G.R. No. 194024, 25 April 2012
Philip L. Go, Pacifico Q. Lim and Andrew Q. Lim (petitioners) are registered individual owners of condominium units in Phoenix Heights Condominium located at H. Javier/Canley Road, Bo. Bagong Ilog, Pasig City, Metro Manila.
In August 2008, petitioners, as condominium unit-owners, filed a complaint7 before the HLURB against DPDCI for unsound business practices and violation of the MDDR. The case was docketed as REM- 080508-13906. They alleged that DPDCI committed misrepresentation in their circulated flyers and brochures as to the facilities or amenities that would be available in the condominium and failed to perform its obligation to comply with the MDDR.
In defense, DPDCI denied that it had breached its promises and representations to the public concerning the facilities in the condominium. It alleged that the brochure attached to the complaint was “a mere preparatory draft” and not the official one actually distributed to the public, and that the said brochure contained a disclaimer as to the binding effect of the supposed offers therein. Also, DPDCI questioned the petitioners’ personality to sue as the action was a derivative suit. After due hearing, the HLURB rendered its decision8 in favor of petitioners.
The CA ruled that the HLURB had no jurisdiction over the complaint filed by petitioners as the controversy did not fall within the scope of the administrative agency’s authority under P.D. No. 957. The HLURB not only relied heavily on the brochures which, according to the CA, did not set out an enforceable obligation on the part of DPDCI, but also erroneously cited Section 13 of the MDDR to support its finding of contractual violation.
Whether or not the HLURB has jurisdiction over the complaint filed by petitioners.
The petition fails.
Basic as a hornbook principle is that 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. Thus, it was ruled that the jurisdiction of the HLURB to hear and decide cases is determined by the nature of the cause of action, the subject matter or property involved and the parties.
In this case, the complaint filed by petitioners alleged causes of action that apparently are not cognizable by the HLURB considering the nature of the action and the reliefs sought. A perusal of the complaint discloses that petitioners are actually seeking to nullify and invalidate the duly constituted acts of PHCC – the April 29, 2005 Agreement27 entered into by PHCC with DPDCI and its Board Resolution28 which authorized the acceptance of the proposed offsetting/settlement of DPDCI’s indebtedness and approval of the conversion of certain units from saleable to common areas. All these were approved by the HLURB.
*Case Digest by Catherine C. Velasco, LLB-IV, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2019-2020