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II.

JURISDICTION Act of 1995, the subject matter of PEZA’s petition for


1. CITY OF LAPU-LAPU V. PEZA declaratory relief, had already been breached. The trial court,
FACTS: therefore, had no jurisdiction over the petition for declaratory
These are consolidated petitions for review on certiorari the relief.
City of Lapu-Lapu and the Province of Bataan separately filed
against the Philippine Economic Zone Authority(PEZA). A special civil action for declaratory relief is filed for a judicial
determination of any question of construction or validity arising
In G.R. No. 184203, the City of Lapu-Lapu (the City) assails from, and for a declaration of rights and duties, under any of
the Court of Appeals’ decision2 dated January 11, 2008 and the following subject matters: a deed, will, contract or other
resolution3 dated August 6, 2008, dismissing the City’s appeal written instrument, statute, executive order or regulation,
for being the wrong mode of appeal. The City appealed the ordinance, or any other governmental regulation. However, a
Regional Trial Court, Branch 111, Pasay City’s decision declaratory judgment may issue only if there has been “no
finding the PEZA exempt from payment of real property taxes. breach of the documents in question.” If the contract or statute
subject matter of the action has already been breached, the
In G.R. No. 187583, the Province of Bataan (the Province) appropriate ordinary civil action must be filed. If adequate
assails the Court of Appeals’ decision4dated August 27, 2008 relief is available through another form of action or
and resolution5 dated April 16, 2009, granting the PEZA’s proceeding, the other action must be preferred over an action
petition for certiorari. The Court of Appeals ruled that the for declaratory relief. In the present case, the Regional Trial
Regional Trial Court, Branch 115, Pasay City gravely abused Court had no jurisdiction over the subject matter of the action,
its discretion in finding the PEZA liable for real property taxes specifically, over the remedy sought.
to the Province of Bataan.
In sum, a petition for declaratory relief must satisfy six
Facts common to both cases: requisites:c[F]irst, the subject matter of the controversy must
President Ferdinand E. Marcos issued Presidential Decree be a deed, will, contract or other written instrument, statute,
No. 66 in 1972, declaring as government policy the executive order or regulation, or ordinance; second, the terms
establishment of export processing zones in strategic of said documents and the validity thereof are doubtful and
locations in the Philippines. To carry such policy, the Export require judicial construction; third, there must have been no
Processing Zone Authority was created. The said decree breach of the documents in question; fourth, there must be an
declared that EPZA will be a non-profit entity, and was also actual justiciable controversy or the "ripening seeds" of one
declared to be exempt from taxes. between persons whose interests are adverse; fifth, the issue
must be ripe for judicial determination; and sixth, adequate
Facts of G.R. No. 184203 relief is not available through other means or other forms of
On March 25, 1998, the City of Lapu-Lapu, through the Office action or proceeding.
of the Treasurer, demanded from the PEZA PHP
32,912,350.08 in real property taxes for the period from 1992 We rule that the PEZA erred in availing itself of a petition for
to 1998 on the PEZA’s properties located in the Mactan declaratory relief against the City. The City had already
Economic Zone. The City pointed out that no provision in the issued demand letters and real property tax assessment
Special Economic Zone Act of 1995 specifically exempted the against the PEZA, in violation of the PEZA’s alleged tax-
PEZA from payment of real property taxes, unlike Section 21 exempt status under its charter. The Special Economic Zone
of Presidential Decree No. 66 that explicitly provided for Act of 1995, the subject matter of PEZA’s petition for
EPZA’s exemption. Since no legal provision explicitly declaratory relief, had already been breached. The trial court,
exempted the PEZA from payment of real property taxes, the therefore, had no jurisdiction over the petition for declaratory
City argued that it can tax the PEZA. relief.

On September 11, 2002, the PEZA filed a petition for In the present case, the Regional Trial Court had no
declaratory relief25 with the Regional Trial Court of Pasay jurisdiction over the subject matter of the action, specially,
City, praying that the trial court declare it exempt from over the remedy. The trial court should have dismissed the
payment of real property taxes. Pursuant to Rule 63, Section PEZA’s petition for declaratory relief for lack of jurisdiction.
3 of Rules of Court, the Office of the Solicitor General filed a
comment31 on the PEZA’s petition for declaratory relief. It 2. BERNABE VS. NAVIDA
agreed that the PEZA is exempt from payment of real property
taxes, citing Sections 24 and 51 of the Special Economic Zone FACTS:
Act of 1995. Characterizing the PEZA as an agency of the Beginning 1993, a number of personal injury suits were filed
National Government, the trial court ruled that the City had no in different Texas state courts by citizens of twelve foreign
authority to tax the PEZA under Sections 133(o) and 234(a) of countries, including the Philippines. The thousands of
the Local Government Code of 1991. In the resolution32 dated plaintiffs sought damages for injuries they allegedly sustained
June 14, 2006, the trial court granted the PEZA’s petition for from their exposure to dibromochloropropane (DBCP), a
declaratory relief and declared it exempt from payment of real chemical used to kill nematodes (worms), while working on
property taxes. farms in 23 foreign countries. The cases were eventually
transferred to, and consolidated in, the Federal District Court
ISSUE: WON the RTC had jurisdiction to hear and decide on for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division. The
the petition of declaratory relief by PEZA against the city of defendants in the consolidated cases prayed for the dismissal
Lapu-Lapu of all the actions under the doctrineof forum non conveniens.
In a Memorandum Order, the Federal District Court
RULING: The Regional Trial Court of Pasay had no conditionally granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss
jurisdiction to hear, try, and decide provided the defendants:
the PEZA’s petition for declaratory relief against the City of (1) participated in expedited discovery in the United States
Lapu-Lapu (2) either waived or accepted service of process and waived
. any other jurisdictional defense in any action commenced by
We rule that the PEZA erred in availing itself of a petition for a plaintiff in these actions in his home country or the country
declaratory relief against the City. The City had already in which his injury occurred.
issued demand letters and real property tax assessment (3) waived any limitations-based defense that has matured
against the PEZA, in violation of the PEZA’s alleged tax- since the commencement of these actions in the courts of
exempt status under its charter. The Special Economic Zone Texas;

