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FIRST DIVISION

[G.R. No. 122749. July 31, 1996]


ANTONIO A. S. VALDES, petitioner, vs.
REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, BRANCH 102,
QUEZON CITY, and CONSUELO M.
GOMEZ-VALDES, respondents.
DECISION
VITUG, J.:
The petition for review bewails, purely on a
question of law, an alleged error committed by the
Regional Trial Court in Civil Case No. Q-92-12539.
Petitioner avers that the court a quo has failed to
apply the correct law that should govern the
disposition of a family dwelling in a situation where
a marriage is declared void ab initio because of
psychological incapacity on the part of either or
both of the parties to the contract.
The pertinent facts giving rise to this incident
are, by and large, not in dispute.
Antonio Valdes and Consuelo Gomez were
married on 05 January 1971. Begotten during the
marriage were five children. In a petition, dated 22
June 1992, Valdes sought the declaration of nullity
of the marriage pursuant to Article 36 of the Family
Code (docketed Civil Case No. Q-92-12539,
Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 102).
After hearing the parties following the joinder of
issues, the trial court,[1] in its decision of 29 July
1994, granted the petition; viz:
"WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered as
follows:
"(1) The marriage of petitioner Antonio Valdes and
respondent Consuelo Gomez-Valdes is hereby
declared null and void under Article 36 of the
Family Code on the ground of their mutual
psychological incapacity to comply with their
essential marital obligations;
"(2) The three older children, Carlos Enrique III,
Antonio Quintin and Angela Rosario shall choose
which parent they would want to stay with.
"Stella Eloisa and Joaquin Pedro shall be placed in
the custody of their mother, herein respondent
Consuelo Gomez-Valdes.
"The petitioner and respondent shall have
visitation rights over the children who are in the
custody of the other.
"(3) The petitioner and respondent are directed to
start proceedings on the liquidation of their
common properties as defined by Article 147 of the
Family Code, and to comply with the provisions
of Articles 50, 51 and 52 of the same code, within
thirty (30) days from notice of this decision.
"Let a copy of this decision be furnished the Local
Civil Registrar of Mandaluyong, Metro Manila, for

proper recording in the registry of


marriages."[2] (Italics ours)
Consuelo Gomez sought a clarification of that
portion of the decision directing compliance with
Articles 50, 51 and 52 of the Family Code. She
asserted that the Family Code contained no
provisions on the procedure for the liquidation of
common property in "unions without marriage."
Parenthetically, during the hearing on the motion,
the children filed a joint affidavit expressing their
desire to remain with their father, Antonio Valdes,
herein petitioner.
In an Order, dated 05 May 1995, the trial court
made the following clarification:
"Consequently, considering that Article 147 of the
Family Code explicitly provides that the property
acquired by both parties during their union, in the
absence of proof to the contrary, are presumed to
have been obtained through the joint efforts of the
parties and will be owned by them in equal shares,
plaintiff and defendant will own their 'family home'
and all their other properties for that matter in
equal shares.
"In the liquidation and partition of the properties
owned in common by the plaintiff and defendant,
the provisions on co-ownership found in the Civil
Code shall apply."[3] (Italics supplied)
In addressing specifically the issue regarding
the disposition of the family dwelling, the trial
court said:
"Considering that this Court has already declared
the marriage between petitioner and respondent
as null and void ab initio, pursuant to Art. 147, the
property regime of petitioner and respondent shall
be governed by the rules on co-ownership.
"The provisions of Articles 102 and 129 of the
Family Code finds no application since Article 102
refers to the procedure for the liquidation of
the conjugal partnership property and Article 129
refers to the procedure for the liquidation of
theabsolute community of property."[4]
Petitioner moved for a reconsideration of the
order. The motion was denied on 30 October 1995.
In his recourse to this Court, petitioner submits
that Articles 50, 51 and 52 of the Family Code
should be held controlling; he argues that:
"I
"Article 147 of the Family Code does not apply to
cases where the parties are psychological
incapacitated.
"II
"Articles 50, 51 and 52 in relation to Articles 102
and 129 of the Family Code govern the disposition
of the family dwelling in cases where a marriage is
declared void ab initio, including a marriage

declared void by reason of the psychological


incapacity of the spouses.
"III
"Assuming arguendo that Article 147 applies to
marriages declared void ab initio on the ground of
the psychological incapacity of a spouse, the same
may be read consistently with Article 129.
"IV
"It is necessary to determine the parent with whom
majority of the children wish to stay."[5]
The trial court correctly applied the law. In
a void marriage, regardless of the cause thereof,
the property relations of the parties during the
period of cohabitation is governed by the
provisions of Article 147 or Article 148, such as the
case may be, of the Family Code. Article 147 is a
remake of Article 144 of the Civil Code as
interpreted and so applied in previous cases; [6] it
provides:
"ART. 147. When a man and a woman who are
capacitated to marry each other, live exclusively
with each other as husband and wife without the
benefit of marriage or under a void marriage, their
wages and salaries shall be owned by them in
equal shares and the property acquired by both of
them through their work or industry shall be
governed by the rules on co-ownership.
"In the absence of proof to the contrary, properties
acquired while they lived together shall be
presumed to have been obtained by their joint
efforts, work or industry, and shall be owned by
them in equal shares. For purposes of this Article, a
party who did not participate in the acquisition by
the other party of any property shall be deemed to
have contributed jointly in the acquisition thereof if
the former's efforts consisted in the care and
maintenance of the family and of the household.
"Neither party can encumber or dispose by
acts inter vivos of his or her share in the property
acquired during cohabitation and owned in
common, without the consent of the other, until
after the termination of their cohabitation.
"When only one of the parties to a void marriage is
in good faith, the share of the party in bad faith in
the co-ownership shall be forfeited in favor of their
common children. In case of default of or waiver by
any or all of the common children or their
descendants, each vacant share shall belong to the
respective surviving descendants. In the absence
of descendants, such share shall belong to the
innocent party. In all cases, the forfeiture shall take
place upon termination of the cohabitation."
This peculiar kind of co-ownership applies
when a man and a woman, suffering no legal
impediment to marry each other, so exclusively
live together as husband and wife under a void

marriage or without the benefit of marriage. The


term "capacitated" in the provision (in the first
paragraph of the law) refers to the legal capacity of
a party to contract marriage, i.e., any "male or
female of the age of eighteen years or upwards not
under any of the impediments mentioned in
Articles 37 and 38"[7] of the Code.
Under this property regime, property acquired
by
both
spouses
through
their work and industry shall be governed by the
rules
on equal co-ownership.
Any
property
acquired during the union is prima facie presumed
to have been obtained through their joint efforts. A
party who did not participate in the acquisition of
the property shall still be considered as having
contributed thereto jointly if said party's "efforts
consisted in the care and maintenance of the
family
household."[8] Unlike
the
conjugal
partnership of gains, the fruits of the couple's
separate property are not included in the coownership.
Article 147 of the Family Code, in substance
and to the above extent, has clarified Article 144 of
the Civil Code; in addition, the law now expressly
provides that
(a) Neither party can dispose or encumber by
act inter vivos his or her share in co-ownership
property, without the consent of the other, during
the period of cohabitation; and
(b) In the case of a void marriage, any party in
bad faith shall forfeit his or her share in the coownership in favor of their common children; in
default thereof or waiver by any or all of the
common children, each vacant share shall belong
to the respective surviving descendants, or still in
default thereof, to the innocent party. The
forfeiture shall take place upon the termination of
the cohabitation[9] or declaration of nullity of the
marriage.[10]
When the common-law spouses suffer from a
legal impediment to marry or when they do not
live exclusively with each other (as husband and
wife ),only the property acquired by both of them
through their actual jointcontribution of money,
property or industry shall be owned in common
and in proportion to their respective contributions.
Such contributions and corresponding shares,
however, are prima facie presumed to be equal.
The share of any party who is married to another
shall accrue to the absolute community or conjugal
partnership, as the case may be, if so existing
under a valid marriage. If the party who has acted
in bad faith is not validly married to another, his or
her share shall be forfeited in the manner already
heretofore expressed.[11]
In deciding to take further cognizance of the
issue on the settlement of the parties' common
property, the trial court acted neither imprudently

nor precipitately; a court which has jurisdiction to


declare the marriage a nullity must be deemed
likewise clothed with authority to resolve incidental
and consequential matters. Nor did it commit a
reversible error in ruling that petitioner and private
respondent own the "family home" and all their
common property in equal shares, as well as in
concluding that, in the liquidation and partition of
the property owned in common by them, the
provisions on co-ownership under the Civil Code,
not Articles 50, 51 and 52, in relation to Articles
102 and 129,[12] of the Family Code, should aptly
prevail. The rules set up to govern the liquidation
of either the absolute community or the conjugal
partnership of gains, the property regimes
recognized for valid and voidable marriages (in the
latter case until the contract is annulled ),are
irrelevant to the liquidation of the co-ownership
that exists between common-law spouses. The first
paragraph of Article 50 of the Family Code,
applying paragraphs (2 ),(3 ),(4) and (5) of Article
43,[13] relates
only,
by
its
explicit
terms,
to voidable marriages
and,
exceptionally,
to void marriages under Article 40[14] of the Code,
i.e., the declaration of nullity of a subsequent
marriage contracted by a spouse of a prior void
marriage before the latter is judicially declared
void. The latter is a special rule that somehow
recognizes the philosophy and an old doctrine that
void marriages are inexistent from the very
beginning and no judicial decree is necessary to
establish their nullity. In now requiring for purposes
of remarriage, the declaration of nullity by final
judgment of the previously contracted void
marriage, the present law aims to do away with
any continuing uncertainty on the status of the
second marriage. It is not then illogical for the
provisions of Article 43, in relation to Articles
41[15] and 42,[16] of the Family Code, on the effects
of the termination of a subsequent marriage
contracted during the subsistence of a previous
marriage to be made applicable pro hac vice. In all
other cases, it is not to be assumed that the law
has also meant to have coincident property
relations, on the one hand, between spouses in
valid and voidable marriages (before annulment)
and, on the other, between common-law spouses
or spouses of void marriages, leaving to ordain, in
the latter case, the ordinary rules on co-ownership
subject to the provision of Article 147 and Article
148 of the Family Code. It must be stressed,
nevertheless, even as it may merely state the
obvious, that the provisions of the Family Code on
the "family home," i.e., the provisions found in Title
V, Chapter 2, of the Family Code, remain in force
and effect regardless of the property regime of the
spouses.
WHEREFORE, the questioned orders, dated
05 May 1995 and 30 October 1995, of the trial
court are AFFIRMED. No costs.

SO ORDERED.
Padilla,
JJ., concur.

Kapunan, and Hermosisima,

Jr.,

Bellosillo, J., on leave.


[1]

Hon. Perlita Tria Tirona, presiding.

[2]

Rollo, p. 22.

