1. FORCIBLE ENTRY AND DETAINEE; WHAT DETERMINES JURISDICTION OF THE JUSTICE OF THE PEACE COURT. — It is well established that what determines the jurisdiction of the justice of the peace court in a forcible entry and detainer case is the nature of the action pleaded in the complaint. If the facts therein alleged constitute forcible entry and detainer, the justice of the peace court may validly try and decide the case, regardless of whether the facts pleaded are or are not proved at the trial. If, as in the instant case, the cause of action set forth in the complaint is one of forcible entry and detainer, although the facts proved at the trial do not support the cause of action thus alleged but one of reivindication, the court has jurisdiction to dismiss the action on the merits for lack of evidence. The dismissal, therefore of the action ordered by the justice of the peace court in this case upon failure of proof, was right and proper, but its further pronouncement that it had no jurisdiction over the question of ownership arising from the facts proved was immaterial.
2. ID.; ID.; APPELLATE JURISDICTION OF COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE. — A similar confusion appears in the decision of the Court of First Instance which, acting upon the stipulation of facts on appeal, affirmed the conclusion of the justice of the peace court that it had no jurisdiction and, what is worse, upon that ground it dismissed the appeal. Affirmance of the judgment and dismissal of the appeal are two utterly incompatible ideas. By affirming the judgment, the Court of First Instance exercises its appellate jurisdiction, whereas by dismissing the appeal, it refuses to exercise appellate jurisdiction.
3. ID.; ID.; ID.; TRIAL "DE NOVO." — Generally, the jurisdiction of a Court of First Instance on appeal is to hold trial de novo (Rule 40, section 9, Rules of Court), and by trial de novo is meant that the Court of First Instance shall try the case without regard to the proof presented in the justice of the peace court or to the conclusions reached by it. The Court of First Instance, therefore, should not affirm, reverse, or modify the ruling of the justice of the peace court, but it should make its own findings, lay down its own conclusions, and dispose of the case as if the same had never been tried before and had been originally commenced therein.
4. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID. — The only instance in which the Court of First Instance may affirm, reverse, or modify the ruling of the justice of the peace court is where the latter has disposed of the case upon a question of law without any trial. (See Rule 40, sections 10 and 11.) For instance, if a motion to dismiss is filed in the justice of the peace court on the ground that the complaint fails to state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action, and the motion is granted, the case being consequently dismissed, the Court of First Instance, on appeal by the plaintiff, can only review the ruling of the justice of the peace court and affirm or reverse it as the facts and the law of the case may warrant. Again, if the justice of the peace court refuses to try the case because it has no jurisdiction over the same according to the facts pleaded in the complaint, and accordingly dismisses the action, the Court of First Instance, on appeal by the plaintiff, can only review the ruling of the inferior court on the question of jurisdiction and affirm it if such order is right, or reverse it if it is wrong, in which event the case should be remanded to the inferior court for further proceedings.
5. ID.; ISSUE INVOLVED IS POSSESSION IN FACT, OR PHYSICAL POSSESSION OF REAL PROPERTY. — In an action for forcible entry and detainer, the only issue is possession in fact, or physical possession of real property, independently of any claim of ownership that either party may put forth in his pleading. If plaintiff can prove prior physical possession in himself, he may recover such possession even from the owner, but, on the other hand, if he cannot prove such prior physical possession, he has no right of action for forcible entry and detainer even if he should be the owner of the property.
6. ID.; SUMMARY PROTECTION OF MERE FACT OF POSSESSION. — Both in principle and on policy, the mere fact of possession should be summarily protected and upheld by the courts, independently from the question of ownership.
7. ID.; ID.; ONE OF THE REASONS FOR SUMMARY PROTECTION OF MERE FACT OF POSSESSION. — To allow citizens to arrogate unto themselves the right to pass judgment upon their own claims of property rights would give rise to no end of turbulent wrangles and affrays. Precisely, justice of the peace courts, which are the instrumentalities of justice most available to the people, are called upon to settle questions of possession in a manner that brooks no delay, so that the community may not be continually thrown into a turmoil by violent acts of dispossession. For this reason justice of the peace courts should not so readily decline to exercise jurisdiction on the ground that the case involves a question of ownership.
8. ID.; ID.; ANOTHER REASON FOR SUMMARY PROTECTION OF MERE FACT OF POSSESSION. — The fact of possession in itself has a positive value and is endowed with a distinct standing of its own in the law of property. True, by this principle of respect for the possessory status, a wrongful possession may at times be upheld by the courts, but this is only temporary and for one sole and special purpose, namely the maintenance of public order. The protection is only temporary because it is intended that as soon as the lawless act of dispossession has been suppressed, the question of ownership or of possession de jure is to be settled in the proper court and in a proper action. The larger and permanent interests of property require that such rare and exceptional instances of preference in the courts for the actual but wrongful possessor be permitted. Possession is at once the basis and the outward manifestation of ownership. It is the foundation upon which property rests because without possession, personally held or through an agent, or granted by contract to a lessee or usufructuary or the like, the right of dominion would become a delusion. For how else could the owner enjoy his lands and tenements? Consequently, to leave possession exposed to all manner of danger and threat would be to undermine property itself. The same reasons for safe-guarding ownership hold for guaranteeing possession.
9. ID.; ID.; ID. — As an external expression of dominion, possession ought to be shielded. This visible sign or symbol of ownership should be preserved from all violence or chicanery because of the probability, nay the certainty in most instances, that the possessor is either the true owner or is entitled to the right of possession, as is the case of a lessee or a possessor in good faith. The ordinary course of affairs is that the actual possessor is either the owner or the holder of possession de jure. Hence, the presumption of ownership or of rightful possession. It would be a short-sighted norm to leave this token of the right of property unguarded just because of the scant possibility that the possession may be unlawful. It is wiser, by far, to risk such exceptional possibility, in order that the security of property in general may be the better cemented and consolidated. The law looks to the usual rather than the unusual state of human affairs.
10. ID.; ID.; ID.;MERITS OF CASE AT BAR. — According to the facts agreed upon, the plaintiff was at most only a copossessor of A. C., and as such she could lay no claim to the exclusive possession of the property to the detriment of the defendants who had acquired the rights of A. C. Moreover, plaintiff was in truth no longer a copossessor, because of her refusal to return to the house at the request of A. C. and of the town mayor. Plaintiff having thus given up and abandoned her original right of copossession, there is no reason why the present possessors should be ejected from the property.