JAIME MORTA, SR. and PURIFICACION PADILLA, Petitioners, vs. JAIME OCCIDENTAL, ATTY. MARIANO BARANDA, JR., and DANIEL CORRAL, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
What is before us is a petition for review on certiorari of the decision1 of the Court of Appeals and the resolution,2 denying petitioners' motion for reconsideration and supplemental motion for reconsideration. In its decision, the Court of Appeals dismissed the petition for review filed before it, ruling that the cases below fall within the jurisdiction of the DARAB.
The antecedent facts are as follows:
On January 10 and 21, 1994,3 petitioners Jaime Morta, Sr. and Purificacion Padilla filed two (2) cases4 for damages with preliminary injunction, with the Municipal Trial Court, Guinobatan, Albay, against respondents Jaime Occidental, Atty. Mariano Baranda, Jr. and Daniel Corral, which were consolidated pursuant to Rule 31 of the Revised Rules of Court. In the complaints, petitioners alleged that respondents through the instigation of Atty. Baranda, gathered pilinuts, anahaw leaves, and coconuts from their respective land, delivered the produce to Atty. Mariano Baranda, Jr., and destroyed their banana and pineapple plants. In Civil Case No. 481, petitioners claimed damages amounting to P8,930.00, plus costs of suit; in Civil Case No. 482, petitioners claimed P9,950.00, as damages. The court considered the cases covered by the Rule on Summary Procedure and ordered respondents to file their answer.
In their answer, respondents claimed that petitioners were not the owners of the land in question. They alleged that the torrens titles of the land indicated a certain Gil Opiana as the registered owner. Gil Opiana was the father of Josefina Opiana-Baraclan who inherited the lots upon the former's death. Respondent Jaime Occidental contended that he was a bona fide tenant of Josefina Opiana-Baraclan. Respondents stated that there was no annotation on the titles establishing petitioners' right over the land. They denied harvesting the anahaw leaves and coconuts, as well as delivering the produce to Atty. Baranda, Jr.
Thereafter, the Municipal Trial Court ordered the parties to submit affidavits of their witnesses and other evidence on the factual issues, together with their respective position papers. After respondents' failure to file their position papers within the prescribed period, the trial court considered the case submitted for decision.
On March 29, 1994, the Municipal Trial Court rendered decision5 in favor of petitioners. It held that petitioners had been in actual, continuous, open and adverse possession of the land in question for forty-five (45) years. The decretal portion of the decision reads:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing considerations, judgment is rendered in favor of the plaintiffs and against the defendants in both cases as follows:
1) Ordering the defendants not to molest and disturb the peaceful possession of the plaintiffs in the lands in question situated at San Rafael, Guinobatan;
2) Condemning the defendants in Civil Cases No. 481 to jointly and severally pay the plaintiffs the total amount of P8,130.00 representing the value of the coconuts, pilinuts and anahaw leaves and for the destroyed plants;
3) Ordering the defendants in Civil Cases No. 481 jointly and severally to reimburse the plaintiffs the amount of P202.00 as legal expenses incurred in filing this suit;
4) Condemning the defendants in Civil Case No. 482 jointly and severally to pay the plaintiffs the total amount of P9,950.00 representing the value of the coconuts and anahaw leaves;
5) Ordering the said defendants in Civil Case No. 482 to jointly and severally reimburse the plaintiffs the sum of P202.00 as legal expenses in filing this suit.
Guinobatan, Albay, March 29, 1994.
JAIME R. REMONTE
Respondents appealed to the Regional Trial Court, Ligao, Albay. They questioned the trial court's jurisdiction contending that the case was cognizable by the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudicatory Board (DARAB). They alleged that petitioners engaged in forum shopping and that the trial court erred in granting the reliefs prayed for.
