November 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

Here are select November 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on civil law:

Civil Code

Co-ownership; validity of partition contracts. Contrary to the finding of the Court of Appeals, the subdivision agreements forged by Mendoza and her alleged co-owners were not for the partition of pro-indiviso shares of co-owners of Lot 733 but were actually conveyances, disguised as partitions, of portions of Lot 733 specifically Lots 733-A and 733-B, and portions of the subsequent subdivision of Lot 733-C. It cannot be overemphasized enough that the two deeds of absolute sale over portions of substantially the same parcel of land antedated the subdivision agreements in question and their execution acknowledged too before a notary public. Rupeta Cano Vda. De Viray and Jesus Carlo Gerard Viray v. Spouses Jose Usi and Amelita Usi,  G.R.No.192486. November 21,2012.

Constructive delivery; execution of public instrument only prima facie presumption of delivery. Article 1477 of the Civil Code recognizes that the “ownership of the thing sold shall be transferred to the vendee upon the actual or constructive delivery thereof.” Related to this article is Article 1497 which provides that “[t]he thing sold shall be understood as delivered, when it is placed in the control and possession of the vendee.” With respect to incorporeal property, Article 1498 of the Civil Code lays down the general rule: the execution of a public instrument “shall be equivalent to the delivery of the thing which is the object of the contract, if from the deed the contrary does not appear or cannot clearly be inferred.” However, the execution of a public instrument gives rise only to a prima facie presumption of delivery, which is negated by the failure of the vendee to take actual possession of the land sold. “[A] person who does not have actual possession of the thing sold cannot transfer constructive possession by the execution and delivery of a public instrument.” In this case, no constructive delivery of the land transpired upon the execution of the deed of sale since it was not the spouses Villamor, Sr. but the respondents who had actual possession of the land. The presumption of constructive delivery is inapplicable and must yield to the reality that the petitioners were not placed in possession and control of the land. Sps. Erosto Santiago and Nelsi Santiago v. Mancer Villamor, et al.; G.R. No. 168499. November 26,2012

Contracts; inadequacy of consideration does not render the contract void; need not be monetary. Inadequacy of consideration does not vitiate a contract unless it is proven which in the case at bar was not, that there was fraud, mistake or undue influence. While consideration is usually in the form of money or property, it need not be monetary. Eduardo M. Cojuangco, Jr. vs. Republic of the Philippines; G.R. No. 180705. November 27, 2012.

Contracts; requisites; disputable presumption that there is sufficient consideration for a Contract. Under Art. 1318 of the Civil Code, there is no contract unless the following requisites concur: (1) consent of the contracting parties;
(2) object certain which is the subject matter of the contract;
(3) cause of the obligation which is established. The following contract is inexistent and void from the beginning: those whose cause or object did not exist at the time of the transaction. There is a disputable presumption that there was a sufficient consideration for a contract. The rule then is that the party who stands to profit from a declaration of the nullity of a contract on the ground of insufficiency of consideration–– which would necessarily refer to one who asserts such nullity––has the burden of overthrowing the presumption offered by the Rules of Court. Eduardo M. Cojuangco, Jr. vs. Republic of the Philippines; G.R. No. 180705. November 27, 2012.

Damages; entitlement; when death results from delict. Anent the award of damages, when death occurs due to a crime, the following may be recovered: (1) civil indemnity ex delicto for the death of the victim; (2) actual or compensatory damages; (3) moral damages; (4) exemplary damages; (5) attorney’s fees and expenses of litigation; and (6) interest, in proper cases. People of the Philippines v. Marcial M. Malicdem; G.R. No. 184601. November 12, 2012.

Damages; exemplary damages in delict; awarded when there is an aggravating circumstance, whether ordinary or qualifying. Unlike the criminal liability which is basically a State concern, the award of damages, however, is likewise, if not primarily, intended for the offended party who suffers thereby. It would make little sense for an award of exemplary damages to be due the private offended party when the aggravating circumstance is ordinary but to be withheld when it is qualifying. Withal, the ordinary or qualifying nature of an aggravating circumstance is a distinction that should only be of consequence to the criminal, rather than to the civil, liability of the offender. In fine, relative to the civil aspect of the case, an aggravating circumstance, whether ordinary or qualifying, should entitle the offended party to an award of exemplary damages within the unbridled meaning of Article 2230 of the Civil Code. People of the Philippines v. Marcial M. Malicdem; G.R. No. 184601. November 12, 2012.

