Saturday, February 25, 2012

Spouses Villacastin vs. Pelaez

Facts: Pelaez and his wife mortgaged their agricultural lands Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP). For failure of the Pelaez spouses to pay their mortgage obligation, the properties were foreclosed and subsequently sold at public auction.

The purported tenants of the property filed an action to annul the mortgage, foreclosure and sale of the properties, claiming that they are the owners thereof under Presidential Decree No. 27. Case was filed in the Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator in Cebu

Villacastin filed a Complaint for Forcible Entry Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator in Cebu with Prayer for a Writ of Preliminary Mandatory Injunction with the MCTC of Bantayan, Cebu, against Pelaez and a certain Elesio Monteseven. The complaint averred that Villacstin are the owners and actual possessors of the subject landholding.

Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator in Cebu rendered a decision in favor of the tenants.

MCTC rendered judgment in civil case in favor of Villacastin. RTC affirmed this decision.

CA, however, ruled that regular courts should respect the primary jurisdiction vested upon the DARAB in cases involving agricultural lands such as the property subject of this case.

Villacastin contend that the case they filed did not involve any agrarian matter and thus, the MCTC correctly exercised jurisdiction over the case.

Issue: Whether or not the MCTC (and also the RTC) has jurisdiction over the case filed by Villacastin.

Held: MCTC has jurisdiction.

Jurisdiction over the subject matter is determined by the allegations of the complaint. In ascertaining, for instance, whether an action is one for forcible entry falling within the exclusive jurisdiction of the inferior courts, the averments of the complaint and the character of the relief sought are to be examined. A review of the complaint reveals that the pertinent allegations thereof sufficiently vest jurisdiction over the action on the MCTC. The complaint alleges that the plaintiffs are the owners and legal as well as actual possessors of a parcel of agricultural land. That Pelaez, by strategy and through stealth entered the above-described land of the Villacstin and took possession thereof.

It has not escaped our notice that no landowner-tenant vinculum juris or juridical tie was alleged between petitioners and respondent, let alone that which would characterize the relationship as an agrarian dispute.

Rule II of the DARAB Rules17 provides that the DARAB "shall have primary jurisdiction, both original and appellate, to determine and adjudicate all agrarian disputes, cases, controversies, and matters or incidents involving the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program

Petitioners' action is clearly for the recovery of physical or material possession of the subject property only, a question which both the MCTC and the RTC ruled petitioners are entitled to. It does not involve the adjudication of an agrarian reform matter, nor an agrarian dispute falling within the jurisdiction of the DARAB.

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