April 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

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

Civil Code

Compensation/set-off; requisites. The applicable provisions of law are Articles 1278, 1279 and 1290 of the Civil Code of the Philippines:

Art. 1278. Compensation shall take place when two persons, in their own right, are creditors and debtors of each other.

Art. 1279. In order that compensation may be proper, it is necessary:

(1) That each one of the obligors be bound principally, and that he be at the same time a principal creditor of the other;

(2) That both debts consist in a sum of money, or if the things due are consumable, they be of the same kind, and also of the same quality if the latter has been stated;

(3) That the two debts be due;

(4) That they be liquidated and demandable;

(5) That over neither of them there be any retention or controversy, commenced by third persons and communicated in due time to the debtor.

Art. 1290. When all the requisites mentioned in Article 1279 are present, compensation takes effect by operation of law, and extinguishes both debts to the concurrent amount, even though the creditors and debtors are not aware of the compensation.

Based on the foregoing, in order for compensation to be valid, the five requisites mentioned in the above-quoted Article 1279 should be present, as in the case at bench. Insular Investment and Trust Corporation vs. Capital One Equities Corp. and Planters Development Bank; G.R. No. 183308, April 25, 2012

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July 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

Here are select July 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on civil law:

Compensation. For legal compensation to take place, the requirements set forth in Articles 1278 and 1279 of the Civil Code, quoted below, must be present.

ARTICLE 1278. Compensation shall take place when two persons, in their own right, are creditors and debtors of each other.

ARTICLE 1279. In order that compensation may be proper, it is necessary:

(1) That each one of the obligors be bound principally, and that he be at the same time a principal creditor of the other;

(2) That both debts consist in a sum of money, or if the things due are consumable, they be of the same kind, and also of the same quality if the latter has been stated;

(3) That the two debts be due;

(4) That they be liquidated and demandable;

(5) That over neither of them there be any retention or controversy, commenced by third persons and communicated in due time to the debtor.

A debt is liquidated when its existence and amount are determined. It is not necessary that it be admitted by the debtor. Nor is it necessary that the credit appear in a final judgment in order that it can be considered as liquidated; it is enough that its exact amount is known. And a debt is considered liquidated, not only when it is expressed already in definite figures which do not require verification, but also when the determination of the exact amount depends only on a simple arithmetical operation.

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October 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

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

Agency. The sale of the DMCI shares made by EIB is null and void for lack of authority to do so, for petitioners never gave their consent or permission to the sale. Moreover, Article 1881 of the Civil Code provides that “the agent must act within the scope of his authority.” Pursuant to the authority given by the principal, the agent is granted the right “to affect the legal relations of his principal by the performance of acts effectuated in accordance with the principal’s manifestation of consent.”  In the case at bar, the scope of authority of EIB as agent of petitioners is “to retain, apply, sell or dispose of all or any of the client’s [petitioners’] property,” if all or any indebtedness or other obligations of petitioners to EIB are not discharged in full by petitioners “when due or on demand in or towards the payment and discharge of such obligation or liability.” The right to sell or dispose of the properties of petitioners by EIB is unequivocally confined to payment of the obligations and liabilities of petitioners to EIB and none other. Thus, when EIB sold the DMCI shares to buy back the KKP shares, it paid the proceeds to the vendees of said shares, the act of which is clearly an obligation to a third party and, hence, is beyond the ambit of its authority as agent. Such act is surely illegal and does not bind petitioners as principals of EIB. Pacific Rehouse Corporation, et al. vs. EIB Securities, Inc.;G.R. No. 184036, October 13, 2010.

Attorney’s fees. It is settled that the award of attorney’s fees is the exception rather than the general rule; counsel’s fees are not awarded every time a party prevails in a suit because of the policy that no premium should be placed on the right to litigate. Attorney’s fees, as part of damages, are not necessarily equated to the amount paid by a litigant to a lawyer. In the ordinary sense, attorney’s fees represent the reasonable compensation paid to a lawyer by his client for the legal services he has rendered to the latter; while in its extraordinary concept, they may be awarded by the court as indemnity for damages to be paid by the losing party to the prevailing party. Attorney’s fees as part of damages are awarded only in the instances specified in Article 2208 of the Civil Code. As such, it is necessary for the court to make findings of fact and law that would bring the case within the ambit of these enumerated instances to justify the grant of such award, and in all cases it must be reasonable. Filomena R. Benedicto vs. Antonio Villaflores; G.R. No. 185020. October 6, 2010.

