G.R. No. 216169. November 09, 2016

[ G.R. No. 216169, November 09, 2016 ]

Through this Petition for Review on Certiorari,[1] petitioner Biase Ompoc (Ompoc) challenges the Court of Appeals Decision[2] dated December 11, 2013 and Resolution[3] dated December 11, 2014 in CA-G.R. CV No. 02213-MIN. The assailed judgments affirmed the Regional Trial Court Decision[4] awarding P125,416.67 to respondents Spouses Edgar and Jane Loquillano (Loquillano Spouses).

Ompoc loaned P35,000,00 from the Loquillano Spouses.[5] As security, Ompoc mortgaged his land for three (3) years beginning October 17, 2001 until January 1, 2004.[6]

Ompoc asked permission from the Loquillano Spouses if he could cultivate the land.[7] For this purpose, he requested financing from them.[8] The Loquillano Spouses acceded to Ompoc's request provided that they would be reimbursed the sums they advanced.[9] They gave Ompoc a total of P21,250.00.[10]

In October 2002, Ompoc informed the Loquillano Spouses that he was able to harvest 11 bundles of tobacco for the first year.[11] Consequently, Ompoc gave the Loquillano Spouses P20,000.00 as their share in the harvest of tobacco.[12] In addition, Ompoc gave them 29 taros or cans of corn as their share in the harvest of corn.[13]

However, Ompoc failed to give the Loquillano Spouses their remaining share of the harvest proceeds for the succeeding years and reimburse them the amount of P21,250-00.[14] This prompted the Loquillano Spouses to file before the Regional .Trial Court a complaint for specific performance on August 14, 2003.[15] The Loquillano Spouses prayed that the court:
1. [Order the] defendant to; allow plaintiff to appropriate the subject property including its improvements in accordance with the Mortgage Agreement;

2. [Order the] defendant to pay the plaintiffs their shares of the proceeds in the last harvest in the amount of thirty thousand, more or less;

3. [Order the defendant to] pay plaintiffs by way [of] reimbursement[,] litigation expenses and attorney's fee[s] in the amount of P11,000.00 plus appearance fee[.][16] (Emphasis supplied)
On January 1, 2004, Ompoc offered to redeem the land and tendered the amount of P35,5000.00 to the Loquillano Spouses.[17] However, the Loquillano Spouses refused to accept the redemption price since they had not received their remaining share of the harvest proceeds.[18] Ompoc consigned the redemption price before the Office of the Clerk of Court.[19]On January 29, 2010, the Regional Trial Court rendered a Decision[20] in favor of the Loquillano Spouses, the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court finds the instant Complaint meritorious, and hereby renders judgment as follows:

Ordering defendant Biase Ompoc to pay plaintiffs spouses Edgar and Jean (sic) Loquillano the amount of P125,416.67, representing the plaintiffs' share in the harvest of tobacco during the first, second and third year of the mortgage agreement, plus legal interest of 6% per annum to be computed from the date of the issuance of the instant decision until the same shall become final and executory. Upon finality of this decision, the imposable legal interest shall be 12% per annum to be computed from the date of finality until its satisfaction; and
Ordering defendant to ,pay plaintiffs the sum of P11,000.00 by way of litigation expenses and attorney's fees.

SO ORDERED.[21] (Emphasis in the original)
The Regional Trial Court found that, in addition to the written mortgage agreement, Ompoc and the Loquillano Spouses had a separate oral agreement regarding the cultivation of the land.[22] The sum of P125,416.67 was awarded to the Spouses as their share of the harvest proceeds.[23] The trial court based its computation on the prevailing community practice.[24]

On January 10, 2011, Ompoc, appealed the Regional Trial Court Decision before the Court of Appeals.[25] Ompoc alleged that the Regional Trial Court erred in awarding the amount of P125,416.67 because the Loquillano Spouses merely asked for thirty thousand pesos as their share in the proceeds of the last harvest.[26] Ompoc averred that the award of P125,416.67 was greater than what the Loquillano Spouses specified in their complaint, which is contrary to jurisprudence.[27]

The Court of Appeals, in the Decision[28] dated December 11, 2013 partially granted Ompoc's appeal:
WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is partly GRANTED. The Decision of the Regional Trial Court is AFFIRMED but M[ODIFIED] only as to the award of litigation expenses and attorney's fees which is hereby deleted.

