G.R. No. L-10619. February 28, 1958 (Case Brief / Digest)

### **Title: Ronquillo et al. vs. Roco et al.**

### **Facts:**

This case originated in Camarines Sur’s Court of First Instance when plaintiffs Leogario Ronquillo and others filed an amended and supplemental complaint against defendants Jose Roco, as the administrator of Vicente Roco’s estate, and others. The plaintiffs claimed they had a private legal easement of a road right of way over the defendants’ land which they used for over 20 years to access Igualdad Street and the market place of Naga City. However, Jose Roco and others were accused of obstructing this right of way by first constructing a chapel in May 1953 and then physically blocking the path with wooden posts and barbed wire in July 1954. The trial court dismissed the complaint on a motion from the defendants, stating that it did not state a cause of action based on the premise that an easement of right of way, being discontinuous, cannot be acquired through prescription. The plaintiffs appealed directly to the Supreme Court, citing this as a question of law.

### **Issues:**

1. Can an easement of right of way be acquired through prescription?

### **Court’s Decision:**

The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of First Instance, holding that, based on the provisions of both the Old and New Civil Codes, an easement of right of way is discontinuous and cannot be acquired through prescription but only by virtue of a title. The Court cited various articles and commentaries, including those by legal scholars Manresa and Sanchez Roman, affirming that discontinuous easements, such as the right of way, depend on human acts and thus cannot be enjoyed incessantly, defining their discontinuous nature. Despite acknowledgment of different perspectives, including differing case law and opinions within the judiciary that suggested possible prescription under certain conditions, the majority opinion remained that under the prevailing Civil Codes, the law does not support the acquisition of right of way through prescription.

### **Doctrine:**

This case reiterated the doctrine that continuous and apparent easements can be acquired either by title or prescription, but continuous non-apparent easements and discontinuous easements, whether apparent or not, can only be acquired by virtue of a title. Moreover, it was highlighted that an easement of right of way is classified as a discontinuous easement and, therefore, cannot be acquired through prescription according to the Old and New Civil Codes of the Philippines.

### **Class Notes:**

– **Easements**: A right by which one land (“dominant estate”) benefits from another land (“servient estate”).
– **Classification of Easements**: (1) Continuous and Discontinuous; (2) Apparent and Non-Apparent.
– **Continuous Easements**: Use is or can be incessant without any human act.
– **Discontinuous Easements**: Their use is intermittent and relies on human acts.
– **Prescription**: A way of acquiring rights or freeing oneself from obligations through the passage of time.
– **Continuous and Apparent Easements**: Can be acquired through title or prescription.
– **Continuous Non-Apparent and Discontinuous Easements**: Can only be acquired through a title.
– **Relevant Articles**: Articles 532, 537, 539, 615, 620, and 622 of the Civil Code discussing easements and their acquisition.
– **Key Case Law**: This decision emphasizes that a discontinuous easement, such as the right of way, cannot be acquired through prescription under the current Philippine Civil Codes.

### **Historical Background:**

This case reflects the judicial application and interpretation of the Civil Code provisions regarding easements and the acquisition thereof in the Philippines. The discussion and divergence in judicial opinions highlight the evolving nature of property rights law and its adaptability to societal needs and historical contexts. The contention over easement rights and their acquisition through prescription underlines the balance between longstanding use of property and formal legal title recognition, a balance that is continually negotiated through case law in various jurisdictions, including the Philippines.


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