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8/10/2019 CIVPRO Set1 Cases http://slidepdf.com/reader/full/civpro-set1-cases 1/39 [G.R. No. 119347. March 17, 1999]  EULALIA RUSSELL, RUPERTO TAUTHO, FRANCISCO TAUTHO, SUSANA T. REALES, APITACIO TAUTHO, DANILO TAUTHO, JUDITHA PROS, GREGORIO TAUTHO, DEODITA T. JUDILLA, AGRIPINO TAUTHO, FELIX TAUTHO, WILLIAM TAUTHO, AND MARILYN PERALES, petitioners, vs. HONORABLE AUGUSTINE A. VESTIL, ADRIANO TAGALOG, MARCELO TAUTHO, JUANITA MENDOZA, DOMINGO BANTILAN, RAUL BATALUNA AND ARTEMIO CABATINGAN, respondents. D E C I S I O N KAPUNAN, J .: Before us is a Petition for Certiorari to set aside the Order dated January 12, 1995 issued by respondent Judge Augustine A. Vestil of the Regional Trial Court of Mandaue City, Branch 56, dismissing the complaint filed by petitioners on ground of lack of jurisdiction, as well as his Order dated February 13, 1995 denying petitioners' Motion for Reconsideration of the order of dismissal. The facts of the case are as follows: On September 28, 1994, petitioners filed a complaint against private respondents, denominated "DECLARATION OF NULLITY AND PARTITION," with the Regional Trial Court of Mandaue City, Branch 56, docketed as Civil Case No. MAN 2275. The complaint, in substance, alleged that petitioners are co-owners of that parcel of land, Lot 6149 situated in Liloan, Cebu and containing an area of 56,977.40 square meters, more or less. The land was previously owned  by the spouses Casimero Tautho and Cesaria Tautho. Upon the death of said spouses, the  property was inherited by their legal heirs, herein petitioners and private respondents. Since then, the lot had remained undivided until petitioners discovered a public document denominated "DECLARATION OF HEIRS AND DEED OF CONFIRMATION OF A PREVIOUS ORAL AGREEMENT OF PARTITION," executed on June 6, 1990. By virtue of this deed, private respondents divided the property among themselves to the exclusion of petitioners who are also entitled to the said lot as heirs of the late spouses Casimero Tautho and Cesaria Tautho. Petitioners claimed that the document was false and perjurious as the private respondents were not the only heirs and that no oral partition of the property whatsoever had been made between the heirs. The complaint prayed that the document be declared null and void and an order be issued to partition the land among all the heirs.[1] On November 24, 1994, private respondents filed a Motion to Dismiss[2] the complaint on the ground of lack of jurisdiction over the nature of the case as the total assessed value of the subject land is P5,000.00 which under section 33 (3)[3] of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, as amended by R.A. No. 7691,[4] falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Liloan, Compostela.[5]

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    [G.R. No. 119347. March 17, 1999]

    EULALIA RUSSELL, RUPERTO TAUTHO, FRANCISCO TAUTHO, SUSANA T. REALES,

    APITACIO TAUTHO, DANILO TAUTHO, JUDITHA PROS, GREGORIO TAUTHO,

    DEODITA T. JUDILLA, AGRIPINO TAUTHO, FELIX TAUTHO, WILLIAM TAUTHO,

    AND MARILYN PERALES,petitioners, vs. HONORABLE AUGUSTINE A. VESTIL,ADRIANO TAGALOG, MARCELO TAUTHO, JUANITA MENDOZA, DOMINGO

    BANTILAN, RAUL BATALUNA AND ARTEMIO CABATINGAN, respondents.

    D E C I S I O N

    KAPUNAN,J.:

    Before us is a Petition for Certiorari to set aside the Order dated January 12, 1995 issued byrespondent Judge Augustine A. Vestil of the Regional Trial Court of Mandaue City, Branch 56,

    dismissing the complaint filed by petitioners on ground of lack of jurisdiction, as well as his

    Order dated February 13, 1995 denying petitioners' Motion for Reconsideration of the order ofdismissal.

    The facts of the case are as follows:

    On September 28, 1994, petitioners filed a complaint against private respondents, denominated

    "DECLARATION OF NULLITY AND PARTITION," with the Regional Trial Court ofMandaue City, Branch 56, docketed as Civil Case No. MAN 2275. The complaint, in substance,

    alleged that petitioners are co-owners of that parcel of land, Lot 6149 situated in Liloan, Cebu

    and containing an area of 56,977.40 square meters, more or less. The land was previously ownedby the spouses Casimero Tautho and Cesaria Tautho. Upon the death of said spouses, the

    property was inherited by their legal heirs, herein petitioners and private respondents. Sincethen, the lot had remained undivided until petitioners discovered a public document denominated

    "DECLARATION OF HEIRS AND DEED OF CONFIRMATION OF A PREVIOUS ORALAGREEMENT OF PARTITION," executed on June 6, 1990. By virtue of this deed, private

    respondents divided the property among themselves to the exclusion of petitioners who are also

    entitled to the said lot as heirs of the late spouses Casimero Tautho and Cesaria Tautho.Petitioners claimed that the document was false and perjurious as the private respondents were

    not the only heirs and that no oral partition of the property whatsoever had been made between

    the heirs. The complaint prayed that the document be declared null and void and an order beissued to partition the land among all the heirs.[1]

    On November 24, 1994, private respondents filed a Motion to Dismiss[2] the complaint on theground of lack of jurisdiction over the nature of the case as the total assessed value of the subjectland is P5,000.00 which under section 33 (3)[3] of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, as amended byR.A. No. 7691,[4] falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of

    Liloan, Compostela.[5]

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    Petitioners filed an Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss[6] saying that the Regional Trial Court

    has jurisdiction over the case since the action is one which is incapable of pecuniary estimation

    within the contemplation of Section 19(l) of B.P. 129, as amended.[7]

    On January 12, 1995, the respondent judge issued an Order granting the Motion to Dismiss.[8] A

    Motion for Reconsideration of said order was filed by petitioners on January 30, 1995 allegingthat the same is contrary to law because their action is not one for recovery of title to or

    possession of the land but an action to annul a document or declare it null and void,[9] hence,

    one incapable of pecuniary estimation failing within the jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court.Private respondents did not oppose the motion for reconsideration.

    On February 13, 1995, the respondent judge issued another Order denying the motion forreconsideration.[10]

    Hence, this petition wherein the sole issue raised is whether or not the Regional Trial Court hasjurisdiction to entertain Civil Case No. MAN-2275.

    We find merit in the petition.

    Petitioners maintain the view that the complaint filed before the Regional Trial Court is for the

    annulment of a document denominated as "DECLARATION OF HEIRS AND DEED OFCONFIRMATION OF PREVIOUS ORAL PARTITION," which is clearly one incapable of

    pecuniary estimation, thus, cognizable by the Regional Trial Court.

    Private respondents, on the other hand, insists that the action is one for re-partition and since the

    assessed value of the property as stated in the complaint is P5,000.00, then, the case falls within

    the jurisdiction of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Liloan, Compostela, Cebu.

