Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence


Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence > Year 1966 > January 1966 Decisions > G.R. No. L-21809 January 31, 1966 GIL P. POLICARPIO, ET AL. v. JOSE V. SALAMAT, ET AL.:




PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

EN BANC

[G.R. No. L-21809. January 31, 1966.]

GIL P. POLICARPIO, ET AL., Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. JOSE V. SALAMAT, ET AL., Defendants, VICENTE ASUNCION, ET AL., Defendants-Appellants.

Tansinsin & Tansinsin for the defendants and appellants.

Eugenio Balabat for the plaintiffs and appellees.


SYLLABUS


1. USUFRUCT; DEATH OF ONE OF USUFRUCTUARIES BEFORE END OF USUFRUCT; ACCRETION AMONG USUFRUCTUARIES; EXCEPTION. — There is accretion among usufructuaries who are constituted at the same time when one of them dies before the end of the usufruct. The only exception is if the usufruct is constituted in a last will and testament and the testator makes a contrary provision. In the instant case, there is none. On the contrary, the testatrix constituted the usufruct in favor of the children of her three cousins with the particular injunction that they are the only ones to enjoy the same as long as they live, from which it can be implied that, should any of them die, the share of the latter shall accrue to the surviving ones. These provisions of the will are clear. They do not admit of any other interpretation.


D E C I S I O N


BAUTISTA ANGELO, J.:


In a duly probated last will and testament of one Damasa Crisostomo, she gave the naked ownership of a fishpond owned by her to her sister Teodorica de la Cruz while its usufruct to the children of her cousins Antonio Perez, Patricia Vicente and Canuto Lorenzo. The fishpond is situated at a barrio of Hagonoy, Bulacan.

The children of Antonio Perez, Patricia Vicente and Canuto Lorenzo turned out to be fourteen, namely: Maria, Pio, Fructuosa, Graciano, Vicente, Victoria, Teodora, and Juan, all surnamed Perez, Apolonio Lorenzo, Bonifacio Lorenzo, Vicente Asuncion, Francisco Lorenzo, Leoncio Perez and Servillano Perez. On the other hand, Teodorica dela Cruz, the naked owner, bequeathed in her will all her rights to the fishpond to Jose V. Salamat.

The fourteen usufructuaries leased the fishpond first to one Gil P. Policarpio who used to give them proportionately the usufruct corresponding to them. During the term of the lease, however, three of the usufructuaries died, namely, Francisco Lorenzo, Leoncio M. Perez and Servillano Perez, and so, upon their death, both the naked owner and the remaining usufructuaries claimed the shares corresponding to the deceased usufructuaries in the amount of (P10,714.26. Because of these conflicting claims, the lessee withheld said amount.

Subsequently, on May 31, 1962, the surviving usufructuaries leased the fishpond to one Batas Riego de Dios who, after executing the contract of lease, came to know of the existing conflicting claims, and not knowing to whom of the claimants the shares of the deceased usufructuaries should be paid, said lessee was also constrained to withhold the corresponding part of the usufruct of the property. So, on November 15, 1962, the two lessees commenced the present action for interpleader against both the naked owner and surviving usufructuaries to compel them to interplead and litigate their conflicting claims.

Defendant Jose V. Salamat avers as special defense that he is the successor-in-interest of Teodorica dela Cruz and as such he is entitled to the shares corresponding to the three deceased usufructuaries in as much as the usufruct in their favor was automatically extinguished by death and became merged with the naked owner.

The surviving usufructuaries, on the other hand, adhere to the theory that since the usufructuaries were instituted simultaneously by the late Damasa Crisostomo, the death of the three usufructuaries did not extinguish the usufruct; hence, the surviving usufructuaries are entitled to receive the shares corresponding to the deceased usufructuaries, the usufruct to continue until the death of the last usufructuary.

When the case was called for hearing, the parties agreed to submit the case for decision upon the submission of their respective memoranda considering that the issue involved was purely legal in nature, and on March 29, 1963, the trial court rendered decision the dispositive part of which reads as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Wherefore, judgment is hereby rendered declaring defendant Jose V. Salamat entitled to the sum of P10,714.26 representing the shares of the three deceased usufructuaries in the lease rental due from plaintiff Gil Policarpio, ordering the latter to deliver to said defendant the aforesaid amount; and likewise declaring said defendant Jose V. Salamat entitled to share with the eleven usufructuaries in the proceeds of the lease contract executed by them with plaintiff Batas Riego de Dios, ordering the latter to deliver to him such amount as would be equivalent to the shares of the three deceased usufructuaries, with the parties bearing their own costs and expenses of litigation."cralaw virtua1aw library

The surviving usufructuaries took the present appeal.

The important issue to be determined is whether the eleven surviving usufructuaries of the fishpond in question are the ones entitled to the fruits that would have corresponded to the three deceased usufructuaries, or the naked owner Jose V. Salamat.

