Thursday, February 23, 2017

CASE IN POINT by Dean Ed Vincent Albano | Real action: Within the jurisdiction of the MTC or RTC


In Sps. Trayvilla v. Sejas, et al., G.R. No. 204970, February 1, 2016, Del Castillo, J, an action for specific performance with prayer for reconveyance of a property was filed, but the complaint did not allege the assessed value of the property. But the declaration in the Amended Complaint stated that the property is valued at P6,000.00 based on the handwritten document sued upon and the pleadings indicated that the property was purchased for the price of P6,000.00. The relevance of the said alleged value of the property was the subject that the SC discussed where it was

Held: The action is one for specific performance. In other words, the aim is to secure the claimed ownership and title to the property which qualified it as a real action.

Pursuant to Section 1, Rule 4 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, a real action is one that affects title to or possession of real property, or an interest therein.

Since the action is a real action, petitioners should have observed the requirement under A.M. No. 04-2-04-SC28 relative to declaring the fair market value of the property as stated in the current tax declaration or zonal valuation of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR). Since no such allegation was made in the Amended Complaint, then the value of the subject property as stated in the handwritten document sued upon and restated in the Amended Complaint should be the basis for determining jurisdiction and the amount of docket fees to be paid.

In the absence of the required declaration of the fair market value as stated in the current tax declaration or zonal valuation of the property, it cannot be determined whether the RTC or first level court has original and exclusive jurisdiction over the petitioners’ action, since the jurisdiction of these courts is determined on the basis of the value of the property.

Jurisdiction of RTCs, as may be relevant to the instant petition, is provided in Sec. 19 of BP 129, which reads:

2) In all civil actions which involve the title to, or possession of, real property, or any interest therein, where the assessed value of the property involved exceeds Twenty thousand pesos (P20,000.00) or, for civil actions in Metro Manila, where such value exceeds Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) except actions for forcible entry into and unlawful detainer of lands or buildings, original jurisdiction over which is conferred upon the Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts.

On the other hand, jurisdiction of first level courts is prescribed in Sec. 33 of BP 129, which provides:

Sec. 33. Jurisdiction of Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts in civil cases. Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts shall exercise:

x x x x

3) Exclusive original jurisdiction in all civil actions which involve title to, or possession of, real property, or any interest therein where the assessed value of the property or interest therein does not exceed Twenty thousand pesos (P20,000.00) or, in civil actions in Metro Manila, where such assessed value does not exceed Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) exclusive of interest, damages of whatever kind, attorney’s fees, litigation expenses and costs: Provided, That in cases of land not declared for taxation purposes, the value of such property shall be determined by the assessed value of the adjacent lots.

In determining jurisdiction, the Court can rely on the declaration made in the Amended Complaint that the property is valued at P6,000,00. The handwritten document sued upon and the pleadings indicate that the property was purchased by petitioners for the price of P6,000.00. For purposes of filing the civil case against respondents, this amount should be the stated value of the property in the absence of a current tax declaration or zonal valuation of the BIR. Rule 141 of the Rules of Court, as amended by A.M. No. 04-2-04-SC and Supreme Court Amended Administrative Circular No. 35-2004, provides that –

a) For filing an action or a permissive OR COMPULSORY counterclaim, CROSS-CLAIM, or money claim against an estate not based on judgment, or for filing a third-party, fourth-party, etc. complaint, or a complaint-in-intervention, if the total sum claimed, INCLUSIVE OF INTERESTS, PENALTIES, SURCHARGES, DAMAGES OF WHATEVER KIND, AND ATTORNEY'S FEES, LITIGATION EXPENSES AND COSTS and/or in cases involving property, the FAIR MARKET value of the REAL property in litigation STATED IN THE CURRENT TAX DECLARATION OR CURRENT ZONAL VALUATION OF THE BUREAU OF INTERNAL REVENUE, WHICHEVER IS HIGHER, OR IF THERE IS NONE, THE STATED VALUE OF THE PROPERTY IN LITIGATION OR THE VALUE OF THE PERSONAL PROPERTY IN LITIGATION AS ALLEGED BY THE CLAIMANT shall be the basis for the computation of the docket fees to be paid. Since the value of the subject property as stated in the Amended Complaint is just P6,000.00, then the RTC did not have jurisdiction over petitioners' case in the first instance; it should have dismissed the case. But it did not. In continuing to take cognizance of the case, the trial court clearly committed grave abuse of discretion.
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