[3]

Rollo, p. 42.

[4]

Rollo, pp. 38-39.

[5]

Rollo, pp. 24-25.

[6]

See Margaret Maxey vs. Court of Appeals, 129


SCRA 187; Aznar, et al. vs. Garcia, et al., 102 Phil.
1055.
[7]

Art. 5.Any male or female of the age of eighteen


years or upwards not under any of the
impediments mentioned in Articles 37 and 38, may
contract marriage.
Art. 37.Marriages between the following are
incestuous and void from the beginning, whether
the relationship between the parties be legitimate
or illegitimate:
(1) Between ascendants and descendants of any
degree; and
(2) Between brothers and sisters, whether of the
full or half-blood.
Art. 38. The following marriages shall be void from
the beginning for reasons of public policy:
(1) Between collateral blood relatives; whether
legitimate or illegitimate, up to the fourth civil
degree;
(2) Between step-parents and stepchildren;
(3) Between parents-in-law and children-in-law;
(4) Between the adopting parent and the adopted
child;
(5) Between the surviving spouse of the adopting
parent and the adopted child;
(6) Between the surviving spouse of the adopted
child and the adopter;
(7) Between an adopted child and a legitimate
child of the adopter;
(8) Between adopted children of the same adopter;
and
(9) Between parties where one, with the intention
to marry the other, killed that other person's
spouse or his or her own spouse.
[8]

Article 147, Family Code.

[9]

Article 147, Family Code.

[10]

Articles 43, 50 and 51, Family Code.

[11]

Article 148, Family Code.

[12]

Art. 50. The effects provided for in paragraphs


(2 ),(3 ),(4) and (5) of Article 43 and in Article 44
shall also apply in proper cases to marriages which
are declared void ab initio or annulled by final
judgment under Articles 40 and 45.
The final judgment in such case shall provide for
the liquidation, partition and distribution of the
properties of the spouses, the custody and support
of the common children, and the delivery of their
presumptive legitimes, unless such matters had
been adjudicated in previous judicial proceedings.
All creditors of the spouses as well as of the
absolute community or the conjugal partnership
shall be notified of the proceedings for liquidation.
In the partition, the conjugal dwelling and the lot
on which it is situated, shall be adjudicated in
accordance with the provisions of Articles 102 and
129.
Art. 51. In said partition, the value of the
presumptive legitimes of all common children,
computed as of the date of the final judgment of
the trial court, shall be delivered in cash, property
or sound securities, unless the parties, by mutual
agreement judicially approved, had already
provided for such matters.
The children or their guardian, or the trustee of
their property, may ask for the enforcement of the
judgment.
The delivery of the presumptive legitimes herein
prescribed shall in no way prejudice the ultimate
successional rights of the children accruing upon
the death of either or both of the parents; but the
value of the properties already received under the
decree of annulment or absolute nullity shall be
considered as advances on their legitime.
Art. 52. The judgment of annulment or of absolute
nullity of the marriage, the partition and
distribution of the properties of the spouses, and
the delivery of the children's presumptive legitimes
shall be recorded in the appropriate civil registry
and registries of property; otherwise, the same
shall not affect third persons.
Art. 102. Upon dissolution of the absolute
community regime, the following procedure shall
apply:
(1) An inventory shall be prepared, listing
separately all the properties of the absolute
community and the exclusive properties of each
spouse.
(2) The debts and obligations of the absolute
community shall be paid out of its assets. In case
of insufficiency of said assets, the spouses shall be
solidarily liable for the unpaid balance with their
separate properties in accordance with the
provisions of the second paragraph of Article 94.

(3) Whatever remains of the exclusive properties of


the spouses shall thereafter be delivered to each of
them.
(4) The net remainder of the properties of the
absolute community shall constitute its net assets,
which shall be divided equally between husband
and wife, unless a different proportion or division
was agreed upon in the marriage settlements, or
unless there has been a voluntary waiver of such
share as provided in this Code. For purposes of
computing the net profits subject to forfeiture in
accordance with Articles 43, No. (2) and 63, No.
(2 ), the said profits shall be the increase in value
between the market value of the community
property at the time of the celebration of the
marriage and the market value at the time of its
dissolution.
(5) The presumptive legitimes of the common
children shall be delivered upon partition, in
accordance with Article 51.
(6) Unless otherwise agreed upon by the parties, in
the partition of the properties, the conjugal
dwelling and the lot on which it is situated shall be
adjudicated to the spouse with whom the majority
of the common children choose to remain. Children
below the age of seven years are deemed to have
chosen the mother, unless the court has decided
otherwise. In case there is no such majority, the
court shall decide, taking into consideration the
best interests of said children.
Art. 129. Upon the dissolution of the conjugal
partnership regime, the following procedure shall
apply;
(1) An inventory shall be prepared, listing
separately all the properties of the conjugal
partnership and the exclusive properties of each
spouse.
(2) Amounts advanced by the conjugal partnership
in payment of personal debts and obligations of
either spouse shall be credited to the conjugal
partnership as an asset thereof.
(3) Each spouse shall be reimbursed for the use of
his or her exclusive funds in the acquisition of
property or for the value of his or her exclusive
property, the ownership of which has been vested
by law in the conjugal partnership.
(4) The debts and obligations of the conjugal
partnership shall be paid out of the conjugal
assets. In case of insufficiency of said assets, the
spouses shall be solidarily liable for the unpaid
balance with their separate properties, in
accordance with the provisions of paragraph (2) of
Article 121.
(5) Whatever remains of the exclusive properties of
the spouses shall thereafter be delivered to each of
them.

(6) Unless the owner has been indemnified from


whatever source, the loss or deterioration of
movables used for the benefit of the family,
belonging to either spouse, even due to fortuitous
event, shall be paid to said spouse from the
conjugal funds, if any.
(7) The net remainder of the conjugal partnership
properties shall constitute the profits, which shall
be divided equally between husband and wife,
unless a different proportion or division was agreed
upon in the marriage settlements or unless there
has been a voluntary waiver or forfeiture of such
share as provided in this Code.
(8) The presumptive legitimes of the common
children shall be delivered upon partition in
accordance with Article 51.
(9) In the partition of the properties, the conjugal
dwelling and the lot on which it is situated shall,
unless otherwise agreed upon by the parties, be
adjudicated to the spouse with whom the majority
of the common children choose to remain. Children
below the age of seven years are deemed to have
chosen the mother, unless the court has decided
otherwise. In case there is no such majority, the
court shall decide, taking into consideration the
best interests of said children.
[13]

Art. 43. The termination of the subsequent


marriage referred to in the preceding Article shall
produce the following effects:
(1) The children of the subsequent marriage
conceived prior to its termination shall be
considered legitimate, and their custody and
support in case of dispute shall be decided by the
court in a proper proceeding;
(2) The absolute community of property or the
conjugal partnership, as the case may be, shall be
dissolved and liquidated, but if either spouse
contracted said marriage in bad faith, his or her
share of the net profits of the community property
or conjugal partnership property shall be forfeited
in favor of the common children or, if there are
none, the children of the guilty spouse by a
previous marriage or, in default of children, the
innocent spouse;
(3) Donations by reason or marriage shall remain
valid, except that if the donee contracted the
marriage in bad faith, such donations made to said
donee are revoked by operation of law;
(4) The innocent spouse may revoke the
designation of the other spouse who acted in bad
faith as a beneficiary in any insurance policy, even
if such designation be stipulated as irrevocable;
and
(5) The spouse who contracted the subsequent
marriage in bad faith shall be disqualified to inherit
from the innocent spouse by testate and intestate
succession.

[14]

Art. 40. The absolute nullity of a previous


marriage may be invoked for purposes of
remarriage on the basis solely of a final judgment
declaring such previous marriage void.
[15]

Art. 41. A marriage contracted by any person


during the subsistence of a previous marriage shall
be null and void, unless before the celebration of
the subsequent marriage, the prior spouse had
been absent for four consecutive years and the
spouse present had a well-founded belief that the
absent spouse was already dead. In case of
disappearance where there is danger of death
under the circumstances set forth in the provisions
of Article 391 of the Civil Code, an absence of only
two years shall be sufficient.
For the purpose of contracting the subsequent
marriage under the preceding paragraph, the
spouse present must institute a summary
proceeding as provided in this Code for the
declaration of presumptive death of the absentee,
without prejudice to the effect of reappearance of
the absent spouse.
[16]

Art. 42. The subsequent marriage referred to in


the preceding Article shall be automatically
terminated by the recording of the affidavit of
reappearance of the absent spouse, unless there is
a judgment annulling the previous marriage or
declaring it void ab initio.
A sworn statement of the fact and circumstances
of reappearance shall be recorded in the civil
registry of the residence of the parties to the
subsequent marriage at the instance of any
interested person, with due notice to the spouses
of the subsequent marriage and without prejudice
to the fact of reappearance being judicially
determined in case such fact is disputed.

G.R. No. 188289

August 20, 2014

(unpaid debt of
$285,000.00)

DAVID A. NOVERAS, Petitioner,


vs.
LETICIA T. NOVERAS, Respondent.
DECISION

Furniture and furnishings

$3,000

Jewelries (ring and watch)

$9,000

2000 Nissan Frontier 4x4


pickup truck

PEREZ, J.:
Before the Court is a petition for review assailing
the 9 May 2008 Decision1 of the Court of Appeals in
CA-G.R .. CV No. 88686, which affirmed in part the
8 December 2006 Decision2 of the Regional Trial
Court (RTC) of Baler, Aurora, Branch 96.

