[CA-G.R. SP No. 59094. January 31, 2002.]
ALBERTO LEGASPI, petitioner, vs. CATALINA Z. ALILING, ASSISTED BY HER HUSBAND, JOSE ALILING IV, respondent.
D E C I S I O N
ROSARIO, JR., J p:
By way of a petition for review under Rule 42 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, petitioner, ALBERTO LEGASPI ("ALBERTO") seeks the reversal of the April 19, 2000 Decision 1 of Branch 83 of the Regional Trial Court of Malolos, Bulacan ("RTC-Bulacan"), which dismissed ALBERTO's appeal from, and affirmed in toto, the Decision 2 of Branch 1 of the Municipal Trial Court of Meycauayan, Bulacan ("MTC-Meycauayan"), dated March 19, 1999. The latter Decision, which was rendered in an ejectment case filed by respondent, CATALINA Z. ALILING ("CATALINA"), against ALBERTO, awarded the possession of the controverted property, a 33,501-square meter riceland in Meycauayan, Bulacan, in favor of said spouses and ordered ALBERTO to vacate the same.
ALBERTO built his residential house, sometime in 1997, on a 99-square meter portion of the abovementioned parcel of land, which was being tenanted by her mother, SUSANA RIVERO-LEGASPI ("SUSANA"), as an agricultural lessee. Having discovered the construction of ALBERTO's house in July 1997, respondent, CATALINA, who claims to have inherited the subject property from one GUADALUPE MISTICA, allowed ALBERTO to stay in the premises without any stipulation as to the duration or purpose of its use.
ALBERTO had been occupying the disputed property for six (6) months when he received a letter from CATALINA's Counsel, asking him to leave the premises within five (5) days from receipt thereof. The demand letter, dated January 30, 1998, is herein-below quoted, thus:
"January 30, 1998
Mr. Alberto Legaspi
Caingin, Meycauayan, Bulacan
Dear Mr. Legaspi:
The services of the undersigned counsel have been retained by Atty. Catalina Z. Aliling for urgent and appropriate legal action on the matter respecting your occupancy of the portion of her lot with an area of around ninety-nine (99) square meters and located at the aforesaid address. I was informed by my client that she merely tolerated you to stay on the house made of strong materials after you illegally constructed it on the said portion of the property sometime in July 1997 considering that your mother Mrs. Susana Rivero Legaspi had already constructed a big house for herself on the said property. I was made to understand by my client that she is now withdrawing the said toleration because she needs the said property now.
IN VIEW THEREOF, final and formal demand is now being made upon you within five (5) days from receipt of this letter for you to vacate the said property, otherwise, much to your regret I shall be constrained to file the appropriate ejectment case against you in the competent court in order to protect the interest of my client.
Trusting that this matter will merit your highly favorable action so as to avoid unnecessary and expensive litigation. I remain
Very truly yours,
SGD. OSCAR L. KARAAN
(Counsel for Atty. Catalina Z. Aliling)"
Unable to obtain a favorable response from ALBERTO, CATALINA, on April 13, 1998, filed a civil complaint 3 for ejectment, praying that ALBERTO be evicted from the subject property and be made to pay monthly rentals until he vacates the same. The complaint contained the following material allegations:
"1. Herein plaintiff (CATALINA ALILING) who is assisted in the case by her husband Atty. Jose Aliling IV, is of legal age, Filipino, married and residing at No. 95 Madasalin, Sikatuna Village, Quezon City 1101;
2. On the other hand, herein defendant (ALBERTO LEGASPI) is likewise of legal age, Filipino and residing at (sic) Caingin, Meycauayan, Bulacan, where he may be served with summons and other court processes;
3. Herein plaintiff is the owner of a parcel of land located in Caingin, Meycauayan, Bulacan known as Lot 2 with a total area of around 33,501 square meters . . .;
4. (sic) Sometime in July 1997, the herein plaintiff tolerated the herein defendant to stay on the house made of strong materials after defendant illegally constructed it on the ninety-nine (99) square meter portion of the said property inasmuch as the defendant's mother was already allowed by the herein plaintiff to construct a big house for herself on the said property;
5. (sic) Plaintiff informed the herein defendant that she needs the said property now and thus, she is now withdrawing the said toleration previously extended to him and at the same time she is demanding that the said defendant vacates the said property;
6. (sic) Despite several demands made by the herein plaintiff for the defendant to vacate the said property, the same was simply ignored and/or disregarded by the herein defendant, a copy of the demand letter sent to the defendant by the plaintiff's counsel and dated January 20 (sic), 1998 is hereto attached as Annex "A" of this complaint;
xxx xxx xxx
WHEREFORE, premises considered it is most respectfully prayed of this honorable Court that after due hearing, judgment be rendered in favor of the herein plaintiff and against the herein defendant —
1. By ordering the herein defendant and all other persons claiming under him to vacate the said property; . . ." 4 (emphasis, supplied)
In his Answer 5 to the Complaint, ALBERTO raised the defense of lack of jurisdiction, prayed for the dismissal of the complaint and interposed a counterclaim for malicious prosecution. ALBERTO contended that the subject property is an agricultural land, of which he was allegedly a tenant, and the case arose out of an agrarian dispute so that the original and exclusive jurisdiction thereof purportedly belongs to the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board ("DARAB") and not to a regular court like MTC, Meycauayan. In addition, ALBERTO sought the dismissal of the complaint for non-compliance with the pre-requisite, under Section 412 of the Local Government Code (R.A. No, 7160), of prior referral to a Lupong Pambarangay for possible conciliation.
