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April 30, 2014

Catholic Vicar vs. CA

Date: September 31, 1988

Facts:
-  1962: Catholic Vicar Apostolic of the Mountain Province (Vicar), petitioner, filed with the court an application for the registration of title over lots 1, 2, 3 and 4 situated in Poblacion Central, Benguet, said lots being used as sites of the Catholic Church, building, convents, high school building, school gymnasium, dormitories, social hall and stonewalls.
- 1963: Heirs of Juan Valdez and Heirs of Egmidio Octaviano claimed that they have ownership over lots 1, 2 and 3. (2 separate civil cases)
- 1965: The land registration court confirmed the registrable title of Vicar to lots 1 , 2, 3 and 4. Upon appeal by the private respondents (heirs), the decision of the lower court was reversed. Title for lots 2 and 3 were cancelled.
- VICAR filed with the Supreme Court a petition for review on certiorari of the decision of the Court of Appeals dismissing his  application for registration of Lots 2 and 3.
- During trial, the Heirs of Octaviano presented one (1) witness, who testified on the alleged ownership of the land in question (Lot 3) by their predecessor-in-interest, Egmidio Octaviano; his written demand to Vicar for the return of the land to them; and the reasonable rentals for the use of the land at P10,000 per month. On the other hand, Vicar presented the Register of Deeds for the Province of Benguet, Atty. Sison, who testified that the land in question is not covered by any title in the name of Egmidio Octaviano or any of the heirs. Vicar dispensed with the testimony of Mons. Brasseur when the heirs admitted that the witness if called to the witness stand, would testify that Vicar has been in possession of Lot 3, for 75 years continuously and peacefully and has constructed permanent structures thereon.

Issue: WON Vicar had been in possession of lots 2 and 3 merely as bailee borrower in commodatum, a gratuitous loan for use.

Held: YES. 

Private respondents were able to prove that their predecessors' house was borrowed by petitioner Vicar after the church and the convent were destroyed. They never asked for the return of the house, but when they allowed its free use, they became bailors in commodatum and the petitioner the bailee. 

The bailees' failure to return the subject matter of commodatum to the bailor did not mean adverse possession on the part of the borrower. The bailee held in trust the property subject matter of commodatum. The adverse claim of petitioner came only in 1951 when it declared the lots for taxation purposes. The action of petitioner Vicar by such adverse claim could not ripen into title by way of ordinary acquisitive prescription because of the absence of just title.

The Court of Appeals found that petitioner Vicar did not meet the requirement of 30 years possession for acquisitive prescription over Lots 2 and 3. Neither did it satisfy the requirement of 10 years possession for ordinary acquisitive prescription because of the absence of just title. The appellate court did not believe the findings of the trial court that Lot 2 was acquired from Juan Valdez by purchase and Lot 3 was acquired also by purchase from Egmidio Octaviano by petitioner Vicar because there was absolutely no documentary evidence to support the same and the alleged purchases were never mentioned in the application for registration.

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