G.R. No. 182970, July 23, 2014
EMILIANO S. SAMSON, Petitioner, v. SPOUSES JOSE AND GUILLERMINA GABOR, TANAY RURAL BANK, INC., AND REGISTER OF DEEDS OF MORONG, RIZAL, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
The appeal is not meritorious. In view of the final and executory decision in CA-G.R. No. 25530 upholding the right of defendants-appellees to exercise their right of legal redemption over the 20,631 square meters involved, plaintiff-appellant is devoid of any legal right or personality to ask for partition of [the] subject property formerly owned in common. Having assigned his undivided share therein to Ma. Remedios P. Ramos, plaintiff-appellant ceased to be a co-owner. By exercising their right of legal redemption, which this Court upheld by final judgment, defendants-appellees now own the entire area covered by TCT No. M-25565.
The subsequent execution of the Agreement of Rescission by plaintiff-appellant and Ma. Remedios P. Ramos did not divest defendants-appellees of the right of legal redemption vested in them upon the consummation of the assignment plaintiff-appellant made to Ma. Remedios P. Ramos. x x x
When the pending appeal in CA-G.R. No. CV 25530 was decided and judgment therein became final and executory, the lower court had to follow what was adjudged by this Court, and while plaintiff-appellant was not a party in the said Civil Case No. 125-T and CA-G.R. CV No. 25530, plaintiff-appellant is bound by the judgment therein because he was fully aware of the pendency of such cases. As a matter of fact, he testified in Civil Case No. 125-T. Therefore, the Agreement of Rescission he later entered into with Ma. Remedios P. Ramos during the pendency of the said case, did not deprive defendants-appellees of their right of legal redemption. The supposed re-acquisition by plaintiff-appellant of his undivided share in question, having been effected pendente lite, the same was subject to the outcome of the case.8
THE COURT OF APPEALS HAS JURISDICTION OVER PETITIONER’S APPEAL FROM THE ORDER OF THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF PASIG CITY.
SINCE THE PETITIONER’S COMPLAINT IS BOTH REAL AND PERSONAL, IT WAS PROPERLY FILED WITH THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF PASIG CITY.
PETITIONER’S COMPLAINT STATES A CAUSE OF ACTION.
PETITIONER’S COMPLAINT IS NOT BARRED BY RES JUDICATA.
A question of fact exists when a doubt or difference arises as to the truth or falsity of alleged facts. If the query requires a re-evaluation of the credibility of witnesses or the existence or relevance of surrounding circumstances and their relation to each other, the issue in that query is factual. On the other hand, there is a question of law when the doubt or difference arises as to what the law is on certain state of facts and which does not call for an existence of the probative value of the evidence presented by the parties-litigants. In a case involving a question of law, the resolution of the issue rests solely on what the law provides on the given set of circumstances. Ordinarily, the determination of whether an appeal involves only questions of law or both questions of law and fact is best left to the appellate court. All doubts as to the correctness of the conclusions of the appellate court will be resolved in favor of the CA unless it commits an error or commits a grave abuse of discretion.15
Sections 1 and 2, Rule 4 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure provide an answer to the issue of venue. Actions affecting title to or possession of real property or an interest therein (real actions) shall be commenced and tried in the proper court that has territorial jurisdiction over the area where the real property is situated. On the other hand, all other actions (personal actions) shall be commenced and tried in the proper courts where the plaintiff or any of the principal plaintiffs resides or where the defendant or any of the principal defendants resides. x x x.
In this jurisdiction, we adhere to the principle that the nature of an action is determined by the allegations in the Complaint itself, rather than by its title or heading. It is also a settled rule that what determines the venue of a case is the primary objective for the filing of the case. x x x19
The complaint states no cause of action as herein defendant was impleaded without stating any details of its liabilities nor any allegation of its violations to the plaintiff’s rights. The only allegation of the rights violated are Articles 19, 20, and 21 of the Civil Code. More importantly, there are no allegations in the complaint that defendant TRB has violated the aforesaid laws. There is no detail on why the defendant TRB has been impleaded in the instant case.20
A cause of action is a formal statement of the operative facts that give rise to a remedial right. The question of whether the complaint states a cause of action is determined by its averments regarding the acts committed by the defendant. Thus it "must contain a concise statement of the ultimate or essential facts constituting the plaintiff’s cause of action." Failure to make a sufficient allegation of a cause of action in the complaint "warrants its dismissal."
As defined in Section 2, Rule 2 of the Rules of Court, a cause of action is the act or omission by which a party violates the right of another. Its essential elements are as follows:1. A right in favor of the plaintiff by whatever means and under whatever law it arises or is created;It is, thus, only upon the occurrence of the last element that a cause of action arises, giving the plaintiff the right to maintain an action in court for recovery of damages or other appropriate relief. In determining whether an initiatory pleading states a cause of action, "the test is as follows: admitting the truth of the facts alleged, can the court render a valid judgment in accordance with the prayer?" To be taken into account are only the material allegations in the complaint; extraneous facts and circumstances or other matters aliunde are not considered. The court may consider in addition to the complaint the appended annexes or documents, other pleadings of the plaintiff, or admissions in the records.22
2. An obligation on the part of the named defendant to respect or not to violate such right; and
3. Act or omission on the part of such defendant in violation of the right of the plaintiff or constituting a breach of the obligation of the defendant to the plaintiff for which the latter may maintain an action for recovery of damages or other appropriate relief.