On August 10, 1994, the Regional Trial Court rendered decision reversing that of the Municipal Trial Court and dismissing the above cases,7 ruling that these cases for damages are tenancy-related problems which fall under the original and exclusive jurisdiction of the DARAB. The court also declared that the filing of Civil Cases Nos. 481 and 482, while a case involving the same issue was pending before the DARAB, amounted to forum shopping.
On September 9, 1994, petitioners filed a petition for review8 with the Court of Appeals, contesting the decision of the Regional Trial Court. On May 31, 1995, the Court of Appeals9 rendered decision affirming the lower's court ruling that the cases fall within the original and exclusive jurisdiction of DARAB. However, it ruled that petitioners did not engage in forum shopping.
On June 6, 1995, petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration.10 On June 13, 1995, they filed a supplemental motion for reconsideration,11 stressing that there was no tenancy relationship between the parties, as certified by the Municipal Agrarian Reform Office (MARO).12
On December 8, 1995, the Court of Appeals denied the motions.13
Hence, this petition for review on certiorari.
Petitioners claim that Morta is not a tenant of either Jaime Occidental or Josefina Opiana-Baraclan, as shown by the MARO certification. They argue that the civil actions for damages are not tenancy-related, and, hence, are properly cognizable by the trial court, not the DARAB.
We resolve to grant the petition.
It is axiomatic that what determines the nature of an action as well as which court has jurisdiction over it, are the allegations in the complaint and the character of the relief sought.14 "Jurisdiction over the subject matter is determined upon the allegations made in the complaint, irrespective of whether the plaintiff is entitled to recover upon a claim asserted therein - a matter resolved only after and as a result of the trial. Neither can the jurisdiction of the court be made to depend upon the defenses made by the defendant in his answer or motion to dismiss. If such were the rule, the question of jurisdiction would depend almost entirely upon the defendant.15 The complaint filed by petitioners before the Municipal Trial Court is an action for damages for illegal gathering of anahaw leaves, pilinuts and coconuts, and the destruction of their banana and pineapple plantations. The respondents did not question the municipal trial court's jurisdiction in their answer. The issue of jurisdiction was raised for the first time on appeal.
For DARAB to have jurisdiction over a case, there must exist a tenancy relationship between the parties. In order for a tenancy agreement to take hold over a dispute, it would be essential to establish all its indispensable elements, to wit: 1) that the parties are the landowner and the tenant or agricultural lessee; 2) that the subject matter of the relationship is an agricultural land; 3) that there is consent between the parties to the relationship; 4) that the purpose of the relationship is to bring about agricultural production; 5) that there is personal cultivation on the part of the tenant or agricultural lessee; and 6) that the harvest is shared between the landowner and the tenant or agricultural lessee.16 In Vda. de Tangub v. Court of Appeals,17 we held that the jurisdiction of the Department of Agrarian Reforms is limited to the following:
a) adjudication of all matters involving implementation of agrarian reform;
b) resolution of agrarian conflicts and land-tenure related problems; and
c) approval and disapproval of the conversion, restructuring or readjustment of agricultural lands into residential, commercial, industrial, and other non-agricultural uses.
The regional trial court ruled that the issue involved is tenancy-related that falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of the DARAB. It relied on the findings in DARAB Case No. 2413 that Josefina Opiana-Baraclan appears to be the lawful owner of the land and Jaime Occidental was her recognized tenant. However, petitioner Morta claimed that he is the owner of the land. Thus, there is even a dispute as to who is the rightful owner of the land, Josefina Opiana-Baraclan or petitioner Morta. The issue of ownership cannot be settled by the DARAB since it is definitely outside its jurisdiction. Whatever findings made by the DARAB regarding the ownership of the land are not conclusive to settle the matter. The issue of ownership shall be resolved in a separate proceeding before the appropriate trial court between the claimants thereof.
