GEORGE KATON vs. MANUEL PALANCA JR., G.R. No. 151149, September 7, 2004

Facts:
“On August 2, 1963, herein [P]etitioner [George Katon] filed a request with the District Office of the Bureau of Forestry in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, for the re-classification of a piece of real property known as Sombrero Island, located in Tagpait, Aborlan, Palawan, which consists of approximately 18 hectares. Said property is within Timberland Block of LC Project No. 10-C of Aborlan, Palawan, per BF Map LC No. 1582.

Petitioner contends that the whole area known as Sombrero Island had been classified from forest land to agricultural land and certified available for disposition upon his request and at his instance. However, Mr. Lucio Valera, then [l]and investigator of the District Land Office, Puerto Princesa, Palawan, favorably endorsed the request of [R]espondents Manuel Palanca Jr. and Lorenzo Agustin, for authority to survey on November 15, 1965. On November 22, a second endorsement was issued by Palawan District Officer Diomedes De Guzman with specific instruction to survey vacant portions of Sombrero Island for the respondents consisting of five (5) hectares each. On December 10, 1965, Survey Authority No. R III-342-65 was issued authorizing Deputy Public Land Surveyor Eduardo Salvador to survey ten (10) hectares of Sombrero Island for the respondents. On December 23, 1990, [R]espondent Lorenzo Agustin filed a homestead patent application for a portion of the subject island consisting of an area of 4.3 hectares.

“Records show that on November 8, 1996, [R]espondent Juan Fresnillo filed a homestead patent application for a portion of the island comprising 8.5 hectares. Records also reveal that [R]espondent Jesus Gapilango filed a homestead application on June 8, 1972. Respondent Manuel Palanca, Jr. was issued Homestead Patent No. 145927 and OCT No. G-7089 on March 3, 19775 with an area of 6.84 hectares of Sombrero Island.

Petitioner assails the validity of the homestead patents and original certificates of title covering certain portions of Sombrero Island issued in favor of respondents on the ground that the same were obtained through fraud. Petitioner prays for the reconveyance of the whole island in his favor.

In the instant case, petitioner seeks to nullify the homestead patents and original certificates of title issued in favor of the respondents covering certain portions of the Sombrero Island as well as the reconveyance of the whole island in his favor. The petitioner claims that he has the exclusive right to file an application for homestead patent over the whole island since it was he who requested for its conversion from forest land to agricultural land.”

Respondents filed their Answer with Special and/or Affirmative Defenses and Counterclaim in due time. On June 30, 1999, they also filed a Motion to Dismiss on the ground of the alleged defiance by petitioner of the trial court’s Order to amend his Complaint so he could thus effect a substitution by the legal heirs of the deceased, Respondent Gapilango. The Motion to Dismiss was granted by the RTC in its Order dated July 29, 1999.

Petitioner’s Motion for Reconsideration of the July 29, 1999 Order was denied by the trial court in its Resolution dated December 17, 1999, for being a third and prohibited motion. In his Petition for Certiorari before the CA, petitioner charged the trial court with grave abuse of discretion on the ground that the denied Motion was his first and only Motion for Reconsideration of the aforesaid Order.

The petitioner raised the complaint to the CA which Nonetheless dismissed motu proprio by the challenged Resolution of the CA Special Division of five members – with two justices dissenting – pursuant to its “residual prerogative” under Section 1 of Rule 9 of the Rules of Court.

Issue:
Whether the Court of Appeals correct in invoking its alleged ‘residual prerogative’ under Section 1, Rule 9 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure in resolving the Petition on an issue not raised in the Petition.

Held:
Yes, Under Section 1 of Rule 9 of the Rules of Court, defenses and objections not pleaded either in a motion to dismiss or in the answer are deemed waived, except when (1) lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter, (2) litis pendentia, (3) res judicata and (4) prescription are evident from the pleadings or the evidence on record. In the four excepted instances, the court shall motu proprio dismiss the claim or action.

A court may motu proprio dismiss a claim when it appears from the pleadings or evidence on record that it has no jurisdiction over the subject matter; when there is another cause of action pending between the same parties for the same cause, or where the action is barred by a prior judgment or by statute of limitations.

Residual Jurisdiction – of trial courts is available at a stage in which the court is normally deemed to have lost jurisdiction over the case or the subject matter involved in the appeal. This stage is reached upon the perfection of the appeals by the parties or upon the approval of the records on appeal, but prior to the transmittal of the original records or the records on appeal. In either instance, the trial court still retains its so-called residual jurisdiction to issue protective orders, approve compromises, permit appeals of indigent litigants, order execution pending appeal, and allow the withdrawal of the appeal.

Residual Prerogative – were the general residual powers of the courts to dismiss an action motu proprio upon the grounds mentioned in Section 1 of Rule 9 of the Rules of Court and under authority of Section 2 of Rule 114 of the same rules.

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