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G.R. No. 183543, June 20, 2016 - NATIONAL HOUSING AUTHORITY, Petitioner, v. MANILA SEEDLING BANK FOUNDATION, INC., Respondent.

G.R. No. 183543, June 20, 2016 - NATIONAL HOUSING AUTHORITY, Petitioner, v. MANILA SEEDLING BANK FOUNDATION, INC., Respondent.

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 183543, June 20, 2016

NATIONAL HOUSING AUTHORITY, Petitioner, v. MANILA SEEDLING BANK FOUNDATION, INC., Respondent.

D E C I S I O N

SERENO, C.J.:

This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court assailing the Decision1 and Resolution2 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 85262. The CA affirmed the Decision3 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 104 (RTC). The RTC had ordered Manila Seedling Bank Foundation, Inc. (respondent) to turn over to the National Housing Authority (petitioner) possession of the area in excess of the seven hectares granted to respondent under Proclamation No. 1670. The trial court, however, denied petitioner's claim for rent, exemplary damages, attorney's fees and litigation expenses.

Facts

Petitioner is the owner4 of a 120-hectare piece of government property in Diliman, Quezon City, reserved for the establishment of the National Government Center.5 By virtue of Proclamation No. 16706 issued on 19 September 1977, President Ferdinand Marcos reserved a seven-hectare area thereof and granted respondent usufructuary rights over it.7chanrobleslaw

Respondent occupied a total of 16 hectares, thereby exceeding the seven-hectare area it was allowed to occupy.8 It leased the excess to private tenants.9chanrobleslaw

On 11 November 1987, President Corazon Aquino issued Memorandum Order No. 12710 revoking the reserved status of the remaining 50 hectares of the 120-hectare property. Petitioner was expressly authorized to commercialize the area and sell it to the public through bidding. President Fidel Ramos subsequently issued Executive Order No. 5811 on 15 February 1993 creating an inter-agency executive committee (Executive Committee) composed of petitioner and other government agencies to oversee the comprehensive development of the remaining 50 hectares, therein referred to as the North Triangle Property.

As respondent occupied a prime portion of the North Triangle Property, the Executive Committee proposed the transfer of respondent to areas more suitable to its operations.12chanrobleslaw

On 12 August 1994, respondent filed before the RTC a Complaint13 for injunction with prayer for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction against petitioner. Respondent sought the protection of its occupancy and possession of the property reserved for it under Proclamation No. 1670. In its Answer with Compulsory Counterclaim,14 petitioner prayed that respondent be ordered to vacate the seven-hectare area and the excess, and to pay rent therefor on top of exemplary damages, attorney's fees, and litigation expenses.

On 11 November 1994, the RTC issued a writ of preliminary injunction enjoining petitioner from causing the relocation of respondent.15 The trial court eventually issued a summary judgment on 12 February 1998 granting a final injunction over the seven-hectare area in respondent's favor.16 The court, however, reserved the determination of the counterclaim of petitioner as to the excess. Petitioner's motion for reconsideration and respondent's motion for partial reconsideration were both denied in the RTC Order dated 5 June 1998.17chanrobleslaw

Petitioner's certiorari petition was denied by the CA,18 which remanded the case to the RTC for further proceedings on the matter of petitioner's counterclaim.19 Petitioner no longer questioned the CA ruling.20 In the meantime, it recovered possession of the excess on 1 March 1999.21chanrobleslaw

Ruling of the RTC

In a Decision dated 21 January 2005,22 the RTC validated the turnover of the excess to petitioner, but disallowed the recovery of rent, exemplary damages, attorney's fees and litigation expenses.

The trial court found that respondent had leased the excess to various establishments upon authority given by Minister of Natural Resources Ernesto Maceda.23 As he had administrative control over respondent at the time, he gave it that authority to enable it to earn income to finance its operations, considering that it no longer received any donation from the national government since 1986.24chanrobleslaw

The RTC also found that respondent had protected the excess by developing it and keeping squatter syndicates from taking possession.25cralawred For that reason, the expenses it incurred for the development of the excess were more than sufficient to compensate petitioner in terms of rent.26chanrobleslaw

Aggrieved, petitioner filed an appeal before the CA.27chanrobleslaw

Ruling of the CA

In the assailed Decision dated 8 April 2008,28 the CA affirmed the RTC ruling.

