September 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

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

Civil Code

Assignment of credits. Was Reyes’ sale of the property to the Vegas binding on PDC (one of Reyes’ creditors) which tried to enforce the judgment credit against Reyes in its favor on the property? The CA ruled that Reyes’ assignment of the property to the Vegas did not bind PDC, which had a judgment credit against Reyes, since such assignment neither appeared in a public document nor was registered with the register of deeds as Article 1625 of the Civil Code required. Article 1625 reads:

Art. 1625. An assignment of a credit, right or action shall produce no effect as against third persons, unless it appears in a public instrument, or the instrument is recorded in the Registry of Property in case the assignment involves real property. (1526)

But Article 1625 referred to assignment of credits and other incorporeal rights. Reyes did not assign any credit or incorporeal right to the Vegas. She sold the Vegas her house and lot. They became owner of the property from the time she executed the deed of assignment covering the same in their favor. PDC had a judgment for money against Reyes only. A court’s power to enforce its judgment applies only to the properties that are indisputably owned by the judgment obligor. Here, the property had long ceased to belong to Reyes when she sold it to the Vegas in 1981. Sps. Antonio and Leticia Vega vs. Social Security System, et al., G.R. No. 181672, September 20, 2010

Attorney’s fees. Article 2208(2) of the Civil Code allows the award of attorney’s fees in cases where the defendant’s act or omission has compelled the plaintiff to litigate with third persons or to incur expenses to protect his interest. Attorney’s fees may be awarded by a court to one who was compelled to litigate with third persons or to incur expenses to protect his or her interest by reason of an unjustified act or omission of the party from whom it is sought. Metropolitan Bank & trust Company, Inc. vs. The Board of Trustees of Riverside Mills Corp. Provident and Retirement Fund, et al., G.R. No. 176959, September 8, 2010

Conjugal property and sale thereof; various rules. (1) What law applies to a sale or purported sale of a conjugal property entered into after the Family Code’s effectivity? The Family Code, even if the couple owning the conjugal property were married before the Family Code took effect. (2) Under the Family Code, conjugal property can only be sold with the consent of both spouses. (3) For a buyer of conjugal property to be considered a purchaser in good faith, he must observe two kinds of requisite diligence, namely: (a) the diligence in verifying the validity of the title covering the property; and (b) the diligence in inquiring into the authority of the transacting spouse to sell conjugal property in behalf of the other spouse. Sps. Rex and Concepcion Aggabao vs. Dionisio Z. Parulan, Jr. and Ma. Elena Parulan, G.R. No. 165803, September 1, 2010.

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April 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

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

Civil Code

Agency; sale of land by an unauthorized agent. Respondent sold land owned by her daughter without any written authority. Article 1874 of the Civil Code explicitly requires a written authority before an agent can sell an immovable property. Based on a review of the records, there is absolutely no proof of respondent’s written authority to sell the lot to petitioners. In fact, during the pre-trial conference, petitioners admitted that at the time of the negotiation for the sale of the lot, petitioners were of the belief that respondent was the owner of lot. Consequently, the sale of the lot by respondent who did not have a written authority from the real owner is void. A void contract produces no effect either against or in favor of anyone and cannot be ratified.  Sps. Joselina Alcantara and Antonio Alcantara, et al. vs. Brigida L. Nido, as attorney-in-fact of Revelen Srivastava, G.R. No. 165133, April 19, 2010.

Contracts; breach of; rebus sic stantibus. See Daniel T. So vs. Food Fest Land, Inc./Food Fest Land, Inc. vs. Daniel T. SoG.R. Nos. 183628 & 183670, April 7, 2010, below.

Contracts; void and voidable; prescription. See Manuel O. Fuentes, et al. vs. Conrado G. Roca, et al., G.R. No. 178902, April 21, 2010, below.

Damages; actual damages; unrealized profits. Food Fest leased property from So. Food Fest sought to pre-terminate the lease. So sued Food Fest for ejection, payment of arrears and damages. On the matter of damages, So claims that Food Fest did not exercise care in removing the installations and fixtures, thereby causing destruction to the premises to thus entitle him to damages, as well as to damages corresponding to unrealized profits (lucrum cessans) to answer for the period during which the unit was not rented out.

