November 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

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

Civil Code

Co-ownership; validity of partition contracts. Contrary to the finding of the Court of Appeals, the subdivision agreements forged by Mendoza and her alleged co-owners were not for the partition of pro-indiviso shares of co-owners of Lot 733 but were actually conveyances, disguised as partitions, of portions of Lot 733 specifically Lots 733-A and 733-B, and portions of the subsequent subdivision of Lot 733-C. It cannot be overemphasized enough that the two deeds of absolute sale over portions of substantially the same parcel of land antedated the subdivision agreements in question and their execution acknowledged too before a notary public. Rupeta Cano Vda. De Viray and Jesus Carlo Gerard Viray v. Spouses Jose Usi and Amelita Usi,  G.R.No.192486. November 21,2012.

Constructive delivery; execution of public instrument only prima facie presumption of delivery. Article 1477 of the Civil Code recognizes that the “ownership of the thing sold shall be transferred to the vendee upon the actual or constructive delivery thereof.” Related to this article is Article 1497 which provides that “[t]he thing sold shall be understood as delivered, when it is placed in the control and possession of the vendee.” With respect to incorporeal property, Article 1498 of the Civil Code lays down the general rule: the execution of a public instrument “shall be equivalent to the delivery of the thing which is the object of the contract, if from the deed the contrary does not appear or cannot clearly be inferred.” However, the execution of a public instrument gives rise only to a prima facie presumption of delivery, which is negated by the failure of the vendee to take actual possession of the land sold. “[A] person who does not have actual possession of the thing sold cannot transfer constructive possession by the execution and delivery of a public instrument.” In this case, no constructive delivery of the land transpired upon the execution of the deed of sale since it was not the spouses Villamor, Sr. but the respondents who had actual possession of the land. The presumption of constructive delivery is inapplicable and must yield to the reality that the petitioners were not placed in possession and control of the land. Sps. Erosto Santiago and Nelsi Santiago v. Mancer Villamor, et al.; G.R. No. 168499. November 26,2012

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February 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

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

Agency; Accounting. Article 1891 of the Civil Code contains a few of the obligations owed by an agent to his principal – Every agent is bound to render an account of his transactions and to deliver to the principal whatever he may have received by virtue of the agency, even though it may not be owing to the principal. Every stipulation exempting the agent from the obligation to render an account shall be void.

It is evident that the reason behind the failure of petitioner to render an accounting to respondent is immaterial. What is important is that the former fulfill her duty to render an account of the relevant transactions she entered into as respondent’s agent. Caridad Segarra Sazon vs. Letecia Vasquez-Menancio, G.R. No. 192085. February 22, 2012.

Agency; Fruits. Every agent is bound to deliver to the principal whatever the former may have received by virtue of the agency, even though that amount may not be owed to the principal. Caridad Segarra Sazon vs. Letecia Vasquez-Menancio, G.R. No. 192085. February 22, 2012.

Attorney’s fees; When payable. With respect to attorney’s fees, it is proper on the ground that petitioner’s act of denying respondent and its employees access to the leased premises has compelled respondent to litigate and incur expenses to protect its interest. Also, under the circumstances prevailing in the present case, attorney’s fees may be granted on grounds of justice and equity. Manila International Airport vs. Avia Filipinas International, Inc., G.R. No. 180168. February 27, 2012

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August 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

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

Civil Code

Contracts; rescission; accion pauliana. Under Article 1381 of the Civil Code, an accion pauliana is an action to rescind contracts in fraud of creditors. However, jurisprudence is clear that the following successive measures must be taken by a creditor before he may bring an action for rescission of an allegedly fraudulent contract: (1) exhaust the properties of the debtor through levying by attachment and execution upon all the property of the debtor, except such as are exempt by law from execution; (2) exercise all the rights and actions of the debtor, save those personal to him (accion subrogatoria); and (3) seek rescission of the contracts executed by the debtor in fraud of their rights (accion pauliana). It is thus apparent that an action to rescind, or an accion pauliana, must be of last resort, availed of only after the creditor has exhausted all the properties of the debtor not exempt from execution or after all other legal remedies have been exhausted and have been proven futile.

