How Long Does An Ejectment Case In The Philippines Last?
Ejectment [or Accion Interdictal] is a Special Civil Action under Rule 70 of the Rules of Court of the Philippines, and it is covered by the Rules on Summary Procedure. A complaint for ejectment may either be Unlawful Detainer or Forcible entry, and how long does an ejectment case in the Philippines last will also be discussed hereafter.
An ejectment complaint is a legal remedy, allowed by existing rules, to recover the physical possession of the real property, which is being withheld or unlawfully detained or is being taken through the use of force, intimidation, threat, strategy, or stealth. In the battle for possession of certain properties, there is a legal precept that must be taken into account. Both in personal (movable) and real (immovable) property, the two kinds of possession must be inquired into. These are possession de facto and possession de jure. In Ejectment case, it involves only immovable or real property, and only possession de facto is being inquired into, independent of the determination of ownership, in order to adjudge who has the better right over the property in dispute.
Possession de facto refers only to prior physical possession. Possession de jure on the other hand is a real right of possession and/or ownership over certain real property.
How long is the ejectment case in the Philippines, in terms of case time frame?
As mentioned, ejectment is covered by the Rules on Summary Procedure. The proceedings, is in fact, should be brief in resolving who has a better right to possess a certain property.
It is summary in nature since it is designed to instantly determine the issue of possession in order to maintain the peace in the community. Unlawful Detainer and Forcible Entry suits are filed before the Municipal Trial Courts, Metropolitan Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts. In terms of the query on how long does an ejectment case in the Philippines last, it would depend on variety of factors such as place where the property is located, nature of the same, calendar of the courts, availability of the judges and lawyers. Hence, the question must be answered in the relative manner. However, on this, one is fixed: ejectment is covered by the Rules on Summary Procedure. The issue of ownership, in ejectment dispute, can only be provisionally resolved for the purpose of determining the issue of possession.
Ejectment proceeding is not similar to a trial type process. Generally, there is no actual trial in ejectment suit, where certain individual will take the witness stand to testify in open court and be subjected to cross-examination by the adverse counsel. Instead, the parties, after the pre-trial/preliminary conference, shall be directed to file their respective Position Papers, arguing their claims and defenses.
Thus, as we can see, it may happen, at the very minimum, that only one hearing before the Judge will be enough; that is during the pre-trial/preliminary conference, unless a pending incident is presented, through a proper Motion for that purpose, which necessitates a hearing to arrive at just resolution of such pending issue.
Relatedly, when the issue of ownership has been provisionally adjudged, the findings of ownership over the property is not yet final. It is only passed upon with the objective of finding out who between the contending parties has the better right of physical possession over the disputed premises.
What are the two types of Ejectment Suits?
Forcible entry is an act done by the someone who wants to take possession of a certain real property through force, intimidation, threat, strategy or stealth. Hence, this is done against the will, or without the consent of, the prior physical possessor of the subject property. Therefore, in an action for Forcible Entry, according the Supreme Court in Mangaser vs.Ugay G.R. No. 204926, December 3, 2014: “For a forcible entry suit to prosper, the plaintiffs must allege and prove: (a) that they have prior physical possession of the property; (b) that they were deprived of possession either by force, intimidation, threat, strategy or stealth; and, (c) that the action was filed within one (1) year from the time the owners or legal possessors learned of their deprivation of the physical possession of the property.” Unlawful Detainer
On the other hand, unlawful detainer transpires when the possession of any land or building is unlawfully withheld from the owner or lessor after the expiration of the contract or the termination of the vendee’s right to hold possession, by virtue of any contract, express or implied, or the legal representatives or assigns of any such lessor, vendor, vendee, or other person [Section 1, Rule 70 of the Rules of Civil Procedure].
Thus, in Carbonilla v. Abiera, G.R. No. 177637, July 26, 2010, the Supreme Court decides that: “A requisite for a valid cause of action in an unlawful detainer case is that possession must be originally lawful, and such possession must have turned unlawful only upon the expiration of the right to possess. It must be shown that the possession was initially lawful; hence, the basis of such lawful possession must be established. If, as in this case, the claim is that such possession is by mere tolerance of the plaintiff, the acts of tolerance must be proved.” These requisites are further reiterated in the case of Perez vs. Lim (G.R. No. 211539, 17 October 2016), the Supreme Court therein held that the following should be present in a complaint for unlawful detainer:
(a) Initially, the possession of the property by the defendant was by contract with or by tolerance of the plaintiff;
(b) Eventually, such possession became illegal upon notice by the plaintiff to the defendant about the termination of the latter’s right of possession;
(c) Thereafter, the defendant remained in possession of the property and deprived the plaintiff of its enjoyment; and
(d) Within one year from making the last demand to vacate the property on the defendant, the plaintiff instituted the complaint for ejectment.
