Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence


Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence > Year 1966 > January 1966 Decisions > G.R. No. L-20497 January 31, 1966 ANTONIA VDA. DE HUERTA v. DIONISIO H. ACOSTA, ET AL.:




PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

EN BANC

[G.R. No. L-20497. January 31, 1966.]

ANTONIA VDA. DE HUERTA, Petitioner, v. DIONISIO H. ACOSTA, ET AL., Respondents.

Ang, Atienza & Tabora for the petitioner.

B. L. Vargas for the Respondent.


SYLLABUS


1. EXPROPRIATION; BONA FIDE TENANTS; ACQUISITION OF LOT WITH AN AREA GREATER THAN 150 SQ. M.; CASE AT BAR. — The disputed portion containing 30 sq. m. had been occupied by petitioner on which she had constructed a house of strong materials and other permanent improvements. The fact that said disputed portion if added to the area of the lot adjudicated to petitioner would exceed the limit of 150 sq. m. provided in Section 3 of Republic Act No. 1162, as amended, is of no moment, for Section 5 of said Act authorizes the grant of an area greater than 150 sq. m. if a bona fide tenant has constructed improvements on the lot leased by him as is the case of petitioner insofar as the disputed portion is concerned.


D E C I S I O N


BAUTISTA ANGELO, J.:


Sometime in 1955 the Government acquired the so-called Fabie Estate situated at Herran Street, Paco, Manila, through expropriation proceeding under Republic Act 1162, as amended, for the purpose of subdividing the same and reselling the subdivided lots to the tenants or occupants or other persons qualified under the law to acquire said lots. Before the Government took actual possession of the Fabie Estate a sketch plan was made by the Bureau of Lands showing the houses of the tenants and occupants on said estate in order that outsiders may not rush into the property and said office may find out how many families could be accommodated in the area. The houses of Antonia Vda. de Huerta and Dionisio H. Acosta are shown in this sketch.

In order to carry out the function of subdividing the Fabie Estate into small lots the Land Tenure Administration caused a plan to be made showing the subdivided lots. The Land Tenure Administration allotted the subdivided lots to the tenants and occupants based on said plan. Antonia Vda. de Huerta filed an application for the purchase of Lot No. 14 containing approximately an area of 120 sq. m. and on January 16, 1958 an agreement to sell covering said lot was entered into between her and the Land Tenure Administration. Dionisio H. Acosta, on the other hand, filed an application to purchase Lot No. 13 and on March 29, 1957 an order was issued authorizing the sale to him of that lot which was executed on June 4, 1957.

In a letter dated April 15, 1958, however, addressed to the Land Tenure Administration, Huerta asked for the adjudication to her of Lot 13 stating that she had several times asked before thru one Mr. Gavino for such adjudication because she had constructed a septic tank, planted trees and made other improvements thereon, and when said letter was not attended to, Huerta sent another to the same office asking that a portion of Lot 13 where her septic tank is located be segregated and made part of Lot 14 which was allocated to her because this portion of Lot 13 was never occupied by Acosta but has been instead in her possession even before the estate was expropriated by the Government. This request was denied.

Since Huerta continued occupying the portion of Lot 13 whereon she constructed a house of strong materials and other improvements including a septic tank, Dionisio H. Acosta filed the present action before the Court of First Instance of Manila to recover the possession and ownership of the portion aforesaid alleging that he is the owner thereof it being a part of Lot 13 which was allocated to him by the Land Tenure Administration as evidenced by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 50570 issued to him by the Register of Deeds of Manila.

Huerta filed an answer alleging that she had been a lessee since 1947 of a portion of the Fabie Estate long before the Government acquired the same through expropriation proceeding, and that she constructed a house of strong materials and other permanent improvements, including a septic tank, on the portion of lot now subject of the present action. She also asked that the Land Tenure Administration be joined as third-party defendant claiming that she had a priority right to purchase the disputed portion in addition to Lot 14 which was a located to her, for the reason that she is a bona fide tenant thereof, and that said portion be adjudicated to her in addition to Lot 14.

