No, no… I am not currently being sued, thankfully. I mean, I was sued in the past. Feyma and I were sued here in Davao about 6 years ago. It was all a bunch of nonsense, and thankfully, it all worked out OK, but I thought I would relay the story to you, perhaps it would help you avoid some pitfalls. Sometimes, though, to be honest, no matter what you to do avoid problems, the problems still happen.
It all started when we first moved to Davao. At the time we were planning to move here, we had a really hard time finding a house to rent here which was suitable for our family. If we found a place which was big enough, there were other problems. One place was really infested with termites. Other places were too far away from where the kids would be attending school. For one reason or another, we just could not find the exact place that would be good for us. We ended up settling on a house that was similar to what we wanted, but it was pretty small. We have a large family, and we really had to squeeze in to the place. We figured that we might live there for a year, while searching for a better fit.
Well, we signed a one year lease on the house, and within days there was trouble. Before we could even move in, the landlord had come and torn out all of the grass in the yard without even asking us. This was during a rainy time of the year, so when we moved in we had nothing but mud in the yard. What a pain! Well, she kept promising to plant new grass, but month after month it never happened. There were other problems with the landlord too. After about 6 months in the house (still no grass, only mud!), we were told about a different house that we might be interested in. It was an older house, but really fit our lifestyle, and we loved it. We decided that we would move out from the house where we currently were living, and take this new one that we had found.
Under the lease in the old house, we had put up 2 months rent for a deposit. The lease stated that we could move out before the lease expired, but by doing so we had to forfeit our deposit. No problem, we were happy to get out of the place. At the time we moved out, we owned the landlord for the current rent. There was a problem, though. You see, the landlord owned a convenience store nearby, and we would always leave our rent payment there. Unfortunately, the store had gone out of business. We did not know the address of the landlord, because we always dealt through her convenience store. So, Feyma sent a text message to the landlord and told her that we would be moving out, and that we wanted to meet with her to pay our rent which was due, since her store was no longer open. Due to scheduling conflicts, Feyma and the landlord were unable to make a firm schedule to meet each other. Feyma kept texting the landlord trying to set up a meeting, and the lady would never respond to the texts. This went on for many weeks. We had already written a check for the rent, and it was ready to be given to the landlord anytime we saw her.
This was really getting to be a problem, as a couple of months had gone by already, and we still owed the money, but the landlord would not respond to our attempts to contact her. Then one day, a process server showed up at our new house to serve us papers. We had been sued! We were ordered to show up at the Barangay Court that very day, which we did. We had a meeting with the Barangay Captain and our former Landlord. The meeting was set up like a court hearing, where each party submitted testimony to the Barangay Captain, and he made a decision.
The first to testify was the landlord. She made up all kind of lies about us. She said that we had trashed the property before leaving, which is as far from the truth as you can possibly get. Anyway, I don’t even remember all of the things, but she made up dozens of different lies about us. It was hard for me to keep quiet during her testimony, I kept wanting to jump in with my side of the story, but the Barangay Captain told me to keep quiet until it was my turn, and I finally was able to hold myself back.
When it came our turn to testify, we explained that these things that the landlord kept saying were totally false. The Barangay captain seemed to be leaning toward believing the landlord, though. It was her word against ours, because there was no evidence. However, she claimed that we had refused to pay the due rent. We explained that we had been trying to pay, but she would not return our calls or texts. The Barangay Captain seemed to think that we were really being dishonest with him. However, he asked if we could prove that we had been trying to pay. Well, luckily, we thought of a way to prove it! We pulled out a sealed envelope from Feyma’s purse, which contained the check that we had written for the rent a couple of months earlier. We told him that we kept this check with us in case we ever ran into the lady, so that we could give it to her. He asked, “how do I know you didn’t just write this check today?” Well, we pulled out our checkbook, and showed in the register that the check had been written months ago, and many other checks had been written since.
Well, when the Barangay Captain saw this, his attitude changed totally. Suddenly, he realized that the landlord had been lying to him! He bluntly told her that if she had lied about this check, how could he believe anything else that she said? The lady was quite flustered, and didn’t know what to say! The Barangay Captain was very quick, and he told the lady “these people, the Martins, are very honest people. You are not honest. You can take the check for the rent, although I’d rather rule against you on that too. As for everything else, drop it now, or there will be trouble!” That was the end of the matter. The Barangay Captain told us that he was so happy to have us living in his Barangay, and if we ever needed anything, to be sure to contact him at any time!
So, as you see, this whole thing ended up OK for us. It was not a good feeling, though, and I was glad to get it over with. Honestly, I don’t know what I could have done to avoid this situation from the start. I hope that in your travels of the Philippines you can avoid problems like this. Always do your best to cover your footsteps, whenever possible.