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G.R. No. 147776 - Sps. Guillermo Malison etc v. Hon. Court of Appeals, et al.

G.R. No. 147776 - Sps. Guillermo Malison etc v. Hon. Court of Appeals, et al.

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

THIRD DIVISION

[G.R. NO. 147776 : July 10, 2007]

SPS. GUILLERMO MALISON and AMELITA MALISON, Petitioners, v. HON. COURT OF APPEALS, SPS. MELCHOR MARANAN, JR. and VIRGINIA MARANAN, Respondents.

D E C I S I O N

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the revised Rules of Court assailing (1) the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals dated 25 January 2001 in CA-G.R. SP No. 58767 dismissing herein petitioners' petition and affirming the decision2 dated 31 March 2000 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City, Branch 215, in Civil Case No. Q-99-39527; and (2) Resolution3 of the Court of Appeals dated 29 March 2001 denying petitioners' motion for reconsideration. The RTC decision dated 31 March 2000 affirmed the Decision4 dated 20 October 1999 of the Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) of Quezon City, Branch 34, in Civil Case No. 19167 ordering petitioners to vacate the subject property and pay private respondents reasonable compensation for the use of the subject property, attorney's fees, and cost of the suit.

The antecedent facts show that a complaint5 for ejectment was filed by the private respondents Spouses Melchor Maranan, Jr. and Virginia Maranan against the petitioners, Spouses Guillermo and Amelita Malison, docketed as Civil Case No. 19167 before the MeTC. In their Complaint, private respondents alleged that they are the owners/lessors of the subject property located at 166 Scout Chuatoco, Quezon City, covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 155183 of the Registry of Deeds of Quezon City, which they acquired from its former owner Belen Eser-Pascual, through her attorney-in fact, Luz Eser-Tabing, in a Deed of Sale executed in August 1991. Petitioners are staying on the premises through the tolerance of the private respondents. As early as July 1996, verbal demands were made on the petitioners to vacate the premises but the same were ignored which led private respondents to the institution of the complaint before the MeTC.

Petitioners, though, presented a totally different version of events as to how private respondents acquired title to the subject property. Petitioners claim that petitioner Amelita Eser-Malison (Amelita), married to Guillermo Malison (Guillermo), was the eldest child of deceased spouses Ignacio Eser and Fe Villacorta. Amelita has been living on the subject property since 1950 with her sisters Luz Eser-Tabing (Luz), Rosie Eser-Tolentino (Rose), Belen Eser-Pascual (Belen) and brother Efren Eser (now also deceased). The subject property was registered under TCT No. 142311 in the name of Belen only for the purpose of applying for a loan with the Government Service Insurance System with the understanding that Belen would hold in trust the subject property for all of her siblings. The safekeeping of TCT No. 142311 was entrusted to Luz and her son Arnel Tabing (Arnel). When Belen returned to the Philippines from the United States, she requested the title of the subject land from Luz and Arnel who were not able to produce the same. Belen was later informed that the title cannot be found in the bank deposit box where it was kept. Luz and Arnel assured Belen that there was nothing to worry about since the title was only used to mortgage the subject property so that Arnel may secure capital for his construction contracts with the Philippine Ports Authority and the Department of Public Works.

On 25 March 1991, Belen issued a Power of Attorney6 in favor of Luz for the purpose of executing a Deed of Absolute Sale over the subject property into favor of the petitioners for the specified sum of P400,000.00 to be divided into four equal parts, one part of which was to be remitted to Belen.7 In 1996, private respondents, who claim to have bought the property in 1991, surfaced after five years, trying to evict petitioners from their ancestral home.

Petitioners assail the Deed of Sale in favor of the private respondents asserting that any purported sale of the subject property was spurious and in excess of the authority of Luz, Belen's attorney-in-fact, who was directed to sell the subject property for the specific amount of P400,000.00 and to particular individuals, namely, petitioner Spouses Malison. A careful perusal of Luz's Power of Attorney should have put private respondents in inquiry on the scope of her authority to sell the subject property. Another matter raised by petitioners is that the issue of ownership is prejudicial and intrinsic to the resolution of this case for ejectment and, therefore, beyond the jurisdiction of the MeTC; that the retention of the possession of the subject property by petitioners for five years after the purported Deed of Sale in favor of private respondents raised the presumption that there was something amiss in the sale transaction; that private respondents have no contract of lease; that neither were rentals paid to them since 1991, contrary to their allegation that they wrote petitioners demanding rentals. Belen had executed another Special Power of Attorney dated 11 August 1997, again, in favor of Luz, to pursue a case against the perpetrators of the deceit.8

The MeTC rendered a decision on the ejectment case on 20 October 1999.

