Non-physical possession (by juridical acts) in ejectment

In ejectment cases, the only question that courts must resolve is who between the parties is entitled to the physical or material possession of the property in dispute. The main issue is possession de facto, independent of any claim of ownership or possession de jure.[1] Thus, courts should base their decision on who had prior physical possession of the premises under litigation.[2]As a rule, "possession" in forcible entry cases refers to nothing more than prior physical possession or possession de facto, not possession de jure or that arising from ownership. Title is not an issue. The Supreme Court has, however, consistently ruled that possession can be acquired not only by material, physical or actual occupation, but also by the fact that a thing is subject to the action of one's will or by the proper acts and legal formalities established for acquiring such right.[3]

In Quizon v. Juan,[4] the Court explained:

Possession can be acquired by juridical acts. These are acts to which the law gives the force of acts of possession. Examples of these are donations, succession, execution and registration of public instruments, inscription of possessory information titles and the like. The reason for this exceptional rule is that possession in the eyes of the law does not mean that a man has to have his feet on every square meter of ground before it can be said that he is in possession. It is sufficient that petitioner was able to subject the property to the action of his will. (Citations omitted)

In the case of Mangaser v. Ugay,[5] the High Court also held that the plaintiff therein, who is the registered owner of the property in dispute, acquired possession thereof by juridical act, specifically, through the issuance of a free patent under Commonwealth Act No. 141 and its subsequent registration with the Register of Deeds. The Court ruled that if such juridical acts to obtain prior possession would be disregarded, then it would create an absurd situation. It would be putting premium in favor of land intruders against Torrens title holders, who spent months or even years, in order to register their land, and who religiously pay their taxes thereon.[6]

Also cited in Mangaser is the case of Habagat Grill v. DMC-Urban Property Developer, Inc.,[7] wherein the Court gave weight to the prior possession of the registered owner's predecessor-in-interest as evidenced by the execution and registration of public instruments for such purpose to rule in favor of said registered owner's prior possession.

In another case,[8] it was held undisputed that Patrick is the registered owner of the subject property. The subject property was awarded solely to Patrick, as evidenced by the Certificate of Lot Award dated March 20, 2006. By virtue of said award, the subject property was sold to Patrick as evidenced by the Deed of Absolute Sale dated March 4, 2009. On March 6, 2009, the subject property was registered under Patrick's name as evidenced by TCT No. 98257. Certainly, a right to the possession of the property flows from Patrick's ownership thereof. Well-settled is the rule that a person who has a Torren's title over the property is entitled to the possession thereof.[9]

[1] Echanes v. Spouses Hailar, 792 Phil. 724, 732 (2016).

[2] Muñoz v. Atty. Yabut, Jr., 665 Phil. 488, 517 (2011).

[3] Mangaser v. Ugay, 749 Phil. 372, 382 (2014).

[4] 577 Phil. 470, 480 (2008).

[5] Supra note 3.

[6] Id. at 386.

[7] 494 Phil. 603 (2005).


[9] Mangaser v. Ugay, supra note 3, at 385.