Bank of America Checking


Account

The factual antecedents are as follow:

Life Insurance (Cash


Value)

David A. Noveras (David) and Leticia T. Noveras


(Leticia) were married on 3 December 1988 in
Quezon City, Philippines. They resided in California,
United States of America (USA) where they
eventually acquired American citizenship. They
then begot two children, namely: Jerome T.
Noveras, who was born on 4 November 1990 and
JenaT. Noveras, born on 2 May 1993. David was
engaged in courier service business while Leticia
worked as a nurse in San Francisco, California.
During the marriage, they acquired the following
properties in the Philippines and in the USA:
PHILIPPINES
PROPERTY

FAIR MARKET
VALUE

House and Lot with an area of


150 sq. m. located at 1085
Norma Street, Sampaloc,
Manila (Sampaloc property)

P1,693,125.00

Agricultural land with an area


of 20,742 sq. m. located at
Laboy, Dipaculao, Aurora

P400,000.00

A parcel of land with an area


of 2.5 hectares located at
Maria Aurora, Aurora

P490,000.00

A parcel of land with an area


of 175 sq.m. located at
Sabang Baler, Aurora

P175,000.00

3-has. coconut plantation in


San Joaquin Maria Aurora,
Aurora

P750,000.00

USA
PROPERTY

FAIR MARKET
VALUE

House and Lot at 1155


Hanover Street, Daly City,
California
$550,000.00

$13,770.00
$8,000

Bank of America Cash


Deposit

Retirement, pension,
profit-sharing, annuities

$100,000.00
$56,228.00

The Sampaloc property used to beowned by


Davids parents. The parties herein secured a loan
from a bank and mortgaged the property. When
said property was about to be foreclosed, the
couple paid a total of P1.5 Million for the
redemption of the same.
Due to business reverses, David left the USA and
returned to the Philippines in 2001. In December
2002,Leticia executed a Special Power of Attorney
(SPA) authorizing David to sell the Sampaloc
property for P2.2 Million. According to Leticia,
sometime in September 2003, David abandoned
his family and lived with Estrellita Martinez in
Aurora province. Leticia claimed that David agreed
toand executed a Joint Affidavit with Leticia in the
presence of Davids father, Atty. Isaias Noveras, on
3 December 2003 stating that: 1) the P1.1Million
proceeds from the sale of the Sampaloc property
shall be paid to and collected by Leticia; 2) that
David shall return and pay to LeticiaP750,000.00,
which is equivalent to half of the amount of the
redemption price of the Sampaloc property; and 3)
that David shall renounce and forfeit all his rights
and interest in the conjugal and real properties
situated in the Philippines.5 David was able to
collect P1,790,000.00 from the sale of the
Sampaloc property, leaving an unpaid balance
of P410,000.00.
Upon learning that David had an extra-marital
affair, Leticia filed a petition for divorce with the
Superior Court of California, County of San Mateo,
USA. The California court granted the divorce on 24
June 2005 and judgment was duly entered on 29
June 2005.6 The California court granted to Leticia
the custody of her two children, as well as all the
couples properties in the USA.7
On 8 August 2005, Leticia filed a petition for
Judicial Separation of Conjugal Property before the
RTC of Baler, Aurora. She relied on the 3 December
2003 Joint Affidavit and Davids failure to comply
with his obligation under the same. She prayed for:

1) the power to administer all conjugal properties


in the Philippines; 2) David and his partner to
cease and desist from selling the subject conjugal
properties; 3) the declaration that all conjugal
properties be forfeited in favor of her children; 4)
David to remit half of the purchase price as share
of Leticia from the sale of the Sampaloc property;
and 5) the payment ofP50,000.00 and P100,000.00
litigation expenses.8
In his Answer, David stated that a judgment for the
dissolution of their marriage was entered on 29
June 2005 by the Superior Court of California,
County of San Mateo. He demanded that the
conjugal partnership properties, which also include
the USA properties, be liquidated and that all
expenses of liquidation, including attorneys fees of
both parties be charged against the conjugal
partnership.9
The RTC of Baler, Aurora simplified the issues as
follow:
1. Whether or not respondent David A.
Noveras committed acts of abandonment
and marital infidelity which can result
intothe forfeiture of the parties properties
in favor of the petitioner and their two (2)
children.
2. Whether or not the Court has jurisdiction
over the properties in California, U.S.A. and
the same can be included in the judicial
separation prayed for.
3. Whether or not the "Joint Affidavit" x x x
executed by petitioner Leticia T. Noveras
and respondent David A. Noveras will
amount to a waiver or forfeiture of the
latters property rights over their conjugal
properties.
4. Whether or not Leticia T. Noveras
isentitled to reimbursement of onehalf of
the P2.2 [M]illion sales proceeds of their
property in Sampaloc, Manila and one-half
of the P1.5 [M]illion used to redeem the
property of Atty. Isaias Noveras, including
interests and charges.
5. How the absolute community properties
should be distributed.
6. Whether or not the attorneys feesand
litigation expenses of the parties were
chargeable against their conjugal
properties.
Corollary to the aboveis the issue of:
Whether or not the two common children of the
parties are entitled to support and presumptive
legitimes.10
On 8 December 2006, the RTC rendered judgment
as follows:

1. The absolute community of property of


the parties is hereby declared DISSOLVED;
2. The net assets of the absolute
community of property ofthe parties in the
Philippines are hereby ordered to be
awarded to respondent David A. Noveras
only, with the properties in the United
States of America remaining in the sole
ownership of petitioner Leticia Noveras
a.k.a. Leticia Tacbiana pursuant to the
divorce decree issuedby the Superior Court
of California, County of San Mateo, United
States of America, dissolving the marriage
of the parties as of June 24, 2005. The titles
presently covering said properties shall be
cancelled and new titles be issued in the
name of the party to whom said properties
are awarded;
3. One-half of the properties awarded to
respondent David A. Noveras in the
preceding paragraph are hereby given to
Jerome and Jena, his two minor children
with petitioner LeticiaNoveras a.k.a. Leticia
Tacbiana as their presumptive legitimes and
said legitimes must be annotated on the
titles covering the said properties.Their
share in the income from these properties
shall be remitted to them annually by the
respondent within the first half of January of
each year, starting January 2008;
4. One-half of the properties in the United
States of America awarded to petitioner
Leticia Noveras a.k.a. Leticia Tacbiana in
paragraph 2 are hereby given to Jerome and
Jena, her two minor children with
respondent David A. Noveras as their
presumptive legitimes and said legitimes
must be annotated on the titles/documents
covering the said properties. Their share in
the income from these properties, if any,
shall be remitted to them annually by the
petitioner within the first half of January of
each year, starting January 2008;
5. For the support of their two (2) minor
children, Jerome and Jena, respondent
David A. Noveras shall give them
US$100.00 as monthly allowance in
addition to their income from their
presumptive legitimes, while petitioner
Leticia Tacbiana shall take care of their
food, clothing, education and other needs
while they are in her custody in the USA.
The monthly allowance due from the
respondent shall be increased in the future
as the needs of the children require and his
financial capacity can afford;
6. Of the unpaid amount of P410,000.00 on
the purchase price of the Sampaloc
property, the Paringit Spouses are hereby

ordered to pay P5,000.00 to respondent


David A. Noveras and P405,000.00 to the
two children. The share of the respondent
may be paid to him directly but the share of
the two children shall be deposited with a
local bank in Baler, Aurora, in a joint
account tobe taken out in their names,
withdrawal from which shall only be made
by them or by their representative duly
authorized with a Special Power of Attorney.
Such payment/deposit shall be made
withinthe period of thirty (30) days after
receipt of a copy of this Decision, with the
passbook of the joint account to be
submitted to the custody of the Clerk of
Court of this Court within the same period.
Said passbook can be withdrawn from the
Clerk of Court only by the children or their
attorney-in-fact; and
7. The litigation expenses and attorneys
fees incurred by the parties shall be
shouldered by them individually.11
The trial court recognized that since the parties are
US citizens, the laws that cover their legal and
personalstatus are those of the USA. With respect
to their marriage, the parties are divorced by virtue
of the decree of dissolution of their marriage
issued by the Superior Court of California, County
of San Mateo on 24June 2005. Under their law, the
parties marriage had already been dissolved.
Thus, the trial court considered the petition filed by
Leticia as one for liquidation of the absolute
community of property regime with the
determination of the legitimes, support and
custody of the children, instead of an action for
judicial separation of conjugal property.
With respect to their property relations, the trial
court first classified their property regime as
absolute community of property because they did
not execute any marriage settlement before the
solemnization of their marriage pursuant to Article
75 of the Family Code. Then, the trial court ruled
that in accordance with the doctrine of processual
presumption, Philippine law should apply because
the court cannot take judicial notice of the US law
since the parties did not submit any proof of their
national law. The trial court held that as the instant
petition does not fall under the provisions of the
law for the grant of judicial separation of
properties, the absolute community properties
cannot beforfeited in favor of Leticia and her
children. Moreover, the trial court observed that
Leticia failed to prove abandonment and infidelity
with preponderant evidence.
The trial court however ruled that Leticia is not
entitled to the reimbursements she is praying for
considering that she already acquired all of the
properties in the USA. Relying still on the principle
of equity, the Court also adjudicated the Philippine

properties to David, subject to the payment of the


childrens presumptive legitimes. The trial court
held that under Article 89 of the Family Code, the
waiver or renunciation made by David of his
property rights in the Joint Affidavit is void.
On appeal, the Court of Appeals modified the trial
courts Decision by directing the equal division of
the Philippine properties between the spouses.
Moreover with respect to the common childrens
presumptive legitime, the appellate court ordered
both spouses to each pay their children the
amount of P520,000.00, thus:
WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is PARTLY
GRANTED. Numbers 2, 4 and 6 of the
assailedDecision dated December 8, 2006 of
Branch 96, RTC of Baler, Aurora Province, in Civil
Case No. 828 are hereby MODIFIED to read as
follows:
2. The net assets of the absolute
community of property of the parties in the
Philippines are hereby divided equally
between petitioner Leticia Noveras a.k.a.
Leticia Tacbiana (sic) and respondent David
A. Noveras;
xxx
4. One-half of the properties awarded to
petitioner Leticia Tacbiana (sic) in
paragraph 2 shall pertain to her minor
children, Jerome and Jena, as their
presumptive legitimes which shall be
annotated on the titles/documents covering
the said properties. Their share in the
income therefrom, if any, shall be remitted
to them by petitioner annually within the
first half of January, starting 2008;
xxx
6. Respondent David A. Noveras and
petitioner Leticia Tacbiana (sic) are each
ordered to pay the amount ofP520,000.00
to their two children, Jerome and Jena, as
their presumptive legitimes from the sale of
the Sampaloc property inclusive of the
receivables therefrom, which shall be
deposited to a local bank of Baler, Aurora,
under a joint account in the latters names.
The payment/deposit shall be made within a
period of thirty (30) days from receipt ofa
copy of this Decision and the corresponding
passbook entrusted to the custody ofthe
Clerk of Court a quowithin the same period,
withdrawable only by the children or their
attorney-in-fact.
A number 8 is hereby added, which shall
read as follows:
8. Respondent David A. Noveras is hereby
ordered to pay petitioner Leticia Tacbiana
(sic) the amount ofP1,040,000.00

representing her share in the proceeds from


the sale of the Sampaloc property.
The last paragraph shall read as follows:
Send a copy of this Decision to the local civil
registry of Baler, Aurora; the local civil registry of
Quezon City; the Civil RegistrarGeneral, National
Statistics Office, Vibal Building, Times Street corner
EDSA, Quezon City; the Office of the Registry of
Deeds for the Province of Aurora; and to the
children, Jerome Noveras and Jena Noveras.
The rest of the Decision is AFFIRMED.12
In the present petition, David insists that the Court
of Appeals should have recognized the California
Judgment which awarded the Philippine properties
to him because said judgment was part of the
pleading presented and offered in evidence before
the trial court. David argues that allowing Leticia to
share in the Philippine properties is tantamount to
unjust enrichment in favor of Leticia considering
that the latter was already granted all US
properties by the California court.
In summary and review, the basic facts are: David
and Leticia are US citizens who own properties in
the USA and in the Philippines. Leticia obtained a
decree of divorce from the Superior Court of
California in June 2005 wherein the court awarded
all the properties in the USA to Leticia. With
respect to their properties in the Philippines,
Leticiafiled a petition for judicial separation
ofconjugal properties.
At the outset, the trial court erred in recognizing
the divorce decree which severed the bond of
marriage between the parties. In Corpuz v. Sto.
Tomas,13 we stated that:
The starting point in any recognition of a foreign
divorce judgment is the acknowledgment that our
courts do not take judicial notice of foreign
judgments and laws. Justice Herrera explained
that, as a rule, "no sovereign is bound to give
effect within its dominion to a judgment rendered
by a tribunal of another country." This means that
the foreign judgment and its authenticity must
beproven as facts under our rules on evidence,
together with the aliens applicable national law to
show the effect of the judgment on the alien
himself or herself. The recognition may be made in
an action instituted specifically for the purpose or
in another action where a party invokes the foreign
decree as an integral aspect of his claim or
defense.14
The requirements of presenting the foreign divorce
decree and the national law of the foreigner must
comply with our Rules of Evidence. Specifically, for
Philippine courts to recognize a foreign judgment
relating to the status of a marriage, a copy of the
foreign judgment may be admitted in evidence and
proven as a fact under Rule 132, Sections 24 and

