RELOVA v. LAVAREZ- Easement and Servitude
The enjoyment of the plaintiff of an easement for the maintenance of an irrigation aqueduct and a dam on the lands of defendant for a period of more than 20 years confers title thereto upon the plaintiff by virtue of prescription and burdens the lands of the defendants with a corresponding servitude.
The plaintiff is the owner of a tract of rice land which is cultivated with the aid of water brought from a river through an aqueduct which passes over the land of the defendants. This was by virtue of an easement the use of which had been with the plaintiff for more than thirty years. On the land of the defendants there was a dam with a small gate or aperture in its face which was used to control the flow of the water in the aqueduct, by permitting a greater or less quantity to escape in a drainage ditch, also on the land of the defendants.
One of the defendants completely destroyed the dam and let all the water escape by the drainage ditch, so that none flowed on the land of the plaintiff. At the time when the dam was destroyed the plaintiff had some five cavanes of land prepared to plant rice, but because of the escape of the water resulting from the destruction of the dam he was unable to raise his crop. Defendants claim that the plaintiff is not the owner of any lands watered by the aqueduct of the class known as padagat (rice lands planted in May). It was also alleged that the plaintiff suffered no damage by the destruction of the dam, because all the lands of plaintiff which are cultivated with the aid of water from the aqueduct are of the class known as binanbang (rice lands planted in August or September), and the destruction of the dam in May and the consequent failure of water in the aqueduct at that period did not, and could not, damage the plaintiff or interfere with the proper cultivation of his lands.
Lastly, defendants say that that the evidence on record does not establish the existence of the servitude in the lands of the defendants in favor of the lands of the plaintiff landowner for the maintenance of the aqueduct and dam in question.
Whether or not there was a valid servitude between the parties.
Save for the issue on the existence of the servitude, all other allegations of defendants were outrightly disregarded as they were clearly unmeritorious in light of the findings of fact. However, the Court ruled that there was a valid easement in light of the fact that the aqueduct and the dam had been in existence for more than 30 years, during which time the plaintif had exercised its use. It was alleged that no benefit was granted to the plaintiff since his (plaintiff's) land is situated higher than defendants' land. Moreover, even if defendants had the right to open the gates of the dam to prevent destructive overflow upon their land, this does not give them the right to stop the flow of water altogether.