G.R. No. 172293, August 28, 2013 - ARACELI J. CABRERA AND ARNEL CABRERA AND IN BEHALF OF THE HEIRS OF SEVERINO CABRERA, Petitioners, v. ANGELA G. FRANCISCO, FELIPE C. GELLA, VICTOR C. GELLA, ELENA LEILANI G. REYES, MA. RIZALINA G. ILIGAN AND DIANA ROSE GELLA, Respondents.
G.R. No. 172293, August 28, 2013
ARACELI J. CABRERA AND ARNEL CABRERA AND IN BEHALF OF THE HEIRS OF SEVERINO CABRERA, Petitioners, v. ANGELA G. FRANCISCO, FELIPE C. GELLA, VICTOR C. GELLA, ELENA LEILANI G. REYES, MA. RIZALINA G. ILIGAN AND DIANA ROSE GELLA, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
DEL CASTILLO, J.:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the [respondents’] Motion to Dismiss is granted. Consequently, this case is hereby DISMISSED. Costs against the [petitioners].Petitioners filed a Notice of Appeal,18 hence, the elevation of the records of the case to the CA.
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing premises, judgment is hereby rendered by us DISMISSING the appeal filed in this case and AFFIRMING the [Order] rendered by [the] lower court in Civil Case No. 2001-9-3267 with double costs against [petitioners].Petitioners filed a Motion for Reconsideration22 questioning solely the CA’s affirmance of the RTC’s finding on lack of jurisdiction. This was, however, also denied in a Resolution23 dated April 5, 2006.
x x x In the instant case, the plaintiffs’ complaint does not even mention specifically the amount of their demand outside of their claim for damages and attorney’s fees. They are only demanding the payment of their alleged commission/compensation and that of the late Severino Cabrera which they fixed at 5% of Lot No. 1782-B allegedly with an area of 24 hectares. They did not also state the total monetary value of Lot 1782-B neither did they mention the monetary equivalent of 5% of Lot No. 1782-B. In short, the complaint fails to establish that this Court has jurisdiction over the subject matter of the claim.Clearly, petitioners’ claim that the RTC merely adopted the arguments of respondents in their Motion to Dismiss when it resolved the same is belied by the above-quoted disquisition of the RTC on the matter and therefore deserves no credence.
As the tax declaration covering Lot No. 1782-B has been attached to the complaint as Annex “C” and made an integral part thereof, the court, in its desire to determine whether it has jurisdiction over the subject matter of plaintiff’s claim computed the total market value of Lot No. 1782-B, including the value of the trees and the plants standing thereon, as appearing in said Annex “C”. The computation shows the amount of P3,508,370.00. Five percent thereof is P175,418.50. It is way below the jurisdictional amount for the Regional Trial Court outside Metro Manila which is pegged at more than P200,000. Clearly, therefore, this [C]ourt has no jurisdiction over the subject matter of the plaintiff’s complaint as correctly contended by the defendants.29
x x x x
A careful scrutiny of the complaint in this case reveals that it is bereft of any allegation that Lot No. 1782-B or any portion thereof has already been sold thru the plaintiffs’ efforts prior to the alleged dismissal as agents or brokers of the defendants. As they failed to sell Lot No. 1782-B or any portion thereof, then they are not entitled to any commission, assuming in gratia argumenti that they were promised 5% commission by defendants should they be able to sell Lot No. 1782-B or any part or parcel of the said lot.
Besides, the court notices that the appointment of the plaintiffs’ father (Annex “A”-Complaint) does not state in any manner that he is entitled to a compensation or commission when it is supposed to be the repository of what had been agreed upon between him and Atty. Lorenzo C. Gella, relative [to] his designation as administrator of Atty. Gella. As such, the plaintiffs cannot claim now that Severino Cabrera is entitled to any compensation or commission as Annex “A” does not so provide.30
x x x x
An examination of the records of this case reveals that there is nothing in plaintiffs’ complaint showing that they were empowered by the other heirs of the late Severino Cabrera to take this action on their behalf. x x x31
SEC. 19. Jurisdiction in Civil Cases. – Regional Trial Courts shall exercise exclusive original jurisdiction:Insisting that the RTC has jurisdiction over their Complaint, petitioners contend that the same is one which is incapable of pecuniary estimation or involves interest in a real property the assessed value of which exceeds P200,000.00.
