Divinagracia v. Parilla, et al.
[G.R. No. 196750, March 11, 2015]
Conrado Nobleza, Sr. (Conrado, Sr.) owned a 313-square meter parcel of land located at Cor. Fuentes-Delgado Streets, Iloilo City. During his lifetime, Conrado Sr. was legally married twice, first to Lolita Palermom, and later to Eusela Niangar, with whom he had the following children
Whether or not the CA correctly: (a) ruled that Felcon’s siblings and Cebeleo, Sr. and Maude’s children are indispensable parties to Santiago’s complaint for judicial partition; and (b) dismissed Santiago’s complaint for his failure to implead said omitted heirs.
Petition partly granted.
An indispensable party is one whose interest will be affected by the court’s action in the litigation, and without whom no final determination of the case can be had. The party’s interest in the subject matter of the suit and in the relief sought are so inextricably intertwined with the other parties’ that his legal presence as a party to the proceeding is an absolute necessity. In his absence, there cannot be a resolution of the dispute of the parties before the court which is effective, complete, or equitable. Thus, the absence of an indispensable party renders all subsequent actions of the court null and void, for want of authority to act, not only as to the absent parties but even as to those present.
In actions for partition, the court cannot properly issue an order to divide the property, unless it first makes a determination as to the existence of co-ownership. The court must initially settle the issue of ownership, which is the first stage in an action for partition. Until and unless this issue of co-ownership is resolved, it would be premature to effect a partition of the disputed properties.
In the current case, while Santiago bought the interests of majority of the heirs of Conrado, Sr., as a vendee, he merely steps into the shoes of the vendors-heirs. Since his interest over the subject land is merely derived from that of the vendors-heirs, the latter should first be determined as co-owners thereof, thus necessitating the joinder of all those who have vested interests in such land, i.e., the aforesaid heirs of Conrado, Sr., in Santiago’s complaint. The absence of the aforementioned indispensable parties in the instant complaint for judicial partition renders all subsequent actions of the RTC null and void for want of authority to act, not only as to the absent parties, but even as to those present.
However, the CA erred in ordering the dismissal of the complaint on account of Santiago’s failure to implead all the indispensable parties in his complaint. The non-joinder of indispensable parties is not a ground for the dismissal of an action. At any stage of a judicial proceeding and/or at such times as are just, parties may be added on the motion of a party or on the initiative of the tribunal concerned. If the plaintiff refuses to implead an indispensable party despite the order of the court, that court may dismiss the complaint for the plaintiff’s failure to comply with the order. The remedy is to implead the non-party claimed to be indispensable.