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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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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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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September 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

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

Civil Code

Contracts; both parties at fault; rule not applicable to simulated contract.  The Heirs of Policronio contended that even assuming that the contract was simulated, the Heirs of Alfonso would still be barred from recovering the properties by reason of Article 1412 of the Civil Code, which provides that if the act in which the unlawful or forbidden cause does not constitute a criminal offense, and the fault is both on the contracting parties, neither may recover what he has given by virtue of the contract or demand the performance of the other’s undertaking. As the Heirs of Alfonso alleged that the purpose of the sale was to avoid the payment of inheritance taxes, they cannot take from the Heirs of Policronio what had been given to their father.

On this point, the Court again disagrees. Article 1412 of the Civil Code is as follows:

Art. 1412. If the act in which the unlawful or forbidden cause consists does not constitute a criminal offense, the following rules shall be observed:

(1)     When the fault is on the part of both contracting parties, neither may recover what he has given by virtue of the contract, or demand the performance of the other’s undertaking;

(2)     When only one of the contracting parties is at fault, he cannot recover what he has given by reason of the contract, or ask for the fulfillment of what has been promised him. The other, who is not at fault, may demand the return of what he has given without any obligation to comply with his promise.

Article 1412 is not applicable to fictitious or simulated contracts, because they refer to contracts with an illegal cause or subject-matter. This article presupposes the existence of a cause, it cannot refer to fictitious or simulated contracts which are in reality non-existent. As it has been determined that the Deed of Sale is a simulated contract, the provision cannot apply to it.

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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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January 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

Here are selected January 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on civil law and related laws:

Civil Code

Agency; principle of undisclosed principal. It is a general rule in the law of agency that, in order to bind the principal by a mortgage on real property executed by an agent, it must upon its face purport to be made, signed and sealed in the name of the principal, otherwise, it will bind the agent only. It is not enough merely that the agent was in fact authorized to make the mortgage, if he has not acted in the name of the principal. Neither is it ordinarily sufficient that in the mortgage the agent describes himself as acting by virtue of a power of attorney, if in fact the agent has acted in his own name and has set his own hand and seal to the mortgage. This is especially true where the agent himself is a party to the instrument. However clearly the body of the mortgage may show and intend that it shall be the act of the principal, yet, unless in fact it is executed by the agent for and on behalf of his principal and as the act and deed of the principal, it is not valid as to the principal. Far East Bank and Trust Company (Now Bank of the Philippine Islands) and Rolando Borja, Deputy Sherrif vs. Sps. Ernesto and Leonor C. Cayetano, G.R. No. 179909, January 25, 2010.

Contract; element of consent; causal fraud. In order that fraud may vitiate consent to a contract, it must be the causal (dolo causante), not merely the incidental (dolo incidente), inducement to the making of the contract. Additionally, the fraud must be serious. In this case, causal fraud necessary to justify the annulment of the contract of sale between the parties was absent. It is clear from the records that petitioners agreed to sell their property to the buyers. The petitioners’ belief that the fraud employed by the buyers was “already operational at the time of the perfection of the contract of sale” is incorrect. The Buyers’ misrepresentation — that the postdated check (covering the purchase price for the property) would not bounce on its maturity — hardly equates to dolo causante. The buyers’ assurance that the check issued was fully funded was not the principal inducement for the petitioners to sign the Deed of Absolute Sale. Even before the buyers issued the check, the parties had already consented and agreed to the sale transaction. The petitioners were never tricked into selling their property to the buyer. On the contrary, they willingly accepted his offer to purchase the property at P3,000,000. In short, there was a meeting of the minds as to the object of the sale as well as the consideration therefor. Spouses Carmen Tongson and Jose Tongson vs. Emergency Pawnshop Bula, Inc. et al., G.R. No. 167874, January 15, 2010.

Contract; interpretation. There is nothing in the subject Extrajudicial Settlement to indicate any express stipulation for petitioner and respondents to continue with their supposed co-ownership of the contested lot. On the contrary, a plain reading of the provisions of the Extrajudicial Settlement would not, in any way, support petitioner’s contention that it was his and his sibling’s intention to buy the subject property from the Bank and continue what they believed to be co-ownership thereof. It is a cardinal rule in the interpretation of contracts that the intention of the parties shall be accorded primordial consideration. It is the duty of the courts to place a practical and realistic construction upon it, giving due consideration to the context in which it is negotiated and the purpose which it is intended to serve. Such intention is determined from the express terms of their agreement, as well as their contemporaneous and subsequent acts. Absurd and illogical interpretations should also be avoided. Petitioner’s contention that he and his siblings intended to continue their supposed co-ownership of the subject property contradicts the provisions of the subject Extrajudicial Settlement where they clearly manifested their intention of having the subject property divided or partitioned by assigning to each of the petitioner and respondents a specific 1/3 portion of the same. Partition calls for the segregation and conveyance of a determinate portion of the property owned in common. It seeks a severance of the individual interests of each co-owner, vesting in each of them a sole estate in a specific property and giving each one a right to enjoy his estate without supervision or interference from the other. In other words, the purpose of partition is to put an end to co-ownership, an objective which negates petitioner’s claims in the present case. Celestino Balus vs. Saturnino Balus and Leonarda Balus vda. De Calunod, G.R. No. 168970, January 15, 2010.

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Legalese 2009 (Week 43)

Lexicon

accretion – in succession, the implied institution of a co-heir, co-devisee, or co-legatee to a portion of the inheritance left vacant by another co-heir, co-devisee, or co-legatee by reason of predecease, incapacity or repudiation (Comments and Cases on Succession, p. 544 [2003]).

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