CATHOLIC VICAR APOSTOLIC OF THE MOUNTAIN PROVINCE VS. COURT OF APPEALS, HEIRS OF EGMIDIO OCTAVIANO AND JUAN VALDEZ
G.R. NO. 80294-95 SEPTEMBER 21, 1988
Catholic Vicar Apostolic of the Mountain Province (VICAR for brevity) filed an application for registration of title over Lots 1, 2, 3, and 4, said Lots being the sites of the Catholic Church building, convents, high school building, school gymnasium, school dormitories, social hall, stonewalls, etc. The Heirs of Valdez and the Heirs of Octaviano filed their Answer/Opposition on Lots Nos. 2 and 3, respectively, asserting ownership and title thereto since their predecessors’ house was borrowed by petitioner Vicar after the church and the convent were destroyed. After trial on the merits, the land registration court promulgated its Decision confirming the registrable title of VICAR to Lots 1, 2, 3, and 4.
The Heirs of Juan Valdez appealed the decision of the land registration court to the then Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals reversed the decision. Thereupon, the VICAR filed with the Supreme Court a petition for review on certiorari of the decision of the Court of Appeals dismissing his application for registration of Lots 2 and 3.
Whether or not the failure to return the subject matter of commodatum constitutes an adverse possession.
No. The bailees’ failure to return the subject matter of commodatum to the bailor did not mean adverse possession on the part of the borrower. The bailee held in trust the property subject matter of commodatum. Catholic Vicar was in possession as borrower in commodatum up to 1951, when it repudiated the trust by declaring the properties in its name for taxation purposes. When he applied for registration of Lots 2 and 3 in 1962, it had been in possession in concept of owner only for eleven years. Ordinary acquisitive prescription requires possession for ten years, but always with just title. Extraordinary acquisitive prescription requires 30 years. The Court found that petitioner did not meet the requirement of 30 years possession for acquisitive prescription over Lots 2 and 3. Neither did it satisfy the requirement of 10 years possession for ordinary acquisitive prescription because of the absence of just title. Private respondents were able to prove that their predecessors’ house was borrowed by petitioner Vicar after the church and the convent were destroyed. They never asked for the return of the house, but when they allowed its free use, they became bailors in commodatum and the petitioner the bailee. The bailees’ failure to return the subject matter of commodatum to the bailor did not mean adverse possession on the part of the borrower. The bailee held in trust the property subject matter of commodatum. The adverse claim of petitioner came only in 1951 when it declared the lots for taxation purposes. The action of petitioner Vicar by such adverse claim could not ripen into title by way of ordinary acquisitive prescription because of the absence of just title.