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(4) stipulated that any discovery conducted during the court acquires jurisdiction over persons of the defendants
pendency of these actions may be used in any foreign through their voluntary appearance, it appears that such
proceeding to the same extent as if it had been conducted voluntary appearance of the defendants in this case is
5) submitted an agreement binding them to satisfy any final conditional. Thus in the “Defendants’ Amended Agreement
judgment rendered in favor of plaintiffs by a foreign court. Regarding Conditions of Dismissal for Forum Non
Conveniens” filed with the U.S. District Court, defendants
In the event that the highest court of any foreign country finally declared that “(t)he authority of each designated
affirms the dismissal for lack of jurisdiction of an action representative to accept service of process will become
commenced by a plaintiff in these actions in his home country effective upon final dismissal of these actions by the Court”.
or the country in which he was injured, that plaintiff may return The decision of the U.S. District Court dismissing the case is
to this court and, upon proper motion, the court will resume not yet final and executory since both the plaintiffs and
jurisdiction over the action as if the case had never been defendants appealed therefrom. Consequently, since the
dismissed for. Case 1 (125078) and 2 (125598): 336 plaintiffs authority of the agent of the defendants in the Philippines is
from General Santos City filed a Joint Complaint in the RTC conditioned on the final adjudication of the case pending with
of General Santos City. Named as defendants therein were: the U.S. courts, the acquisition of jurisdiction by this court over
Shell Oil Co. (SHELL); Dow Chemical Co. (DOW); Occidental the persons of the defendants is also conditional.
Chemical Corp. (OCCIDENTAL); Dole Food Co., Inc., Dole
Fresh Fruit Co., Standard Fruit Co., Standard Fruit and Fourth, the RTC of General Santos City ruled that the act of
Steamship Co. (hereinafter collectively referred to as DOLE); NAVIDA, et al., of filing the case in the Philippine courts
Chiquita Brands, Inc. and Chiquita Brands International, Inc. violated the rules on forum shopping and litis pendencia. This
(CHIQUITA); Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A. and Del Monte court frowns upon the fact that the parties herein are both
Tropical Fruit Co. (hereinafter collectively referred to as DEL vigorously pursuing their appeal of the decision of the U.S.
MONTE); Dead Sea Bromine Co., Ltd.; Ameribrom, Inc.; District court dismissing the case filed thereat. To allow the
Bromine Compounds, Ltd.; and Amvac Chemical Corp. (The parties to litigate in this court when they are actively pursuing
aforementioned defendants are hereinafter collectively the same cases in another forum, violates the rule on ‘forum
referred to as defendant companies.) shopping’ so abhorred in this jurisdiction. Moreover, the filing
of the case in the U.S. courts divested this court of its own
NAVIDA, et al., prayed for the payment of damages in view of jurisdiction. This court takes note that the U.S. District Court
the illnesses and injuries to the reproductive systems which did not decline jurisdiction over the cause of action. The case
they allegedly suffered because of their exposure to DBCP. was dismissed on the ground of forum non conveniens, which
They claimed, among others, that they were exposed to this is really a matter of venue. By taking cognizance of the case,
chemical during the early 1970’s up to the early 1980’s when the U.S. District Court has, in essence, concurrent jurisdiction
they used the same in the banana plantations where they with this court over the subject matter of this case. It is settled
worked at; and/or when they resided within the agricultural that initial acquisition of jurisdiction divests another of its own
area where such chemical was used. NAVIDA, et al., claimed jurisdiction.
that their illnesses and injuries were due to the fault or Case 3 (126654), 4 (127856), 5(128398)
negligence of each of the defendant companies in that they
produced, sold and/or otherwise put into the stream of Another joint complaint for damages against SHELL, DOW,
commerce DBCP-containing products. According to NAVIDA, OCCIDENTAL, DOLE, DEL MONTE, and CHIQUITA was
et al., they were allowed to be exposed to the said products, filed before Branch 16 of the RTC of Davao City by 155
which the defendant companies knew, or ought to have plaintiffs from Davao City. They alleged that as workers in the
known, were highly injurious to the former’s health and well- banana plantation and/or as residents near the said
being. plantation, they were made to use and/or were exposed to
nematocides, which contained the chemical DBCP. According
Without resolving the motions filed by the parties, the RTC of to ABELLA, et al., such exposure resulted in “serious and
General Santos City issued an Order dismissing the permanent injuries to their health, including, but not limited to,
complaint. First, the trial court determined that it did not have sterility and severe injuries to their reproductive capacities.”
jurisdiction to hear the case because the substance of the The RTC of Davao City, however, junked Civil Cases. The
cause of action as stated in the complaint against the Court however is constrained to dismiss the case at bar not
defendant foreign companies cites activity on their part which solely on the basis of the above but because it shares the
took place abroad and had occurred outside and beyond the opinion of legal experts given in the interview made by the
territorial domain of the Philippines. These acts of defendants Inquirer in its Special report “Pesticide Cause Mass Sterility,”
cited in the complaint included the manufacture of pesticides, Former Justice Secretary Demetrio Demetria in a May 1995
their packaging in containers, their distribution through sale or opinion said: The Philippines should be an inconvenient forum
other disposition, resulting in their becoming part of the stream to file this kind of damage suit against foreign companies since
of commerce. The subject matter stated in the complaint and the causes of action alleged in the petition do not exist under
which is uniquely particular to the present case, consisted of Philippine laws. There has been no decided case in Philippine
activity or course of conduct engaged in by foreign defendants Jurisprudence awarding to those adversely affected by DBCP.
outside Philippine territory, hence, outside and beyond the This means there is no available evidence which will prove
jurisdiction of Philippine Courts, including the present and disprove the relation between sterility and DBCP.
Regional Trial Court. Eventually, the cases reached the SC!
Present case:
Second, the RTC of General Santos City adjudged that The main contention of the petitioners states that the allegedly
NAVIDA, et al., were coerced into submitting their case to the tortious acts and/or omissions of defendant companies
Philippine courts, merely to comply with the U.S. District occurred within Philippine territory. Said fact allegedly
Court’s Order and in order to keep open to the plaintiffs the constitutes reasonable basis for our courts to assume
opportunity to return to the U.S. District Court. jurisdiction over the case.
DOLE similarly maintains that the acts attributed to defendant
Third, the trial court ascribed little significance to the voluntary companies constitute a quasi-delict, which falls under Article
appearance of the defendant companies. Defendants have 2176 of the Civil Code. DOLE also argues that if indeed there
appointed their agents authorized to accept service of is no positive law defining the alleged acts of defendant
summons/processes in the Philippines pursuant to the companies as actionable wrong, Article 9 of the Civil Code
agreement in the U.S. court that defendants will voluntarily dictates that a judge may not refuse to render a decision on
submit to the jurisdiction of this court. While it is true that this the ground of insufficiency of the law. The court may still

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resolve the case, applying the customs of the place and, in the on the mistaken assumption that the cause of action narrated
absence thereof, the general principles of law. by NAVIDA, et al., and ABELLA, et al., took place abroad and
had occurred outside and beyond the territorial boundaries of
CHIQUITA (another petitioner) argues that the courts a quo the Philippines, i.e., “the manufacture of the pesticides, their
had jurisdiction over the subject matter of the cases filed packaging in containers, their distribution through sale or other
before them. CHIQUITA avers that the pertinent matter is the disposition, resulting in their becoming part of the stream of
place of the alleged exposure to DBCP, not the place of commerce,” and, hence, outside the jurisdiction of the RTCs.
manufacture, packaging, distribution, sale, etc., of the said Certainly, the cases below are not criminal cases where
chemical. This is in consonance with the lex loci delicti territoriality, or the situs of the act complained of, would be
commisi theory in determining the situs of a tort, which states determinative of jurisdiction and venue for trial of cases. In
that the law of the place where the alleged wrong was personal civil actions, such as claims for payment of damages,
committed will govern the action. CHIQUITA and the other the Rules of Court allow the action to be commenced and tried
defendant companies also submitted themselves to the in the appropriate court, where any of the plaintiffs or
jurisdiction of the RTC by making voluntary appearances and defendants resides, or in the case of a non-resident
seeking for affirmative reliefs during the course of the defendant, where he may be found, at the election of the
proceedings. plaintiff.
In a very real sense, most of the evidence required to prove
ISSUE: the claims of NAVIDA, et al., and ABELLA, et al., are available
Whether or not the RTCs have jurisdiction over the subject only in the Philippines. First, plaintiff claimants are all
matter in these cases. residents of the Philippines, either in General Santos City or
in Davao City. Second, the specific areas where they were
HELD: Yes. allegedly exposed to the chemical DBCP are within the
territorial jurisdiction of the courts a quo wherein NAVIDA, et
1. The rule is settled that jurisdiction over the subject matter al., and ABELLA, et al., initially filed their claims for damages.
of a case is conferred by law and is determined by the Third, the testimonial and documentary evidence from
allegations in the complaint and the character of the relief important witnesses, such as doctors, co-workers, family
sought, irrespective of whether the plaintiffs are entitled to all members and other members of the community, would be
or some of the claims asserted therein. Once vested by law, easier to gather in the Philippines.
on a particular court or body, the jurisdiction over the subject Re: Jurisdiction over the person
matter or nature of the action cannot be dislodged by anybody The RTC of General Santos City and the RTC of Davao City
other than by the legislature through the enactment of a law. validly acquired jurisdiction over the persons of all the
defendant companies. All parties voluntarily, unconditionally
At the time of the filing of the complaints, the jurisdiction of the and knowingly appeared and submitted themselves to the
RTC in civil cases under Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, as jurisdiction of the courts a quo. All the defendant companies
amended by Republic Act No. 7691, was: submitted themselves to the jurisdiction of the courts a quo by
In all other cases in which the demand, exclusive of interest, making several voluntary appearances, by praying for various
damages of whatever kind, attorney’s fees, litigation affirmative reliefs, and by actively participating during the
expenses, and costs or the value of the property in course of the proceedings below.
controversy exceeds One hundred thousand pesos In line herewith, this Court, in Meat Packing Corporation of the
(P100,000.00) or, in such other cases in Metro Manila, where Philippines v. Sandiganbayan, held that jurisdiction over the
the demand, exclusive of the abovementioned items exceeds person of the defendant in civil cases is acquired either by his
Two hundred thousand pesos (P200,000.00). voluntary appearance in court and his submission to its
Supreme Court Administrative Circular No. 09-94, states: authority or by service of summons. Furthermore, the active
The exclusion of the term “damages of whatever kind” in participation of a party in the proceedings is tantamount to an
determining the jurisdictional amount under Section 19 (8) and invocation of the court’s jurisdiction and a willingness to abide
Section 33 (1) of B.P. Blg. 129, as amended by R.A. No. 7691, by the resolution of the case, and will bar said party from later
applies to cases where the damages are merely incidental to on impugning the court or body’s jurisdiction.
or a consequence of the main cause of action. However, in
cases where the claim for damages is the main cause of Jurisdiction v Exercise of Jurisdiction
action, or one of the causes of action, the amount of such It may also be pertinently stressed that “jurisdiction” is different
claim shall be considered in determining the jurisdiction of the from the “exercise of jurisdiction.” Jurisdiction refers to the
court. authority to decide a case, not the orders or the decision
rendered therein. Accordingly, where a court has jurisdiction
It is clear that the claim for damages is the main cause of over the persons of the defendants and the subject matter, as
action and that the total amount sought in the complaints is in the case of the courts a quo, the decision on all questions
approximately P2.7 million for each of the plaintiff claimants. arising therefrom is but an exercise of such jurisdiction. Any
The RTCs unmistakably have jurisdiction over the cases filed error that the court may commit in the exercise of its
in General Santos City and Davao City. jurisdiction is merely an error of judgment, which does not
2. The jurisdiction of the court cannot be made to depend upon affect its authority to decide the case, much less divest the
the defenses set up in the answer or upon the motion to court of the jurisdiction over the case.
dismiss, for otherwise, the question of jurisdiction would
almost entirely depend upon the defendants. What Re: Bad faith in filing cases to procure a dismissal and to allow
determines the jurisdiction of the court is the nature of the petitioners to return to the forum of their choice.
action pleaded as appearing from the allegations in the
complaint. The averments therein and the character of the This Court finds such argument much too speculative to
relief sought are the ones to be consulted. deserve any merit.
Clearly then, the acts and/or omissions attributed to the It must be remembered that this Court does not rule on
defendant companies constitute a quasi-delict which is the allegations that are unsupported by evidence on record. This
basis for the claim for damages filed by NAVIDA, et al., and Court does not rule on allegations which are manifestly
ABELLA, et al., with individual claims of approximately P2.7 conjectural, as these may not exist at all. This Court deals with
million for each plaintiff claimant, which obviously falls within facts, not fancies; on realities, not appearances.
the purview of the civil action jurisdiction of the RTCs.
3. It is, therefore, error on the part of the courts a quo when * We REMAND the records of this case to the respective
they dismissed the cases on the ground of lack of jurisdiction Regional Trial Courts of origin for further and appropriate

