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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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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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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November 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Commercial Law

Here are selected November 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on commercial law:

Intellectual property; right of patentees. It is clear from Section 37 of Republic Act No. 165 that the exclusive right of a patentee to make, use and sell a patented product, article or process exists only during the term of the patent. In the instant case, Philippine Letters Patent No. 21116, which was the basis of respondents in filing their complaint with the BLA-IPO, was issued on July 16, 1987. This fact was admitted by respondents themselves in their complaint. They also admitted that the validity of the said patent is until July 16, 2004, which is in conformity with Section 21 of RA 165, providing that the term of a patent shall be seventeen (17) years from the date of issuance thereof. Section 4, Rule 129 of the Rules of Court provides that an admission, verbal or written, made by a party in the course of the proceedings in the same case, does not require proof and that the admission may be contradicted only by showing that it was made through palpable mistake or that no such admission was made. In the present case, there is no dispute as to respondents’ admission that the term of their patent expired on July 16, 2004. Neither is there evidence to show that their admission was made through palpable mistake. Hence, contrary to the pronouncement of the CA, there is no longer any need to present evidence on the issue of expiration of respondents’ patent.  Phil Pharmawealth, Inc. vs. Pfizer, Inc and Pfizer (Phil.) Inc., G.R. No. 167715, November 17, 2010.

Intra-corporate dispute; definition.  An intra-corporate dispute is understood as a suit arising from intra-corporate relations or between or among stockholders or between any or all of them and the corporation.  Applying what has come to be known as the relationship test, it has been held that the types of actions embraced by the foregoing definition include the following suits: (a) between the corporation, partnership or association and the public; (b) between the corporation, partnership or association and its stockholders, partners, members, or officers; (c) between the corporation, partnership or association and the State insofar as its franchise, permit or license to operate is concerned; and, (d) among the stockholders, partners or associates themselves.  As the definition is broad enough to cover all kinds of controversies between stockholders and corporations, the traditional interpretation was to the effect that the relationship test brooked no distinction, qualification or any exemption whatsoever.

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