September 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

Here are selected September 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on civil law and related laws:

Civil Law

Common carrier;  liability. Common carriers are bound to observe extraordinary diligence over the goods they transport, according to all the circumstances of each case.

In the event of loss, destruction, or deterioration of the insured goods, common carriers are responsible, unless they can prove that such loss, destruction, or deterioration was brought about by, among others, “flood, storm, earthquake, lightning, or other natural disaster or calamity”.

In all other cases not specified under Article 1734 of the Civil Code, common carriers are presumed to have been at fault or to have acted negligently, unless they observed extraordinary diligence. Regional Container Lines (RCL) of Singapore and Shipping Agency vs. The Netherlands Insurance Co. (Philippines) Inc., G.R. No. 168151, September 4, 2009.

Common carrier;  liability.  Petitioner, through its bus driver, failed to observe extraordinary diligence, and was, therefore, negligent in transporting the passengers of the bus safely to Gapan, Nueva Ecija on January 27, 1995, since the bus bumped a tree and a house, and caused physical injuries to respondent. Article 1759 of the Civil Code explicitly states that the common carrier is liable for the death or injury to passengers through the negligence or willful acts of its employees, and that such liability does not cease upon proof that the common carrier exercised all the diligence of a good father of a family in the selection and supervision of its employees. Hence, even if petitioner was able to prove that it exercised the diligence of a good father of the family in the selection and supervision of its bus driver, it is still liable to respondent for the physical injuries he sustained due to the vehicular accident.  R Transport Corporation vs. Eduardo Pante, G.R. No. 162104, September 15, 2009.

Common carrier; presumption of negligence. A common carrier is presumed to have been negligent if it fails to prove that it exercised extraordinary vigilance over the goods it transported. When the goods shipped are either lost or arrived in damaged condition, a presumption arises against the carrier of its failure to observe that diligence, and there need not be an express finding of negligence to hold it liable.

To overcome the presumption of negligence, the common carrier must establish by adequate proof that it exercised extraordinary diligence over the goods. It must do more than merely show that some other party could be responsible for the damage.

In the present case, RCL and EDSA Shipping failed to prove that they did exercise that degree of diligence required by law over the goods they transported. There is is sufficient evidence showing that the fluctuation of the temperature in the refrigerated container van, as recorded in the temperature chart, occurred after the cargo had been discharged from the vessel and was already under the custody of the arrastre operator, ICTSI. This evidence, however, does not disprove that the condenser fan – which caused the fluctuation of the temperature in the refrigerated container – was not damaged while the cargo was being unloaded from the ship. It is settled in maritime law jurisprudence that cargoes while being unloaded generally remain under the custody of the carrier; RCL and EDSA Shipping failed to dispute this.  Regional Container Lines (RCL) of Singapore and Shipping Agency vs. The Netherlands Insurance Co. (Philippines) Inc., G.R. No. 168151, September 4, 2009.

Contract; binding effect. It is basic that a contract is the law between the parties, and the stipulations therein — provided that they are not contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order or public policy — shall be binding as between the parties. In contractual relations, the law allows the parties much leeway and considers their agreement to be the law between them. This is because “courts cannot follow one every step of his life and extricate him from bad bargains x x x relieve him from one-sided contracts, or annul the effects of foolish acts.” The courts are obliged to give effect to the agreement and enforce the contract to the letter. In the case at bar, the parties entered into a contract for the hauling and delivery of wood poles. By reason of a change in one of the delivery points, they executed a supplemental contract that embodied said change. The terms and conditions were clear. In both contracts, the parties voluntarily and freely affixed their signatures thereto without objection. Thus, the terms contained therein are the law between them.

Premier failed to anticipate all expenses that may be incurred in the hauling and the delivery of the wood poles. The bid Premier submitted was sufficient for it to be declared the winner. However, when it incurred expenses it failed to foresee, Premier began charging NAPOCOR for the additional expenses that were part and parcel of the service it contracted to provide. The contract it entered into turned out to be a disastrous deal or an unwise investment. This Court will not allow Premier to recover from NAPOCOR the expenses Premier sustained for an undertaking it was bound to perform. There is no one to blame but Premier for plunging into an undertaking without fully studying it in its entirety. Concomitantly, there can be no unjust enrichment on the part of NAPOCOR, because the services rendered in its favor are included in the contract it entered into with Premier.  National Power Corporation vs. Premier Shipping Lines, Inc./Premier Shipping LInes, Inc. vs. National Power Corporation, G.R. No. 179103/G.R. No. 180209, September 17, 2009.

