-29 and 94-30 respectively.2 cralawred
In her Answers filed on March 25, 1994, private respondent alleged, inter alia, the following: That ever since the New Pampang Public Market commenced its operation, she has been the lawful and actual occupant of the subject market stalls; that petitioners occupancy of the market stalls was by virtue only of the Mayors Permits issued to them, which by no means automatically vest upon them the right to occupy the disputed market stalls since one has first to apply and secure an approval from the Market Administrator and a certification to the effect that the applicant is a legitimate stallholder which requirements have not been complied with by petitioners; that presently the City Government of Angeles is undertaking the recall and revocation of the permits issued to petitioners.3 cralawred
On March 22, 1994, the Mayors Permits of petitioners Pacita Varona, Orlando Ayson, Mila Castillo-Si and Angelita Sabino were revoked by Mayor Edgardo Pamintuan4 on the following grounds: (1) Their names did not appear in the Master List of Stallholders at said market; and (2) they did not apply for and secure from the Market Administrator the required clearance prior to the issuance of said permits.
On March 29, 1994, despite revocation of their Mayors Permits, petitioners Mila Castillo-Si and Angelita Sabino, invoking the same cause of action as that of Ayson and Varona, also filed Complaints for ejectment against private respondent before the same Municipal Trial Court, docketed as Civil Cases Nos. 94-34 and 94-35, respectively.5 cralawred
In her Answers dated May 13, 1994, private respondent reiterated her allegations in the Answers she filed to the Complaints of petitioners Ayson and Varona, with the new allegation that the Mayors Permits issued to petitioners were already recalled or revoked on March 22, 1994.6 cralawred
The Municipal Trial Court rendered four identical decisions7 (except for the names of the plaintiffs and the stall numbers involved) in
favor of Petitioners, ordering private respondent to: (1) Vacate Stalls Nos.
311, 312, 313 and 314 (Sari-sari Section) of the New Pampang Public
Market, Angeles City; (2) pay each of the petitioners attorneys fee of
appearance fee of P500 per
appearance, and P1,000 as reasonable fee for private respondents
continued possession of the subject market stalls from February, 1994, until
she finally vacates the stalls; and (3) pay the costs of the suit.
Private respondent appealed the said decisions to the Regional Trial Court of Angeles City, docketed as Civil Cases Nos. 7767, 7768, 7769 and 7770, contending, among other things, that the Municipal Trial Court has no jurisdiction over the complaints; that the complaints have become moot and academic; and that the Municipal Trial Court rendered judgment in favor of the plaintiffs (petitioners) without factual and legal basis.
The Regional Trial Court rendered a Joint Decision reversing and setting aside the decisions of the Municipal Trial Court, the dispositive portion of which reads:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
WHEREFORE, the judgment of the lower court particularly Municipal Trial Court, Branch I, Angeles City, in Civil Cases Nos. 94-29; 94-30; 94-34; and 94-35 (RTC Cases Nos. 7767, 7768, 7769 and 7770), are hereby reversed and set aside, and a new decision is hereby rendered, that appellant Evangeline Lim has a better right than the appellees to stay in possession of the market stalls of the Pampang Public Market particularly Stalls Nos. 312, 313, 314 and 315, here in Angeles City, without prejudice on the part of the appellees to file an action for recognition of their preferred rights to file an ordinary action in the proper forum.
The supersedeas bond filed by the appellant is hereby dissolved and the amount of the same be reimbursed to the appellant, as well as the monthly rentals she had deposited.