(1) In all civil actions in which the subject of the litigation is incapable of pecuniary estimation; (2) In all civil actions which involve the title to, or possession of, real property, or any interest therein, where the assessed value of the property involved exceeds twenty thousand pesos (P20,000.00) or for civil actions in Metro Manila, where such value exceeds Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) except actions for forcible entry into and unlawful detainer of lands or buildings, original jurisdiction over which is conferred upon the Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts;
x x x x
x x x xThe Court in Ungria v. Court of Appeals37 restated the criterion laid down in Singson v. Isabela Sawmill38 to ascertain if an action is capable or not of pecuniary estimation, viz:
2. That on October 25, 1976 the defendants’ father the late Atty. Lorenzo Gella, x x x designated x x x Severino Cabrera as agent or [administrator of all his real properties located in San Jose, Antique] x x x.
3. That said Severino Cabrera immediately assumed his duties and responsibilities faithfully as agent or administrator until his death in 1991 of the properties of Lorenzo Gella in San Jose, Antique consisting of about 24 hectares x x x [which later] became Lot No. 1782-B in the name of the defendants, covered by T.C.T. No. T-16987, Register of Deeds of Antique x x x.
4. That after the death of said Severino Cabrera in 1991, with the consent of the defendants, his wife took over his duties and responsibilities as agent or administratrix of the above-named properties of the defendants in San Jose, Antique with the help of her son, Arnel Cabrera as ‘encargado’ and the plaintiffs were also instructed by the defendants to look for buyers of their properties and plaintiffs were promised by defendants a commission of five percent of the total purchase price of the said properties as compensation for their long and continued administration of all the said properties.
5. That sometime in 1994 plaintiffs approached the real estate broker Erlinda Veñegas to sell the above-described Lot No. 1782-B and the plaintiffs gave her the addresses of the defendants who at all times live in Metro Manila[. T]hereafter defendants agreed to have the said property developed by ESV Marketing & Development Corporation represented by its President, said Erlinda Veñegas and defendants also designated said Erlinda Veñegas as administratrix of said property and at the same time defendants dismissed plaintiffs as agents or administrators thereof;
6. That on August 1, 2001 plaintiffs, through counsel wrote defendants demanding payment of their five percent of twenty four hectares properties under their administration for twenty five years in [the] form [of] real estate in [the] subdivision of Lot 1782-B as their compensation or commission, but defendants refused and failed to pay plaintiffs in cash or in kind of what is due them;
7. That in view of the aforesaid failure and refusal of defendants to pay their compensation or commission and instead they were dismissed and replaced by the said Erlinda Veñegas they themselves recommended to defendants, the plaintiffs have suffered public humiliation, mental anguish, and serious anxiety for which plaintiffs should be adjudged and entitled to moral damages in the sum of not less than Php100,000.00 each.
8. That defendants’ ingratitude and unjustified refusal to pay plaintiffs x x x their compensation or commission for twenty five years service as administrators and had successfully found [a] developer of defendants’ property but only to be dismissed, plaintiffs were compelled to institute this action and incur expenses as well as attorney’s fees in the sum of Php100,000.00.
