Civil Law

Ignacio Wong vs Judge Lucas Carpio

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G.R. No. L-50264 – 203 SCRA 118 – Civil Law – Law on Property – Possession; can’t be recognized in two persons at the same time

Remedial Law – Summary Proceedings – Rule 70; Forcible Entry and Unlawful Detainer – Ejectment – Force, Intimidation, Threat, Strategy, or Stealth

In 1972, a pacto de retro sale was executed by William Giger in favor of Manuel Mercado. Giger failed to repurchase the land within the agreed period hence Mercado was able to consolidate the title unto himself and the sale was notarized in 1973. Since then, Mercado paid the taxes on the land and he would periodically go to the said parcel of land and gather coconut products for his business.

However, in July 1976, Giger again sold the same land to Ignacio Wong. Giger then delivered the title of the land to Wong. In August 1976, Wong started deploying his laborers to the said farmland; he built a farmhouse thereon; he fenced the boundary; and he also put up a signboard which indicates that the land is his.

In September 1976, Mercado learned of the presence of Wong within the disputed land. In November 1976, Mercado filed an ejectment case (forcible entry) against Wong.

In his defense, Wong insists that a forcible entry case is not proper because, in possessing the land, he never acted with force, intimidation, threat, strategy, or stealth; that he entered the said land without issue after he purchased the same from Giger.

The trial court agreed with Wong as it ruled that Wong had a better title because it was he who had prior, actual and continuous physical possession of the disputed property as opposed to Mercado’s only acts of going to said land periodically.

On appeal, Judge Lucas Carpio reversed the decision of the municipal trial court in the ejectment case.

ISSUE: Whether or not Wong has a better title over the disputed property.

HELD: No. Mercado had prior possession. Possession is acquired by the material occupation of a thing or the exercise of a right, or by the fact that it is subject to the action of our will, or by the proper acts and legal formalities for acquiring such right. The execution of a sale thru a public instrument shall be equivalent to the delivery of the thing, unless there is stipulation to the contrary. In this case, the notarized sale made by Giger in favor of Mercado transferred the possession of said land from Giger to Mercado.

The second sale made by Giger to Wong did not transfer possession to Wong because in the first place, by that time, Giger is not in possession of the land anymore. Further, possession as a fact cannot be recognized at the same time in two different personalities except in the cases of co-possession, which is not the case here.

Anent the argument of Wong that he never acted with force, intimidation, threat, strategy, or stealth (FISTS), the Supreme Court held that if a trespasser enters upon land in open daylight, under the very eyes of person already clothed with lawful possession, but without the consent of the latter, and there plants himself and excludes such prior possessor from the property, the action of forcible entry and detainer can unquestionably be maintained, even though no force is used by the trespasser other than such as is necessarily implied from the mere acts of planting himself on the ground and excluding the other party.

The Supreme Court also noted the rules regarding questions regarding the fact of possession:

a. Present possessor shall be preferred;

b. If there are two (or more) current possessors, the one longer in possession is preferred;

c. If possessors acquired possession at the same time; the possessor who can present a title is preferred;

d. If all possessors present the foregoing conditions equally, then the property in question shall be placed in judicial deposit pending determination of its possession or ownership through proper proceedings.

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