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23 Phil. 54

[ G.R. No. 6610, August 24, 1912 ]




The subject matter of this suit is a piece of land formerly covered by the  water of the river that runs between Vigan and Bantay, pueblos of the Province of IIocos Sur, and now dry, for the river has changed its course toward the north of the town of Vigan.   The plaintiffs, as successors in interest of Mariano Villanueva, now deceased, claim that the said land, which  comprises approximately IS ares and is occupied by Valeriano Claustro, belongs to them and demand ownership or possession, thereof.  At first, suit  was also brought against  Victoriana de la Cruz, but as she recognized the plaintiffs' ownership, the action was maintained only against Valeriano Claustro.
Valeriano Claustro,  in  his written answer under date of March 21, 1910, alleged as a special defense that he and his wife, Isabel Bivera, had been  in possession of the said land publicly and peaceably for twenty years, without interruption.
Mariano Anete,  a  man  62 years old, a witness for the defendant, testified that the lot in  question had  formerly been covered with water, but was gradually converted into dry land as the  result of floods,  then shrubs and castoroil plants grew on it and  as soon as it  could be occupied, the defendant took it and built his house on it  Witness did not know why the latter occupied the land, nor under what  conditions  he went  there,  and further stated that the lot of the Villanuevas, the plaintiffs, lay south of it.
Two other witnesses of the defendant, as well as his wife, Isabel  Rivera, testified  that the land in question was the bed of the river that ran  behind  the masonry wall of the house of the Villanuevas and that about thirty years ago (they testified on April 28, 1910) it had become dry, because the river had taken a more northerly course.  Isabel Rivera herself, wife of  the defendant, testified that as she and her husband had no lot they occupied the land mentioned and there built their house, which was several  times washed away by the water during the freshets of the river, and that at  that time the house  of the other defendant, Victorina de la Cruz  (excluded  from the complaint, as aforestated)  was next to hers.  All these witnesses testified to a possession of some twenty-three years on the part of the  defendant, and his  wife  specifically stated that they considered themselves owners of the lot, merely because they had cleared it.

The defendant, however, in a complaint filed before  the justice of the peace court against Agustin Teano for  recovery of possession, averred on May 11, 1905, that he had been in possession of the land for ten  years; so that, in March, 1910, he could only establish a possession of fifteen years.

The following facts are admitted and well proved:  (1) That the plaintiffs are the legitimate successors in interest of Mariano Villanueva;  and (2) tfiat Mariano Villanueva is the recognized owner of the real property which was bounded on  the north  by the river that runs  between Vigan and Bantay, and now by the land  in question, which was abandoned by the river on account  of its flowing farther to the north where its normal channel has now been for more than thirty years.
It is superfluous to consider  the evidence which the plaintiffs have presented by means of three witnesses, relative to the possession,  claimed  by them to  be precarious,  of the defendant, through mere tolerance on the part of Mariano Villanueva, it being sufficient that  the plaintiffs presented the ownership title of their land adjoining the river, acquired on December 2, 1868, which states "that the said land is bounded on the north by  the  river which runs through this part of the town."

The Court of First Instance of  Uocos Sur  decided the suit  by finding the plaintiffs  to be  the  legitimate owners of the tract  of land claimed  and  described in the  complaint, and by sentencing the defendant, Valeriano Claustro, to quit the land and deliver  it to the plaintiffs,  without special finding as to costs.

Having heard the appeal raised  by the  defendant with a statement of the errors  assigned to the judgment appealed from, the following considerations arise:

First.  The law provides that the beds of rivers which remain abandoned because the  course of the water has naturally changed belong to the owners of the riparian lands throughout their respective lengths (Civ. Cod., art. 370). If, according to the defendant's witnesses, the land disputed was the old bed  of the  river,  which remained abandoned because the course of the water had naturally changed, it belongs to the owner of the riparian  land that bordered on the river, who, according to these same witnesses, was Mariano Villanueva, and whose lot, inclosed by a wall, was bounded on the north by the said river on the date the land was acquired, December 2, 1868.

Second.  The right in  re to  the principal is likewise a right in re to the accessory, as it  is a mode of acquisition, provided by law, as the result of the  right of accretion, since the  accessory follows  the nature of the principal, and there need not be any tendency to the thing or manifestation of the purpose to subject it to our ownership, as it is subject thereto ipso jure from the moment the mode of acquisition becomes  evident   If, according to the  defendant's witnesses, more than thirty years had elapsed since the river had abandoned its old bed, for more than thirty years such abandoned river bed had fallen to the private ownership  of Mariano Villanueva,  even  without any formal act of his will; no one else since then could occupy it except as a trespasser.

Third. The occupation of a  thing belonging to  another may lead  to another mode1 of acquisition, which is  the prescription of ownership, whenever the possession of such thing under ordinary prescription,  which is  that alleged of twenty  years, is accompanied  by the  other requisites prescribed  by law,  such as  good faith,  proper title and legal period of time (Civ. Cod.,  art. 1940).   But in  the present case a proper title for possession  is entirely lacking,  inasmuch as the only one alleged  by the defendant's wife, to wit, that they  had  no other  lot than that they cleared the land in question,  is not a proper title, nor any title at all. Mere occupation is not a  title of acquisition except when it concerns "things which can be; appropriated by reason of their nature, which have  no  owners,  such as animals which are the object of hunting and fishing, hidden treasure, and abandoned property."   (Civ. Cod., art. 610.)

Fourth. If, pursuant  to section 41 of Act No. 190, Code of Civil Procedure, occupation of real  property may constitute a title of ownership by prescription after the lapse of ten years, yet these  ten years must be "after this Act comes  into effect" (Id., sec. 38); and for the purposes of the enforcement of the Act,  it is not understood  to have come  into effect  until  October  1, 1901,  though  it really appears to have been  passed on August 31, 1901, and from then, 1901, to August 20, 1909, when this suit was commenced, the said ten years did not elapse.

By no mode or title of acquisition whatever has the defendant been  able to acquire  ownership  of  the  land  in question, which, by express provision of the law, belonged to the plaintiffs as the  legitimate successors in  interest of Mariano Villanueva.

The judgment appealed from is affirmed, with the costs of this instance upon  the appellant.  So ordered.

Torres, Mapa, Johnson, Carson, and  Trent, JJ., concur.