Sole issue in forcible entry cases is the physical or material possession of real property — possession de facto, not possession de jure. Only prior physical possession, not title, is the issue. If ownership is raised in the pleadings, the court may pass upon such question, but only to determine the question of possession.
HEIRS OF PEDRO LAURORA AND LEONORA LAURORA vs. STERLING TECHNOPARK III AND S.P. PROPERTIES, INC., G.R. No. 146815, April 9, 2003
“x x x.
Main Issue: Physical Possession of the Land
The only issue in forcible entry cases is the physical or material possession of real property — possession de facto, not possession de jure. Only prior physical possession, not title, is the issue. If ownership is raised in the pleadings, the court may pass upon such question, but only to determine the question of possession.
The ownership claim of respondents upon the land is based on the evidence they presented. Their evidence, however, did not squarely address the issue of prior possession. Even if they succeed in proving that they are the owners of the land, the fact remains that they have not alleged or proved that they physically possess it by virtue of such ownership. On the other hand, petitioners’ prior possession of the land was not disputed by the CA, which merely described it as usurpation.
We stress that the issue of ownership in ejectment cases is to be resolved only when it is intimately intertwined with the issue of possession, to such an extent that the question of who had prior possession cannot be determined without ruling on the question of who the owner of the land is. No such intertwinement has been shown in the case before us. Since respondents’ claim of ownership is not being made in order to prove prior possession, the ejectment court cannot intrude or dwell upon the issue of ownership.
Notwithstanding the actual condition of the title to the property, a person in possession cannot be ejected by force, violence or terror — not even by the owners. If such illegal manner of ejectment is employed, as it was in the present case, the party who proves prior possession — in this case, petitioners — can recover possession even from the owners themselves.
Granting arguendo that petitioners illegally entered into and occupied the property in question, respondents had no right to take the law into their own hands and summarily or forcibly eject the occupants therefrom.
Verily, even if petitioners were mere usurpers of the land owned by respondents, still they are entitled to remain on it until they are lawfully ejected therefrom. Under appropriate circumstances, respondents may file, other than an ejectment suit, an accion publiciana — a plenary action intended to recover the better right to possess; or an accion reivindicatoria — an action to recover ownership of real property.
The availment of the aforementioned remedies is the legal alternative to prevent breaches of peace and criminal disorder resulting from the use of force by claimants out to gain possession. The rule of law does not allow the mighty and the privileged to take the law into their own hands to enforce their alleged rights. They should go to court and seek judicial vindication.
X x x.”