    For better appreciation of the facts, the pertinent portions of the complaint are reproduced

    hereunder:

    x x x

    3. That the plaintiffs and the defendants are the legal heirs of spouses Casimero Tautho and

    Cesaria N. Tautho who died long time ago;

    4. That in life the spouses became the owners in fee simple of a certain parcel of land,

    which is more particularly described as follows:

    A parcel of land containing 56,977.40 square meters, more or less, located at Cotcot, Liloan,

    Cebu.

    designated as Lot 6149 per Technical Description and Certification issued by the Office of the

    Land Management copy of which are hereto attached as Annexes "A" and "A-1" and are madepart hereof: total assessed value is P5,000.00;

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    5. That the land passed to the children of the spouses.(who are all deceased except for

    defendant Marcelo Tautho), namely: Zacarias, Epifania, Vicenta, Felicisimo, Maria, Lorencia

    and Marcelo, and which in turn passed to the plaintiffs and defendants upon their death theybeing their descendants and legal heirs;

    6. That the subject parcel of land has for year been undivided by and among the legal heirsof said previous owners;

    7. That, very recently, plaintiffs discovered a public document, which is a declaration ofheirs and deed of confirmation of a previous oral agreement, of partition, affecting the land

    executed by and among the defendants whereby defendants divided the property among

    themselves to the exclusion of plaintiffs who are entitled thereto; attached hereto as Annex "B"and is made part hereof is xerox copy of said document;

    8. That the instrument (Annex "B") is false and perjurious and is a complete nullity becausethe defendants are not the only heirs of Casimero Tautho; plaintiffs are also legal heirs and

    descendants of said deceased; moreover, there has been no oral partition of the property;

    9. That pursuant to said document (Annex "B"), defendants had procured tax declarations of

    the land for their supposed "shares" to the great damage and prejudice of plaintiffs;

    10. That the property in controversy should be divided into seven (7) equal parts since

    Casimero Tautho and Cesaria N. Tautho had seven children;

    11. That the parties had failed to settle the controversy amicably at the barangay level;

    attached hereto as Annex "C" is Certification to file Action;

    12. That by reason of the foregoing unjust and illegal act of defendants, plaintiffs were forcedto bring instant action and contract the services of the undersigned counsel with whom they bind

    themselves to pay P30,000.00 as attorney's fees.

    WHEREFORE, it is most respectfully prayed of this Honorable Court to declare null and void

    the document (Annex "B") of declaration of heirs and confirmation and to order the partition ofthe land into seven (7) equal parts; each part shall respectively go to the seven (7) children of

    Casimero Tautho and considering six (6) of them died already the same shall go to their children

    or descendants, and to order the defendants to pay plaintiffs attorney's fees in the amount ofP30,000.00.

    Plaintiffs further pray for such other reliefs and remedies just and equitable under thepremises.[11]

    We agree with petitioners.

    The complaint filed before the Regional Trial Court is doubtless one incapable of pecuniaryestimation and therefore within the jurisdiction of said court.

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    InSingsong vs. Isabela Sawmill,[12] we had the occasion to rule that:

    [I]n determining whether an action is one the subject matter of which is not capable of pecuniaryestimation 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 orin the courts of first instance 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 consideredsuch actions as cases where the subject of the litigation may not be estimated in terms of money,

    and are cognizable exclusively by courts of first instance (now Regional Trial Courts).[13]

    Examples of actions incapable of pecuniary estimation are those for specific performance,

    support, or foreclosure of mortgage or annulment of judgment;[14] also actions questioning the

    validity of a mortgage,[15] annulling a deed of sale or conveyance and to recover the price

    paid[16] and for rescession, which is a counterpart of specific performance.[17]

    While actions under Sec. 33(3) of B.P. 129 are also incapable of pecuniary estimation, the law

    specifically mandates that they are cognizable by the MTC, METC, or MCTC where theassessed value of the real property involved does exceed P20,000.00 in Metro Manila, or

    P50,000.00, if located elsewhere. If the value exceeds P20,000.00 or P50,000.00 as the case may

    be, it is the Regional Trial Courts which have jurisdiction under Sec. 19(2).[18]

    However, the subject matter of the complaint in this case is annulment of a document

    denominated as "DECLARATION OF HEIRS AND DEED OF CONFIRMATION OFPREVIOUS ORAL PARTITION."

    The main purpose of petitioners in filing the complaint is to declare null and void the documentin which private respondents declared themselves as the only heirs of the late spouses Casimero

    Tautho and Cesaria Tautho and divided his property among themselves to the exclusion of

    petitioners who also claim to be legal heirs and entitled to the property. While the complaint alsoprays for the partition of the property, this is just incidental to the main action, which is the

    declaration of nullity of the document above-described. It is axiomatic that jurisdiction over the

    subject matter of a case is conferred by law and is determined by the allegations in the complaintand the character of the relief sought, irrespective of whether the plaintiff is entitled to all or

    some of the claims asserted therein.[19]

    WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is hereby GRANTED. The Order dismissing

    Civil Case No. MAN-2275, as well as the Order denying the motion for reconsideration of said

    Order, is SET ASIDE.

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    HEIRS OF VALERIANO S. CONCHA, G.R. No. 158121

    SR. NAMELY: TERESITA CONCHA-

    PARAN, VALERIANO P. CONCHA,

    JR., RAMON P. CONCHA, EDUARDO

    P. CONCHA, REPRESENTED BY HIS

    LEGAL GUARDIAN, REYNALDO P.

    CONCHA, ALBERTO P. CONCHA,

    BERNARDO P. CONCHA and GLORIA Present:

    P. CONCHA-NUNAG,

    Petitioners, PUNO, C.J., Chairperson,

    YNARES-SANTIAGO,SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,

    - versus - CORONA, and

    AZCUNA,JJ.

    SPOUSES GREGORIO J. LUMOCSO[1]

    and BIENVENIDA GUYA, CRISTITA

    J. LUMOCSO VDA. DE DAAN, AND

    SPOUSES JACINTO J. LUMOCSO Promulgated:

    and BALBINA T. LUMOCSO,[2]

    Respondents. December 12, 2007

    x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - x

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    D E C I S I O N

    PUNO,C.J

    .:

    On appeal by certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court are the

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    decision[3]and resolution[4]of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 59499, annulling

    the resolutions[5]and order[6]of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Dipolog City, Branch 9, in

    Civil Case Nos. 5188, 5433 and 5434 which denied the separate motions to dismiss and Joint

    Motion for Reconsideration filed by the respondents.

    The relevant facts are undisputed.

    Petitioners, heirs of spouses Dorotea and Valeriano Concha, Sr., claim to be the rightful

    owners of Lot No. 6195 (Civil Case No. 5188), a one-hectare portion of Lot No. 6196-A (Civil

    Case No. 5433), and a one-hectare portion of Lot Nos. 6196-B and 7529-A (Civil Case No.

    5434), all situated in Cogon, Dipolog City, under Section 48(b) of Commonwealth Act No. 141

    (C.A. No. 141), otherwise known as the Public Land Act. Respondent siblings Gregorio

    Lumocso (Civil Case No. 5188), Cristita Lumocso Vda. de Daan (Civil Case No. 5433) and

    Jacinto Lumocso (Civil Case No. 5434), are the patent holders and registered owners of the

    subject lots.

    The records show that on August 6, 1997, Valeriano Sr.[7]and his children, petitioners

    Valeriano Jr., Ramon, Eduardo, Alberto, Bernardo, Teresita, Reynaldo, and Gloria, all surnamed

    Concha, filed a complaint for Reconveyance and/or Annulment of Title with Damages against

    "Spouses Gregorio Lomocso and Bienvenida Guya." They sought to annul Free Patent No. (IX-

    8)985 and the corresponding Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. P-22556 issued in the name

    of "Gregorio Lumocso" covering Lot No. 6195. The case was raffled to the RTC of DipologCity, Branch 9, and docketed as Civil Case No. 5188. In their Amended Complaint, petitioners

    prayed that judgment be rendered:

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    1. Declaring Free Patent No. (IX-8)985 and Original Certificate of

    Title No. 22556 issued to defendants as null and void ab initio;

    2. Declaring Lot No. 6195 or 1.19122-hectare as private property of

    the plaintiffs under Sec. 48(b) of CA No. 141 otherwise known as the Public

    Land Act as amended by RA 1942;

    3. Ordering the defendant Lomocsos to reconvey the properties (sic)

    in question Lot No. 6195 or the 1.19122 hectares in favor of the plaintiffs within

    30 days from the finality of the decision in this case and if they refuse, orderingthe Clerk of Court of this Honorable Court to execute the deed of reconveyance

    with like force and effect as if executed by the defendant[s] themselves;