3
proceedings in line with the ruling herein that said courts have question of jurisdiction would almost entirely depend upon the
jurisdiction over the subject matter of the amended defendants. What determines the jurisdiction of the court is
complaints. the nature of the action pleaded as appearing from the
allegations in the complaint. The averments therein and the
DOCTRINE: character of the relief sought are the ones to be consulted.
JURISDICTION OVER THE SUBJECT-MATTER
The rule is settled that jurisdiction over the subject matter of a Clearly then, the acts and/or omissions attributed to the
case is conferred by law and is determined by the allegations defendant companies constitute a quasidelict
in the complaint and the character of the relief sought, which is the basis for the claim for damages filed by NAVIDA,
irrespective of whether the plaintiffs are entitled to all or some et al., and ABELLA, et al., with individual claims of
of the claims asserted therein. Once vested by law, on a approximately P2.7 million for each plaintiff claimant, which
particular court or body, the jurisdiction over the subject matter obviously falls within the purview of the civil action jurisdiction
or nature of the action cannot be dislodged by anybody other of the RTCs.
than by the legislature through the enactment of a law.
At the time of the filing of the complaints, the jurisdiction of the Moreover, the injuries and illnesses, which NAVIDA, et al.,
RTC in civil cases under Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, as and ABELLA, et al., allegedly suffered resulted from their
amended by Republic Act No. 7691, was: exposure to DBCP while they were employed in the banana
“SEC. 19. Jurisdiction in civil cases.—Regional Trial Courts plantations located in the Philippines or while they were
shall exercise exclusive original jurisdiction: xxxx (8) In all residing within the agricultural areas also located in the
other cases in which the demand, exclusive of interest, Philippines. The factual allegations in the Amended Joint
damages of whatever kind, attorney’s fees, litigation Complaints
expenses, and costs or the value of the property in all point to their cause of action, which undeniably occurred in
controversy exceeds One hundred thousand pesos the Philippines.
(P100,000.00) or, in such other cases in Metro Manila, where It is, therefore, error on the part of the courts a quo when they
the demand, exclusive of the abovementioned items exceeds dismissed the cases on the ground of lack of jurisdiction on
Two hundred thousand pesos (P200,000.00).” the mistaken assumption that the cause of action narrated by
Corollary thereto, Supreme Court Administrative Circular No. NAVIDA, et al., and ABELLA, et al., took place abroad and
0994, had occurred outside and beyond the territorial boundaries of
states: “2. The exclusion of the term “damages of whatever the Philippines, i.e., “the manufacture of the pesticides, their
kind” in determining the jurisdictional amount under Section packaging in containers, their distribution through sale or other
19 (8) and Section 33 (1) of B.P. Blg. 129, as amended by disposition, resulting in their becoming part of the stream of
R.A. No. 7691, applies to cases where the damages are commerce,” and, hence, outside the jurisdiction of the RTCs.
merely incidental to or a consequence of the main cause of The cases are not criminal cases where territoriality, or the
action. However, in cases where the claim for damages is the situs of the act complained of, would be determinative of
main cause of action, or one of the causes of action, the jurisdiction and venue for trial of cases.
amount of such claim shall be considered in determining the
jurisdiction of the In personal civil actions, such as claims for payment of
court.” It is clear that the claim for damages is the main cause damages, the Rules of Court allow the action to be
of action and that the total amount sought in the complaints is commenced and tried in the appropriate court, where any of
approximately P2.7 million for each of the plaintiff claimants. the plaintiffs or defendants resides, or in the case of a
The RTCs unmistakably have jurisdiction over the cases filed nonresident
in General Santos City and Davao City, as both claims by defendant, where he may be found, at the election of the
NAVIDA, et al., and ABELLA, et al., fall within the purview of plaintiff.
the definition of the jurisdiction of the RTC under Batas
Pambansa Blg. 129. CONVENIENT FORUM
In a very real sense, most of the evidence required to prove
Moreover, the allegations in both Amended JointComplaints the claims of NAVIDA, et al., and ABELLA, et al., are available
narrate that the defendants were at fault or were negligent in only in the Philippines:
that they manufactured, produced, sold, and/or used DBCP 1. Plaintiff claimants are all residents of the Philippines, either
and/or otherwise, put the same into the stream of commerce, in General Santos City or in Davao City
without informing the users of its hazardous effects on health 2. The specific areas where they were allegedly exposed to
and/or health and/or without instructions on its proper use and the chemical DBCP are within the territorial jurisdiction of the
application. courts a quo wherein NAVIDA, et al., and ABELLA, et al.,
As specifically enumerated in the amended complaints, initially filed their claims for damages
NAVIDA, et al., and ABELLA, et al., point to the acts and/or 3. The testimonial and documentary evidence from important
omissions of the defendant companies in manufacturing, witnesses, such as doctors, coworkers,
producing, selling, using, and/or otherwise putting into the family members and other members of the community, would
stream of commerce, nematocides which contain DBCP, be easier to gather in the Philippines
without informing the users of its hazardous effects on health
and/or without instructions on its proper use and application. Thus, these additional factors, coupled with the fact that the
Thus, these allegations in the complaints constitute the cause alleged cause of action of NAVIDA, et al., and ABELLA, et al.,
of action of plaintiff claimants — a quasidelict, against the defendant companies for damages occurred in the
which under Art. 2176 of the Civil Code is defined as an act, Philippines, demonstrate that, apart from the RTC of General
or omission which causes damage to another, there being Santos City and the RTC of Davao City having jurisdiction
fault or negligence. over the subject matter in the instant civil cases, they are,
indeed, the convenient fora for trying these cases
JURISDICTION DETERMINED BY ALLEGATIONS OF THE .
COMPLAINT JURISDICTION OVER THE PERSON
Jurisdiction of the court over the subject matter of the action The RTC of General Santos City and the RTC of Davao City
is determined by the allegations of the complaint, irrespective validly acquired jurisdiction over the persons of all the
of whether or not the plaintiffs are entitled to recover upon all defendant companies. All parties voluntarily, unconditionally
or some of the claims asserted therein. The jurisdiction of the and knowingly appeared and submitted themselves to the
court cannot be made to depend upon the defenses set up in jurisdiction of the courts a quo. All the defendant companies
the answer or upon the motion to dismiss, for otherwise, the designated and authorized representatives to receive