Compromise agreement; breach.  The non-fulfillment of the terms and conditions of a compromise agreement approved by the court justifies execution thereof, and the issuance of a writ for the said purpose is the court’s ministerial duty enforceable by mandamus. In this particular case, since the Compromise Agreement’s enforceability depends on the maturity of the subject SPPI shares, the RTC could not compel SPPI to deliver the cash value of the said investment accounts, simply because the latter was not a party to the Compromise Agreement. Hence, the RTC did not commit any grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of or excess of jurisdiction when it granted petitioner Valdez’s motion for execution in its Decision dated May 22, 2000.

In short, as the stipulations in the Compromise Agreement remain unfulfilled, respondent Financiera is still obligated to pay its original indebtedness.   Simeon M. Valdez vs. Financiera Manila Inc., G.R. No. 183387, September 29, 2009.

Compromise agreement; status of child. It is settled in law and jurisprudence, that the status and filiation of a child cannot be compromised. Public policy demands that there be no compromise on the status and filiation of a child. Paternity and filiation or the lack of the same, is a relationship that must be judicially established, and it is for the court to declare its existence or absence. It cannot be left to the will or agreement of the parties.

Being contrary to law and public policy, the Compromise Agreement dated 18 February 2000 between petitioner and respondent is void ab initio and vests no rights and creates no obligations. It produces no legal effect at all. The void agreement cannot be rendered operative even by the parties’ alleged performance (partial or full) of their respective prestations.  Joanie Surposa Uy vs. Jose Ngo Chua, G.R. No. 183965, September 18, 2009.

Contracts; lease.  Under Art. 1687, it is settled that if the rent is paid monthly, the lease is on a month-to-month basis and may be terminated at the end of each month. In the case at bar, it is undisputed that the lease was verbal, that the period for the lease had not been fixed, that the rentals were paid monthly, and that proper demand and notice by the lessor to vacate were given. A lease on a month-to-month basis provides for a definite period and may be terminated at the end of any month, hence, by the failure of the lessees to pay the rents due for a particular month, the lease contract is deemed terminated as of the end of that month. Applying this principle, the lease contract in the instant case was deemed terminated at the end of the month when the petitioner, as lessee, failed to pay the rents due. Salvador A. Fernandez vs. Cristina D. Amagna, G.R. No. 152614, September 30, 2009.

Damages; attorney’s fees. The award of attorney’s fees is also in order because private respondent acted in gross and evident bad faith in refusing to satisfy petitioners’ plainly valid, just and demandable claim. Given the time spent on the present case, which lasted for more than 15 years, the extent of services rendered by petitioners’ lawyers, the benefits resulting in favor of the client, as well as said lawyer’s professional standing, the award of P100,000.00 is proper.  Emma Ver Reyes and Ramon Reyes vs. The Register of Deeds of Cavite, et al. G.R. No. 166516, September 3, 2009.

Damages;  exemplary. The Melencios are entitled to exemplary damages. Exemplary or corrective damages are imposed by way of example or correction for the public good, in addition to the moral, temperate, liquidated, or compensatory damages. Article 2229 of the Civil Code grants the award of exemplary or corrective damages in order to deter the commission of similar acts in the future and to allow the courts to mould behavior that can have grave and deleterious consequences to society. In the instant case, the gross negligence of the City of Tagaytay in erroneously exacting taxes and selling properties outside its jurisdiction, despite the clear mandate of statutory law, must be rectified.  City Government of Tagaytay vs. Hon. Eleuterio F. Guerrero, etc. et al./Ameurfina Melencio-Herrera, et al. vs. Hon. Eleuterio F. Guerrero, etc., et al.,  G.R. Nos. 140743 & G.R. No. 140745/G.R. No. 141451-52, September 17, 2009.

Damages; moral damages. The gross negligence of the City of Tagaytay in levying taxes and auctioning properties to answer for real property tax deficiencies outside its territorial jurisdiction amounts to bad faith that calls for the award of moral damages. Moral damages are meant to compensate the claimant for any physical suffering, mental anguish, fright, serious anxiety, besmirched reputation, wounded feelings, moral shock, social humiliation and similar injuries unjustly caused. Although incapable of pecuniary estimation, the amount must somehow be proportional to and in approximation of the suffering inflicted.

Moral damages are awarded to enable the injured party to obtain means, diversions or amusements that will serve to alleviate the moral suffering the person has undergone, by reason of defendant’s culpable action. The award is aimed at restoration, as much as possible, of the spiritual status quo ante. Thus, it must be proportionate to the suffering inflicted. Since each case must be governed by its own peculiar circumstances, there is no hard and fast rule in determining the proper amount.

The social standing of the aggrieved party is essential to the determination of the proper amount of the award. Otherwise, the goal of enabling him to obtain means, diversions, or amusements to restore him to the status quo ante would not be achieved. City Government of Tagaytay vs. Hon. Eleuterio F. Guerrero, etc. et al./Ameurfina Melencio-Herrera, et al. vs. Hon. Eleuterio F. Guerrero, etc., et al.,  G.R. Nos. 140743 & G.R. No. 140745/G.R. No. 141451-52, September 17, 2009.

