G.R. No. 196219, July 30, 2014
SPOUSES MAURICIO M. TABINO AND LEONILA DELA CRUZ-TABINO, Petitioners, v. LAZARO M. TABINO, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
DEL CASTILLO, J.:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant Protest should be as it is hereby “DENIED” for lack of merit. The Miscellaneous Sales Application filed by Mauricio Tabino over Lot 2, Block 255, Zone 12, Group 190, Sampaguita St., Pembo, Makati should now be given due course by this Office. x x x14
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Protest lodged before this Office on 21 January 2005 by Leonila Tabino and Adrian Tabino as against the Application of Lazaro/Rafael Tabino over Lot 3, Blk. 255, Zone 12, Pembo, Makati City is, as it is hereby “GRANTED”. As a consequence, the MSA (Unnumbered) of Rafael H. Tabino is hereby CANCELLED and DROPPED from the records of the Office. Thus, the Order dated July 16, 2004 re: Cancellation Order No. 04-032 should be, as it is hereby SET ASIDE. After the finality of this Decision, Claimant-Protestant Adrian Tabino may now file his land application over the subject lot.
The only issue to be resolved in this action to recover possession of the subject property is the question on who is entitled to the physical or material possession of the premises. In ejectment cases, the word “possession” means nothing more than physical possession, not legal possession, in the sense contemplated in civil law.
It is undisputed that the revocable permit extended to the plaintiff was to occupy a parcel of land with an area of 150 square meters. Suffice it to say that beyond the 150 square meters would be contrary to the permit extended to the plaintiff to occupy the lot. Plaintiff therefore, would violate the provisions of the revocable permit if he goes beyond what was specified therein or up to 150 square meters. When the land was declared open pursuant to the provisions of Republic Act No. 274 and Republic Act No. 730 both parties applied in their respective name pursuant to the size of the land which they are permitted. Since then defendants have been in possession of the subject property up to the present pursuant to the permit to occupy the subject land. Furthermore, defendants had acquired the property in their own name, a valid claim to establish possession.
Plaintiff’s contention that defendants’ stay on the premises is by mere tolerance is devoid of merit. Well-established is the rule that findings of administrative agencies are accorded not only respect but also finality when the decision or order is not tainted with unfairness or arbitrariness that would amount to grave abuse of discretion. The order dated August 28, 2007 by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources affirming its previous decision in Case No. 2004-821 dated June 13, 2006 clearly stating therein that defendants are awardees of Lot 2, Block 255, Zone 12, Sampaguita Street, Pembo, Makati City, are accorded with respect and finality. Truly, defendants are rightful possessors of the subject property.
x x x x
WHEREFORE, above premises considered, the complaint as well as defendants’ counterclaim are hereby ordered Dismissed. No costs.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the decision of the Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 64, Makati City dated April 4, 2008 in Civil Case No. 85043 is hereby AFFIRMED in TOTO.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant petition for review is GRANTED. The assailed decisions of the RTC and the MeTC are hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The ejectment suit filed by the petitioner against the respondents over Lot Nos. 2 and 3 is GRANTED. Accordingly, the respondents are ordered to vacate the subject premises.
1. CAN THE FINDINGS OF FACTS BY THE DENR IN RESOLVING CONFLICTING CLAIMS AS TO WHO HAS A BETTER RIGHT OF POSSESSION BETWEEN PETITIONERS AND RESPONDENT OVER SUBJECT PARCELS OF LOT BE NULLIFIED BY THE COURT UNDER AN EJECTMENT CASE?
2. HAS THE COURT VALIDLY ACQUIRED JURISDICTION TO HEAR AND ADJUDICATE ON REVIEW THE FINDINGS OF FACTS BY AN ADMINISTRATIVE BODY WITHOUT HAVING ADMINISTRATIVE REMEDIES FIRST EXHAUSTED?
