September 2013 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

Here are select September 2013 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on civil law:

CIVIL CODE

Civil registry; nature of civil register books; books making up the civil register and all documents relating thereto are public documents and shall be prima facie evidence of the facts therein contained; as public documents, they are admissible in evidence even without further proof of their due execution and genuineness.There is no question that the documentary evidence submitted by petitioner are all public documents. As provided in the Civil Code:

ART. 410. The books making up the civil register and all documents relating thereto shall be considered public documents and shall be prima facie evidence of the facts therein contained.

As public documents, they are admissible in evidence even without further proof of their due execution and genuineness. Thus, the RTC erred when it disregarded said documents on the sole ground that the petitioner did not present the records custodian of the NSO who issued them to testify on their authenticity and due execution since proof of authenticity and due execution was not anymore necessary. Moreover, not only are said documents admissible, they deserve to be given evidentiary weight because they constitute prima facie evidence of the facts stated therein. And in the instant case, the facts stated therein remain unrebutted since neither the private respondent nor the public prosecutor presented evidence to the contrary. In Yasuo Iwasawa v. Felisa Custodio Gangan (a.k.a. “Felisa Gangan Arambulo” and “Felisa Gangan Iwasawa”), et al., G.R. No. 204169, September 11, 2013 

Contracts; contract to sell distinguished from contract of sale; in a contract to sell, ownership remains with the vendor and does not pass to the vendee until full payment of the purchase price; a deed of sale is absolute when there is no stipulation in the contract that title to the property remains with the seller until the full payment of the purchase price.  In a conditional sale, as in a contract to sell, ownership remains with the vendor and does not pass to the vendee until full payment of the purchase price. The full payment of the purchase price partakes of a suspensive condition, and non-fulfillment of the condition prevents the obligation to sell from arising. To differentiate, a deed of sale is absolute when there is no stipulation in the contract that title to the property remains with the seller until full payment of the purchase price. Ramos v. Heruela held that Articles 1191 and 1592 of the Civil Code are applicable to contracts of sale, while R.A. No. 6552 applies to contracts to sell. Manuel Uy & Sons, Inc. v. Valbueco, Incorporated, G.R. No. 179594, September 11, 2013.

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September 2013 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Tax Law

Here are select September 2013 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on tax law:

National Internal Revenue Code; tax refund. If the Bureau of Internal Revenue, or other government taxing agencies for that matter, expects taxpayers to observe fairness, honesty, transparency and accountability in paying their taxes, it must hold itself against the same standard in refunding excess payments or illegal exactions. As a necessary corollary, when the taxpayer’s entitlement to a refund stands undisputed, the State should not misuse technicalities and legalisms, however exalted, to keep money not belonging to it. The government is not exempt from the application of solutio indebiti, a basic postulate proscribing one, including the State, from enriching himself or herself at the expense of another. Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Fortune Tobacco Corporation, Fortune Tobacco Corporation v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, G.R. Nos. 167274-75/G.R. No. 192576, September 11, 2013.

Procedure; execution of judgment; fallo prevails over the body of the opinion; exceptions. It is established jurisprudence that “the only portion of the decision which becomes the subject of execution and determines what is ordained is the dispositive part, the body of the decision being considered as the reasons or conclusions of the Court, rather than its adjudication.” However, there are two (2) exceptions to this rule: [1] where there is ambiguity or uncertainty, the body of the opinion may be referred to for purposes of construing the judgment because the dispositive part of a decision must find support from the decision’s ratio decidendi; and [2] where extensive and explicit discussion and settlement of the issue is found in the body of the decision. Both exceptions apply in this case. There is an ambiguity in the fallo of the July 21, 2008 decision in G.R. Nos. 167274-75 considering that the propriety of the Court of Appeals holding in CA-G.R. SP No. 83165 formed part of the core issues raised in G.R. Case Nos. 167274-75 but was left out in the decretal portion of the judgment. The fallo of the Court’s July 21, 2008 decision should, therefore, be corresponding corrected.  Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Fortune Tobacco Corporation, Fortune Tobacco Corporation v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue,  G.R. Nos. 167274-75/G.R. No. 192576, September 11, 2013.

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September 2013 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Legal and Judicial Ethics

Here are select September 2013 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on legal and judicial ethics:

Attorney; Attorney’s Fees. The case initially concerned the execution of a final decision with the Court of Appeals in a labor litigation. Petitioner Malvar, however, entered into a compromise agreement with the respondents pending appeal without informing her counsel. Malvar’s counsel filed a Motion to Intervene to Protect Attorney’s Rights.

The Supreme Court, on considerations of equity and fairness, disapproved of the tendencies of clients compromising their cases behind the backs of their attorneys for the purpose of unreasonably reducing or completely setting to naught the stipulated contingent fees. Thus, the Court granted the Motion for Intervention to Protect Attorney’s Rights as a measure of protecting the Intervenor’s right to his stipulated professional fees. The Court did so in the interest of protecting the rights of the practicing Bar rendering professional services on contingent fee basis.

Although the compromise agreement was still approved by the Court, the payment of the counsel’s adequate and reasonable compensation could not be annulled by the settlement of the litigation without the counsel’s participation and conformity. He remains entitled to the compensation, and his rights are safeguarded by the Court because its members are officers of the Court who are as entitled to judicial protection against injustice or imposition of fraud committed by the client as much as the client is against their abuses as her counsel. In other words, the duty of the Court is not only to ensure that the attorney acts in a proper and lawful manner, but also to see to it that the attorney is paid his just fees. Even if the compensation of the attorney is dependent only on winning the litigation, the subsequent withdrawal of the case upon the client’s initiative would not deprive the attorney of the legitimate compensation for professional services rendered. Czarina T. Malvar v. Kraft Foods Phils., Inc., et al., G.R. No. 183952, September 9, 2013.