We are unable to subscribe to the foregoing view of the CA. Even a cursory reading of the Complaint readily reveals a clear statement of the cause of action of petitioner. The Complaint reads:
“x x x x x x x x x
3. That plaintiff is the lawful owner of Lot No. 561 and its improvements xxx covered by Title No. T-525552 issued in her name xxx.
x x x x x x x x x
9. That sometime this year, plaintiff was only shocked to learn that a falsified and fraudulent Deed of Absolute Sale executed on January 19, 1996 was presented to the Register of Deeds xxx in order to cause the cancellation of plaintiff's title x x x.
10. That consequently, TCT No. T-525552 xxx was illegally cancelled and replaced by TCT No. T-602202 in the name of defendant Gan spouses x x x.
x x x x x x x x x
12. That Lot No. 561, now covered by TCT No. T-602202 (Annex "H") in the name of defendant Gan spouses is presently mortgaged to defendant China Banking Corporation in the amount of P1,600,000.00; the mortgage is annotated at the back of Annex "H" and the annotation is marked as Annex "H-1"; all the proceeds thereof went to defendant Gan Spouses.
13. That on knowing the falsification and the illegal cancellation of her title, plaintiff wrote defendant Jackson Gan and defendant China Banking Corporation protesting against the unlawful transactions that not only involved Lot No. 561 at Ternate, Cavite but also Lot No. 9, Blk. 89 at Parañaque, Metro Manila; machine copies of the letter-protests are hereto attached as Annexes "I" and "J", respectively, and made integral parts hereof;
x x x x x x x x x
15. That from the foregoing, therefore, it is very evident that defendants had connived and conspired to effect the so-called sale and mortgage of Lot No. 561 and the transfer of the title thereof to Gan spouses' name. (Emphasis ours)
x x x x
It appears that the aforementioned properties were unlawfully and criminally mortgaged to your Bank by one Jackson Gan xxx who forged or caused to be forged and/or falsified or caused to be falsified two (2) separate instruments of sale in his favor, covering the aforesaid properties making it appear that the said instruments were signed by our client when in truth and in fact were not.”
In sum, the Complaint recites that (1) petitioner was the registered owner of the subject property; (2) she was defrauded of her rights to the property when title thereto was transferred in the name of Spouses Gan based on a forged deed of sale; and (3) she was further defrauded of her rights to the property when respondent accepted the same as security for the payment of a loan acquired by Spouses Gan even when the latter's title to the property is void. x x x24
Res judicata means "a matter adjudged; a thing judicially acted upon or decided; a thing or matter settled by judgment." It lays the rule that an existing final judgment or decree rendered on the merits, without fraud or collusion, by a court of competent jurisdiction, upon any matter within its jurisdiction, is conclusive of the rights of the parties or their privies, in all other actions or suits in the same or any other judicial tribunal of concurrent jurisdiction on the points and matters in issue in the first suit.
It must be remembered that it is to the interest of the public that there should be an end to litigation by the parties over a subject fully and fairly adjudicated. The doctrine of res judicata is a rule that pervades every well-regulated system of jurisprudence and is founded upon two grounds embodied in various maxims of the common law, namely: (1) public policy and necessity, which dictates that it would be in the interest of the State that there should be an end to litigation – republicae ut sit litium; and (2) the hardship on the individual that he should be vexed twice for the same cause – nemo debet bis vexari pro una et eadem causa. A contrary doctrine would subject public peace and quiet to the will and neglect of individuals and prefer the gratification of the litigious disposition on the part of suitors to the preservation of public tranquility and happiness.
Res judicata has two concepts. The first is bar by prior judgment under Rule 39, Section 47(b), and the second is conclusiveness of judgment under Rule 39, Section 47(c). These concepts differ as to the extent of the effect of a judgment or final order as follows:SEC. 47. Effect of judgments or final orders. - The effect of a judgment or final order rendered by a court of the Philippines, having jurisdiction to pronounce the judgment or final order, may be as follows:Jurisprudence taught us well that res judicata under the first concept or as a bar against the prosecution of a second action exists when there is identity of parties, subject matter and cause of action in the first and second actions. The judgment in the first action is final as to the claim or demand in controversy, including the parties and those in privity with them, not only as to every matter which was offered and received to sustain or defeat the claim or demand, but as to any other admissible matter which might have been offered for that purpose and of all matters that could have been adjudged in that case. In contrast, res judicata under the second concept or estoppel by judgment exists when there is identity of parties and subject matter but the causes of action are completely distinct. The first judgment is conclusive only as to those matters actually and directly controverted and determined and not as to matters merely involved herein.29
x x x x
(b) In other cases, the judgment or final order is, with respect to the matter directly adjudged or as to any other matter that could have been raised in relation thereto, conclusive between the parties and their successors-in-interest by title subsequent to the commencement of the action or special proceeding, litigating for the same thing and under the same title and in the same capacity; and
(c) In any other litigation between the same parties or their successors in interest, that only is deemed to have been adjudged in a former judgment or final order which appears upon its face to have been so adjudged, or which was actually and necessarily included therein or necessary thereto.
