December 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

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

Civil Code

Damages; When Applicable. It is essential that for damages to be awarded, a claimant must satisfactorily prove during the trial that they have a factual basis, and that the defendant’s acts have a causal connection to them. Article 2229 of the Civil Code provides that exemplary damages may be imposed “by way of example or correction for the public good, in addition to the moral, temperate, liquidated or compensatory damages.” They are, however, not recoverable as a matter of right. They are awarded only if the guilty party acted in a wanton, fraudulent, reckless, oppressive or malevolent manner. Albert M. Ching, et al. vs. Felix M. Bantolo, et al.; G.R. No. 177086. December 5, 2012

Sale of Real Property; Must be in a Public Document; requirement only for convenience. Article 1358 of the Civil Code provides that acts and contracts which have for their object the transmission of real rights over immovable property or the sale of real property must appear in a public document. If the law requires a document or other special form, the contracting parties may compel each other to observe that form, once the contract has been perfected. In Fule v. Court of Appeals, the Court held that Article 1358 of the Civil Code, which requires the embodiment of certain contracts in a public instrument, is only for convenience, and registration of the instrument only adversely affects third parties. Formal requirements are, therefore, for the benefit of third parties. Non-compliance therewith does not adversely affect the validity of the contract nor the contractual rights and obligations of the parties thereunder. Lagrimas de Jesus Zamora v. Spouses Beatriz Zamora et al., G.R. No. 162930. December 5, 2012.

Unjust enrichment; reimbursement. It is well-established that equity as a rule will follow the law and will not permit that to be done indirectly which, because of public policy, cannot be done directly. Surely, a contract that violates the Constitution and the law is null and void, vests no rights, creates no obligations and produces no legal effect at all. Corollary thereto, under Article 1412 of the Civil Code, petitioner cannot have the subject properties deeded to him or allow him to recover the money he had spent for the purchase thereof. The law will not aid either party to an illegal contract or agreement; it leaves the parties where it finds them. Indeed, one cannot salvage any rights from an unconstitutional transaction knowingly entered into. Neither can the Court grant petitioner’s claim for reimbursement on the basis of unjust enrichment. As held in Frenzel v. Catito, a case also involving a foreigner seeking monetary reimbursement for money spent on purchase of Philippine land, the provision on unjust enrichment does not apply if the action is proscribed by the Constitution. Willem Beumer v. Avelina Amores, G.R. No. 195670. December 3, 2012.

Special Laws

Public Land Act; Five-year Prohibition for Alienation of Homestead Patent; Sale; Void Contract. To reiterate, Section 118 of the Public Land Act, as amended, reads that “[e]xcept in favor of the Government or any of its branches, units, or institutions, or legally constituted banking corporations, lands acquired under free patent or homestead provisions shall not be subject to encumbrance or alienation from the date of the approval of the application and for a term of five years from and after the date of issuance of the patent or grant x x x.” The provisions of law are clear and explicit. A contract which purports to alienate, transfer, convey, or encumber any homestead within the prohibitory period of five years from the date of the issuance of the patent is void from its execution. In a number of cases, this Court has held that such provision is mandatory. Alejandro Binayug and Ana Binayug vs. Eugenio Ugaddan, et al. G.R. No. 181623. December 5, 2012.

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