    4. Ordering defendant Lomocsos to pay P60,000.00 for the 21 forest

    trees illegally cut; P50,000.00 for moral damages; P20,000.00 for Attorneys

    fees; P20,000.00 for litigation expenses; and to pay the cost of the proceedings;

    5. Declaring the confiscated three (sic) flitches kept in the area of

    the plaintiffs at Dampalan San Jose, Dipolog with a total volume of 2000 board

    feet a[s] property of the plaintiff [they] being cut, collected and taken from the

    land possessed, preserved, and owned by the plaintiffs;

    6. The plaintiffs further pray for such other reliefs and remedies

    which this Honorable Court may deem just and equitable in the premises.[8]

    On September 3, 1999, two separate complaints for Reconveyance with Damages were

    filed by petitioners,[9] this time against "Cristita Lomocso Vda. de Daan" for a one-hectare

    portion of Lot No. 6196-A and "Spouses Jacinto Lomocso and Balbina T. Lomocso" for a one-

    hectare portion of Lot Nos. 6196-B and 7529-A. The two complaints were also raffled to Branch

    9 of the RTC of Dipolog City and docketed as Civil Case Nos. 5433 and 5434,

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    respectively. In Civil Case No. 5433, petitioners prayed that judgment be rendered:

    1. Declaring [a] portion of Lot 6196-A titled under OCT (P23527) 4888

    equivalent to one hectare located at the western portion of Lot 4888 as privateproperty of the plaintiffs under Sec. 48(B) CA 141 otherwise known as Public

    Land OCT (sic) as amended by RA No. 1942;

    2. Ordering the defendant to reconvey the equivalent of one (1) hectare

    forested portion of her property in question in favor of the plaintiffs within 30

    days from the finality of the decision in this case segregating one hectare from

    OCT (P23527) 4888, located at its Western portion and if she refuse (sic),ordering the Clerk of Court of this Honorable Court to execute the deed of

    reconveyance with like force and effect, as if executed by the defenda[n]t

    herself;

    3. Ordering defendant to pay P30,000.00 for the 22 forest trees illegally

    cut; P20,000.00 for moral damages; P20,000.00 for Attorney's fees; P20,000.00for litigation expenses; and to pay the cost of the proceedings.[10]

    In Civil Case No. 5434, petitioners prayed that judgment be rendered:

    1. Declaring [a] portion of Lot 7529-A under OCT (P-23207) 12870 andLot 6196-B OCT (P-20845) 4889 equivalent to one hectare located as (sic) the

    western portion of said lots as private property of the plaintiffs under Sec. 48(b)

    of [C.A. No.] 141 otherwise know[n] as the [P]ublic [L]and [A]ct as amended byRA 1942;

    2. Ordering the defendants to reconvey the equivalent of one (1) hectare

    forested portion of their properties in question in favor of the plaintiffs within 30days from the finality of the decision in this case segregating one hectare from

    OCT (P-23207) 12870 and OCT (T-20845)-4889 all of defendants, located at its

    Western portion and if they refuse, ordering the Clerk of Court of this Honorable

    Court to execute the deed of reconveyance with like force and effect as ifexecuted by the defendants themselves[;]

    3. Ordering defendants to pay P20,000.00 for the six (6) forest trees

    illegally cut; P20,000.00 for moral damages; P20,000.00 for Attorney's fees;P20,000.00 for litigation expenses; and to pay the cost of the proceedings.[11]

    The three complaints[12] commonly alleged: a) that on May 21, 1958, petitioners'

    parents (spouses Valeriano Sr. and Dorotea Concha) acquired by homestead a 24-hectare parcel

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    of land situated in Cogon, Dipolog City; b) that since 1931, spouses Concha "painstakingly

    preserved" the forest in the 24-hectare land, including the excess four (4) hectares "untitled forest

    land" located at its eastern portion; c) that they possessed this excess 4 hectares of land (which

    consisted of Lot No. 6195, one-hectare portion of Lot No. 6196-A and one-hectare portion of Lot

    Nos. 6196-B and 7529-A) "continuously, publicly, notoriously, adversely, peacefully, in good

    faith and in concept of the (sic) owner since 1931;" d) that they continued possession and

    occupation of the 4-hectare land after the death of Dorotea Concha on December 23, 1992 and

    Valeriano Sr. on May 12, 1999; e) that the Concha spouses "have preserved the forest trees

    standing in [the subject lots] to the exclusion of the defendants (respondents) or other persons

    from 1931" up to November 12, 1996 (for Civil Case No. 5188) or January 1997 (for Civil Case

    Nos. 5433 and 5434) when respondents, "by force, intimidation, [and] stealth forcibly entered the

    premises, illegally cut, collected, [and] disposed" of 21 trees (for Civil Case No. 5188), 22 trees

    (for Civil Case No. 5433) or 6 trees (for Civil Case No. 5434); f) that "the land is private land or

    that even assuming it was part of the public domain, plaintiffs had already acquired imperfect

    title thereto" under Sec. 48(b) of C.A. No. 141, as amended by Republic Act (R.A.) No. 1942; g)

    that respondents allegedly cut into flitches the trees felled in Lot No. 6195 (Civil Case No. 5188)

    while the logs taken from the subject lots in Civil Case Nos. 5433 and 5434 were sold to a timber

    dealer in Katipunan, Zamboanga del Norte; h) that respondents "surreptitiously" filed free patent

    applications over the lots despite their full knowledge that petitioners owned the lots; i) that the

    geodetic engineers who conducted the original survey over the lots never informed them of the

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    survey to give them an opportunity to oppose respondents' applications; j) that respondents' free

    patents and the corresponding OCTs were issued "on account of fraud, deceit, bad faith and

    misrepresentation"; and k) that the lots in question have not been transferred to an innocent

    purchaser.

    On separate occasions, respondents moved for the dismissal of the respective cases

    against them on the same grounds of: (a) lack of jurisdiction of the RTC over the subject matters

    of the complaints; (b) failure to state causes of action for reconveyance; (c) prescription; and (d)

    waiver, abandonment, laches and estoppel.[13] On the issue of jurisdiction, respondents

    contended that the RTC has no jurisdiction over the complaints pursuant to Section 19(2) of

    Batas Pambansa Blg. (B.P.) 129, as amended by R.A. No. 7691, as in each case, the assessed

    values of the subject lots are less than P20,000.00.

    Petitioners opposed,[14] contending that the instant cases involve actions the subject

    matters of which are incapable of pecuniary estimation which, under Section 19(1) of B.P. 129,

    as amended by R.A. 7691, fall within the exclusive original jurisdiction of the RTCs. They alsocontended that they have two main causes of action: for reconveyance and for recovery of the

    value of the trees felled by respondents. Hence, the totality of the claims must be considered

    which, if computed, allegedly falls within the exclusive original jurisdiction of the RTC.

    The trial court denied the respective motions to dismiss of respondents.[15] The

    respondents filed a Joint Motion for Reconsideration,[16]to no avail.[17]

    Dissatisfied, respondents jointly filed a Petition for Certiorari, Prohibition and

    Preliminary Injunction with Prayer for Issuance of Restraining OrderEx Parte[18]with the CA,

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    docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 59499. In its Decision,[19]the CA reversed the resolutions and

    order of the trial court. It held that even assuming that the complaints state a cause of action, the

    same have been barred by the statute of limitations. The CA ruled that an action for

    reconveyance based on fraud prescribes in ten (10) years, hence, the instant complaints must be

    dismissed as they involve titles issued for at least twenty-two (22) years prior to the filing of the

    complaints. The CA found it unnecessary to resolve the other issues.

    Hence, this appeal in which petitioners raise the following issues, viz:

    FIRST - WHETHER OR NOT RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS(FORMER FIRST DIVISION) ERRED IN REVERSING THE ORDER OF

    THE COURT A QUO DENYING THE MOTION FOR DISMISSAL,

    CONSIDERING THE DISMISSAL OF A PARTY COMPLAINT ISPREMATURE AND TRIAL ON THE MERITS SHOULD BE CONDUCTED

    TO THRESH OUT EVIDENTIARY MATTERS.