The crux of the controversy in the instant case is whether there is an identity of causes of action in Civil Case Nos. TM-1022 and TM-1108.
Section 2, Rule 2 of the Rules of Court defines a cause of action as "the act or omission by which a party violates a right of another." Section 3 of Rule 2 provides that "[a] party may not institute more than one suit for a single cause of action." Anent the act of splitting a single cause of action, Section 4 of Rule 2 explicitly states that "[i]f two or more suits are instituted on the basis of the same cause of action, the filing of one or a judgment upon the merits in any one is available as a ground for the dismissal of the others."
Apropos, Carlet v. Court of Appeals states that:
As regards identity of causes of action, the test often used in determining whether causes of action are identical is to ascertain whether the same evidence which is necessary to sustain the second action would have been sufficient to authorize a recovery in the first, even if the forms or nature of the two actions be different. If the same facts or evidence would sustain both actions, the two actions are considered the same within the rule that the judgment in the former is a bar to the subsequent action; otherwise, it is not.36
The issue of ownership or co-ownership, to be more precise, must first be resolved in order to effect a partition of properties. This should be done in the action for partition itself. As held in the case of Catapusan v. Court of Appeals:In actions for partition, the court cannot properly issue an order to divide the property, unless it first makes a determination as to the existence of co -ownership. The court must initially settle the issue of ownership, the first stage in an action for partition. Needless to state, an action for partition will not lie if the claimant has no rightful interest over the subject property. In fact, Section 1 of Rule 69 requires the party filing the action to state in his complaint the “nature and extent of his title” to the real estate. Until and unless the issue of ownership is definitely resolved, it would be premature to effect a partition of the properties. x x x.39
* Designated Acting Member, per Special Order No. 1691 dated May 22, 2014, in view of the vacancy in the Third Division.
** Designated Acting Member, in lieu of Associate Justice Jose Catral Mendoza, per Special Order No. 1735 dated July 21, 2014.
1 Penned by Judge Franco T. Falcon; Annex “A” to Petition, rollo, pp. 30-34.
2 Penned by Associate Justice Rosmari D. Carandang, with Associate Justices Portia Alino-Hormachuelos and Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe (now Associate Justice of the Supreme Court) concurring; Annex “B” to Petition, id. at 36-42.
3 Id. at 36.
4 Id. at 37.
5 Id. at 110-115.
6 Id. at 123.
7 Id. at 121-129.
8 Id. at 128-129. (Underscoring in the original)
9 Id. at 84.
10 Id. at 85.
11 See Annex “C” of petition, id. at 44-49.
12 Supra note 1.
13 Supra note 2.
14 Section 2, Rule 50 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure provides:
Sec. 2. Dismissal of improper appeal to the Court of Appeals. - An appeal under Rule 41 taken from the Regional Trial Court to the Court of Appeals raising only questions of law shall be dismissed, issues purely of law not being reviewable by said court. x x x
An appeal erroneously taken to the Court of Appeals shall not be transferred to the appropriate court but shall be dismissed outright.
15First Bancorp, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, 525 Phil. 309, 326 (2006).
16 Supra note 1.
17Rollo, p. 14.
18 G.R. No. 183926, March 29, 2010, 617 SCRA 88.
19Latorre v. Latorre, supra, at 96-97. (Emphasis ours; citations omitted)
20Rollo, p. 31.
21 535 Phil. 133 (2006).
22Spouses Zepeda v. China Banking Corporation, supra, at 138-139. (Citations omitted; italics in the original)
23 535 Phil. 784 (2006).
24Nacua-Jao v. China Banking Corporation, supra, at 792-793. (Citations omitted; emphasis ours)
25Rollo, p. 47.
26 Id. at 20-23.
27 Dapar v. Biascan, 482 Phil. 385, 401-402 (2004).
28 G.R. No. 175151, September 21, 2011, 658 SCRA 108.
29Selga v. Brar, supra, at 119-121. (Italics in the original; emphases omitted)
30Rollo, pp. 110-115.
31 Id. at 84.
32 Id. at 85.
33Rovels Enterprises, Inc. v. Ocampo, G.R. No. 136821, October 17, 2002, 391 SCRA 176, 189.
34Rollo, p. 20.
35 G.R. No. 181485, February 15, 2012, 666 SCRA 251.
36Philippine National Bank v. Gateway Property Holdings, Inc., supra, at 265. (Emphasis ours; citations omitted)
37Rollo, pp. 50-60.
38 479 Phil. 98 (2004).
39Reyes-De Leon v. Del Rosario, supra, at 107. (Emphasis ours)
40Heirs of Marcelo Sotto v. Matilde S. Palicte, G.R. No. 159691, June 13, 2013.
41Ram's Studio and Photographic Equipment, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, 400 Phil. 542, 550 (2000).
42Selga v. Brar, supra note 28, at 125.