At any rate, whoever is declared to be the rightful owner of the land, the case can not be considered as tenancy-related for it still fails to comply with the other requirements. Assuming arguendo that Josefina Opiana-Baraclan is the owner, then the case is not between the landowner and tenant. If, however, Morta is the landowner, Occidental can not claim that there is consent to a landowner-tenant relationship between him and Morta. Thus, for failure to comply with the above requisites, we conclude that the issue involved is not tenancy-related cognizable by the DARAB.
WHEREFORE, the Court SETS ASIDEthe decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 35300 and that of the Regional Trial Court in Civil Cases Nos. 1751 and 1752.
The Court AFFIRMSthe decision of the Municipal Trial Court, Guinobatan, Albay, in Civil Cases Nos. 481 and 482, for damages.
Kapunan, and Ynares-Santiago, JJ., concur.
Davide, Jr., C.J., pls. see dissenting opinion.
Melo, J., joins Chief Justice Davide in his dissent.
DAVIDE, JR., C.J.:
Ibeg to dissent. I agree with both the Regional Trial Court and the Court of Appeals that the cases before the Municipal Trial Court involved an agrarian dispute exclusively cognizable by the DARAB. It had, in fact, been determined in DARAB Case No. 2413 that respondent Jaime Occidental a defendant in one of the MTC cases is the tenant of Josefina Opiniana-Baraclan (1st par., p. 7 of ponencia). There is at all no showing that this determination by DARAB has been set aside by some higher authorities. The claim of petitioner Morta that he is the owner of the land is of no moment, for whether it is Josefina or Morta who is the owner does not affect Occidental's right as tenancy. Tenancy attaches to the land.
As I see it, the cases filed by petitioners Morta and Padilla were a clever way to defeat the agrarian law. While the cases were ostensibly for damages, they were, at bottom, a fight on issues incident to or arising from an agrarian relationship. The first relief granted by the MTC, to wit:
"1) Ordering the defendants not to molestand disturb the peaceful possession of the plaintiffs inthe lands in question situated at San Rafael, Guinobatan;
mirrors the true nature of the controversy.
WHEREFORE, I vote to DENY the instant petition since no reversible error was committed by the Court of Appeals inits challenged decision.
1 CA-G.R. SP No. 35300, promulgated on May 31, 1995, Justice Conchita Carpio Morales, ponente, Justices Pedro A. Ramirez, and Fermin A. Martin, Jr., concurring. Rollo, pp. 15-22.
2 Dated December 8, 1995, Rollo, p. 33.
3 Court of Appeals Record, p. 5.3 Civil Case No. 481 filed on January 10, 1994 against respondents Jaime Occidental, Sr. and Atty. Mariano Baranda, Jr.; Civil Case No. 482 filed on January 21, 1994 against Jaime Occidental, Sr., Atty. Mariano Baranda, Jr. and Daniel Corral.
4 Civil Case No. 481 filed on January 10, 1994 against respondents Jaime Occidental, Sr. and Atty. Mariano Baranda, Jr.; Civil Case No. 482 filed on January 21, 1994 against Jaime Occidental, Sr., Atty. Mariano Baranda, Jr. and Daniel Corral.
5 Rollo, pp. 34-41, penned by Judge Jaime R. Remonte.
6 Rollo, p. 41.
7 Civil Case No. 1751, penned by Judge Romulo S G. Villanueva, Rollo, 42-46.
8 Court of Appeals Record, pp. 4-12.
9 Rollo, pp. 15-22.
10 Petition, Annex B, Rollo, pp. 23-26.
11 Petition, Annex C, Rollo, pp. 28-32.
12 Dated February 4, 1994, Rollo, p. 27.
13 Resolution, Rollo, p. 33.
14 Caiza v. Court of Appeals, 268 SCRA 640, citing Sumulong v. Court of Appeals, 232 SCRA 272.
15 Multinational Village Homeowners Association v. Court of Appeals, 203 SCRA 104.
16 Chico v. Court of Appeals, 284 SCRA 33.
17 191 SCRA 885.