WHEREFORE, it is respectfully prayed that after due hearing, judgment be rendered against defendants jointly and severally in favor of the plaintiffs, as follows:
a. To pay plaintiffs their compensation or commission in [the] form of real estate from Lot No. 1782-B subdivision equivalent to five percent of twenty four hectares properties under their administration;
b. To pay plaintiffs moral damages in the amount of not less than Php100,000.00 each;
c. Attorney’s fee and litigation expenses in the amount of not less than Php100,000.00 each and pay the costs of suit
x x x x36 (Italics and Emphases supplied)
In determining whether an action is one the subject matter of which is not capable of pecuniary estimation this Court has adopted the criterion of first ascertaining the nature of the principal action or remedy sought. If it is primarily for the recovery of a sum of money, the claim is considered capable of pecuniary estimation, and whether jurisdiction is in the municipal courts or in the [C]ourts of [F]irst [I]nstance would depend on the amount of the claim. However, where the basic issue is something other than the right to recover a sum of money, where the money claim is purely incidental to, or a consequence of, the principal relief sought, this Court has considered such actions as cases where the subject of the litigation may not be estimated in terms of money, and are cognizable exclusively by [C]ourts of [F]irst [I]nstance (now Regional Trial Courts).It can be readily seen from the allegations in the Complaint that petitioners’ main purpose in filing the same is to collect the commission allegedly promised them by respondents should they be able to sell Lot No. 1782-B, as well as the compensation for the services rendered by Severino, Araceli and Arnel for the administration of respondents’ properties. Captioned as a Complaint for Collection of Agent’s Compensation, Commission and Damages, it is principally for the collection of a sum of money representing such compensation and commission. Indeed, the payment of such money claim is the principal relief sought and not merely incidental to, or a consequence of another action where the subject of litigation may not be estimated in terms of money. In fact, petitioners in this case estimated their claim to be equivalent to five percent of the purchase price of Lot No. 1782-B. Therefore, the CA did not err when it ruled that petitioners’ Complaint is not incapable of pecuniary estimation.
As to their weak claim of interest over the property, it is apparent that their only interest is to be compensated for their long-term administration of the properties. They do not claim an interest in the properties themselves but merely payment for their services, such payment they compute to be equivalent to five (5%) percent of the value of the properties. Under Section 1, Rule 4 of the Rules of Court, a real action is an action affecting title to or possession of real property, or interest therein. These include partition or condemnation of, or foreclosure of mortgage on, real property. Plaintiffs-appellants’ interest is obviously not the one contemplated under the rules on jurisdiction.40Petitioners’ demand is below the jurisdictional amount required for RTCs outside of Metro Manila, hence, the RTC concerned in this case has no jurisdiction over petitioners’ Complaint.
SEC. 19. Jurisdiction in Civil Cases. – Regional Trial Courts shall exercise exclusive original jurisdiction:This jurisdictional amount of exceeding P100,000.00 for RTC’s outside of Metro Manila was adjusted to P200,000.00 effective March 20, 1999 in pursuance to Section 5 of RA 769141 which further provides:
x x x x
(8) In all other cases in which the demand, exclusive of interests, damages of whatever kind, attorney’s fees, litigation expenses, and costs or the value of the property exceeds One hundred thousand pesos (P100,000.00) or, in such other cases in Metro Manila, where the demand, exclusive of the abovementioned items exceeds Two hundred thousand pesos (P200,000.00).
SEC. 5. After five (5) years from the effectivity of this Act, the jurisdictional amounts mentioned in Sec. 19(3), (4), and (8); and Sec. 33(1) of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129 as amended by this Act, shall be adjusted to Two hundred thousand pesos (P200,000.00). Five (5) years thereafter, such jurisdictional amounts shall be adjusted further to Three hundred thousand pesos (P300,000.00): Provided, however, That in the case of Metro Manila, the abovementioned jurisdictional amounts shall be adjusted after five (5) years from the effectivity of this Act to Four hundred thousand pesos (P400,000.00).Hence, when petitioners filed their Complaint on September 3, 2001, the said increased jurisdictional amount was already effective. The demand in their Complaint must therefore exceed P200,000.00 in order for it to fall under the jurisdiction of the RTC.
