Case Digest: Spouses Dionisio vs. Linsangan

G.R. No. 178159 : March 2, 2011.

SPS. VICENTE DIONISIO AND ANITA DIONISIO, Petitioners, v. WILFREDO LINSANGAN, Respondent.

ABAD, J.:


FACTS:

Gorgonio M. Cruz (Cruz) owned agricultural lands inSan Rafael, Bulacan, that his tenant, Romualdo San Mateo (Romualdo) cultivated.Upon Romualdos death, his widow, Emiliana, got Cruzs permission to stay on the property provided she would vacate it upon demand.In September 1989, spouses Vicente and Anita Dionisio (the Dionisios) bought the property from Cruz. In April 2002, the Dionisios found out that Emiliana had left the property and that it was already Wilfredo Linsangan (Wilfredo) who occupied it under the strength of a "Kasunduan ng Bilihan ng Karapatan" dated April 7, 1977.

The Dionisios, on April 22, 2002, demanded that Wilfredo vacate the land but the latter declined, prompting the Dionisios to file an eviction suit against him before the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of San Rafael, Bulacan.Wilfredo filed an answer with counterclaims in which he declared that he had been a tenant of the land as early as 1977. At the pre-trial, the Dionisios orally asked leave to amend their complaint.The Dionisios filed their amended complaint on August 5, 2003; Wilfredo maintained his original answer.

The MTC ruled for the Dionisios and asked Wilfredo to vacate the property and pay rent and costs. The RTC affirmed, adding that the action was one for forcible entry. The CA, however, reversed. The CA held that, by amending their complaint, the Dionisios effectively changed their cause of action from unlawful detainer to recovery of possession which fell outside the jurisdiction of the MTC.Further, since the amendment introduced a new cause of action, its filing on August 5, 2003 marked the passage of the one year limit from demand required in ejectment suits.

ISSUES:

1. Whether or not the amended complaint changed the cause of action
2. Whether or not the action is within the jurisdiction of the MTC


HELD:

The petition is granted.

REMEDIAL LAW: Effect of amendment of the complaint; nature of the action.

First issue: To determine if an amendment introduces a different cause of action, the test is whether such amendment now requires the defendant to answer for a liability or obligation which is completely different from that stated in the original complaint.

Here, both the original and the amended complaint have identical allegations, and required Wilfredo to defend his possession based on the allegation that he had stayed on the land after Emiliana left out of the owners mere tolerance and that the latter had demanded that he leave.It did not introduce a new cause of action.

Second issue: Wilfredo points out that the MTC has no jurisdiction to hear and decide the case since it involved tenancy relation under the DARABs jurisdiction. But jurisdiction over the subject matter of the action is determined by the allegations of the complaint. The records show that Wilfredo failed to substantiate his claim that he was a tenant of the land.

Second, the Court ruled that this is not an action for forcible entry, since the complaint contained no allegation that the Dionisios were in possession of the property before Wilfredo occupied it either by force, intimidation, threat, strategy, or stealth, an element of that kind of eviction suit.

The Court ruled that this is an action for unlawful detainer: (1) the defendant has possession of property by contract with or by tolerance of the plaintiff; (2) such possession became illegal upon plaintiffs notice to defendant, terminating the latter's right of possession; (3) the defendant remains in possession, depriving the plaintiff of the enjoyment of his property; and (4) within a year from plaintiff's last demand that defendant vacate the property, the plaintiff files a complaint for ejectment. If the defendant had possession of the land upon mere tolerance of the owner, such tolerance must be present at the beginning of defendants possession.

Here, while there was no specific allegation of "tolerance" in the complaint, the Court concedes that the rules do not require the plaintiff in an eviction suit to use the exact language of such rules.The Dionisios alleged that Romualdo used to be the lands tenant and that when he died, the Dionisios allowed his widow, Emiliana, to stay under a promise that she would leave upon demand.These allegations clearly imply the Dionisios "tolerance" of her (or any of her assignees).

Petition is GRANTED.

The decision of the CA is reversed and that of the MTC reinstated.

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