Does the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980 apply in determining whether or not a court has jurisdiction over an action to quiet title?

In a 2009 case, Malana v. Tappa [G.R. No. 181359, August 05, 2013], the Supreme Court through its Third Division ruled:

“It is important to note that Section 1, Rule 63 of the Rules of Court does not categorically require that an action to quiet title be filed before the RTC. It repeatedly uses the word “may” – that an action for quieting of title “may be brought under [the] Rule” on petitions for declaratory relief, and a person desiring to file a petition for declaratory relief “may x x x bring an action in the appropriate Regional Trial Court.” The use of the word “may” in a statute denotes that the provision is merely permissive and indicates a mere possibility, an opportunity or an option.

In contrast, the mandatory provision of the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980, as amended, uses the word “shall” and explicitly requires the MTC to exercise exclusive original jurisdiction over all civil actions which involve title to or possession of real property where the assessed value does not exceed P20,000.00:

Section 33. Jurisdiction of Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts in Civil Cases.Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts shall exercise:

x x x x

(3) Exclusive original jurisdiction in all civil actions which involve title to, possession of, real property, or any interest therein where the assessed value of the property or interest therein does not exceed Twenty thousand pesos (P20,000.00) or, in civil actions in Metro Manila, where such assessed value does not exceeds Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) exclusive of interest, damages of whatever kind, attorneys fees, litigation expenses and costs: x x x (Emphasis ours.)

As found by the RTC, the assessed value of the subject property as stated in Tax Declaration No. 02-48386 is only P410.00; therefore, petitioners’ Complaint involving title to and possession of the said property is within the exclusive original jurisdiction of the MTC, not the RTC” (emphasis by the Court, footnotes omitted).

Meanwhile, in the 2013 case of Sabitsana v. Muertegui [G.R. No. 181359, August 05, 2013], the Supreme Court through its Second Division ruled:

“On the question of jurisdiction, it is clear under the Rules that an action for quieting of title may be instituted in the RTCs, regardless of the assessed value of the real property in dispute. Under Rule 63 of the Rules of Court, an action to quiet title to real property or remove clouds therefrom may be brought in the appropriate RTC.” (footnotes omitted)

The Court in Sabitsana neither mentions the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980 (Batas Pambansa Blg. 129) nor the case of Malana.

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