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Dono, Doni and Lesi.

Dono is the registered owner of a parcel of land in Naga City. Moved by pure liberality, Dono donated around 600 sqm of this parcel of land to Doni through a Deed of Donation. The Deed of Donation included an automatic revocation clause which states:

'That the condition of this donation is that the DONEE shall use the above-described portion of land subject of the present

donation for no other purpose except the construction of a building to be owned and to be constructed by the above-named DONEE to house his offices to be used by the DONEE, in connection with its functions under its charter and by-laws xxx xxx, PROVIDED FURTHERMORE, that the DONEE shall not sell, mortgage or encumber the property herein donated including any and all improvements thereon in

favor of any party and provided, lastly, that the construction of the building or buildings referred to above shall be commenced within a period of one (1) year from and after the execution of this

donation, otherwise, this donation shall be deemed automatically revoked and voided and of no further force and effect.'

Doni accepted the donation in accordance with the formalities of law and complied with conditions stated in the deed.

Years later, Doni entered into a Contract of Lease with Lesi over the donated property. Under the Contract of Lease, Doni Corporation leased the property to Lesi for a period of 20 years. Lesi thereafter took actual possession of the property.

Upon learning of the lease, Dono wrote Lesi regarding the building it built on the property. Dono requested Lesi to show proof of ownership or any other legal document as legal basis for his possession. No proof was ever presented. Dono then left Lesi undisturbed and merely tolerated its possession of the property.

Meanwhile, Dono wrote to Lesi anew. In this letter, Dono stated that Lesi 's occupation of the property was by mere tolerance of Dono. Since it is now in need of the land, Dono then demanded Lesi vacate the property and surrender its peaceful possession. Naturally, Lesi refused to comply with the demand.

Dono then revoked its donation through a Deed of Revocation of Donation.

Dono asserted that Doni Corporation violated the conditions in the Deed of Donation when it leased the property to Lesi. Thus, invoking the automatic revocation clause in the Deed of Donation, Dono revoked, annulled and declared void the Deed of Donation. Doni never challenged this revocation.

Due to Lesi's refusal to surrender the premises, Dono filed an action for unlawful detainer suit against the former. Dono prayed that Lesi be ordered to vacate the property and surrender to petitioner its peaceful possession, and to pay reasonable compensation for the use of the said premises.

Q: What is the nature of an unlawful detainer suit?

A: An action for unlawful detainer pertains to specific circumstances of dispossession.

It refers to a situation where the current occupant of the property initially obtained possession lawfully. This possession only became unlawful due to the expiration of the right to possess which may be a contract, express or implied, or by mere tolerance. Actions for unlawful detainer involve only the question of actual possession.

In this action, courts are asked to ascertain which

between the parties has the right to the possession de facto or the physical possession of the property in question.

Q: What is the purpose of an unlawful detainer suit?

A: Its purpose is to restore the aggrieved party to possession if he or she successfully establishes his or her right to possess the property.

The essence of an ejectment suit is for the rightful possessor to lawfully recover the property through lawful means instead of unlawfully wresting possession of the property from its current occupant.

Q: What is the effect of raising the issue of ownership in an unlawful detainer suit?

A: If the parties raise the issue of ownership, courts may only pass upon that issue for the purpose of ascertaining who has the better right of possession. Any ruling involving ownership is not final and binding. It is merely provisional and does not bar an action between the same parties regarding the title of the property.

Q: Is Dono entitled to the physical possession of the property?

A: Yes. Basic is the rule that if a contract of donation provides for automatic rescission or reversion in case of a breach of a condition and the donee violates it or fails to comply with it, the property donated automatically reverts back to the donor without need of any judicial declaration. It is only when the donee denies the rescission or challenges its propriety that the court can intervene to conclusively settle whether the resolution was proper.

In this case, when Doni leased the property to Lesi, he already breached the first and second conditions set in the Deed of Donation. Accordingly, the property automatically reverted to Dono, who even executed a Deed of Revocation.

Doni Corporation never contested this revocation. Hence, Dono validly considered the donation revoked and by virtue of the automatic revocation clause, this revocation was automatic and immediate, without need of judicial intervention.

Thus, as Dono validly considered the donation revoked and Doni Corporation never contested it, the property donated effectively reverted back to it as owner. In demanding the return of the property, Dono sources its right of possession on its ownership. Under Article 428 of the Civil Code, the owner has a right of action against the holder and possessor of the thing in order to recover it.

Q: Is Dono entitled to damages from Lesi?

A: Yes, the rightful possessor in an unlawful detainer case is entitled to recover damages, which refer to 'rents' or ' the reasonable compensation for the use and occupation of the premises,' or 'fair rental value of the property' and attorney's fees and costs.

More specifically, recoverable damages are 'those which the plaintiff could have sustained as a mere possessor, or those caused by the loss of the use and occupation of the property.'

In this case, the amount of rent in the Contract of Lease which Doni and Lesi executed is evidence of the fair rental value of the property. That Dono asked for half of this amount as damages is deemed reasonable given the circumstances.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Sep 8, 2018
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