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Hilario vs Salvador

457 SCRA 815


FACTS:
Petitioners herein are co-owners of a parcel of land located in Romblon. In
1996, they filed a complaint with the RTC of Romblon against herein, respondent,
alleging that as co-owners, they are entitled to possession of the lot, and that
respondent constructed his house thereon without their knowledge and refused
to vacate the property despite demands to do so. They prayed for the private
respondent to vacate the property and restore possession thereof to them. The
complaint, however, failed to allege the assessed value of the land.
Nevertheless, petitioners were able to present during the trial the most recent
tax declaration, which shows that the assessed value of the property was Php
5,950.00.
The respondent filed a Motion to Dismiss on the ground of lack of
jurisdiction because of the failure to allege the value of the land. The motion was
denied.
Respondent then filed an Answer, traversing the material allegations of
the complaint, contending that petitioners had no cause of action against him
since the property in dispute was the conjugal property of his grandparents, the
spouses Salustiano Salvador and Concepcion Mazo-Salvador.
The RTC ruled in favor of the petitioners. On appeal, the CA reversed the
decision, holding that the action was one for the recovery of ownership and
possession of real property, and that absent any allegation in the complaint of
the assessed value of the property, the MTC had exclusive jurisdiction over the
action (citing Sec. 33 of R.A. No. 7691). The CA then ordered the refiling of the
case in the proper court.

ISSUES:
Whether the RTC has jurisdiction over the action

HELD:
NO. Petitioner argues that the RTC has jurisdiction since their action is an
accion reinvindicatoria, an action incapable of pecuniary estimation. Thus,
regardless of the assessed value of the subject property, exclusive jurisdiction
falls within the said court. This argument is without merit.
The jurisdiction of the court over an action involving title to or possession
of land is now determined by the assessed value of the said property and not the
market value thereof. In the case at bar, the complaint does not contain an

allegation stating the assessed value of the property subject of the complaint.
The court cannot take judicial notice of the assessed or market value of land. The
Court noted that during the trial, the petitioners adduced in evidence a tax
declaration,
showing
that the assessed value of the property in 1991 was
Php5,950.00. The petitioners, however, did not bother to adduce in evidence the
tax declaration containing the assessed value of the property when they filed
their complaint in 1996. Even assuming that the assessed value of the property
in 1991 was the same in 1995 or 1996, the MTC, and not the RTC had jurisdiction
over the action of the petitioners, since the case involved title to or possession of
real property with an assessed value of less than Php20,000.00. As the Court of
Appeals had held:
The determining jurisdictional element for the accion reinvindicatoria is,
as RA 7691 discloses, the assessed value of the property in question.
For properties in the provinces, the RTC has jurisdiction if the assessed
value exceeds Php20,000.00, and the MTC, if the value is Php20,000.00 or below.
An assessed value can have reference only to the tax rolls in the municipality
where the property is located, and is contained in the tax declaration. In the case
at bench, the most recent tax declaration secured and presented by the
plaintiffs-appellees is Exhibit B. The loose remark made by them that the
property was worth 3.5 million pesos, not to mention that there is absolutely no
evidence for this, is irrelevant in the light of the fact that there is an assessed
value. It is the amount in the tax declaration that should be consulted and no
other kind of value, and as appearing in Exhibit B, this is Php5,950.00. The case,
therefore, falls within the exclusive original jurisdiction of the Municipal Trial
Court of Romblon which has jurisdiction over the territory where the property is
located, and not the court a quo.
The Supreme Court finally held that all proceedings before the RTC,
including the RTC decision, are null and void, since the RTC had no jurisdiction
over the action of the petitioners.