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92 Solid Manila Corp v Bio Hong | Summary Judgment | Easement

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Solid Manila Corp v Bio Hong Case
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  6/27/2014 G.R. No. 90596http://www.lawphil.net/judjuris/juri1991/apr1991/gr_90596_1991.html 1/6 Today is Friday, June 27, 2014 Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT ManilaSECOND DIVISION  G.R. No. 90596 April 8, 1991SOLID MANILA CORPORATION, petitioner, vs. BIO HONG TRADING CO., INC. and COURT OF APPEALS, respondents . Balgos & Perez for petitioner. Alfredo G. de Guzman for private respondent.   SARMIENTO, J.:  p This is an appeal filed by way of a petition for review on certiorari   under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.The petitioner raises two questions: (1) whether or not the Court of Appeals 1  erred in reversing the trial court whichhad rendered summary judgment; and (2) whether or not it erred in holding that an easement had been extinguished bymerger. We rule for the petitioner on both counts.It appears that the petitioner is the owner of a parcel of land located in Ermita, Manila, covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 157750 of the Register of Deeds of Manila. The same lies in the vicinity of another parcel,registered in the name of the private respondent corporation under Transfer Certificate of Title No. 128784.The private respondent's title came from a prior owner, and in their deed of sale, the parties thereto reserved asan easement of way:. . .a portion thereof measuring NINE HUNDRED FOURTEEN SQUARE METERS, more or less, hadbeen converted into a private alley for the benefit of neighboring estates, this being duly annotated atthe back of the covering transfer Certificate of title per regulations of the Office of the City Engineer of Manila and that the three meterwide portion of said parcel along the Pasig River, with an area of ONE HUNDRED SEVENTY NINE (179) SQUARE METERS, more or less, had actually beenexpropriated by the City Government, and developed pursuant to the beautification drive of the MetroManila Governor. (p. 3, Record). 2  As a consequence, an annotation was entered in the private respondent's title, as follows:Entry No. 7712/T-5000 –– CONSTRUCTION OF PRIVATE ALLEY –– It is hereby made of record thata construction of private alley has been undertaken on the lot covered by this title from ConcepcionStreet to the interior of the aforesaid property with the plan and specification duly approved by theCity Engineer subject to the following conditions to wit: (1) That the private alley shall be at leastthree (3) meters in width; (2) That the alley shall not be closed so long as there's a building existsthereon ( sic  ); (3) That the alley shall be open to the sky; (4) That the owner of the lot on which thisprivate alley has been constituted shall construct the said alley and provide same with concretecanals as per specification of the City Engineer; (5) That the maintenance and upkeep of the alleyshall be at the expense of the registered owner; (6) That the alley shall remain open at all times, andno obstructions whatsoever shall be placed thereon; (7) That the owner of the lot on which the alleyhas been constructed shall allow the public to use the same, and allow the City to lay pipes for sewer and drainage purposes, and shall not act ( sic  ) for any indemnity for the use thereof; and (8) That he  6/27/2014 G.R. No. 90596http://www.lawphil.net/judjuris/juri1991/apr1991/gr_90596_1991.html 2/6 shall impose upon the vendee or new owner of the property the conditions abovementioned; other conditions set forth in Doc. No. 4236, Page No. 11, Book No. 84 of Nicasio P. Misa, Not. Pub. of Manila. 3 The petitioner claims that ever since, it had (as well as other residents of neighboring estates) made use of theabove private alley and maintained and contributed to its upkeep, until sometime in 1983, when, and over itsprotests, the private respondent constructed steel gates that precluded unhampered use.On December 6, 1984, the petitioner commenced suit for injunction against the private respondent, to have thegates removed and to allow full access to the easement.The court a quo shortly issued ex parte an order directing the private respondent to open the gates.Subsequently, the latter moved to have the order lifted, on the grounds that: (1) the easement referred to hasbeen extinguished by merger in the same person of the dominant and servient estates upon the purchase of theproperty from its former owner; (2) the petitioner has another adequate outlet; (3) the petitioner has not paid anyindemnity therefor; and (4) the petitioner has not shown that the right-of-way lies at the point least prejudicial tothe servient estate.The private respondent's opposition notwithstanding, the trial court issued a temporary writ of preliminaryinjunction to continue up to the final termination of the case upon its merits upon the posting of a P5,000.00 bondby the plaintiff. 4   (the petitioner herein). Thereafter, the respondent corporation answered and reiterated its above defenses.On April 15, 1986, the petitioner moved for summary judgment and the court a quo ruled on the same as follows:In view of the foregoing, this Court finds it unnecessary to try this case on the merit ( sic  ) and hereby resolve ( sic  )to grant the plaintiffs motion for summary judgment. (pp. 15-107, Record). 5 On January 19, 1987, the trial court rendered judgment against the private respondent, the dispositive portion of which states:WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered making permanent the temporary mandatory injunction,that had been issued against the defendant, and for the defendant to pay the plaintiff the costs of thissuit.The defendant's counterclaim against the plaintiff is hereby dismissed, for lack of merit. (SummaryJudgment, p. 6).  