Unrealized profits fall under the category of actual or compensatory damages. If there exists a basis for a reasonable expectation that profits would have continued to be generated had there been no breach of contract, indemnification for damages based on such expected profits is proper.  This is, however, subject to the rule that a party is entitled to an adequate compensation only for such pecuniary loss suffered by him as he has duly proved. Other than the photographs evincing damage to the premises, no evidence was proffered to show So’s entitlement to unrealized profits. That the leased unit was not subsequently leased is not solely attributable to Food Fest. As borne by the records, no renovation was undertaken by So for almost three years following Food Fest’s vacation of the premises in 2001. The quotations issued by construction companies for purposes of renovation were issued only in 2004. However, So may seek damages pursuant to the contract.

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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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December 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

Here are selected December 2009 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on civil law and related laws:

Agency; agency by estoppel. An agency by estoppel, which is similar to the doctrine of apparent authority requires proof of reliance upon the representations, and that, in turn, needs proof that the representations predated the action taken in reliance.

There can be no apparent authority of an agent without acts or conduct on the part of the principal and such acts or conduct of the principal must have been known and relied upon in good faith and as a result of the exercise of reasonable prudence by a third person as claimant, and such must have produced a change of position to its detriment. Such proof is lacking in this case.  Yun Kwan Byung vs. Philippine Amusement Gaming Corporation, G.R. No. 163553, December 11, 2009.

Agency; implied agency. Article 1869 of the Civil Code states that implied agency is derived 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. Implied agency, being an actual agency, is a fact to be proved by deductions or inferences from other facts.

On the other hand, apparent authority is based on estoppel and can arise from two instances. First, the principal may knowingly permit the agent to hold himself out as having such authority, and the principal becomes estopped to claim that the agent does not have such authority. Second, the principal may clothe the agent with the indicia of authority as to lead a reasonably prudent person to believe that the agent actually has such authority. In an agency by estoppel, there is no agency at all, but the one assuming to act as agent has apparent or ostensible, although not real, authority to represent another.

The law makes no presumption of agency and proving its existence, nature and extent is incumbent upon the person alleging it. Whether or not an agency has been created is a question to be determined by the fact that one represents and is acting for another. Yun Kwan Byung vs. Philippine Amusement Gaming Corporation, G.R. No. 163553, December 11, 2009.

Agency;  implied agency. The basis for agency is representation, that is, the agent acts for and on behalf of the principal on matters within the scope of his authority and said acts have the same legal effect as if they were personally executed by the principal. On the part of the principal, there must be an actual intention to appoint or an intention naturally inferable from his words or actions, while on the part of the agent, there must be an intention to accept the appointment and act on it. Absent such mutual intent, there is generally no agency.

There is no implied agency in this case because PAGCOR did not hold out to the public as the principal of ABS Corporation. PAGCOR’s actions did not mislead the public into believing that an agency can be implied from the arrangement with the junket operators, nor did it hold out ABS Corporation with any apparent authority to represent it in any capacity. The Junket Agreement was merely a contract of lease of facilities and services.  Yun Kwan Byung vs. Philippine Amusement Gaming Corporation, G.R. No. 163553, December 11, 2009.

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November 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

Here are selected November 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on civil law and related laws:

Civil Code

Contract;  contract of adhesion.     A contract of adhesion is defined as one in which one of the parties imposes a ready-made form of contract, which the other party may accept or reject, but which the latter cannot modify. One party prepares the stipulation in the contract, while the other party merely affixes his signature or his “adhesion” thereto, giving no room for negotiation and depriving the latter of the opportunity to bargain on equal footing. Contracts of adhesion are not invalid per se.  Contracts of adhesion, where one party imposes a ready-made form of contract on the other, are not entirely prohibited. The one who adheres to the contract is, in reality, free to reject it entirely; if he adheres, he gives his consent.  Norton Resources and Development Corporation vs. All Asia Bank Corporation, G.R. No. 162523. November 25, 2009

Contract;  freedom of contract. Petitioners allege that the Kasulatan was entered into by the parties freely and voluntarily. They maintain that there was already a meeting of the minds between the parties as regards the principal amount of the loan, the interest thereon and the property given as security for the payment of the loan, which must be complied with in good faith. Hence, they assert that the Court of Appeals should have given due respect to the provisions of the Kasulatan. They also stress that it is a settled principle that the law will not relieve a party from the effects of an unwise, foolish or disastrous contract, entered into with all the required formalities and with full awareness of what he was doing.

Petitioners’ contentions deserve scant consideration. In Abe v. Foster Wheeler Corporation, we held that the freedom of contract is not absolute. The same is understood to be subject to reasonable legislative regulation aimed at the promotion of public health, morals, safety and welfare. One such legislative regulation is found in Article 1306 of the Civil Code which allows the contracting parties to “establish such stipulations, clauses, terms and conditions as they may deem convenient, provided they are not contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order or public policy.”

