Daniel Martinez Sr., executed a Last Will and Testament directing the subdivision of his property into three lots, namely, Lots 18-B-2-A, 18-B-2-B and 18-B-2-C, and bequeathed the three lots to each of his sons, Rodolfo, Manolo and Daniel, Jr.
After the death of Daniel, Sr., Rodolfo found a deed of sale purportedly signed by his father, where the latter appears to have sold Lot 18-B-2 to Manolo and his wife Lucila. He also discovered that a TCT was issued to the vendees based on the said deed of sale.
The spouses Manolo and Lucila Martinez wrote Rodolfo, demanding that he vacate the property. Rodolfo ignored the letter and refused to do so. This prompted the said spouses to file a complaint for unlawful detainer against Rodolfo in the MTC.
In his Answer, Rodolfo alleged, inter alia, that the complaint failed to state a condition precedent, namely, that earnest efforts for an amicable settlement of the matter between the parties had been exerted, but that none was reached. He also pointed out that the dispute had not been referred to the barangay before the complaint was filed.
The spouses Martinez filed an Amended Complaint in which they alleged that earnest efforts toward a settlement had been made, but that the same proved futile.
The MTC rendered judgment in favor of the spouses Martinez.
On appeal, the RTC rendered judgment affirming the MTC’s decision.
Rodolfo then filed a petition for review of the decision with the CA. The CA granted the petition and reversed the decision of the RTC.
Upon the denial of their motion for reconsideration, the spouses Martinez filed the present petition for review on certiorari.
Whether or not the certification to file action and the allegations in the complaint that the case passed [through] the barangay but no settlement was reached, are sufficient compliance to prove that, indeed, earnest efforts were, in fact, made but the same have failed prior to the filing of the complaint.
The petition is meritorious.
Article 151 of the Family Code provides:
Art. 151. No suit between members of the same family shall prosper unless it should appear from the verified complaint or petition that earnest efforts toward a compromise have been made, but that the same have failed. If it is shown that no such efforts were, in fact, made, the case must be dismissed.
Thus, a party’s failure to comply with Article 151 of the Family Code before filing a complaint against a family member would render such complaint premature.
However, this rule shall not apply to cases which may not be the subject of compromise under the Civil Code.
In this case, the decision of the CA that the petitioners were mandated to comply with Article 151 of the Family code and that they failed to do so is erroneous.
First. Petitioner Lucila Martinez, the respondent’s sister-in-law, was one of the plaintiffs in the MTC. The petitioner is not a member of the same family as that of her deceased husband and the respondent.
It is noteworthy that the impediment arising from this provision applies to suits “filed or maintained between members of the same family.” This phrase, “members of the same family,” should, however, be construed in the light of Art. 217 of the same Code, pursuant to which:
“Family relations shall include those:
(1) Between husband and wife;
(2) Between parent and child;
(3) Among other ascendants and their descendants;
(4) Among brothers and sisters.”
The petitioners were able to comply with the requirements of Article 151 of the Family Code because they alleged in their complaint that they had initiated a proceeding against the respondent for unlawful detainer in the Katarungang Pambarangay, in compliance with P.D. No. 1508; and that, after due proceedings, no amicable settlement was arrived at, resulting in the barangay chairman’s issuance of a certificate to file action.
The Court rules that such allegation in the complaint, as well as the certification to file action by the barangay chairman, is sufficient compliance with Article 151 of the Family Code.