It does not appear that Metrobank sought other properties of SSC other than the subject lots alleged to have been transferred in fraud of creditors. Neither is there any showing that Metrobank subrogated itself in SSC’s transmissible rights and actions. Without availing of the first and second remedies, Metrobank simply undertook the third measure and filed an action for annulment of the chattel mortgages. This cannot be done. Article 1383 of the New Civil Code is very explicit that the right or remedy of the creditor to impugn the acts which the debtor may have done to defraud them is subsidiary in nature. It can only be availed of in the absence of any other legal remedy to obtain reparation for the injury. This fact is not present in this case. No evidence was presented nor even an allegation was offered to show that Metrobank had availed of the abovementioned remedies before it tried to question the validity of the contracts of chattel mortgage between IEB and SSC. Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company, substituted by Meridian Corporation vs. International Exchange Bank/Chuayuco Steel Manufacturing vs. International Exchange Bank; G.R. No. 176008/G.R. No. 176131, August 10, 2011.

Co-ownership. Article 484 of the Civil Code which defines co-ownership, states:

Art. 484. There is co-ownership whenever the ownership of an undivided thing or right belongs to different persons. . .

In the present case, petitioners insist that their predecessor-in-interest Lun co-owned the Gubat and Barcelona properties with his brother Fieng. To prove co-ownership over the Gubat property, petitioners presented: (1) tax declarations from 1929 to 1983 under the name of Fieng but paid by Lun; (2) the renewal certificate from Malayan Insurance Company Inc.; (3) the insurance contract; and (4) the statements of account from Supreme Insurance Underwriters which named Lun as administrator of the property. Likewise, to prove their right over the Barcelona property as legal heirs under intestate succession, petitioners presented a Deed of Sale dated 24 August 1923 between Chaco, as buyer, and Gabriel Gredona and Engracia Legata, as sellers, involving a price consideration of P1,200.

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June 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

Here are selected June 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on civil law:

Civil Code

Agency; agency by estoppel. The doctrine of estoppel is based upon the grounds of public policy, fair dealing, good faith and justice, and its purpose is to forbid one to speak against his own act, representations, or commitments to the injury of one to whom they were directed and who reasonably relied thereon. The doctrine of estoppel springs from equitable principles and the equities in the case. It is designed to aid the law in the administration of justice where without its aid injustice might result. It has been applied by this Court wherever and whenever special circumstances of a case so demand.

Based on the events and circumstances surrounding the issuance of the assailed orders, this Court rules that MEGAN is estopped from assailing both the authority of Atty. Sabig and the jurisdiction of the RTC. While it is true, as claimed by MEGAN, that Atty. Sabig said in court that he was only appearing for the hearing of Passi Sugar’s motion for intervention and not for the case itself, his subsequent acts, coupled with MEGAN’s inaction and negligence to repudiate his authority, effectively bars MEGAN from assailing the validity of the RTC proceedings under the principle of estoppel. Megan Sugar Corporation v. Regional Trial Court of Iloilo, Br. 68, Dumangas, Iloilo; New Frontier Sugar Corp., et al.,  G.R. No. 170352. June 1, 2011

Agency; doctrine of apparent authority. The Court finds that the signature of Abcede is sufficient to bind PRHC. As its construction manager, his very act of signing a letter embodying the P 36 million escalation agreement produced legal effect, even if there was a blank space for a higher officer of PHRC to indicate approval thereof. At the very least, he indicated authority to make such representation on behalf of PRHC. On direct examination, Abcede admitted that, as the construction manager, he represented PRHC in running its affairs with regard to the execution of the aforesaid projects. Abcede had signed, on behalf of PRHC, other documents that were almost identical to the questioned letter-agreement. PRHC does not question the validity of these agreements; it thereby effectively admits that this individual had actual authority to sign on its behalf with respect to these construction projects. Philippine Realty and Holding Corp. vs. Ley Const. and Dev. Corp./Ley Cons. and Dev. Corp. vs. Philippine Realty and Holding Corp., G.R. No. 165548/G.R. No. 167879. June 13, 2011

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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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July 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

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

Civil Code

Agency; doctrine of apparent authority. The doctrine of apparent authority in respect of government contracts, has been restated to mean that the government is NOT bound by unauthorized acts of its agents, even though within the apparent scope of their authority. Under the law on agency, however, “apparent authority” is defined as the power to affect the legal relations of another person by transactions with third persons arising from the other’s manifestations to such third person such that the liability of the principal for the acts and contracts of his agent extends to those which are within the apparent scope of the authority conferred on him, although no actual authority to do such acts or to make such contracts has been conferred.

