Case Digest: Virtucio vs. Alegarbes

G.R. No. 187451 : August 29, 2012

JESUS VIRTUCIO, represented by ABDON VIRTUCIO, Petitioner, v. JOSE ALEGARBES, Respondent.



Respondent Jose Alegarbes (Alegarbes) filed a homestead application for a 24-hectare tract of unsurveyed land. His application was approved on January 23, 1952. In 1955, however, the land was subdivided into three (3) lots -- Lot Nos. 138, 139 and 140, Pls-19 - as a consequence of a public land subdivision. Lot 139 was allocated to Ulpiano Custodio (Custodio) while Lot 140 was allocated to petitioner Jesus Virtucio (Virtucio).

Alegarbes opposed the homestead applications filed by Custodio and Virtucio, claiming that his approved application covered the whole area, including Lot Nos. 139 and 140. On October 30, 1961, the Director of Lands rendered a decision denying Alegarbes' protest and amending the latter's application to exclude Lots 139 and 140. Only Lot 138 was given due course.

Alegarbes appealed to the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, who dismissed the appeal. On appeal to the Office of the President, the latter affirmed the dismissal order. Thus, an order of execution was issued by the Lands Management Bureau of the DENR. It ordered Alegarbes and all those acting in his behalf to vacate the subject lot, but he refused.

On September 26, 1997, Virtucio then filed a complaint for recovery of possession and ownership before the RTC. The RTC ruled infavor of Virtucio. The CA reversed the RTC and ruled that Alegarbes became ipso jure owner of Lot 140 by virtue of acquisitive prescription.

Aggrieved, Virtucio filed this petition. He argues that the period of acquisitive prescription was interrupted on October 30, 1961 when Alegarbes filed a protest before the Director of Lands. Virtucio further claims that since 1954, several extrajudicial demands were also made upon Alegarbes demanding that he vacate said lot. Those demands constitute the "extrajudicial demand" contemplated in Article 1155, thus, tolling the period of acquisitive prescription.

ISSUE: Whether or not Alegarbes acquired ownership over the subject property by acquisitive prescription?

HELD: The petition must fail.

CIVIL LAW: acquisitive prescription; kinds of prescription

Article 1106 of the New Civil Code, in relation to its Article 712, provides that prescription is a mode of acquiring ownership through the lapse of time in the manner and under the conditions laid down by law. Under the same law, it states that acquisitive prescription may either be ordinary or extraordinary. Ordinary acquisitive prescription requires possession of things in good faith and with just title for a period of ten years, while extraordinary acquisitive prescription requires uninterrupted adverse possession of thirty years, without need of title or of good faith.

There are two kinds of prescription provided in the Civil Code. One is acquisitive, that is, the acquisition of a right by the lapse of time as expounded in par. 1, Article 1106. Other names for acquisitive prescription are adverse possession and usucapcion. The other kind is extinctive prescription whereby rights and actions are lost by the lapse of time as defined in Article 1106 and par. 2, Article 1139. Another name for extinctive prescription is litigation of action. These two kinds of prescription should not be interchanged. Article 1155 of the New Civil Code refers to the interruption of prescription of actions. Interruption of acquisitive prescription, on the other hand, is found in Articles 1120-1125 of the same Code.

Thus, Virtucios reliance on Article 1155 for purposes of tolling the period of acquisitive prescription is misplaced. The only kinds of interruption that effectively toll the period of acquisitive prescription are natural and civil interruption. Civil interruption takes place with the service of judicial summons to the possessor. When no action is filed, then there is no occasion to issue a judicial summons against the respondents. The period of acquisitive prescription continues to run.

In this case, Virtucio claims that the protest filed by Alegarbes against his homestead application interrupted the thirty (30)-year period of acquisitive prescription. The law, as well as jurisprudence, however, dictates that only a judicial summons can effectively toll the said period. Only in cases filed before the courts may judicial summons be issued and, thus, interrupt possession. Records show that it was only in 1997 when Virtucio filed a case before the RTC. The CA was, therefore, correct in ruling that Alegarbesbecame ipso jure owner of Lot 140 entitling him to retain possession of it because he was in open, continuous and exclusive possession for over thirty (30) years of alienable public land.