I have been tilling a 360-square-meter land situated in Pampanga since 1995. I have already inquired as to the status of this land, and I was informed by a certain government agency that it owns the property. In 2013, Adrian appeared and claimed that he owned the land. He even tried to possess the property, and started building a fence around it. He only stopped the construction of the fence when I filed a complaint before our barangay (village). During the village conciliation proceedings, one barangay official said I cannot file a case for ejectment against Adrian, because such land is public land or government property. Thus, I have no authority to evict him. Is this true?
You can still file a case for ejectment. Your situation is somewhat similar to a case decided by the Supreme Court in Ramos vs. Pabas ( G.R. No. 154565, November 30, 2006), where the court stated that:
“The only question that the courts must resolve in ejectment proceedings is who is entitled to the physical possession of the premises, that is, to the possession de facto and not to the possession de jure. It does not even matter if a party’s title to the property is questionable, or when both parties intruded into the public land and their applications to own the land have yet to be approved by the proper government agency. Regardless of the actual condition of the title to the property, the party in peaceable quiet possession shall not be thrown out by a strong hand, violence or terror. Neither is the unlawful withholding of property allowed. Courts will always uphold respect for prior possession.
X x x Courts must resolve the issue of possession even if the parties to the ejectment suits are squatters. The determination of priority and superiority of possession is a serious and urgent matter that cannot be left to the squatters to decide. To do so would make squatters receive better treatment under the law. x x x
We are aware of our pronouncement in cases where we declared that squatters and intruders who clandestinely enter into titled government property cannot, by such act, acquire any legal right to said property. We made this declaration because the person who had title or who had the right to legal possession over the disputed property was a party in the ejectment suit and that party instituted the case against squatters or usurpers.
From the foregoing, it is quite clear that even if herein petitioner has no title to the property in question, such fact should not affect the determination of who between herein parties is entitled to physical possession of the contested property. Even the invalidity of the verbal lease agreement between petitioner and respondent does not automatically mean that petitioner had no right to demand the eviction of respondent. In Pajuyo, the court held that the kasunduan, or agreement allowing the defendant to stay in the house of the plaintiff, could not be considered void for purposes of ascertaining who between the contending parties has a right to physical possession of the property in dispute”.
We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org