4
summons and to represent them in the proceedings before the case since respondent heirs property was within the latter
courts a quo. All the defendant companies submitted courts territorial jurisdiction.
themselves to the jurisdiction of the courts a quo by making
several voluntary appearances, by praying for various Petitioner Land Bank moved for the reconsideration of the
affirmative reliefs, and by actively participating during the dismissal of the two cases but RTC, Branch 32 denied both
course of the proceedings below. motions.[3] Aggrieved, Land Bank directly filed this petitions
Rule 14, Section 20 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure for certiorari[4] before this Court, raising a purely question of
provides that “[t]he defendant’s voluntary appearance in the law.
action shall be equivalent to service of summons.
Jurisdiction over the person of the defendant in civil cases is ISSUE: The sole question presented in these cases is
acquired either by his voluntary appearance in court and his whether or not an RTC, acting as Special Agrarian Court, has
submission to its authority or by service of summons. jurisdiction over just compensation cases involving
Furthermore, the active participation of a party in the agricultural lands located outside its regular jurisdiction but
proceedings is tantamount to an invocation of the court’s within the province where it is designated as an agrarian court
jurisdiction and a willingness to abide by the resolution of the under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1998.
case, and will bar said party from later on impugning the court
or body’s jurisdiction. HELD: The RTC, Branch 32 based its order on Deputy Court
Administrator (DCA) Zenaida Elepaos opinion that
JURISDICTION V. EXERCISE OF JURISDICTION single sala courts have jurisdiction over agrarian cases
Jurisdiction is different from the exercise of jurisdiction. involving lands located within its territorial jurisdiction. An RTC
Jurisdiction is authority to decide a case, not the orders or the branch acting as a special agrarian court, she claimed, did not
decision rendered therein. Accordingly, where a court has have expanded territorial jurisdiction. DCA Elepao said:
jurisdiction over the persons of the defendants and the subject
matter, as in the case of the courts a quo, the decision on all x x x [B]eing a single sala court, the Regional Trial Court,
questions arising therefrom is but an exercise of such Branch 64, Guihulngan, Negros Oriental, has jurisdiction
jurisdiction. over all cases, including agrarian cases, cognizable by
Any error that the court may commit in the exercise of its the Regional Trial Court emanating from the geographical
jurisdiction is merely an error of judgment, which does not areas within its territorial jurisdiction.
affect its authority to decide the case, much less divest the
court of the jurisdiction over the case. Further, the jurisdiction of the Special Agrarian Courts
Anent the insinuation by DOLE that the plaintiff claimants filed over agrarian cases is co-extensive with its territorial
their cases in bad faith merely to procure a dismissal of the jurisdiction. Administrative Order No. 80 dated July 18,
same and to allow them to return to the forum of their choice, 1989, as amended by Administrative Order No. 80A-90
this Court finds such argument much too speculative to dated February 23, 1990, did not expand the territorial
deserve any merit. jurisdiction of the courts designated as Special Agrarian
Courts.[5]
3. LANDBANK OF THE PHIL VS CORAZON VILLEGAS
Respondent Villegas[6] adopts DCA Elepaos view. Villegas
FACTS: points out that the designation of RTC, Branch 32 as a Special
Agrarian Court did not expand its territorial
These consolidated cases[1] are about the jurisdiction of a jurisdiction. Although it has been designated Special Agrarian
Regional Trial Court (RTC), acting as a Special Agrarian Court for the Province of Negros Oriental, its jurisdiction as an
Court, over just compensation cases involving agricultural RTC did not cover the whole province.
lands located outside its regular territorial jurisdiction but
within the province where it is designated as agrarian court Respondent Villegas adds that, in hearing just compensation
under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988. cases, RTC, Branch 64 in Guihulngan City should be no
different from the situation of other single sala courts that
The Facts and the Case concurrently hear drugs and family-related cases even as the
Supreme Court has designated family and drugs courts
Petitioner Land Bank of the Philippines (Land Bank) filed in Dumaguete City within the same
cases for determination of just compensation against province. Further, Guihulngan City is more than 100
respondent Corazon M. Villegas in Civil Case 2007-14174 and kilometers from Dumaguete City where RTC, Branch 32
respondent heirs of Catalino V. Noel and Procula P. Sy in sits. For practical considerations, RTC, Branch 64
Civil Case 2007-14193 before the RTC of Dumaguete City, of Guihulngan City should hear and decide the case.
Branch 32, sitting as a Special Agrarian Court for the province
of Negros Oriental. Respondent Villegas property was For their part, on June 19, 2009 respondent heirs of Noel
in Hibaiyo, Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental, while informed[7] the Court that petitioner Land Bank had already
respondent heirs land was paid them for their land. Consequently, they have no further
in Nangca, Bayawan City, NegrosOriental. These lands interest in the outcome of the case. It is not clear, however, if
happened to be outside the regular territorial jurisdiction of the trial court had already approved a settlement.
RTC Branch 32 of Dumaguete City.
Jurisdiction is the courts authority to hear and determine a
On September 13, 2007 RTC, Branch 32 dismissed Civil Case case. The courts jurisdiction over the nature and subject
2007-14174 for lack of jurisdiction.[2] It ruled that, although it matter of an action is conferred by law.[8] In this case, the law
had been designated Special Agrarian Court for Negros that confers jurisdiction on Special Agrarian Courts
Oriental, the designation did not expand its territorial designated by the Supreme Court in every province is
jurisdiction to hear agrarian cases under the territorial Republic Act (R.A.) 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian
jurisdiction of the RTC, Branch 64 of Guihulngan City where Reform Law of 1988. Sections 56 and 57 are the relevant
respondent Villegas property can be found. provisions:

On November 16, 2007 RTC, Branch 32 also dismissed Civil SEC. 56. Special Agrarian Court. - The Supreme Court
Case 2007-14193 for lack of jurisdiction. It pointed out that shall designate at least one (1) branch of the Regional
RTC, Branch 63 of Bayawan City had jurisdiction over the Trial Court (RTC) within each province to act as a Special
Agrarian Court.

5
The Supreme Court may designate more branches to The law is clear. A branch of an RTC designated as a Special
constitute such additional Special Agrarian Courts as Agrarian Court for a province has the original and exclusive
may be necessary to cope with the number of agrarian jurisdiction over all petitions for the determination of just
cases in each province. In the designation, the Supreme compensation in that province.
Court shall give preference to the Regional Trial Courts In Republic v. Court of Appeals, 263 SCRA 758 (1996) the
which have been assigned to handle agrarian cases or Supreme Court ruled that Special Agrarian Courts have
whose presiding judges were former judges of the original and exclusive jurisdiction over two categories of
defunct Court of Agrarian Relations. cases:
(1) all petitions for the determination of just compensation to
The Regional Trial Court (RTC) judges assigned landowners; and
to said courts shall exercise said special jurisdiction in (2) the prosecution of all criminal offenses under R.A. 6657.
addition to the regular jurisdiction of their respective By “special” jurisdiction, Special Agrarian Courts exercise
courts. power in addition to or over and above the ordinary jurisdiction
of the RTC, such as taking cognizance of suits involving
SEC. 57. Special Jurisdiction. - The Special Agrarian agricultural lands located outside their regular territorial
Courts shall have original and exclusive jurisdiction over jurisdiction, so long as they are within the province where they
all petitions for the determination of just compensation to sit as Special Agrarian Courts.
landowners, and the prosecution of all criminal offenses R.A. 6657 requires the designation by the Supreme Court
under this Act. The Rules of Court shall apply to all before an RTC Branch can function as a Special Agrarian
proceedings before the Special Agrarian Courts unless Court. The Supreme Court has not designated the single sala
modified by this Act. courts of RTC, Branch 64 of Guihulngan City and RTC,
Branch
The Special Agrarian Courts shall decide all appropriate
cases under their special jurisdiction within thirty (30) 63 of Bayawan City as Special Agrarian Courts.
days from submission of the case for decision. Consequently, they cannot hear just compensation cases just
because the lands subject of such cases happen to be within
The law is clear. A branch of an RTC designated as a Special their territorial jurisdiction.
Agrarian Court for a province has the original and exclusive Since RTC, Branch 32 of Dumaguete City is the designated
jurisdiction over all petitions for the determination of just Special Agrarian Court for the province of Negros Oriental, it
compensation in that province. In Republic v. Court of has jurisdiction over all cases for determination of just
Appeals,[9] the Supreme Court ruled that Special Agrarian compensation involving agricultural lands within that province,
Courts have original and exclusive jurisdiction over two regardless of whether or not those properties are outside its
categories of cases: (1) all petitions for the determination of regular territorial jurisdiction.
just compensation to landowners, and (2) the prosecution of
all criminal offenses under R.A. 6657. 4. HERRERA V BERNARDO

