FACTS: In July, 2011, petitioner William Anghian Siy filed before the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City (RTC) a Complaint for Recovery of Possession with Prayer for Replevin against Frankie Domanog Ong (Ong), Chris Centeno (Centeno), John Co Chua (Chug), and herein respondent Alvin Tomlin. The case was docketed as Civil Case No. Q-11-69644 and assigned to RTC Branch 224.

In his Complaint, petitioner alleged that he is the owner of a 2007 model Range Rover with Plate Number ZMG 272 which he purchased from Alberto Lopez III (Lopez) on July 22, 2009; that in 2010, he entrusted the said vehicle to Ong, a businessman who owned a second-hand car sales showroom (“Motortrend” in Katipunan, Quezon City), after the latter claimed that he had a prospective buyer therefor; that Ong failed to remit the proceeds of the purported sale nor return the vehicle; that petitioner later found out that the vehicle had been transferred to Chua; that in December, 2010, petitioner filed a complaint before the Quezon City Police District’s Anti-Carnapping Section; that Ong, upon learning of the complaint, met with petitioner to arrange the return of the vehicle; that Ong still failed to surrender the vehicle; that petitioner learned that the vehicle was being transferred to respondent; and that the vehicle was later impounded and taken into custody by the PNP-Highway Patrol Group (HPG) at Camp Crame, Quezon City after respondent attempted to process a PNP clearance of the vehicle with a view to transferring ownership thereof. Petitioner thus prayed that a writ of replevin be issued for the return of the vehicle to him, and that the defendants be ordered to pay him P100,000.00 attorney’s fees and the costs of suit.

After hearing the application, the trial court issued a July 29, 2011 Order decreeing as follows:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, and with the ADMISSION of the plaintiff’s Documentary Exhibits in support of this Application, issue a Writ of Replevin in favor of the plaintiff subject to the posting of the bond in the amount of EIGHT MILLION PESOS (Php8,000,000.00) to be executed in favor of the defendants for the return of the said property if such return be adjudged, and for the payment to the adverse parties of such sum as they may recover from the applicant in this action.

SO ORDERED.

Petitioner posted the required P8 million bond which was approved by the trial court. A Writ of Replevin was then issued.

The subject vehicle was seized by the court-appointed special sheriff who then filed the corresponding Sheriff’s Return.

On August 17, 2011, respondent filed an Omnibus Motion seeking to quash the Writ of Replevin, dismiss the Complaint, and turn over or return the vehicle to him. Respondent claimed that he is the lawful and registered owner of the subject vehicle, having bought the same and caused registration thereof in his name on March 7, 2011; that the Complaint in Civil Case No. Q-11-69644 should be dismissed for failure to pay the correct amount of docket fees; that the Complaint is defective for failing to allege the correct and material facts as to ownership, possession/detention by defendant, warranty against distraint/levy/seizure, and actual value of the vehicle; and that the implementation of the writ was attended by procedural irregularities.

Particularly, respondent argued that petitioner could not prove his ownership of the vehicle as the only pieces of evidence he presented in this regard were a manager’s check and cash voucher as proof of payment, and the affidavit of Lopez attesting to the sale between him and petitioner which are insufficient; that in fact, he is the registered owner of the vehicle, as shown by the Official Receipt and Certificate of Registration dated March 7, 2011 issued in his name by the Land Transportation Office (LTO); that it has not been shown that he wrongfully detained the vehicle, as petitioner was never in possession thereof, since the same was already detained and seized by the HPG at the time; that petitioner failed to allege, as required under Section 2 of Rule 60 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure (1997 Rules), that the vehicle has not been distrained or taken for a tax assessment or a fine pursuant to law, or seized under a writ of execution or preliminary attachment, or otherwise placed under custodia legis, or if so seized, that it is exempt from such seizure or custody; and that petitioner failed to allege the actual market value (P4 million) of the vehicle, and instead, he intentionally understated its value at only P2 million in order to avoid paying the correct docket fees.

As for the alleged procedural defects, respondent claimed that the sheriff implemented the writ against the HPG, which is not a party to the case; that the Complaint must be dismissed for failure to pay the correct docket fees based on the actual value of the vehicle; and that the trial court acted with undue haste in granting the writ of replevin.

Finally, respondent argued that he is the true owner of the subject vehicle as he was able to register the transfer in his favor and obtain a certificate of registration in his name; and that as between petitioner’s documentary evidence and his official registration documents, the latter should prevail.

ISSUE: WON REPLEVIN IS PROPER IN THIS CASE. 

HELD: NO. “In a complaint for replevin, the claimant must convincingly show that he is either the owner or clearly entitled to the possession of the object sought to be recovered, and that the defendant, who is in actual or legal possession thereof, wrongfully detains the same.” “Rule 60 x x x allows a plaintiff, in an action for the recovery of possession of personal property, to apply for a writ of replevin if it can be shown that he is ‘the owner of the property claimed . . . or is entitled to the possession thereof.’ The plaintiff need not be the owner so long as he is able to specify his right to the possession of the property and his legal basis therefor.”|

Acting for and in petitioner’s behalf by virtue of the implied or oral agency, Ong was thus able to sell the vehicle to Chua, but he failed to remit the proceeds thereof to petitioner; his guarantee checks bounced as well. This entitled petitioner to sue for estafa through abuse of confidence. This is exactly what petitioner did: on May 18, 2011, he filed a complaint for estafa and carnapping against Ong before the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office.

Since Ong was able to sell the subject vehicle to Chua, petitioner thus ceased to be the owner thereof. Nor is he entitled to the possession of the vehicle; together with his ownership, petitioner lost his right of possession over the vehicle. His argument that respondent is a buyer in bad faith, when the latter nonetheless proceeded with the purchase and registration of the vehicle on March 7, 2011, despite having been apprised of petitioner’s earlier November, 2010 “Failed to Return Vehicle” report filed with the PNP-HPG, is unavailing. Petitioner had no right to file said report, as he was no longer the owner of the vehicle at the time; indeed, his right of action is only against Ong, for collection of the proceeds of the sale.

Considering that he was no longer the owner or rightful possessor of the subject vehicle at the time he filed Civil Case No. Q-11-69644 in July, 2011, petitioner may not seek a return of the same through replevin. Quite the contrary, respondent, who obtained the vehicle from Chua and registered the transfer with the Land Transportation Office, is the rightful owner thereof, and as such, he is entitled to its possession. For this reason, the CA was correct in decreeing the dismissal of Civil Case No. Q-11-69644, although it erred in ordering the return of the vehicle to the PNP-HPG, which had no further right to hold the vehicle in its custody. As the registered and rightful owner of the subject vehicle, the trial court must return the same to respondent.

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