Damages; moral damages. Moral damages are not recoverable simply because a contract has been breached. They are recoverable only if the defendant acted fraudulently or in bad faith or in wanton disregard of his contractual obligations. The breach must be wanton, reckless, malicious or in bad faith, and oppressive or abusive. Likewise, a breach of contract may give rise to exemplary damages only if the guilty party acted in a wanton, fraudulent, reckless, oppressive or malevolent manner.

The court is not sufficiently convinced that PNB acted fraudulently, in bad faith, or in wanton disregard of its contractual obligations, simply because it increased the interest rates and delayed the foreclosure of the mortgages. Bad faith cannot be imputed simply because the defendant acted with bad judgment or with attendant negligence. Bad faith is more than these; it pertains to a dishonest purpose, to some moral obliquity, or to the conscious doing of a wrong, a breach of a known duty attributable to a motive, interest or ill will that partakes of the nature of fraud. Proof of actions of this character is undisputably lacking in this case. Consequently, we do not find the spouses Rocamora entitled to an award of moral and exemplary damages. Under these circumstances, neither should they recover attorney’s fees and litigation expense. These awards are accordingly deleted.  Philippine National Bank vs. Spouses Agustin and Pilar Rocamora, G.R. No. 164549, September 18, 2009.

Damages; nominal damages. Since private respondent’s fraudulent registration of the subject property in her name violated petitioners’ right to remain in peaceful possession of the subject property, petitioners are entitled to nominal damages under Article 2221 of the Civil Code. Emma Ver Reyes and Ramon Reyes vs. The Register of Deeds of Cavite, et al. G.R. No. 166516, September 3, 2009.

Interest;  amount. The imposition of 6% interest per annum is thus to be computed from the time the trial court rendered judgment on September 27, 2004, and not from July 21, 1997 (the date of the auction sale) as held by the trial court, nor from the filing of the complaint on March 19, 2001 since it was respondent which filed the complaint (for collection of deficiency of mortgage obligation). And after the finality of this Decision, the judgment award inclusive of interest shall bear interest of 12% per annum until full satisfaction thereof. Virgilio C. Crystal and Glynna F. Cystal vs. Bank of the Philippines Islands, G.R. No. 180274, September 4, 2009.

Interest; escalation clause. Escalation clauses are valid and do not contravene public policy. These clauses are common in credit agreements as means of maintaining fiscal stability and retaining the value of money on long-term contracts. To avoid any resulting one-sided situation that escalation clauses may bring, the Supreme Court required in Banco Filipino, the inclusion in the parties’ agreement of a de-escalation clause that would authorize a reduction in the interest rates corresponding to downward changes made by law or by the Monetary Board.

The validity of escalation clauses notwithstanding,  these clauses do not give creditors the unbridled right to adjust interest rates unilaterally. As the Supreme Court said in the same Banco Filipino case, any increase in the rate of interest made pursuant to an escalation clause must be the result of an agreement between the parties. The minds of all the parties must meet on the proposed modification as this modification affects an important aspect of the agreement. There can be no contract in the true sense in the absence of the element of an agreement, i.e., the parties’ mutual consent. Thus, any change must be mutually agreed upon, otherwise, the change carries no binding effect. A stipulation on the validity or compliance with the contract that is left solely to the will of one of the parties is void; the stipulation goes against the principle of mutuality of contract under Article 1308 of the Civil Code. As correctly found by the appellate court, even with a de-escalation clause, no matter how elaborately worded, an unconsented increase in interest rates is ineffective if it transgresses the principle of mutuality of contracts. Philippine National Bank vs. Spouses Agustin and Pilar Rocamora, G.R. No. 164549, September 18, 2009.

Interest;  failure to commence action. Under PD 385, government financial institutions – which was PNB’s status prior to its full privatization in 1996 – are mandated to immediately foreclose the securities given for any loan when the arrearages amount to at least 20% of the total outstanding obligation.

As stated in the narrated facts, PNB commenced foreclosure proceedings in 1990 or three years after the spouses defaulted on their obligation in 1987. On this factual premise, the PNB now insists as a legal argument that its right to foreclose should not be affected by the mandatory tenor of PD 385, since it exercised its right still within the 10-year prescription period allowed under Articles 1142 and 1144 (1) of the Civil Code.