By special jurisdiction, Special Agrarian Courts exercise FACTS:


power in addition to or over and above the ordinary jurisdiction This is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the
of the RTC, such as taking cognizance of suits involving Rules of Court seeking to reverse and set aside the
agricultural lands located outside their regular territorial Decision[1] and Resolution[2] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in
jurisdiction, so long as they are within the province where they CA-G.R. SP No. 73674.
sit as Special Agrarian Courts.
The antecedents are as follows:
R.A. 6657 requires the designation by the Supreme Court
before an RTC Branch can function as a Special Agrarian Respondents heirs of Crisanto S. Bernardo, represented by
Court. The Supreme Court has not designated the Emelita Bernardo, filed a complaint before the Commission on
single salacourts of RTC, Branch 64 of Guihulngan City and the Settlement of Land Problems (COSLAP) against Alfredo
RTC, Branch 63 of Bayawan City as Special Agrarian Herrera (Alfredo) for interference, disturbance, unlawful claim,
Courts. Consequently, they cannot hear just compensation harassment and trespassing over a portion of a parcel of land
cases just because the lands subject of such cases happen to situated at Barangay Dalig, Cardona, Rizal, with an area of
be within their territorial jurisdiction. 7,993 square meters. The complaint was docketed as
Since RTC, Branch 32 of Dumaguete City is the COSLAP Case No. 99-221.
designated Special Agrarian Court for the province of Negros
Oriental, it has jurisdiction over all cases for determination of Respondents claimed that said parcel of land was originally
just compensation involving agricultural lands within that owned by their predecessor-in-interest, Crisanto Bernardo,
province, regardless of whether or not those properties are and was later on acquired by Crisanto S. Bernardo. The parcel
outside its regular territorial jurisdiction. of land was later on covered by Tax Declaration No. CD-006-
0828 under the name of the respondents.
WHEREFORE, the Court GRANTS the petitions, SETS
ASIDE the orders of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 32 Petitioner, on the other hand, alleged that the portion of the
of Dumaguete City dated September 13, 2007 and October subject property consisting of about 700 square meters was
30, 2007 in Civil Case 2007-14174, entitled Land Bank of the bought by Diosdado Herrera, Alfredo's father, from a certain
Philippines v. Corazon Villegas, and its orders dated Domingo Villaran. Upon the death of Diosdado Herrera,
November 16, 2007 and December 14, 2007 in Civil Case Alfredo inherited the 700-square-meter lot.
2007-14193, entitled Land Bank of the Philippines v. Heirs
of Catalino V. Noel and Procula P. Sy, which orders The COSLAP, in a Resolution[3] dated December 6, 1999,
dismissed the cases before it for lack of jurisdiction. Further, ruled that respondents have a rightful claim over the subject
the Court DIRECTS the Regional Trial Court, Branch 32 property. Consequently, a motion for reconsideration and/or
of Dumaguete City to immediately hear and decide the two reopening of the proceedings was filed by Alfredo. The
cases unless a compromise agreement has in the meantime COSLAP, in an Order[4] dated August 21, 2002, denied the
been approved in the latter case. motion and reiterated its Order dated December 6, 1999.
Aggrieved, petitioner Celia S. Vda. de Herrera, as the
DOCTRINE: surviving spouse of Alfredo, filed a petition for certiorari with

6
the CA.[5] The CA, Twelfth Division, in its Decision dated April (a) Between occupants/squatters and pasture lease
28, 2005, dismissed the petition and affirmed the resolution of agreement holders or timber concessionaires;
the COSLAP. The CA ruled that the COSLAP has exclusive (b) Between occupants/squatters and government reservation
jurisdiction over the present case and, even assuming that the grantees;
COSLAP has no jurisdiction over the land dispute of the (c) Between occupants/squatters and public land claimants or
parties herein, petitioner is already estopped from raising the applicants;
issue of jurisdiction because Alfredo failed to raise the issue (d) Petitions for classification, release and/or subdivision of
of lack of jurisdiction before the COSLAP and he actively lands of the public domain; and
participated in the proceedings before the said (e) Other similar land problems of grave urgency and
body. Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration, which was magnitude.[7]
denied by the CA in a Resolution dated October 17, 2005. Administrative agencies, like the COSLAP, are tribunals of
limited jurisdiction that can only wield powers which are
Hence, petitioner elevated the case to this Court via Petition specifically granted to it by its enabling statute. [8] Under
for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, Section 3 of E.O. No. 561, the COSLAP has two options in
with the following issues: acting on a land dispute or problem lodged before it, to wit: (a)
refer the matter to the agency having appropriate jurisdiction
ISSUES: for settlement/resolution; or (b) assume jurisdiction if the
1. WHETHER OR NOT COSLAP HAD JURISDICTION matter is one of those enumerated in paragraph 2 (a) to (e) of
TO DECIDE THE QUESTION OF OWNERSHIP. the law, if such case is critical and explosive in nature, taking
2. WHETHER OR NOT THE ISSUANCE OF A into account the large number of parties involved, the
TORRENS TITLE IN THE NAME OF THE presence or emergence of social unrest, or other similar
PETITIONER'S HUSBAND IN 2002 RENDERED critical situations requiring immediate action. In resolving
THE INSTANT CONTROVERSY ON THE ISSUE whether to assume jurisdiction over a case or to refer the
OF OWNERSHIP OVER THE SUBJECT same to the particular agency concerned, the COSLAP has to
PROPERTY MOOT AND ACADEMIC.[6] consider the nature or classification of the land involved, the
parties to the case, the nature of the questions raised, and the
HELD: need for immediate and urgent action thereon to prevent
Petitioner averred that the COSLAP has no adjudicatory injuries to persons and damage or destruction to property. The
powers to settle and decide the question of ownership over law does not vest jurisdiction on the COSLAP over any land
the subject land. Further, the present case cannot be dispute or problem.[9]
classified as explosive in nature as the parties never resorted
to violence in resolving the controversy. Petitioner submits In the instant case, the COSLAP has no jurisdiction over the
that it is the Regional Trial Court which has jurisdiction over subject matter of respondents' complaint. The present case
controversies relative to ownership of the subject property. does not fall under any of the cases enumerated under
Respondents, on the other hand, alleged that the COSLAP Section 3, paragraph 2 (a) to (e) of E.O. No. 561. The dispute
has jurisdiction over the present case. Further, respondents between the parties is not critical and explosive in nature, nor
argued that petitioner is estopped from questioning the does it involve a large number of parties, nor is there a
jurisdiction of the COSLAP by reason of laches due to presence or emergence of social tension or unrest. It can also
Alfredo's active participation in the actual proceedings before hardly be characterized as involving a critical situation that
the COSLAP. Respondents said that Alfredo's filing of the requires immediate action.
Motion for Reconsideration and/or Reopening of the
proceedings before the COSLAP is indicative of his conformity It is axiomatic that the jurisdiction of a tribunal, including a
with the questioned resolution of the COSLAP. quasi-judicial officer or government agency, over the nature
The main issue for our resolution is whether the COSLAP has and subject matter of a petition or complaint is determined by
jurisdiction to decide the question of ownership between the the material allegations therein and the character of the relief
parties. prayed for, irrespective of whether the petitioner or
complainant is entitled to any or all such reliefs.[10]
The petition is meritorious.
Respondents' cause of action before the COSLAP pertains to
The COSLAP was created by virtue of Executive Order (E.O.) their claim of ownership over the subject property, which is an
No. 561, issued on September 21, 1979 by then President action involving title to or possession of real property, or any
Ferdinand E. Marcos. It is an administrative body established interest therein,[11] the jurisdiction of which is vested with the
as a means of providing a mechanism for the expeditious Regional Trial Courts or the Municipal Trial Courts depending
settlement of land problems among small settlers, landowners on the assessed value of the subject property.[12]
and members of the cultural minorities to avoid social unrest.
The case of Banaga v. Commission on the Settlement of Land
Section 3 of E.O. No. 561 specifically enumerates the Problems,[13] applied by the CA and invoked by the
instances when the COSLAP can exercise its adjudicatory respondents, is inapplicable to the present
functions: case. Banagainvolved parties with conflicting free patent
applications over a parcel of public land and pending with the
Section 3. Powers and Functions. - The Commission shall Bureau of Lands. Because of the Bureau of Land's inaction
have the following powers and functions: within a considerable period of time on the claims and protests
of the parties and to conduct an investigation, the COSLAP
xxxx assumed jurisdiction and resolved the conflicting claims of the
2. Refer and follow up for immediate action by the agency parties. The Court held that since the dispute involved a parcel
having appropriate jurisdiction any land problem or dispute of public land on a free patent issue, the COSLAP had
referred to the Commission: Provided, That the Commission jurisdiction over that case. In the present case, there is no
may, in the following cases, assume jurisdiction and showing that the parties have conflicting free patent
resolve land problems or disputes which are critical and applications over the subject parcel of land that would justify
explosive in nature considering, for instance, the large the exercise of the COSLAP's jurisdiction.
number of the parties involved, the presence or
emergence of social tension or unrest, or other similar Since the COSLAP has no jurisdiction over the action, all the
critical situations requiring immediate action: proceedings therein, including the decision rendered, are null
and void.[14] A judgment issued by a quasi-judicial body

