G.R. No. 194488. February 11, 2015.
Leonen, J., Ponente

FACTS

Petitioner Alicia B. Reyes, filed a complaint with RTC – Malolos for easement of right of way against respondents, Spouses Francisco S. Valentin and Anatalia Ramos. She alleged that respondents’ 1,500-square-meter property surrounded her property, and that it was the only adequate outlet from her property to the highway. She also insisted that her property was not isolated because of her own acts but because her uncle, Dominador, who was her mother’s caretaker of property allegedly with fraud caused the titling of the whole 1,500-square-meter property instead of just the 500-square-meter portion under his name.

The respondents contended that the isolation of petitioner’s property was due to her mother’s own act of subdividing the property among her children without regard to the pendency of an agrarian case between her and her tenants. The property chosen by petitioner as easement was also the most burdensome for respondents. Respondents pointed to an open space that connected petitioner’s property to another public road.

Petitioner further argued, citing Quimen v. Court of Appeals, that “[t]he owner of the dominant estate can demand a right of way through the servient estate provided he indemnifies the owner thereof for the beneficial use of his property.”

ISSUE/S

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  1. Whether or not the issue of ownership is irrelevant to the case
  2. Whether or not Petitioner failed to satisfy the Civil Code requirements for the grant of easement rights

RULING

Ruling of the Regional Trial Court
The trial court dismissed the complaint for easement of right of way, finding that that petitioner’s proposed right of way was not the least onerous to the servient estate of respondents. 

Ruling of the Court of Appeals:
The Court of Appeals denied the petitioner’s appeal and affirmed in toto the Regional Trial Court’s Decision. Petitioner failed to discharge the burden of proving the existence of the requisites for the grant of easement. The Court of Appeals also found that petiti

Petitioner’s Motion for Reconsideration was also denied.oner’s property had an adequate outlet to the public road.

Ruling of the SC:
1. Yes. Filing of a complaint for easement is a recognition of the servient property owner’s rights. Petitioner’s act of filing a Complaint for easement of right of way is an acknowledgment that the property is owned by respondents. It is tantamount to a waiver of whatever right or claim of ownership petitioner had over the property.
2. Yes. The petitioners failed to satisfy the requirements for an easement of right of way under Articles 649 and 650 of the Civil Code which provide the requisites of an easement of right of way.

Based on these provisions, the following requisites need to be established before a person becomes entitled to demand the compulsory easement of right of way:

1. An immovable is surrounded by other immovables belonging to other persons, and is without adequate outlet to a public highway;

2. Payment of proper indemnity by the owner of the surrounded immovable;

3. The isolation of the immovable is not due to its owner’s acts; and

4. The proposed easement of right of way is established at the point least prejudicial to the servient estate, and insofar as consistent with this rule, where the distance of the dominant estate to a public highway may be the shortest.

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An easement of right of way is a real right. When an easement of right of way is granted to another person, the rights of the property’s owner are limited. An owner may not exercise some of his or her property rights for the benefit of the person who was granted the easement of right of way. Hence, the burden of proof to show the existence of the above conditions is imposed on the person who seeks the easement of right of way. 

The petitioner failed to establish that there was no adequate outlet to the public highway and that the proposed easement was the least prejudicial to respondents’ estate. There is an adequate exit to a public highway. This court explained in Dichoso, Jr. v. Marcos  that the convenience of the dominant estate’s owner is not the basis for granting an easement of right of way, especially if the owner’s needs may be satisfied without imposing the easement.

Based on the Ocular Inspection Report, petitioner’s property had another outlet to the highway. In between her property and the highway or road, however, is an irrigation canal, which can be traversed by constructing a bridge, similar to what was done by the owners of the nearby properties.

DOCTRINE
Article 650 of the Civil Code provides that in determining the existence of an easement of right of way, the requirement of “least prejudice to the servient estate” trumps “distance [between] the dominant estate [and the] public highway.”

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