PNB’s argument completely misses the point. The issue is the effect of the delay in commencing foreclosure proceedings on PNB’s right to recover the deficiency, not on its right to foreclose. The delay in commencing foreclosure proceedings bears a significant function in the deficiency amount being claimed, as the amount undoubtedly includes interest and penalty charges which accrued during the period covered by the delay. The depreciation of the mortgaged properties during the period of delay must also be factored in, as this affects the proceeds that the mortgagee can recover in the foreclosure sale, which in turn affects its deficiency claim. There was also, in this case, the four-year gap between the foreclosure proceedings and the filing of the complaint for deficiency judgment – during which time interest, whether at the 12% per annum rate or higher, and penalty charges also accrued. For the Court to grant the PNB’s deficiency claim would be to award it for its delay and its undisputed disregard of PD 385.  Philippine National Bank vs. Spouses Agustin and Pilar Rocamora, G.R. No. 164549, September 18, 2009.

Marriage; presumption of death. A petition for judicial declaration that petitioner’s husband is presumed to be dead cannot be entertained because it is not authorized by law.
Under the Civil Code, the presumption of death is established by law and no court declaration is needed for the presumption to arise. Since death is presumed to have taken place by the seventh year of absence, Sofio is to be presumed dead starting October 1982.

Consequently, at the time of petitioner’s marriage to Virgilio, there existed no impediment to petitioner’s capacity to marry, and the marriage is valid under paragraph 2 of Article 83 of the Civil Code.  Further, considering that it is the Civil Code that applies, proof of “well-founded belief” is not required. Petitioner could not have been expected to comply with this requirement since the Family Code was not yet in effect at the time of her marriage to Virgilio. The enactment of the Family Code in 1988 does not change this conclusion. Angelita Valdez vs. Republic of the Philippines, G.R. No. 180863, September 8, 2009.

Mortgage; foreclosure. It is a settled doctrine that foreclosure is proper when the debtors are in default of the payment of their obligation. The conditions essential for that foreclosure would be to show, firstly, the existence of the chattel mortgage; and, secondly, the default of the mortgagor. Orix Metro Leasing and Finance Corporation vs. M/V “PILAR-I” and Spouses Ernesto Dy and Lourdes Dy, G.R. No. 157901, September 11, 2009.

Mortgage;  foreclosure notice. Statutory provisions governing publication of notice of mortgage foreclosure sales must be strictly complied with, and that even slight deviations therefrom will invalidate the notice and render the sale at least voidable. Indeed, one of the most important requirements of Act No. 3135 is that the notice of the time and place of sale shall be given. If the sheriff acts without notice, or at a time and place other than that designated in the notice, the sheriff acts without warrant of law. Publication is required to give the extrajudicial foreclosure sale a reasonably wide publicity such that those interested might attend the public sale. To allow the parties to waive this jurisdictional requirement would result in converting into a private sale what ought to be a public auction. Philippine National Bank vs. Gregorio B. Maraya, Jr. and Wenefrida Maraya, G.R. No. 164104, September 11, 2009.

Mortgage; foreclosure notice. The requirements for posting and publication in extrajudicial foreclosure are set out in Act No. 3135, as amended.

Jurisprudence, however, has decreed that the publication of the notice of sale in a newspaper of general circulation alone is more than sufficient compliance with the notice-posting requirements of the law.

Presidential Decree 1079, the governing law at the time of the subject foreclosure, requires that notices shall be published in newspapers or publications published, edited and circulated in the same city and/or province where the requirement of general circulation applies.

Presidential Decree 1079 requires a newspaper of general circulation. A newspaper of general circulation is published for the dissemination of local news and general information; it has a bona fide subscription list of paying subscribers; and it is published at regular intervals. The newspaper must not also be devoted to the interest or published for the entertainment of a particular class, profession, trade, calling, race or religious denomination. The newspaper need not have the largest circulation so long as it is of general circulation.

Presidential Decree 1079, however, does not require accreditation. The requirement of accreditation was imposed by the Court only in 2001, through A.M. No. 01-1-07-SC or the Guidelines in the Accreditation of Newspapers and Periodicals Seeking to Publish Judicial and Legal Notices and Other Similar Announcements and in the Raffle Thereof. This circular cannot be applied retroactively to the case at bar as it will impair petitioner’s rights.

Moreover, as held in Metrobank v. Peñafiel, the accreditation by the presiding judge is not conclusive that a newspaper is of general circulation, as each case must be decided on its own merits and evidence.

In the instant case, the Affidavit of Publication executed by the account executive of Sun Star General Santos expressly provided that the said newspaper is of general circulation and is published in the City of General Santos. This is prima facie proof that Sun Star General Santos is generally circulated in General Santos City, the place where the properties are located. Notably, respondents did not claim that the subject newspaper was not generally circulated in the city, but only that it was not accredited by the court. Hence, there was valid publication and consequently, the extrajudicial foreclosure and sale are valid. China Banking Corporation vs. Sps. Wenceslao & Marcelina Martir, G.R. No. 184252, September 11, 2009.

