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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January 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

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

CIVIL CODE

Agency; principal-agent relationship.  The relationship of agency is one where one party called the principal (mandante), authorizes another, called the agent (mandatario), to act for and in his behalf in transactions with third persons. The essential elements of agency are: (1) there is consent, express or implied of the parties to establish the relationship; (2) the object is the execution of a juridical act in relation to a third person; (3) the agent acts as a representative and not for himself, and (4) the agent acts within the scope of his authority.

Agency is basically personal, representative, and derivative in nature. The authority of the agent to act emanates from the powers granted to him by his principal; his act is the act of the principal if done within the scope of the authority. Qui facit per alium facit se. He who acts through another acts himself.

As provided under Article 1869 of the Civil Code, agency may be express, or implied from the acts of the principal, from his silence or lack of action, or his failure to repudiate the agency, knowing that another person is acting on his behalf without authority.

The guidelines that would aid in differentiating sale and an agency has been formulated by the Court since 1970. The primordial differentiating consideration between the two (2) contracts is the transfer of ownership or title over the property subject of the contract. In an agency, the principal retains ownership and control over the property and the agent merely acts on the principal’s behalf and under his instructions in furtherance of the objectives for which the agency was established. On the other hand, the contract is clearly a sale if the parties intended that the delivery of the property will effect a relinquishment of title, control and ownership in such a way that the recipient may do with the property as he pleases. Sps. Fernando and Lourdes Viloria vs. Continental Airlines, Inc.,G.R. No. 188288. January 16, 2012.

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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 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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May 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law

Here are selected May 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on remedial law:

Civil Procedure

Appeal; direct appeal to Supreme Court from trial court decision improper.  Records show that on December 13, 2004, the trial court rendered a Decision finding that petitioner can execute judgment on the additional attorney’s fees but only up to the extent of P1,000,000.00, not the entire amount of P20,000,000.00 as prayed for in his petition.  Petitioner received a copy of the assailed decision on December 22, 2004.  Petitioner moved for reconsideration on December 29, 2004, but the same was denied in the trial court’s Order dated March 1, 2005.  Petitioner received a copy of the challenged order on March 7, 2005.  On March 17, 2005, instead of appealing the assailed decision and order of the trial court to the Court of Appeals via a notice of appeal under Section 2(a) of Rule 41 of the Rules, petitioner filed a petition for review on certiorari directly with this Court, stating that the trial court acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to an excess of jurisdiction, and that there is no appeal, or any plain, speedy and adequate remedy available in the ordinary course of law.  This is a procedural misstep.  Although denominated as petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45, petitioner, in questioning the decision and order of the trial court which were rendered in the exercise of its original jurisdiction, should have taken the appeal to the Court of Appeals within fifteen (15) days from notice of the trial court’s March 1, 2005 Order, i.e., within 15 days counted from March 7, 2005 (date of receipt of the appealed order), or until March 22, 2005, by filing a notice of appeal with the trial court which rendered the decision and order appealed from and serving copies thereof upon the adverse party pursuant to Sections 2(a) and 3 of Rule 41.  Clearly, when petitioner sought to assail the decision and order of the trial court, an appeal to the Court of Appeals was the adequate remedy which he should have availed of, instead of filing a petition directly with this Court.  Hicoblo M. Catly (deceased), subtituted by his wife, Lourdes A. Catly vs. William Navarro, et al., G.R. No. 167239, May 5, 2010

Appeal; failure to properly indicate appealing party; ground for dismissal.  With respect to the first case against Marcelina, we resolve to dismiss the appeal of Felisa.  Section 5 of Rule 45 provides that the failure of the petitioner to comply, among others, with the contents of the petition for review on certiorari shall be sufficient ground for the dismissal thereof.  Section 4 of the same rule mandates, among others, that the petition should state the full name of the appealing party as the petitioner.  In this case, Felisa indicated in the caption as well as in the parties portion of the petition that she is the landowner.  Even in the verification and certification of non-forum shopping, Felisa attested that she is the petitioner in the instant case.  However, it appears in the PARAD records that the owners of the subject 14,000-square meter agricultural land are Rosa R. Pajarito (Pajarito), Elvira A. Madolora (Madolora) and Anastacia F. Lagado (Lagado).  Felisa is only the representative of the said landowners with respect to the first case against Marcelina.  Thus, for failure of Felisa to indicate the appealing party with respect to the said case, the appeal must perforce be dismissed.  However, such failure does not affect the appeal on the other three cases as Felisa is the owner/co-owner of the landholdings subject of said three cases.  Felisa Ferrer vs. Domingo Carganillo, et al., G.R. No. 170956, May 12, 2010

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May 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

