August 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

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

Civil Code

Accion reivindicatoria.  Article 434 of the Civil Code provides that in an action to recover, the property must be identified, and the plaintiff must rely on the strength of his title and not on the weakness of the defendant’s claim.

The first requisite is the identity of the land. In an accion reinvindicatoria, the person who claims that he has a better right to the property must first fix the identity of the land he is claiming by describing the location, area and boundaries thereof. Anent the second requisite, i.e., the claimant’s title over the disputed area, the rule is that a party can claim a right of ownership only over the parcel of land that was the object of the deed. It is settled that what really defines a piece of land is not the area mentioned in its description, but the boundaries therein laid down, as enclosing the land and indicating its limits. We have held, however, that in controversial cases where there appears to be an overlapping of boundaries, the actual size of the property gains importance. Leonardo Notarte et al. v. Godofredo Notarte, G.R. No. 180614, August 29, 2012.

Damages; actual and moral damages; factual and legal support required. Article 2199 of the Civil Code is the statutory basis for the award of actual damages, which entitles a person to an adequate compensation only for such pecuniary loss suffered by him as he has duly proved. As such, actual damages if allowed by the RTC, being bereft of factual support, are speculative and whimsical. Without the clear and distinct findings of fact and law, the award amounts only to an ipse dixit on the part of the RTC, and do not attain finality.

Absent a clear and distinct statement of the factual and legal support for the award of moral damages, the award is thus also speculative and whimsical. Moral damages constitute another judicial ipse dixit, the inevitable consequence of which is to render the award of moral damages incapable of attaining finality. In addition, the grant of moral damages in that manner contravenes the law that permit the recovery of moral damages as the means to assuage “physical suffering, mental anguish, fright, serious anxiety, besmirched reputation, wounded feelings, moral shock, social humiliation, and similar injury.” Moral damages are not intended to enrich the plaintiff at the expense of the defendant, but to restore the plaintiff to his status quo ante as much as possible. University of the Philippines, et al. v. Hon. Agustin Dizon et al., G.R. No. 171182, Aug. 23, 2012.

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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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June 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law, Legal/Judicial Ethics and Criminal Law

Here are selected June 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on  remedial law, legal/judicial ethics and criminal law.

Remedial Law

Actions;  quasi in rem. The petition for cancellation of entries annotated at the back of OCT No. 40287 ought to have been directed against specific persons: namely, the heirs of Juan Soriano as appearing in Entry No. 20102 and, indubitably, against their successors-in-interest who have acquired different portions of the property over the years because it is in the nature of an action quasi in rem. Accordingly, the Salazars should have impleaded as party defendants the heirs of Juan Soriano and/or Vicenta Macaraeg as well as those claiming ownership over the property under their names because they are indispensable parties. This was not done in this case. Since no indispensable party was  ever impleaded by the Salazars in their petition for cancellation of entry filed before Branch 63 of the RTC of Tarlac, herein petitioners are not bound by the dispositions of the said court. Consequently, the judgment or order of the said court never even acquired finality. Zenaida Acosta, et al. vs. Trinidad Salazar, et al., G.R. No. 161034.  June 30, 2009

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