Apparent authority, or what is sometimes referred to as the “holding out” theory, or doctrine of ostensible agency, imposes liability, not as the result of the reality of a contractual relationship, but rather because of the actions of a principal or an employer in somehow misleading the public into believing that the relationship or the authority exists. The existence of apparent authority may be ascertained through (1) the general manner in which the corporation holds out an officer or agent as having the power to act or, in other words, the apparent authority to act in general, with which it clothes him; or (2) the acquiescence in his acts of a particular nature, with actual or constructive knowledge thereof, whether within or beyond the scope of his ordinary powers. It requires presentation of evidence of similar act(s) executed either in its favor or in favor of other parties.

Easily discernible from the foregoing is that apparent authority is determined only by the acts of the principal and not by the acts of the agent. The principal is, therefore, not responsible where the agent’s own conduct and statements have created the apparent authority.

In this case, not a single act of respondent, acting through its Board of Directors, was cited as having clothed its general manager with apparent authority to execute the contract with it. Sargasso Construction & Development Corporation / Pick & Shovel, Inc./Atlantic Erectors, Inc./ Joint Venture vs. Philippine Ports Authority, G.R. No. 170530, July 5, 2010.

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February 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law

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

Civil Procedure

Actions; prescription/laches. Petitioners contend that it is error on the part of the CA to rule that their cause of action has been barred by prescription and laches. According to them, since the OCT from which ALI derived its title is void for want of a duly approved survey plan, their cause of action did not prescribe. However, as discussed above, the conclusion of the trial court that OCT No. 242 is void was not sufficiently borne out by the evidence on record. Verily, the premise upon which petitioners build their theory of imprescriptibility of their action did not exist.

In sum, we find no reason to disturb the CA’s finding that:  “As previously emphasized, OCT No. 242 of ALI’s predecessor-in-interest was issued on May 7, 1950, or forty-five (45) years before plaintiffs-appellees filed their complaint on March 10, 1995.  As such, it is the Court’s firmly held view that plaintiffs-appellees’ claim is barred not only by prescription, but also by laches.

Aside from the fact that OCT No. 242 had become incontrovertible after the lapse of one (1) year from the time a decree of registration was issued, any action for reconveyance that plaintiffs-appellees could have availed of is also barred.  Although plaintiffs-appellees’ complaint was for quieting of title, it is in essence an action for reconveyance based on an implied or constructive trust, considering that plaintiffs-appellees were alleging in said complaint that there was a serious mistake, if not fraud, in the issuance of OCT No. 242 in favor of ALI’s predecessor-in-interest.  It is now well-settled that an action for reconveyance, which is a legal remedy granted to a landowner whose property has been wrongfully or erroneously registered in another’s name, must be filed within ten years from the issuance of the title, since such issuance operates as a constructive notice.  Since ALI’s title is traced to an OCT issued in 1950, the ten-year prescriptive period expired in 1960.

By laches is meant the negligence or omission to assert a right within a reasonable time, warranting a presumption that the party entitled to assert it either has abandoned it or declined to assert it.  It does not involve mere lapse or passage of time, but is principally an impediment to the assertion or enforcement of a right, which has become under the circumstances inequitable or unfair to permit.  In the instant case, plaintiffs-appellees, as well as their predecessor-in-interest, have not shown that they have taken judicial steps to nullify OCT No. 242, from which ALI’s title was derived, for forty-five (45) years.  To allow them to do so now, and if successful, would be clearly unjust and inequitable to those who relied on the validity of said OCT, the innocent purchasers for value, who are protected by the precise provisions of P.D. 1529”. Spouses Morris Carpo and Socorro Carpo vs. Ayala Land, Incorporated, G.R. No. 166577, February 3, 2010.

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