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Villarico vs. Sarmiento or leased or otherwise be the subject matter of respondents herein, had a building constructed on a
contracts; (2) cannot be acquired by prescription portion of said government land. In November that
G.R. No. 136438. November 11, 2004.* against the State; (3) is not subject to attachment and same year, a part thereof was occupied by Andok’s
TEOFILO C. VILLARICO, petitioner, vs. VIVENCIO execution; and (4) cannot be burdened by any Litson Corporation and Marites’ Carinderia, also
SARMIENTO, SPOUSES BESSIE SARMIENTO-DEL voluntary easement. Considering that the lot on which impleaded as respondents.
MUNDO & BETH DEL MUNDO, ANDOK’S LITSON the stairways were constructed is a property of public
dominion, it can not be burdened by a voluntary In 1993, by means of a Deed of Exchange of Real
CORPORATION and MARITES’ CARINDERIA, Property, petitioner acquired a 74.30 square meter
respondents. easement of right of way in favor of herein petitioner. In
fact, its use by the public is by mere tolerance of the portion of the same area owned by the government.
Property; Ownership; Possession; Easements; government through the DPWH. Petitioner cannot The property was registered in his name as T.C.T. No.
Right of Way; Words and Phrases; A lot on which appropriate it for himself. Verily, he can not claim any 74430 in the Registry of Deeds of Parañaque City.
stairways were built for the use of the people as right of possession over it. In 1995, petitioner filed with the RTC, Branch 259,
passageway to the highway is property of public Parañaque City, a complaint for accion
dominion; Public use is “use that is not confined to SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.:
publicianaagainst respondents, docketed as Civil Case
privileged individuals, but is open to the indefinite Before us is a petition for review on certiorari of the No. 95-044. He alleged inter alia that respondents’
public.”—It is not disputed that the lot on which Decision1 of the Court of Appeals dated December 7, structures on the government land closed his “right of
petitioner’s alleged “right of way” exists belongs to the 1998 in CA-G.R. CV No. 54883, affirming in toto the way” to the Ninoy Aquino Avenue; and encroached on
state or property of public dominion. Property of public Decision2 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of a portion of his lot covered by T.C.T. No. 74430.
dominion is defined by Article 420 of the Civil Code as Parañaque City, Branch 259, dated November 14,
follows: “ART. 420. The following things are property of 1996, in Civil Case No. 95-044. Respondents, in their answer, specifically denied
public dominion: petitioner’s allegations, claiming that they have been
The facts of this case, as gleaned from the findings of issued licenses and permits by Parañaque City to
(1) Those intended for public use such as roads, the Court of Appeals, are: construct their buildings on the area; and that petitioner
canals, rivers, torrents, ports and bridges constructed has no right over the subject property as it belongs to
by the State, banks, shores, roadsteads, and other of Teofilo C. Villarico, petitioner, is the owner of a lot in La the government.
similar character. Huerta, Parañaque City, Metro Manila with an area of
sixty-six (66) square meters and covered by Transfer After trial, the RTC rendered its Decision, the
(2) Those which belong to the State, without being for Certificate of Title (T.C.T.) No. 95453 issued by the dispositive portion of which reads:
public use, and are intended for some public service or Registry of Deeds, same city.
for the development of the national wealth.” Public use “WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is
is “use that is not confined to privileged individuals, but Petitioner’s lot is separated from the Ninoy Aquino hereby rendered:
is open to the indefinite public.” Records show that the Avenue (highway) by a strip of land belonging to the
lot on which the stairways were built is for the use of government. As this highway was elevated by four (4) 1. 1.Declaring the defendants to have a better
the people as passageway to the highway. meters and therefore higher than the adjoining areas, right of possession over the subject land except the
Consequently, it is a property of public dominion. the Department of Public Works and Highways portion thereof covered by Transfer Certificate of Title
(DPWH) constructed stairways at several portions of No. 74430 of the Register of Deeds of Parañaque;
Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; Property of this strip of public land to enable the people to have
public dominion is outside the commerce of man 2. 2.Ordering the defendants to vacate the
access to the highway. portion of the subject premises described in Transfer
and hence cannot be burdened by any voluntary
easement.—Property of public dominion is outside the Sometime in 1991, Vivencio Sarmiento, his daughter Certificate of Title No. 74430 and gives its possession
commerce of man and hence it: (1) cannot be alienated Bessie Sarmiento and her husband Beth Del Mundo, to plaintiff; and
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3. 3.Dismissing the claim for damages of the III THE HON. COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN 2. (2)Those which belong to the State, without
plaintiff against the defendants, and likewise CONCLUDING THAT ACCION PUBLICIANA IS NOT being for public use, and are intended for some public
dismissing the claim for attorney’s fees of the latter THE PROPER REMEDY IN THE CASE AT BAR. service or for the development of the national wealth.”
against the former.
IV sTHE HON. COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN Public use is “use that is not confined to privileged