Attorney’s fees. We have stressed that the award of attorney’s fees is the exception rather than the rule, as they are not always awarded every time a party prevails in a suit because of the policy that no premium should be placed on the right to litigate.  Attorney’s fees as part of damages is awarded only in the instances specified in Article 2208 of the Civil Code. Financial Building Corporation vs. Rudlin International Corporation, et al./Rudlin International Corporation, et al.  vs. Financial Building Corporation; G.R. No. 164186/G.R. No. 164347. October 4, 2010.

Attorney’s fees. An award of attorney’s fees is the exception rather than the rule.  The right to litigate is so precious that a penalty should not be charged on those who may exercise it erroneously.  It is not given merely because the defendant prevails and the action is later declared to be unfounded unless there was a deliberate intent to cause prejudice to the other party. Spouses Ramy and Zenaida Pudadera vs. Ireneo Magallanes and the late Daisy Teresa cortel Magallanes, substituted by her children, Nelly M. Marquez, et al.;G.R. No. 170073, October 18, 2010.

Compensation; partial set-off. Under the circumstances, fairness and reason dictate that we simply order the set-off of the petitioners’ contractual liabilities totaling P575,922.13 against the repair cost for the defective gutter, pegged at P717,524.00, leaving the amount of P141,601.87 still due from the respondent. Support in law for this ruling for partial legal compensation proceeds from Articles 1278, 1279, 1281, and 1283 of the Civil Code. In short, both parties are creditors and debtors of each other, although in different amounts that are already due and demandable. Spouses Victoriano chung and Debbie Chung vs. Ulanday Construction, Inc.;G.R. No. 156038, October 11, 2010.

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August 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

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

Constitutional Law

Civil Service Commission; jurisdiction. The civil service encompasses all branches and agencies of the Government, including government-owned or controlled corporations with original charters, like the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), or those created by special law. Thus, GSIS employees are part of the civil service system and are subject to the law and to the circulars, rules and regulations issued by the Civil Service Commission (CSC) on discipline, attendance and general terms and conditions of employment. The CSC has jurisdiction to hear and decide disciplinary cases against erring employees. Winston F. Garcia vs. Mario I. Molina, et al./Winston F. Garcia vs. Mario I. Molina, et al., G.R. No. 157383/G.R. No. 174137, August 18, 2010.

Double compensation. Section 8, Article IX-B of the Constitution provides that no elective or appointive public officer or employee shall receive additional, double or indirect compensation, unless specifically authorized by law, nor accept without the consent of the Congress, any present emolument, office or title of any kind from any foreign government.  Pensions and gratuities shall not be considered as additional, double or indirect compensation. This provision, however, does not apply to the present case as there was no double compensation to the petitioners. The questioned resolutions of the Monetary Board are valid corporate acts of petitioners that became the bases for granting them additional monthly representation and transportation allowance (RATA), as members of the Board of Directors of Philippine International Convention Center Inc. (PICCI), a government corporation whose sole stockholder is the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). RATA is distinct from salary as a form of compensation.  Unlike salary which is paid for services rendered, RATA is a form of allowance intended to defray expenses deemed unavoidable in the discharge of office.  Hence, RATA is paid only to certain officials who, by the nature of their offices, incur representation and transportation expenses.  Indeed, aside from the RATA that they have been receiving from the BSP, the grant of RATA to each of the petitioners for every board meeting they attended, in their capacity as members of the Board of Directors of PICCI, in addition to their per diem, does not violate the constitutional proscription against double compensation. Gabriel C. Singson, et al. vs. Commission on Audit, G.R. No. 159355, August 9, 2010.

