Facts: Ocampo bought a parcel of land from Rosauro Breton. Ocampo then possessed and administer the subject land although the TCT is not yet in his name. Ocampo notified Tirona, who was a lessee occupying a portion of the subject land, about the sale. Tirona religiously paid her rents to Ocampo. However, when the subject premises were declared under area for priority development, Tirona invoked her right to first refusal and refused to pay her rent until the NHA processed her papers. Ocampo filed a complaint for unlawful detainer. In her Answer, Tirona‘s asserted that Dona Yaneza was the owner of the land and not Ocampo. She likewise reiterated that she has the right of first refusal over the land as it was included in the area of priority development under PD 1517. The MTC ruled in favor of Ocampo.
In the RTC, Tirona changed her theory and disclosed that Alipio Breton is the registered owner of the subject land. When Alipio Breton died, his children, Rosauro Breton and Maria Lourdes Breton-Mendiola, inherited the subject land. Tirona claims she has never stopped paying her rent to Maria Lourdes. Tirona also stated that Rosauro could not transfer ownership to the subject land to Ocampo because Rosauro executed a deed of conveyance and waiver in favor of Maria Lourdes. The RTC affirmed the decision of the MTC.
The CA considered partition of the estate of Alipio Breton as a prerequisite to Ocampo’s action; hence, it dismissed the case.
1. Has Ocampo the right to eject Tirona from the subject land?
2. Is the issue of ownership essential in a suit to eject a person illegally occupying a land?
3. Is the CA correct in holding that unlawful detainer had to wait for the results of the partition proceedings?
4. What should have been filed by Tirona when she does not know the person to whom to pay the rentals due?
1. Yes. Unlawful detainer cases are summary in nature. The elements to be proved and resolved in unlawful detainer cases are the fact of lease and expiration or violation of its terms. All the elements required for an unlawful detainer case to prosper are present. Ocampo notified Tirona that he purchased the subject land from Tirona’s lessor. Tirona’s continued occupation of the subject land amounted to acquiescence to Ocampo’s terms. However, Tirona eventually refused to pay rent to Ocampo, thus violating the lease.
2. No. The issue of ownership is not essential to an action for unlawful detainer. The fact of the lease and the expiration of its term are the only elements of the action. The defense of ownership does not change the summary nature of the action. The affected party should raise the issue of ownership in an appropriate action, because a certificate of title cannot be the subject of a collateral attack.
In actions for forcible entry and unlawful detainer, the main issue is possession de facto, independently of any claim of ownership or possession de jure that either party may set forth in his pleadings, and an appeal does not operate to change the nature of the original action.
3. Unlawful detainer being a summary proceeding, it was error for the appellate court to include the issue of ownership. Had the appellate court limited its ruling to the elements to be proved in a case of unlawful detainer, Ocampo need not even prove his ownership. When the appellate court ruled that the case of unlawful detainer had to wait for the results of the partition proceedings, it effectively put ownership as the main issue in the case. The issue of ownership opens a virtual Pandora’s Box for Tirona and her supposed intervenor, Maria Lourdes Breton-Mendiola.
4. The good faith of Tirona is put in question in her preference for Maria Lourdes Breton-Mendiola. As a stakeholder, Tirona should have used reasonable diligence in hailing the contending claimants to court. Tirona need not have awaited actual institution of a suit by Ocampo against her before filing a bill of interpleader. An action for interpleader is proper when the lessee does not know the person to whom to pay rentals due to conflicting claims on the property.
The action of interpleader is a remedy whereby a person who has property whether personal or real, in his possession, or an obligation to render wholly or partially, without claiming any right in both, or claims an interest which in whole or in part is not disputed by the conflicting claimants, comes to court and asks that the persons who claim the said property or who consider themselves entitled to demand compliance with the obligation, be required to litigate among themselves, in order to determine finally who is entitled to one or the other thing. The remedy is afforded not to protect a person against a double liability but to protect him against a double vexation in respect of one liability. When the court orders that the claimants litigate among themselves, there arises in reality a new action and the former are styled interpleaders, and in such a case the pleading which initiates the action is called a complaint of interpleader and not a cross-complaint. (Ocampo vs Tirona, G.R. No.147812. April 6, 2005)