Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Forcible entry; how to deterrmine natrure of action - G.R. No. 170575

G.R. No. 170575

"x x x.

The allegations in petitioner’s Complaint constitute judicial admissions.

Petitioners alleged in their Complaint before the MTCC, among others, that: (1) sometime in 1991, without their consent and authority, respondent took full control and possession of the subject property, developed the same and used it for commercial purposes; and (2) they allowed the respondent for several years, to make use of the land without any contractual or legal basis. Petitioners thus conclude that respondent’s possession of subject property is only by tolerance.

Section 4, Rule 129 of the Rules of Court provides that:

Sec. 4. Judicial admissions. – An admission, verbal or written, made by a party in the course of the proceedings in the same case, does not require proof. x x x

“A judicial admission is one so made in pleadings filed or in the progress of a trial as to dispense with the introduction of evidence otherwise necessary to dispense with some rules of practice necessary to be observed and complied with.”[17] Correspondingly, “facts alleged in the complaint are deemed admissions of the plaintiff and binding upon him.”[18] “The allegations, statements or admissions contained in a pleading are conclusive as against the pleader.”[19]

In this case, petitioners judicially admitted that respondents took control and possession of subject property without their consent and authority and that respondent’s use of the land was without any contractual or legal basis.

Nature of the action is determined by the judicial admissions in the Complaint.

In Spouses Huguete v. Spouses Embudo,[20] citing Cañiza v. Court of Appeals,[21] this Court held that “what determines the nature of an action as well as which court has jurisdiction over it are the allegations of the complaint and the character of the relief sought.”

This Court, in Sumulong v. Court of Appeals,[22] differentiated the distinct causes of action in forcible entry vis-à-vis unlawful detainer, to wit:

Forcible entry and unlawful detainer are two distinct causes of action defined in Section 1, Rule 70 of the Rules of Court. In forcible entry, one is deprived of physical possession of any land or building by means of force, intimidation, threat, strategy, or stealth. In unlawful detainer, one unlawfully withholds possession thereof after the expiration or termination of his right to hold possession under any contract, express or implied. In forcible entry, the possession is illegal from the beginning and the only issue is who has the prior possession de facto. In unlawful detainer, possession was originally lawful but became unlawful by the expiration or termination of the right to possess and the issue of rightful possession is the one decisive, for in such action, the defendant is the party in actual possession and the plaintiff's cause of action is the termination of the defendant's right to continue in possession.[23]

“The words ‘by force, intimidation, threat, strategy or stealth’ shall include every situation or condition under which one person can wrongfully enter upon real property and exclude another, who has had prior possession, therefrom.”[24] “The foundation of the action is really the forcible exclusion of the original possessor by a person who has entered without right.”[25]

“The act of going on the property and excluding the lawful possessor therefrom necessarily implies the exertion of force over the property, and this is all that is necessary.”[26] The employment of force, in this case, can be deduced from petitioners’ allegation that respondent took full control and possession of the subject property without their consent and authority.

“‘Stealth,’ on the other hand, is defined as any secret, sly, or clandestine act to avoid discovery and to gain entrance into or remain within residence of another without permission,”[27] while strategy connotes the employment of machinations or artifices to gain possession of the subject property.[28] The CA found that based on the petitioners’ allegations in their complaint, “respondent’s entry on the land of the petitioners was by stealth x x x.”[29] However, stealth as defined requires a clandestine character which is not availing in the instant case as the entry of the respondent into the property appears to be with the knowledge of the petitioners as shown by petitioners’ allegation in their complaint that “[c]onsidering the personalities behind the defendant foundation and considering further that it is plaintiff’s nephew, then the vice-mayor, and now the Mayor of the City of Roxas Antonio A. del Rosario, although without any legal or contractual right, who transacted with the foundation, plaintiffs did not interfere with the activities of the foundation using their property.”[30] To this Court’s mind, this allegation if true, also illustrates strategy.

Taken in its entirety, the allegations in the Complaint establish a cause of action for forcible entry, and not for unlawful detainer.

“In forcible entry, one is deprived of physical possession of any land or building by means of force, intimidation, threat, strategy, or stealth.”[31] “[W]here the defendant’s possession of the property is illegal ab initio,” the summary action for forcible entry (detentacion) is the remedy to recover possession.[32]

In their Complaint, petitioners maintained that the respondent took possession and control of the subject property without any contractual or legal basis.[33] Assuming that these allegations are true, it hence follows that respondent’s possession was illegal from the very beginning. Therefore, the foundation of petitioners’ complaint is one for forcible entry – that is “the forcible exclusion of the original possessor by a person who has entered without right.”[34] Thus, and as correctly found by the CA, there can be no tolerance as petitioners alleged that respondent’s possession was illegal at the inception.[35]

Corollarily, since the deprivation of physical possession, as alleged in

petitioners’ Complaint and as earlier discussed, was attended by strategy and force, this Court finds that the proper remedy for the petitioners was to file a Complaint for Forcible Entry and not the instant suit for unlawful detainer.

Petitioners should have filed a Complaint for Forcible Entry within the reglementary one-year period from the time of dispossession.

Petitioners likewise alleged in their Complaint that respondent took possession and occupancy of subject property in 1991. Considering that the action for forcible entry must be filed within one year from the time of dispossession,[36] the action for forcible entry has already prescribed when petitioners filed their Complaint in 2003. As a consequence, the Complaint failed to state a valid cause of action against the respondent.

In fine, the MTCC properly dismissed the Complaint, and the RTC and the CA correctly affirmed said order of dismissal.

x x x."