The owner or lawful possessor of a thing has the right to exclude any person from the enjoyment and disposal thereof. For this purpose, he may use such force as may be reasonably necessary to repel or prevent an actual or threatened unlawful physical invasion or usurpation of his property. (Art. 429 Civil Code of the Philippines) This is the so called “the doctrine of self help” where a person can sort of “take the law into his own hands” in order to protect his property. According to some, our tendency of protecting our property from others who might want to take it away from us is a natural law. This will most likely result in chaos that is why we have laws that can be used to protect our properties and rights. There are certain requirements when this doctrine may apply. In the case of German Management vs. CA (G.R. No. 76217 September 14, 1989) it was invoked but was not applied by the Supreme Court.
German Management vs. CA
Spouses Cynthia Cuyegkeng Jose and Manuel Rene Jose authorized German Management to develop their land located in the province of Rizal. When German started developing the land it was discovered that several individuals were occupying portions of the spouses’ land. German gave notices to the said individuals for them to vacate the land but they refused. German proceeded with the development and forcibly removed their houses, fences and other improvements. The occupants filed a case against German for forcible entry but the case was dismissed by the Municipal Trial Court and was sustained by the Regional Trial Court. The Court of Appeals however reversed the decision of the lower courts and German appealed to the Supreme Court alleging that there was no due process and that the petitioner was just exercising the doctrine of self help.
The CA Was Correct
Due process was followed in this case. Although petitioner was not given time to file his answer to the original forcible entry case, its comment was enough. On the issue of forcible entry, the Supreme Court said that it is undisputed that the private individuals were in prior possession of the land. This prior possession has to be respected by German and the latter cannot just remove them by force. The fact that the land is titled in the name of the spouses who gave authority to German is not relevant in a case of forcible entry for what must be respected is the peaceful possession of the present occupants. The Court said: “Whatever may be the character of his prior possession, if he has in his favor priority in time, he has the security that entitles him to remain on the property until he is lawfully ejected by a person having a better right by accion publiciana or accion reivindicatoria.” It was wrong for the trial courts to apply Art. 429 of the Civil Code to justify the actions of German. The doctrine has no application in the case. The SC added: “Such justification is unavailing because the doctrine of self-help can only be exercised at the time of actual or threatened dispossession which is absent in the case at bar. When possession has already been lost, the owner must resort to judicial process for the recovery of property.”