[G.R. NO. 157604 October 19, 2005]
GEORGE V. BENEDICTO, Petitioner, v. HON. COURT OF APPEALS and ROMEO G. CHUA, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
This special civil action for certiorari and prohibition seeks to annul the Resolution,1 dated March 21, 2003, of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 73919 for grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.
The antecedent facts, as culled from the records, are as follows:
Petitioner George V. Benedicto is the owner of a parcel of land with an area of 736 square meters located in Carlos Hilado Highway, Bacolod City. He entered into a contract of lease with private respondent Romeo G. Chua on October 15, 2000. Under the contract, the lease was to start on November 15, 2000. The contract also stipulated that the rent would be
Chua immediately started constructing a hollow-block fence, conformably with paragraph 6 of their contract, to wit:
6. 'the Lessee may introduce any improvements and additions on the land, and at the termination of the lease, he may remove the same, except the fence surrounding and enclosing the property, the cost of which shall be equally divided into twenty-four (24) months and the amount thereof be deducted from the rent until the same shall have been completely set-off. '2
On November 13, 2000, Chua paid Benedicto
P28,000 representing deposit for one month and advance rent for three months. Thereafter, Chua failed to pay the rent prompting Benedicto to send a demand letter after a fruitless amicable settlement at the Office of Lupong Tagapamayapa.
Chua did not pay. Hence, Benedicto filed a case against Chua for unlawful detainer and damages, docketed as Civil Case No. 26881, with the Municipal Trial Court in Bacolod City, Branch 3. In turn, Chua filed with the same court a petition for consignation docketed as Civil Case No. 26911.
The MTCC dismissed the consignation case for lack of jurisdiction as the said case falls under the jurisdiction of the RTC. The MTCC found merit in the complaint for unlawful detainer and damages. It ordered Romeo G. Chua and all persons acting for and under him or on his behalf, (1) to immediately vacate or surrender possession of the leased premises to therein plaintiff; (2) to pay plaintiff
P19,500, covering the period from March 15, 2001 to August 14, 2001, and thereafter, the additional or further amount of P4,500 only per month until said premises was vacated and until the P2,500 monthly credit in favor of the defendant was exhausted reckoned from February 15, 2001 to January 14, 2003 whichever comes first; and (3) to pay the plaintiff the sum of P10,000 as attorney's fee and P5,000 for costs and other expenses.3
Chua appealed to the Regional Trial Court of Bacolod City, Branch 43. In its Decision,4 dated August 30, 2002, the RTC modified the MTCC judgment. It dismissed the case for consignation, for lack of tender of payment and prior notice; ordered Chua to immediately vacate or peacefully surrender possession to Benedicto; ordered the Clerk of Court of the Municipal Trial Court in the City of Bacolod to turn over to Benedicto
P46,500 and P18,000 upon presentation of the original receipts; ordered Benedicto to pay Chua P6,136.39 representing the remaining value of the improvement constructed by the former, which is the perimeter hollow block fence, and deliver to Chua P4,672.64 deposited by the latter with the aforementioned judicial authorities in the excess of the rental of the property as computed by the Court; and ordered Chua to pay Benedicto the P10,000, attorney's fees and P5,000 for cost and other expenses. The RTC also denied all other claims and counterclaims of the parties.5
On November 19, 2002, Chua filed with the Court of Appeals a Petition for Review with prayer for temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction.
Meanwhile, on November 22, 2002, in Civil Case No. 02-11643, the RTC of Bacolod City, Branch 43 issued a Writ of Execution.6
However, in view of the aforesaid Petition for Review , the Court of Appeals issued a temporary restraining order on December 23, 2002, enjoining the RTC of Bacolod City, Branch 43, from enforcing its Decision in Civil Case No. 02-11643.
Upon receipt of the said TRO, Presiding Judge Philadelfa B. Pagapong-Agraviador replied in a letter dated January 2, 2003 as follows:
Pertinent to your telegram dated December 23, 2002 received by the undersigned on the same date, please be informed that returns were made by Mr. Leoncio Yongque, Jr., Deputy Sheriff of this branch, on the partial execution of the Court's Decision dated August 30, 2002 in the aforementioned case. Attached for your ready reference are the following annexes:
A - Sheriff's return dated December 5, 2002;
B - Sheriff's return dated December 16, 2002;
C - Sheriff's return dated December 23, 2002.
Also attached is the undersigned's Memorandum to the branch sheriff enjoining him from fully implementing the Writ of Execution dated November 22, 2002.
[Concomitant] to your resolution granting defendant's application for a Temporary Restraining Order, there being no complete execution of the assailed decision, undersigned undertakes that no further execution shall be implemented until further order from your court.7
On April 4, 2003, Benedicto filed with the Court of Appeals an Urgent Manifestation and Motion to Dissolve/Quash Temporary Restraining Order8 on the ground that the TRO had already become moot and academic.
In his Comment9 to the said Manifestation and Motion, Chua replied that the writ of execution issued by the RTC had not been fully implemented because his properties and the improvements were still within the subject premises.
