ARTURO C. ALBA, JR., vs. RAYMUND D. MALAPAJO, January 13, 2016, G.R. No. 198752

Facts:
Petitioner Arturo C. Alba, Jr., filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) a Complaint against respondents Raymund D. Malapajo, Ramil D. Malapajo and the Register of Deeds of Roxas City for recovery of ownership and/or declaration of nullity or cancellation of title and damages alleging, among others, that he was the previous registered owner of a parcel of land situated in Bolo, Roxas City, that his title was subsequently canceled by virtue of a deed of sale he allegedly executed in favor of respondents Malapajo for a consideration, that new TCT was issued in the name of respondents; that the deed of sale was a forged document which respondents were the co-authors of.

Respondents filed their Answer with Counterclaim contending that they were innocent purchasers for value and that the deed was a unilateral document which was presented to them already prepared and notarized; that before the sale, petitioner had, on separate occasions, obtained loans from them and their mother which were secured by separate real estate mortgages covering the subject property; that the two real estate mortgages had never been discharged. Respondents counterclaimed for damages and for reimbursement of petitioner’s loan from them plus the agreed monthly interest in the event that the deed of sale is declared null and void on the ground of forgery.

Petitioner filed a Reply to Answer and Answer to (Permissive) Counterclaim stating, among others, that the court had not acquired jurisdiction over the nature of respondents’ permissive counterclaim; and, that assuming without admitting that the two real estate mortgages are valid, the rate of five percent (5%) per month uniformly stated therein is unconscionable and must be reduced. Respondents filed their Rejoinder thereto.

Petitioner filed a Motion to Set the Case for Preliminary Hearing as if a Motion to Dismiss had been Filed alleging that respondents’ counterclaims are in the nature of a permissive counterclaim, thus, there must be payment of docket fees and filing of a certification against forum shopping; and, that the supposed loan extended by respondents’ mother to petitioner, must also be dismissed as respondents are not the real parties-in-interest. Respondents filed their Opposition thereto.

The RTC issued an Order denying petitioner’s motion finding that respondents’ counterclaims are compulsory. Petitioner’s motion for reconsideration was by the RTC. Petitioner filed a petition for certiorari with the CA which was subsequently denied, hence this case.

Issue:
Whether respondents’ counterclaim, i.e., reimbursement of the loan obtained from them in case the deed of absolute sale is declared null and void on the ground of forgery, is permissive in nature which requires the payment of docket fees and a certification against forum shopping for the trial court to acquire jurisdiction over the same.

Held:
No, There is a logical relationship between the claim and the counterclaim, as the counterclaim is connected with the transaction or occurrence constituting the subject matter of the opposing party’s claim. Notably, the same evidence to sustain respondents’ counterclaim would disprove petitioner’s case. In the event that respondents could convincingly establish that petitioner actually executed the promissory note and the real estate mortgage over the subject property in their favor then petitioner’s complaint might fail. Petitioner’s claim is so related logically to respondents’ counterclaim, such that conducting separate trials for the claim and the counterclaim would result in the substantial duplication of the time and effort of the court and the parties.

Since respondents’ counterclaim is compulsory, it must be set up in the same action; otherwise, it would be barred forever. If it is filed concurrently with the main action but in a different proceeding, it would be abated on the ground of litis pendentia; if filed subsequently, it would meet the same fate on the ground of res judicata. There is, therefore, no need for respondents to pay docket fees and to file a certification against forum shopping for the court to acquire jurisdiction over the said counterclaim.

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