3. HAS RESPONDENT VIOLATED THE RULE AGAINST FORUM- SHOPPING IN FILING EJECTMENT CASE AGAINST PETITIONERS DURING THE PENDENCY OF THE MISCELLANEOUS SALES APPLICATION CASES BEFORE THE DENR WHICH ADMINISTRATIVE BODY, IN EXERCISE OF ITS QUASI-JUDICIAL FUNCTION, HAS FIRST ACQUIRED JURISDICTION OVER THE SAME PARTIES, SAME SUBJECT MATTER AND SAME ISSUES OF FACT AND LAW?26
The DENR Secretary, acting through the OIC, Assistant Secretary for Legal Services, denied the appeal on the basis that upon findings of the Regional Executive Director, Mauricio has all the qualifications and none of the disqualifications based on the disposition of Public Lands. The DENR further ruled that upon ocular inspection made, it was ascertained that 1) per records, Mauricio is a survey claimant of Lot 2, Block 255, Psd-a3-0054204 with an area of 184 sq.m. situated in Pembo, Makati City; 2) that the land is residential in nature, a house stands erected in said area where Mauricio and his family reside; 3) that a portion of the said area is being utilized as a carinderia and a sari-sari store as their family’s business; 4) that Mauricio is occupying the area since 1985 up to the present; 5) that Lazaro Tabino (petitioner) is actually residing in Quezon City; and, 6) the Yvonne Josephine Tabino, petitioner Lazaro Tabino and Rafael Tabino are bonafide residents of Quezon City for no less than twenty years, per Certification of Barangay Chairman Almario Francisco on 2 September 2004 of Barangay San Agustin, Novaliches, Quezon City. Further, the DENR held that the above findings were never refuted by the petitioner.
On this point, it is worth stressing that the courts generally accord great respect, if not finality, to factual findings of administrative agencies because of their special knowledge and expertise over matters falling under their jurisdiction. Echoing the explanation of the private respondent DENR, citing the case of Ortua vs. Encarnacion, the findings of facts of the Director of Land (now the Regional Director) is conclusive in the absence of any showing that such decision was rendered in consequence of fraud, imposition or mistake, other than error of judgment in estimating the value or effect of evidence, regardless of whether or not it is consistent with the preponderance of evidence, so long as there is some evidence upon which the findings in question could be made.
Moreover, notwithstanding the issue of physical possession having been ruled upon by the Court in CA-G.R. SP No. 107957, it is well to note that in the case of Estrella vs. Robles, it was explained that the Bureau of Lands determines the respective rights of rival claimants to public lands, but it does not have the wherewithal to police public lands. Neither does it have the means to prevent disorders or breaches of the peace among the occupants. Its power is clearly limited to disposition and alienation and any power to decide disputes over possession is but in aid of making the proper awards.
x x x x
In disposing of the case of Estrella, the Supreme Court held that, “Under the Public Land Act, the Director of Lands primarily and the DENR Secretary ultimately have the authority to dispose of and manage public lands. And while the DENR’s jurisdiction over public lands does not negate the authority of courts of justice to resolve questions of possession, the DENR’s decision would prevail with regard to the respective rights of public land claimants. Regular courts would have no jurisdiction to inquire into the validity of the award of the public land.”
Under the circumstances, the Court finds no reason to disturb the ruling of public respondent DENR in its disposition of the subject property.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED.
We agree with the respondents and dismiss the petition for petitioners’ failure to exhaust administrative remedies.
The doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies is a cornerstone of Our judicial system. The thrust of the rule is that courts must allow administrative agencies to carry out their functions and discharge their responsibilities within the specialized areas of their respective competence. The rationale for this doctrine is obvious. It entails lesser expenses and provides for the speedier resolution of controversies. Comity and convenience also impel courts of justice to shy away from a dispute until the system of administrative redress has been completed.
Another important reason for the doctrine of exhaustion is the separation of powers, which enjoins the Judiciary a becoming policy of non-interference with matters coming primarily (albeit not exclusively) within the competence of the other departments. The theory is that the administrative authorities are in a better position to resolve questions addressed to their particular expertise and that errors committed by subordinates in their resolution may be rectified by their superiors if given a chance to do so. Strict enforcement of the rule could also relieve the courts of a considerable number of avoidable cases which otherwise would burden their heavily loaded dockets.
Thus, the party with an administrative remedy must not only commence with the prescribed administrative procedure to obtain relief but also pursue it to its appropriate conclusion before seeking judicial intervention to give the administrative agency an opportunity to decide the matter itself correctly and prevent unnecessary and premature resort to the court. The non-observance of the doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies results in lack of cause of action, which is one of the grounds in the Rules of Court justifying the dismissal of the complaint.
Indeed, the doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies admits of exceptions, but none of these apply in this case. Consequently, Lazaro and Rafael should have first appealed to the Office of the President, which has the power to review the orders or acts of the DENR Secretary, being his subordinate, before coming to Us through a petition for review. x x x
x x x x
FOR THESE REASONS, We DISMISS the petition.
