The rule on litis pendentia
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The Manila Times
Dear PAO, I filed a collection case against my brother to get reimbursement for my property which was transferred to a creditor pursuant to an amicable settlement. My brother opposed, claiming ownership over such subject property. Thus, during the trial of the collection case, the issue of ownership was fully heard. A decision was rendered in the case, which declared me as the owner of the subject property and ordered my brother to pay me a certain amount. He appealed the decision, and even filed another complaint challenging my ownership over the same property (annulment case). He claimed that the prior decision does not bar him from fiLING ANOTHER CASE BECAUSE, JUST LIKE IN ejectment case, the issue of ownership was passed upon by the court only for the purpose of collection, thus, it is not conclusive. Is he correct? Ednalyn Dear Ednalyn, To address your question, we refer you to the recent decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Jose v. Quesada-Jose (GR 249434, March 15, 2023), penned by Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo, where the Court explained: “Litis pendentia refers to a situation where two actions are pending between the same parties for the same cause of action, so that one of them becomes unnecessary and vexatious. Its underlying principle is the theory that a party is not allowed to vex another more than once regarding the same subject matter and for the same cause of action xxx “Litis pendentia requires the concurrence of the following requisites: (a) identity of parties or at least such as representing the same interest in both actions; (b) identity of rights asserted and reliefs prayed for, the reliefs being founded on the same facts; and (c) the identity in the two cases should be such that the judgment that may be rendered in one would, regardless of which party is successful, amount to res judicata in the other. “Xxx “In this case, although the form of the two actions differ — one is for collection of a sum of money while the other is for annulment of sale and cancellation of titles — the rights asserted by the parties are anchored on their respective alleged ownership over the property. In the collection case, petitioner and Cynthia claim that they are entitled to be paid for the value of the property ceded to TIDCORP based on their prior ownership over it as evidenced by TCT No. N-50023 registered in Cynthia’s name. In contrast, Luis avers that his parents need not pay for such value as they are the true owners thereof. In the annulment case, Luis seeks the cancellation of the remaining titles issued in Cynthia’s name (i.e., TCT Nos. R-19952 and R19953) based on the same claim that his parents are the true owners of the property. “It bears noting that in the collection case, the supposed simulation of the deed of sale in favor of Cynthia was thoroughly argued by Luis before the RTC Manila as well as on appeal before the CA and the Court. The RTC Manila carefully examined the evidence submitted before it and thereafter concluded that the sale was valid. Pertinently, the RTC Manila already heard in a full-blown trial, the issue of validity of the sale to Cynthia and the resulting CERTIfiCATES OF TITLE, WHICH IS PRECISELY THE issue in the annulment case before the RTC Antipolo. Notably, the RTC Manila considered the issue of simulation of the deed of sale as integral to resolving the collection case xxx “From the foregoing, it is apparent that Luis fully participated in the proceedings and exhaustively argued his position before the different courts in the collection case as regards the alleged simulation of sale and his parents’ supposed true ownership over the property. Thus, the pronouncement on the validity of the sale and titles in this case was done after a full-blown trial examining the parties’ evidence. Hence, unlike in an ejectment case where the ruling on ownership is only provisional due to its summary nature, the RTC Manila’s determination of ownership in the collection case can be considered conclusive. “In other words, both the collection case and the annulment case are anchored on the same issue — whether Cynthia is the true owner of the subject property pursuant to a sale between her and Domingo. If Cynthia is the true owner, then Domingo, as substituted by Luis, is liable to pay the same of money to Cynthia and petitioner; if Cynthia is not the true OWNER, THEN THE CERTIfiCATE OF TITLE IN HER favor is void. As these two cases essentially contemplate the same issue, there exists litis pendentia.” Applying the foregoing to your case, it is clear that your brother is barred from fiLING ANOTHER ACTION RAISING THE SAME ISSUE which was already heard during the trial of your collection case and is now on appeal. Allowing him to do so would violate the rule on litis pendentia and may result in CONflICTING DECISIONS OVER THE SAME SUBJECT matter and for the same cause of action by the same parties. We hope that we were able to answer your queries. This advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.