Mortgage;  redemption. The general rule in redemption is that it is not sufficient that a person offering to redeem manifests his desire to do so. The statement of intention must be accompanied by an actual and simultaneous tender of payment. This constitutes the exercise of the right to repurchase.

In several cases decided by the Supreme Court where the right to repurchase was held to have been properly exercised, there was an unequivocal tender of payment for the full amount of the repurchase price. Otherwise, the offer to redeem is ineffectual. Bona fide redemption necessarily implies a reasonable and valid tender of the entire repurchase price, otherwise the rule on the redemption period fixed by law can easily be circumvented.

Moreover, jurisprudence also characterizes a valid tender of payment as one where the full redemption price is tendered.  China Banking Corporation vs. Sps. Wenceslao & Marcelina Martir, G.R. No. 184252, September 11, 2009.

Obligations; interest. The Supreme Court reduced the interest rate pegged by the CA at 1.5% monthly to 1% monthly and penalty charge fixed by the CA at 1.5% monthly to 1% monthly or a total of 2% per month or 24% per annum in line with the prevailing jurisprudence and in accordance with Art. 1229 of the Civil Code.  Ileana Dr. Macalino vs. Bank of the Philippines Islands, G.R. No. 175490, September 17, 2009.

Property;  laches. Laches is defined as the failure to assert a right for an unreasonable and unexplained length of time, warranting a presumption that the party entitled to assert it has either abandoned or declined to assert it. This equitable defense is based upon grounds of public policy, which requires the discouragement of stale claims for the peace of society.

Juana sold the property to the Spouses Cereno in 1970 and since then have possessed the property peacefully and publicly without any opposition from petitioners. While petitioners claim that they knew about the sale only in 1980 yet they did not take any action to recover the same and waited until 1999 to file a suit without offering any excuse for such delay. Records do not show any justifiable reason for petitioners’ inaction for a long time in asserting whatever rights they have over the property given the publicity of respondents’ conduct as owners of the property.  Julita V. Imuan, et al. vs. Juanito Cereno, et al., G.R. No. 167995, September 11, 2009.

Property;  prescription. Prescription is another mode of acquiring ownership and other real rights over immovable property. It is concerned with lapse of time in the manner and under conditions laid down by law, namely, that the possession should be in the concept of an owner, public, peaceful, uninterrupted and adverse. Possession is open when it is patent, visible, apparent, notorious and not clandestine. It is continuous when uninterrupted, unbroken and not intermittent or occasional;exclusive when the adverse possessor can show exclusive dominion over the land and an appropriation of it to his own use and benefit; and notorious when it is so conspicuous that it is generally known and talked of by the public or the people in the neighborhood. The party who asserts ownership by adverse possession must prove the presence of the essential elements of acquisitive prescription.
Acquisitive prescription of real rights may be ordinary or extraordinary. Ordinary acquisitive prescription requires possession in good faith and with just title for ten years. In extraordinary prescription, ownership and other real rights over immovable property are acquired through uninterrupted adverse possession for thirty years without need of title or of good faith.

The good faith of the possessor consists in the reasonable belief that the person from whom he received the thing was the owner thereof, and could transmit his ownership. For purposes of prescription, there is just title when the adverse claimant came into possession of the property through one of the modes recognized by law for the acquisition of ownership or other real rights, but the grantor was not the owner or could not transmit any right. Julita V. Imuan, et al. vs. Juanito Cereno, et al., G.R. No. 167995, September 11, 2009.

Property; public property. Plaza Rizal partakes of the nature of a public park or promenade. As such, Plaza Rizal is classified as a property for public use.

In Municipality of San Carlos, Pangasinan v. Morfe, the Court recognized that a public plaza is a public land belonging to, and, subject to the administration and control of, the Republic of the Philippines. Absent an express grant by the Spanish Government or that of the Philippines, the local government unit where the plaza was situated, which in that case was the Municipality of San Carlos, had no right to claim it as its patrimonial property. The Court further held that whatever right of administration the Municipality of San Carlos may have exercised over said plaza was not proprietary, but governmental in nature. The same did not exclude the national government. On the contrary, it was possessed on behalf and in representation thereof, the municipal government of San Carlos being — in the performance of its political functions — a mere agency of the Republic, acting for its benefit.

Applying the above pronouncements to the instant case, Camarines Sur had the right to administer and possess Plaza Rizal prior to the conversion of the then Municipality of Naga into the independent City of Naga, as the plaza was then part of the territorial jurisdiction of the said province. Said right of administration by Camarines Sur was governmental in nature, and its possession was on behalf of and in representation of the Republic of the Philippines, in the performance of its political functions.