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Protecting the Lives and Property of Filipinos by Protecting Government Risk Reduction and Preparedness Equipment: A Look Into the Risk Reduction and Preparedness Equipment Protection Act and its IRR

On December 4, 2012, President Benigno S. Aquino III signed into law Republic Act No. 10344 (“RA 10344”) or the Risk Reduction and Preparedness Equipment Protection Act. This law was passed pursuant to the policy of the State under Section 17 of Article II of the 1987 Philippine Constitution to protect the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.

Under RA 10344, government risk reduction and preparedness equipment (the “equipment”) refer to pieces of equipment, or parts thereof of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) that gather, store, archive or monitor meteorological and seismological data and information which are analyzed and used to warn the public about weather conditions, earthquake, volcanic or tsunami activities and similar natural calamities.

On June 25, 2013, the DOST in coordination with the NDRRMC promulgated the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 10344 (the “IRR”). Under the IRR, the following are included in the list of equipment by the DOST which will be regularly updated:

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September 2013 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

Here are select September 2013 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and procedure:

1.            REVISED PENAL CODE

Estafa under Article 315(2)(d) of the Revised Penal Code; elements. In order to constitute estafa under Article 315(2)(d) of the Revised Penal Code, the act of postdating or issuing a check in payment of an obligation must be the efficient cause of the defraudation. This means that the offender must be able to obtain money or property from the offended party by reason of the issuance of the check, whether dated or postdated. In other words, the Prosecution must show that the person to whom the check was delivered would not have parted with his money or property were it not for the issuance of the check by the offender. The essential elements of this crime are the following: (a) a check is postdated or issued in payment of an obligation contracted at the time the check is issued; (b) lack or insufficiency of funds to cover the check; and (c) damage to the payee thereof. People of the Philippines v. Gilbert Reyes Wagas, G.R. No. 157943, September 4, 2013.

Estafa under Article 315(2)(d) of the Revised Penal Code; what the law punishes is fraud or deceit, not the mere issuance of a worthless check. In this case, the Prosecution established that Ligaray had released the goods to Cañada because of the postdated check the latter had given to him; and that the check was dishonored when presented for payment because of the insufficiency of funds. In every criminal prosecution, however, the identity of the offender, like the crime itself, must be established by proof beyond reasonable doubt. In that regard, the Prosecution did not establish beyond reasonable doubt that it was accused Wagas who had defrauded Ligaray by issuing the check. Firstly, Ligaray expressly admitted that he did not personally meet the person with whom he was transacting over the telephone. Even after the dishonor of the check, Ligaray did not personally see and meet whoever he had dealt with and to whom he had made the demand for payment, and that he had talked with him only over the telephone. Secondly, the check delivered to Ligaray was made payable to cash – this type of check was payable to the bearer and could be negotiated by mere delivery without the need of an indorsement. This rendered it highly probable that Wagas had issued the check not to Ligaray, but to somebody else like Cañada, his brother-in-law, who then negotiated it to Ligaray. Relevantly, Ligaray confirmed that he did not himself see or meet Wagas at the time of the transaction and thereafter, and expressly stated that the person who signed for and received the stocks of rice was Cañada.  It bears stressing that the accused, to be guilty of estafa as charged, must have used the check in order to defraud the complainant. What the law punishes is the fraud or deceit, not the mere issuance of the worthless check. Wagas could not be held guilty of estafa simply because he had issued the check used to defraud Ligaray. The proof of guilt must still clearly show that it had been Wagas as the drawer who had defrauded Ligaray by means of the check. Thus, considering that the circumstances of the identification of Wagas as the person who transacted on the rice did not preclude a reasonable possibility of mistake, the proof of guilt did not measure up to the standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt demanded in criminal cases. People of the Philippines v. Gilbert Reyes Wagas, G.R. No. 157943, September 4, 2013.

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September 2013 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Commercial Law

Here are select September 2013 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on commercial law:

Checks; negotiable instruments. The check delivered to was made payable to cash. Under the Negotiable Instruments Law, this type of check was payable to the bearer and could be negotiated by mere delivery without the need of an indorsement. People of the Philippines v. Gilbert Reyes Wagas, G.R. No. 157943, September 4, 2013.

Insurance contracts; contract of adhesion. A contract of insurance is a contract of adhesion. When the terms of the insurance contract contain limitations on liability, courts should construe them in such a way as to preclude the insurer from non-compliance with his obligation. Alpha Insurance and Surety Co. v. Arsenia Sonia Castor, G.R. No. 198174, September 2, 2013.

Sale; subdivision lots. Presidential Decree No. 957 is a law that regulates the sale of subdivision lots and condominiums in view of the increasing number of incidents wherein “real estate subdivision owners, developers, operators, and/or sellers have reneged on their representations and obligations to provide and maintain properly” the basic requirements and amenities, as well as of reports of alarming magnitude of swindling and fraudulent manipulations perpetrated by unscrupulous subdivision and condominium sellers and operators, such as failure to deliver titles to the buyers or titles free from liens and encumbrances.

Presidential Decree No. 957 authorizes the suspension and revocation of the registration and license of the real estate subdivision owners, developers, operators, and/or sellers in certain instances, as well as provides the procedure to be observed in such instances; it prescribes administrative fines and other penalties in case of violation of, or non-compliance with its provisions. San Miguel Properties, Inc. v. Secretary of Justice, et al., G.R. No. 166836, September 4, 2013.

(Hector thanks Carlos Manuel D. Prado for his assistance to Lexoterica.)