6 The private respondent appealed to the respondent Court of Appeals.Meanwhile, the private respondent itself went to the Regional Trial Court on a petition for the cancellation of theannotation in question. The court granted cancellation, for which the petitioner instituted CA-G.R. SP No. 13421 of the respondent Court of Appeals which ordered the restoration of the annotation without prejudice [to] the finaloutcome of 7   the private respondent's own appeal (subject of this petition). In reversing the trial court which had, as earlier mentioned, rendered summary judgment, the respondent Court of  Appeals held that the summary judgment was improper and that the lower court erroneously ignored the defenseset up by the private respondent that the easement in question had been extinguished. According to the AppellateCourt, an easement is a mere limitation on ownership and that it does not impair the private respondent's title,and that since the private respondent had acquired title to the property, merger brought about anextinguishment of the easement.The petitioner submits that the respondent Court of Appeals erred, because the very deed of sale executedbetween the private respondent and the previous owner of the property excluded the alley in question, and thatin any event, the intent of the parties was to retain the alley as an easement notwithstanding the sale. As already stated at the outset, the Court finds merit in the petition.There is no question that an easement, as described in the deed of sale executed between the privaterespondent and the seller, had been constituted on the private respondent's property, and has been in factannotated at the back of Transfer Certificate of Title No. 128784. Specifically, the same charged the privaterespondent as follows: (6) That the alley shall remain open at all times, and no obstructions whatsoever shall beplaced thereon; (7) That the owner of the lot on which the alley has been constructed shall allow the public to usethe same, and allow the City to lay pipes for sewer and drainage purposes, and shall not [ask] for any indemnityfor the use thereof. . . 8   Its act, therefore, of erecting steel gates across the alley was in defiance of these conditions anda violation of the deed of sale, and, of course, the servitude of way.  6/27/2014 G.R. No. 90596http://www.lawphil.net/judjuris/juri1991/apr1991/gr_90596_1991.html 3/6 The Court then is of the opinion that injunction was and is proper and in denying injunctive relief on appeal, therespondent Appellate Court committed an error of judgment and law.It is hardly the point, as the Court of Appeals held, that the private respondent is the owner of the portion on whichthe right-of-way had been established and that an easement can not impair ownership. The petitioner is notclaiming the easement or any part of the property as its own, but rather, it is seeking to have the privaterespondent respect the easement already existing thereon. The petitioner is moreover agreed that the privaterespondent has ownership, but that nonetheless, it has failed to observe the limitation or encumbrance imposedon the sameThere is therefore no question as to ownership. The question is whether or not an easement exists on theproperty, and as we indicated, we are convinced that an easement exists.It is true that the sale did include the alley. On this score, the Court rejects the petitioner's contention that thedeed of sale excluded it, because as a mere right-of-way, it can not be separated from the tenement andmaintain an independent existence. Thus: Art. 617. Easements are inseparable from the estate to which they actively or passively belong. 9 Servitudes are merely accessories to the tenements of which they form part. 10    Although they are possessed of aseparate juridical existence, as mere accessories, they can not, however, be alienated 11  from the tenement, or mortgagedseparately. 12 The fact, however, that the alley in question, as an easement, is inseparable from the main lot is no argument todefeat the petitioner's claims, because as an easement precisely, it operates as a limitation on the title of theowner of the servient estate, specifically, his right to use (  jus utendi  ). As the petitioner indeed hastens to point out, the deed itself stipulated that a portion thereof [of the tenement]measuring NINE HUNDRED FOURTEEN SQUARE METERS, more or less, had been converted into a privatealley for the benefit of the neighboring estates. . . 13   and precisely, the former owner, in conveying the property, gavethe private owner a discount on account of the easement, thus: WHEREAS, to compensate for the foregoing, the parties hereto agreed to adjust the purchase pricefrom THREE MILLION SEVEN HUNDRED NINETY THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED FORTY PESOS(P3,790,440.) to THREE MILLION FIVE HUNDRED THREE THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED FORTYPESOS (P3,503,240.00) 14 Hence, and so we reiterate, albeit the private respondent did acquire ownership over the property –– including thedisputed alley –– as a result of the conveyance, it did not acquire the right to close that alley or otherwise put upobstructions thereon and thus prevent the public from using it, because as a servitude, the alley is supposed to beopen to the public.The Court is furthermore of the opinion, contrary to that of the Court of Appeals, that no genuine merger tookplace as a consequence of the sale in favor of the private respondent corporation. According to the Civil Code, amerger exists when ownership of the dominant and servient estates is consolidated in the same person. 15  Merger then, as can be seen, requires full ownership of both estates. One thing ought to be noted here, however. The servitude in question is a personal servitude, that is to say, oneconstituted not in favor of a particular tenement (a real servitude) but rather, for the benefit of the general public.Personal servitudes are referred to in the following article of the Civil Code: Art. 614. Servitudes may also be established for the benefit of a community, or of one or morepersons to whom the encumbered estate does not belong. 