SO ORDERED.8 cralawred
The Regional Trial Court held that the rule on forcible entry and unlawful detainer is not applicable in the instant case, there being no proof adduced by petitioners that private respondent forcibly entered and occupied the market stalls in question by intimidation, threat, strategy or stealth, or that the private respondent originally acquired possession of the stalls lawfully and thereafter unlawfully withheld the possession of the stalls, after the expiration or termination of the detainers right to hold possession by virtue of a contract, express or implied.9 cralawred
Moreover, the Regional Trial Court found that petitioners Ayson and Varona filed Civil Cases Nos. 94-29 and 94-30 respectively in the Municipal Trial Court on March 8, 1994. On March 22, 1994, their Mayors Permits were revoked, pending trial in the inferior court. Hence, the court ruled that said cases are deemed moot and academic due to supervening event.10 cralawred
In regard to petitioners Castillo-Si and Sabino, the Regional Trial Court found that they filed Civil Cases Nos. 94-34 and 94-35 respectively in the inferior court on September 14, 1994 (should be March 29, 1994), when the Mayors Permits of said petitioners were already revoked on March 22, 1994. The court thus ruled that they have no more cause of action and their cases are moot and academic.11 cralawred
Petitioners filed a Petition for Review of the Joint Decision of the Regional Trial Court in the Court of Appeals.
The Court of Appeals ruled:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
It should be noted that in all the four (4) ejectment cases filed by petitioners against private respondent, their common cause of action is premised on the identical proposition that they are the rightful stallholders of the market stalls in the New Pampang Public Market by virtue of the Mayors Permits issued to them on February 16, 1994.
As earlier stated, petitioners right to occupy the disputed market stalls was terminated by the revocation of their Mayors permits on March 22, 1994. And since there is nothing in the records to show that herein petitioners were subsequently issued new Mayors permits nor was there a showing that their revoked permits were reinstated, Petitioners, therefore, [have] no cause of action against herein private respondent.
Considering, therefore, that since the basis of petitioners cause of action ceased to exist, no practical or useful purpose would then be served by passing on the merits of the instant petition.
The Court of Appeals pronounced judgment, thus:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
WHEREFORE, the instant Petition for Review is hereby DISMISSED. Accordingly, the decision of the RTC, Angeles City, Branch 59 in Civil Cases Nos. 7767-7770 is AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.12 cralawred
Hence, petitioners filed the instant petition.
In their Memorandum, petitioners raised these issues:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
1.WHETHER PETITIONERS AS TRANSFEREES IN GOOD FAITH HAVE VALID CAUSE OF ACTION AGAINST THE PRIVATE RESPONDENT.
2.WHETHER THE FINDINGS OF FACTS CONTAINED IN THE COURT OF APPEALS DECISION SUBJECT MATTER OF THE PETITION FOR REVIEW ON CERTIORARI ARE SUPPORTED BY SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE AS BASIS THEREOF.13 cralawred
The main issue is whether or not the Municipal Trial Court had jurisdiction over the cases filed by Petitioners, which have been treated as ejectment cases.
The jurisdiction of a court over a specific case, as well as the nature of the action, is determined by the averments in the Complaint.14 The pertinent averments, found to be identical, in the Complaints of petitioners are as follows:
x x xx x xx x x
2.That the plaintiff is the rightful and lawful stallholder of Stall No. x x x of the New Pampang Public Market, Angeles City; he was issued and he possesses the corresponding and necessary Mayors Permit and such other necessary permits, papers and/or documents relative to the said stall x x x;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
3.That the plaintiff has been and is in dire need of the aforesaid stall and he accordingly requested and advised, both orally and in writing, the defendants to vacate the same, but the latter unreasonably and unjustifiably failed and refused, and still fail and refuse to vacate the subject stall, to the damage and prejudice of herein plaintiffs; a copy of a demand letter is hereto attached x x x;
x x xx x xx x x
5.That due to the unreasonable and unjustifiable failure and refusal of the defendants to vacate the aforesaid stall, the plaintiff was constrained to file the instant action x x x15 cralawred
In an action for forcible entry, two allegations are mandatory for the municipal court to acquire jurisdiction: First, the plaintiff must allege his prior physical possession of the property.16 Second, he must also allege that he was deprived of his possession by any of the means provided for in Section 1, Rule 7017 of the Rules of Court, namely: force, intimidation, threats, strategy, and stealth.18 The action must be filed against the intruder within one year from illegal entry.19 cralawred
In the instant case, petitioners did not allege in their Complaints that they were in prior physical possession of the subject market stalls and that private respondent deprived them of possession thereof through force, intimidation, threat, strategy or stealth.Hence, this case is not one of forcible entry.