The appellate court held that respondent cannot be considered an officious manager under the principle of negotiorum gestio, as the latter had not established that the excess was either abandoned or neglected by petitioner.29chanrobleslaw

As respondent possessed the excess by tolerance of petitioner, a demand to vacate was necessary to establish the reckoning point for the filing of an unlawful detainer action, as well as for the recovery of rent and damages.30 In that case, the CA found that the Executive Committee's proposal for the transfer of respondent was not a demand in contemplation of the law.31 According to the appellate court, considering that the excess was eventually surrendered by respondent to petitioner without any demand, there was no basis for the award of rent and damages in the absence of bad faith.32chanrobleslaw

Petitioner's motion for reconsideration was denied in the challenged Resolution dated 30 June 2008.33chanrobleslaw

Issue

Petitioner now comes before us raising the sole issue of whether it is entitled to recover rent, exemplary damages, attorney's fees, and litigation expenses from respondent

Our Ruling

In National Housing Authority v. CA,34 this Court upheld the usufructuary right of respondent over the seven-hectare area granted under Proclamation No. 1670. However, the Court also emphasized that the rights of respondent were circumscribed within the limits of the seven-hectare area allotted to it:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
A usufruct gives a right to enjoy the property of another with the obligation of preserving its form and substance, unless the title constituting it or the law otherwise provides. This controversy would not have arisen had [respondent] respected the limit of the beneficial use given to it. [Respondent's] encroachment of its benefactor's property gave birth to the confusion that attended this case. To put this matter entirely to rest, it is not enough to remind [petitioner] to respect [respondent's] choice of the location of its seven-hectare area. [Respondent], for its part, must vacate the area that is not part of its usufruct. [Respondent's] rights begin and end within the seven-hectare portion of its usufruct. This Court agrees with the trial court that [respondent] has abused the privilege given it under Proclamation No. 1670. The direct corollary of enforcing [respondent's] rights within the seven-hectare area is the negation of any of [respondent's] acts beyond it.35 (Emphasis supplied)
Since respondent had no right to act beyond the confines of the seven-hectare area granted to it, and since it was fully aware of this fact, its encroachment of nine additional hectares of petitioner's property rendered it a possessor in bad faith as to the excess.36chanrobleslaw

While respondent may have been allowed by then Minister of Natural Resources Ernesto Maceda to lease the excess to various establishments, such authority did not come from petitioner, who is the owner. At any rate, even if petitioner tolerated the encroachment by respondent, that fact does not change the latter's status as a possessor in bad faith. We have ruled that a person whose occupation of realty is by sheer tolerance of the owner is not a possessor in good faith.37chanrobleslaw

Under Article 549 in relation to Articles 546 and 443 of the Civil Code, a possessor in bad faith has a specific obligation to reimburse the legitimate possessor for everything that the former received, and that the latter could have received had its possession not been interrupted.38 The provisions state:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Article 549. The possessor in bad faith shall reimburse the fruits received and those which the legitimate possessor could have received, and shall have a right only to the expenses mentioned in paragraph 1 of article 546 and in article 443. The expenses incurred in improvements for pure luxury or mere pleasure shall not be refunded to the possessor in bad faith; but he may remove the objects for which such expenses have been incurred, provided that the thing suffers no injury thereby, and that the lawful possessor does not prefer to retain them by paying the value they may have at the time he enters into possession.

Article 546. Necessary expenses shall be refunded to every possessor; but only the possessor in good faith may retain the thing until he has been reimbursed therefor.

Useful expenses shall be refunded only to the possessor in good faith with the same right of retention, the person who has defeated him in the possession having the option of refunding the amount of the expenses or of paying the increase in value which the thing may have acquired by reason thereof.

Article 443. He who receives the fruits has the obligation to pay the expenses made by a third person in their production, gathering, and preservation. (Emphases supplied)
As provided in the law, respondent shall be made to account for the fruits it received from the time it took possession until the time it surrendered the excess to petitioner. Respondent has admitted that it leased out the excess to various establishments and earned profits therefrom.39 Having done so, it is bound to pay the corresponding amounts to petitioner.

Respondent, however, shall be entitled to a refund of the necessary expenses it incurred. Necessary expenses are those made for the preservation of the land occupied,40 or those without which the land would deteriorate or be lost.41 These may also include expenditures that augment the income of the land or those that are incurred for its cultivation, production, and upkeep.42chanrobleslaw

Both the CA43 and the RTC44 found that respondent had exerted efforts and expended money to develop the excess and protect it from squatter syndicates. These expenses would naturally fall under those defined as necessary expenses for which respondent, even as a possessor in bad faith, is entitled to be reimbursed.

These necessary expenses have not been itemized by respondent. On the other hand, We are not inclined to adopt the allegation of petitioner as to the amount of rental it could have received from the lease of the excess based on a professional appraisal.45 There is a need to remand the case to the RTC for the conduct of trial for the purpose of determining the amounts the parties are entitled to as laid out in this Decision.

