Private vs public nuisance

0
Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
We have a neighbor who dumped soil in a property near our house. We do not own that property, our distant relative owns it, but we maintain its cleanliness as we are using it as a playground. According to the neighbor, he sought permission from another relative of ours to dump the soil.

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When my father saw what he was doing, my father informed our relative to tell him to stop dumping soil. At first he did not comply, but he stopped when my father got furious. I just want to know if my father can file a case against this neighbor of ours.

PS

Dear PS,
Although a person may act according to his will and desire, such act should not contravene the provisions of our laws, morals, public policy and good customs. If a person’s act is injurious to another, he may be held liable thereto. This does not only embrace felonious acts, but also includes acts that are considered as nuisance. Under our law, a nuisance is that which “(1) injures or endangers the health or safety of others; or (2) annoys or offends the senses; or (3) shocks, defies or disregards decency or morality; or (4) obstructs or interferes with the free passage of any public highway or street, or any body of water; or (5) hinders or impairs the use of property” (Article 694, New Civil Code of the Philippines).

Nuisance can either be public or private. Public nuisance affects a community or neighborhood or any considerable number of persons, although the extent of annoyance, danger or damage upon individuals may be unequal, while a private nuisance is one that is not included in the foregoing definition. (Article 695, Ibid.)

In the situation that you have presented, it appears that what you are dealing with is a private nuisance given that the act of dumping soil in a property near your house done by your neighbor seems to affect only your family, not your entire community or a considerable number of persons. Under the law, a private nuisance may be remedied by, first, demanding against the person causing such nuisance to stop or end the same. If he refuses to accede to the demand, the injured party must seek the approval from the district health officer, who has jurisdiction over the place in order for the offending party to remove or destroy the thing that constitutes the nuisance. Once approval is secured, seek the assistance of the local police in making such abatement, provided that the removal or destruction of the nuisance must be done without committing any breach of peace or doing unnecessary injury. If the remedy of abatement aforementioned is not possible, a civil action to abate a private nuisance may be filed in court. (Article 705 in relation to Article 706 and 704, Id.)

Applying the foregoing in your situation, you must first demand from your neighbor to remove the soil that he dumped in the property near your house, if there is still any. If he fails to comply, secure approval from your district health officer and assistance of the local police, if it is necessary, so that your family can remove the same. In the alternative, a civil case for abatement may be filed if extra-judicial abatement is not possible.

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 dearpao@manilatimes.net

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