Basic Stages of Ejectment Proceedings
There are basic stages in this kind of action, to wit:
Filing of the Complaint for Ejectment
Filing of Respective Position Papers [this replaces the trial proper done in ordinary civil actions]
Finally, the Judgment
The “plaintiff” is the person who owns the property or who is entitled to a possession thereof or the one that has been deprived of prior physical possession through fraud, intimidation, strategy or stealth; while the “defendant” is the person being ejected from the subject premises and who has no right to physically possess the same.
How to file an ejectment case in the Philippines?
Before filing an ejectment case, and in order to thwart any legal technicalities that may be interposed against the interest of the suing party, it is indispensable that you consult a lawyer.
For instance, in the case of a lessor who wants to eject the lessee who is unreasonably in arrears, a demand letter to “pay” and to “vacate” is a requirement.
“Section 2. Lessor to proceed against lessee only after demand. — Unless otherwise stipulated, such action by the lessor shall be commenced only after demand to pay or comply with the conditions of the lease and to vacate is made upon the lessee, or by serving written notice of such demand upon the person found on the premises if no person be found thereon, and the lessee fails to comply therewith after fifteen (15) days in the case of land or five (5) days in the case of buildings.” [Rule 70, Section 2, Rules of Court]
Barangay conciliation is also a condition precedent in order to obtain a Certificate to File Action.
“Section 12. Referral for conciliation. — Cases requiring referral for conciliation, where there is no showing of compliance with such requirement, shall be dismissed without prejudice, and may be revived only after that requirement shall have been complied with.” [Rule 70, Section 12, Rules of Court]
“Sec. 18. Referral to Lupon. — Cases requiring referral to the Lupon for conciliation under the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 1508 where there is no showing of compliance with such requirement, shall be dismissed without prejudice and may be revived only after such requirement shall have been complied with. This provision shall not apply to criminal cases where the accused was arrested without a warrant.” [Revised Rules on Summary Procedure] Of course, you have to determine if your case falls under the types of action mentioned above. Meaning, is an action for Forcible Entry or Unlawful Detainer. More importantly, in both actions, you should have evidence in support of your cause of action, such as you are the lessor or owner of a particular property, from where the occupants thereof are your defendants whom you want to evict. You must have the right to possession or to possess the subject property. You must be a prior physical possessor, in case of forcible entry action.
Issues that must be considered in determining who has the better right to possess Action for Forcible Entry
Forcible entry is the legal proceeding that should be undertaken when the unlawful possessor has taken possession of the property through force, intimidation, threat, strategy, or stealth, as aforesaid, thus, depriving another of his prior physical possession.
In filing an action for forcible entry, the intruder’s possession of the property has been illegal from the very beginning since it has been seized through unlawful means.
What is prior physical possession?
In forcible entry, “prior physical possession” means the actual or constructive possession of the rightful or lawful possessor of the subject property. However, this kind of occupation has been interrupted by another person, thus, depriving the lawful occupant of his antecedent legitimate possession of the premises.
Prior physical possession connotes not only that a person has to have his feet on every corner of the subject premises, much less in whole area thereof, before it can be said that he is in fact in possession of the property.
It is enough that the property is subject to the will of the rightful possessor, or to an even greater extent, it is within his control by proper acts and legal formalities established for acquiring such right through legitimate conveyance i.e. donation, inheritance, etc.
How will the owner be deemed deprived of physical possession of the property?
The owner or lawful possessor is deprived of property under forcible entry only if the intruder has dispossessed the former of the said property through force, intimidation, threat, strategy, or stealth.
This means that the owner or lawful possessor never allows, much less gives consent to [expressly or tacitly], the trespasser to enter the property. Nonetheless, because of the acts of the latter, the owner or lawful possessor has been deprived of the prior physical possession of the premises.
When should the complaint for forcible entry be filed?
The complaint for forcible entry must be filed within one (1) year from the time the owner or lawful possessor has been dispossessed of the premises or from the discovery the unlawful possession of the property.
If he fails to comply with the one (1) year period, the owner or lawful possessor must now instead file an ordinary civil action called accion publiciana which is generally a longer and more expensive legal action.
