Action to redeem land subject of free patent NOT a real action

QUESTION: Petitioners’s father was granted a free patent over land. The land was sold within the prohibitory 5-year period by the father to Respondent. Petitioners filed with the RTC of Davao Oriental an action for repurchase against Respondent based on Section 119 of the Public Land Act. Respondent filed a motion to dismiss on ground of lack of jurisdiction alleging that the assessed value of the land does not exceed ₱20,000. Rule on the motion.
ANSWER: Motion to dismiss denied. The complaint to redeem a land subject of a free patent is a civil action incapable of pecuniary estimation. At first blush, it appears that the action filed by petitioners involves title to or possession of the lots he sold to respondents. Since the total selling price is less than PhP 20,000, then the MTC, not the RTC, has jurisdiction over the case. This proposition is incorrect for the re-acquisition of the lots by the petitioners is but incidental to and an offshoot of the exercise of the right by the latter to redeem said lots pursuant to Sec. 119 of CA 141. The reconveyance of the title to petitioners is solely dependent on the exercise of such right to repurchase the lots in question and is not the principal or main relief or remedy sought. Thus, the action of petitioners is, in reality, incapable of pecuniary estimation, and the reconveyance of the lot is merely the outcome of the performance of the obligation to return the property conformably to the express provision of CA 141. (Heirs of Bautista v. Lindo, 10 March 2014) (Note: Applying the ultimate relief test, it is believed that the action to repurchase is a real action since the ultimate objective is to obtain title or possession over the land). (JURISTS BAR REVIEW CENTER 2017; Last Minute Bar Tips in Remedial Law by Prof. Manuel R. Riguera)

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