Finally, We are constrained to deny petitioner's prayer for the award of exemplary damages. While respondent was a possessor in bad faith, there is no evidence that it acted in a wanton, fraudulent, reckless, oppressive or malevolent manner.46 The award of attorney's fees and litigation expenses to petitioner is also improper. It was not forced to litigate because of the unfounded claims of respondent. Rather, it was the latter that initiated the instant proceedings by filing the complaint for injunction before the RTC. Respondent felt that its rights over the seven-hectare area granted under Proclamation No. 1670 were being threatened by petitioner through the proposal for transfer.

WHEREFORE, the Court of Appeals Decision dated 8 April 2008 and Resolution dated 30 June 2008 in CA-G.R. CV No. 85262 are hereby SET ASIDE.

Let the case be REMANDED to the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 104, for the reception of evidence for the purpose of determining the amounts the parties are entitled to, as well as their respective rights and obligations over the excess of the seven-hectare area, from the time respondent took possession until the same was surrendered to petitioner, in accordance with Articles 549, 546, and 443 of the Civil Code.

SO ORDERED.chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

Leonardo-De Castro, Bersamin, Perlas-Bernabe, and Caguioa, JJ., concur.

Endnotes:


1Rollo, pp. 29-38. The Decision dated 8 April 2008 issued by the Court of Appeals (CA) Eleventh Division was penned by Associate Justice Apolinario D. Bruselas, Jr., with Associate Justices Rebecca de Guia-Salvador and Vicente S.E. Veloso concurring.

2 Id. at 46; dated 30 June 2008.

3 Id. at 71-81. The Decision dated 21 January 2005 was penned by Presiding Judge Thelma A. Ponferrada.

4 Id. at 30.

5 Proclamation No. 481, issued on 24 October 1968 by President Ferdinand Marcos, is entitled "Excluding from the Operation of Proclamation No. 42, dated July 5, 1954, which Established the Quezon Memorial Park, situated at Diliman, Quezon City, Certain Parcels of the Land Embraced therein and Reserving the Same for National Government Center Site Purposes."

6 Entitled "Excluding from the Operation of Proclamation No. 481, dated October 24, 1968, which Established the National Government Center Site, Situated at Diliman, Quezon City, Certain Parcels of Land Embraced therein, and Reserving the Same for the Purposes of the Manila Seedling Bank Foundation."

7Rollo, p. 30.

8 Id. at 31.

9 Id.

10 Entitled "Releasing as Reserved Site for the National Government Center the Remaining Fifty (50) Hectares of the National Housing Authority (NHA) Property Covered by Proclamation No. 481, and for Other Purposes."

11 Entitled "Creating an Inter-Agency Executive Committee to Oversee the Comprehensive Development of the National Housing Authority Property In North Triangle, Quezon City."

12Rollo, pp. 59-62.

13 Id. at 48-53.

14 Id. at 64-69.

15 Id. at 71.

16 Id. at 71-72.

17 Id. at 72.

18 Id. at 72, 75.

19 Id. at 72-73.

20 Id. at 17.

21 Id. at 79.

22 Id. at 71-81.

23 Id. at 81.

24 Id. at 80-81.

25cralawred Id.

26 Id. at 81.

27 Id. at 82-99.

28 Id. at 29-38.

29 Id. at 35-36.

30 Id.

31 Id. at 36-37.

32 Id. at 37.

33 Id. at 46.

34 495 Phil. 693 (2005).

35 Id. at 704.

36 Article 526 of the Civil Code provides:

chanRoblesvirtualLawlibraryHe is deemed a possessor in good faith who is not aware that there exists in his title or mode of acquisition any flaw which invalidates it.

He is deemed a possessor in bad faith who possesses in any case contrary to the foregoing. Mistake upon a doubtful or difficult question of law may be the basis of good faith.

37Resuena v. CA, 494 Phil. 40 (2005); Spouses Kilario v. CA, 379 Phil. 515 (2000).

38Quevada v. Glorioso, 356 Phil. 105 (1998); Director of Lands v. Palarca, 53 Phil. 147 (1929); Larena v. Villanueva, 53 Phil. 923 (1928); Lerma v. De La Cruz, 7 Phil. 581 (1907).

39Rollo, pp. 79-81.

40Alburo v. Villanueva, 7 Phil. 277 (1907).

41Mendoza v. De Guzman, 52 Phil. 164 (1928).

42 Id.

43Rollo, p. 35.

44 Id. at 81.

45 Id. at 22.

46 Art. 2232 of the Civil Code provides:

chanRoblesvirtualLawlibraryIn contracts and quasi-contracts, the court may award exemplary damages if the defendant acted in a wanton, fraudulent, reckless, oppressive, or malevolent manner.
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