7
without jurisdiction is void. It cannot be the source of any right
or create any obligation.[15] All acts performed pursuant to it The issue of the validity of the Title was brought only during
and all claims emanating from it have no legal the proceedings before this Court as said title was issued in
effect.[16] Having no legal effect, the situation is the same as it the name of petitioner's husband only during the pendency of
would be as if there was no judgment at all. It leaves the the appeal before the CA. The issue on the validity of
parties in the position they were before the proceedings.[17] title, i.e., whether or not it was fraudulently issued, can only be
raised in an action expressly instituted for that purpose[25] and
Respondents allegation that petitioner is estopped from the present appeal before us, is simply not the direct
questioning the jurisdiction of the COSLAP by reason of proceeding contemplated by law.
laches does not hold water. Petitioner is not estopped from
raising the jurisdictional issue, because it may be raised at any WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Decision and
stage of the proceedings, even on appeal, and is not lost by the Resolution of the Court of Appeals, dated April 28, 2005
waiver or by estoppel.[18] The fact that a person attempts to and October 17, 2005, respectively, in CA-G.R. SP No. 73674
invoke unauthorized jurisdiction of a court does not estop him are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Decision and Order of
from thereafter challenging its jurisdiction over the subject the Commission on the Settlement of Land Problems, dated
matter, since such jurisdiction must arise by law and not by December 6, 1999 and August 21, 2002, respectively, in
mere consent of the parties.[19] COSLAP Case No. 99-221, are declared NULL and VOID for
having been issued without jurisdiction.
In Regalado v. Go,[20] the Court held that laches should be
clearly present for the Sibonghanoy[21] doctrine to apply, thus: DOCTRINE:
Laches is defined as the "failure or neglect for an The Commission on the Settlement of Land Problems
unreasonable and unexplained length of time, to do that (COSLAP) was created by virtue of Executive Order (E.O.)
which, by exercising due diligence, could or should have been No. 561, issued on September 21, 1979 by then President
done earlier, it is negligence or omission to assert a right Ferdinand E. Marcos. It is an administrative body established
within a reasonable length of time, warranting a presumption as a means of providing a mechanism for the expeditious
that the party entitled to assert it either has abandoned it or settlement of land problems among small settlers, landowners
declined to assert it. and members of the cultural minorities to avoid social unrest.
Section 3 of E.O. No. 561 specifically enumerates the
The ruling in People v. Regalario that was based on the instances when the COSLAP can exercise its adjudicatory
landmark doctrine enunciated in Tijam v. Sibonghanoy on the functions:
matter of jurisdiction by estoppel is the exception rather than Section 3. Powers and Functions. — The Commission shall
the rule. Estoppel by laches may be invoked to bar the issue have the following powers and functions:
of lack of jurisdiction only in cases in which the factual milieu 2. Refer and follow up for immediate action by the agency
is analogous to that in the cited case. In such controversies, having appropriate jurisdiction any land problem or dispute
laches should have been clearly present; that is, lack of referred to the Commission: Provided, That the Commission
jurisdiction must have been raised so belatedly as to warrant may, in the following cases, assume jurisdiction and resolve
the presumption that the party entitled to assert it had land problems or disputes which are critical and explosive in
abandoned or declined to assert it. nature considering, for instance, the large number of the
parties involved, the presence or emergence of social tension
In Sibonghanoy, the defense of lack of jurisdiction was raised or unrest, or other similar critical situations requiring
for the first time in a motion to dismiss filed by the Surety immediate action:
almost 15 years after the questioned ruling had been (a) Between occupants/squatters and pasture lease
rendered. At several stages of the proceedings, in the court a agreement holders or timber concessionaires;
quo as well as in the Court of Appeals, the Surety invoked the (b) Between occupants/squatters and government reservation
jurisdiction of the said courts to obtain affirmative relief and grantees;
submitted its case for final adjudication on the merits. It was (c) Between occupants/squatters and public land claimants or
only when the adverse decision was rendered by the Court of applicants;
Appeals that it finally woke up to raise the question of (d) Petitions for classification, release and/or subdivision of
jurisdiction.[22] lands of the public domain; and
The factual settings attendant in Sibonghanoy are not present (e) Other similar land problems of grave urgency and
in the case at bar that would justify the application of estoppel magnitude
by laches against the petitioner. Here, petitioner assailed the Administrative agencies, like the COSLAP, are tribunals of
jurisdiction of the COSLAP when she appealed the case to the limited jurisdiction that can only wield powers which are
CA and at that time, no considerable period had yet elapsed specifically granted to it by its enabling statute. Under Section
for laches to attach. Therefore, petitioner is not estopped from 3 of E.O. No. 561, the COSLAP has two options in acting on
assailing the jurisdiction of the COSLAP. Additionally, no a land dispute or problem lodged before it, to wit:
laches will even attach because the judgment is null and void (a) refer the matter to the agency having appropriate
for want of jurisdiction.[23] jurisdiction for settlement/resolution; or
(b) assume jurisdiction if the matter is one of those
Anent the issuance of OCT No. M-10991 in favor of enumerated in paragraph 2 (a) to (e) of the law, if such case
petitioners husband Alfredo Herrerra in 2002, respondents is critical and explosive in nature, taking into account the large
alleged that there was fraud, misrepresentation and bad faith number of parties involved, the presence or emergence of
in the issuance thereof. Thus, respondents are now social unrest, or other similar critical situations requiring
questioning the legality of OCT No. M-10991, an issue which immediate action.
this Court cannot pass upon in this present petition. It is a rule In resolving whether to assume jurisdiction over a case or to
that the validity of a Torrens title cannot be assailed refer the same to the particular agency concerned, the
collaterally.[24] Section 48 of Presidential Decree No. 1529 COSLAP has to consider the nature or classification of the
provides that: land involved, the parties to the case, the nature of the
questions raised, and the need for immediate and urgent
Certificate not Subject to Collateral Attack. − A certificate of action thereon to prevent injuries to persons and damage or
title shall not be subject to collateral attack. It cannot be destruction to property. The law does not vest jurisdiction on
altered, modified, or canceled, except in a direct proceeding the COSLAP over any land dispute or problem.
in accordance with law.

