Incapable of pecuniary estimation; RTC

Settled is the rule that jurisdiction over the subject matter is determined by the allegations in the complaint. It is not affected by the pleas or the theories set up by the defendant in an answer or a motion to dismiss. Otherwise, jurisdiction would become dependent almost entirely upon the whims of the defendant.[1] The court's jurisdiction, once attached, cannot be ousted until it finally disposes of the case. When a court has already obtained and is exercising jurisdiction over a controversy, its jurisdiction to proceed to the final determination of the case is retained. A judge is competent to act on the case while its incidents remain pending for his disposition.[2]

Section 19 of Batas Pambansa Bilang 129 provides:
SECTION 19. Jurisdiction in Civil Cases. — Regional Trial Courts (RTC) shall exercise exclusive original jurisdiction:
(1) In all civil actions in which the subject of the litigation is incapable of pecuniary estimation; xxx.
In determining whether the subject matter of an action is incapable of pecuniary estimation, the Supreme Court has adopted the criterion of first ascertaining the nature of the principal action or remedy sought. If the action is primarily for recovery of a sum of money, the claim is considered capable of pecuniary estimation. Whether the trial court has jurisdiction would depend upon the amount of the claim. However, where the basic issue is something other than the right to recover a sum of money, or where the money claim is only incidental or a consequence of the principal relief sought, the action is incapable of pecuniary estimation.[3]

In the case of Rural Bank of Sta. Ignacia v. Spouses Padua (G.R. No. 214727, April 19, 2017), the Supreme Court found that the complaint is well within the jurisdiction of the RTC, since it is the validity of the extrajudicial foreclosure of mortgaged properties which was assailed.

[1] Eristingcol v. Court of Appeals, 601 Phil. 136, 152 (2009), as cited in Medical Plaza Makati Condominium Corp. v. Cullen, 720 Phil. 732, 741 (2013).

[2]Tung Ho Steel Enterprises Corp. v. Ting Guan Trading Corp., 731 Phil. 446, 456 (2014).

[3]Far East Bank and Trust Company v. Shemberg Marketing Corporation, 540 Phil. 7, 21 (2006), citing Singson v. Isabela Sawmill, 177 Phil. 575, 588 (1979).

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