25, in relation to Rule 39, Section 48(b) of the


Rules of Court.15
Under Section 24 of Rule 132, the record of public
documents of a sovereign authority or tribunal may
be proved by: (1) an official publication thereof or
(2) a copy attested by the officer having the legal
custody thereof. Such official publication or copy
must beaccompanied, if the record is not kept in
the Philippines, with a certificate that the attesting
officer has the legal custody thereof. The certificate
may be issued by any of the authorized Philippine
embassy or consular officials stationed in the
foreign country in which the record is kept, and
authenticated by the seal of his office. The
attestation must state, in substance, that the copy
is a correct copy of the original, or a specific part
thereof, asthe case may be, and must be under the
official seal of the attesting officer.
Section 25 of the same Rule states that whenever
a copy of a document or record is attested for the
purpose of evidence, the attestation must state, in
substance, that the copy is a correct copy of the
original, or a specific part thereof, as the case may
be. The attestation must be under the official seal
of the attesting officer, if there be any, or if hebe
the clerk of a court having a seal, under the seal of
such court.
Based on the records, only the divorce decree was
presented in evidence. The required certificates to
prove its authenticity, as well as the pertinent
California law on divorce were not presented.
It may be noted that in Bayot v. Court of
Appeals,16 we relaxed the requirement on
certification where we held that "[petitioner
therein] was clearly an American citizenwhen she
secured the divorce and that divorce is recognized
and allowed in any of the States of the Union, the
presentation of a copy of foreign divorce decree
duly authenticatedby the foreign court issuing said
decree is, as here, sufficient." In this case however,
it appears that there is no seal from the office
where the divorce decree was obtained.
Even if we apply the doctrine of processual
presumption17 as the lower courts did with respect
to the property regime of the parties, the
recognition of divorce is entirely a different matter
because, to begin with, divorce is not recognized
between Filipino citizens in the Philippines. Absent
a valid recognition of the divorce decree, it follows
that the parties are still legally married in the
Philippines. The trial court thus erred in proceeding
directly to liquidation.
As a general rule, any modification in the marriage
settlements must be made before the celebration
of marriage. An exception to this rule is allowed
provided that the modification isjudicially approved
and refers only to the instances provided in Articles
66,67, 128, 135 and 136 of the Family Code.18

Leticia anchored the filing of the instant petition for


judicial separation of property on paragraphs 4 and
6 of Article 135 of the Family Code, to wit:

the filing of the saidpetition can also be considered


as valid causes for the respondent to stay in the
Philippines.19

Art. 135. Any of the following shall be considered


sufficient cause for judicial separation of property:

Separation in fact for one year as a ground to grant


a judicial separation of property was not tackled in
the trial courts decision because, the trial court
erroneously treated the petition as liquidation of
the absolute community of properties.

(1) That the spouse of the petitioner has


been sentenced to a penalty which carries
with it civil interdiction;
(2) That the spouse of the petitioner has
been judicially declared an absentee;
(3) That loss of parental authority ofthe
spouse of petitioner has been decreed by
the court;
(4) That the spouse of the petitioner has
abandoned the latter or failed to comply
with his or her obligations to the family as
provided for in Article 101;
(5) That the spouse granted the power of
administration in the marriage settlements
has abused that power; and
(6) That at the time of the petition, the
spouses have been separated in fact for at
least one year and reconciliation is highly
improbable.
In the cases provided for in Numbers (1), (2), and
(3), the presentation of the final judgment against
the guiltyor absent spouse shall be enough basis
for the grant of the decree ofjudicial separation of
property. (Emphasis supplied).
The trial court had categorically ruled that there
was no abandonment in this case to necessitate
judicial separation of properties under paragraph 4
of Article 135 of the Family Code. The trial court
ratiocinated:
Moreover, abandonment, under Article 101 of the
Family Code quoted above, must be for a valid
cause and the spouse is deemed to have
abandoned the other when he/she has left the
conjugal dwelling without intention of returning.
The intention of not returning is prima facie
presumed if the allegedly [sic] abandoning spouse
failed to give any information as to his or her
whereabouts within the period of three months
from such abandonment.
In the instant case, the petitioner knows that the
respondent has returned to and stayed at his
hometown in Maria Aurora, Philippines, as she
even went several times to visit him there after the
alleged abandonment. Also, the respondent has
been going back to the USA to visit her and their
children until the relations between them
worsened. The last visit of said respondent was in
October 2004 when he and the petitioner
discussed the filing by the latter of a petition for
dissolution of marriage with the California court.
Such turn for the worse of their relationship and

The records of this case are replete with evidence


that Leticia and David had indeed separated for
more than a year and that reconciliation is highly
improbable. First, while actual abandonment had
not been proven, it is undisputed that the spouses
had been living separately since 2003 when David
decided to go back to the Philippines to set up his
own business. Second, Leticia heard from her
friends that David has been cohabiting with
Estrellita Martinez, who represented herself as
Estrellita Noveras. Editha Apolonio, who worked in
the hospital where David was once confined,
testified that she saw the name of Estrellita listed
as the wife of David in the Consent for Operation
form.20 Third and more significantly, they had filed
for divorce and it was granted by the California
court in June 2005.
Having established that Leticia and David had
actually separated for at least one year, the
petition for judicial separation of absolute
community of property should be granted.
The grant of the judicial separation of the absolute
community property automatically dissolves the
absolute community regime, as stated in the 4th
paragraph of Article 99 ofthe Family Code, thus:
Art. 99. The absolute community terminates:
(1) Upon the death of either spouse;
(2) When there is a decree of legal
separation;
(3) When the marriage is annulled or
declared void; or
(4) In case of judicial separation of property
during the marriage under Articles 134 to
138. (Emphasis supplied).
Under Article 102 of the same Code, liquidation
follows the dissolution of the absolute community
regime and the following procedure should apply:
Art. 102. Upon dissolution of the absolute
community regime, the following procedure shall
apply:
(1) An inventory shall be prepared, listing
separately all the properties of the absolute
community and the exclusive properties of
each spouse.
(2) The debts and obligations of the
absolute community shall be paid out of its
assets. In case of insufficiency of said

assets, the spouses shall be solidarily liable


for the unpaid balance with their separate
properties in accordance with the provisions
of the second paragraph of Article 94.
(3) Whatever remains of the exclusive
properties of the spouses shall thereafter be
delivered to each of them.
(4) The net remainder of the properties of
the absolute community shall constitute its
net assets, which shall be divided equally
between husband and wife, unless a
different proportion or division was agreed
upon in the marriage settlements, or unless
there has been a voluntary waiver of such
share provided in this Code. For purposes of
computing the net profits subject to
forfeiture in accordance with Articles 43,
No. (2) and 63, No. (2),the said profits shall
be the increase in value between the
market value of the community property at
the time of the celebration of the marriage
and the market value at the time of its
dissolution.
(5) The presumptive legitimes of the
common children shall be delivered upon
partition, in accordance with Article 51.
(6) Unless otherwise agreed upon by the
parties, in the partition of the properties,
the conjugal dwelling and the lot on which it
is situated shall be adjudicated tothe
spouse with whom the majority of the
common children choose to remain.
Children below the age of seven years are
deemed to have chosen the mother, unless
the court has decided otherwise. In case
there is no such majority, the court shall
decide, taking into consideration the best
interests of said children. At the risk of
being repetitious, we will not remand the
case to the trial court. Instead, we shall
adopt the modifications made by the Court
of Appeals on the trial courts Decision with
respect to liquidation.
We agree with the appellate court that the
Philippine courts did not acquire jurisdiction over
the California properties of David and Leticia.
Indeed, Article 16 of the Civil Code clearly states
that real property as well as personal property is
subject to the law of the country where it is
situated. Thus, liquidation shall only be limited to
the Philippine properties.
We affirm the modification madeby the Court of
Appeals with respect to the share of the spouses in
the absolutecommunity properties in the
Philippines, as well as the payment of their
childrens presumptive legitimes, which the
appellate court explained in this wise:

Leticia and David shall likewise have an equal


share in the proceeds of the Sampaloc
property.1wphi1 While both claimed to have
contributed to the redemption of the Noveras
property, absent a clear showing where their
contributions came from, the same is presumed to
have come from the community property. Thus,
Leticia is not entitled to reimbursement of half of
the redemption money.
David's allegation that he used part of the
proceeds from the sale of the Sampaloc property
for the benefit of the absolute community cannot
be given full credence. Only the amount
of P120,000.00 incurred in going to and from the
U.S.A. may be charged thereto. Election expenses
in the amount of P300,000.00 when he ran as
municipal councilor cannot be allowed in the
absence of receipts or at least the Statement of
Contributions and Expenditures required under
Section 14 of Republic Act No. 7166 duly received
by the Commission on Elections. Likewise,
expenses incurred to settle the criminal case of his
personal driver is not deductible as the same had
not benefited the family. In sum, Leticia and David
shall share equally in the proceeds of the sale net
of the amount ofP120,000.00 or in the respective
amounts of P1,040,000.00.
xxxx
Under the first paragraph of Article 888 of the Civil
Code, "(t)he legitime of legitimate children and
descendants consists of one-half or the hereditary
estate of the father and of the mother." The
children arc therefore entitled to half of the share
of each spouse in the net assets of the absolute
community, which shall be annotated on the
titles/documents covering the same, as well as to
their respective shares in the net proceeds from
the sale of the Sampaloc property including the
receivables from Sps. Paringit in the amount
of P410,000.00. Consequently, David and Leticia
should each pay them the amount of P520,000.00
as their presumptive legitimes therefrom.21
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The assailed
Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA G.R. CV No.
88686 is AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.
JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ
Associate Justice
WE CONCUR:
MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO*
Chief Justice
ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Chairperson

PRESBITERO J.
VELASCO, JR.**
Associate Justice

MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO


Associate Justice

ATTESTATION
I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision
had been reached in consultation before the case
was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the
Court's Division.
ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Second Division Chairperson
CERTIFICATION
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the
Constitution and the Division Chairperson's
Attestation, I certify that the conclusions in the
above Decision had been reached in consultation
before the case was assigned to the writer of the
opinion of the Court's Division.
MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO
Chief Justice
17

Processual presumption means that


where a foreign law is not pleaded or, even
if pleaded, is not proved, the presumption is
that foreign law is the same as ours. See
EDI-Staffbuilders Intl. Inc. v. NLRC, 563 Phil.
1, 22 (2007).