16 In a personal servitude, there is therefore no owner of a dominant tenement to speak of, and the easementpertains to persons without a dominant estate, 17   in this case, the public at large. Merger, as we said, presupposes the existence of a prior servient-dominant owner relationship, and thetermination of that relation leaves the easement of no use. Unless the owner conveys the property in favor of thepublic –– if that is possible –– no genuine merger can take place that would terminate a personal easement.For this reason, the trial court was not in error in rendering summary judgment, and insofar as the respondentCourt of Appeals held that it (the trial court) was in error, the Court of Appeals is in error.Summary judgments under Rule 34 of the Rules of Court are proper where there is no genuine issue as to the  6/27/2014 G.R. No. 90596http://www.lawphil.net/judjuris/juri1991/apr1991/gr_90596_1991.html 4/6 existence of a material fact, and the facts appear undisputed based on the pleadings, depositions, admissions,and affidavits of record. 18  In one case, this Court upheld a decision of the trial court rendered by summary judgment on aclaim for money to which the defendant interposed the defense of payment but which failed to produce receipts. 19   We heldthat under the circumstances, the defense was not genuine but rather, sham, and which justified a summary judgment. Inanother case, we rejected the claim of acquisitive prescription over registered property and found it likewise to be sham, andsustained consequently, a summary judgment rendered because the title challenged was covered by a Torrens Certificateand under the law, Torrens titles are imprescriptible. 20 We also denied reconveyance in one case and approved a summary judgment rendered thereon, on the groundthat from the records, the plaintiffs were clearly guilty of laches having failed to act until after twenty-sevenyears. 21   We likewise allowed summary judgment and rejected contentions of economic hardship as an excuse for avoidingpayment under a contract for the reason that the contract imposed liability under any and all conditions. 22 In the case at bar, the defense of merger is, clearly, not a valid defense, indeed, a sham one, because as wesaid, merger is not possible, and secondly, the sale unequivocally preserved the existing easement. In other words, the answer does not, in reality, tender any genuine issue on a material fact and can not militate against thepetitioner's clear cause of action. As this Court has held, summary judgments are meant to rid a proceeding of the ritual of a trial where, fromexisting records, 23   the facts have been established, and trial would be futile. What indeed, argues against the posturing of the private respondent –– and consequently, the challenged holdingof the respondent Court of Appeals as well –– is the fact that the Court of Appeals itself had rendered judgment,in its CA-G.R. No. 13421, entitled Solid Manila Corporation v  .  Ysrael  , in which it nullified the cancellation of theeasement annotated at the back of the private respondent's certificate of title ordered by Judge Ysrael in LRCCase No. 273. As the petitioner now in fact insists, the Court of Appeals' judgment, which was affirmed by thisCourt in its Resolution dated December 14, 1988, in G.R. No. 83540, is at least, the law of the case between theparties, as law of the case is known in law, e.g.:xxx xxx xxxLaw of the case has been defined as the opinion delivered on a former appeal. More specifically, itmeans that whatever is once irrevocably established as the controlling legal rule of decision betweenthe same parties in the same case continues to be the law of the case, whether correct on generalprinciples or not, so long as the facts on which such decision was predicated continue to be the factsof the case before the court. (21 C.J.S. 330) (Emphasis supplied).It may be stated as a rule of general application that, where the evidence on a second or succeedingappeal is substantially the same as that on the first or preceding appeal, all matters, questions,points, or issues adjudicated on the prior appeal are the law of the case on all subsequent appealsand will not be considered or readjudicated therein. (5 C.J.S. 1267) (Emphasis supplied.)In accordance with the general rule stated in Section 1821, where, after a definite determination, thecourt has remanded the cause for further action below, it will refuse to examine question other thanthose arising subsequently to such determination and remand, or other than the propriety of thecompliance with its mandate; and if the court below has proceeded in substantial conformity to thedirections of the appellate court, its action will not be questioned on a second appeal. As a general rule a decision on a prior appeal of the same case is held to be the law of the casewhether that decision is right or wrong, the remedy of the party deeming himself aggrieved being toseek a rehearing. (5 C.J.S. 1276-77). (Emphasis supplied.)Questions necessarily involved in the decision on a former appeal will be regarded as the law of thecase on a subsequent appeal, although the questions are not expressly treated in the opinion of thecourt, as the presumption is that all the facts in the case bearing on the point decided have receiveddue consideration whether all or none of them are mentioned in the opinion. (5 C.J.S. 1286-87).(Emphasis supplied.) 24 CA-G.R. No. 13421 is the law of the case because clearly, it was brought to determine the rights of the partiesregarding the easement, subject of the controversy in this case, although as a petition for cancellation of annotation it may have, at a glance, suggested a different cause of action. And for reasons of fair play, the private respondent can not validly reject CA-G.R. No. 13421 as the law of thecase, after all, it was the one that initiated the cancellation proceedings with the Regional Trial Court in LRC No.273 that precipitated that appeal. In the second place, the proceedings for cancellation of annotation was in factmeant to preempt the injunction decreed by the lower court in this case. Plainly and simply, the private
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