Having weighed the respective contentions of the parties, MTC, Meycauayan rendered a Decision, 6 dated March 29, 1999, thus:
"WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered against the defendant (ALBERTO) and in favor of the plaintiff (CATALINA), as follows:
a) Ordering the defendant and all other persons claiming rights under him to vacate that real property situated in Banga, Meycauayan, Bulacan covered by T.C.T. No. 74.226 (M) of the Register of Deeds of Bulacan, Meycauayan Branch and to surrender peaceful possession thereof to the plaintiff;
b) Ordering the defendant to pay the plaintiff the sum of P3, 000.00 per month as rentals from July 1997 until he vacates the premises and surrenders possession to the plaintiff;
c) Ordering the defendant to pay the plaintiff the sum of P20, 000.00 as attorney's fees;
d) Ordering the defendant to pay the plaintiff the costs of suit.
Meanwhile, the counterclaim filed by the defendant has no merit and should be dismissed.
Unsatisfied, ALBERTO appealed the afore-quoted Decision to RTC, Bulacan, which, upon review of the case, affirmed the appealed Decision. The dispositive portion of RTC, Bulacan's Decision 7 may be quoted, viz.:
"IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the instant appeal is hereby DISMISSED for lack of merit and the appealed decision is hereby affirmed IN TOTO.
Premises considered, ALBERTO is now before Us, arguing that RTC, Bulacan erred in not finding that MTC, Meycauayan had no jurisdiction over the ejectment case. The alleged lack of jurisdiction of MTC, Meycauayan is premised on the following suppositions:
A) THAT THE CASE INVOLVED A TENANT AND LANDLORD RELATIONSHIP AND SHOULD HAVE BEEN FILED WITH THE DARAB;
B) THAT THE DEMAND LETTER SENT TO ALBERTO BY CATALINA'S COUNSEL VIOLATED SECTION 2, RULE 70 OF THE 1997 RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE, UNDER WHICH A LESSEE IS GIVEN A PERIOD OF 15 DAYS, NOT 5 DAYS, WITHIN WHICH TO COMPLY WITH THE DEMAND TO VACATE, IN CASES INVOLVING THE POSSESSION OF A PARCEL OF LAND; AND
C) THAT THE CASE HAD NOT BEEN REFERRED TO A BARANGAY LUPON FOR CONCILIATION, PURSUANT TO SECTION 412 OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE (R.A. NO. 7160).
The petition is without merit.
Well-settled is the rule that the jurisdiction of a court, as well as the concomitant nature of an action filed with it, is determined by the allegations of the complaint and cannot be made to depend upon the defenses set up in the answer or pleadings filed by the defendant. 8
An examination of the subject complaint for ejectment, hereinbefore-quoted, shows that it involves a cause of action arising from a person's possession of another's property at the latter's tolerance or permission, without any contract between them. Jurisprudence is to the effect that in such a case, the possessor is necessarily bound by an implied promise that he will vacate upon demand, failing in which a summary action for ejectment is the proper remedy against him. 9 It need not be stated that under Section 33 (2) of the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980 (Batas Pambansa Blg. 129), exclusive and original jurisdiction over ejectment cases belongs to municipal trial courts, like MTC, Meycauayan.