THE HEIRS OF MARCELINO G.R. No. 169454

propriedad de Zacarias Najorda y


Alejandro Najorda; por el SO con
propriedad de Geminiano Mendoza y
por el NO con el camino para
Villasis; midiendo una extension
superficial mil ciento cincuenta y
dos metros cuadrados.[4]

DORONIO, NAMELY: REGINA


AND FLORA, BOTH SURNAMED
DORONIO, Present:
Petitioners,
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.,
Chairperson,
- versus - AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
CHICO-NAZARIO,
A, and

NACHUR

HEIRS OF FORTUNATO REYES, JJ.

The spouses had children but the records


fail to disclose their number. It is clear, however,
that Marcelino Doronio and Fortunato Doronio, now
both deceased, were among them and that the
parties in this case are their heirs. Petitioners are
the heirs of Marcelino Doronio, while respondents
are the heirs of Fortunato Doronio.
On April 24, 1919, a private deed of
donation propter
nuptias[5] was
executed
by
spouses Simeon Doronio and Cornelia Gante in
favor of Marcelino Doronio and the latters wife,
Veronica Pico. One of the properties subject of said
deed of donation is the one that it described as
follows:

DORONIO, NAMELY: TRINIDAD


ROSALINA DORONIO-BALMES,
MODING DORONIO, FLORENTINA
DORONIO, AND ANICETA Promulgated:
ALCANTARA-MANALO,
2007

Respondents. December

27,

x-------------------------------------------------x
DECISION
REYES, R.T., J.:
For Our review on certiorari is the Decision[1] of the
Court of Appeals (CA) reversing that[2] of the
Regional
Trial
Court
(RTC),
Branch
45,
Anonas, Urdaneta City, Pangasinan, in an action for
reconveyance and damages. The CA declared
respondents as rightful owners of one-half of the
subject property and directed petitioners to
execute a registerable document conveying the
same to respondents.

The Facts
Spouses Simeon Doronio and Cornelia Gante,
now both deceased, were the registered owners of
a parcel of land located at Barangay Cabalitaan,
Asingan,
Pangasinan
covered
by
Original
Certificate of Title (OCT) No. 352. [3] The courts
below described it as follows:
Un terreno (Lote 1018), situada en el
municipio de Asingan, Linda por el
NE; con propriedad de Gabriel
Bernardino;
con
el
SE
con

Fourth A piece of residential


land located in the barrio of
Cabalitian but we did not measure it,
the area is bounded on the north by
Gabriel Bernardino; on the east by
Fortunato Doronio; on the south
by Geminiano Mendoza and on the
west
by
a
road
to
Villasis. Constructed on said land is a
house of light materials also a part
of the dowry. Value 200.00.[6]

It appears that the property described in


the deed of donation is the one covered by OCT
No.
352. However,
there
is
a
significant
discrepancy with respect to the identity of the
owner of adjacent property at the eastern
side. Based on OCT No. 352, the adjacent owners
are Zacarias Najorda and Alejandro Najorda,
whereas based on the deed of donation, the owner
of
the
adjacent
property
is
Fortunato
Doronio.Furthermore, said deed of donation
remained a private document as it was never
notarized.[7]
Both parties have been occupying the
subject land for several decades[8] although they
have different theories regarding its present
ownership. According to petitioners, they are now
the owners of the entire property in view of the
private deed of donation propter nuptias in favor of

their predecessors, Marcelino Doronio and Veronica


Pico.
Respondents, on the other hand, claim that
only half of the property was actually incorporated
in the said deed of donation because it stated that
Fortunato Doronio, instead of Zacarias Najorda and
Alejandro Najorda, is the owner of the adjacent
property at the eastern side. Respondents posit
that the donors respected and segregated the
possession of Fortunato Doronio of the eastern half
of the land. They are the ones who have been
possessing
said
land
occupied
by
their
predecessor, Fortunato Doronio.
Eager to obtain the entire property, the
heirs of Marcelino Doronio and Veronica Pico filed,
on January 11, 1993, before the RTC in Urdaneta,
Pangasinan a petition For the Registration of a
Private Deed of Donation[9] docketed as Petition
Case No. U-920. No respondents were named in
the said petition[10] although notices of hearing
were
posted
on
the
bulletin
boards
of Barangay Cabalitaan, Municipalities of Asingan
and Lingayen.[11]
During the hearings, no one interposed an
objection to the petition.[12] After the RTC ordered a
general default,[13] the petition was eventually
granted on September 22, 1993. This led to the
registration of the deed of donation, cancellation of
OCT No. 352 and issuance of a new Transfer
Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 44481 in the names of
Marcelino Doronio and Veronica Pico. [14] Thus, the
entire property was titled in the names of
petitioners predecessors.
On April 28, 1994, the heirs of Fortunato Doronio
filed a pleading before the RTC in the form of a
petition in the same Petition Case No. U-920. The
petition was for the reconsideration of the decision
of the RTC that ordered the registration of the
subject deed of donation. It was prayed in the
petition that an order be issued declaring null and
void the registration of the private deed of
donation
and
that TCT No.
44481
be
cancelled. However, the petition was dismissed
on May 13, 1994 on the ground that the decision in
Petition Case No. U-920 had already become final
as it was not appealed.
Determined to remain in their possessed property,
respondent heirs of Fortunato Doronio (as
plaintiffs) filed an action for reconveyance and
damages
with
prayer
for
preliminary
injunction[15] against petitioner heirs of Marcelino
Doronio (as defendants) before the RTC, Branch 45,
Anonas, Urdaneta City,
Pangasinan. Respondents
contended, among others, that the subject land is
different from what was donated as the
descriptions of the property under OCT No. 352

and under the private deed of donation were


different. They posited that spouses Simeon
Doronio and Cornelia Gante intended to donate
only one-half of the property.
During the pre-trial conference, the parties
stipulated, among others, that the property was
originally covered by OCT No. 352 which was
cancelled by TCT No. 44481. They also agreed that
the issues are: (1) whether or not there was a
variation in the description of the property subject
of the private deed of donation and OCT No. 352;
(2) whether or not respondents had acquired onehalf of the property covered by OCT No. 352 by
acquisitive prescription; (3) whether or not the
transfer of the whole property covered by OCT No.
352 on the basis of the registration of the private
deed of donation notwithstanding the discrepancy
in the description is valid; (4) whether or not
respondents are entitled to damages; and (5)
whether or not TCT No. 44481 is valid.[16]
RTC Decision
After due proceedings, the RTC ruled in favor of
petitioner
heirs
of
Marcelino
Doronio
(defendants). It concluded that the parties
admitted the identity of the land which they all
occupy;[17] that a title once registered under the
torrens system cannot be defeated by adverse,
open and notorious possession or by prescription;
[18]
that the deed of donation in consideration of the
marriage of the parents of petitioners is valid,
hence, it led to the eventual issuance of TCT No.
44481 in the names of said parents; [19] and that
respondent heirs of Fortunato Doronio (plaintiffs)
are not entitled to damages as they are not the
rightful owners of the portion of the property they
are claiming.[20]
The RTC disposed of the case, thus:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court
hereby renders judgment DISMISSING the herein
Complaint filed by plaintiffs against defendants.[21]
Disagreeing with the judgment of the RTC,
respondents appealed to the CA. They argued that
the trial court erred in not finding that respondents
predecessor-in-interest acquired one-half of the
property covered by OCT No. 352 by tradition
and/or intestate succession; that the deed of
donation dated April 26, 1919 was null and void;
that assuming that the deed of donation was valid,
only one-half of the property was actually donated
to Marcelino Doronio and Veronica Pico; and that
respondents acquired ownership of the other half
portion of the property by acquisitive prescription.
[22]

CA Disposition

In a Decision dated January 26, 2005, the CA


reversed the RTC decision with the following
disposition:
WHEREFORE, the assailed Decision
dated June 28, 2002 is REVERSED
and
SET
ASIDE. Declaring
the
appellants as rightful owners of onehalf of the property now covered
by TCT No. 44481, the appellees are
hereby directed to execute a
registerable document conveying
the same to appellants.
SO ORDERED.[23]
The appellate court determined that (t)he
intention to donate half of the disputed property to
appellees predecessors can be gleaned from the
disparity of technical descriptions appearing in the
title (OCT No. 352) of spouses Simeon Doronio and
Cornelia Gante and in the deed of donation propter
nuptias executed on April 24, 1919 in favor of
appellees predecessors.[24]
The CA based its conclusion on the disparity of the
following technical descriptions of the property
under OCT No. 352 and the deed of donation, to
wit:
The court below described
the property covered by OCT No.
352 as follows:
Un
terreno
(Lote 1018), situada
en el municipio de
Asingan, Linda por el
NE; con propriedad de
Gabriel
Bernardino;
con
el SE
con
propriedad
de
Zacarias Najorda y
Alejandro Najorda; por
el SO con propriedad
de
Geminiano
Mendoza y por el NO
con el camino para
Villasis; midiendo una
extension superficial
mil ciento cincuenta y
dos metros cuadrados.
On the other hand, the
property donated to
appellees
predecessors was described in the
deed of donation as:

Fourth A piece of
residential
land
located in the barrio of
Cabalitian but we did
not measure it, the
area is bounded on
the north by Gabriel
Bernardino; on
the
east by Fortunato
Doronio; on the south
by
Geminiano
Mendoza and on the
west by a road to
Villasis. Constructed
on said land is a house
of light materials also
a
part
of
the
dowry. Value 200.00.
[25]
(Emphasis ours)
Taking note that the boundaries of the lot
donated to Marcelino Doronio and Veronica Pico
differ from the boundaries of the land owned by
spouses Simeon Doronio and Cornelia Gante, the
CA concluded that spouses Simeon Doronio and
Cornelia Gante donated only half of the property
covered by OCT No. 352.[26]
Regarding the allegation of petitioners that
OCT No. 352 is inadmissible in evidence, the CA
pointed out that, while the OCT is written in the
Spanish language, this document already forms
part of the records of this case for failure of
appellees to interpose a timely objection when it
was offered as evidence in the proceedings a
quo. It is a well-settled rule that any objection to
the admissibility of such evidence not raised will be
considered waived and said evidence will have to
form part of the records of the case as competent
and admitted evidence.[27]
The CA likewise ruled that the donation of the
entire property in favor of petitioners predecessors
is invalid on the ground that it impairs the legitime
of respondents predecessor, Fortunato Doronio. On
this aspect, the CA reasoned out:
Moreover, We find the donation of
the entire property in favor of
appellees predecessors invalid as it
impairs the legitime of appellants
predecessor. Article 961 of the Civil
Code is explicit. In default of
testamentary heirs, the law vests
the inheritance, x x x, in the
legitimate x x x relatives of the
deceased, x x x. As Spouses Simeon