After trial, the court a quo rendered decision the dispositive part of which reads as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the Court hereby renders judgment dismissing plaintiff’s complaint; ordering said plaintiff to execute a deed of reconveyance of the disputed portion of Lot 13 of the Fabie Estate where defendant’s septic tank is located consisting of thirty (30) square meters, more or less, in favor of the government or the Land Tenure Administration; and declaring defendant-third-party plaintiff as entitled to purchase said disputed portion under the provisions of Republic Act 1162, as amended. The defendant’s counterclaim is hereby dismissed for lack of merit. This action is without pronouncement as to costs."cralaw virtua1aw library

Acosta brought the case to the Court of Appeals, and on September 29, 1962 the latter reversed said decision declaring Acosta owner in fee simple of the disputed portion of Lot 13 while ordering Huerta to vacate the same and remove the septic tank and other improvements existing thereon, as well as to deliver possession thereof to Acosta.

Huerta interposed the present petition for review.

It is admitted that the disputed portion of Lot 13 containing 30 sq. m. had never been occupied by Dionisio Acosta for even long before the Government acquired the Fabie Estate through expropriation proceeding said portion had been occupied by Antonia Vda. de Huerta on which she had constructed a house of strong materials and other permanent improvements including a septic tank, and that portion formed part of the lot which she was then leasing from the former owner of the Fabie Estate. Huerta, therefore, had the preferential right to purchase the disputed portion from the Government under the provisions of Republic Act No. 1162, as amended, particularly Section 3 which provides that the estate should be subdivided into small lots with an area not exceeding 150 sq. m. and shall be sold at cost only to tenants or occupants. The fact that if the disputed portion containing an area of 30 sq. m. if added to the area of Lot 14 adjudicated to Huerta would make a total of 160.4 sq. m. and would thereby exceed the limit of 150 sq. m. provided in Section 3 abovementioned is of no moment, for Section 5 of said Act, as amended, authorizes the grant of an area greater than 150 sq. m. if a bona fide tenant has constructed improvements on the lot leased by him as is the case of Huerta insofar as the disputed portion is concerned. Thus, said section 5 provides:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Sec. 5. . . . Provided, finally, that if there should be bona fide tenants who have constructed bona fide improvements on the lots leased by them, the rights of those tenants should be recognized in the sale or in the lease of the lots, the limitation as to area in section three notwithstanding."cralaw virtua1aw library

It is contended that Huerta is now estopped from asserting her claim to the disputed portion because in her application to purchase Lot 14 she agreed therein that she would remove her house from its present location and would rebuild or reconstruct it if necessary in accordance with existing ordinance in the lot adjudicated to her. But, as the court a quo pointed out, "what Huerta had bound herself to do in her application is to remove her house in order to conform with ordinance but no ordinance is involved in this case. By agreeing to the removal of her house in order to conform with existing ordinance cannot certainly be understood that Huerta had renounced her right to claim for more land than that which was adjudicated to her."cralaw virtua1aw library

Moreover, the record shows that Huerta is un-schooled, mentally weak or ignorant, which explains the confusion in which she found herself in complying with the requirements of the Land Tenure Administration, but when she realized her shortcoming she lost no time in asserting her claim in several letters she addressed to the Land Tenure Administration wherein she reiterated her request that the disputed portion be adjudicated to her not only because of the septic tank and other improvements she constructed thereon but because the same was never occupied by Acosta to whom it was adjudicated, a request which unfortunately was not attended to by the Land Tenure Administration.

Premises considered, we find no plausible reason for ignoring the claim of petitioner Huerta over the disputed portion considering the improvements she had constructed thereon, for such claim finds full support in Section 5 of Republic Act No. 1162, as amended, already quoted above.

Wherefore, the decision appealed from is reversed. The decision of the Court of First Instance of Manila dated March 21, 1960 is hereby revived and enforced. No costs.

Bengzon, C.J., Concepcion, Reyes, J.B.L., Dizon, Regala, Makalintal, Bengzon, J.P. and Zaldivar, JJ., concur.

Barrera, J., took no part.




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