    SECOND - WHETHER OR NOT THE RESPONDENT COURT OFAPPEALS (FORMER FIRST DIVISION) ERRED IN DISMISSING THE

    PETITIONERS' COMPLAINTS ON [THE] GROUND OF PRESCRIPTION.

    THIRD - WHETHER OR NOT THE RESPONDENT COURT OF

    APPEALS (FORMER FIRST DIVISION) ERRED IN CONCLUDING THAT

    THERE IS NO DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE ON RECORD TO SHOW

    THAT PETITIONERS OWN THE SUBJECT FOREST

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    PORTION OF THE PROPERTIES ERRONEOUSLY INCLUDED IN THE

    TITLES OF PRIVATE RESPONDENTS.

    FOURTH - WHETHER OR NOT THE PETITION OF HEREIN PRIVATE

    RESPONDENTS FILED WITH THE RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS

    (FORMER FIRST DIVISION) SHOULD HAVE BEEN DISMISSEDOUTRIGHTLY FOR PRIVATE RESPONDENTS' THEREIN FAILURE TOCOMPLY WITH THE MANDATORY REQUIREMENT OF SECTION 1

    RULE 65 OF THE RULES OF COURT TO SUBMIT CERTIFIED TRUE

    COPIES OF THE ASSAILED ORDERS OF THE TRIAL COURT WHICHRENDERED THEIR PETITION (CA G.R. 59499) DEFICIENT IN FORM

    AND SUBSTANCE CITING THE CASE OF CATUIRA VS. COURT OF

    APPEALS (172 SCRA 136).[20]

    In their memorandum,[21] respondents reiterated their arguments in the courts below

    that: a) the complaints of the petitioners in the trial court do not state causes of action for

    reconveyance; b) assuming the complaints state causes of action for reconveyance, the same

    have already been barred by prescription; c) the RTC does not have jurisdiction over the subject

    matter of the instant cases; d) the claims for reconveyance in the complaints are barred by

    waiver, abandonment, or otherwise extinguished by laches and estoppel; and e) there is no

    special reason warranting a review by this Court.

    Since the issue of jurisdiction is determinative of the resolution of the instant case yet the

    CA skirted the question, we resolved to require the parties to submit their respective

    Supplemental Memoranda on the issue of jurisdiction.[22]

    In their Supplemental Memorandum,[23] petitioners contend that the nature of their

    complaints, as denominated therein and as borne by their allegations, are suits for reconveyance,

    or annulment or cancellation of OCTs and damages. The cases allegedly involve more than just

    the issue of

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    title and possession since the nullity of the OCTs issued to respondents and the reconveyance of

    the subject properties were also raised as issues. Thus, the RTC has jurisdiction under Section

    19(1) of B.P. 129, which provides that the RTC has jurisdiction "[i]n all civil actions in which

    the subject of the litigation is incapable of pecuniary estimation." Petitioners cited: a)

    Raymundo v. CA[24] which set the criteria for determining whether an action is one not

    capable of pecuniary estimation; b) Swan v. CA[25] where it was held that an action for

    annulment of title is under the jurisdiction of the RTC; c) Santos v. CA[26] where it was

    similarly held that an action for annulment of title, reversion and damages was within the

    jurisdiction of the RTC; and d) Commodities Storage and ICE Plant Corporation v. CA[27]

    where it was held that "[w]here the action affects title to the property, it should be filed in the

    RTC where the property is located." Petitioners also contend that while it may be argued that theassessed values of the subject properties are within the original jurisdiction of the municipal trial

    court (MTC), they have included in their prayers "any interest included therein" consisting of 49

    felled natural grown trees illegally cut by respondents. Combining the assessed values of the

    properties as shown by their respective tax declarations and the estimated value of the trees cut,

    the total amount prayed by petitioners exceeds twenty thousand pesos (P20,000.00). Hence, they

    contend that the RTC has jurisdiction under Section 19(2) of B.P. 129.

    Jurisdiction over the subject matter is the power to hear and determine cases of the

    general class to which the proceedings in question belong.[28] It is conferred by law and an

    objection based on this ground cannot be waived by the parties.[29] To determine whether a

    court has jurisdiction over the subject matter of a case, it is important to determine the nature of

    the cause of action and of the relief sought.[30]

    The trial court correctly held that the instant cases involve actions for reconveyance.[31]

    An action for reconveyance respects the decree of registration as incontrovertible but seeks the

    transfer of property, which has been wrongfully or erroneously registered in other persons'

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    names, to its rightful and legal owners, or to those who claim to have a better right.[32]There is

    no special ground for an action for reconveyance. It is enough that the aggrieved party has a

    legal claim on the property superior to that of the registered owner[33]and that the property has

    not yet passed to the hands of an innocent purchaser for value.[34]

    The reliefs sought by the petitioners in the instant cases typify an action for

    reconveyance. The following are also the common allegations in the three complaints that are

    sufficient to constitute causes of action for reconveyance, viz:

    (a) That plaintiff Valeriano S. Concha, Sr. together with his spouseDorotea Concha have painstakingly preserve[d] the forest standing in the area [of

    their 24-hectare homestead] including the four hectares untitled forest land

    located at the eastern portion of the forest from 1931 when they were newlymarried, the date they acquired this property by occupation or possession;[35]

    (b) That spouses Valeriano S. Concha Sr. and Dorotea P. Concha have

    preserved the forest trees standing in [these parcels] of land to the exclusion ofthe defendants Lomocsos or other persons from 1931 up to November 12, 1996

    [for Civil Case No. 5188] and January 1997 [for Civil Case Nos. 5433 and 5434]

    when defendants[,] by force, intimidation, [and] stealth[,] forcibly entered thepremises, illegal[ly] cut, collected, disposed a total of [twenty-one (21) trees for

    Civil Case No. 5188, twenty-two (22) trees for Civil Case No. 5433 and six (6)

    trees for Civil Case No. 5434] of various sizes;[36]

    (c) That this claim is an assertion that the land is private land or that

    even assuming it was part of the public domain, plaintiff had already acquired

    imperfect title thereto under Sec. 48(b) of [C.A.] No. 141[,] otherwise known asthe Public Land Act[,] as amended by [R.A.] No. [7691];[37]

    (d) That [respondents and their predecessors-in-interest knew when

    they] surreptitiously filed[38] [their respective patent applications and wereissued their respective] free patents and original certificates of title [that the

    subject lots belonged to the petitioners];[39]

    (e) [That respondents' free patents and the corresponding original

    certificates of titles were issued] on account of fraud, deceit, bad faith and

    misrepresentation;[40] and

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    (f) The land in question has not been transferred to an innocent

    purchaser.[41]

    These cases may also be considered as actions to remove cloud on one's title as they are

    intended to procure the cancellation of an instrument constituting a claim on petitioners' alleged

    title which was used to injure or vex them in the enjoyment of their alleged title.[42]

    Being in the nature of actions for reconveyance or actions to remove cloud on one's title,

    the applicable law to determine which court has jurisdiction is Section 19(2) of B.P. 129, as

    amended by R.A. No. 7691, viz:

    Section 19. Jurisdiction in Civil Cases.-- Regional Trial Courts shall

    exercise exclusive original jurisdiction: x x x

    (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.

    In the cases at bar, it is undisputed that the subject lots are situated in Cogon, Dipolog

    City and their assessed values are less than P20,000.00, to wit:

    Civil Case No. Lot No. Assessed Value

    5188 6195 P1,030.00

    5433 6196-A 4,500.00

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    5434 6196-B 4,340.00

    7529-A 1,880.00.[43]

    Hence, the MTC clearly has jurisdiction over the instant cases.

    Petitioners' contention that this case is one that is incapable of pecuniary estimation

    under the exclusive original jurisdiction of the RTC pursuant to Section 19(1) of B.P. 129 is

    erroneous.

