Remedial Law

Republic v. Bantigue Point Dev’t Corp., G. R. No. 162322 : March 14, 2012 B.P. Blg. 129 or the Judiciary Reorganization Act, Jurisdiction in Cadastral Cases, Laches

FACTS:

Respondent Bantigue filed with the RTC of Rosario, Batangas an application for original registration of title over a parcel of land with a total assessed value of P14,920 for the entire property.

Petitioner Republic filed its Opposition to the application for registration while the records were still with the RTC.

The RTC Clerk of Court transmitted motu proprio the records of the case to the MTC of San Juan, because the assessed value of the property was allegedly less than P100,000.

Among the documents presented by respondent in support of its application are Tax Declarations, and a Certification from the DENR that the lot in question is within the alienable and disposable zone. 

Thereafter, the MTC awarded the land to respondent Corporation.

On appeal by the Republic, the CA ruled that since the former had actively participated in the proceedings before the lower court, petitioner is thereby estopped from questioning the jurisdiction of the lower court on appeal.

Hence, this petition.

ISSUES:

I. 

Whether the Republic is estopped from questioning the jurisdiction of the MTC over the application for original registration of land title for the first time on appeal.

II.

Whether the Municipal Trial Court acquired jurisdiction over the application for original registration of land title.

RULING:

I.

At the outset, we rule that petitioner Republic is not estopped from questioning the jurisdiction of the lower court, even if the former raised the jurisdictional question only on appeal. The rule is settled that lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter may be raised at any stage of the proceedings. 

Jurisdiction over the subject matter is conferred only by the Constitution or the law. It cannot be acquired through a waiver or enlarged by the omission of the parties or conferred by the acquiescence of the court. 

Consequently, questions of jurisdiction may be cognizable even if raised for the first time on appeal.

Laches has been defined as the “failure or neglect, for an unreasonable and unexplained length of time, to do that which, by exercising due diligence, could or should have been done earlier; it is negligence or omission to assert a right within a reasonable time, warranting the presumption that the party entitled to assert it either has abandoned or declined to assert it.” 

In this case, petitioner Republic has not displayed such unreasonable failure or neglect that would lead us to conclude that it has abandoned or declined to assert its right to question the lower court’s jurisdiction.

II.

We uphold the jurisdiction of the MTC x x x.

The delegated jurisdiction of the MTC over cadastral and land registration cases is indeed set forth in the Judiciary Reorganization Act, which provides:

Sec. 34. Delegated Jurisdiction in Cadastral and Land Registration Cases. – Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts may be assigned by the Supreme Court to hear and determine cadastral or land registration cases covering lots where there is no controversy or opposition, or contested lots where the value of which does not exceed One hundred thousand pesos (P100,000.00), such value to be ascertained by the affidavit of the claimant or by agreement of the respective claimants if there are more than one, or from the corresponding tax declaration of the real property. Their decision in these cases shall be appealable in the same manner as decisions of the Regional Trial Courts. (As amended by R.A. No. 7691)

Thus, the MTC has delegated jurisdiction in cadastral and land registration cases in two instances: first, where there is no controversy or opposition; or, second, over contested lots, the value of which does not exceed P100,000.

The MTC had jurisdiction under the second instance, because the value of the lot in this case does not exceed P100,000.

Contrary to petitioner’s contention, the value of the land should not be determined with reference to its selling price. 

The value of the property must be ascertained with reference to the corresponding Tax Declarations submitted by respondent Corporation together with its application for registration. 

From the records, we find that the total assessed value is P14,920 for the entire property. Based on these Tax Declarations, it is evident that the total value of the land in question does not exceed P100,000.

Clearly, the MTC may exercise its delegated jurisdiction under the Judiciary Reorganization Act, as amended.

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