Thereafter, by virtue of the enactment of Republic Act No. 305 and as specified in Section 2, Article I thereof, the City of Naga was created out of the territory of the old Municipality of Naga. Plaza Rizal, which was located in the said municipality, thereby ceased to be part of the territorial jurisdiction of Camarines Sur and was, instead transferred to the territorial jurisdiction of the City of Naga. Theretofore, the local government unit that is the proper agent of the Republic of the Philippines that should administer and possess Plaza Rizal is the City of Naga.

Camarines Sur cannot claim that Plaza Rizal is part of its patrimonial property. The basis for the claim of ownership of Camarines Sur, i.e., the tax declaration covering Plaza Rizal in the name of the province, hardly convinces this Court. Well-settled is the rule that a tax declaration is not conclusive evidence of ownership or of the right to possess land, when not supported by any other evidence. The same is merely an indicia of a claim of ownership.[40] In the same manner, the Certification dated 14 June 1996 issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources–Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (DENR-CENRO) in favor of Camarines Sur, merely stating that the parcel of land described therein, purportedly Plaza Rizal, was being claimed solely by Camarines Sur, hardly constitutes categorical proof of the alleged ownership of the said property by the province.

Thus, being a property for public use within the territorial jurisdiction of the City of Naga, Plaza Rizal should be under the administrative control and supervision of the said city.  Province of Camarines Sur, represented by Governor Luis Raymund F. Villafuerte, Jr. vs. Hon. Court of Appeals and City of Naga, represented by Mayor Jesse M. Robredo, G.R. No. 175064, September 18, 2009.

Quasi-delict; last clear chance. The doctrine of last clear chance applies to a situation where the plaintiff was guilty of prior or antecedent negligence, but the defendant − who had the last fair chance to avoid the impending harm and failed to do so − is made liable for all the consequences of the accident, notwithstanding the prior negligence of the plaintiff. However, the doctrine does not apply where the party charged is required to act instantaneously, and the injury cannot be avoided by the application of all means at hand after the peril is or should have been discovered.

The doctrine of last clear chance does not apply to this case, because even if it can be said that it was Benigno Valdez who had the last chance to avoid the mishap when the owner-type jeep encroached on the western lane of the passenger jeep, Valdez no longer had the opportunity to avoid the collision. The Answer of petitioners stated that when the owner-type jeep encroached on the lane of the passenger jeep, Benigno Valdez maneuvered his vehicle towards the western shoulder of the road to avoid a collision, but the owner-type jeep driven by Ramos continued to move to the western lane and bumped the left side of the passenger jeep. Thus, petitioners assert in their Petition that considering that the time the owner-type jeep encroached on the lane of Valdez to the time of impact was only a matter of seconds, he no longer had the opportunity to avoid the collision. Although the records are bereft of evidence showing the exact distance between the two vehicles when the owner-type jeep encroached on the lane of the passenger jeep, it must have been near enough, because the passenger jeep driven by Valdez was unable to avoid the collision. Hence, the doctrine of last clear chance does not apply to this case.  Cresencia Achevara, Alfredo Achevara and Benigno Valdez vs. Elvira Ramos, John Arnel Ramos and Kristine Camille Ramos,  G.R. No. 175172, September 29, 2009.

Quasi-delict; negligence. Foreseeability is the fundamental test of negligence. To be negligent, a defendant must have acted or failed to act in such a way that an ordinary reasonable man would have realized that certain interests of certain persons were unreasonably subjected to a general but definite class of risks.  Cresencia Achevara, Alfredo Achevara and Benigno Valdez vs. Elvira Ramos, John Arnel Ramos and Kristine Camille Ramos,  G.R. No. 175172, September 29, 2009.

Quasi-delict;  negligence. Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, the principal is liable for the negligence of its agents acting within the scope of their assigned tasks. The City of Tagaytay is liable for all the necessary and natural consequences of the negligent acts of its city officials. It is liable for the tortious acts committed by its agents who sold the subject lots to the Melencios despite the clear mandate of R.A. No. 1418, separating Barrio Birinayan from its jurisdiction and transferring the same to the Province of Batangas. The negligence of the officers of the City of Tagaytay in the performance of their official functions gives rise to an action ex contractu and quasi ex-delictu. However, the Melencios cannot recover twice for the same act or omission of the City of Tagaytay.

Negligence is the failure to observe protection of the interests of another person, that degree of care, precaution, and vigilance which the circumstances justly demand, whereby such other person suffers injury. Thus, negligence is the want of care required under circumstances.

