Cañezo v. Bautista (G.R. No. 170189; September 1, 2010)

CASE DIGEST: SPOUSES ELEGIO CAÑEZO AND DOLIA CAÑEZO v. SPOUSES APOLINARIO AND CONSORCIA L. BAUTISTA

FACTS: Spouses Elegio and Dolia Cañezo (appellees) are the registered owners of a parcel of land with an area of 186 square meters, covered by TCT No. 32911. Whereas, Spouses Apolinario and Consorcia Bautista (appellants) are the registered owners of a parcel of land, containing an area of 181 square meters, covered by TCT No. 31727. Both parcels of land are located at Coronado Heights, Barangka Ibaba, Mandaluyong City and registered with the Registry of Deeds of Mandaluyong City. Appellants’ lot is adjacent to that of appellees.

Sometime in 1995, appellees started the construction of a building on their lot. During the construction, appellees discovered that their lot was encroached upon by the structures built by appellants without appellees’ knowledge and consent.

Three surveys were conducted which confirmed the fact of encroachment. However, despite oral and written demands, appellants failed and refused to remove the structures encroaching appellees’ lot.

Spouses Cañezo filed their complaint for the issuance of a writ of demolition with damages on 13 April 2000. In an Order dated 15 August 2000, the trial court declared the spouses Bautista in default for failure to answer within the reglementary period. The trial court promulgated its Decision in favor of the spouses Cañezo. The trial court found that the spouses Bautista built structures encroaching on the land owned by the spouses Cañezo. The spouses Bautista also refused to remove the structures and respect the boundaries as established by the various surveyors. A referral to the Barangay Lupon failed to settle the controversy amicably. The trial court thus ruled that the spouses Bautista are builders in bad faith, such that spouses Cañezo are entitled to an issuance of a writ of demolition with damages.On appeal, the appellate court rendered its Decision which reversed the Trial Court’s Decision. The appellate court ruled that since the last demand was made on 27 March 2000, or more than a year before the filing of the complaint, the spouses Cañezo should have filed a suit for recovery of possession and not for the issuance of a writ of demolition. A writ of demolition can be granted only as an effect of a final judgment or order, hence the spouses Cañezo’s complaint should be dismissed. The spouses Cañezo failed to specify the assessed value of the encroached portion of their property. Because of this failure, the complaint lacked sufficient basis to constitute a cause of action. Finally, the appellate court ruled that should there be a finding of encroachment in the action for recovery of possession and that the encroachment was built in good faith, the market value of the encroached portion should be proved to determine the appropriate indemnity.

ISSUE: 
Should petitioners have filed recovery of possession and not writ of demolition?

HELD: The present case, while inaccurately captioned as an action for a “Writ of Demolition with Damages” is in reality an action to recover a parcel of land or an accion reivindicatoria under Article 434 of the Civil Code. Accion reivindicatoria seeks the recovery of ownership and includes the jus utendi and the jus fruendi brought in the proper regional trial court. Accion reivindicatoria is an action whereby plaintiff alleges ownership over a parcel of land and seeks recovery of its full possession.

The spouses Cañezo were able to establish their ownership of the encroached property. Aside from testimonial evidence, the spouses Cañezo were also able to present documentary and object evidence which consisted of photographs, transfer certificates of title, and a relocation survey plan.

The relocation survey plan also corroborated Elegio Cañezo’s testimony on the reason for the spouses Bautista’s attitude regarding the encroached property. The relocation survey plan showed that the spouses Bautista’s property encroached upon that of the spouses Cañezo by 0.97 centimeters, while the spouses Bautista’s property was encroached upon by 1.01 centimeters by another landowner.

The testimony and the relocation survey plan both show that the spouses Bautista were aware of the encroachment upon their lot by the owner of Lot 15 and thus they made a corresponding encroachment upon the lot of the spouses Cañezo. This awareness of the two encroachments made the spouses Bautista builders in bad faith. The spouses Cañezo are entitled to the issuance of a writ of demolition in their favor and against the spouses Bautista, in accordance with Article 450 of the Civil Code.

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