Grana vs. CA (GR L-12486, 31 August 1960)

Petitioners, Grana and Torralba, were sued by Bongato and Sanchez for the recovery of 87 square meters of residential land which they have inherited from spouses Marcos Bongato and Eusebia. Petitioners were ordered by the to vacate and deliver to respondents Bongato and Sanchez, and to pay a monthly rental of P10.00 from the filing of the complaint until they actually vacate the same, plus attorney’s fees and costs.

The Petitioners alleged that the said property became a subject of a cadastral survey due to conflicts and overlapping of boundaries. In that survey, Gregorio Bongato’s lot, according to petitioners, was identified as Lot No. 311 and that of Isidaria Trillo, their predecessor in interest, as Lot No. 310. Citing the fact that Original Certificate of Title No. RO-72 (138) covers 295 square meters of land, while the sketch plan of the second cadastral survey of Butuan shows that Lot No. 311 has only 230 square meters, petitioners maintain that it is the latter area properly belongs to respondents and that the land in question is part of the adjoining land, Lot No. 310, which belonged to their predecessor in interest.

Whether or not the first survey was erroneous or that it included part of the contiguous land of petitioners’ predecessor in interest?

Petitioners’ stand is untenable. No proof was presented to show that the first survey was erroneous or that it included part of the contiguous land of petitioners’ predecessor in interest as part of the lot now covered by Original Certificate of Title No. RO-72 (138). Note that the difference in area between the land covered by said title and Lot No. 311 of the resurvey plan is 65 square meters while the area of the land in dispute if 87 square meters.  And what is more, the alleged sketch plan of the resurvey was not presented in evidence.

On the other hand, it is not disputed that the land in question is part of the lot covered by the Torrens title issued way back in 1923 in the name of respondents’ predecessor in interest. Said title has not been contested, and therefore, has become inconvertible evidence of the ownership of the land covered by it. Well settled is the rule that a Torrens certificate of title becomes conclusive and indefeasible after the lapse of the period within which it may be impugned (Reyes, et al. vs. Borbon, et al., 50 Phil., 791; Yumul vs. Rivera, et al., 64 Phil., 13).

Although without any legal and valid claim over the land in question, petitioners were found by the Court of Appeals to have constructed a portion of their house thereon in good faith.

Under Article 361 of the old Civil Code (Article 448 of the new), the owner of the land on which anything has been built in good faith shall have the right to appropriate as his own building, after payment to the builder of necessary and useful expenses, and in the proper case, expenses for pure luxury or mere pleasure, or to oblige the builder to pay the price of the land.

Respondents, as owners of the land, have therefore the choice of either appropriating the portion of petitioners’ house which is on their land upon payment of the proper indemnity to petitioners, or selling to petitioners that part of their land on which stands the improvement. It may here be pointed out that it would be impractical for respondents to choose to exercise the first alternative, i.e., buy that portion of the house standing on their land, for in that event the whole building might be rendered useless. The more workable solution, it would seem, is for respondents to sell to petitioners that part of their land on which was constructed a portion of the latter’s house. If petitioners are unwilling or unable to buy, then they must vacate the land and must pay rentals until they do so. Of course, respondents cannot oblige petitioners to buy the land if its value is considerably more than that of the aforementioned portion of the house. If such be the case, then petitioners must pay reasonable rent. The parties must come to an agreement as to the conditions of the lease, and should they fail to do so, then the court shall fix the same. (Article 361, old Civil Code; Article 448 of the new).

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