Saturday, November 9, 2013

Title to property immaterial in cases of forcible entry

Dear PAO,
My brother and his family used to live in a small residential lot which is subject of a land dispute. Although my brother admits that he has no legal title on the subject land, he has been living in that place for more than a decade now. No case was filed yet nor a court order was issued regarding this dispute but the other party already forced my brother and his family out of their residence through threats and physical force with the assistance of some armed men. Since then, they have been using my brother’s residence as a warehouse.
What case should my brother file to get back his house and to complain the persons who threatened and removed him from his residence? Can he legally complain even without having a land title on his occupied land? We hope for your legal advice on this matter. Thank you and more power!

Dear Bill,
Based from your narration of your brother’s situation, he may file an action for forcible entry against the people who removed him and his family from his residence.

An action for forcible entry is warranted when “…a person is deprived of the possession of any land or building by force, intimidation, threat, strategy, or stealth, xxx” (Section 1, Rule 70, Revised Rules of Court). In your brother’s case, the use of force and threats justifies the filing of forcible entry. This action may be filed before the proper Metropolitan Trial Court or Municipal Trial Court, as the case may be, within one (1) year after the unlawful deprivation of the property for the purpose of recovering the possession of the property with damages and costs.

Furthermore, your brother’s lack of land title on the said disputed lot does not bar him from filing an action for forcible entry because the main issue in these kinds of action is the mere physical possession of the property and not the ownership of the said property. This is because in forcible entry cases, the actual condition of the title to the property is largely immaterial. What is important is that “…the party in peaceable and quiet possession shall not be turned out by strong hand, violence, or terror. A party out of possession must respect and resort to the law alone to obtain what he claims is his” (Edgardo L. Paras, Rules of Court Annotated, 1st edition, p. 162, citing Supia and Batioco vs. Quintero and Ayala, 59 Phil. 312).
Thus, in hearing a forcible entry complaint, the court will generally not rule on the ownership of the subject property considering that your brother has no land title on the subject land. The court’s adjudication, in these cases, is limited to the determination of who between the opposing parties has the better right to possess the same.

Once your brother has proven his allegations, the court where the action was filed may restore him as the rightful possessor of the subject property.

Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.

source:  Manila Times Column of Atty Persida Acosta

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