Remedial Law

Ngo v. Gabello et al. G.R. No. 207707, August 24, 2020 RA 7160 (Local Government Code of 1991) Barangay Conciliation Proceedings

FACTS:

On September 24, 2008, Antonio Ngo filed before the RTC of Manila, a complaint for recovery of possession of a parcel of land covered by TCT No. 250439 (subject property) against herein respondents Visitacion Gabelo, Erlinda Abella, Petra Perez, Eduardo Traquena, Erlinda Traquena, Ulysis Mateo, Alfonso Placido, Leonardo Traquena, Susana Rendon and Mateo Trinidad.

In his complaint, Ngo alleged that he is the lawful and absolute owner of the subject property by virtue of the Deed of Absolute Sale between himself and Philippine Realty Corporation (PRC) and pursuant to this Court’s ruling in GR. No. 111743. He averred that despite several demands, Gabelo, et al. refused to vacate the subject property.

On the other hand, Gabelo, et al., in their Answer with special Affirmative Defenses and Compulsory Counterclaims insisted that Ngo failed to comply with the condition precedent for filing the action since he failed to bring the matter to the barangay for conciliation. 

After pre-trial, the RTC issued an Order dated April 17, 2009 directing the dismissal of the complaint for lack of cause of action for the plaintiff’s failure to comply with the barangay law requirements.

Ngo moved for reconsideration which was granted by the RTC. The RTC ordered the reinstatement of the Complaint and referred the case to the Barangay Court/authorities concerned where the herein parties are directed to undergo the proper Barangay conciliation proceedings.

Gabelo, et al. thus filed their Motion to Set Aside/Reconsider the Order arguing that reinstating the complaint of Ngo was a miscarriage of justice.

The RTC denied the motion for reconsideration filed by Gabeo, et al. Thus, the latter filed a Petition for Certiorari before the CA assailing the April 5, 2010 and October 15, 2010 Orders of the RTC sustaining the reinstatement of the complaint and the referral of the case to barangay conciliation.       

The appellate court granted Gabelo, et al.’s Petition. It found that indeed, the RTC committed grave abuse of discretion in issuing the assailed Orders.

Hence, this Petition for Review on Certiorari before this Court.

ISSUE:

Whether or not the complaint is dismissible on the ground of failure to comply with a condition precedent. 

RULING:

We emphasize at the outset that procedural rules are essential in the administration of justice. They do not exist for the convenience of the litigants and they were established primarily to provide order to, and enhance the efficiency of, our judicial system. These rules exist for a reason and were not merely invented out of whims. In Santos v. Court of Appeals, this Court held that:

Procedural rules are not to be disdained as mere technicalities that may be ignored at will to suit the convenience of a party. Adjective law is important in insuring the effective enforcement of substantive rights through the orderly and speedy administration of justice. These rules are not intended to hamper litigants or complicate litigation but, indeed, to provide for a system under which suitors may be heard in the correct form and manner and at the prescribed time in a peaceful confrontation before a judge whose authority they acknowledge.

RA 7160, or the Local Government Code of 1991, provides that barangay conciliation proceedings is a pre-condition to filing a complaint in court between persons actually residing in the same barangay to explore possible amicable settlement, viz: 

Section 409. Venue.– (a) Disputes between persons actually residing in the same barangay shall be brought for amicable settlement before the Lupon of said barangay.

(b) Those involving actual residents of different barangays within the same city or municipality shall be brought in the barangay where the respondent or any of the respondents actually resides, at the election of the complainant.

(c) All disputes involving real property or any interest therein shall be brought in the barangay where the real property or the larger portion thereof is situated.

(d) Those arising at the workplace where the contending parties are employed or at the institution where such parties are enrolled for study, shall be brought in the barangay where such workplace or institution is located.

Objections to venue shall be raised in the mediation proceedings before the punong barangay; otherwise, the same shall be deemed waived. Any legal question which may confront the punong barangay in resolving objections to venue herein referred to may be submitted to the Secretary of Justice or his duly designated representative, whose ruling thereon shall be binding.

Section 412. Conciliation. — (a) Pre-condition to Filing of Complaint in Court. — No 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 or pangkat chairman or unless the settlement has been repudiated by the parties thereto.

Based on the aforecited provisions, all disputes between parties actually residing in the same city or municipality are subject to barangay conciliation. A prior recourse thereto is a pre-condition before filing a complaint in court or any government office. Non-compliance with the said condition precedent could affect the sufficiency of the plaintiff’s cause of action and make his complaint vulnerable to dismissal on ground of lack of cause of action or prematurity; but the same would not prevent a court of competent jurisdiction from exercising its power of adjudication over the case before it, where the defendants failed to object to such exercise of jurisdiction.

All told, this Court finds no reason to overturn the ruling of the CA as to its finding that the RTC gravely abused its discretion in remanding the case for barangay conciliation and for revoking the dismissal of the complaint. 

All the substantive and procedural issues raised in this Petition were squarely addressed in the assailed judgment of the appellate court in accordance with law and existing jurisprudence and with due regard to extant facts and evidence.

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