HEIRS OF SORIANO V. CA and SPOUSES ABALOS
A person may be declared the owner of a property but he may not be entitled to possession.The exercise of the rights of ownership is subject to limitations that may be imposed by law. Although declared to be the lawful owner, such owner cannot automatically evict the physical possessor of the land unless it has been determined that no rights of the possessor will be violated by such eviction.
A piece of land located in Lingayen, Pangasinan is the disputed property in this case. Said land was originally owned by one Adriano Soriano, subsequently it was leased for a period of 15 years to the Spouses David and Consuelo with RAMON SORIANO, son of Adriano and herein petitioner, acting as caretaker/tenant of the property during the duration of the lease. Upon the death of Adriano the lot he owned was divided into TWO and given to his heirs. One of the lots inherited was sold to the Spouses ABALOS, here. The other lot was also bought by the Spouses Abalos although not completely (only ¾ of the lot). The lots in question were subsequently registered in the name of the Spouses Abalos. The courts later declared them to be the undisputed owners thereof. Soriano questions their ownership of the land and so filed cases against the spouses. Currently Soriano is still in possession of the land claiming rights of “Security of Tenure” as a tenant of the land.
May a winning party in a land registration case effectively eject the possessor thereof?
No. Possession and ownership are distinct legal concepts. Possession is the holding of a thing or the enjoyment of a right. Literally, to possess means to actually and physically occupy a thing with or without right. A judgment of ownership does not necessarily include possession as a necessary incident. Such declaration pertains only to OWNERSHIP and does not automatically include possession. This is especially true in the case at bar wherein petitioner is occupying the land allegedly in the concept of an agricultural tenant. The court says “allegedly” due to the fact that there is still a pending case in the DARAB (Department of Agrarian Reform and Adjudication Board) on the issue. The issue of ownership of the subject land has been laid to rest by final judgment; however the right of possession is yet to be resolved. The Tenancy Act, which protects the rights of agricultural tenants, may limit the exercise of rights by the lawful owners. The exercise of the rights of ownership yields to the exercise of the rights of an agricultural tenant. Since the rights of Soriano to possess the land are still pending litigation in the DARAB he is protected from dispossession of the land until final judgment of said court unless Soriano’s occupancy is found by the court to be unlawful.