    In a number of cases, we have held that actions for reconveyance[44] of or for

    cancellation of title[45]to or to quiet title[46]over real property are actions that fall under the

    classification of cases that involve "title to, or possession of, real property, or any interesttherein."

    The original text of Section 19(2) of B.P. 129 as well as its forerunner, Section 44(b) of

    R.A. 296,[47]as amended, gave the RTCs (formerly courts of first instance) exclusive original

    jurisdiction "[i]n allcivil actions which involve the title to, or possession of, real property,

    or any interest therein,except actions for forcible entry into and unlawful detainer of lands or

    buildings, original jurisdiction over which is conferred upon Metropolitan Trial Courts, [MTCs],

    and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts (conferred upon the city and municipal courts under R.A.

    296, as amended)." Thus, under the old law, there was no substantial effect on jurisdiction

    whether a case is one, the subject matter of which was incapable of pecuniary estimation, under

    Section 19(1) of B.P. 129 or one involving title to property under Section 19(2). The distinction

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    between the two classes became crucial with the amendment introduced by R.A. No. 7691[48]

    in 1994 which expanded the exclusive original jurisdiction of the first level courts to include "all

    civil actions which involve title to, or possession of, real property, or any interest therein where

    the assessed value of the property or interest therein does not exceed Twenty thousand

    pesos (P20,000.00) or, in civil actions in Metro Manila, where such assessed value does not

    exceed Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) exclusive of interest, damages of whatever kind,

    attorney's fees, litigation expenses and costs." Thus, under the present law, original

    jurisdiction over cases the subject matter of which involves "title to, possession of, real property

    or any interest therein" under Section 19(2) of B.P. 129 is divided between the first and second

    level courts, with the assessed value of the real property involved as the benchmark. This

    amendment was introduced to "unclog the overloaded dockets of the RTCs which would result in

    the speedier administration of justice."[49]

    The cases of Raymundo v. CA[50] and Commodities Storage and ICE Plant

    Corporation v. CA,[51] relied upon by the petitioners, are inapplicable to the cases at bar.

    Raymundo involved a complaint for mandatory injunction, not one for reconveyance or

    annulment of title. The bone of contention was whether the case was incapable of pecuniaryestimation considering petitioner's contention that the pecuniary claim of the complaint was only

    attorney's fees of P10,000, hence, the MTC had jurisdiction. The Court defined the criterion for

    determining whether an action is one that is incapable of pecuniary estimation and held that the

    issue of whether petitioner violated the provisions of the Master Deed and Declaration of

    Restriction of the Corporation is one that is incapable of pecuniary estimation. The claim for

    attorney's fees was merely incidental to the principal action, hence, said amount was not

    determinative of the court's jurisdiction. Nor can Commodities Storage and ICE Plant

    Corporationprovide any comfort to petitioners for the issue resolved by the Court in said case

    was venue and not jurisdiction. The action therein was for damages, accounting and fixing of

    redemption period which was filed on October 28, 1994, before the passage of R.A. No. 7691.

    In resolving the issue of venue, the Court held that "[w]here the action affects title to property, it

    should be instituted in the [RTC] where the property is situated. The Sta. Maria Ice Plant &

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    Cold Storage is located in Sta. Maria, Bulacan. The venue in Civil Case No. 94-727076 was

    therefore improperly laid."

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    Worse, the cases of Swan v. CA[52]and Santos v. CA[53] cited by the petitioners,

    contradict their own position that the nature of the instant cases falls under Section 19(1) of B.P.

    129. The complaints in Swan and Santos were filed prior to the enactment of R.A. No. 7691.

    In Swan, the Court held that the action being one for annulment of title, the RTC had original

    jurisdiction under Section 19(2) of B.P. 129. In Santos, the Court similarly held that the

    complaint for cancellation of title, reversion and damages is also one that involves title to and

    possession of real property under Section 19(2) of B.P. 129. Thus, while the Court held that the

    RTC had jurisdiction, the Court classified actions for "annulment of title" and "cancellation of

    title, reversion and damages" as civil actions that involve "title to, or possession of, real

    property, or any interest therein" under Section 19(2) of B.P. 129.

    Petitioners' contention that the value of the trees cut in the subject properties constitutes

    "any interest therein (in the subject properties)" that should be computed in addition to the

    respective assessed values of the subject properties is unavailing. Section 19(2) of B.P. 129, as

    amended by R.A. No. 7691, is clear that the RTC shall exercise jurisdiction "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)." It is true that the recovery of the value of the trees cut from the subject

    properties may be included in the term "any interest therein." However, the law is emphatic that

    in determining which court has jurisdiction, it is only the assessed value of the realty involved

    that should be computed.[54] In this case, there is no dispute that the assessed values of the

    subject properties as shown by their tax declarations are less than P20,000.00. Clearly,

    jurisdiction over the instant cases belongs not to the RTC but to the MTC.

    IN VIEW WHEREOF, the decision of the Court of Appeals is hereby AFFIRMED that

    the RTC of Dipolog City, Branch 9, has no jurisdiction in Civil Case Nos. 5188, 5433 and 5434.

    No costs.

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    SO ORDERED.

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    VICTORINO QUINAGORAN, G.R. NO. 155179

    Petitioner,

    Present:

    YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.,

    Chairperson,

    - versus - AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,

    CHICO-NAZARIO,

    NACHURA, and

    REYES, JJ.

    COURT OF APPEALS and

    THE HEIRS OF JUAN DE LA

    CRUZ, Promulgated:

    Respondents. August 24, 2007

    x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - x

    D E C I S I O N

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    AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.:

    Before the Court is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the

    Rules of Court, assailing the Decision[1] of the Court Appeals (CA) in CA-GR SP

    No. 60443 dated May 27, 2002 and its Resolution[2] dated August 28, 2002, which

    denied petitioner's Motion for Reconsideration.

    The factual antecedents.

    The heirs of Juan dela Cruz, represented by Senen dela Cruz (respondents),

    filed on October 27, 1994 a Complaint for Recovery of Portion of Registered Land

    with Compensation and Damages against Victorino Quinagoran (petitioner) before

    the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch XI of Tuao, Cagayan, docketed as Civil

    Case No. 240-T.[3] They alleged that they are the co-owners of a a parcel of land

    containing 13,100 sq m located at Centro, Piat, Cagayan, which they inherited

    from the late Juan dela Cruz;[4] that in the mid-70s, petitioner started occupying a

    house on the north-west portion of the property, covering 400 sq m, by tolerance of

    respondents; that in 1993, they asked petitioner to remove the house as they

    planned to construct a commercial building on the property; that petitioner refused,

    claiming ownership over the lot; and that they suffered damages for their failure to

    use the same.[5] Respondents prayed for the reconveyance and surrender of the

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    disputed 400 sq m, more or less, and to be paid the amount of P5,000.00 monthly

    until the property is vacated, attorney's fees in the amount of P20,000.00, costs of

    suit and other reliefs and remedies just and equitable.[6]

    Petitioner filed a Motion to Dismiss claiming that the RTC has no

    jurisdiction over the case under Republic Act (R.A.) No. 7691, which expanded the

    exclusive original jurisdiction of the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) to include all

    civil actions which involve title to, or possession of, real property, or any interest

    therein which does not exceed P20,000.00. He argued that since the 346 sq m lot

    which he owns adjacent to the contested property has an assessed value of

    P1,730.00, the assessed value of the lot under controversy would not be more than

    the said amount.[7]

    The RTC denied petitioner's Motion to Dismiss in an Order dated November

    11, 1999, thus:

    The Court finds the said motion to be without merit. The present action onthe basis of the allegation of the complaint partakes of the nature of action

    publicciana (sic) and jurisdiction over said action lies with the Regional Trial Court,

    regardless of the value of the property. This is so because in paragraph 8 of thecomplaint, it is alleged that the plaintiff demanded from the defendant the removal

    of the house occupied by the defendant and the possession of which is Only due to

    Tolerance (sic) of herein plaintiffs.

