Arroyo v. Rosal Homeowners (G.R. No. 175155; October 22, 2012)

CASE DIGEST: JOHN C. ARROYO v. ROSAL HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION, INC. G.R. No. 175155; October 22, 2012.

FACTS: Petitioners Jasmin Alipato, Primitivo Belandres, Nestor Leduna, Anita de los Reyes, and Gina Caballero were among the actual occupants of a parcel of land located in Bacolod City. They occupied the land by mere tolerance of the landowner. To evade eviction and in order to avail of the benefits of acquiring land under the Community Mortgage Program (CMP) of the National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation (NHMFC), the said occupants formally organized themselves into an association, the Rosal Homeowners Association, Inc. (RHAI).To fully avail of the benefits of the CMP, the NHMFC required the RHAI members to sign the Lease Purchase Agreement (LPA) and to maintain their membership in good standing in accordance with the provisions of the By- Laws of RHAI. Alipato, et al., however, refused to sign the LPA as a precondition under the CMP. They likewise failed to attend the regular meetings and pay their membership dues as required by the RHAI By-Laws. As a result, RHAI approved a resolution to enforce the eviction of Alipato, et al. and recover possession of the portions of land which they were occupying. Pursuant to the said resolution, RHAI, through written letters of demand, called for Alipato, et al. to vacate the premises and deliver possession thereof to RHAI. Alipato, et al. ignored the demand. Thus, RHAI filed an action for recovery of possession of the subject property before the RTC.

Both the RTC and CA ruled in favor of RHAI. Hence, this instant petition.

Alipato, et al. insist that they cannot be ejected from the property since they are the actual occupants thereof even before the landowner acquired the same. They also averred that they were denied due process when they were expelled from RHAI without notice.

ISSUES: [1] Were Alipato, et al. denied of their right to due process when they were expelled as members of RHAI?
[2] Were Alipato, et al. denied of their right to own a piece of land under the socialized housing program of the government?

HELD: The essence of due process is the opportunity to be heard. What the law prohibits is not the absence of previous notice but the absolute absence thereof and the lack of opportunity to be heard. The records of this case disclose that there was a board resolution issued for the expulsion of the erring or defaulting members of RHAI.  The latter were duly informed that they were already expelled as members of the association through notices sent to them.  These notices, however, were refused to be received by petitioners. There is nothing irregular when they were expelled for non-payment of dues and for non-attendance of meetings. This is expressly sanctioned by the By-Laws of RHAI.

Apparently, petitioners’ refusal to sign and submit the LPA, the most important requirement of the NHMFC for the acquisition of the land, disqualified them as loan beneficiaries. As such, they acquire no better rights than mere occupants of the subject land.

In any case, the due process guarantee cannot be invoked when no vested right has been acquired. The period during which petitioners occupied the lots, no matter how long, did not vest them with any right to claim ownership since it is a fundamental principle of law that acts of possessory character executed by virtue of license or tolerance of the owner, no matter how long, do not start the running of the period of acquisitive prescription. DENIED.

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