In sustaining the private respondents' position, the MeTC9 explained that since the private respondents are the registered owners of the subject property by virtue of the Deed of Sale dated 12 August 1991 executed in their favor by Belen, thru her attorney-in-fact Luz, for the sale price of P1,690,000.00,10 they have the right as owners to occupy, enjoy and dispose of the subject property. Similarly, they also have the right of action against the holder/possessor of the subject property in order to recover it. Since there is no lease contract between the parties and there being no stealth, force, and strategy applied by petitioners in entering the subject property, petitioners' occupancy thereof is obviously by tolerance of the private respondents; and inasmuch as petitioners are in possession of the subject property by mere tolerance of the real owners, their possession initially was lawful but became illegal when the tolerance was withdrawn upon demand to vacate the subject property by the owners. Possession by tolerance is necessarily bound by an implied promise to vacate upon demand, failing which, a summary proceeding for ejectment is the proper remedy. Private respondents' letter dated 20 September 199711 demanding that petitioners vacate the subject property serves to withdraw the consent/tolerance given by the private respondents for petitioners' continued occupancy of the said property. After the demand made by the private respondents to vacate, petitioners became deforciants in the subject property.12 Finally, the MeTC found that private respondents had complied with the jurisdictional requirement of demand under Section 2, Rule II of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, and that the provision of the New Local Government Code pertaining to Barangay Conciliation does not apply. Thus, the MeTC found that ejectment of the petitioners was warranted.

Hence, the dispositive portion of the MeTC Decision provides:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the [herein private respondents] and against [herein petitioners] as follows:

1. Ordering [petitioners], and all persons claiming right over the said property to vacate the property with an area of 200 square meters and covered by TCT 155183 of the Register of Deeds of Wuezon City (sic), located at No. 166 Scout Chuatoco Street, and to surrender peaceful possession thereof to the [private respondents];

2. Ordering the [petitioners] to pay P2,500 as reasonable compensation for the use and enjoyment of the premises from the filing of the complaint.

3. To pay attorney's fees in the amount of P10,000.00; andcralawlibrary

4. Ordering the [petitioners] to pay the cost of suit.13

Petitioners appealed to the RTC where the case was docketed as Civil Case No. Q-99-39527. The RTC rendered a decision dated 31 March 2000, the dispositive portion of which states:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, and finding no reversible error in the Decision dated October 20, 1999 rendered by the Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch 34, Quezon City in Civil Case No. 19167, the same is hereby AFFIRMED IN TOTO.14

From the RTC, petitioners elevated the case to the Court of Appeals. In a Decision dated 25 January 2001, the appellate court affirmed the decision of the RTC. A Motion for Reconsideration filed by the petitioners was denied by the Court of Appeals in its Resolution dated 29 March 2001.

The RTC and the Court of Appeals agreed with the MeTC that the jurisdictional requirements have been sufficiently complied with by the private respondents and the evidence on hand show their entitlement to the relief sought in their complaint for ejectment.

Hence, this petition moored on the following issues:

1) Is the purchase of subject property by respondents Sps. Maranan from a person other than the registered owner of a residential house and lot valid?cralaw library

2) Is ejectment the proper remedy of Sps. Maranan assuming arguendo validity of title?15

The first issue brings to the fore the validity of the purchase of the property made by the private respondents. The second issue seeks to determine whether or not ejectment is the proper remedy for the private respondents.

At the threshold, there is a need to stress that pursuant to Section 1, Rule 45 of the 1997 Revised Rules of Civil Procedure, a Petition for Review before this Court should only raise questions of law. Factual matters cannot be raised before this Court in a Petition for Review on Certiorari . This Court, at this stage is limited to reviewing errors of law that may have been committed by the lower courts. We are restrained from conducting further scrutiny of the findings of fact made by trial courts. Otherwise, we would convert this Court into a trier of facts.16 In the absence of a showing that the case falls under one of the exceptions,17 factual findings of the Court of Appeals are conclusive on the parties and not reviewable by this Court. And they carry even more weight when the Court of Appeals affirms the factual findings of the trial court. After a perusal of the records, this Court can only conclude that the factual findings of the Court of Appeals, affirming those of the RTC, are amply supported by evidence and are, resultantly, conclusive on this Court.18 As such, this Court is not duty-bound to analyze and weigh all over again the evidence already considered in the proceedings below.19 Where factual matters are involved, it is well-settled that a question of fact is to be determined by the evidence to support the particular contention. As found by the Court of Appeals, the evidence adduced on this score are in private respondents' favor. Whether such conclusion of the Court of Appeals was supported by the evidence presented before it, is also factual in nature.