Damages for violation of right to privacy; inviolability of diplomatic residence. As already exhaustively discussed by both the RTC and the CA, Nestor himself admitted that he caused the taking of the pictures of Lavina’s residence without the latter’s knowledge and consent. Nestor reiterates that he did so sans bad faith or malice. However, Nestor’s surreptitious acts negate his allegation of good faith. If it were true that Lavina kept ivories in his diplomatic residence, then, his behavior deserves condemnation. However, that is not the issue in the case at bar. Nestor violated the New Civil Code prescriptions concerning the privacy of one’s residence and he cannot hide behind the cloak of his supposed benevolent intentions to justify the invasion. Hence, the award of damages and attorney’s fees in Lavina’s favor is proper. Nestor N. Padalhin, et al. Vs. Nelson D. Laviña. G.R. No. 183026. November 14,2012.

Filiation; support; entitlement; clear and convincing proof of filiation. Time and again, this Court has ruled that a high standard of proof is required to establish paternity and filiation. An order for support may create an unwholesome situation or may be an irritant to the family or the lives of the parties so that it must be issued only if paternity or filiation is established by clear and convincing evidence. Antonio Perla v. Mirasol Baring and Randy B. Perla; G.R. No. 172471, November 12, 2012.

Filiation; open and continuous possession of status. To prove open and continuous possession of the status of an illegitimate child, there must be evidence of the manifestation of the permanent intention of the supposed father to consider the child as his, by continuous and clear manifestations of parental affection and care, which cannot be attributed to pure charity. Such acts must be of such a nature that they reveal not only the conviction of paternity, but also the apparent desire to have and treat the child as such in all relations in society and in life, not accidentally, but continuously.” Here, the single instance that Antonio allegedly hugged Randy and promised to support him cannot be considered as proof of continuous possession of the status of a child. To emphasize, “[t]he father’s conduct towards his son must be spontaneous and uninterrupted for this ground to exist.” Antonio Perla v. Mirasol Baring and Randy B. Perla; G.R. No. 172471, November 12, 2012.

Filiation; proof; Certificate of Live Birth; not competent proof of paternity when putative father had no hand in preparation; Baptismal Certificate; per se not a competent proof of filiation or circumstantial evidence to prove filiation. Just like in a birth certificate, the lack of participation of the supposed father in the preparation of a baptismal certificate renders this document incompetent to prove paternity. And “while a baptismal certificate may be considered a public document, it can only serve as evidence of the administration of the sacrament on the date specified but not the veracity of the entries with respect to the child’s paternity. Thus, baptismal certificates are per se inadmissible in evidence as proof of filiation and they cannot be admitted indirectly as circumstantial evidence to prove the same.” Antonio Perla v. Mirasol Baring and Randy B. Perla; G.R. No. 172471, November 12, 2012.

Laches; elements. The elements of laches must be proven positively. Laches is evidentiary in nature, a fact that cannot be established by mere allegations in the pleadings. Evidence is of utmost importance in establishing the existence of laches because there is no absolute rule as to what constitutes laches or staleness of demand; each case is to be determined according to the particular circumstances. Verily, the application of laches is addressed to the sound discretion of the court as its application is controlled by equitable considerations.

Laches is not concerned only with the mere lapse of time. The following elements must be present in order to constitute laches: (1) conduct on the part of the defendant, or of one under whom he claims, giving rise to the situation of which complaint is made for which the complaint seeks a remedy; (2) delay in asserting the complainant’s rights, the complainant having had knowledge or notice, of the defendant’s conduct and having been afforded an opportunity to institute a suit; (3) lack of knowledge or notice on the part of the defendant that the complaint would assert the right on which he bases his suit; and (4) injury or prejudice to the defendant in the event the relief is accorded to the complainant, or the suit is not held to be barred. Jack Arroyo v. Bocago Inland Dev’t Corp. (BIDECO), G.R. No. 167880 November 14,2012

Lease; rescission in reciprocal obligation. Article 1191 of the Civil Code provides that the power to rescind obligations is implied in reciprocal ones, in case one of the obligors should not comply with what is incumbent upon him. A lease contract is a reciprocal contract. By signing the lease agreement, the lessor grants possession over his/her property to the lessee for a period of time in exchange for rental payment. Indeed, rescission is statutorily recognized in a contract of lease. The aggrieved party is given the option to the aggrieved party to ask for: (1) the rescission of the contract; (2) rescission and indemnification for damages; or (3) only indemnification for damages, allowing the contract to remain in force. Sps. Socrates Sy and Cely Sy v. Andok’s Litson Corporation. G.R. No. 192108. November 21, 2012.