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

Civil Code

Attorney’s fees; quantum meruit. The principle of quantum meruit (as much as he deserves) may be a basis for determining the reasonable amount of attorney’s fees.  Quantum meruit is a device to prevent undue enrichment based on the equitable postulate that it is unjust for a person to retain benefit without paying for it. It is applicable even if there was a formal written contract for attorney’s fees as long as the agreed fee was found by the court to be unconscionable.  In fixing a reasonable compensation for the services rendered by a lawyer on the basis of quantum meruit, factors such as the time spent, and extent of services rendered; novelty and difficulty of the questions involved; importance of the subject matter; skill demanded; probability of losing other employment as a result of acceptance of the proferred case; customary charges for similar services; amount involved in the controversy and the benefits resulting to the client; certainty of compensation; character of employment; and professional standing of the lawyer, may be considered.  Indubitably entwined with a lawyer’s duty to charge only reasonable fee is the power of the Court to reduce the amount of attorney’s fees if the same is excessive and unconscionable in relation to Sec. 24, Rule 138 of the Rules.  Attorney’s fees are unconscionable if they affront one’s sense of justice, decency or unreasonableness.   The determination of the amount of reasonable attorney’s fees requires the presentation of evidence and a full-blown trial.  It would be only after due hearing and evaluation of the evidence presented by the parties that the trial court can render judgment as to the propriety of the amount to be awarded.  Hicoblo M. Catly (deceased), subtituted by his wife, Lourdes A. Catly vs. William Navarro, et al., G.R. No. 167239, May 5, 2010.

Compromise agreement. Under Article 2028 of the Civil Code, a compromise agreement is a contract whereby the parties, by making reciprocal concessions, avoid litigation or put an end to one already commenced. Compromise is a form of amicable settlement that is not only allowed, but also encouraged in civil cases. Contracting parties may establish such stipulations, clauses, terms, and conditions as they deem convenient, provided that these are not contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order, or public policy. Heirs of Alfredo Zabala, etc. et al. vs. Hon. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 189602, May 6, 2010.

Damages; amount in tort interference. The rule is that the defendant found guilty of interference with contractual relations cannot be held liable for more than the amount for which the party who was inducted to break the contract can be held liable.  Respondents were therefore correctly held liable for the balance of petitioner’s commission from the sale. Allan C. Go, doing business under the name and style of “ACG Express Liner” vs. Mortimer F. Cordero/Mortimer F. Cordero vs. Allan C. Go, doing business under the name and style of “ACG Express Liner”, et al., G.R. No. 164703/G.R. No, 164747. May 4, 2010.

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March 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law

Here are selected March 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on remedial law:

Civil Procedure

Actions; action for reformation of instrument; requisites. For an action for reformation of instrument to prosper, the following requisites must concur: (1) there must have been a meeting of the minds of the parties to the contract; (2) the instrument does not express the true intention of the parties; and (3) the failure of the instrument to express the true intention of the parties is due to mistake, fraud, inequitable conduct or accident.  Petitioner having admitted the existence and execution of the instrument, what remains to be resolved is whether the contract expressed the true intention of the parties; if not, whether it was due to mistake, fraud, inequitable conduct or accident.  The onus probandi is upon the party who insists that the contract should be reformed.  Notarized documents, like the deed in question [i.e., “Sale and Transfer of Rights over a Portion of a Parcel of Land”], enjoy the presumption of regularity which can be overturned only by clear, convincing and more than merely preponderant evidence.  This petitioner failed to discharge.  Flordeliza Emilio vs. Bilma Rapal, G.R. No. 181855, March 30, 2010.

Actions; annulment of judgment. The Court finds that petitioner properly availed of the remedy of a petition for annulment of judgment in challenging the Manila RTC Decision.  In his petition with the appellate court, he did not limit his ground to extrinsic fraud, as he invoked as well the Manila RTC’s lack of jurisdiction to annul the proceedings in the Pagadian RTC which is a court of co-equal and coordinate jurisdiction.  Since petitioner’s petition raised lack of jurisdiction, he did not have to allege that the ordinary remedies of new trial, reconsideration or appeal were no longer available through no fault of his.  This is so because a judgment rendered or final order issued by the RTC without jurisdiction is null and void and may be assailed any time either collaterally or in a direct action, or by resisting such judgment or final order in any action or proceeding whenever it is invoked.  Jose Cabaral Tiu v. First Plywood Corporation/Jose Cabaral Tiu vs. Timber Exports, Inc. Angel Domingo, Country Bankers Ins. Corp., Perfecto Mondarte, Jr. and Cesar Dacal, G.R. No. 176123/G.R. No.  185265, March 10, 2010

Actions; attack on title. The petitioners contend that this action for quieting of title should be disallowed because it constituted a collateral attack on OCT No. RO-9969-(O-20449), citing Section 48 of Presidential Decree No. 1529, viz:

Section 48. Certificate not subject to collateral attack.– A certificate of title shall not be subject to collateral attack. It cannot be altered, modified, or cancelled except in a direct proceeding in accordance with law.

The petitioners’ contention is not well taken.  An action or proceeding is deemed an attack on a title when its objective is to nullify the title, thereby challenging the judgment pursuant to which the title was decreed.  The attack is direct when the objective is to annul or set aside such judgment, or enjoin its enforcement. On the other hand, the attack is indirect or collateral when, in an action to obtain a different relief, an attack on the judgment is nevertheless made as an incident thereof.  Teofisto Oño, et al. vs. Vicente N. Lim, G.R. No. 154270, March 9,  2010

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