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Barrera v. Heirs of Vicente Legaspi 2008 farmland at Liloan, Bonifacio, Misamis Occidental.

After
September 12, 2008 | J. Carpio-Morales | Petition for Review on Certiorari dispossessing respondents of the property, they used a tractor to
destroy the planted crops, took possession of the land, and had since
Petitioners: Fernanda Geonzon vda. de Barrera and Johnny Oco, Jr. tended it.
Respondents: Heirs of Vicente Legaspi (represented by Pedro Legaspi) February 7, 1997: Respondents filed a complaint before the RTC of
Tangub for Reconveyance of Possession with Preliminary Mandatory
Summary: Respondents predecessor-in-interest Vicente and his wife Lorenza Injunction against petitioners.
have owned a piece of land since 1935. They found that part of it was owned Petitioners answered that the subject land forms part of a 3-hectare
by one Andrea Lacson, but never filed an action to recover ownership. In property described in OCT No. P-447, issued in the name of Andrea
1996, petitioners Fernanda and Johnny entered upon their land and Lacson, who sold a 2-hectare portion thereof to Eleuterio Geonzon,
dispossessed them of the same by the use of a tractor. Respondents then filed who, in turn, sold 1.1148 to his sister, petitioner Fernanda.
a complaint with the RTC for reconveyance of possession (accion publiciana). Respondents asserted that the land was occupied, possessed and
The assessed value of the land stated in the tax declaration was only P11,160. cultivated by their predecessor-in-interest Vicente Legaspi and his
This prompted the petitioners to question the jurisdiction of the RTC over the wife Lorenza since 1935. After a subdivision survey, it was found
subject matter. The RTC and CA ruled in favor of respondents, on both issues that part of the land formed part of the titled property of Andrea
of jurisdiction and reconveyance, opining that the estimated value of the land LAcson. Despite this, they never filed any action to recover
was P50k, thus placing it within the jurisdiction of the RTC. ownership thereof since they were left undisturbed in their
possession, until October 1, 1996, when petitioners forced their way
Doctrine: The RTC had no jurisdiction over the subject matter of the into it.
complaint. Under BP 129, as amended by RA7691, it is the municipal trial In their Memorandum, petitioners raised the issue of ownership as a
court that has exclusive original jurisdiction over all civil actions which special affirmative defense. However, they questioned the
involve title to, or possession of, real property, or any interest therein where jurisdiction of the RTC over the subject matter of the complaint, as
the assessed value of the property or interest therein does not exceed P20k or, the assessed value of the land was only P11,160, as reflected in Tax
in civil actions in Metro Manila, where such assessed value does not exceed Declaration No. 7565.
P50k. This assessed value of the property refers to the worth or value of
property established by taxing authorities on the basis of which the tax rate is Lower Courts
applied, and is not the same as the true or market value. Given that the land RTC Ruled in favor of respondents, ordering the petitioners to
was assessed at P11,160, it was the municipal trial court that had jurisdiction return the possession of the land and to desist from further
over the case. depriving and disturbing respondents peaceful possession thereof.
As to the issue of jurisdiction, the RTC ruled that the present
Facts estimated value of the land was P50k, so it had jurisdiction over the
This is a petition for review on certiorari of the decision of the CA, case.
which affirmed the RTC of Tangub City in ordering the defendants- CA Affirmed the RTC, holding that both testimonial and
petitioners Fernanda Geonzon vda. de Barrera and Johnny Oco, Jr. to documentary evidence established that respondents have been in
return possession of the subject property to plaintiffs-respondents peaceful, continuous, public and actual possession of the property
Heirs of Vicente Legaspi. even before the year 1930. It also emphasized that in an accion
October 1, 1996: Petitioner Johnny, said to be a peace officer publiciana, the only issue involved is the determination of
connected with the PNP accompanied by unidentified CAFGU possession de jure.
members, forced his way into respondents 0.9504-hectare irrigated
Issue 1: W/N the RTC had jurisdiction over the subject matter of the case applied. Commonly, however, it does not represent the true or
NO market value of the property.
S33, BP 129, as amended by RA 7691, provides for the jurisdiction of The subject land has an assessed value of P11,160 as reflected in the
metropolitan trial courts, municipal trial courts, and municipal tax declaration, a common exhibit of the parties. The bare claim of
circuit trial courts: Exclusive original jurisdiction in all civil respondents that it has a value of P50k thus fails. The case therefore
actions which involve title to, or possession of, real property, or falls within the exclusive original jurisdiction of the municipal trial
any interest therein where the assessed value of the property or court.
interest therein does not exceed Twenty thousand pesos It was error then for the RTC to take cognizance of the complaint
(P20,000.00) or, in civil actions in Metro Manila, where such assessed based on the allegation that the present estimated value [of the land
value does not exceed Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) exclusive of is] P50k which allegation is, oddly, handwritten on the printed
interest, damages of whatever kind, attorneys fees, litigation pleading. The estimated value, commonly referred to as fair market
expenses and costs: Provided, That in cases of land not declared for value, is entirely different from the assessed value of the property.
taxation purposes, the value of such property shall be determined by Lack of jurisdiction is one of those excepted grounds where the court
the assessed value of the adjacent lots. may dismiss a claim or a case at any time when it appears from the
Before the amendments introduced by RA 7691, the plenary action of pleadings or the evidence on record that any of those grounds exists,
accion publiciana was to be brought before the RTC. With RA 7691, even if they were not raised in the answer or in a motion to dismiss.
the jurisdiction of the first level courts has been expanded to include The Court likewise noted that respondents cause of action (accion
jurisdiction over other real actions where the assessed value does not publiciana) is the wrong mode. The dispossession took place on
exceed P20,000, P50,000 where the action is filed in Metro Manila. October 1, 1996 and the complaint was filed four months thereafter
The first level courts thus have exclusive original jurisdiction over or on February 7, 1997. Respondents exclusion from the property
accion publiciana and accion reivindicatoria where the assessed value had thus not lasted for more than one year to call for the remedy of
of the real property does not exceed the aforestated amounts. accion publiciana.
Accordingly, the jurisdictional element is the assessed value of the
property. HELD: Petition granted.
Assessed value is understood to be the worth or value of property
established by taxing authorities on the basis of which the tax rate is