According to the Court of Appeals, the Regional Trial Court's findings should no longer be disturbed:[30] The Loquillano Spouses were able to discharge the burden of proof.[31] The Regional Trial Court found that the mortgagee-financier is entitled to two-thirds of the harvest proceeds, while the mortgagor-cultivator is entitled to one-third.[32] If the mortgagor-cultivator finances the cultivation of the land, he or she is entitled to three-fourths of the harvest proceeds, while; the mortgagee is only entitled to one-fourth.[33]

On January16, 2014, Ompoc moved for reconsideration, but the Motion was denied in the Resolution[34] dated December 11, 2014.

On February 20, 2015, petitioner Biase; Ompoc filed before this Court a Petition for Review[35] on Certiorari dated February 8, 2015. He alleges that "respondents] [S]pouses [Edgar and Jane Loquillano] merely asked for ... P30,000.00 and litigation expenses in the amount of... P11,000.00 in their prayer."[36] He avers that the Regional Trial Court's award of P125,416.67 is "patently greater than that sought for in the complaint, which is not allowed by law."[37]

Petitioner prays that the assailed Court of Appeals' December 11, 2013 Decision and December 11, 2014 Resolution—save for the ruling on TO litigation expenses and attorney's fees—be reversed.[38]

On October 26, 2015, respondents filed their Comment.[39] They aver that the Petition for Review should be dismissed because it raises questions of fact, which are generally proscribed under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.[40]

A petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 may only raise questions of law. [41] A question of law arises when there is doubt as to what the law is based on a certain set of facts.[42] In contrast, a question of fact arises when there is doubt as to the truth or falsity of the alleged facts.[43] When the resolution of the issue rests on an examination of the probative value of the evidence presented, the issue raised is one of fact.[44] Conversely, there is a question of law if the issue raised may be resolved without examining the probative value of the evidence presented.[45]

The issue ultimately raised by petitioner is whether the trial court may give a plaintiff an award greater than what has been prayed for in the complaint. This is a question of law. Although this Court can take cognizance of this case, it should be denied.

To support his position, petitioner cites Vlason Enterprises Corporation, v. Court of Appeals, et al.,[46] Luxuria Homes Inc. v. Honorable Court of Appeals et al.,[47] and Policarpio v. Regional Trial Court,[48] which lay down the rule that courts cannot award a relief other than what was claimed or prayed for in the complaint. However, this rule does not apply here because it only applies to judgments by default.

In the three cases cited by petitioner, the assailed judgment was rendered against a party in default. In Vlason, this Court made a distinction:
The trial court is not allowed by the Rules to receive evidence that tends to show a relief not sought or specified in the pleadings. The plaintiff cannot be granted an award greater than or different in kind from that specified in the complaint.

This case should be distinguished, however, from that of defendants, who filed an answer but were absent during trial. In that case, they can be held liable for an amount greater than or different from that originally prayed for, provided that the award is warranted by the proven facts. This rule is premised on the theory that the adverse party failed to object to evidence relating to an issue not raised in the pleadings.[49] (Emphasis supplied, citations omitted)
Here, petitioner was not declared in default. Petitioner filed an answer[50] and was able to adduce evidence during trial.[51]

In civil cases, the party with the burden of proof must establish his or her case by a preponderance of evidence.[52]

