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Gregorio Amante vs
471 SCRA 348
Danilo Bicomong, a plant supervisor of Amante Motors, was the registered owner of a 1990 Isuzu Jitney. In 1992, he sold the vehicle to respondent Bibiano Serwelas for P200,000 in a deed of absolute sale. The respondent had the vehicle registered in his name, which was later used as a common carrier, on a boundary system.
On December 9, 1993, the vehicle was seized by the police highway patrol group in General Mariano Alvarez, Cavite without a warrant, upon the request of petitioner Gregorio Amante, the manager of Amante Motors. The vehicle was brought to Camp Vicente Lim in Laguna and, after being subjected to macro-etching examination by SPO1 Elfin B. Rico of the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory Service, was later released to petitioner Gregorio Amante.
Despite respondent's demand, Gregorio Amante refused to return the vehicle. Hence, respondent instituted a replevin suit with the trial court. Asserting ownership of the vehicle, petitioner Vicente Amante, the proprietor of Amante Motors, intervened in the suit. But the trial court rendered a decision stating that respondent Serwelas is the lawful owner of the vehicle. The court also awarded damages to respondent for lost earnings as premium for the replevin bond of respondent.
On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's decision holding respondent as the rightful owner of the vehicle. It ruled that respondent had established ownership of the vehicle to the exclusion of the whole world. It also affirmed the award of damages as unrealized earnings but deleted the award for replevin bond premium since no claim for it was made in the complaint.
Petitioners' motion for reconsideration was denied.
Is there a violation of the right against unreasonable seizure of a moving vehicle in this case?
The resolution of San Pablo City Assistant Prosecutor Esperidion Gajitos could not but strengthen respondent's claim of good faith. Petitioner Gregorio Amante's criminal complaint for violation of RA 6539 and the Anti-Fencing Law was filed in court only against Bicomong. Respondent was exonerated of any liability whatsoever.
As to the issue of damages, we concur with the Court of Appeals that only petitioner Gregorio Amante should be held liable for the unrealized rentals of respondent during the period he was deprived of the vehicle's possession. Petitioner Vicente Amante was not privy to the unlawful seizure and detention of the vehicle.
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the decision of the Court of Appeals dated December 28, 1999 is hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. Respondent Bibiano Serwelas is hereby declared the owner of the disputed vehicle. Petitioner Gregorio Amante is hereby ordered to pay respondent the amount of P103,200 as unrealized rentals plus P37,963 as premium for the replevin bond.
Costs against petitioners. SO ORDERED.