Doronio and Cornelia Gante died


intestate, their property shall pass to
their lawful heirs, namely: Fortunato
and Marcelino Doronio. Donating the
entire property to Marcelino Doronio
and Veronica Pico and excluding
another heir, Fortunato, tantamounts
to divesting the latter of his rightful
share
in
his
parents
inheritance. Besides,
a
persons
prerogative to make donations is
subject to certain limitations, one of
which is that he cannot give by
donation more than what he can
give by will (Article 752, Civil
Code). If he does, so much of what is
donated as exceeds what he can
give by will is deemed inofficious
and the donation is reducible to the
extent of such excess.[28]
Petitioners were not pleased with the decision of
the CA. Hence, this petition under Rule 45.
Issues
Petitioners now contend that the CA erred in:
1.
DECLARING
ADMISSIBILITY
OF
THE
ORIGINAL CERTIFICATE OF TITLE NO. 352 DESPITE
OF LACK OF TRANSLATION THEREOF.
2.
(RULING THAT) ONLY HALF OF THE
DISPUTED PROPERTY WAS DONATED TO
THE PREDECESSORS-IN-INTEREST OF THE
HEREIN APPELLANTS.
3.
(ITS) DECLARATION THAT THE
DONATION PROPTER
NUPTIAS IS
INNOFICIOUS, IS PREMATURE, AND THUS IT
IS ILLEGAL AND UNPROCEDURAL.[29]
Our Ruling
OCT No. 352 in Spanish Although Not
Translated into English or Filipino Is
Admissible For Lack of Timely Objection
Petitioners fault the CA for admitting OCT
No. 352 in evidence on the ground that it is written
in
Spanish
language. They
posit
that
(d)ocumentary evidence in an unofficial language
shall not be admitted as evidence, unless
accompanied with a translation into English or
Filipino.[30]
The
argument
is
untenable. The
requirement that documents written in an
unofficial language must be accompanied with a
translation in English or Filipino as a prerequisite
for its admission in evidence must be insisted upon

by the parties at the trial to enable the court,


where a translation has been impugned as
incorrect, to decide the issue.[31] Where such
document, not so accompanied with a translation
in English or Filipino, is offered in evidence and not
objected to, either by the parties or the court, it
must be presumed that the language in which the
document is written is understood by all, and the
document is admissible in evidence.[32]
Moreover, Section 36, Rule 132 of the
Revised Rules of Evidence provides:
SECTION
36. Objection.
Objection to evidence offered orally
must be made immediately after the
offer is made.
Objection to a question
propounded in the course of the oral
examination of a witness shall be
made as soon as the grounds
therefor shall become reasonably
apparent.
An offer of evidence in
writing shall be objected to
within three (3) days after
notice of the offer unless a
different period is allowed by
the court.
In any case, the grounds for
the objections must be specified.
(Emphasis ours)
Since petitioners did not object to the offer
of said documentary evidence on time, it is now
too late in the day for them to question its
admissibility. The rule is that evidence not objected
may be deemed admitted and may be validly
considered by the court in arriving at its judgment.
[33]
This is true even if by its nature, the evidence is
inadmissible and would have surely been rejected
if it had been challenged at the proper time.[34]
As a matter of fact, instead of objecting,
petitioners admitted the contents of Exhibit A, that
is, OCT No. 352 in their comment[35] on
respondents
formal
offer
of
documentary
evidence. In the said comment, petitioners alleged,
among others, that Exhibits A, B, C, D, E, F and G,
are admitted but not for the purpose they are
offered because these exhibits being public
and official documents are the best evidence
of that they contain and not for what a party

would like it to prove.[36] Said evidence was


admitted by the RTC.[37] Once admitted without
objection, even though not admissible under an
objection, We are not inclined now to reject it.
[38]
Consequently, the evidence that was not
objected to became property of the case, and all
parties to the case are considered amenable to any
favorable or unfavorable effects resulting from the
said evidence.[39]

A civil action
may either be ordinary
or special. Both are
governed by the rules
for
ordinary
civil
actions, subject to
specific
rules
prescribed
for
a
special civil action.
xxxx

Issues on Impairment of Legitime


Should Be Threshed Out in a Special
Proceeding, Not in Civil Action for
Reconveyance and Damages
On the other hand, petitioners are correct in
alleging that the issue regarding the impairment of
legitime of Fortunato Doronio must be resolved in
an action for the settlement of estates of spouses
Simeon Doronio and Cornelia Gante. It may not be
passed upon in an action for reconveyance and
damages. A probate court, in the exercise of its
limited jurisdiction, is the best forum to ventilate
and adjudge the issue of impairment of legitime as
well as other related matters involving the
settlement of estate.[40]
An action for reconveyance with damages is
a civil action, whereas matters relating to
settlement of the estate of a deceased person such
as advancement of property made by the
decedent, partake of the nature of a special
proceeding. Special
proceedings
require
the
application of specific rules as provided for in the
Rules of Court.[41]
As explained by the Court in Natcher v.
Court of Appeals:[42]
Section 3, Rule 1 of the 1997
Rules of Civil Procedure defines civil
action and special proceedings, in
this wise:
x x x a) A civil
action is one by which
a party sues another
for the enforcement or
protection of a right,
or the prevention or
redress of a wrong.

c) A special
proceeding
is
a
remedy by which a
party
seeks
to
establish a status, a
right or a particular
fact.
As could be gleaned from the
foregoing, there lies a marked
distinction between an action and a
special proceeding. An action is a
formal demand of ones right in a
court of justice in the manner
prescribed by the court or by the
law. It is the method of applying
legal remedies according to definite
established rules. The term special
proceeding may be defined as an
application
or
proceeding
to
establish the status or right of a
party, or a particular fact. Usually, in
special proceedings, no formal
pleadings are required unless the
statute expressly so provides. In
special proceedings, the remedy is
granted
generally
upon
an
application or motion.
Citing
American
Jurisprudence, a noted authority in
Remedial Law expounds further:
It
may
accordingly be stated
generally that actions
include
those
proceedings which are
instituted
and
prosecuted according
to the ordinary rules
and provisions relating
to actions at law or
suits in equity, and
that
special
proceedings
include
those
proceedings

which are not ordinary


in this sense, but is
instituted
and
prosecuted according
to some special mode
as in the case of
proceedings
commenced
without
summons
and
prosecuted
without
regular
pleadings,
which
are
characteristics
of
ordinary actions x x
x. A
special
proceeding
must
therefore be in the
nature of a distinct
and
independent
proceeding
for
particular relief, such
as may be instituted
independently of a
pending action, by
petition
or
motion
upon notice.
Applying these principles, an
action
for
reconveyance
and
annulment of title with damages is a
civil
action,
whereas
matters
relating to settlement of the estate
of a deceased person such as
advancement of property made by
the decedent, partake of the nature
of a special proceeding, which
concomitantly
requires
the
application of specific rules as
provided for in the Rules of Court.
Clearly,
matters
which
involve settlement and distribution
of the estate of the decedent fall
within the exclusive province of the
probate court in the exercise of its
limited jurisdiction.
Thus, under Section 2, Rule
90 of the Rules of Court, questions
as to advancement made or alleged
to have been made by the deceased
to any heir may be heard and
determined by the court having
jurisdiction
of
the
estate
proceedings, and the final order of
the court thereon shall be binding on
the person raising the questions and
on the heir.

While it may be true that the


Rules used the word may, it is
nevertheless clear that the same
provision contemplates a probate
court when it speaks of the court
having jurisdiction of the estate
proceedings.
Corollarily, the Regional Trial
Court in the instant case, acting in
its general jurisdiction, is devoid of
authority to render an adjudication
and
resolve
the
issue
of
advancement of the real property in
favor of herein petitioner Natcher,
inasmuch as Civil Case No. 71075 for
reconveyance and annulment of title
with damages is not, to our mind,
the proper vehicle to thresh out said
question. Moreover,
under
the
present circumstances, the RTC of
Manila, Branch 55, was not properly
constituted as a probate court so as
to validly pass upon the question of
advancement made by the decedent
Graciano Del Rosario to his wife,
herein petitioner Natcher.
We likewise find merit in petitioners
contention that before any conclusion about the
legal share due to a compulsory heir may be
reached, it is necessary that certain steps be taken
first.[43] The net estate of the decedent must be
ascertained, by deducting all payable obligations
and charges from the value of the property owned
by the deceased at the time of his death; then, all
donations subject to collation would be added to
it. With the partible estate thus determined, the
legitime of the compulsory heir or heirs can be
established; and only then can it be ascertained
whether or not a donation had prejudiced the
legitimes.[44]
Declaration of Validity of Donation
Can Be Challenged by an Interested
Party Not Impleaded in Petition for
Quieting of Title or Declaratory Relief
or Where There is No Res Judicata.
Moreover, This Court Can Consider
a Factual Matter or Unassigned Error
in the Interest of Substantial Justice.