Petitioner admitted that respondents are entitled to a portion of the harvest proceeds for the duration of the mortgage contract.[53] His only issue was on the amount of sharing. Unfortunately, petitioner failed to overturn the evidence presented by respondents during trial. Therefore, the Regional Trial Court gave weight to respondents' testimony and found that they are entitled to more than P30,000.00 based on the evidence on record. The Court of Appeals found no reason to disturb the Regional Trial Court's computation. In the absence of any showing of abuse or arbitrariness committed by the trial court, its findings of fact-especially when affirmed by the Court of Appeals-are binding on this Court.[54]

WHEREFORE, considering the allegations, issues, and arguments adduced in the Petition for Review on Certiorari assailing the Decision dated December 11, 2013 and Resolution dated December 11, 2014 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 02213-MIN, this Court resolves to DENY the Petition for failure to sufficiently show any reversible error in the assailed judgments.

SO ORDERED. (Mendoza, J., on official leave.)

[1] Rollo, pp. 14-28. The Petition was filed under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court.
[2] Id. at 65-70, Court of Appeals Decision. The Decision was penned by Associate Justice Henri Jean Paul B. Inting and concurred in by Associate Justices Edgardo A. Camello and Joseph. Y. Lopez of the Twenty-Second Division, Court of Appeals, Cagayah de Oro.
[3]Id. at 76-78, Court of Appeals Resolution. The Resolution was penned by Associate Justice Henri Jean Paul B. Inting and concurred in by Associate Justices Edgardo A. Camello and Joseph Y. Lopez of the Twenty-Second Division, Court of Appeals, Cagayan de Oro.
[4]Id. at 99-107. The Decision was penned by Judge, Dennis Z. Alcantar of Branch 44 of the Regional Trial Court of Misamis Oriental.
[5] Id. at 17.
[6] Id. at 18.
[7] Id. at 99.
[8] Id.
[9] Id.
[10] Id.
[11] Id.
[12] Id. at 100.
[13] Id.
[14] Id.
[15] Id.
[16] Id.
[17] Id.
[18] Id.
[19] Id.
[20] Id. at 99-107.
[21] Id. at 107.
[22] Id. at 101-103.
[23] Id. at 107
[24] Id. at 102-105.
[25] Id. at 32-46, Defendant-Appellant's Brief.
[26] Id. at 86.
[27] Id. at 39.
[28] Id. at 65-70, Court of Appeals Decision.
[29] Id. at 69.
[30] Id. at 68.
[31] Id. at 68-69.
[32] Id. at 68.
[33] Id.
[34] Id. at 76-78.
[35] Id. at 14-28.
[36] Id. at 22.
[37] Id. at 22-23.
[38] Id. at 24.
[39] Id. at 115-122.
[40] Id. at 116.
[41] RULES OF COURT, Rule 45, sec, 1.
[42] Microsoft Corp. v. Maxicorp, Inc., 481 Phil 550, 561 (2004) [Per J. Carpio, First Division].
[43] Id.
[44] Id.
[45] Id.
[46] 369 Phil. 269 (1999) [Per J. Panganiban, Third Division].
[47] 361 Phil. 989 (1999) [Per J. Martinez, First Division].
[48] G.R. No. 107167, August 15, 1994, 235 SCRA 314 [Per J. Vitug, Third Division].
[49] Id. at 309-310.
[50] Rollo, pp. 93-95.
[51] Id. at 101-105.
[52] RULES OF COURT, Rule 133, sec. 1 provides:
SECTION 1. Preponderance of evidence, how determined.- In civil cases, the party having the burden of proof must establish his case by a preponderance of evidence. In determining where the preponderance or superior weight of evidence on the issues involved lies, the court may consider all the facts and circumstances of the case, the witnesses' manner of testifying, their intelligence, their means and opportunity of knowing the facts to which they are testifying, the nature of the facts to which they testify, the probability or improbability of their testimony, their interest or want of interest, and also their personal credibility so far as the same may legitimately appear upon the trial. The court may also consider the number of witnesses, though the preponderance is not necessarily with the greater number.
[53] Rollo, p. 36.
[54] Castillo et al, v. Court of Appeals, 329 Phil 150, 159 (1996) [Per J. Panganiban, Third Division].

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