The purported tenant-landlord relationship between the parties, the existence of which would have taken the case out of the jurisdiction of MTC, Meycauayan, was raised merely as an affirmative defense in ALBERTO's Answer, and does not, therefore, affect the nature of the cause of action contained in CATALINA's complaint for ejectment, much less the jurisdiction of the court over the case.
Moreover, in order for a tenancy relation to take serious hold over the dispute, it would be essential to first establish all its indispensable elements, to wit: (1) the parties are the landowner and the tenant or agricultural lessee; (2) that the subject of the relationship is an agricultural land; (3) that there is consent between the parties to the relationship; (4) that the purpose of the relationship is to bring about agricultural production; (5) that there is personal cultivation on the part of the tenant or agricultural lessee; and (6) that the harvest is shared between the landowner and the tenant or agricultural lessee. 10 Aside from the fact that ALBERTO failed to prove the foregoing elements, particularly the elements of agricultural production and the sharing of harvests, which would show his alleged status as an agricultural lessee either of CATALINA or the latter's predecessor, GUADALUPE MISTICA, the records show and there is no question that it is ALBERTO's mother, SUSANA, who is the recognized tenant or agricultural lessee of the disputed property, not ALBERTO himself. It is, in fact, SUSANA's name, not that of ALBERTO, which appears on the Rice and Corn Land Tenure Survey of the disputed land.
In fine, ALBERTO's allegation, in the Answer to the Complaint, that he was in possession of the subject land as an agricultural tenant, which allegation is, after all, unsubstantiated, deserves scant consideration. Suffice it to say, such self-serving allegation does not affect, much more, divest the court-MTC, Meycauayan-of its jurisdiction over the ejectment case.
Turning now to the contention that the demand letter sent to ALBERTO by CATALINA's counsel violated Section 2, Rule 70 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure on the ground that it gave the former a period of only five (5) days within which to vacate the subject premises, We note that under the above-cited provision of the Rules, an action for unlawful detainer may be commenced after the demand to vacate and "after the lessee fails to comply therewith after fifteen (15) days in the case of land or five (5) days in the case of buildings". In the case at bar, ALBERTO received the demand letter on January 30, 1998. 11 While it is true that the said demand letter gave him only five (5) days within which to vacate the subject parcel of land, records show that CATALINA filed the complaint for ejectment only on April 13, 1998 12 or more than two (2) months from ALBERTO's receipt of the demand letter-that is-after ALBERTO failed to comply with CATALINA's demand in a period of not only fifteen (15) days, as required by Section 2, Rule 70 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, but more than two (2) months.
Finally, ALBERTO draws attention to the absence of prior referral of the case to conciliation proceedings pursuant to Section 412 of the Local Government Code (R.A. No. 7160). This provision provides that "(n)o complaint, petition, action or proceeding involving any matter within the authority of the lupon shall be filed or instituted directly in court or any other government office for adjudication, unless there has been a confrontation between the parties before the lupon chairman or the pangkat, and that no conciliation or settlement has been reached as certified by the lupon secretary or pangkat secretary as attested to by the lupon chairman or unless the settlement has been repudiated by the parties thereto. . . ." Section 412 should, nevertheless, be read in conjunction with Section 408 of the same Code, which states that "(t)he lupon of each barangay shall have authority to bring together the parties actually residing in the same city or municipality for amicable settlement of all disputes except: . . . (f) Disputes involving parties who actually reside in barangays of different cities or municipalities, except where such barangay units adjoin each other and the parties thereto agree to submit their differences to amicable settlement by an appropriate lupon; . . .." Clearly, the instant case comes under the exception, under Section 408, to the requirement, under Section 412, of submitting a case to a barangay lupon for conciliation proceedings prior to its filing with the regular court. Records show that CATALINA resides at No. 95 Madasalin, Sikatuna Village, Quezon City 1101, while ALBERTO's residence is in Caingin, Meycauayan, Bulacan; in which case the former can immediately file the action for ejectment in court, 13 there being no showing that both parties agreed to submit their differences to amicable settlement by an appropriate lupon.
In view of all the foregoing, We rule that the Regional Trial Court of Malolos, Bulacan committed no reversible error in sustaining the jurisdiction of the Municipal Trial Court of Meycauayan, Bulacan over the subject ejectment case.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED and the assailed Decision of Branch 83 of the Regional Trial Court of Malolos, Bulacan, dated April 19, 2000, is AFFIRMED, with costs against the petitioner.
Aliño-Hormachuelos and * Del Castillo, JJ., concur.