    WHEREFORE, for lack of merit, the motion to dismiss is hereby denied.[8]

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    Petitioner's Motion for Reconsideration was also denied by the RTC.[9]

    Petitioner then went to the CA on a Petition for Certiorariand Prohibitionseeking the annulment of the Orders of the RTC.[10]

    On May 27, 2002, the CA rendered the herein assailed Decision dismissing

    petitioner's action and affirming in toto the RTC.[11] Pertinent portions of said

    Decision, read:

    At the onset, we find that the complaint filed by the Heirs of Juan dela Cruz,

    represented by Senen dela Cruz adequately set forth the jurisdictional

    requirements for a case to be cognizable by the Regional Trial Court. TheComplaint is captioned recovery of portion of registered land and it contains the

    following allegations:

    7. That since plaintiffs and defendant were neighbors, the latterbeing the admitted owner of the adjoining lot, the former's occupancy

    of said house by defendant was only due to the tolerance of hereinplaintiffs;

    8. That plaintiffs, in the latter period of 1993, then demanded the

    removal of the subject house for the purpose of constructing acommercial building and which herein defendant refused and in fact

    now claims ownership of the portion in which said house stands;

    9. That repeated demands relative to the removal of the subject

    house were hence made but which landed on deaf ears;

    10. That a survey of the property as owned by herein plaintiffsclearly establishes that the subject house is occupying Four Hundred

    (400) square meters thereof at the north-west portion thereof, as per the

    approved survey plan in the records of the Bureau of Lands.

    x x x x

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    It is settled that when the complaint fails to aver facts constitutive of

    forcible entry or unlawful detainer, as where it does not state how entry waseffected or how and when dispossession started, the remedy should either be an

    accion publicianaor an accion reinvindicatoriain the proper regional trial court.

    In the latter instances, jurisdiction pertains to the Regional Trial Court.

    As another legal recourse from a simple ejectment case governed by the

    Revised Rules of Summary Procedure, an accion publicianais the plenary action

    to recover the right of possession when dispossession has lasted more than oneyear or when dispossession was effected by means other than those mentioned in

    Rule 70 of the Rules of Court. Where there is no allegation that there was denial

    of possession through any of the methods stated in Section 1, Rule 70 of the Rulesof Court, or where there is no lease contract between the parties, the proper

    remedy is the plenary action of recovery of possession. Necessarily, the action

    falls within the jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court. Thus, we find that the

    private respondents [heirs of dela Cruz] availed of the proper remedy when theyfiled the action before the court a quo.

    Undoubtedly, the respondent court therefore did not act with grave abuse

    of discretion amounting to or in excess of jurisdiction in denying Quinagoran'sMotion to Dismiss and the Motion for Reconsideration, thereof, because it has

    jurisdiction to hear and decide the instant case.

    x x x x

    It would not be amiss to point out that the nature of the action and

    jurisdiction of courts are determined by the allegations in the complaint. Ascorrectly held by the Regional Trial Court, the present action on the basis of the

    allegation of the complaint partakes of the nature of action publiciana and

    jurisdiction over said action lies with the Regional Trial Court regardless of thevalue of the property. Therefore, we completely agree with the court a quo's

    conclusion that the complaint filed by the Heirs of Juan dela Cruz, represented by

    Senen dela Cruz, is in the nature of an accion publiciana and hence it is theRegional Trial Court which has jurisdiction over the action, regardless of the

    assessed value of the property subject of present controversy.[12]

    Petitioner's Motion for Reconsideration was denied on August 28, 2002 for

    lack of merit.[13]

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    Petitioner now comes before this Court on a petition for review claiming that

    under R.A. No. 7691 the jurisdiction of the MTC, Metropolitan Trial Court

    (MeTC), and Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) was expanded to include

    exclusive original jurisdiction over civil actions when the assessed value of the

    property does not exceed P20,000.00 outside Metro Manila and P50,000.00 within

    Metro Manila.[14] He likewise avers that it is an indispensable requirement that

    the complaint should allege the assessed value of the property involved.[15] In

    this case, the complaint does not allege that the assessed value of the land in

    question is more than P20,000.00. There was also no tax declaration attached to

    the complaint to show the assessed value of the property. Respondents therefore

    failed to allege that the RTC has jurisdiction over the instant case.[16] The tax

    declaration covering Lot No. 1807 owned by respondents and where the herein

    disputed property is purportedly part -- a copy of which petitioner submitted to the

    CA -- also shows that the value of the property is only P551.00.[17] Petitioner then

    prays that the CA Decision and Resolution be annulled and set aside and that the

    complaint of herein respondents before the trial court be dismissed for lack of

    jurisdiction.[18]

    Respondents contend that: the petition is without factual and legal bases, and

    the contested decision of the CA is entirely in accordance with law;[19] nowhere

    in the body of their complaint before the RTC does it state that the assessed value

    of the property is below P20,000.00;[20] the contention of petitioner in his Motion

    to Dismiss before the RTC that the assessed value of the disputed lot is below

    P20,000.00 is based on the assessed value of an adjacent property and no

    documentary proof was shown to support the said allegation;[21] the tax

    declaration which petitioner presented, together with his Supplemental Reply

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    before the CA, and on the basis of which he claims that the disputed property's

    assessed value is only P551.00, should also not be given credence as the said tax

    declaration reflects the amount of P56,100.00 for the entire property.[22]

    The question posed in the present petition is not complicated, i.e., does the

    RTC have jurisdiction over all cases of recovery of possession regardless of the

    value of the property involved?

    The answer is no. The doctrine on which the RTC anchored its denial of

    petitioner's Motion to Dismiss, as affirmed by the CA -- that all cases of recovery

    of possession or accion publicianalies with the regional trial courts regardless of

    the value of the property -- no longer holds true. As things now stand, a distinction

    must be made between those properties the assessed value of which is below

    P20,000.00, if outside Metro Manila; and P50,000.00, if within.

    Republic Act No. 7691[23] which amended BatasPambansaBlg. 129[24]

    and which was already in effect[25] when respondents filed their complaint with

    the RTC on October 27, 1994,[26] expressly provides:

    SEC. 19. Jurisdiction in civil cases Regional Trial Courts shall

    exercise exclusive original jurisdiction:

    x x x x

    (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

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    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 for forcible entry into and unlawful detainer of lands or buildings, originaljurisdiction over which is conferred upon the Metropolitan Trial Courts,

    Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts.

    x x x x

    SEC. 33. Jurisdiction of Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial

    Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts in Civil Cases. --- Metropolitan Trial

    Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts shall

    exercise:

    x x x x

    (3) Exclusive original jurisdiction in all civil actions which involve title

    to, or possession of , real property, or any interest therein where the assessedvalue of the property or interest therein does not exceed Twenty thousand

    pesos (P20,000.00) or, in civil actions in Metro Manila, where such assessed

    value does not exceed Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) exclusive of interest,

    damages or whatever kind, attorney's fees, litigation expenses and costs: ProvidedThat in cases of land not declared for taxation purposes, the value of such

    property shall be determined by the assessed value of the adjacent lots.(Emphasis

    supplied)

    The Court has also declared that all cases involving title to or possession of

    real property with an assessed value of less than P20,000.00 if outside Metro

    Manila, falls under the original jurisdiction of the municipal trial court.[27]

    InAtuel v. Valdez[28] the Court likewise expressly stated that:

    Jurisdiction over an accion publiciana is vested in a court of general jurisdiction.

    Specifically, the regional trial court exercises exclusive original jurisdiction in all

    civil actions which involve x x x possession of real property. However, if the

    assessed value of the real property involved does not exceed P50,000.00 in

    Metro Manila, and P20,000.00 outside of Metro Manila, the municipal trial

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    court exercises jurisdiction over actions to recover possession of real

    property.[29]

    That settled, the next point of contention is whether the complaint must

    allege the assessed value of the property involved. Petitioner maintains that there

    should be such an allegation, while respondents claim the opposite.

