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Depra vs. Dumlao G.R. No. L-57348

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Depra vs. Dumlao
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  [1985V193] FRANCISCO DEPRA, plaintiff-appellee, vs. AGUSTIN DUMLAO, defendant-appellant.1985 May 161st DivisionG.R. No. L-57348D E C I S I O N MELENCIO-HERRERA, J.: This is an appeal from the Order of the former Court of First Instance of Iloilo to the then Court of Appeals, which the latter certified to this instance as involving pure questions of law. Plaintiff-appellee, Francisco Depra, is the owner of a parcel of land registered under Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-3087, known as Lot No. 685, situated in the municipality of Dumangas, Iloilo, with an area of approximately 8,870 square meters. Agustin Dumlao, defendant-appellant, owns an adjoining lot, designated as Lot No. 683, with an approximate area of 231 sq. ms. Sometime in 1972, when DUMLAO constructed his house on his lot, the kitchen thereof had encroached on an area of thirty four (34) square meters of DEPRA's property. After the encroachment was discovered in a relocation survey of DEPRA's lot made on November 2, 1972, his mother, Beatriz Derla, after writing a demand letter asking DUMLAO to move back from his encroachment, filed an action for Unlawful Detainer on February 6, 1973 against DUMLAO in the Municipal Court of Dumangas, docketed as Civil Case No. I. Said complaint was later amended to include DEPRA as a party plaintiff. After trial the Municipal Court found that DUMLAO was a builder in good faith, and applying Article 448 of the Civil Code, rendered judgment on September 29, 1973, the dispositive portion of which reads: Ordering that a forced lease is created between the parties with the plaintiffs, as lessors, and the defendants as lessees, over the disputed portion with an area of thirty four (34) square meters, the rent to be paid is five (P5.00) pesos a month, payable by the lessee to the lessors within the first five (5) days of the month the rent is due; and the lease shall commence on that day that this decision shall have become final. From the foregoing judgment, neither party appealed so that, if it were a valid judgment, it would have ordinarily lapsed into finality, but even then, DEPRA did not accept payment of rentals so that DUMLAO  deposited such rentals with the Municipal Court. On July 15, 1974, DEPRA filed a Complaint for Quieting of Title against DUMLAO before the then Court of First Instance of Iloilo, Branch IV (Trial Court), involving the very same 34 square meters, which was the bone of contention in the Municipal Court. DUMLAO, in his Answer, admitted the encroachment but alleged, in the main, that the present suit is barred by res judicata by virtue of the Decision of the Municipal Court, which had become final and executory. After the case had been set for pre-trial, the parties submitted a Joint Motion for Judgment based on the Stipulation of Facts attached thereto. Premised thereon, the Trial Court on October 31, 1974, issued the assailed Order, decreeing: WHEREFORE, the Court finds and so holds that the thirty four (34) square meters subject of this litigation is part and parcel of Lot 685 of the Cadastral Survey of Dumangas of which the plaintiff is owner as evidenced by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 3087 and such plaintiff is entitled to possess the same. Without pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED. Rebutting the argument of res judicata relied upon by DUMLAO, DEPRA claims that the Decision of the Municipal Court was null and void ab initio because its jurisdiction is limited to the sole issue of possession, whereas decisions affecting lease, which is an encumbrance on real property, may only be rendered by Courts of First Instance. Addressing ourselves to the issue of validity of the Decision of the Municipal Court, we hold the same to be null and void. The judgment in a detainer case is effective in respect of possession only (Sec. 7, Rule 70, Rules of Court). 1 The Municipal Court overstepped its bounds when it imposed upon the parties a situation of forced lease , which like forced co-ownership is not favored in law. Furthermore, a lease is an interest in real property, jurisdiction over which belongs to Courts of First Instance (now Regional Trial Courts) (Sec. 44(b), Judiciary Act of 1948; 2 Sec. 19 (2) Batas Pambansa Blg. 129). 