ALCANTARA V. RETA, 372 SCRA 364 - Personal Easement
Construction of a house on the lot of another to facilitate the utilization of usufruct may constitute as personal easement pursuant to Article 614.
Edilberto Alcantara et. al. filed with the RTC, Davao City a complaint against Cornelio B. Reta, Jr. for the exercise of the right of first refusal under Presidential Decree No. 1517, injunction with preliminary injunction, attorney's fees and nullity of amicable settlement.
Alcantara et. al. claimed that they were tenants or lessees of the land; that the land has been converted by Reta into a commercial center; and that Reta is threatening to eject them from the land. They assert that they have the right of first refusal to purchase the land in accordance with Section 3(g) of Presidential Decree No. 1517 since they are legitimate tenants or lessees thereof.
They also claimed that the amicable settlement executed between Reta and Ricardo Roble was void ab initio for being violative of Presidential Decree No. 1517.
Whether petitioners have the right of first refusal under Presidential Decree No. 1517.
No right of first refusal. The area involved has not been proclaimed an Urban Land Reform Zone (ULRZ). In fact, Alcantara et. al. filed a petition with the National Housing Authority requesting that the land they were occupying be declared as an ULRZ. On May 27, 1986, the request was referred to Mr. Jose L. Atienza, General Manager, National Housing Authority, for appropriate action. The request was further referred to acting mayor Zafiro Respicio, Davao City, as per 2nd Indorsement dated July 1, 1986. Clearly, the request to have the land proclaimed as an ULRZ would not be necessary if the property was an ULRZ.
Presidential Decree No. 1517, otherwise known as "The Urban Land Reform Act," pertains to areas proclaimed as Urban Land Reform Zones.11 Consequently, petitioners cannot claim any right under the said law since the land involved is not an ULRZ.
To be able to qualify and avail oneself of the rights and privileges granted by the said decree, one must be: (1) a legitimate tenant of the land for ten (10) years or more; (2) must have built his home on the land by contract; and, (3) has resided continuously for the last ten (10) years. Obviously, those who do not fall within the said category cannot be considered "legitimate tenants" and, therefore, not entitled to the right of first refusal to purchase the property should the owner of the land decide to sell the same at a reasonable price within a reasonable time.
Respondent Reta allowed petitioner Ricardo Roble to use sixty-two (62) coconut trees for P186 from where he gathered tuba. This arrangement would show that it is a usufruct and not a lease. 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.
Petitioner Roble was allowed to construct his house on the land because it would facilitate his gathering of tuba. This would be in the nature of a personal easement under Article 614 of the Civil Code.
Whether the amicable settlement is valid or not, the conclusion would still be the same since the agreement was one of usufruct and not of lease. Thus, petitioner Roble is not a legitimate tenant as defined by Presidential Decree No. 1517.