8
In the instant case, the COSLAP has no jurisdiction over the 5. DACASIN VS. DACASIN
subject matter of respondents’ complaint. The present case FACTS:
does not fall under any of the cases enumerated under On April 1994, petitioner and respondent got married here in
Section 3, paragraph 2 (a) to (e) of E.O. No. 561. The dispute the Philippines. The following year respondent got pregnant
between the parties is not critical and explosive in nature, nor and gave birth to a baby girl whom they named Stephanie. In
does it involve a large number of parties, nor is there a June of 1999 respondent sought and obtained from the Illinois
presence or emergence of social tension or unrest. It can also Court a divorce decree against petitioner. In its ruling, the
hardly be characterized as involving a critical situation that Illinois court dissolved the marriage of petitioner and
requires immediate action. respondent, awarded to respondent sole custody of Stephanie
and retained jurisdiction over the case for enforcement
It is axiomatic that the jurisdiction of a tribunal, including a purposes.
quasi-judicial officer or government agency, over the nature
and subject matter of a petition or complaint is determined by On 28th of January 2002, petitioner and respondent executed
the material allegations therein and the character of the relief in Manila a contract (Agreement) for the joint custody of
prayed for, irrespective of whether the petitioner or Stephanie. Two years after, petitioner sued respondent in the
complainant is entitled to any or all such reliefs. Regional Trial Court of Makati City. Petitioner claimed that
respondent exercised sole custody over Stephanie.
Respondents’ cause of action before the COSLAP pertains to Respondent sought the dismissal of the complaint due to lack
their claim of ownership over the subject property, which is an of jurisdiction, since Illinois Court hold the jurisdiction in
action involving title to or possession of real property, or any enforcing the divorce decree.
interest therein, the jurisdiction of which is vested with the
Regional Trial Courts or the Municipal Trial Courts depending ISSUE:
on the assessed value of the subject property.  Whether the Trial Court have the jurisdiction over the
Since the COSLAP has no jurisdiction over the action, all the case
proceedings therein, including the decision rendered, are null  Whether the agreement or contract is valid
and void. A judgment issued by a quasi-judicial body without HELD:
jurisdiction is void. It cannot be the source of any right or  Case was dismissed dated March 1, 2005.
create any obligation. All acts performed pursuant to it and all Court’s Rationale:
claims emanating from it have no legal effect. Having no legal o It is precluded from taking cognizance over
effect, the situation is the same as it would be as if there was suit considering the Illinois Court’s retention
no judgment at all. It leaves the parties in the position they of jurisdiction to enforce its divorce decree,
were before the including its order awarding sole custody of
proceedings. Stephanie to respondent
o The divorce decree is binding on petitioner
QUESTION OF JURISDICTION MAY BE RAISED AT ANY following the “nationality rule” prevailing in
TIME this jurisdiction
Respondents’ allegation that petitioner is estopped from  Agreement is void
questioning the jurisdiction of the COSLAP by reason of o The agreement is void for contravening
laches does not hold water. Petitioner is not estopped from Article 2035 paragraph 5 of the Civil Code
raising the jurisdictional issue, because it may be raised at any prohibiting compromise agreements on
stage of the proceedings, even on appeal, and is not lost by jurisdiction.
waiver or by estoppel. FACTS:
The fact that a person attempts to invoke unauthorized Petitioner sought reconsideration his new argument is that the
jurisdiction of a court does not estop him from thereafter divorce decree obtained by respondent is void. Thus, the
challenging its jurisdiction over the subject matter, since such divorce is no bar to the trial court’s exercise of jurisdiction over
jurisdiction must arise by law and not by mere consent of the the case. In its order on June 23, 2005, the trial court denied
parties. reconsideration because petitioner is under the laws of his
In Regalado v. Go, the Court held that laches should be clearly nationality, which is American. Hence, the petitioner filed
present for the Sibonghanoy doctrine to apply, thus: alternative theories for the validity of the agreement:
Laches is defined as the failure or neglect for an unreasonable > The agreement noted the valid divorce decree, modifying
and unexplained length of time, to do that which, by exercising the terms of child custody from the sole to joint
due diligence, could or should have been done earlier, it is > The agreement is independent of the divorce decree
negligence or omission to assert a right within a reasonable obtained by respondents
length of time, warranting a presumption that the party entitled
to assert it either has abandoned it or declined to assert it. ISSUE
In Sibonghanoy, the defense of lack of jurisdiction was raised  Whether the trial court has jurisdiction to
for the first time in a motion to dismiss filed by the Surety take cognizance of petitioner’s suit
almost 15 years after the questioned ruling had been  Whether the trial curt can enforce the
rendered. At several stages of the proceedings, in the court a Agreement on joint custody
quo as well as in the Court of Appeals, the Surety invoked the HELD
jurisdiction of the said courts to obtain affirmative relief and Agreement is still void but the court calls for the remand of
submitted its case for final adjudication on the merits. It was the case to settle Stephanie’s custody. (Article 213 of the
only when the adverse decision was rendered by the Court of Family Code lost its coverage over Stephanie. Stephanie was
Appeals that it finally woke up to raise the question of already almost 15 during this time thus, she is entitled to
jurisdiction. choose to whom she want to be)
The factual settings attendant in Sibonghanoy are not present Instead of dismissing the case, court chose to
in the case at bar that would justify the application of estoppel remand the case in order to settle Stephanie’s custody. Court
by laches against the petitioner. Here, petitioner assailed the decided to REVERSE the orders dated March 1, 2005 and
jurisdiction of the COSLAP when she appealed the case to the June 23, 2005. The case is REMANDED for further
CA and at that time, no considerable period had yet elapsed proceedings consistent with its ruling.
for laches to attach. Therefore, petitioner is not estopped from
assailing the jurisdiction of the COSLAP. Additionally, no DOCTRINE:
laches will even attach because the judgment is null and void Subject matter jurisdiction is conferred by law. At the time
for want of jurisdiction. Herald filed his suit in the trial court, statutory law vests on

9
Regional Trial Courts exclusive original jurisdiction over civil The RTC denied the motion to dismiss. Petitioner then
actions incapable of pecuniary estimation. filed with the Court of Appeals a petition for certiorari
declaring that the RTC had jurisdiction over the case.
An action for specific performance, such as petitioner’s suit to
enforce the Agreement on joint child custody, belongs to this Issue: Whether the trial court has jurisdiction over Civil Case
species of actions. Thus, jurisdiction-wise, Herald went to the No. MAN-4045.
right court.
Ruling: On the first issue, petitioner contends that in real
What the Illinois court retained was “jurisdiction for the actions, the assessed value of the property or if there is none,
purpose of enforcing all and sundry the various provisions of the estimated value thereof, must be alleged in the complaint,
its Judgment for Dissolution.” Herald’s suit seeks the and shall serve as the basis for computing the fees. Nowhere
enforcement not of the “various provisions” of the divorce in the complaint in Civil Case No. MAN-4045 did respondents
decree but of the post-divorce agreement on child custody. allege the assessed values of their realties. Hence, there is no
Thus, the action lies beyond the zone of the Illinois court’s adequate basis for computing the proper filing fees. It
“retained jurisdiction.” necessarily follows that the fees paid are deficient. The trial
court, therefore, did not acquire jurisdiction over the case.
While the trial court had jurisdiction, the agreement cannot be
enforced because it is void for being contrary to law (daughter Respondents counter that a perusal of the complaint in Civil
was below 7 years old and, by law, she must stay with the Case No. MAN-4045 shows that the suit primarily involves
mother). Also, the agreement was repudiated by the mother cancellation of mortgages, an action incapable of pecuniary
when she refused to allow joint custody. estimation. Consequently, petitioner’s contention that there is
a deficiency in the payment of docket fees is without merit.
6. FAR EAST BANK vs. SHEMBERT
A court acquires jurisdiction over a case only upon the
Facts: Far East Bank & Trust Company (FEBTC), petitioner, payment of the prescribed fees.9 The importance of filing fees
is a domestic banking corporation organized and existing cannot be gainsaid for these are intended to take care of court
under Philippine laws. It is now managed and operated by the expenses in the handling of cases in terms of costs of
Bank of the Philippine Islands with main office in Makati City. supplies, use of equipment, salaries and fringe benefits of
personnel, and others, computed as to man-hours used in the
Shemberg Marketing Corporation, Mackie Industries handling of each case.10 Hence, the non-payment or
Corporation, Benson Industries Incorporated, Kamaro insufficient payment of docket fees can entail tremendous
Enterprises Corporation, Polysaccharide Corporation, Prime losses to the government in general and to the judiciary in
Crafts Incorporated, Cebu United Polymer Corporation, particular.
Shemberg Natures Craft Inc., respondents herein, are all duly
registered domestic corporations based in Pakna-an, Is an action for cancellation of mortgage incapable of
Mandaue City. The individual respondents, all surnamed pecuniary estimation?
Dacay, are directors and corporate officers of the said
corporations. Under Section 19 (1) of Batas Pambansa Blg. 180, as
amended by Republic Act No. 7691, Regional Trial Courts
Respondents are the registered owners of several realties have sole, exclusive, and original jurisdiction to hear, try,
located in Mandaue City. Prior to 1998, respondents entered and decide “all civil actions in which the subject of the
into several credit transactions with petitioner secured by litigation is incapable of pecuniary estimation.”
several real estate mortgages. In their respective mortgage
contracts, duly annotated on respondents’ titles, the parties In Singsong v. Isabela Sawmill,11 this Court laid the test for
stipulated that upon failure or refusal of the mortgagor to pay determining whether the subject matter of an action is
the obligations when due, the entire principal, interest, incapable of pecuniary estimation, thus: Ascertain the nature
penalties and other charges shall be immediately demandable of the principal action or remedy sought. If the action is
and payable without need of notice or demand; and the primarily for recovery of a sum of money, the claim is
mortgagee shall have the absolute discretion to foreclose the considered capable of pecuniary estimation. Whether the
mortgage extrajudicially pursuant to Act No. 3135, as trial court has jurisdiction would depend upon the amount of
amended. the claim. However, where the basic issue is something other
than the right to recover a sum of money, where the money
On February 28, 2001, respondents filed with the Regional claim is only incidental or a consequence of the principal relief
Trial Court, Branch 56, Mandaue City, a Complaint4 for sought, the action is incapable of pecuniary estimation.
Declaratory Relief, Injunction, Damages, Annulment of
Promissory Notes, Documents, and Contracts against Here, the primary reliefs prayed for by respondents in
petitioner, docketed as Civil Case No. MAN-4045. The Civil Case No. MAN-4045 is the cancellation of the real
complaint alleges that prior to 1998, respondents obtained estate and chattel mortgages for want of consideration. In
credit accommodations from petitioner. However, it tuned out Bumayog v. Tumas,12 this Court ruled that where the issue
that petitioner’s employees filled the blanks with “false and involves the validity of a mortgage, the action is one incapable
inaccurate entries.” Respondents deny and dispute the of pecuniary estimation. In the more recent case of Russell v.
genuineness and due execution of the documents. Vestil,13 this Court, citing Bumayog,14 held that an action
questioning the validity of a mortgage is one incapable of
On March 9, 2001, the trial court issued an Order granting pecuniary estimation. Petitioner has not shown adequate
respondents’ prayer for the issuance of a temporary reasons for this Court to revisit Bumayog and Russell. Hence,
restraining order (TRO). Petitioner filed its Answer with petitioner’s contention can not be sustained. Since
Affirmative Defenses, Counterclaim, and Vigorous Opposition respondents paid the docket fees, as computed by the
to the Order directing the issuance of a TRO and/or clerk of court, consequently, the trial court acquired
preliminary mandatory injunction. Likewise, petitioner filed jurisdiction over Civil Case No. MAN4045.
a Motion to Dismiss Based On Affirmative Defenses
alleging that: (1) the venue is improperly laid; (2) the trial DOCTRINE:
court did not acquire jurisdiction over the case for non- A court acquires jurisdiction over a case only upon the
payment of proper docket fees. payment of the prescribed fees. The importance of filing fees
cannot be gainsaid for these are intended to take care of court