Nevertheless, petitioners cannot preclude the


determination of validity of the deed of donation
on the ground that (1) it has been impliedly
admitted by respondents; (2) it has already been
determined with finality by the RTC in Petition Case
No. U-920; or (3) the only issue in an action for
reconveyance is who has a better right over the
land.[45]
The validity of the private deed of
donation propter nuptias in favor of petitioners
predecessors was one of the issues in this case
before the lower courts. The pre-trial order[46] of
the RTC stated that one of the issues before it is
(w)hether or not the transfer of the whole property
covered by OCT No. 352 on the basis of the private
deed of donation notwithstanding the discrepancy
in the description is valid.Before the CA, one of the
errors assigned by respondents is that THE TRIAL
COURT ERRED IN NOT FINDING THAT THE PRIVATE
DEED OF DONATION DATED APRIL 26, 1919 WAS
NULL ANDVOID.[47]
The issue of the validity of donation is
likewise brought to Us by petitioners as they stated
in their Memorandum[48] that one of the issues to
be resolved is regarding the alleged fact that THE
HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN
FINDING THE DONATION INVALID. We are thus
poised to inspect the deed of donation and to
determine its validity.
We cannot agree with petitioners contention that
respondents may no longer question the validity of
the deed of donation on the ground that they
already impliedly admitted it. Under the provisions
of the Civil Code, a void contract is inexistent from
the beginning. The right to set up the defense of its
illegality cannot be waived. [49] The right to set up
the nullity of a void or non-existent contract is not
limited to the parties as in the case of annullable or
voidable contracts; it is extended to third persons
who are directly affected by the contract.[50]
Consequently, although respondents are
not parties in the deed of donation, they can set up
its nullity because they are directly affected by the
same.[51] The subject of the deed being the land
they are occupying, its enforcement will definitely
affect them.
Petitioners cannot also use the finality of
the RTC decision in Petition Case No. U-920[52] as a
shield against the verification of the validity of the
deed of donation. According to petitioners, the said
final decision is one for quieting of title. [53] In other

words, it is a case for declaratory relief under Rule


64 (now Rule 63) of the Rules of Court, which
provides:
SECTION 1. Who may file
petition. Any person interested
under a deed, will, contract or other
written instrument, or whose rights
are affected by a statute, executive
order or regulation, or ordinance,
may, before breach or violation
thereof, bring an action to determine
any question of construction or
validity arising under the instrument
or statute and for a declaration of his
rights or duties thereunder.
An action for the reformation of an
instrument, to quiet title to real
property
or
remove
clouds
therefrom,
or
to
consolidate
ownership under Article 1607 of the
Civil Code, may be brought under
this rule.
SECTION
2. Parties. All
persons shall be made parties
who have or claim any interest
which would be affected by the
declaration; and no declaration
shall,
except
as
otherwise
provided
in
these
rules,
prejudice the rights of persons
not
parties
to
the
action. (Emphasis ours)
However, respondents were not made
parties in the said Petition Case No. U-920. Worse,
instead of issuing summons to interested parties,
the RTC merely allowed the posting of notices on
the
bulletin
boards
of Barangay Cabalitaan,
Municipalities
of
Asingan
and
Lingayen,
Pangasinan. As pointed out by the CA, citing the
ruling of the RTC:
x x x In the said case or Petition No.
U-920, notices were posted on the
bulletin
boards
of barangay Cabalitaan,
Municipalities
of
Asingan
and
Lingayen, Pangasinan, so that there
was a notice to the whole world and
during the initial hearing and/or
hearings,
no
one
interposed
objection thereto.[54]

Suits to quiet title are not technically


suits in rem, nor are they, strictly speaking, in
personam, but being against the person in respect
of the res, these proceedings are characterized
as quasi in rem.[55]The
judgment in such
proceedings is conclusive only between the
parties.[56] Thus, respondents are not bound by the
decision in Petition Case No. U-920 as they were
not made parties in the said case.
The rules on quieting of title[57] expressly provide
that any declaration in a suit to quiet title shall not
prejudice persons who are not parties to the
action.
That respondents filed a subsequent pleading [58] in
the same Petition Case No. U-920 after the decision
there had become final did not change the fact
that said decision became final without their being
impleaded in the case. Said subsequent pleading
was dismissed on the ground of finality of the
decision.[59]
Thus, the RTC totally failed to give respondents
their day in court. As a result, they cannot be
bound by its orders. Generally accepted is the
principle that no man shall be affected by any
proceeding to which he is a stranger, and strangers
to a case are not bound by judgment rendered by
the court.[60]
Moreover, for the principle of res judicata to apply,
the following must be present: (1) a decision on
the merits; (2) by a court of competent jurisdiction;
(3) the decision is final; and (4) the two actions
involve identical parties, subject matter and causes
of action.[61] The fourth element is not present in
this case. The parties are not identical because
respondents were not impleaded in Petition Case
No. U-920.While the subject matter may be the
same property covered by OCT No. 352, the causes
of action are different. Petition Case No. U-920 is
an action for declaratory relief while the case
below is for recovery of property.
We are not persuaded by petitioners
posture that the only issue in this action for
reconveyance is who has a better right over the
land; and that the validity of the deed of donation
is beside the point.[62] It is precisely the validity and
enforceability of the deed of donation that is the
determining factor in resolving the issue of who
has a better right over the property. Moreover,
notwithstanding procedural lapses as to the
appropriateness of the remedies prayed for in the
petition filed before Us, this Court can brush aside
the technicalities in the interest of justice. In some
instances, this Court even suspended its own rules
and excepted a case from their operation
whenever the higher interests of justice so
demanded.[63]

Moreover, although respondents did not


directly raise the issue of validity of the deed of
donation at the commencement of the case before
the trial court, it was stipulated[64] by the parties
during the pre-trial conference. In any event, this
Court has authority to inquire into any question
necessary in arriving at a just decision of a case
before it.[65] Though not specifically questioned by
the parties, additional issues may also be included,
if deemed important for substantial justice to be
rendered.[66]
Furthermore, this Court has held that
although a factual issue is not squarely raised
below, still in the interest of substantial justice, this
Court is not prevented from considering a pivotal
factual matter.The Supreme Court is clothed with
ample authority to review palpable errors not
assigned as such if it finds that their consideration
is necessary in arriving at a just decision.[67]
A rudimentary doctrine on appealed cases
is that this Court is clothed with ample authority to
review matters, even if they are not assigned as
errors on appeal, if it finds that their consideration
is necessary at arriving at a just decision of the
case.[68] Also, an unassigned error closely related to
an error properly assigned or upon which the
determination of the question raised by the error
properly assigned is dependent, will be considered
by the appellate court notwithstanding the failure
to assign it as an error.[69]
Donation Propter Nuptias of Real
Property Made in a Private Instrument
Before the New Civil Code Took Effect
on August 30, 1950 is Void
We now focus on the crux of the petition,
which is the validity of the deed of donation. It is
settled that only laws existing at the time of the
execution of a contract are applicable to it and not
the later statutes, unless the latter are specifically
intended to have retroactive effect. [70] Accordingly,
the Old Civil Code applies in this case as the
donation propter nuptias was executed in 1919,
while the New Civil Code took effect only on August
30, 1950.
Under the Old Civil Code, donations propter
nuptias must be made in a public instrument in
which the property donated must be specifically
described.[71] Article 1328 of the Old Civil Code
provides that gifts propter nuptias are governed by
the rules established in Title 2 of Book 3 of the

same Code. Article 633 of that title provides that


the gift of real property, in order to be valid, must
appear in a public document. [72] It is settled that a
donation of real estate propter nuptias is void
unless made by public instrument.[73]
In the instant case, the donation propter
nuptias did not become valid. Neither did it create
any right because it was not made in a public
instrument.[74] Hence, it conveyed no title to the
land in question to petitioners predecessors.
Logically, then, the cancellation of OCT No. 352
and the issuance of a new TCT No. 44481 in favor
of petitioners predecessors have no legal
basis. The title to the subject property should,
therefore, be restored to its original owners under
OCT No. 352.
Direct reconveyance to any of the parties is not
possible as it has not yet been determined in a
proper proceeding who among the heirs of spouses
Simeon Doronio and Cornelia Gante is entitled to
it. It is still unproven whether or not the parties are
the only ones entitled to the properties of spouses
Simeon Doronio and Cornelia Gante. As earlier
intimated, there are still things to be done before
the legal share of all the heirs can be properly
adjudicated.[75]
Titled Property Cannot Be Acquired
By Another By Adverse Possession
or Extinctive Prescription
Likewise, the claim of respondents that they
became owners of the property by acquisitive
prescription has no merit. Truth to tell, respondents
cannot successfully invoke the argument of
extinctive prescription. They cannot be deemed
the owners by acquisitive prescription of the
portion of the property they have been
possessing. The reason is that the property was
covered by OCT No. 352. A title once registered
under the torrens system cannot be defeated even
by adverse, open and notorious possession; neither
can it be defeated by prescription. [76] It is notice to
the whole world and as such all persons are bound
by it and no one can plead ignorance of the
registration.[77]
The torrens system is intended to
guarantee the integrity and conclusiveness of the
certificate of registration, but it cannot be used for
the perpetration of fraud against the real owner of

the registered land.[78] The system merely confirms


ownership and does not create it. Certainly, it
cannot be used to divest the lawful owner of his
title for the purpose of transferring it to another
who has not acquired it by any of the modes
allowed or recognized by law. It cannot be used to
protect a usurper from the true owner, nor can it
be used as a shield for the commission of fraud;
neither does it permit one to enrich himself at the
expense of another.[79] Where such an illegal
transfer is made, as in the case at bar, the law
presumes that no registration has been made and
so retains title in the real owner of the land. [80]
Although We confirm here the invalidity of the
deed of donation and of its resulting TCT No.
44481, the controversy between the parties is yet
to be fully settled. The issues as to who truly are
the present owners of the property and what is the
extent of their ownership remain unresolved. The
same may be properly threshed out in the
settlement of the estates of the registered owners
of the property, namely: spouses Simeon Doronio
and Cornelia Gante.
WHEREFORE, the
appealed
Decision
is REVERSED AND SET ASIDE. A new one is
entered:
(1) Declaring
the
private
deed
of
donation propter nuptias in favor of petitioners
predecessors NULL AND VOID; and
(2) Ordering
Pangasinan to:

the

Register

of

Deeds

(a) CANCEL Transfer


Certificate of Title No. 44481 in the
names of Marcelino Doronio and
Veronica Pico; and
(b) RESTORE Original
Certificate of Title No. 352 in the
names of its original owners,
spouses
Simeon
Doronio
and
Cornelia Gante.
SO ORDERED.

of

G.R. No. 122134

October 3, 2003

ROMANA LOCQUIAO VALENCIA and


CONSTANCIA L. VALENCIA, petitioners,
vs.
BENITO A. LOCQUIAO, now deceased and
substituted by JIMMY LOCQUIAO, TOMASA
MARA and the REGISTRAR OF DEEDS OF
PANGASINAN, respondents.
x----------------------------x
CONSTANCIA L. VALENCIA, petitioner,
vs.
BENITO A. LOCQUIAO, now deceased and
substituted by JIMMY LOCQUIAO, respondent.
DECISION
TINGA, J.:
1

