Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Recovery of possession; forcible entry - G.R. No. 142676

G.R. No. 142676

"x x x.

There is forcible entry or desahucio when one is deprived of physical possession of land or building by means of force, intimidation, threat, strategy or stealth. In such cases, the possession is illegal from the beginning and the basic inquiry centers on who has the prior possession de facto. In filing forcible entry cases, the law tells us that two allegations are mandatory for the municipal court to acquire jurisdiction: first, the plaintiff must allege prior physical possession of the property, and second, he must also allege that he was deprived of his possession by any of the means provided for in Section 1, Rule 70 of the Rules of Court, i.e., by force, intimidation, threat, strategy, or stealth. It is also settled that in the resolution thereof, what is important is determining who is entitled to the physical possession of the property. Indeed, any of the parties who can prove prior possession de facto may recover such possession even from the owner himself since such cases proceed independently of any claim of ownership and the plaintiff needs merely to prove prior possession de facto and undue deprivation thereof.[55]

Title is never in issue in a forcible entry case, the court should base its decision on who had prior physical possession. The main thing to be proven in an action for forcible entry is prior possession and that same was lost through force, intimidation, threat, strategy, and stealth, so that it behooves the court to restore possession regardless of title or ownership.[56]

We more extensively discussed in Pajuyo v. Court of Appeals[57] that:

Ownership or the right to possess arising from ownership is not at issue in an action for recovery of possession. The parties cannot present evidence to prove ownership or right to legal possession except to prove the nature of the possession when necessary to resolve the issue of physical possession. The same is true when the defendant asserts the absence of title over the property. The absence of title over the contested lot is not a ground for the courts to withhold relief from the parties in an ejectment case.

The only question that the courts must resolve in ejectment proceedings is - who is entitled to the physical possession of the premises, that is, to the possession de facto and not to the possession de jure. It does not even matter if a party’s title to the property is questionable, or when both parties intruded into public land and their applications to own the land have yet to be approved by the proper government agency. Regardless of the actual condition of the title to the property, the party in peaceable quiet possession shall not be thrown out by a strong hand, violence or terror. Neither is the unlawful withholding of property allowed. Courts will always uphold respect for prior possession.

Thus, a party who can prove prior possession can recover such possession even against the owner himself. Whatever may be the character of his possession, if he has in his favor prior possession in time, he has the security that entitles him to remain on the property until a person with a better right lawfully ejects him. To repeat, the only issue that the court has to settle in an ejectment suit is the right to physical possession.[58] (Emphases ours.)

Based on the foregoing, we find that the RTC-Branch 88 erred in ordering the dismissal of Civil Case No. 8286 even before completion of the proceedings before the MeTC. At the time said case was ordered dismissed by RTC-Branch 88, the MeTC had only gone so far as holding a hearing on and eventually granting Muñoz’s prayer for the issuance of a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction.

Muñoz alleges in her complaint in Civil Case No. 8286 that she had been in prior possession of the subject property since it was turned-over to her by the sheriff on January 10, 1994, pursuant to the Alias Writ of Execution issued by the RTC-Branch 95 to implement the final judgment in Civil Case No. Q-28580. The factual issue of who was in prior possession of the subject property should be litigated between the parties regardless of whether or not the final judgment in Civil Case No. Q-28580 extended to the spouses Chan. Hence, the pendency of the latter issue in Civil Case No. Q-28580 before the RTC-Branch 95 did not warrant the dismissal of Civil Case No. 8286 before the MeTC on the ground of litis pendentia. The two cases could proceed independently of one another.

Samuel Go Chan and Atty. Yabut aver that the spouses Chan have never lost possession of the subject property since acquiring the same from BPI Family in 1990. This is a worthy defense to Muñoz’s complaint for forcible entry, which Samuel Go Chan and Atty. Yabut should substantiate with evidence in the continuation of the proceedings in Civil Case No. 8286 before the MeTC.

In addition, Civil Case No. 8286, a forcible entry case, is governed by the Revised Rule on Summary Procedure, Section 19 whereof provides:

SEC. 19. Prohibited pleadings and motions. – The following pleadings, motions, or petitions shall not be allowed in the cases covered by this Rule:

x x x x

(g) Petition for certiorari, mandamus, or prohibition against any interlocutory order issued by the court.

The purpose of the Rule on Summary Procedure is to achieve an expeditious and inexpensive determination of cases without regard to technical rules. Pursuant to this objective, the Rule prohibits petitions for certiorari, like a number of other pleadings, in order to prevent unnecessary delays and to expedite the disposition of cases.[59]

x x x."