Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

FIRST DIVISION

 

G.R. No. 126603 June 29, 1998

ESTRELLITA J. TAMANO, petitioner,
vs.
HON. RODOLFO A. ORTIZ, Presiding Judge, RTC-Br. 89, Quezon City, HAJA PUTRI ZORAYDA A. TAMANO, ADIB A. TAMANO and the HON. COURT OF APPEALS, respondents.


BELLOSILLO, J.:

This Petition for Review on Certiorari seeks to reverse and set aside the decision of the Court of Appeals of 30 September 1996 in CA-G.R. SP. No. 39656 which affirmed the decision of the Regional Trial Court-Br. 89, Quezon City, denying the motion to dismiss as well as the motion for reconsideration filed by petitioner Estrellita J. Tamano.

On 31 May 1958 Senator Mamintal Abdul Jabar Tamano (Tamano) married private respondent Haja Putri Zorayda A. Tamano (Zorayda) in civil rites. Their marriage supposedly remained valid and subsisting until his death on 18 May 1994. Prior to his death, particularly on 2 June 1993, Tamano also married petitioner Estrellita J. Tamano (Estrellita) in civil rites in Malabang, Lanao del Sur.

On 23 November 1994 private respondent Zorayda joined by her son Adib A. Tamano (Adib) filed a Complaint for Declaration of Nullify of Marriage of Tamano and Estrellita on the ground that it was bigamous. They contended that Tamano and Estrellita misrepresented themselves as divorced and single, respectively, thus making the entries in the marriage contract false and fraudulent.

Private respondents alleged that Tamano never divorced Zorayda and that Estrellita was not single when she married Tamano as the decision annulling her previous marriage with Romeo C. Llave never became final and executory for non-compliance with publication requirements.

Estrellita filed a motion to dismiss alleging that the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City was without jurisdiction over the subject and nature of the action. She alleged that "only a party to the marriage" could file an action for annulment of marriage against the other spouse, 1 hence, it was only Tamano who could file an action for annulment of their marriage. Petitioner likewise contended that since Tamano and Zorayda were both Muslims and married in Muslim rites the jurisdiction to hear and try the instant case was vested in the shari'a courts pursuant to Art. 155 of the Code of Muslim Personal Laws.

The lower court denied the motion to dismiss and ruled that the instant case was properly cognizable by the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City since Estrellita and Tamano were married in accordance with the Civil Code and not exclusively in accordance with PD No. 1083 2 or the Code of Muslim Personal laws. The motion for reconsideration was likewise denied; hence, petitioner filed the instant petition with this Court seeking to set aside the 18 July 1995 order of respondent presiding judge of the RTC-Br. 89, Quezon City, denying petitioner's motion to dismiss and the 22 August 1995 order denying reconsideration thereof.

In a Resolution dated 13 December 1995 we referred the case to the Court of Appeals for consolidation with G.R. No. 118371. Zorayda and Adib A. Tamano however filed a motion, which the Court of Appeals granted, to resolve the Complaint for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage ahead of the other consolidated cases.

The Court of Appeals ruled that the instant case would fall under the exclusive jurisdiction of shari'a courts only when filed in places where there are shari'a court. But in places where there are no shari'a courts, like Quezon City, the instant case could properly be filed before the Regional Trial Court.

Petitioner is now before us reiterating her earlier argument that it is the shari'a court and not the Regional Trial Court which has jurisdiction over the subject and nature of the action.

Under The Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980, 3 Regional Trial Courts have jurisdiction over all actions involving the contract of marriage and marital relations. 4 Personal actions, such as the instant complaint for declaration of nullity of marriage, may be commenced and tried where the plaintiff or any of the principal plaintiffs resides, or where the defendant or any of the principal defendants resides, at the election of the plaintiff. 5 There should be no question by now that what determines the nature of an action and correspondingly the court which has jurisdiction over it are the allegations made by the plaintiff in this case. 6 In the complaint for declaration of nullity of marriage filed by private respondents herein, it was alleged that Estrellita and Tamano were married in accordance with the provisions of the Civil Code. Never was it mentioned that Estrellita and Tamano were married under Muslim laws or PD No. 1083. Interestingly, Estrellita never stated in her Motion to Dismiss that she and Tamano were married under Muslim laws. That she was in fact married to Tamano under Muslim laws was first mentioned only in her Motion for Reconsideration.

Nevertheless, the Regional Trial Court was not divested of jurisdiction to hear and try the instant case despite the allegation in the Motion for Reconsideration that Estrellita and Tamano were likewise married in Muslim rites. This is because a court's jurisdiction cannot be made to depend upon defenses set up in the answer, in a motion to dismiss, or in a motion for reconsideration, but only upon the allegations of the complaint. 7 Jurisdiction over the subject matter of a case is determined from the allegations of the complaint as the latter comprises a concise statement of the ultimate facts constituting the plaintiff's causes of action. 8

Petitioner argues that the shari'a courts have jurisdiction over the instant suit pursuant to Art. 13, Title II, PD No. 1083, 9 which provides

Art. 13. Application. (1) The provisions of this Title shall apply to marriage and divorce wherein both parties are Muslims, or wherein only the male party is a Muslim and the marriage is solemnized in accordance with Muslim law or this Code in any part of the Philippines.

(2) In case of a marriage between a Muslim and a non-Muslim, solemnized not in accordance with Muslim law or this Code, the Civil Code of the Philippines shall apply.

(3) Subject to the provisions of the preceding paragraphs, the essential requisites and legal impediments to marriage, divorce, paternity and filiation, guardianship and custody of minors, support and maintenance, claims for customary dower (mahr), betrothal, breach of contract to marry, solemnization and registration of marriage and divorce, rights and obligations between husband and wife, parental authority, and the property relations between husband and wife shall be governed by this Code and other applicable Muslim laws.

As alleged in the complaint, petitioner and Tamano were married in accordance with the Civil Code. Hence, contrary to the position of petitioner, the Civil Code is applicable in the instant case. Assuming that indeed petitioner and Tamano were likewise married under Muslim laws, the same would still fall under the general original jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Courts.

Article 13 of PD No. 1083 does not provide for a situation where the parties were married both in civil and Muslim rites. Consequently, the shari'a courts are not vested with original and exclusive jurisdiction when it comes to marriages celebrated under both civil and Muslim laws. Consequently, the Regional Trial Courts are not divested of their general original jurisdiction under Sec. 19, par. (6) of BP Blg. 129 which provides

Sec. 19. Jurisdiction in Civil Cases. Regional Trial Courts shall exercise exclusive original jurisdiction: . . . (6) In all cases not within the exclusive jurisdiction of any court, tribunal, person or body exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions . . .

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DENIED. The decision of the Court of Appeals sustaining the 18 July 1995 and 22 August 1995 orders of the Regional Trial Court Br. 89, Quezon City, denying the motion to dismiss and reconsideration thereof, is AFFIRMED. Let the records of this case be immediately remanded to the court of origin for further proceedings until terminated.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., Vitug, Panganiban and Quisumbing, JJ., concur.

Footnotes

1 Motion to Dismiss, p. 3; Rollo, p. 52.

2 Order, p. 2; Records, p. 20.

3 Sec. 79, BP 129 as amended.

4 Sec. 19, B.P. Blg. 129, as amended, otherwise known as The Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980.

5 Sec. 2, Rule 4, 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended.

6 Sandel v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 117250, 19 September 1996, 262 SCRA 109.

7 Id., p. 110.

8 Bernardo v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 120730, 28 October 1996, 263 SCRA 660.

9 The Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines.


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