    In no uncertain terms, the Court has already held that a complaint must

    allege the assessed value of the real property subject of the complaint or the

    interest thereon to determine which court has jurisdiction over the action.[30] This

    is because the nature of the action and which court has original and exclusive

    jurisdiction over the same is determined by the material allegations of the

    complaint, the type of relief prayed for by the plaintiff and the law in effect when

    the action is filed, irrespective of whether the plaintiffs are entitled to some or all

    of the claims asserted therein.[31]

    In this case, the complaint denominated as Recovery of Portion of

    Registered Land with Compensation and Damages, reads:

    1. That plaintiffs are the only direct and legitimate heirs of the late Juandela Cruz, who died intestate on February 3, 1977, and are all residents of Centro,

    Piat, Cagayan;

    x x x x

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    4. That plaintiffs inherited from x x x Juan dela Cruz x x x a certain

    parcel of land x x x containing an area of 13,111 square meters.

    5. That sometime in the mid-1960's, a house was erected on the north-

    west portion of the aforedescribed lot x x x.

    x x x x

    7. That since plaintiffs and defendant were neighbors, the latter being

    the admitted owner of the adjoining lot, the former's occupancy of said house bydefendant was only due to the tolerance of herein plaintiffs;

    8. That plaintiffs, in the latter period of 1993, then demanded theremoval of the subject house for the purpose of constructing a commercial building

    and which herein defendant refused and in fact now claims ownership of the portion

    in which said house stands;

    9. That repeated demands relative to the removal of the subject house

    were hence made but which landed on deaf ears;

    10. That a survey of the property as owned by herein plaintiffs clearlyestablishes that the subject house is occupying Four Hundred (400) square meters

    thereof at the north-west portion thereof, as per the approved survey plan in the

    records of the Bureau of Lands.[32]

    Nowhere in said complaint was the assessed value of the subject property

    ever mentioned. There is therefore no showing on the face of the complaint that

    the RTC has exclusive jurisdiction over the action of the respondents.[33] Indeed,

    absent any allegation in the complaint of the assessed value of the property, it

    cannot be determined whether the RTC or the MTC has original and exclusive

    jurisdiction over the petitioner's action.[34] The courts cannot take judicial notice

    of the assessed or market value of the land.[35]

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    Jurisdiction of the court does not depend upon the answer of the defendant

    or even upon agreement, waiver or acquiescence of the parties.[36] Indeed, the

    jurisdiction of the court over the nature of the action and the subject matter thereof

    cannot be made to depend upon the defenses set up in the court or upon a motion to

    dismiss for, otherwise, the question of jurisdiction would depend almost entirely on

    the defendant.[37]

    Considering that the respondents failed to allege in their complaint the

    assessed value of the subject property, the RTC seriously erred in denying themotion to dismiss. Consequently, all proceedings in the RTC are null and

    void,[38] and the CA erred in affirming the RTC.[39]

    WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Court of Appeals's

    Decision in CA-GR SP No. 60443 dated May 27, 2002 and its Resolution dated

    August 28, 2002, are REVERSEDand SETASIDE. The Regional Trial Courts

    Orders dated November 11, 1999 and May 11, 2000, and all proceedings therein

    are declared NULL and VOID. The complaint in Civil Case No. 240-T is

    dismissed without prejudice.

    No costs.

    SO ORDERED.

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    [G.R. No. 160384. April 29, 2005]

    CESAR T. HILARIO, for himself and as Attorney-in-Fact of IBARRA, NESTOR, LINA and

    PRESCILLA, all surnamed HILARIO,petitioners, vs. ALLAN T. SALVADOR, respondent.

    HEIRS OF SALUSTIANO SALVADOR, namely, REGIDOR M. SALVADOR and VIRGINIA

    SALVADOR-LIM, respondents-intervenors.

    D E C I S I O N

    CALLEJO, SR.,J.:

    This is a petition for review on certiorariunder Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court of theDecision[1]of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 63737 as well as its Resolution[2]

    denying the motion for the reconsideration of the said decision.

    The Antecedents

    On September 3, 1996, petitioners Cesar, Ibarra, Nestor, Lina and Prescilla, all surnamed Hilario,

    filed a complaint with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Romblon, Romblon, Branch 71, against

    private respondent Allan T. Salvador. They alleged therein, inter alia, as follows:

    2. That, the plaintiffs are co-owners by inheritance from Concepcion Mazo Salvador of a

    parcel of land designated as Cad. Lot No. 3113-part, located at Sawang, Romblon,Romblon, which property was [adjudged] as the hereditary share of their father, Brigido

    M. Hilario, Jr. when their father was still single, and which adjudication was known bythe plaintiffs[]fathers co-heirs;

    3. That, sometime in 1989, defendant constructed his dwelling unit of mixed materials on

    the property of the plaintiffs father without the knowledge of the herein plaintiffs or

    their predecessors-in-interest;

    4. That, demands have been made of the defendant to vacate the premises but the lattermanifested that he have (sic) asked the prior consent of their grandmother, Concepcion

    Mazo Salvador;

    5. That, to reach a possible amicable settlement, the plaintiffs brought the matter to theLupon of Barangay Sawang, to no avail, evidenced by the CERTIFICATE TO FILE

    ACTION hereto attached as ANNEX B;

    6. That, the unjustified refusal of the defendant to vacate the property has caused the

    plaintiffs to suffer shame, humiliation, wounded feelings, anxiety and sleepless nights;

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    petitioners, the motion to dismiss was premature and the proper time to interpose it is when the

    [petitioners] introduced evidence that the land is of such value.

    On November 7, 1996, the RTC issued an Order[8]denying the motion to dismiss, holding that

    the action was incapable of pecuniary estimation, and therefore, cognizable by the RTC as

    provided in Section 19(1) of B.P. Blg. 129, as amended.

    After the denial of the motion to dismiss, the private respondent filed his answer with

    counterclaim.[9]Traversing the material allegations of the complaint, he contended that thepetitioners had no cause of action against him since the property in dispute was the conjugal

    property of his grandparents, the spouses Salustiano Salvador and Concepcion Mazo-Salvador.

    On April 8, 1997, Regidor and Virginia Salvador filed their Answer-in-Intervention[10]making

    common cause with the private respondent. On her own motion, however, Virginia Salvador

    was dropped as intervenor.[11]

    During trial, the petitioners adduced in evidence Tax Declaration No. 8590-A showing that in1991 the property had an assessed value of P5,950.00.[12]

    On June 3, 1999, the trial court rendered judgment finding in favor of the petitioners. The

    dispositive portion of the decision reads:

    WHEREFORE, as prayed for, judgment is rendered:

    Ordering the defendant to vacate and peacefully turn over to the plaintiffs the occupied property;and

    Dismissing defendants counterclaim.

    SO ORDERED.[13]

    Aggrieved, the private respondent and respondent-intervenor Regidor Salvador appealed the

    decision to the CA, which rendered judgment on May 23, 2003 reversing the ruling of the RTC

    and dismissing the complaint for want of jurisdiction. Thefalloof the decision is as follows:

    IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the appealed decision is REVERSED, and the case

    DISMISSED, without prejudice to its refilling in the proper court.

    SO ORDERED.[14]

    The CA declared that the action of the petitioners was one for the recovery of ownership and

    possession of real property. Absent any allegation in the complaint of the assessed value of the

    property, the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) had exclusive jurisdiction over the action,conformably to Section 33[15]of R.A. No. 7691.

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    The petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration of the said decision, which the appellate court

    denied.[16]Hence, they filed the instant petition, with the following assignment of errors:

    I

    THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED GRAVE REVERSIBLE ERRORIN HOLDING THAT THE INSTANT CASE,ACCION REINVINDICATORIA, FALLS

    WITHIN THE EXCLUSIVE ORIGINAL JURISDICTION OF THE MUNICIPAL TRIAL

    COURT OF ROMBLON, AND NOT WITH THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OFROMBLON.