Eminent domain; voluntary agreement by landowner. Where the landowner agrees voluntarily to the taking of his property by the government for public use, he thereby waives his right to the institution of a formal expropriation proceeding covering such property. Failure for a long time of the owner to question the lack of expropriation proceedings covering a property that the government had taken constitutes a waiver of his right to gain back possession. The landowner’s remedy in such case is an action for the payment of just compensation, not ejectment. Here, the Court of Appeals erred in ordering the eviction of petitioner from the property that it has held as government school site for more than 50 years. The evidence on record shows that the respondents intended to cede the property to the City Government of Lipa permanently. In fact, they allowed the city to declare the property in its name for tax purposes. And when they sought to have the bigger lot subdivided, the respondents earmarked a specific portion for the City Government of Lipa. Under the circumstances, it may be assumed that the respondents had agreed to transfer ownership of the land to the government, whether to the City Government of Lipa or to the Republic of the Philippines, but the parties never formalized and documented such transfer. Consequently, petitioner should be deemed entitled to possession pending the respondents’ formal transfer of ownership to it upon payment of just compensation. Republic of the Philippines vs. Primo Mendoza and Maria Lucero, G.R. No. 185091, August 8, 2010.

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June 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

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

Civil Code

Compensation. The Civil Code provides that compensation shall take place when two persons, in their own right, are creditors and debtors of each other. In order for compensation to be proper, it is necessary that: (i) each one of the obligors is bound principally and that he be at the same time a principal creditor of the other; (ii) both debts consist in a sum of money, or if the things due are consumable, they be of the same kind, and also of the same quality if the latter has been stated; (iii) the two debts are due: (iv) the debts are liquidated and demandable; and (v) over neither of them be any retention or controversy, commenced by third parties and communicated in due time to the debtor.

In this case, petitioners failed to properly discharge their burden to show that the debts are liquidated and demandable. Consequently, legal compensation is inapplicable.

A claim is liquidated when the amount and time of payment is fixed. If acknowledged by the debtor, although not in writing, the claim must be treated as liquidated. When the defendant, who has an unliquidated claim, sets it up by way of counterclaim, and a judgment is rendered liquidating such claim, it can be compensated against the plaintiff’s claim from the moment it is liquidated by judgment. Selwyn F. Lao, et al. vs. Special Plans, Inc., G.R. No. 164791, June 29, 2010 .

Contracts; Consideration; Adequacy of Price. Without directly saying so, the trial court held that the petitioners cannot sue upon the oral sale since in its own words: “[petitioners] have not paid in full Armando Gabriel, Sr. or his estate, so that the sale transaction between Armando Gabriel Sr. and [petitioners] [has] no adequate consideration.”

The trial court’s posture is patently flawed. For starters, they equated incomplete payment of the purchase price with inadequacy of price or what passes as lesion, when both are different civil law concepts with differing legal consequences, the first being a ground to rescind an otherwise valid and enforceable contract. Perceived inadequacy of price, on the other hand, is not a sufficient ground for setting aside a sale freely entered into, save perhaps when the inadequacy is shocking to the conscience. Anthony Orduña, et al. vs. Eduardo J. Fuentebella, et al., G.R. No. 176841, June 29, 2010.

Contracts; Autonomy of Parties. Unless the terms of a contract are against the law, morals, good customs, and public policy, such contract is law between the parties and its terms bind them. In Felsan Realty & Development Corporation v. Commonwealth of Australia, the Court regarded as valid and binding a provision in the lease contract that allowed the lessee to pre-terminate the same when fire damaged the leased building, rendering it uninhabitable or unsuitable for living. In this case, paragraph VIII of the lease contract between DBS and the Martins permitted rescission by either party should the leased property become untenantable because of natural causes. The Court similarly found the following provision enforeceable and binding: `In case of damage to the leased premises or any portion thereof by reason of fault or negligence attributable to the LESSEE, its agents, employees, customers, or guests, the LESSEE shall be responsible for undertaking such repair or reconstruction. In case of damage due to fire, earthquake, lightning, typhoon, flood, or other natural causes, without fault or negligence attributable to the LESSEE, its agents, employees, customers or guests, the LESSOR shall be responsible for undertaking such repair or reconstruction. In the latter case, if the leased premises become untenantable, either party may demand for the rescission of this contract and in such case, the deposit referred to in paragraph III shall be returned to the LESSEE immediately.’ Felicidad T. Martin, et al. vs. DBS Bank Philippines, Inc., et al. G.R. No. 174632 & G.R. No. 174804, June 16, 2010.

