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

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October 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

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

Civil Code

Assignment of credit; dation in payment. An assignment of credit is an agreement by virtue of which the owner of a credit, known as the assignor, by a legal cause, such as sale, dation in payment, exchange or donation, and without the consent of the debtor, transfers his credit and accessory rights to another, known as the assignee, who acquires the power to enforce it to the same extent as the assignor could enforce it against the debtor. It may be in the form of sale, but at times it may constitute a dation in payment, such as when a debtor, in order to obtain a release from his debt, assigns to his creditor a credit he has against a third person. As a dation in payment, the assignment of credit operates as a mode of extinguishing the obligation; the delivery and transmission of ownership of a thing (in this case, the credit due from a third person) by the debtor to the creditor is accepted as the equivalent of the performance of the obligation.

The terms of the compromise judgment of the parties, however, did not convey an intent to equate the assignment of Magdalena’s retirement benefits as the equivalent of the payment of the debt due the spouses Serfino. There was actually no assignment of credit; if at all, the compromise judgment merely identified the fund from which payment for the judgment debt would be sourced. Only when Magdalena has received and turned over to the spouses Serfino the portion of her retirement benefits corresponding to the debt due would the debt be deemed paid. Since no valid assignment of credit took place, the spouses Serfino cannot validly claim ownership of the retirement benefits that were deposited with FEBTC. Without ownership rights over the amount, they suffered no pecuniary loss that has to be compensated by actual damages. Sps. Godfrey and Gerardina Serfino vs. Far East Bank and Trust Company, Inc., now Bank of the Philippine Islands.G.R. No. 171845. October 10, 2012

Compromise agreement; relation to original agreement; interest. Petitioner argues that the compromise agreement created an obligation separate from the original loan, for which respondent is now liable. By stating that the compromise agreement and the original loan transaction are distinct, petitioner would now attempt to exact payment on both. This goes against the very purpose of the parties entering into a compromise agreement, which was to extinguish the obligation under the loan. Petitioner may not seek the enforcement of both the compromise agreement and payment of the loan, even in the event that the compromise agreement remains unfulfilled.

The Court had previously tagged a 5% monthly interest rate agreed upon as “excessive, iniquitous, unconscionable and exorbitant, contrary to morals, and the law.” We need not unsettle the principle we had affirmed in a plethora of cases that stipulated interest rates of 3% per month and higher are excessive, iniquitous, unconscionable, and exorbitant. Arthur F. Mechavez vs. Marlyn M, Bermudez G.R. No. 185368. October 11, 2012

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June 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

Here are selected June 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on civil law:

Civil Code

Agency; agency by estoppel. The doctrine of estoppel is based upon the grounds of public policy, fair dealing, good faith and justice, and its purpose is to forbid one to speak against his own act, representations, or commitments to the injury of one to whom they were directed and who reasonably relied thereon. The doctrine of estoppel springs from equitable principles and the equities in the case. It is designed to aid the law in the administration of justice where without its aid injustice might result. It has been applied by this Court wherever and whenever special circumstances of a case so demand.

Based on the events and circumstances surrounding the issuance of the assailed orders, this Court rules that MEGAN is estopped from assailing both the authority of Atty. Sabig and the jurisdiction of the RTC. While it is true, as claimed by MEGAN, that Atty. Sabig said in court that he was only appearing for the hearing of Passi Sugar’s motion for intervention and not for the case itself, his subsequent acts, coupled with MEGAN’s inaction and negligence to repudiate his authority, effectively bars MEGAN from assailing the validity of the RTC proceedings under the principle of estoppel. Megan Sugar Corporation v. Regional Trial Court of Iloilo, Br. 68, Dumangas, Iloilo; New Frontier Sugar Corp., et al.,  G.R. No. 170352. June 1, 2011

Agency; doctrine of apparent authority. The Court finds that the signature of Abcede is sufficient to bind PRHC. As its construction manager, his very act of signing a letter embodying the P 36 million escalation agreement produced legal effect, even if there was a blank space for a higher officer of PHRC to indicate approval thereof. At the very least, he indicated authority to make such representation on behalf of PRHC. On direct examination, Abcede admitted that, as the construction manager, he represented PRHC in running its affairs with regard to the execution of the aforesaid projects. Abcede had signed, on behalf of PRHC, other documents that were almost identical to the questioned letter-agreement. PRHC does not question the validity of these agreements; it thereby effectively admits that this individual had actual authority to sign on its behalf with respect to these construction projects. Philippine Realty and Holding Corp. vs. Ley Const. and Dev. Corp./Ley Cons. and Dev. Corp. vs. Philippine Realty and Holding Corp., G.R. No. 165548/G.R. No. 167879. June 13, 2011

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September 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

Here are selected September 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on civil law:

Civil Code

Assignment of credits. Was Reyes’ sale of the property to the Vegas binding on PDC (one of Reyes’ creditors) which tried to enforce the judgment credit against Reyes in its favor on the property? The CA ruled that Reyes’ assignment of the property to the Vegas did not bind PDC, which had a judgment credit against Reyes, since such assignment neither appeared in a public document nor was registered with the register of deeds as Article 1625 of the Civil Code required. Article 1625 reads:

Art. 1625. An assignment of a credit, right or action shall produce no effect as against third persons, unless it appears in a public instrument, or the instrument is recorded in the Registry of Property in case the assignment involves real property. (1526)

But Article 1625 referred to assignment of credits and other incorporeal rights. Reyes did not assign any credit or incorporeal right to the Vegas. She sold the Vegas her house and lot. They became owner of the property from the time she executed the deed of assignment covering the same in their favor. PDC had a judgment for money against Reyes only. A court’s power to enforce its judgment applies only to the properties that are indisputably owned by the judgment obligor. Here, the property had long ceased to belong to Reyes when she sold it to the Vegas in 1981. Sps. Antonio and Leticia Vega vs. Social Security System, et al., G.R. No. 181672, September 20, 2010

Attorney’s fees. Article 2208(2) of the Civil Code allows the award of attorney’s fees in cases where the defendant’s act or omission has compelled the plaintiff to litigate with third persons or to incur expenses to protect his interest. Attorney’s fees may be awarded by a court to one who was compelled to litigate with third persons or to incur expenses to protect his or her interest by reason of an unjustified act or omission of the party from whom it is sought. Metropolitan Bank & trust Company, Inc. vs. The Board of Trustees of Riverside Mills Corp. Provident and Retirement Fund, et al., G.R. No. 176959, September 8, 2010

Conjugal property and sale thereof; various rules. (1) What law applies to a sale or purported sale of a conjugal property entered into after the Family Code’s effectivity? The Family Code, even if the couple owning the conjugal property were married before the Family Code took effect. (2) Under the Family Code, conjugal property can only be sold with the consent of both spouses. (3) For a buyer of conjugal property to be considered a purchaser in good faith, he must observe two kinds of requisite diligence, namely: (a) the diligence in verifying the validity of the title covering the property; and (b) the diligence in inquiring into the authority of the transacting spouse to sell conjugal property in behalf of the other spouse. Sps. Rex and Concepcion Aggabao vs. Dionisio Z. Parulan, Jr. and Ma. Elena Parulan, G.R. No. 165803, September 1, 2010.

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August 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

Here are selected August 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on civil law:

Civil Code

Contract; novation; requirements; novation cannot be presumed.  As a civil law concept, novation is the extinguishment of an obligation by the substitution or change of the obligation by a subsequent one which terminates it, either by changing its objects or principal conditions, or by substituting a new debtor in place of the old one, or by subrogating a third person to the rights of the creditor. Novation may be extinctive or modificatory.  It is extinctive when an old obligation is terminated by the creation of a new one that takes the place of the former; it is merely modificatory when the old obligation subsists to the extent that it remains compatible with the amendatory agreement. Novation may either be express, when the new obligation declares in unequivocal terms that the old obligation is extinguished, or implied, when the new obligation is on every point incompatible with the old one.  The test of incompatibility lies on whether the two obligations can stand together, each one with its own independent existence.

For novation, as a mode of extinguishing or modifying an obligation, to apply, the following requisites must concur:

1)      There must be a previous valid obligation.

2)      The parties concerned must agree to a new contract.

3)      The old contract must be extinguished.

4)       There must be a valid new contract.

Novatio non praesumitur, or novation is never presumed, is a well-settled principle. Consequently, that which arises from a purported modification in the terms and conditions of the obligation must be clear and express. On petitioners thus rests the onus of showing clearly and unequivocally that novation has indeed taken place.

It has often been said that the minds that agree to contract can agree to novate. And the agreement or consent to novate may well be inferred from the acts of a creditor, since volition may as well be expressed by deeds as by words. In the instant case, however, the acts of EPCIB before, simultaneously to, and after its acceptance of payments from petitioners argue against the idea of its having acceded or acquiesced to petitioners’ request for a change of the terms of payments of the secured loan. Far from it.  Thus, a novation through an alleged implied consent by EPCIB, as proffered and argued by petitioners, cannot be given imprimatur by the Court. St. James College of Parañaque; Jaime T. Torres, represented by his legal representative, James Kenley M. Torres; and Myrna M. Torres vs. Equitable PCI Bank, G.R. No. 179441, August 9, 2010.

Contracts; rescission. Under Article 1191 of the Civil Code, the aggrieved party has a choice between specific performance and rescission with damages in either case.  However, we have ruled that if specific performance becomes impractical or impossible, the court may order rescission with damages to the injured party.  After the lapse of more than 30 years, it is now impossible to implement the loan agreement as it was written, considering the absence of evidence as to the rising costs of construction, as well as the obvious changes in market conditions on the viability of the operations of the hotel.    We deem it equitable and practicable to rescind the obligation of DBP to deliver the balance of the loan proceeds to Maceda.  In exchange, we order DBP to pay Maceda the value of  Maceda’s cash equity of  P6,153,398.05 by way of actual damages, plus the applicable interest rate.  The present ruling comes within the purview of Maceda’s and DBP’s prayers for “other reliefs, just or equitable under the premises.” Bonifacio Sanz Maceda, Jr. vs. DBO / DBP Vs. Bonifacio Sanz Maceda, Jr., G.R. No. 174979 & G.R. No. 175010, August 11, 2010.

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