In this case, it is basic that before the City of Tagaytay may levy a certain property for sale due to tax delinquency, the subject property should be under its territorial jurisdiction. The city officials are expected to know such basic principle of law. The failure of the city officials of Tagaytay to verify if the property is within its jurisdiction before levying taxes on the same constitutes gross negligence.  City Government of Tagaytay vs. Hon. Eleuterio F. Guerrero, etc. et al./Ameurfina Melencio-Herrera, et al. vs. Hon. Eleuterio F. Guerrero, etc., et al., G.R. Nos. 140743 & G.R. No. 140745/G.R. No. 141451-52, September 17, 2009.

Quasi-delict;  requisites. In every tort case filed under Article 2176 of the Civil Code, the plaintiff has to prove by a preponderance of evidence: (1) the damages suffered by him; (2) the fault or negligence of the defendant or some other person to whose act he must respond; (3) the connection of cause and effect between the fault or negligence and the damages incurred; and (4) that there must be no preexisting contractual relation between the parties.

On the other hand, Article 26 of the Civil Code grants a cause of action for damages, prevention, and other relief in cases of breach, though not necessarily constituting a criminal offense, of the following rights: (1) right to personal dignity; (2) right to personal security; (3) right to family relations; (4) right to social intercourse; (5) right to privacy; and (6) right to peace of mind. Zenaida R. Gregorio vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 179799, September 11, 2009.

Sale;  auction sale. Nothing is more settled than that a judgment creditor (or more accurately, the purchaser at an auction sale) only acquires at an execution sale the identical interest possessed by the judgment debtor in the auctioned property; in other words, the purchaser takes the property subject to all existing equities applicable to the property in the hands of the debtor. The fact, too, that the judgment debtor is in possession of the land to be sold at public auction, and that the purchaser did not know that a third-party had acquired ownership thereof, does not protect the purchaser, because he is not considered a third-party, and the rule of caveat emptor applies to him. Thus, if it turns out that the judgment debtor has no interest in the property, the purchaser at an auction sale also acquires no interest therein.  Juan Balbuena and Teodulfo Retuya vs. Leona Aparicio Sabay, et al., G.R. No. 154720, September 4, 2009.

Sales;  double sales.  The spouses Cuevas only sold the subject property to them in 1976, and did not sell it a second time to private respondent in 1992. As a consequence, the rules on the double sale of registered property are not relevant herein. Emma Ver Reyes and Ramon Reyes vs. The Register of Deeds of Cavite, et al. G.R. No. 166516, September 3, 2009.

Sale;  inexistent.  As the Deed of Absolute Sale in Milagrosa’s favor is not genuine, it transmitted no rights to her. Consequently, the subject land – part of Cebrero’s estate which was allotted to Secundina was validly sold by her to petitioner. Progressive Trade & Service Enterprises vs. Maria Milagrosa Antonio, G.R. No. 179502, September 18, 2009.

Property Registration Decree and related laws

Land;  alienable and disposable. While the subject lots were verified to be alienable or disposable lands since March 15, 1982, there is no sufficient proof that open, continuous and adverse possession over them by petitioner and her predecessors-in-interest commenced on June 12, 1945 or earlier. Petitioner’s applications cannot thus be granted.

While a property classified as alienable and disposable public land may be converted into private property by reason of open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of at least 30 years, public dominion lands become patrimonial property not only with a declaration that these are alienable or disposable but also with an express government manifestation that the property is already patrimonial or no longer retained for public use, public service or the development of national wealth. And only when the property has become patrimonial can the prescriptive period for the acquisition of property of the public dominion begin to run.

While the subject lots were declared alienable or disposable on March 15, 1982, there is no competent evidence that they are no longer intended for public use or for public service. The classification of the lots as alienable and disposable lands of the public domain does not change its status as properties of the public dominion. Petitioner cannot thus acquire title to them by prescription as yet. Joyce Y. Lim, represented by her attorney-in-fact Bernardo M. Nicolas/Joyce Y. Lim, represented by her attorney-in-fact Bernardo M. Nicolas, G.R. No. 158630/G.R. No. 162047, September 4, 2009.

Land;  registration. Any person, by himself or through his predecessor-in-interest, who has been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945 or earlier, may file in the proper trial court an application for registration of title to land, whether personally or through his duly authorized representative.

Being the applicant for confirmation of imperfect title, petitioner bears the burden of proving that: 1) the land forms part of the alienable and disposable land of the public domain; and 2) she has been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of the subject land under a bona fide claim of ownership from June 12, 1945 or earlier. These the petitioner must prove by no less than clear, positive and convincing evidence. Peregina Mistica vs. Republic of the Philippines, G.R. No. 165141, September 11, 2009.

Land;  registration. The Property Registration Decree involves original registration through ordinary registration proceedings. Under Section 14 (1) of said law, the requisites for the filing of an application for registration of title are: that the property in question is alienable and disposable land of the public domain; that the applicants by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation; and that such possession is under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945 or earlier. Joyce Y. Lim, represented by her attorney-in-fact Bernardo M. Nicolas/Joyce Y. Lim, represented by her attorney-in-fact Bernardo M. Nicolas, G.R. No. 158630/G.R. No. 162047, September 4, 2009.