    II

    THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED SERIOUS REVERSIBLE ERROR

    IN ORDERING THE REFILING OF THE CASE IN THE [PROPER] COURT, INSTEAD OFDECIDING THE CASE ON THE MERITS BASED ON THE COMPLETE RECORDS

    ELEVATED BEFORE SAID APPELLATE COURT AND IN NOT AFFIRMINGIN TOTOTHE DECISION OF THE TRIAL COURT.[17]

    The Ruling of the Court

    The lone issue for our resolution is whether the RTC had jurisdiction over the action of the

    petitioners, the plaintiffs in the RTC, against the private respondent, who was the defendanttherein.

    The petitioners maintain that the RTC has jurisdiction since their action is an accion

    reinvindicatoria, an action incapable of pecuniary estimation; thus, regardless of the assessed

    value of the subject property, exclusive jurisdiction falls within the said court. Besides,according to the petitioners, in their opposition to respondents motion to dismiss, they made

    mention of the increase in the assessed value of the land in question in the amount of P3.5million. Moreover, the petitioners maintain that their action is also one for damages exceeding

    P20,000.00, over which the RTC has exclusive jurisdiction under R.A. No. 7691.

    The petition has no merit.

    It bears stressing that the nature of the action and which court has original and exclusive

    jurisdiction over the same is determined by the material allegations of the complaint, the type of

    relief prayed for by the plaintiff and the law in effect when the action is filed, irrespective of

    whether the plaintiffs are entitled to some or all of the claims asserted therein.[18]

    The caption ofthe complaint is not determinative of the nature of the action. Nor does the jurisdiction of the

    court depend upon the answer of the defendant or agreement of the parties or to the waiver or

    acquiescence of the parties.

    We do not agree with the contention of the petitioners and the ruling of the CA that the action of

    the petitioners in the RTC was an accion reinvindicatoria. We find and so rule that the action ofthe petitioners was an accion publiciana, or one for the recovery of possession of the real

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    property subject matter thereof. An accion reinvindicatoriais a suit which has for its object the

    recovery of possession over the real property as owner. It involves recovery of ownership and

    possession based on the said ownership. On the other hand, an accion publicianais one for therecovery of possession of the right to possess. It is also referred to as an ejectment suit filed after

    the expiration of one year after the occurrence of the cause of action or from the unlawful

    withholding of possession of the realty.[19]

    The action of the petitioners filed on September 3, 1996 does not involve a claim of ownership

    over the property. They allege that they are co-owners thereof, and as such, entitled to itspossession, and that the private respondent, who was the defendant, constructed his house

    thereon in 1989 without their knowledge and refused to vacate the property despite demands for

    him to do so. They prayed that the private respondent vacate the property and restore possession

    thereof to them.

    When the petitioners filed their complaint on September 3, 1996, R.A. No. 7691 was already in

    effect. Section 33(3) of the law provides:

    Sec. 33. Jurisdiction of Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit

    Trial Courts in Civil Cases.Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts and MunicipalCircuit Trial Courts shall exercise:

    (3) Exclusive original jurisdiction in all civil actions which involve title to, or possession of,real property, or any interest therein where the assessed value of the property or interest therein

    does not exceed Twenty Thousand Pesos (P20,000.00) or, in civil actions in Metro Manila,

    where such assessed value does not exceed Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) exclusive of

    interest, damages of whatever kind, attorneys fees, litigation expenses and costs: Provided, Thatin cases of land not declared for taxation purposes, the value of such property shall be

    determined by the assessed value of the adjacent lots.

    Section 19(2) of the law, likewise, provides that:

    Sec. 19. Jurisdiction in civil cases.The Regional Trial Court shall exercise exclusive original

    jurisdiction:

    (2) In all civil actions, which involve the title to, or possession of, real property, or any interesttherein, 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 orbuildings, original jurisdiction over which is conferred upon the Metropolitan Trial Courts,

    Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts.

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    The jurisdiction of the court over an action involving title to or possession of land is now

    determined by the assessed value of the said property and not the market value thereof. The

    assessed value of real property is the fair market value of the real property multiplied by theassessment level. It is synonymous to taxable value.[20]The fair market value is the price at

    which a property may be sold by a seller, who is not compelled to sell, and bought by a buyer,

    who is not compelled to buy.

    Even a cursory reading of the complaint will show that it does not contain an allegation stating

    the assessed value of the property subject of the complaint.[21] The court cannot take judicialnotice of the assessed or market value of lands.[22] Absent any allegation in the complaint of the

    assessed value of the property, it cannot thus be determined whether the RTC or the MTC had

    original and exclusive jurisdiction over the petitioners action.

    We note that during the trial, the petitioners adduced in evidence Tax Declaration No. 8590-A,

    showing that the assessed value of the property in 1991 was P5,950.00. The petitioners,

    however, did not bother to adduce in evidence the tax declaration containing the assessed value

    of the property when they filed their complaint in 1996. Even assuming that the assessed valueof the property in 1991 was the same in 1995 or 1996, the MTC, and not the RTC had

    jurisdiction over the action of the petitioners since the case involved title to or possession of realproperty with an assessed value of less than P20,000.00.[23]

    We quote with approval, in this connection, the CAs disquisition:

    The determining jurisdictional element for the accion reinvindicatoriais, as RA 7691 discloses,

    the assessed value of the property in question. For properties in the provinces, the RTC hasjurisdiction if the assessed value exceeds P20,000, and the MTC, if the value is P20,000 or

    below. An assessed value can have reference only to the tax rolls in the municipality where the

    property is located, and is contained in the tax declaration. In the case at bench, the most recenttax declaration secured and presented by the plaintiffs-appellees is Exhibit B. The loose remarkmade by them that the property was worth 3.5 million pesos, not to mention that there is

    absolutely no evidence for this, is irrelevant in the light of the fact that there is an assessed

    value. It is the amount in the tax declaration that should be consulted and no other kind of value,and as appearing in Exhibit B, this is P5,950. The case, therefore, falls within the exclusive

    original jurisdiction of the Municipal Trial Court of Romblon which has jurisdiction over the

    territory where the property is located, and not the court a quo.[24]

    It is elementary that the tax declaration indicating the assessed value of the property enjoys the

    presumption of regularity as it has been issued by the proper government agency.[25]

    Unavailing also is the petitioners argumentation that since the complaint, likewise, seeks the

    recovery of damages exceeding P20,000.00, then the RTC had original jurisdiction over theiractions. Section 33(3) of B.P. Blg. 129, as amended, quoted earlier, explicitly excludes from the

    determination of the jurisdictional amount the demand for interest, damages of whatever kind,

    attorneys fees, litigation expenses, and costs. This Court issued Administrative Circular No.09-94 setting the guidelines in the implementation of R.A. No. 7691, and paragraph 2 thereof

    states that

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    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. 7691,

    applies to cases where the damages are merely incidental to or a consequence of the main causeof 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.

    Neither may the petitioners find comfort and solace in Section 19(8) of B.P. Blg. 129, as

    amended, which states:

    SEC. 19. Jurisdiction in civil cases.Regional Trial Courts shall exercise exclusive original

    jurisdiction:

    (8) In all other cases in which the demand, exclusive of interest, damages of whatever kind,

    attorney's fees, litigation expenses, and costs or the value of the property in controversy exceedsOne Hundred Thousand Pesos (P100,000.00) or, in such other cases in Metro Manila, where thedemand, exclusive of the above-mentioned items exceeds Two Hundred Thousand Pesos

    (P200,000.00).

    The said provision is applicable only to all other cases other than an action involving title to, or

    possession of real property in which the assessed value is the controlling factor in determining

    the courts jurisdiction. The said damages are merely incidental to, or a consequence of, themain cause of action for recovery of possession of real property.[26]

    Since the RTC had no jurisdiction over the action of the petitioners, all the proceedings therein,

    including the decision of the RTC, are null and void. The complaint should perforce bedismissed.[27]

    WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The assailed Decision and Resolution of the Court of

    Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 63737 are AFFIRMED. Costs against the petitioners.

    SO ORDERED.

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