Marriage; petition for nullity of marriage; AM No. 02-11-10; appearance by the Office of the Solicitor General still required. The Resolution nowhere stated that appeals by the OSG were no longer required. On the contrary, the Resolution explicitly required the OSG to actively participate in all stages of the proceedings. Arabelle Mendoza v. Republic of the Philippines and Dominic Mendoza, G.R. No. 157649. November 12, 2012.

Marriage; psychological incapacity; elements. Psychological incapacity under Article 36 of the Family Code contemplates an incapacity or inability to take cognizance of and to assume basic marital obligations, and is not merely the difficulty, refusal, or neglect in the performance of marital obligations or ill will. It consists of: (a) a true inability to commit oneself to the essentials of marriage; (b) the inability must refer to the essential obligations of marriage, that is, the conjugal act, the community of life and love, the rendering of mutual help, and the procreation and education of offspring; and (c) the inability must be tantamount to a psychological abnormality. Proving that a spouse failed to meet his or her responsibility and duty as a married person is not enough; it is essential that he or she must be shown to be incapable of doing so due to some psychological illness. Republic v. Court of Appeals and Eduardo de Quintos, Jr., G.R. No. 159594. November 12, 2012.

Marriage; psychological incapacity; expert evidence; thorough and in-depth assessment required. The expert evidence presented in cases of declaration of nullity of marriage based on psychological incapacity presupposes a thorough and in-depth assessment of the parties by the psychologist or expert to make a conclusive diagnosis of a grave, severe and incurable presence of psychological incapacity. Republic v. Court of Appeals and Eduardo de Quintos, Jr., G.R. No. 159594. November 12, 2012.

Marriage; psychological incapacity; proof of natal or disabling supervening factor required. It is not enough that the respondent, alleged to be psychologically incapacitated, had difficulty in complying with his marital obligations, or was unwilling to perform these obligations. Proof of a natal or supervening disabling factor – an adverse integral element in the respondent’s personality structure that effectively incapacitated him from complying with his essential marital obligations – must be shown. Republic v. Court of Appeals and Eduardo de Quintos, Jr., G.R. No. 159594. November 12, 2012.

Marriage; psychological incapacity; Santos and Molina guidelines. The pronouncements in Santos and Molina have remained as the precedential guides in deciding cases grounded on the psychological incapacity of a spouse. But the Court has declared the existence or absence of the psychological incapacity based strictly on the facts of each case and not on a priori assumptions, predilections or generalizations. Indeed, the incapacity should be established by the totality of evidence presented during trial, making it incumbent upon the petitioner to sufficiently prove the existence of the psychological incapacity. Republic v. Court of Appeals and Eduardo de Quintos, Jr., G.R. No. 159594. November 12, 2012.

Marriage; psychological incapacity; three basic requirements. To entitle petitioner spouse to a declaration of the nullity of his or her marriage, the totality of the evidence must sufficiently prove that respondent spouse’s psychological incapacity was grave, incurable and existing prior to the time of the marriage. Arabelle Mendoza v. Republic of the Philippines and Dominic Mendoza, G.R. No. 157649. November 12, 2012.

Marriage; psychological incapacity; totality of evidence proving incapacity required. Even if the expert opinions of psychologists are not conditions sine qua non in the granting of petitions for declaration of nullity of marriage, the actual medical examination was to be dispensed with only if the totality of evidence presented was enough to support a finding of his psychological incapacity. This did not mean that the presentation of any form of medical or psychological evidence to show the psychological incapacity would have automatically ensured the granting of petition for declaration of nullity of marriage. What was essential, we should emphasize herein, was the “presence of evidence that can adequately establish the party’s psychological condition.” But where, like here, the parties had full opportunity to present the professional and expert opinions of psychiatrists tracing the root cause, gravity and incurability of the alleged psychological incapacity, then the opinions should be represented and be weighed by the trial courts in order to determine and decide whether or not to declare the nullity of the marriages. It bears repeating that the trial courts, as in all other cases they try, must always base their judgments not solely on the expert opinions presented by the parties but on the totality of evidence adduced in the course of their proceedings. Arabelle Mendoza v. Republic of the Philippines and Dominic Mendoza, G.R. No. 157649. November 12, 2012.

