SOMODIO VS. COURT OF APPEALS-
Accion interdictal (forcible entry and unlawful detainer) are not remedies to obtain ownership of a certain property rather they are remedies to determine who has a better right to possess the property subject of dispute.
Note: What is important in ejectment cases is the issue of who is entitled to the physical or material possession of a property and not the question of ownership.
Jose Ortigas executed an instrument designated as a Transfer of Rights, conveying to Wilfredo Mangubat, the possession of a residential lot located at General Santos City. Nicanor Somodio, petitioner, contributed one-half of the purchase price. Mabugat then executed an Affidavit of Trust expressly recognizing the right of Somodio over ½ undivided portion of the lot.
Somodio and Mabugat partitioned the property into two portions, with the former taking the western part. After the partition, Somodio took possession of his portion and planted thereon ipil-ipil trees, coconut trees, and other fruit bearing trees.
He also began construction of a structure with a dimension of 22 by 18 feet on his lot. Due to his work, he was transferred to Kidapawan, North Cotabato, and left the unfinished structure to the care of his uncle. Somodio allowed Ayco, respondent to transfer his hut to petitioner’s lot.
Somodio demanded Ayco to vacate the premises but to no avail. He then filed an action for unlawful detainer with damages before the MTC. Another respondent, Purisima entered the land and constructed a house thereon. Somodio then filed a complaint for forcible entry against the latter.
The MTC rendered a decision in favor of Somodio finding that Purisima built a house “almost on the spot where Somodio’s unfinished house” stood through “stealth and strategy”. The MTC also held that Somodio was the actual possessor of the lot in question.
The RTC affirmed the decision of the MTC. CA on the other hand, dismissed petition of Somodio and held that the latter did not “clearly and conclusively established physical, prior possession over the lot.
Who is entitled to the physical or material possession of the property? (only issue in ejectment cases)
Anyone who can prove prior possession de facto (physical possession) may recover such possession even from the owner himself. This is true regardless of the character of a party’s possession provided he has in his favor priority of time entitling him to stay on the property until he is lawfully ejected by a person having a better right by either accion publiciana or accion reivindicatoria.
Accrdg. to Art. 531 of NCC, possession is acquired by material occupation of a thing or the exercise of a right. Somodio then enjoyed priority of possession because Purisima entered the lot only in 1983 which is later than Somodio’s possession fo the property.
In addition, Somodio’s possession over the property is not synonymous with his right of ownership over the same. Forcible entry is merely a quieting process and never determines the actual title to an estate. The MTC and RTC’s decision are deemed reinstated.