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expenses in the handling of cases in terms of costs of
supplies, use of equipment, salaries and fringe benefits of Issue: Did the lower court err in taking jurisdiction
personnel, and others, computed as to man-hours used in the over the contempt proceeding? – Yes, it was wrong for it to
handling of each case. Hence, the non-payment or insufficient do so for failure to comply with req’ts
payment of docket fees can entail tremendous losses to the
government in general and to the judiciary in particular. Held:
Is an action for cancellation of mortgage incapable of The contempt proceeding initiated by the John
pecuniary estimation? Arriola is one for indirect contempt. Under Rule 71, it is
Under Section 19 (1) of Batas Pambansa Blg. 180, as to be initiated by the court motu propio or by a
amended by Republic Act No. 7691, Regional Trial Courts verified petition, with supporting particulars and
have sole, exclusive, and original jurisdiction to hear, try, and certified true copies of docs/papers involved and with
decide “all civil actions in which the subject of the litigation is full compliance with the req’ts for filing initiatory
incapable of pecuniary estimation.” pleadings for civil actions. The law is clear. The filing of
In Singsong v. Isabela Sawmill, this Court laid the test for a verified petition that has complied with the req’ts for
determining whether the subject matter of an action is the filing of initiatory pleading is mandatory and for
incapable of pecuniary estimation, thus: failure to do so, the court should dismiss it outright.
(a) Ascertain the nature of the principal action or remedy Here, John Arriola merely filed an Urgent
sought. Manifestation and Motion for Contempt. It was not
(b) If the action is primarily for recovery of a sum of money, verified, and it failed to conform with the req’ts for
the claim is considered capable of pecuniary estimation. initiatory pleadings such as submission of certification
Whether the trial court has jurisdiction would depend upon the against non-forum shopping and payment of docket
amount of the claim. fees. The RTC clearly erred in taking jurisdiction over
(c) However, where the basic issue is something other than the contempt proceeding. Even if the contempt
the right to recover a sum of money, where the money claim proceedings stemmed from the main case over which
is only incidental or a consequence of the principal relief the court already acquired jurisdiction, the rules direct
sought, the action is incapable of pecuniary estimation. that the petition for contempt be treated independently
Here, the primary reliefs prayed for by respondents in Civil of the principal action. Consequently, the necessary
Case No. MAN-4045 is the cancellation of the real estate and prerequisites for the filing of initiatory pleadings, such
chattel mortgages for want of consideration. In Bumayog v. as the filing of a verified petition, attachment of a
Tumas, this Court ruled that where the issue involves the certification on non-forum shopping, and the payment
validity of a mortgage, the action is one incapable of pecuniary of the necessary docket fees, must still be faithfully
estimation. In the more recent case of Russell v. Vestil, this observed. (Before, it was actually allowed that
Court, citing Bumayog, held that an action questioning the contempt proceedings be initiated by mere motion and
validity of a mortgage is one incapable of pecuniary without compliance with the reqt’s for initiatory
estimation. Petitioner has not shown adequate reasons for this pleadings, but since the 1997 Revised Rules of Civil
Court to revisit Bumayog and Russell. Hence, petitioner’s Procedure, such practice was no longer countenanced).
contention cannot be sustained. Since respondents paid the [Substantive part: even if the motion complied with
docket fees, as computed by the clerk of court, consequently, the req’ts of the Rules of Court, it should still fail on
the trial court acquired jurisdiction over Civil Case No. substantive grounds since it turned out that the house
MAN4045. is a family home and despite the death of one or both
spouses, it shall continue for a period of 10y or for as
7. ARRIOLA VS. ARRIOLA long as there is a minor beneficiary, and the heirs
cannot partition it unless there is a compelling reason.
Facts: No such reason here.]
John Arriola (respondent) filed a case with the CA ruling is modified. The house is declared
RTC for judicial partition of the properties of decedent part of the lot, but it is exempted from partition by
Fidel Arriola against herein petitioners Vilma and public auction until the period provided for in the law.
Ronald Arriola. John is a son of the decedent with the
1st wife; Vilma is the 2nd wife, Ronald her kid with the DOCTRINE:
deceased.
The RTC rendered a decision ordering partition
of the subject lot into 1/3 share to each party. This
decision became final in March 4, 2004. However,
since the parties failed to agree on how to partition the
lot, John sought its sale through public auction, which
the court ordered. After the date for the public auction
had been scheduled, it had to be reset because the
petitioners Vilma and Roland refused to include in the
auction sale the house standing on the land. Thus,
John filed with the RTC an Urgent Manifestation and
Motion for Contempt of Court praying that petitioners
be held in contempt.
RTC denied the motion, ruling that the noninclusion
of the house was justified since the decision
of the court earlier shows that nothing was mentioned
about the house. Even John’s initiatory complaint
never mentioned the house. The court said it could not
grant a relief not alleged and prayed for in the
complaint. MR with the RTC also denied.
In a petition for certiorari with CA, the court
granted the petition, reversing and setting aside the
RTC ruling. It ordered the sale of the lot, including the
house standing thereon. Petitioners filed MR with CA,
but it was denied, hence the present case.

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14
15
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respondents instituted the complaint on March 10, 1999,
which was well within a year after the demand to vacate was
made around September of 1998 or later.
FAILURE TO STATE CAUSE OF ACTION V. LACK OF
CAUSE OF ACTION
Failure to state a cause of action and lack of cause of action
are really different from each other. On the one hand, failure
to state a cause of action refers to the insufficiency of the
pleading, and is a ground for dismissal under Rule 16 of the
Rules of Court. On the other hand, lack of cause action refers
to a situation where the evidence does not prove the cause of
action alleged in the pleading.
Justice Regalado, a recognized commentator on remedial
law, has explained the distinction:
Failure to state a cause of action is different from failure to
prove a cause of action. The remedy in the first is to move for
dismissal of the pleading, while the remedy in the second is to
demur to the evidence, hence reference to Sec. 5 of Rule 10
has been eliminated in this section. The procedure would
consequently be to require the pleading to state a cause of
action, by timely objection to its deficiency; or, at the trial, to
file a demurrer to evidence, if such motion is warranted.
A complaint states a cause of action if it avers the existence
of the three essential elements of a cause of action, namely:
(1) The legal right of the plaintiff;
(2) The correlative obligation of the defendant; and
(3) The act or omission of the defendant in violation of said
legal right.
If the allegations of the complaint do not aver the concurrence
of these elements, the complaint becomes vulnerable to a
motion to dismiss on the ground of failure to state a cause of
action. Evidently, it is not the lack or absence of a cause of
action that is a ground for the dismissal of the complaint but
the fact that the complaint states no cause of action.
Failure to state a cause of action may be raised at the earliest
stages of an action through a motion to dismiss, but lack of
cause of action may be raised at any time after the questions
of fact have been resolved on the basis of the stipulations,
admissions, or evidence presented.

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