Therefore, the following facts are deemed settled: (1) the subject property was registered in the name of Belen; (2) Belen, through her attorney-in-fact, Luz, sold the subject property to private respondents by virtue of a Deed of Sale dated 12 August 1991; (3) petitioners remained in possession of the subject property by mere tolerance of the private respondents; and (4) after five years, private respondents already gave petitioners notice to vacate the subject property, which petitioners refused to heed.

It bears to emphasize that this is an EJECTMENT case and the foregoing are facts relevant to the determination of which of the parties have a better right to POSSESSION of the subject property.

A complaint for ejectment may be instituted in accordance with Section 1, Rule 70 of the 1997 Rules of Court:

SECTION 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.

Under the above provision, there are two entirely distinct and different causes of action for an ejectment case, to wit: (1) a case for forcible entry, which is an action to recover possession of a property from the defendant whose occupation thereof is illegal from the beginning, as he acquired possession by force, intimidation, threat, strategy or stealth; and (2) a case for unlawful detainer, which is an action for recovery of possession from defendant whose possession of the property was inceptively lawful by virtue of a contract (express or implied) with the plaintiff, but became illegal when he continued his possession despite the termination of his right thereunder.20

Private respondents' complaint contained the following essential allegations:

Plaintiffs are the owners/lessors of a premises denominated as 166 Scout Chuatoco, Quezon City and covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 155183 issued by the Register of Deeds of Quezon City. A copy of the said title is made part hereof and hereto attached as Annex "A."

The land covered by the aforestated title together with all the improvements thereon was acquired by the plaintiffs through sale from the former owner Belen Eser Pascual through her atty-in-fact Luz Eser Tabing sometime in August 1991. Copy of the Deed of Absolute Sale is made part hereof and hereto attached as Annex "B."

x x x

As early as July, 1996 verbal demands were made upon the defendants to vacate the subject premises but to no avail because the defendants failed and refused to heed the said demand.

On September 20, 1997, a final and last demand to vacate was sent by plaintiffs' counsel to herein defendants but despite receipt thereof the same was likewise ignored by the defendants and deliberately failed and refused to vacate the subject premises to the prejudice of the plaintiffs. Copy of the demand letter dated September 20, 1997 is made part hereof and hereto attached as Annex "C."21

After a perusal of the aforequoted complaint, we find that the MeTC had jurisdiction over the case inasmuch as the complaint itself sufficiently alleged that possession was unlawfully withheld from the private respondents who are the registered owners thereof, and that the petitioners refused to vacate the subject premises despite demands to vacate the same. The private respondents' cause of action springs from petitioners' failure to vacate the premises.22 The complaint was filed on 9 December 1997 which is within one year from the demand to vacate on 5 July 1996.

A simple allegation that defendant is unlawfully withholding possession from plaintiff is sufficient. In an unlawful detainer case, the defendant's possession was originally lawful but ceased to be so by the expiration of his right to possess. Hence, the phrase "unlawful withholding" has been held to imply possession on the part of defendant, which was legal in the beginning, having no other source than a contract, express or implied, and which later expired as a right and is being withheld by defendant.23

We emphasized this point in Ross Rica Sales Center, Inc. v. Ong24 :

In Javelosa v. Court of Appeals [333 Phil. 331 (1996)], it was held that the allegation in the complaint that there was unlawful withholding of possession is sufficient to make out a case for unlawful detainer. It is equally settled that in an action for unlawful detainer, an allegation that the defendant is unlawfully withholding possession from the plaintiff is deemed sufficient, without necessarily employing the terminology of the law.

Hence, the phrase "unlawful withholding" has been held to imply possession on the part of defendant, which was legal in the beginning, having no other source than a contract, express or implied, and which later expired as a right and is being withheld by defendant. In Rosanna B. Barba v. Court of Appeals [426 Phil. 598 (2002)], we held that a simple allegation that the defendant is unlawfully withholding possession from plaintiff is sufficient.