Mortgage; mortgagee in good faith relying on Torrens Certificate of Title; Indefeasibility. Primarily, it bears noting that the doctrine of “mortgagee in good faith” is based on the rule that all persons dealing with property covered by a Torrens Certificate of Title are not required to go beyond what appears on the face of the title. This is in deference to the public interest in upholding the indefeasibility of a certificate of title as evidence of lawful ownership of the land or of any encumbrance thereon. In the case of banks and other financial institutions, however, greater care and due diligence are required since they are imbued with public interest, failing which renders the mortgagees in bad faith. Thus, before approving a loan application, it is a standard operating practice for these institutions to conduct an ocular inspection of the property offered for mortgage and to verify the genuineness of the title to determine the real owner(s) thereof. The apparent purpose of an ocular inspection is to protect the “true owner” of the property as well as innocent third parties with a right, interest or claim thereon from a usurper who may have acquired a fraudulent certificate of title thereto. Philippine Banking Corporation v. Arturo Dy, et al., G.R. No. 183774. November 14, 2012

Property; accretion; elements; By law, accretion – the gradual and imperceptible deposit made through the effects if the current of the water – belongs to the owner if the land adjacent to the banks of rivers where it forms. The drying up of the river is not accretion. Hence, the dried-up riverbed belongs to the State as property of public dominion, not to the riparian owner, unless a law vests the ownership in some other person. Republic of the Philippines v. Arcadio Ivan Santos III and Arcadio Santos, Jr. G.R. No. 160453. November 12, 2012

Property; builder in good faith; not limited to those claiming ownership over property; builder in good faith; landowner’s options. Article 448 of the Civil Code applies when the builder believes that he is the owner of the land or that by some title he has the right to build thereon, or that, at least, he has a claim of title thereto. In Tuatis, we ruled that the seller (the owner of the land) has two options under Article 448: (1) he may appropriate the improvements for himself after reimbursing the buyer (the builder in good faith) the necessary and useful expenses under Articles 546 and 548 of the Civil Code; or (2) he may sell the land to the buyer, unless its value is considerably more than that of the improvements, in which case, the buyer shall pay reasonable rent. Communities Cagayan, Inc. v. Sps. Arsenio (deceased) and Angeles Nanol, et al. G.R. No. 176791. November 14, 2012

Quieting of title. The issues in a case for quieting of title are fairly simple; the plaintiff need to prove only two things, namely: “(1) the plaintiff or complainant has a legal or an equitable title to or interest in the real property subject of the action; and (2) that the deed, claim, encumbrance or proceeding claimed to be casting a cloud on his title must be shown to be in fact invalid or inoperative despite its prima facie appearance of validity or legal efficacy. Stated differently, the plaintiff must show that he has a legal or at least an equitable title over the real property in dispute, and that some deed or proceeding beclouds its validity or efficacy.” Joaquin G. Chung, Jr., et al. Vs. Jack Daniel Mondragon, et al.; G.R. No. 179754. November 21, 2012.

Quieting of title; legal or equitable title in quieting of title. An action for quieting of title is essentially a common law remedy grounded on equity. The competent court is tasked to determine the respective rights of the complainant and other claimants, not only to place things in their proper place, to make the one who has no rights to said immovable respect and not disturb the other, but also for the benefit of both, so that he who has the right would see every cloud of doubt over the property dissipated, and he could afterwards without fear introduce the improvements he may desire, to use, and even to abuse the property as he deems best. But “for an action to quiet title to prosper, two indispensable requisites must concur, namely: (1) the plaintiff or complainant has a legal or an equitable title to or interest in the real property subject of the action; and (2) the deed, claim, encumbrance, or proceeding claimed to be casting cloud on his title must be shown to be in fact invalid or inoperative despite its prima facie appearance of validity or legal efficacy.” Dionisio Mananquil, et al. v. Roberto Moico; G.R. No. 180076. November 20, 2012.

Sales; Art 1544; elements of double sale. A double sale situation, which would call, if necessary, the application of Art. 1544 of the Civil Code, arises when, as jurisprudence teaches, the following requisites concur: (a) The two (or more) sales transactions must constitute valid sales; (b)  The two (or more) sales transactions must pertain to exactly the 
same subject matter; (c) The two (or more) buyers at odds over the rightful ownership of 
the subject matter must each represent conflicting interests; and (d)  The two (or more) buyers at odds over the rightful ownership of the subject matter must each have bought from the very same 
seller. Rupeta Cano Vda. De Viray and Jesus Carlo Gerard Viray v. Spouses Jose Usi and Amelita Usi,  G.R.No.192486. November 21,2012.