3 Since the  Municipal Court, acted without jurisdiction, its Decision was null and void and cannot operate as res  judicata to the subject complaint for Queting of Title. Besides, even if the Decision were valid, the rule on res judicata would not apply due to difference in cause of action. In the Municipal Court, the cause of action was the deprivation of possession, while in the action to quiet title, the cause of action was based on ownership. Furthermore, Sec. 7, Rule 70 of the Rules of Court explicitly provides that judgment in a detainer case shall not bar an action between the same parties respecting title to the land. 4 Conceded in the Stipulation of Facts between the parties is that DUMLAO was a builder in good faith. Thus, 8. That the subject matter in the unlawful detainer case, Civil Case No. 1, before the Municipal Court of Dumangas, Iloilo involves the same subject matter in the present case, the Thirty-four (34) square meters portion of land and built thereon in good faith is a portion of defendant's kitchen and has been in the possession of the defendant since 1952 continuously up to the present; . . . Consistent with the principles that our Court system, like any other, must be a dispute resolving mechanism, we accord legal effect to the agreement of the parties, within the context of their mutual concession and stipulation. They have, thereby, chosen a legal formula to resolve their dispute - to apply to DUMLAO the rights of a builder in good faith and to DEPRA those of a landowner in good faith as prescribed in Article 448. Hence, we shall refrain from further examining whether the factual situations of DUMLAO and DEPRA conform to the juridical positions respectively defined law, for a builder in good faith under Article 448, a possessor in good faith under Article 526 and a landowner in good faith under Article 448. In regards to builders in good faith, Article 448 of the Civil Code provides: ART. 448. The owner of the land on which anything has been built sown or planted in good faith. shall have the right.to appropriate as his own the works, sowing or planting, after payment of the indemnity provided for in articles 546 and 548, or to oblige the one who built or planted to pay the price of the land, and the one who sowed, the proper rent.  However, the builder or planter cannot be obliged to buy the land if its value is considerably more than that of the building or trees. In such case, he shall pay reasonable rent, if the owner of the land does not choose to appropriate the building or trees after proper indemnity. The parties shall agree upon the terms of the lease and in case of disagreement, the court shall fix the terms thereof. Pursuant to the foregoing provision, DEPRA has the option either to pay for the encroaching part of DUMLAO's kitchen, or to sell the encroached 34 square meters of his lot to DUMLAO. He cannot refuse to pay for the encroaching part of the building, and to sell the encroached part of his land, 5 as he had manifested before the Municipal Court. But that manifestation is not binding because it was made in a void proceeding. However, the good faith of DUMLAO. is part of the Stipulation of Facts in the Court of First Instance. It was thus error for the Trial Court to have ruled that DEPRA is entitled to possession, without more, of the disputed portion implying thereby that he is entitled to have the kitchen removed. He is entitled to such removal only when, after having chosen to sell his encroached land, DUMLAO fails to pay for the same. 6 In this case, DUMLAO had expressed his willingness to pay for the land, but DEPRA refused to sell. The owner of the building erected in good faith on a land owned by another, is entitled to retain the possession of the land until he is paid the value of his building, under article 453 (now Article 546). The owner of the land, upon the other hand, has the option, under article 361 (now Article 448), either to pay for the building or to sell his land to the owner of the building. But he cannot, as respondents here did refuse both to pay for the building and to sell the land and compel the owner of the building to remove it from the land where it erected. He is entitled to such remotion only when, after having chosen to sell his land, the other party fails to pay for the same. We hold, therefore, that the order of Judge Natividad compelling defendants-petitioners to remove their buildings from the land belonging to plaintiffs-respondents only because the latter chose neither to pay for such buildings nor to sell the land, is null and void, for it amends substantially the judgment sought to be executed and is, furthermore, offensive to articles 361 (now Article 448) and 453 (now Article 546) of the Civil Code. (Ignacio vs. Hilario, 76 Phil. 605, 608 [1946]). A word anent the philosophy behind Article 448 of the Civil Code.
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