Civil Law, Remedial Law

Norberte v. Mejia  G.R. No. 182886, March 09, 2015 Accion Publiciana, Ejectment, Contract of Sale, Contract to Sell

FACTS:

Edgardo Ongsiaco, owner of the lot subject of this case, allowed Dativa Gonzales to occupy the same and build a house thereon. However, Ongsiaco later sold the land to the spouses Legaspi, who caused the registration of the property in their names. Thus, the Spouses Legaspi filed an action for ejectment against Gonzales.

The Spouses Legaspi executed a Deed of Conditional Sale over the subject lot in favor of spouses Norberte.

However, the Spouses Legaspi again sold the same property, this time to respondents spouses Mejia. This prompted the Spouses Norberte to file an action to annul said sale to the Spouses Mejia and successfully obtained a judgment in their favor.

Upon payment of the balance of the purchase price, a Deed of Absolute Sale was executed in favor of the Spouses Norberte. Thus, the Norbertes made a demand to vacate against the Mejias. Since the demand was left unheeded, the Spouses Norberte filed a complaint for ejectment before the MeTC.

The MeTC dismissed the complaint for lack of jurisdiction since, under the circumstances, the summary action for unlawful detainer was no longer available and the proper action should have been accion publiciana. The Spouses Norberte then brought the case to the RTC.

The RTC affirmed in toto the decision of the MeTC, dismissing the case on the ground of lack of jurisdiction.

The Sps. Norberte thus elevated the case to the CA, seeking the reversal of the rulings of the courts below.

The CA ordered that the case be REMANDED to the RTC for further proceedings. The subsequent MR was also denied. Hence, the present petition.

 

ISSUE:

  1. Whether or not the MeTC had  jurisdiction over the case.
  2. Whether or not the Deed of Conditional Sale is not absolute in nature but is, in fact, a mere contract to sell.

 

RULING:

1.

In summary ejectment suits (unlawful detainer and forcible entry), the only issue to be determined is who between the contending parties has better possession of the contested property. The Municipal Trial Courts, Metropolitan Trial Courts in Cities, and the Municipal Circuit Trial Courts exercise exclusive original jurisdiction over these cases and the proceedings are governed by the Rules on Summary Procedure.

On the other hand, accion publiciana, also known as accion plenaria de posesion, is a plenary action for the recovery of possession in an ordinary civil proceeding to determine the better and legal right to possess, independently of title.

The main distinctions between these two remedies lie in the period within which the action can be instituted and in the court which exercises jurisdiction over the matter.

Actions for unlawful detainer and forcible entry must be filed within one (1) year from the date possession is lost, while accion publiciana may be filed only after the expiration of that period but within the period prescribed in the statute of limitations. An accion publiciana may only be filed with the RTC, while a complaint for unlawful detainer or forcible entry may only be filed with the first level courts.

The Court sustains the finding that the MeTC had no jurisdiction over the case.

2.

The ownership of the subject property passed to the Spouses Norberte by constructive delivery upon the execution of the contract of conditional sale between them and the Legaspis. Although denominated as conditional, a deed of sale is absolute in nature in the absence of any stipulation reserving title to the seller until full payment of the purchase price.

In such case, ownership of the thing sold passes to the buyer upon actual or constructive delivery.

In a contract of sale, the title to the property passes to the buyer upon the delivery of the thing sold.

In a contract to sell, on the other hand, the ownership is, by agreement, retained by the vendor and is not to pass to the vendee until full payment of the purchase price. Here, there was already a perfected contract.

There was no express reservation of title made by the Legaspis over the property, or any provision which would impose payment of the price as a condition for the contract’s entering into force. The absence of such stipulation indicates that what the parties have actually contemplated was a contract of absolute sale.

Therefore, the Spouses Norberte were deemed to have been unlawfully deprived of the lawful possession of the property by the Mejias upon the execution of the contract of conditional sale on March 28, 1998. Unfortunately, they filed their complaint for ejectment only on November 6, 2003, way beyond the prescribed period of one (1) year within which the action should be commenced. However, the RTC should not have dismissed the case. Rather, it should have tried it as one for accion publiciana, as if it had originally been filed with it, in accordance with paragraph 1 of Section 8, Rule 40 of the Rules of Court.

 

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