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Legally annoying

Wong and Ong are co-owners pro-indiviso of a residential land. The Wong-Ong property abuts a 10-meter wide subdivision road (subject road).

On the opposite side of the subject road, across the Wong-Ong property, are the adjacent lots owned by Wilson and Rana, respectively. The said lots follow a rolling terrain with the Rana property standing about two meters higher than and overlooking Wilson’s property, while the Wong-Ong property is at the same level with the subject road.

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Rana elevated and cemented a portion of the subject road that runs between the Rana and Wong-Ong properties (subject portion) in order to level the said portion with their gate. Rana likewise backfilled a portion (subject backfilling) of the perimeter fence separating the Rana and Wilson properties without erecting a retaining wall that would hold the weight of the added filling materials.

Wong, Ong and Wilson all became so annoyed with what Rana did.

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Q: Does Rana’s acts constitute nuisance? If yes, what is a nuisance?

A: Yes, Rana’s acts constitute nuisance. Under Article 694 of the Civil Code, a nuisance is defined as “any act, omission, establishment, business, condition of property, or anything else which: (1) Injures or endangers the health or safety of others; or (2) Annoys or offends the senses; or(3) Shocks, defies or disregards decency or morality; or (4) Obstructs or interferes with the free passage of any public highway or street, or any body of water; or (5) Hinders or impairs the use of property.”

Based on case law, however, the term “nuisance” is deemed to be “so comprehensive that it has been applied to almost all ways which have interfered with the rights of the citizens, either in person, property, the enjoyment of his property, or his comfort.”

Q: What are the kinds of nuisance?

A: Article 695 of the Civil Code classifies nuisances with respect to the object or objects that they affect.

In this regard, a nuisance may either be: (a) a public nuisance (or one which “affects a community or neighborhood or any considerable number of persons, although the extent of the annoyance, danger or damage upon individuals may be unequal”); or (b) a private nuisance (or one “that is not included in the foregoing definition” [or, as case law puts it, one which “violates only private rights and produces damages to but one or a few persons”]).

Q: What are the remedies against nuisance?

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A: It depends. Jurisprudence further classifies nuisances in relation to their legal susceptibility to summary abatement (that is, corrective action without prior judicial permission).

In this regard, a nuisance may either be: (a) a nuisance per se(or one which “affects the immediate safety of persons and property and may be summarily abated under the undefined law of necessity”); or (b) a nuisance per accidens (or that which “depends upon certain conditions and circumstances, and its existence being a question of fact, it cannot be abated without due hearing thereon in a tribunal authorized to decide whether such a thing does in law constitute a nuisance.”)

It is a standing jurisprudential rule that unless a nuisance is a nuisance per se, it may not be summarily abated.

Q: Is the elevated and cemented subject portion a nuisance per se?

A: By its nature, it is not injurious to the health or comfort of the community. It was built primarily to facilitate the ingress and egress of Rana from their house which was admittedly located on a higher elevation than the subject road and the adjoining Wilson and Wong-Ong properties. Since the subject portion is not a nuisance per se it cannot be summarily abated.

(Source: Rana vs. Ong, G.R. No. 192861, June 30, 2014)Ma. Soledad Deriquito-Mawis is Dean, Lyceum of the Philippines University; Chairman, Philippine Association of Law Schools; founder of Mawis Law Office

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