To reiterate, we fully agree with the Court of Appeals in holding that the compounded interest rate of 5% per month, is iniquitous and unconscionable. Being a void stipulation, it is deemed inexistent from the beginning. The debt is to be considered without the stipulation of the iniquitous and unconscionable interest rate. Accordingly, the legal interest of 12% per annum must be imposed in lieu of the excessive interest stipulated in the agreement, in line with our ruling in Ruiz v. Court of Appeals.  Sps. Isagani & Diosdada Castro vs. Angelina de Leon Tan, G.R. No. 168940, November 24, 2009.

Contract; laches. The essence of laches is the failure or neglect, for an unreasonable and unexplained length of time, to do that which, through due diligence, could have been done earlier, thus giving rise to a presumption that the party entitled to assert it had either abandoned or declined to assert it.

Respondent discovered in 1991 that a new owner’s copy of OCT No. 535 was issued to the Eniceo heirs. Respondent filed a criminal case against the Eniceo heirs for false testimony. When respondent learned that the Eniceo heirs were planning to sell the Antipolo property, respondent caused the annotation of an adverse claim. On 16 January 1996, when respondent learned that OCT No. 535 was cancelled and new TCTs were issued, respondent filed a civil complaint with the trial court against the Eniceo heirs and petitioner. Respondent’s actions negate petitioner’s argument that respondent is guilty of laches.  Kings Properties Corporation, Inc. vs. Canuto A. Galido, G.R. No. 170023. November 27, 2009

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October 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

Here are selected October 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on civil law and related laws:

Civil Code

Contract; binding effect. Article 1311 of the New Civil Code states that, “contracts take effect only between the parties, their assigns and heirs, except in case where the rights and obligations arising from the contract are not transmissible by their nature, or by stipulation or by provision of law.” In this case, the rights and obligations between petitioner and Alfonso are transmissible. There was no mention of a contractual stipulation or provision of law that makes the rights and obligations under the original sales contract for Lot 3, Block 4, Phase IIintransmissible . Hence, Alfonso can transfer her ownership over the said lot to respondents and petitioner is bound to honor its corresponding obligations to the transferee or new lot owner in its subdivision project.

Having transferred all rights and obligations over Lot 3, Block 4, Phase II to respondents, Alfonso could no longer be considered as an indispensable party. An indispensable party is one who has such an interest in the controversy or subject matter that a final adjudication cannot be made in his absence, without injuring or affecting that interest. Contrary to petitioner’s claim, Alfonso no longer has an interest on the subject matter or the present controversy, having already sold her rights and interests on Lot 3, Block 4, Phase II to herein respondents.   Sta. Lucia Realty & Development, Inc. vs. Spouses Francisco & Emelia Buenaventura, as represented by Ricardo Segismundo, G.R. No. 177113, October 2, 2009.

Contract; compromise agreement. A compromise agreement is a contract whereby the parties, by making reciprocal concessions, avoid a litigation or put an end to one already commenced. It contemplates mutual concessions and mutual gains to avoid the expenses of litigation; or when litigation has already begun, to end it because of the uncertainty of the result.

The validity of a compromise agreement is dependent upon its fulfillment of the requisites and principles of contracts dictated by law; and its terms and conditions must not be contrary to law, morals, good customs, public policy and public order. Gov. Antonio P. Calingin vs. Civil Service Commission and Grace L. Anayron, G.R. No. 183322, October 30, 2009.

Contract;  contract to sell. The very essence of a contract of sale is the transfer of ownership in exchange for a price paid or promised.

In contrast, a contract to sell is defined as a bilateral contract whereby the prospective seller, while expressly reserving the ownership of the property despite delivery thereof to the prospective buyer, binds himself to sell the property exclusively to the prospective buyer upon fulfillment of the condition agreed,i.e., full payment of the purchase price. A contract to sell may not even be considered as a conditional contract of sale where the seller may likewise reserve title to the property subject of the sale until the fulfillment of asuspensive condition, because in a conditional contract of sale, the first element of consent is present, although it is conditioned upon the happening of a contingent event which may or may not occur. Delfin Tan vs. Erlinda C. Benolirao, Andrew C. Benolirao, Romano C. Benolirao, Dion C. Benolirao, Sps. Reynaldo Taningco and Norma D. Benolirao, Evelyn T. Monreal and Ann Karina Taningco, G.R. No. 153820, October 16, 2009.

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