Sales; contract of sale; purchasers in good faith. A purchaser in good faith is one who buys property without notice that some other person has a right to or interest in such property and pays its fair price before he has notice of the adverse claims and interest of another person in the same property. However, where the land sold is in the possession of a person other than the vendor, the purchaser must be wary and must investigate the rights of the actual possessor; without such inquiry, the buyer cannot be said to be in good faith and cannot have any right over the property. Sps. Erosto Santiago and Nelsi Santiago v. Mancer Villamor, et al.; G.R. No. 168499. November 26,2012.

Succession; will; attestation clause; statement of number of pages; mandatory requirement; substantial compliance only when evidence aliunde is not necessary.The law is clear that the attestation must state the number of pages used upon which the will is written. The purpose of the law is to safeguard against possible interpolation or omission of one or some of its pages and prevent any increase or decrease in the pages. While Article 809 allows substantial compliance for defects in the form of the attestation clause, Richard likewise failed in this respect. The statement in the Acknowledgment portion of the subject last will and testament that it “consists of 7 pages including the page on which the ratification and acknowledgment are written” cannot be deemed substantial compliance. The will actually consists of 8 pages including its acknowledgment which discrepancy cannot be explained by mereexamination of the will itself but through the presentation of evidence. Richard B. Lopez v. Diana Jeanne Lopez, et al., G.R. No. 189984. November 12, 2012.

Special Laws

Family Code; abandonment not a ground for declaration of nullity.Abandonment was not one of the grounds for the nullity of marriage under the Family Code. It did not also constitute psychological incapacity, it being instead a ground for legal separation under Article 55(10) of the Family Code. Republic v. Court of Appeals and Eduardo de Quintos, Jr., G.R. No. 159594. November 12, 2012.

Land Titles and Deeds; confirmation of imperfect title; requirements. Under Section 14(1) of Presidential Decree No. 1529 (Property Registration Decree), then, applicants for confirmation of imperfect title must prove the following, namely: (a) that the land forms part of the disposable and alienable agricultural lands of the public domain; and (b) that they have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of the land under a bona fide claim of ownership either since time immemorial or since June 12, 1945. Republic of the Philippines v. Arcadio Ivan Santos III and Arcadio Santos, Jr. G.R. No. 160453. November 12, 2012

Land Titles and Deeds; property of public dominion; proof of alienability and disposability; not subject to acquisitive prescription. The principle that the riparian owner whose land receives the gradual deposits of soil does not need to make an express act of possession, and that no acts of possession are necessary in that instance because it is the law itself that pronounces the alluvium to belong to the riparian owner from the time that the deposit created by the current of the water becomes manifest has no applicability herein. This is simply because the lot was not formed through accretion. Hence the ownership of the land adjacent to the river bank by respondents’ predecessor-in-interest did not translate to possession of the subject lot that would ripen to acquisitive prescription.

Yet, even conceding, for the sake of argument that respondents possessed the subject lot for more than thirty years in the character they claimed, they did not thereby acquire the land by prescription or by other means without any competent proof that the land was already declared as alienable and disposable by the government. Absent that declaration, the land still belonged to the State as part of its public dominion. Republic of the Philippines v. Arcadio Ivan Santos III and Arcadio Santos, Jr. G.R. No. 160453. November 12, 2012

Maceda Law; entitlement to cash surrender value; requisites; cancellation of contract; requisites. In this connection, we deem it necessary to point out that, under the Maceda Law, the actual cancellation of a contract to sell takes place after 30 days from receipt by the buyer of the notarized notice of cancellation, and upon full payment of the cash surrender value to the buyer. In other words, before a contract to sell can be validly and effectively cancelled, the seller has (1) to send a notarized notice of cancellation to the buyer and (2) to refund the cash surrender value. Until and unless the seller complies with these twin mandatory requirements, the contract to sell between the parties remains valid and subsisting. Thus, the buyer has the right to continue occupying the property subject of the contract to sell, and may “still reinstate the contract by updating the account during the grace period and before the actual cancellation” of the contract. Communities Cagayan, Inc. v. Sps. Arsenio (deceased) and Angeles Nanol, et al. G.R. No. 176791. November 14, 2012.

(Rose thanks Frances Yani P. Domingo for assisting in the preparation of this post.)

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