Only in rare instances is suspension allowed to await the outcome of a pending civil action. In Vda. de Legaspi v. Avendaño, and Amagan v. Marayag, we ordered the suspension of the ejectment proceedings on considerations of equity. We explained that the ejectment of petitioners therein would mean a demolition of their house and would create confusion, disturbance, inconvenience, and expense. Needlessly, the court would be wasting much time and effort by proceeding to a stage wherein the outcome would at best be temporary but the result of enforcement would be permanent, unjust and probably irreparable.32
x x x Where the action, therefore, [is] one of illegal detainer, as distinguished from one of forcible entry, and the right of the plaintiff to recover the premises is seriously placed in issue in a proper judicial proceeding, it is more equitable and just and less productive of confusion and disturbance of physical possession, with all its concomitant inconvenience and expenses. For the Court in which the issue of legal possession, whether involving ownership or not, is brought to restrain, should a petition for preliminary injunction be filed with it, the effects of any order or decision in the unlawful detainer case in order to await the final judgment in the more substantive case involving legal possession or ownership. It is only where there has been forcible entry that as a matter of public policy the right to physical possession should be immediately set at rest in favor of the prior possession regardless of the fact that the other party might ultimately be found to have superior claim to the premises involved, thereby to discourage any attempt to recover possession thru force, strategy or stealth and without resorting to the courts.34
As a general rule, an ejectment suit cannot be abated or suspended by the mere filing before the regional trial court (RTC) of another action raising ownership of the property as an issue. As an exception, however, unlawful detainer actions may be suspended even on appeal, on considerations of equity, such as when the demolition of petitioners’ house would result from the enforcement of the municipal circuit trial court (MCTC) judgment.36
1Rollo, pp. 3-19.
2 Id. at 160-170; penned by Associate Justice Amelita G. Tolentino and concurred in by Associate Justices Normandie B. Pizarro and Ruben C. Ayson.
3 Id. at 172-173; penned by Associate Justice Amelita G. Tolentino and concurred in by Associate Justices Normandie B. Pizarro and Elihu A. Ybañez.
4 Excluding From The Operation Of Proclamation No. 423 Dated July 12, 1957 Which Established The Military Reservation Known As “Fort William Mckinley” (Now Fort Andres Bonifacio) Situated In The Municipalities Of Pasig, Taguig, Pateros And Parañaque, Province Of Rizal And Pasay City (Now Metropolitan Manila) As Amended By Proclamation No. 2475 Dated January 7, 1986, Certain Portions Of Land Embraced Therein Known As Barangays Cembo, South Cembo, West Rembo, East Rembo, Comembo, Pembo And Pitogo, Situated In The Municipality Of Makati, Metropolitan Manila And Declaring The Same Open For Disposition Under The Provisions Of Republic Act No. 274, And Republic Act No. 730 In Relation To The Provisions Of The Public Land Act, As Amended. Dated January 31, 1990.
5 Reserving For Military Purposes Certain Parcels Of The Public Domain Situated In The Municipalities Of Pasig, Taguig, Parañaque, Province Of Rizal And Pasay City. Dated July 12, 1957.
6 An Act Authorizing The Director Of Lands To Subdivide The Lands Within Military Reservations Belonging To The Republic Of The Philippines Which Are No Longer Needed For Military Purposes, And To Dispose Of The Same By Sale Subject To Certain Conditions, And For Other Purposes. Approved on June 15, 1948.
7 An Act To Permit The Sale Without Public Auction Of Public Lands Of The Republic Of The Philippines For Residential Purposes To Qualified Applicants Under Certain Conditions. Approved on June 18, 1952.
8 The Public Land Act.
9Rollo, pp. 79-85.
10 Id. at 56.
11 Id. at 59.
12 Id. at 20-22; respondent’s Complaint.
13 Id. at 27-31.
14 Id. at 102.
15 Id. at 102-104.
16 Id. at 105-109.
17 Id. at 109.
18 Id. at 111-113; penned by Judge Ronald B. Moreno.
19 Id. at 112-113.
20 Docketed as Civil Case No. 08-635 and assigned to Branch 150 of the Regional Trial Court of Makati City.
21Rollo, pp. 138-144; penned by Judge Elmo N. Alameda.
22 Id. at 144.
23 Id. at 145-151.
24 Id. at 23-24.
25 Id. at 169.
26 Id. at 7.
27 Id. at 192-196.
28 Id. at 184-190.
29 Penned by Associate Justice Romeo F. Barza and concurred in by Associate Justices Hakim S. Abdulwahid and Ramon A. Cruz.
30 Penned by Associate Justice Mario V. Lopez and concurred in by Associate Justices Jose C. Reyes, Jr. and Socorro B. Inting.
31 G.R. No. 176413, November 25, 2009, 605 SCRA 478.
32 Id. at 484.
33 169 Phil. 138 (1977).
34 Id. at 146-147.
35 383 Phil. 486 (2000).
36 Id. at 489-490.