“Accion publiciana is the plenary action to recover the right of possession which should be brought in the proper regional trial court when dispossession has lasted for more than one year. It is an ordinary civil proceeding to determine the better right of possession of realty independently of title. In other words, if at the time of the filing of the complaint more than one year had elapsed since defendant had turned plaintiff out of possession or defendant’s possession had become illegal, the action will be, not one of the forcible entry or illegal detainer, but an accion publiciana. x x x x . . . .” [Yusingco vs. Busilak, et al., G. R No. 210504, January 24, 2018]
Action for Unlawful Detainer
What is inceptive lawful occupation or initial legal possession? This means that the possessor started out with a legal right to possess the property. This right may have arisen by virtue of:
a contract, such as a residential lease or sublease agreement or a commercial lease agreement, wherein the possessor pays a consideration (such as money) to stay in the property or
the owner allowed the possessor to stay in the property for free (tolerance and without consideration).
In the second case, there is an implied promise that the initial legal possessor will vacate the property when the owner demands him to do so.
How will the legal possession be considered subsequently to be an illegal one?
The possession of the property by the inceptive lawful possessor becomes illegal when the latter refuses to leave the property despite the fact that he has no more right to possess it anymore. This may happen if the possession was based on a contract, and the same expired or has been breached resulting to its termination. And then, the prior occupant refuses to leave the property.
On the other hand, if the possession was based on the consent or tolerance of the owner, it may happen that the owner has already withdrawn his permission to occupy or tolerance thereof. Nevertheless, the prior occupant doe not want to surrender the premises to the owner.
In either case, the owner should inform the initial legal possessor that the does not have anymore the right to occupy and withhold the property. The owner or lessor should no demand him to leave peacefully and surrender the property in favor of the owner or lessor. This must be done in the form of a demand letter.
Refusal to vacate despite being told to do so
There is a retention of the property if the prior occupant fails, or does not want, to surrender the premises, and he continues to keep the property in spite of fact that the owner:
has informed them that the legal possession has been terminated and
has made a written demand that the possessor leave the property.
Time within which to file a complaint for unlawful detainer?
The unlawful detainer complaint should be filed within one (1) year from the date of the last demand to vacate the property. Failure to do so, an ordinary civil action called accion publiciana shall now be the proper remedy.
Generally, this is a longer, taxing, and more expensive legal recourse. There must always be a written demand to vacate the property before a complaint for unlawful detainer can be filed, as required by the Rules.
Recourse to Appropriate Legal Remedy
The test which action should be filed is to find out the manner how the defendant was able to take possession of the subject premises.
When the occupant has initially possessed the property legally, and subsequently, his occupation thereto becomes illegal as heretofore stated, then a complaint for unlawful detainer would be proper.
On the other hand, the general rule is that if the intruder has taken the property through force, intimidation, threat, strategy, or stealth, then a complaint for forcible entry would be the proper course of action.
The complaint, in either case, must be filed within one (1) year from the last demand to vacate the property for unlawful detainer or one (1) year from the time of dispossession or discovery of the illegal occupation for forcible entry. Can you execute already the Decision on Appeal of the Regional Trial Court despite the Ejectment Case is again appealed to the Court of Appeals?
When an ejectment case originating from the Metropolitan or Municipal Trial Court is elevated on appeal before the Regional Trial Court via Notice of Appeal, the Decision of the latter court (RTC) is immediately executory. This is so even if the losing party in the appealed case before the RTC elevated anew the judgment thereof to the Court of Appeals.
Under Rule 70, Section 21 of the Rules of Court, it provides that: “Section 21. Immediate execution on appeal to Court of Appeals or Supreme Court. — The judgment of the Regional Trial Court against the defendant shall be immediately executory, without prejudice to a further appeal that may be taken therefrom.”[Rule 70, Section 21 of the Rules of Court] Consequently, even if the ejectment case is on appeal before the Court of Appeals, the Decision of the RTC can already be executed, even without waiting for the judgment of the Court of Appeals or even the finality thereof.
Thus, in the case of Quilo, et al. vs. Bajao, G.R. No. 186199, September 07, 2016, the Supreme Court ruled that: “The judgment of the Regional Trial Court against the defendant shall be immediately executory, without prejudice to a further appeal that may be taken therefrom. Therefore, the decision ordering petitioners to vacate the subject property pursuant to the ejectment proceedings must be immediately executed. Especially so without any substantial defense to oppose the ejectment order, the petitioners should yield possession to respondent. Hence, petitioners’ ploy that would obliterate the objective of summary ejectment proceedings must fail. The order to vacate is immediately executory.”[G.R. No. 186199, September 07, 2016]