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Dissension in the Court: March 2010

Every so often, the members of the Supreme Court, whether sitting in division or En Banc, are unable to arrive at a unanimous position. In those cases, as it is in a boxing match, the Honorable Justices have sometimes been forced to come in from different corners to slug it out.

The following are selected decisions promulgated by the High Court in March 2010 where at least one Justice felt compelled to express his or her dissent from the decision penned by the ponente and the summaries below highlight some issues involved in those cases where the Justices differed in their opinions. Let’s get ready to rumble.

THE UNDERCARDS

1. Mutuality and Conventional Compensation (Peralta vs. Carpio)

In conventional compensation, is it required that the parties be mutual creditors and debtors of each other?

The essential facts in United Planters Sugar Milling Company, Inc. vs. Court of Appeals that are relevant to that query are as follows:

(a)      United Planters Sugar Milling Company, Inc. (UPSUMCO) obtained several loans from Philippine National Bank (PNB).

(b)     To secure UPSUMCO’s obligations to PNB, among other things, UPSUMCO granted PNB contractual rights to set-off against UPSUMCO’s outstanding obligations, moneys of UPSUMCO on deposit with PNB.

(c)     PNB subsequently assigned to the Asset Privatization Trust (APT) all of its “rights, title and interest over UPSUMCO.”

(d)     Following UPSUMCO’s default, moneys in UPSUMCO’s deposit accounts with PNB were applied, without UPSUMCO’s knowledge, against UPSUMCO’s outstanding obligations under the takeoff loans and the operational loans.

As ponente for the majority decision, in denying UPSUMCO’s Motion for Reconsideration, Justice Diosdado Peralta affirmed the earlier decision of the Supreme Court where it upheld the set-off against the UPSUMCO deposit accounts held by PNB to satisfy obligations owed to APT:

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April 2009 Decisions on Civil Law

Here are selected April 2009 decisions of the Supreme Court on civil law and related laws:

Accretion.  Article 457 of the Civil Code requires the concurrence of the following requisites for accretion: (1) that the deposition of soil or sediment be gradual and imperceptible; (2) that it be the result of the action of the waters of the river; and (3) that the land where accretion takes place is adjacent to the banks of rivers.  Thus, it is not enough to be a riparian owner in order to enjoy the benefits of accretion.  One who claims the right of accretion must show by preponderant evidence that he has met all the conditions provided by law.  New Regent Sources, Inc. vs. Teofilo Victor Tanjuatco, Jr. and Vicente CuevasG.R. No. 168800, April 16, 2009.

Compensation; requisites. Under Article 1279 (1), it is necessary for compensation that the obligors “be bound principally, and that he be at the same time a principal creditor of the other.” There is, concededly, no mutual creditor-debtor relation between APT and UPSUMCO. However, we recognize the concept of conventional compensation, defined as occurring “when the parties agree to compensate their mutual obligations even if some requisite is lacking, such as that provided in Article 1282.” It is intended to eliminate or overcome obstacles which prevent ipso jure extinguishment of their obligations.

Legal compensation takes place by operation of law when all the requisites are present, as opposed to conventional compensation which takes place when the parties agree to compensate their mutual obligations even in the absence of some requisites. The only requisites of conventional compensation are (1) that each of the parties can dispose of the credit he seeks to compensate, and (2) that they agree to the mutual extinguishment of their credits. United Planters Sugar Milling Co., Inc. (UPSUMCO) vs. The Honorable Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 126890, April 2, 2009.

Compromise agreement; binding effect.  A compromise agreement, as a contract, is binding only upon the parties to the compromise, and not upon non-parties.  This is the doctrine of relativity of contracts.  Consistent with this principle, a judgment based entirely on a compromise agreement is binding only on the parties to the compromise the court approved, and not upon the parties who did not take part in the compromise agreement and in the proceedings leading to its submission and approval by the court.  Otherwise stated, a court judgment made solely on the basis of a compromise agreement binds only the parties to the compromise, and cannot bind a party litigant who did not take part in the compromise agreement.   Philippine National Bank Vs. Marcelino Banatao, et al. and Marciano Carag, et al., G.R. No. 149221,  April 7, 2009.

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