LOLOY UNDURAN vs. RAMON ABERASTURI, October 20, 2015, G.R. No. 181284

Facts:
Petitioners are members of the Miarayon, Lapok, Lirongan, Talaandig Tribal Association (MILALITTRA), or Talaandig tribe, who claimed to have been living since birth on the land located at Barangay Miarayon, Talakag, Bukidnon, Mindanao, which they inherited from their forefathers.

On the other hand, respondents, represented by attorney-in-fact Ramon Aberasturi, claimed to be the lawful owners and possessor of an unregistered parcel of agricultural land, with an area of 105.7361 hectares, which appears to be located within the ancestral domain of the Talaandig tribe.

On March 3, 2004, respondents filed a Petition for Accion Reivindicatoria, with Prayer for the Issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order or Preliminary Prohibitory Injunction with Damages (original complaint for accion reivindicatoria) against petitioners before the Regional Trial Court.

On March 20, 2004, petitioners Macapayag and Brazil filed their Answer, alleging that respondents have no cause of action against them. On March 23, 2004, the rest of the petitioners filed their Motion to Dismiss, alleging that the RTC had no jurisdiction over the case. Petitioners alleged that with the advent of Republic Act No. (RA) 8371, otherwise known as the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA), they, together with the rest of the tribe members, assisted the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) in the processing, validation, and delineation of their Ancestral Domain claim in May 2003.

On July 1, 2004, the NCIP through Atty. Melanie Pimentel, filed a Motion to Refer the Case to the Regional Hearing Office-National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (RHO-NCIP), alleging that the RTC had no jurisdiction over the subject matter.

On July 5, 2004, respondents filed a Motion to Amend and Supplement Complaint from Accion Reivindicatoria to one for “Injunction, Damages, and Other Relief,” with the attached Amended and Supplemental Complaint (amended complaint for injunction). On July 30, 2004, petitioners filed an Opposition thereto.

On August 1, 2004, petitioners filed a Motion to Dismiss the Amended and Supplemental Complaint, alleging that the RTC had no jurisdiction over the subject matter of the case and to issue a writ of injunction therein.

On August 10, 2004, the RTC issued an Order granting the Motion to Amend and Supplement Complaint, and declared petitioners’ Motion to Refer the Case to the RHO-NCIP and Motion to Dismiss moot and academic as a consequence of the grant of the said motion to amend and supplement complaint.

On August 17, 2004, petitioners filed a Manifestation praying for an ocular inspection of the disputed land to determine the last, actual, peaceable, uncontested status of the area.

On August 25, 2004, petitioners filed another Motion to Refer the Case to the RHO-NCIP and Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint.

On September 14, 2004, respondents filed their Opposition and Motion for Judgment by Default.

On February 14, 2005, the RTC issued an Order resolving all pending incidents before it in favor of the respondent.

On April 12, 2005, petitioners filed before the Court of Appeals a Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition with Prayer for Preliminary Injunction and Issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order.

On August 17, 2006, the CA rendered a Decision affirming the RTC’s February 14, 2005 Order, which in turn denied the referral of the case to the NCIP.

On July 4, 2007, the CA denied petitioners’ motion for reconsideration of its August 17, 2006 Decision.

Hence, this appeal on certiorari raising the following issues:

Issue:
Whether the RTC has Primary Jurisdiction over the instant case and not the National Commission of Indigenous People.

Held:
Yes, jurisdiction over the subject matter of a case is conferred by law and determined by the allegations in the complaint which comprise a concise statement of the ultimate facts constituting the plaintiff’s cause of action. The nature of an action, as well as which court or body has jurisdiction over it, is determined based on the allegations contained in the complaint of the plaintiff, irrespective of whether or not the plaintiff is entitled to recover upon all or some of the claims asserted therein. The averments in the complaint and the character of the relief sought are the ones to be consulted. Once vested by the allegations in the complaint, jurisdiction also remains vested irrespective of whether or not the plaintiff is entitled to recover upon all or some of the claims asserted therein.

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