Action to redeem land subject of a free patent; Incapable of pecuniary estimation

The course of action embodied in the complaint by the present petitioners’ predecessor, Alfredo R. Bautista, is to enforce his right to repurchase the lots he formerly owned pursuant to the right of a free-patent holder under Sec. 119 of CA 141 or the Public Land Act.

The Court rules that the complaint to redeem a land subject of a free patent is a civil action incapable of pecuniary estimation.

It is a well-settled rule that jurisdiction of the court is determined by the allegations in the complaint and the character of the relief sought.10 In this regard, the Court, in Russell v. Vestil, wrote that “in determining whether an action is one the subject matter of which is not capable of pecuniary estimation this Court has adopted the criterion of first ascertaining the nature of the principal action or remedy sought. If it is primarily for the recovery of a sum of money, the claim is considered capable of pecuniary estimation, and whether jurisdiction is in the municipal courts or in the RTCs would depend on the amount of the claim.” But where the basic issue is something other than the right to recover a sum of money, where the money claim is purely incidental to, or a consequence of, the principal relief sought, this Court has considered such actions as cases where the subject of the litigation may not be estimated in terms of money, and, hence, are incapable of pecuniary estimation. These cases are cognizable exclusively by RTCs.
Settled jurisprudence considers some civil actions as incapable of pecuniary estimation, viz:

1. Actions for specific performance;
2. Actions for support which will require the determination of the civil status;
3. The right to support of the plaintiff;
4. Those for the annulment of decisions of lower courts;
5. Those for the rescission or reformation of contracts;
6. Interpretation of a contractual stipulation.

The Court finds that the instant cause of action to redeem the land is one for specific performance.

The facts are clear that Bautista sold to respondents his lots which were covered by a free patent. While the deeds of sale do not explicitly contain the stipulation that the sale is subject to repurchase by the applicant within a period of five (5) years from the date of conveyance pursuant to Sec. 119 of CA 141, still, such legal provision is deemed integrated and made part of the deed of sale as prescribed by law. It is basic that the law is deemed written into every contract. Although a contract is the law between the parties, the provisions of positive law which regulate contracts are deemed written therein and shall limit and govern the relations between the parties. Thus, it is a binding prestation in favor of Bautista which he may seek to enforce. That is precisely what he did. He filed a complaint to enforce his right granted by law to recover the lot subject of free patent. Ergo, it is clear that his action is for specific performance, or if not strictly such action, then it is akin or analogous to one of specific performance. Such being the case, his action for specific performance is incapable of pecuniary estimation and cognizable by the RTC. (G.R. No. 208232, March 10, 2014).

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