Remedial Law

Bautista v. Maya-Maya Cottages, Inc., G.R. No. 148411, November 29, 2005 Amended ComplaintBautista v. Maya-Maya Cottages, Inc., G.R. No. 148411, November 29, 2005 Amended Complaint

FACTS:

Petitioners, Sps. Rafael and Ligaya Bautista, are the registered owners of the subject lot located in Nasugbu, Batangas, as evidenced by Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. P-1436 issued in their names by the Register of Deeds.

On May 13, 1996, Maya-Maya Cottages, Inc. (MMCI), respondent, filed with the RTC of Nasugbu, a complaint for cancellation of petitioners’ title and damages, with application for a preliminary injunction, docketed as Civil Case No. 371. 

Respondent alleged inter alia that without any color of right and through dubious means, petitioners were able to obtain OCT No. P-1436 in their names.

Petitioners filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on the ground that it does not state a cause of action. They averred that respondent is a private corporation, hence, disqualified under the Constitution from acquiring public alienable lands except by lease. Respondent cannot thus be considered a real party in interest.

The trial court granted the motion to dismiss, holding that since the property is an alienable public land, respondent is not qualified to acquire it except by lease. Thus, it has no cause of action.

Respondent then filed a motion for reconsideration with motion for leave to file an amended complaint for quieting of title. 

Respondent alleged that the technical description in petitioners’ title does not cover the disputed lot.

Petitioners filed their opposition, contending that the amended complaint does not also state a cause of action and if admitted, respondent’s theory of the case is substantially modified.

The trial court issued an Order denying petitioners’ motion to dismiss, thus reversing its Order dismissing the complaint in Civil Case No. 371.

Petitioners then filed with the CA a special civil action for certiorari and prohibition. 

They alleged that the amended complaint does not cure the defect in the original complaint which does not state a cause of action. 

Clearly, in admitting respondent’s amended complaint, the trial court committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.

The CA DISMISSED the petition.

Petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration but was denied.

Hence, the instant petitioner for review on certiorari.

ISSUE:

Whether or not the trial court committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in admitting respondent’s amended complaint.

RULING:

Section 2, Rule 10 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, provides:

‘SEC. 2. Amendments as a matter of right. ‘ A party may amend his pleading once as a matter of right at any time before a responsive pleading is served or, in the case of a reply, at any time within ten (10) days after it is served.

The above provision clearly shows that before the filing of any responsive pleading, a party has the absolute right to amend his pleading, regardless of whether a new cause of action or change in theory is introduced. It is settled that a motion to dismiss is not the responsive pleading contemplated by the Rule. 

Records show that petitioners had not yet filed a responsive pleading to the original complaint in Civil Case No. 371. What they filed was a motion to dismiss. It follows that respondent, as a plaintiff, may file an amended complaint even after the original complaint was ordered dismissed, provided that the order of dismissal is not yet final, as in this case.

Verily, the CA correctly held that in issuing the assailed Order admitting the amended complaint, the trial court did not gravely abuse its discretion. 

Hence, neither certiorari nor prohibition would lie.

As to petitioners’ contention that respondent corporation is barred from acquiring the subject lot, suffice it to say that this is a matter of defense which can only be properly determined during the full-blown trial of the instant case.

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