Space invaders

Real property is a scarce resource. Most of us strive to own a piece of the world we live in. Some are fortunate to have acquired more. There are some others, regrettably, who have taken from those who have.

General principles of ownership provided in Philippine law provide that an owner has the right to enjoy and dispose of his property, without limitations other than those established by law. The owner has the right to go against others to exclude them from enjoying the property or disposing of it. Actual possession under a claim of ownership raises disputable presumption of ownership. The true owner must resort to judicial process for the recovery of the property.

A person deprived of possession of any land or building by force, intimidation, threat, strategy, or stealth or a lessor, vendor, or other person against whom the possession of any land or building is unlawfully withheld after the expiration or termination of the right to hold possession may sue and recover possession and claim damages and costs.

There are two situations covered by our Rules of Court. The first is a case of forcible entry wherein the entry to the property is by means of force, intimidation, threat, strategy, or stealth. The objective of the aggrieved person is to recover possession from another whose possession is illegal from the beginning. The second case is one for unlawful detainer wherein possession is based on unlawful detention of a property who acquired it rightfully, but who holds it after the right to continue possession ended.

Both actions are referred to in the legal profession as cases for ejectment. The sole issue to be resolved by the court is who has the better right to possess the property. Ownership becomes relevant if it will determine who has the better right of possession. These proceedings are summary in nature as these cases involve restoration of social order.

In order for a forcible entry case to prosper, the complaint must allege not only the person’s prior physical possession but also the deprivation is by means of force, intimidation, threat, strategy, or stealth.

In an action for unlawful detainer, the complaint must allege that 1) initially, possession of the property by the defendant was by contract with or by tolerance of the plaintiff; 2) eventually, such possession became illegal upon notice by the plaintiff to the defendant of the termination of the latter’s right of possession; 3) thereafter, the defendant remained in possession of the property, and deprived the plaintiff of the enjoyment thereof; and 4) within one year from the last demand on the defendant to vacate the property, the plaintiff instituted the complaint for ejectment.

A demand is a pre-requisite to an action for unlawful detainer when the action is for failure to pay rent due or to comply with the conditions of a lease. The demand should include both a demand to vacate the property and pay the rentals agreed upon to confer jurisdiction upon the court.

Property owners should not take the law into their own hands in ejectment cases. The law only allows a property owner to employ a reasonable amount of force to repel or prevent an actual or threatened unlawful physical invasion or usurpation of property. The proper remedy is to seek the aid of the courts through a competent property attorney.

When it comes to ejecting informal settlers to ones property, it should be noted that the law also recognizes their rights to humane treatment. In fact, the law frowns upon evictions or removal of persons and their belongings from a structure or area and demolitions or the dismantling of structures. Moreover, forced eviction is considered a gross violation of human rights. The law requires a procedure and guidelines in the proper treatment of informal settlers. One requirement is that no eviction or demolition should ensue without providing for adequate relocation.

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care and necessary social services. This applies to both legal property owners and informal settlers or even usurpers of property. It is the role of the state to balance the interests of both sides while upholding the dignity of every human person and guaranteeing full respect for human rights.

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Raymund may be reached by email at [email protected] or visit