In an action for unlawful detainer, which must be filed within one year from the date of the last demand, one unlawfully withholds possession of any land or building after the expiration or termination of his right to hold possession under any contract, express or implied.20 The possession by defendant is originally lawful but becomes illegal by reason of the termination of his right of possession under his contract with the plaintiff.21 It is settled that a complaint for unlawful detainer is sufficient if it alleges that the withholding of possession or the refusal to vacate is unlawful without necessarily employing the terminology of the law.22 cralawred
In this case, petitioners did not have any contract, express or implied, with private respondent for the possession of the subject market stalls. Hence, there can be no expiration or termination of private respondents right of possession over the subject stalls, and consequently, no unlawful withholding of possession thereof from petitioners.
Moreover, it was undisputed by petitioners that the subject market stalls are the properties of the local government; that private respondent is a holder of a Mayors Permit in 1993 that was not renewed, but not revoked by the Office of the City Mayor, and that no notice to vacate was initiated by the local government.23 cralawred
In addition, although petitioners were issued Mayors Permits to manage and operate a sari-sari store in the subject market stalls of the Pampang Public Market in Angeles City from February 16, 1993 (should be 1994) up to December 31, 1994, said permits were revoked by the City Mayor on March 22, 1994.
Based on the foregoing, this case is also not one of unlawful detainer.
Since the complaints did not satisfy the jurisdictional requirements to constitute a valid cause of action for forcible entry or unlawful detainer, the Municipal Trial Court had no jurisdiction over the cases filed by petitioners. Accordingly, the Regional Trial Court should have simply reversed and set aside the decision of the Municipal Trial Court for lack of jurisdiction.The Court of Appeals, therefore, erred in affirming in full the decision of the Regional Trial Court, since the latter had no jurisdiction to render a decision of its own in the case and to state that the private respondent had a better right of possession over the petitioners.
WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby GRANTED. The decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 37806 is MODIFIED in that the joint decision of the Regional Trial Court of Angeles City, Branch 59, in Civil Cases Nos. 7767-7770, is affirmed only insofar as it reversed and set aside the decisions of the Municipal Trial Court of Angeles City, Branch I, in Civil Cases Nos. 94-29, 94-30, 94-34 and 94-35, for lack of jurisdiction.
Costs de oficio.
Panganiban, (Acting Chairman), Ynares-Santiago, and Carpio, JJ., concur.
Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman), on official leave.
1 CA Decision, Rollo, p. 30.
3 Id., p. 31.
4 Annexes 5 to 8 of Comment (Court of Appeals), CA Rollo, pp. 90-93.
5 CA Decision, Rollo, p. 31.
7 CA Rollo, pp. 43-62.
8 Id., p. 72.
9 Id., p. 70.
10 Id., p. 71.
12 Rollo, p. 33.
13 Id., p. 70.
15 Records, Folder of Civil Case No. 7767, pp. 4-5.
17 Rules of Court, Rule 70, Sec. 1. Who may institute proceedings, and when.Subject to the provisions of the next succeeding section, a person deprived of the possession of any land or building by force, intimidation, threat, strategy, or stealth, or a lessor, vendor, vendee, or other person against whom the possession of any land or building is unlawfully withheld after the expiration or termination of the right to hold possession, by virtue of any contract, express or implied, or the legal representatives or assigns of any such lessor, vendor, vendee, or other person may at any time within one (1) year after such unlawful deprivation or withholding of possession, bring an action in the proper Municipal Trial Court against the person or persons unlawfully withholding or depriving of possession, or any person or persons claiming under them, for the restitution of such possession, together with damages and costs.
18 Tirona v. Alejo, supra, note 16.
19 Sarmiento v. Court of Appeals, 250 SCRA 108, 115 (1995).
20 Id.., at 114-115.
21 Tirona v. Alejo, supra, note 16, at 29.
23 CA Rollo, RTC Decision, p. 67.