Appellants argue that it is the surviving usufructuaries who are entitled to receive the shares of the deceased by virtue of Article 611 of the Civil Code which provides: "A usufruct constituted in favor of several persons living at the time of its constitution shall not be extinguished until the death of the last survivor." On the other hand, appellee contends that the most a usufruct can endure if constituted in favor of a natural person is the lifetime of the usufructuary, because a usufruct is extinguished by the death of the usufructuary unless a contrary intention clearly appears (Article 603, Civil Code). Hence, appellee argues, when the three usufructuaries died, their usufructuary rights were extinguished and whatever rights they had to the fruits reverted to the naked owner.

If the theory of appellee in the sense that the death of the three usufructuaries has the effect of consolidating their rights with that of the naked owner were correct, Article 611 of the Civil Code would be superfluous, because Article 603 already provides that the death of the usufructuary extinguishes the usufruct unless the contrary appears. Furthermore, said theory would cause a partial extinction of the usufruct, contrary to the provisions of Article 611 which expressly provides that the usufruct shall not be extinguished until the death of the last survivor. The theory of appellee cannot, therefore, be entertained.

The well-known Spanish commentators on the counterpart of Article 611 we have copied above which implicitly provides that the share of a usufructuary who dies in the meantime inures to the benefit of the surviving usufructuaries, also uphold the view we here express. Thus, the following is their comment on the matter:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Al comentar el art. 469 (now Art. 564) hablamos, entre las formas de constitución del usufructo, del disfrute simultaneo y sucesivo. Ninguna duda cabe, puesto que el derecho de acrecer es aplicable a los usufructuarios, según el art. 987 (now Art. 1023), sobre la no extinción del usufructo simultaneo, hasta la muerte de la última persona que sobreviva . . .

". . . Al referirse . . . el art. 521 (now Art. 621) al usufructo constituido en provecho de varias personas vivas al tiempo de su constitucion, parece referirse al usufructo simultaneo. Sin embargo, es indudable que se refiere tambien al sucesivo, puesto que en esta especie de usufructo el segundo usufructuario no entra en el disfrute, salvo expresion en contrario, hasta la muerte del primero, y es claro que al morir el último llamado, se extingue el usufructo, que es precisamente lo que ordena el presente articulo." (Manresa, Comentarios al Codigo Civil Español, 1931, Tomo IV, p. 486).

". . . refiriendonos al caso de muerte natural, ha de tenerse presente que si son muchos los llamados al usufructo simultaneamente, muerto uno, su porcian acrece a demas a no ser que el testador exprese lo contrario, ó se infiriera asi del titulo en que se constituyó el usufructo, para lo cual puede verse la doctrina de la ley 33, tit. I, lib. VII del Digesto, que habla del derecho de acrecer en el usufructo, y el tit. IV del mismo libro, en que se proponen algunos casos de excepcion. — El usufructo constituido en provecho de varias personas vivas al tiempo de su constitución. no se extinguira hasta la muerte de la última que sobreviviere. Cód. Civ. art. 521." (Del Viso, Lecciones Elementales de Derecho Civil, sexta edicion, Tomo I, p. 86.)

"Si a varios usufructuarios se les lega la totalidad de una herencia, o una misma parte de ella, se da el derecho de acrecer cuando uno de ellos muere despues del testador, sobreviviendo otro y otros? — Como dice la obra anotada, el Digesto admitió, según un texto de Paulo, la solución afirmativa, y Pothier reprodujo dicha doctrina.

"La jurisprudencia del Tribunal Supremo español ha admitido y sancionado también en le sentencia de 29 de marzo de 1905, aunque no por aplicación del derecho de acrecer, y si por aplicación de la voluntad presunta del testador, que habiéndose legado el usufructo vitalicio del remanente de sus bienes, por partes iguales, a dos hermanas, debe entenderse que ellas, o cualquiera de las dos que sobreviviere a la otra, habia de disfrutar dicho usufructo, no constituyendo la separación de partes sino una previsión del testador, para el arreglo del usufructo total durante la vida de las dos usufructuaries." (Colin and Capitant, Curso Elemental de Derecho Civil, 1957, Tomo VIII, pp. 605-606)

It, therefore, appears that the Spanish commentators on the subject are unanimous that there is accretion among usufructuaries who are constituted at the same time when one of them dies before the end of the usufruct. The only exception is if the usufruct is constituted in a last will and testament and the testator makes a contrary provision. Here there is none. On the contrary, the testatrix constituted the usufruct in favor of the children of her three cousins with the particular injunction that they are the only ones to enjoy the same as long as they live, from which it can be implied that, should any of them die, the share of the latter shall accrue to the surviving ones. These provisions of the will are clear. They do not admit of any other interpretation.

Wherefore, the decision appealed from is reversed. The eleven surviving usufructuaries are hereby declared to be entitled to the shares of the three deceased usufructuaries and, hence, as a corollary, appellees Gil P. Policarpio and Batas Riego de Dios are hereby ordered to pay to them the money withheld by them respectively representing the shares of the deceased usufructuaries. 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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