2. The exclusion of the term "damages of whatever kind" in determining the jurisdictional amount under Section 19 (8) and Section 33 (1) of B.P. Blg. 129, as amended by R.A. No. 7691, applies to cases where the damages are merely incidental to or a consequence of the main cause of action. However, in cases where the claim for damages is the main cause of action, or one of the causes of action, the amount of such claim shall be considered in determining the jurisdiction of the court.Here, the moral damages being claimed by petitioners are merely the consequence of respondents’ alleged non-payment of commission and compensation the collection of which is petitioners’ main cause of action. Thus, the said claim for moral damages cannot be included in determining the jurisdictional amount.
* Per Special Order No. 1525 dated August 22, 2013.
1Padlan v. Dinglasan, G.R. No. 180321, March 20, 2013.
2Rollo, pp. 8-20.
3 CA rollo, pp. 102-109; penned by Associate Justice Isaias P. Dicdican and concurred in by Associate Justices Sesinando E. Villon and Enrico A. Lanzanas.
4 Records, pp. 42-47; penned by Judge Rudy P. Castrojas.
5 Id. at 14-21.
6 Id. at 1-5.
7 CA rollo, pp. 124-125; penned by Associate Justice Isaias P. Dicdican and concurred in by Associate Justices Ramon M. Bato, Jr. and Enrico A. Lanzanas.
8 Id. at 112-114.
9 Records, p. 6.
10 Id. at 7.
11 Id. at 3.
12 Id. at 1-5.
13 Id. at 8.
14 Id. at 14-21.
15 Id. at 5.
16 Id. at 42-47.
17 Id. at 47.
18 Id. at 48.
19 SEC. 3. Representatives as parties. – Where the action is allowed to be prosecuted or defended by a representative or someone acting in a fiduciary capacity, the beneficiary shall be included in the title of the case and shall be deemed to be the real party in interest. A representative may be a trustee of an express trust, a guardian, an executor or administrator, or a party authorized by law or these Rules. An agent acting in his own name and for the benefit of an undisclosed principal may sue or be sued without joining the principal except when the contract involves things belonging to the principal.
20 CA rollo, pp. 102-109.
21 Id. at 109.
22 Id. at 112-114.
23 Id. at 124-125.
24 429 Phil. 626, 633 (2002).
25 Article 1875 of the CIVIL CODE provides: “Agency is presumed to be for a compensation, unless there is proof to the contrary.”
26Rollo, p. 62.
27Cerezo v. People, G.R. No. 185230, June 1, 2011, 650 SCRA 222, 229.
28 Opposition to Motion to Dismiss, records, pp. 23-24; Reply (To Plaintiff’s Opposition to Motion to Dismiss dated 02 January 2002), id. at 27-29; Rejoinder, id. at 32-33; Sur-Rejoinder (Re: Motion to Dismiss dated 11 December 2001), id at. 34-36.
29 Id. at 45.
30 Id. at 46.
32 OTHERWISE KNOWN AS THE JUDICIARY REORGANIZATION ACT OF 1980.
33 AN ACT EXPANDING THE JURISDICTION OF THE METROPOLITAN TRIAL COURTS, MUNICIPAL TRIAL COURTS, AND MUNICIPAL CIRCUIT TRIAL COURTS, AMENDING FOR THE PURPOSE BATAS PAMBANSA BLG. 129.
34Padlan v. Dinglasan, supra note 1.
36 Records, pp. 2-4.
37 G.R. No. 165777, July 25, 2011, 654 SCRA 314, 324-325.
38 177 Phil. 575, 588-589 (1979).
39 Records, p. 6.
40 CA rollo, p. 106.
41 See Supreme Court Circular No. 21-99 dated April 15, 1999.
42 Records, p. 8; not P3,508,370.00 as computed by the RTC.
43Hilario v. Salvador, 497 Phil. 327, 336 (2005).
44Philippine Commercial International Bank v. Abad, 492 Phil. 657, 667-668 (2005).