Sale;  non-registration.  The reliance of the Dadizons on the unnotarized and unregistered deed of absolute sale of real property executed by Bernadas in their favor was misplaced and unwarranted, for the non-registration of the deed meant that the sale could not bind third parties like the respondents. The transaction affecting unregistered lands covered by an unrecorded contract, if legal, might be valid and binding on the parties themselves, but not on third parties. In the case of third parties, it was necessary for the contract to be registered.

Bernadas’ execution on March 10, 1976 of the deed of absolute sale of real property in favor of the Dadizons, standing alone, did not suffice to bind and conclude the Mocorros. Pursuant to Sec. 113, Presidential Decree No. 1529, the recording of the sale was necessary. Besides, the deed, being the unilateral act of Bernadas, did not adversely affect the Mocorros, who were not her privies. Otherwise stated, the deed was res inter alios acta as far as they were concerned.

Neither would the affidavit of adjoining owners support the Dadizons’ cause, considering that such affidavit, aside from its being self-serving and unilateral, had been executed only for the purpose of facilitating Felicidad Dadizon’s application for the low cost housing loan from the Development Bank of the Philippines. Sps. Nestor and Felicidad Dadizon vs. Hon. Court of Appeals and Sps. Dominador and Elsa Mocorro, G.R. No. 159116, September 30, 2009.

Torrens title; fraudulent title. Insofar as a person who fraudulently obtained a property is concerned, the registration of the property in said person’s name would not be sufficient to vest in him or her the title to the property. A certificate of title merely confirms or records title already existing and vested. The indefeasibility of the Torrens title should not be used as a means to perpetrate fraud against the rightful owner of real property. Good faith must concur with registration because, otherwise, registration would be an exercise in futility. A Torrens title does not furnish a shield for fraud, notwithstanding the long-standing rule that registration is a constructive notice of title binding upon the whole world. The legal principle is that if the registration of the land is fraudulent, the person in whose name the land is registered holds it as a mere trustee.

It has long been established that the sole remedy of the landowner whose property has been wrongfully or erroneously registered in another’s name is to bring an ordinary action in an ordinary court of justice for reconveyance or, if the property has passed into the hands of an innocent purchaser for value, for damages. “It is one thing to protect an innocent third party; it is entirely a different matter and one devoid of justification if deceit would be rewarded by allowing the perpetrator to enjoy the fruits of his nefarious deed.” Reconveyance is all about the transfer of the property, in this case the title thereto, which has been wrongfully or erroneously registered in another person’s name, to its rightful and legal owner, or to one with a better right. Evidently, petitioners, being the rightful owners of the subject property, are entitled to the reconveyance of the title over the same. Emma Ver Reyes and Ramon Reyes vs. The Register of Deeds of Cavite, et al. G.R. No. 166516, September 3, 2009.

Other laws

ZIP. The following requisites must concur for one to be considered an absentee structure owner: one, the person must own a structure or dwelling unit within the ZIP zone; and two, the person has not occupied the structure or dwelling unit prior to the official closure of the census.

The petitioner did not meet the second requisite because it was the respondents, not her, who were living in or occupying Structure No. 86-313 at the time of the official ZIP census and until they vacated the premises on November 17, 1996.

In the award of the ZIP lot allocation, the primary bases for determining the potential program beneficiaries and structures or dwelling units in the project area were the official ZIP census and tagging conducted in 1987. It was, therefore, the primordial requisite that the intended beneficiary must be the occupant of the tagged structure at the time of the official ZIP census or at the closure thereof. Otherwise, the person was considered an absentee structure owner for being absent from his usual residence or domicile. At any rate, the Code of Policies made it clear that the issuance of a ZIP tag number to a structure did not guarantee ZIP lot allocation to the owner of the tagged structure. Such interpretation of the Code of Policies was in harmony with the objectives and principles underlying the program to provide adequate shelter and place of abode to the legally qualified beneficiaries. That the petitioner was the person who built Structure No. 86-313 did not necessarily mean that the lot on which the structure stood would be automatically awarded to her. Like any other beneficiary, she must first comply with the requirements imposed by the Government before being deemed entitled to the lot allocation. Unfortunately, she was not using Structure No. 86-313 as a dwelling or living quarters, but as a source of income, which only signified that she was not a homeless person whom the ZIP intended to benefit. To consider her a homelot beneficiary would be contrary to the spirit of the Code of Policies and would defeat the very object of the ZIP. Carmen A. Blas vs. Spouses Eduardo and Salud Galapon, G.R. No. 159710, September 30, 2009.