Such being the case, the remedy of ejectment was properly availed of by the private respondents as based on the allegations in their complaint.

As a general rule, the main issue in an ejectment suit is possession de facto, not possession de jure.

Verily, in ejectment cases, the word "possession" means nothing more than actual physical possession, not legal possession, in the sense contemplated in civil law. The only issue in such cases is who is entitled to the physical or material possession of the property involved, independent of any claim of ownership set forth by any of the party-litigants.25 It does not even matter if the party's title to property is questionable.26

Over and over again we have held that in ejectment proceedings courts must resolve only the issue of who is entitled to the physical possession of the premises.27 The question of possession is primordial while the issue of ownership is unessential.28

In Gayoso v. Twenty-Two Realty Development Corporation,29 we have ruled:

It is basic that a court's jurisdiction is provided by law. Section 33 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, as amended, provides in part:

SEC. 33. Jurisdiction of Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts in Civil Cases. - Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts shall exercise:

x x x

(2) Exclusive original jurisdiction over cases of forcible entry and unlawful detainer: Provided, That when, in such cases, the defendant raises the question of ownership in his pleadings and the question of possession cannot be resolved without deciding the question of ownership, the issue of ownership shall be resolved only to determine the issue of possession. (Emphasis supplied.)

We explained the same matter at length in Dizon v. Court of Appeals30:

Well-settled is the rule that in an ejectment suit, the only issue is possession de facto or physical or material possession and not possession de jure. So that, even if the question of ownership is raised in the pleadings, as in this case, the court may pass upon such issue but only to determine the question of possession especially if the former is inseparably linked with the latter. It cannot dispose with finality the issue of ownership - such issue being inutile in an ejectment suit except to throw light on the question of possession. This is why the issue of ownership or title is generally immaterial and foreign to an ejectment suit.

Detainer, being a mere quieting process, questions raised on real property are incidentally discussed.ςηαñrοblεš  Î½Î¹r†υαl  lαω  lιbrαrÿ

In fact, any evidence of ownership is expressly banned by Sec. 4 of Rule 70 except to resolve the question of possession. Thus, all that the court may do, is to make an initial determination of who is the owner of the property so that it can resolve who is entitled to its possession absent other evidence to resolve the latter. But such determination of ownership is not clothed with finality. Neither will it affect ownership of the property nor constitute a binding and conclusive adjudication on the merits with respect to the issue of ownership. x x x.

Section 18, Rule 70 of the 1997 Revised Rules of Court provides an instructive guideline on the effect of any declaration of ownership made in an ejectment proceeding:

SEC. 18. Judgment conclusive only on possession; not conclusive in actions involving title or ownership. - The judgment rendered in an action for forcible entry or detainer shall be conclusive with respect to the possession only and shall in no wise bind the title or affect the ownership of the land or building. Such judgment shall not bar an action between the same parties respecting title to the land or building.

Thus, we underscored in that case of Tecson v. Gutierrez,31

[B]efore us is only the initial determination of ownership over the lot in dispute, for the purpose of settling the issue of possession, although the issue of ownership is inseparably linked thereto. As such, the lower court's adjudication of ownership in the ejectment case is merely provisional, and our affirmance of the trial courts' decisions as well, would not bar or prejudice an action between the same parties involving title to the property, if and when such action is brought seasonably before the proper forum.

Based on the foregoing postulates, the finding that private respondents, being holders of a title to the subject property, have a better right to the possession thereof, must not be taken as a conclusive determination of their ownership nor confirmation of private respondents' title to the said property. In an appropriate proceeding before the appropriate court having jurisdiction, petitioners may still have the sale of the subject property to private respondents annulled, and the latter's title cancelled if petitioners' case is truly meritorious.

Additionally, it must also be remembered that the subject property is registered under the Torrens System in the names of the private respondents whose title to the property is presumed legal and cannot be collaterally attacked, less so in an action for unlawful detainer. Under Section 48 of Presidential Decree No. 1529,32 a certificate of title shall not be subject to collateral attack. It cannot be altered, modified or cancelled, except in a direct proceeding for that purpose in accordance with law. The issue of the validity of the title of the private respondents can only be assailed in an action expressly instituted for that purpose. The subject of ownership over the property is beyond the power of the court a quo to determine in an action for unlawful detainer.33

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant petition is DENIED for lack of merit and the Decision of the Court of Appeals dated 25 January 2007 and its Resolution dated 29 March 2001 are AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioners.