Without pronouncement as to costs. CONCLUDING THAT THE EXISTENCE OF THE individuals, but is open to the indefinite
PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT’S RIGHT OF WAY DOES public.”6Records show that the lot on which the
SO ORDERED.”3 NOT CARRY POSSESSION OVER THE SAME. stairways were built is for the use of the people as
The trial court found that petitioner has never been in passageway to the highway. Consequently, it is a
V. THE HON. COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN NOT property of public dominion.
possession of any portion of the public land in question. RESOLVING THE ISSUE OF WHO HAS THE
On the contrary, the defendants are the ones who have BETTER RIGHT OF POSSESSION OVER THE Property of public dominion is outside the commerce of
been in actual possession of the area. According to the SUBJECT LAND BETWEEN THE PLAINTIFF- man and hence it: (1) cannot be alienated or leased or
trial court, petitioner was not deprived of his “right of APPELLANT AND THE DEFENDANT-APPELLEES.”5 otherwise be the subject matter of contracts; (2) cannot
way” as he could use the Kapitan Tinoy Street as be acquired by prescription against the State; (3) is not
passageway to the highway. In their comment, respondents maintain that the Court subject to attachment and execution; and (4) cannot be
of Appeals did not err in ruling that petitioner’s action burdened by any voluntary easement.7
On appeal by petitioner, the Court of Appeals issued its for accion publiciana is not the proper remedy in
Decision affirming the trial court’s Decision in toto,thus: asserting his “right of way” on a lot owned by the Considering that the lot on which the stairways were
“WHEREFORE, the judgment hereby appealed from is government. constructed is a property of public dominion, it can not
hereby AFFIRMED in toto, with costs against the be burdened by a voluntary easement of right of way in
Here, petitioner claims that respondents, by favor of herein petitioner. In fact, its use by the public
plaintiff-appellant. constructing their buildings on the lot in question, have is by mere tolerance of the government through the
SO ORDERED.”4 deprived him of his “right of way” and his right of DPWH. Petitioner cannot appropriate it for himself.
possession over a considerable portion of the same lot, Verily, he can not claim any
In this petition, petitioner ascribes to the Court of which portion is covered by his T.C.T. No. 74430 he
Appeals the following assignments of error: acquired by means of exchange of real property. _______________
“I - THE FINDINGS OF FACT OF THE HON. COURT It is not disputed that the lot on which petitioner’s 6 US vs. Tan Piaco, 40 Phil. 853, 856 (1920).
OF APPEALS CONTAINED A CONCLUSION alleged “right of way” exists belongs to the state or
WITHOUT CITATION OF SPECIFIC EVIDENCE ON property of public dominion. Property of public 7 Tolentino II, Civil Code (1992 ed.), pp. 31-32.
WHICH THE SAME WAS BASED. dominion is defined by Article 420 of the Civil Code as right of possession over it. This is clear from Article 530
follows: of the Civil Code which provides:
II THE HON. COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN
CONSIDERING THAT THE ONLY ISSUE IN THIS “ART. 420. The following things are property of public “ART. 530. Only things and rights which are
CASE IS WHETHER OR NOT THE PLAINTIFF- dominion: susceptible of being appropriated may be the object of
APPELLANT HAS ACQUIRED A RIGHT OF WAY possession.”
OVER THE LAND OF THE GOVERNMENT WHICH IS 1. (1)Those intended for public use such as
BETWEEN HIS PROPERTY AND THE NINOY roads, canals, rivers, torrents, ports and bridges Accordingly, both the trial court and the Court of
AQUINO AVENUE. constructed by the State, banks, shores, roadsteads, Appeals erred in ruling that respondents have better
and other of similar character. right of possession over the subject lot.
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However, the trial court and the Court of Appeals found right of way where the Certificate of Title covering said
that defendants’ buildings were constructed on the parcel of land contained a reservation granting the
portion of the same lot now covered by T.C.T. No. government a right of way over the land covered
74430 in petitioner’s name. Being its owner, he is therein. (National Irrigation Administration vs. Court of
entitled to its possession. Appeals, 340 SCRA 661 [2000])

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The assailed ——


Decision of the Court of Appeals dated December 7,
1998 in CA-G.R. CV No. 54883 is AFFIRMED with
MODIFICATION in the sense that neither petitioner nor
respondents have a right of possession over the
disputed lot where the stairways were built as it is a
property of public dominion. Costs against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

Panganiban (Chairman), Carpio-Morales and


Garcia, JJ., concur.

Corona, J., On Leave.

Petition denied, assailed decision affirmed with


modification.

Notes.—The word “passage” does not “clearly and


unmistakably” convey a meaning that includes a right
to install water pipes on the access road since the
ordinary meaning of the word is that it is “the act or
action of passing; movement or transference from one
place or point to another,” and its legal meaning is not
different, which is the “act of passing; transit;
transition.” (Prosperity Credit Resources, Inc. vs. Court
of Appeals, 301 SCRA 52 [1999])

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VOL. 442, NOVEMBER 11, 2004 117

Estrada vs. Court of Appeals

The National Irrigation Administration is under no


obligation to pay just compensation for the taking of a
portion of a private property for use as easement of