The Iglesia De Jesucristo Jerusalem Nueva of Manila, Philippines, Inc., Represented By Its President, Francisco Galvez, vs. Loida Dela Cruz Using The Name Church Of Jesus Christ, “New Jerusalem” – G.R. No. 208284, April 23, 2018,

Facts:
On March 26, 2007, the Iglesia De Jesucristo Jerusalem Nueva of Manila, Philippines, Inc. (petitioner), represented by Francisco Galvez (Galvez), filed before the MeTC of Malabon City a Complaint for unlawful detainer with damages (Complaint) against respondent Loida Dela Cruz (Dela Cruz), using the name CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST, “NEW JERUSALEM” and all persons claiming rights under her (collectively, respondents).

Respondent Dela Cruz thus prayed that the Complaint be dismissed; that the petitioner’s claims for damages and attorney’s fees be denied and that judgment be rendered ordering petitioner, represented by Galvez, to vacate the premises and to remove the structures that petitioner thereon erected, and that petitioner be also directed to pay her (respondent Dela Cruz) attorney’s fees, monthly rent with legal interest from the time of occupation up to the present, plus exemplary damages.

The Metropolitan Trial Court dismissed petitioner’s Complaint for lack of evidence. The MeTC held that petitioner had failed to establish by preponderant evidence that it had a better right of possession over the disputed property arising from its claim of ownership.

Petitioner filed its Notice of Appeal to the RTC, which was given due course by the MeTC.

The RTC rendered its Decision upholding the MeTC Decision. The RTC held that the disputed property is registered in the name of “The Iglesia De Jesucristo Jerusalem Nueva of Manila, Philippines, Inc.”; and that the only issue to be resolved is who as between the parties is authorized to represent the registered owner of the disputed property.

Petitioner thereafter filed a Petition for Review with the CA. The CA denied the Petition for Review. The CA rejected petitioner’s claim that it was the true owner of the disputed property. It found no merit in petitioner’s contention that he had a better right than respondent over the disputed property, upon the ground that the latter had allegedly failed to present the originals of the documents attached to the Answer and merely submitted unreadable photocopies thereof.

Issue:
Whether the MeTC, RTC, and CA erred when it resolved the case against the petitioner by allowing the collateral attack of ownership in the case of ejectment.

Held:
No, when the defendant raises the defense of ownership in [her] pleadings and the question of possession cannot be resolved without deciding the issue of ownership, the issue of ownership shall be resolved only to determine the issue of possession. In other words, where the parties to an ejectment case raise the issue of ownership, the courts may pass upon that issue to determine who between the parties has the better right, to possess the property. However, where the issue of ownership is inseparably linked to that of possession, adjudication of the ownership issue is not final and binding, but only for the purpose of resolving the issue or possession.

The principal issue must be possession de facto, or actual possession, and ownership is merely ancillary to such issue. The summary character of the proceedings is designed to quicken the determination of possession de facto in the interest of preserving the peace of the community, but the summary proceedings may not be proper to resolve ownership of the property. Consequently, any issue on ownership arising in forcible entry or unlawful detainer is resolved only provisionally for the purpose of determining the principal issue of possession.

Indeed, a title issued under the Torrens system, is entitled to all the attributes of property ownership, which necessarily includes possession. Nevertheless, an ejectment case will not necessarily be decided in favor of one who has presented proof of ownership of the subject property. Key jurisdictional facts constitutive of the particular ejectment case filed must be averred in the complaint and sufficiently proven.

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