Remedial Law

CHING v. CA G.R. No. L-59731 January 11, 1990 Action in Rem v. Action in Personam, Jurisdiction

FACTS:
Spouses Maximo Nofuente and Dominga Lumandan are owners of a parcel of land. 5/6 portion of the property was reconveyed by said spouses to Francisco, Regina, Perfects, Constancio and Matilde all surnamed Nofuente and TCT No. 78633 was issued accordingly.
By virtue of a sale to Ching Leng TCT No. 91137 was issued and TCT No. 78633 was deemed cancelled.
In 1965, Ching Leng died in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. His legitimate son Alfredo Ching filed a petition for administration of his estate.
Consequently, petitioner Alfredo Ching was appointed administrator of Ching Leng’s estate. The land covered by TCT No. 91137 was among those included in the inventory submitted to the court.
Thirteen years after Ching Leng’s death, a suit against him was commenced by private respondent Pedro Asedillo with the RTC Pasay City for reconveyance of the said property and cancellation of TCT No. 91137 in his favor based on possession. Ching Leng’s last known address is No. 44 Libertad Street, Pasay City which appears on the face of TCT No. 91137. The amended complaint alleged “That on account of the fact that the defendant has been residing abroad up to the present, and it is not known whether the defendant is still alive or dead, he or his estate may be served by summons and other processes only by publication;”. The summons and the complaint were published in a newspaper of general circulation. Defendant failed to file a responsive pleading. A judgment by default was rendered in favor of the plaintiff and against the defendant declaring the former (Pedro Asedillo) to be the true and absolute owner of the property covered by T.C.T. No. 91137.
When petitioner Alfredo Ching learned of the abovestated decision, he filed a verified petition to set it aside as null and void for lack of jurisdiction which was granted by the court.
Ultimately, the trial court reinstated the previous decision.
After the denial of his MR, petitioner filed a petition for certiorari with the CA but the same was dismissed. His MR was likewise denied.
Hence, the instant petition.

ISSUE:
Whether or not an action for reconveyance of property and cancellation of title is in personam, and if so, would a dead man and/or his estate be bound by service of summons and decision by publication.

RULING:

The petition is impressed with merit.
An action to redeem, or to recover title to or possession of, real property is not an action in rem or an action against the whole world, like a land registration proceeding or the probate of a will; it is an action in personam, so much so that a judgment therein is binding only upon the parties properly impleaded and duly heard or given an opportunity to be heard.
Actions in personam and actions in rem differ in that the former are directed against specific persons and seek personal judgments, while the latter are directed against the thing or property or status of a person and seek judgments with respect thereto as against the whole world. An action to recover a parcel of land is a real action but it is an action in personam, for it binds a particular individual only although it concerns the right to a tangible thing (Ang Lam v. Rosillosa, supra).
Private respondent’s action for reconveyance and cancellation of title being in personam, the judgment in question is null and void for lack of jurisdiction over the person of the deceased defendant Ching Leng.
As ruled by this Court in Dumlao v. Quality Plastic Products, Inc., the decision of the lower court insofar as the deceased is concerned, is void for lack of jurisdiction over his person. He was not, and he could not have been validly served with summons. He had no more civil personality. His juridical personality, that is fitness to be subject of legal relations, was lost through death (Arts. 37 and 42 Civil Code).
It is a well-settled rule that an estate can sue or be sued through an executor or administrator in his representative capacity.

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