SO ORDERED.

Endnotes:


1 Penned by Associate Justice Remedios A. Salazar-Fernando with Associate Justices Romeo A. Brawner and Juan Q. Enriquez, Jr., concurring; rollo, p. 39.

2 Penned by Presiding Judge Ma. Luisa Quijano-Padilla, CA rollo, pp. 36-38.

3 Rollo, p. 50.

4 Penned by Judge Joselito Generoso, id. at 39-41.

5 CA rollo, p. 54.

6 POWER OF ATTORNEY

KNOW ALL MEN BY THIS PRESENT:

I, BELEN ESER PASCUAL, of legal age, married, at present staying at 16805 Cashell Road, Olney, Maryland 20832, U.S.A., do hereby constitute and appoint LUZ E. TABING; of legal age, married, at present staying at 591 Facundo Street, Pasay City, Manila, Philippines, to be the true and lawful attorney, for me and in my name, place, and stead, to do and perform the following acts and things to wit:

To execute Deed of Absolute Sale of a real estate property specifically described as:

Parcel of land covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. RT-21083 (142311) x x x.

To receive the purchase price of FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS (P400,000), net, the Capital Gain tax and other incidental expenses resulting from this Deed of Absolute Sale shall be shoulder by the Buyer;

To divide the above proceeds into four (4) equal parts;

To remit one (1) part into my account here in the U.S.A. (CA rollo, p. 42.)

7 CA rollo, p. 42.

8 Id. at 139-140.

9 Id. at 40-41.

10 Annex B.

11 Annex C of the Complaint.

12 Philippine National Bank v. Animas, 203 Phil. 101, 106 (1982).

13 CA rollo, p. 41.

14 Id. at 38.

15 Rollo, p. 112.

16 Alvarez v. Court of Appeals, 455 Phil. 864, 875 (2003).

17 The jurisdiction of this Court in a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the revised Rules of Court is limited to reviewing only errors of law, not of fact, unless it is shown, inter alia, that: (a) the conclusion is grounded entirely on speculations, surmises and conjectures; (b) the inference is manifestly mistaken, absurd and impossible; (c) there is grave abuse of discretion; (d) the judgment is based on a misapplication of facts; (e) the findings of fact of the trial court and the appellate court are contradicted by the evidence on record; and (f) the Court of Appeals went beyond the issues of the case and its findings are contrary to the admissions of both parties. (China Banking Corporation v. Dyne-Sem Electronics Corporation, G.R. No. 149237, 11 July 2006, 494 SCRA 493, 499.)

18 Security Bank and Trust Company v. Gan, G.R. No. 150464, 27 June 2006, 493 SCRA 239, 242-243.

19 Alcaraz v. Tangga-an, 449 Phil. 63, 70 (2003).

20 Santos v. Ayon, G.R. No. 137013, 6 May 2005, 458 SCRA 83, 90.

21 CA rollo, pp. 54-55.

22 Id. at 52.

23 Barba v. Court of Appeals, 426 Phil. 598, 606 (2002).

24 G.R. No. 132197, 16 August 2005, 467 SCRA 35, 46.

25 Lao v. Lao, G.R. No. 149599, 16 May 2005, 458 SCRA 539, 546.

26 Pajuyo v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 146364, 3 June 2004, 430 SCRA 492, 510.

27 Id.

28 Fige v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 107951, 30 July 1994, 233 SCRA 586, 590.

29 G.R. No. 147874, 17 July 2006, 495 SCRA 295, 298-299.

30 332 Phil. 429, 432-433 (1996); National Onion Growers Cooperative Marketing Association, Inc. v. Lo, G.R. No. 141493, 28 July 2004, 435 SCRA 359, 362.

31 G.R. No. 152978, 4 March 2005, 452 SCRA 781, 788, citing Sps. Anicete v. Balanon, 450 Phil. 615, 621 (2003); Co. v. Militar, G.R. No. 149912, 29 January 2004, 421 SCRA 455, 459.

32 SEC. 48. Certificate not subject to collateral attack. - A certificate of title shall not be subject to collateral attack. It cannot be altered, modified, or cancelled except in a direct proceeding in accordance with law.

33 Apostol v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 125375, 17 June 2004, 432 SCRA 351, 358-359.

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