The Court of Appeals ruled on the said Manifestation and Motion, in its assailed Resolution of March 21, 2003, as follows:
IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING, let the writ of preliminary injunction be issued in this case upon the posting of a
P100,000.00 injunction bond restraining the respondents from prohibiting the petitioner from entering the subject premises and/or from conducting business thereon just like before the controversy between the parties had arisen. For this purpose, respondent is hereby ordered to remove anything that was placed to block the display room of the petitioner and to remove the padlock and to open the gate so that petitioner may resume his usual business in the premises, all pending resolution of the instant Petition for Review .
. . .
Clearly, the sole issue in this case is: Did the Court of Appeals commit grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in issuing the questioned writ of preliminary injunction, despite the immediately executory character of RTC judgments in ejectment cases?cralawlibrary
Herein petitioner Benedicto contends that the Court of Appeals committed grave abuse of discretion in issuing a preliminary injunction even if it was not prayed for. Granting arguendo that said provisional remedy was prayed for, Benedicto insists preliminary injunction does not lie as judgments of the RTC against the defendant in ejectment suits are immediately executory even pending appeal. Benedicto also argues that the issuance of the writ of preliminary injunction, in effect, disposed of the main case without trial. Benedicto further points out that the act sought to be enjoined by the preliminary injunction was already fait accompli.
For his part, Chua counters that the present petition cannot be resorted to without a prior motion for reconsideration to allow public respondent Court of Appeals to correct the error imputed to it. He also maintains that there was only partial delivery of possession to Benedicto; hence, the acts sought to be enjoined had not yet become fait accompli. Finally, Chua stresses that despite the executory character of the RTC judgment against the defendant in ejectment cases, injunctive relief may still be granted.
We find petitioner's arguments without sufficient basis.
First, a preliminary injunction may be granted even if not prayed for as long as the requisites therefor are present. More so if it is prayed for. Second, contrary to petitioner's contention, the questioned writ of preliminary injunction did not dispose of the main case without trial. The writ merely suspended the execution of the RTC judgment pending appeal. It bears stressing that the main case, subject of the Petition for Review , is still yet to be resolved by the Court of Appeals. Lastly, it is evident from Judge Pagapong-Agraviador's letter11 that the impugned judgment is not yet fully executed. Thus, the acts sought to be enjoined by the assailed writ of preliminary injunction are not yet fait accompli.
Rule 70, Section 21 of the Revised Rules of Court on Forcible Entry and Unlawful Detainer states:
Immediate execution on appeal to Court of Appeals or Supreme Court. - The judgment of the Regional Trial Court against the defendant shall be immediately executory, without prejudice to a further appeal that may be taken therefrom.
This section presupposes that the defendant in a forcible entry or unlawful detainer case is unsatisfied with the judgment of the Regional Trial Court and decides to appeal to a superior court. It authorizes the RTC to immediately issue a writ of execution without prejudice to the appeal taking its due course.12 It is our opinion that on appeal the appellate court may stay the said writ should circumstances so require.
In the case of Amagan v. Marayag,13 we reiterated our pronouncement in Vda. de Legaspi v. AvendaÃ±o14 that the proceedings in an ejectment case may be suspended in whatever stage it may be found. We further drew a fine line between forcible entry and unlawful detainer, thus:
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.15
Patently, even if RTC judgments in unlawful detainer cases are immediately executory, preliminary injunction may still be granted. There need only be clear showing that there exists a right to be protected and that the acts against which the writ is to be directed violate said right.16
In this case, we note that the Petition for Review filed with the Court of Appeals raises substantial issues meriting serious consideration. Chua's putative right to continued possession of the premises stands to be violated if the adverse judgment of the RTC were to be fully executed. Hence, the complete execution of the RTC judgment could be held in abeyance, through a writ of preliminary injunction, until final resolution of the main controversy.
WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DISMISSED for lack of merit. The assailed Resolution, dated March 21, 2003, of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 73919 is AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioner.
1 Rollo, pp. 169-175. Penned by Associate Justice Conrado M. Vasquez, Jr., with Associate Justices Elvi John S. Asuncion, and Sergio L. PestaÃ±o concurring.
2 Id. at 40.
3 Id. at 27-28.
4 Id. at 27-49.
5 Id. at 48-49.
6 Id. at 50-52.
7 Id. at 123.
8 Id. at 115-121.
9 Id. at 124-140.
10 Id. at 175.
11 Id. at 123.
12 Jason v. YgaÃ±a, A.M. No. RTJ-00-1543, 4 August 2000, 337 SCRA 264, 271.
13 G.R. No. 138377, 28 February 2000, 326 SCRA 581.
14 No. L-40437, 27 September 1977, 79 SCRA 135.
15 Id. at 145, reiterated in Amagan v. Marayag, supra, note 13 at 591.
16 Shin v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 113627, 6 February 2001, 351 SCRA 257, 261.