The Old Civil Code and the Old Code of Civil


Procedure,2 repealed laws that they both are
notwithstanding, have not abruptly become mere
quiescent items of legal history since their
relevance do not wear off for a long time. Verily,
the old statutes proved to be decisive in the
adjudication of the case at bar.
Before us is a petition for review seeking to annul
and set aside the joint Decision3 dated November
24, 1994, as well as the Resolution4 dated
September 8, 1995, of the former Tenth Division5 of
the Court of Appeals in two consolidated cases
involving an action for annulment of title6 and an
action for ejectment.7
Both cases involve a parcel of land consisting of
4,876 square meters situated in Urdaneta,
Pangasinan. This land was originally owned by the
spouses Herminigildo and Raymunda Locquiao, as
evidenced by Original Certificate of Title No.
183838 issued on October 3, 1917 by the Register
of Deeds of Pangasinan.
On May 22, 1944, Herminigildo and Raymunda
Locquiao executed a deed of donation propter
nuptias which was written in the Ilocano dialect,
denominated as Inventario Ti Sagut9 in favor of
their son, respondent Benito Locquiao (hereafter,
respondent Benito) and his prospective bride,
respondent Tomasa Mara (hereafter, respondent
Tomasa). By the terms of the deed, the donees
were gifted with four (4) parcels of land, including
the land in question, as well as a male cow and
one-third (1/3) portion of the conjugal house of the
donor parents, in consideration of the impending
marriage of the donees.
The donees took their marriage vows on June 4,
1944 and the fact of their marriage was inscribed
at the back of O.C.T. No. 18383.10
Herminigildo and Raymunda died on December 15,
1962 and January 9, 1968, respectively, leaving as
heirs their six (6) children, namely: respondent
Benito, Marciano, Lucio, Emeteria, Anastacia, and

petitioner Romana, all surnamed Locquiao11. With


the permission of respondents Benito and Tomasa,
petitioner Romana Valencia (hereinafter, Romana)
took possession and cultivated the subject
land.12 When respondent Romanas husband got
sick sometime in 1977, her daughter petitioner
Constancia Valencia (hereafter, petitioner
Constancia) took over, and since then, has been in
possession of the land.13
Meanwhile, respondents Benito and Tomasa
registered the Inventario Ti Sagut with the Office of
the Register of Deeds of Pangasinan on May 15,
1970.14 In due course, the original title was
cancelled and in lieu thereofTransfer Certificate of
Title No. 8489715 was issued in the name of the
respondents Benito and Tomasa.
On March 18, 1973, the heirs of the Locquiao
spouses, including respondent Benito and
petitioner Romana, executed a Deed of Partition
with Recognition of Rights,16 wherein they
distributed among only three (3) of them, the
twelve (12) parcels of land left by their common
progenitors, excluding the land in question and
other lots disposed of by the Locquiao spouses
earlier. Contained in the deed is a statement that
respondent Benito and Marciano Locquiao, along
with the heirs of Lucio Locquiao, "have already
received our shares in the estates of our parents,
by virtue of previous donations and conveyances,"
and that for that reason the heirs of Lucio Locquaio
were not made parties to the deed. All the living
children of the Locquaio spouses at the time,
including petitioner Romana, confirmed the
previous dispositions and waived their rights to
whomsoever the properties covered by the deed of
partition were adjudicated.17
Later on, disagreements among five (5) heirs or
groups of heirs, including petitioner Romana,
concerning the distribution of two (2) of the lots
covered by the deed of partition which are Lots No.
2467 and 5567 of the Urdaneta Cadastral Survey
surfaced. As their differences were settled, the
heirs concerned executed a Deed of Compromise
Agreement18 on June 12, 1976, which provided for
the re-distribution of the two (2) lots. Although not
directly involved in the discord, Benito signed the
compromise agreement together with his feuding
siblings, nephews and nieces. Significantly, all the
signatories to the compromise agreement,
including petitioner Romana, confirmed all the
other stipulations and provisions of the deed of
partition.19
Sometime in 1983, the apparent calm pervading
among the heirs was disturbed when petitioner
Constancia filed an action for annulment of title
against the respondents before the Regional Trial
Court of Pangasinan.20 The record shows that the
case was dismissed by the trial court but it does
not indicate the reason for the dismissal.21

On December 13, 1983, respondent Benito filed


with the Municipal Trial Court of Urdaneta,
Pangasinan aComplaint22 seeking the ejectment of
petitioner Constancia from the subject property.
On November 25, 1985, the Municipal Trial Court
rendered a Decision,23 ordering the defendant in
the case, petitioner Constancia, to vacate the land
in question.
Petitioners Romana and Constancia countered with
a Complaint24 for the annulment of Transfer
Certificate of TitleNo. 84897 against respondents
Benito and Tomasa 25 which they filed with the
Regional Trial Court of Pangasinan on December
23, 1985. Petitioners alleged that the issuance of
the transfer certificate of title was fraudulent; that
the Inventario Ti Sagut is spurious; that the notary
public who notarized the document had no
authority to do so, and; that the donation did not
observe the form required by law as there was no
written acceptance on the document itself or in a
separate public instrument.1a\^/phi1.net
Meanwhile, the decision in the ejectment case was
appealed to the same RTC where the case for
annulment of title was also pending. Finding that
the question of ownership was the central issue in
both cases, the court issued an Order26 suspending
the proceedings in the ejectment case until it shall
have decided the ownership issue in the title
annulment case.
After trial, the RTC rendered a Decision27 dated
January 30, 1989 dismissing the complaint for
annulment of title on the grounds of prescription
and laches. It likewise ruled that the Inventario Ti
Sagut is a valid public document which transmitted
ownership over the subject land to the
respondents. With the dismissal of the complaint
and the confirmation of the respondents title over
the subject property, the RTC affirmed in toto the
decision of the MTC in the ejectment case28.
Dissatisfied, petitioners elevated the two (2)
decisions to the respondent Court of Appeals. Since
they involve the same parties and the same
property, the appealed cases were consolidated by
the appellate court.
On November 24, 1994, the Court of Appeals
rendered the assailed Decision affirming the
appealed RTC decisions. The appellate court
upheld the RTCs conclusion that the petitioners
cause of action had already prescribed, considering
that the complaint for annulment of title was filed
more than fifteen (15) years after the issuance of
the title, or beyond the ten (10) - year prescriptive
period for actions for reconveyance. It likewise
rejected the petitioners assertion that the
donation propter nuptias is null and void for want
of acceptance by the donee, positing that the
implied acceptance flowing from the very fact of
marriage between the respondents, coupled with

the registration of the fact of marriage at the back


of OCT No. 18383, constitutes substantial
compliance with the requirements of the law.
The petitioners filed a Motion for
Reconsideration29 but it was denied by the
appellate court in its Resolution30dated September
8, 1995. Hence, this petition.
We find the petition entirely devoid of merit.
Concerning the annulment case, the issues to be
threshed out are: (1) whether the donation propter
nuptias is authentic; (2) whether acceptance of the
donation by the donees is required; (3) if so, in
what form should the acceptance appear, and; (4)
whether the action is barred by prescription and
laches.
The Inventario Ti Sagut which contains the
donation propter nuptias was executed and
notarized on May 22, 1944. It was presented to the
Register of Deeds of Pangasinan for registration on
May 15, 1970. The photocopy of the document
presented in evidence as Exhibit "8" was
reproduced from the original kept in the Registry of
Deeds of Pangasinan.31
The petitioners have launched a two-pronged
attack against the validity of the donation propter
nuptias, to wit: first, the Inventario Ti Sagut is not
authentic; and second, even assuming that it is
authentic, it is void for the donees failure to
accept the donation in a public instrument.
To buttress their claim that the document was
falsified, the petitioners rely mainly on
the Certification32 dated July 9, 1984 of the Records
Management and Archives Office that there was no
notarial record for the year 1944 of Cipriano V.
Abenojar who notarized the document on May 22,
1944 and that therefore a copy of the document
was not available.
The certification is not sufficient to prove the
alleged inexistence or spuriousness of the
challenged document. The appellate court is
correct in pointing out that the mere absence of
the notarial record does not prove that the notary
public does not have a valid notarial commission
and neither does the absence of a file copy of the
document with the archives effect evidence of the
falsification of the document.33 This Court ruled
that the failure of the notary public to
furnish a copy of the deed to the appropriate
office is a ground for disciplining him, but
certainly not for invalidating the document or
for setting aside the transaction therein
involved.34
Moreover, the heirs of the Locquaio spouses,
including petitioner Romana, made reference in the
deed of partition and the compromise agreement
to the previous donations made by the spouses in
favor of some of the heirs. As pointed out by the

RTC,35 respondent Benito was not allotted any


share in the deed of partition precisely because he
received his share by virtue of previous donations.
His name was mentioned in the deed of partition
only with respect to the middle portion of Lot No.
2638 which is the eleventh (11th) parcel in the
deed but that is the same one-third (1/3) portion of
Lot No. 2638 covered by O.C.T. No. 18259 included
in the donation propter
nuptias.1awphi1.ntSimilarly, Marciano Locquiao
and the heirs of Lucio Locquiao were not allocated
any more share in the deed of partition since they
received theirs by virtue of prior donations or
conveyances.
The pertinent provisions of the deed of partition
read:

That the heirs of Lucio Locquiao are not included in


this Partition by reason of the fact that in the same
manner as we, BENITO and MARCIANO
LOCQUIAO are concerned, we have already
received our shares in the estate of our
parents by virtue of previous donations and
conveyances, and that we hereby confirm said
dispositions, waiving our rights to
whomsoever will these properties will now be
adjudicated;

That we, the Parties herein, do hereby waive and


renounce as against each other any claim or
claims that we may have against one or some of
us, and that we recognize the rights of
ownership of our co-heirs with respect to
those parcels already distributed and
adjudicated and that in the event that one of us
is cultivating or in possession of any one of the
parcels of land already adjudicated in favor of
another heir or has been conveyed,donated or
disposed of previously, in favor of another
heir, we do hereby renounce and waive our
right of possession in favor of the heir in whose
favor the donation or conveyance was made
previously.36 (Emphasis supplied)
The exclusion of the subject property in the deed of
partition dispels any doubt as to the authenticity of
the earlierInventario Ti Sagut.
This brings us to the admissibility of the Deed of
Partition with Recognition of Rights, marked as
Exhibit "2", and theDeed of Compromise
Agreement, marked as Exhibit "3".
The petitioners fault the RTC for admitting in
evidence the deed of partition and the compromise
agreement on the pretext that the documents
"were not properly submitted in evidence",
pointing out that "when presented to respondent
Tomasa Mara for identification, she simply stated

that she knew about the documents but she did


not actually identify them."37
The argument is not tenable. Firstly, objection to
the documentary evidence must be made at the
time it is formally offered.38 Since the petitioners
did not even bother to object to the documents at
the time they were offered in evidence,39 it is now
too late in the day for them to question their
admissibility. Secondly, the documents were
identified during the Pre-Trial, marked as Exhibits
"2" and "3" and testified on by respondent
Tomasa.40 Thirdly, the questioned deeds, being
public documents as they were duly notarized, are
admissible in evidence without further proof of
their due execution and are conclusive as to the
truthfulness of their contents, in the absence of
clear and convincing evidence to the contrary. 41 A
public document executed and attested through
the intervention of the notary public is evidence of
the facts therein expressed in clear, unequivocal
manner.42
Concerning the issue of form, petitioners insist that
based on a provision43 of the Civil Code of Spain
(Old Civil Code), the acceptance by the donees
should be made in a public instrument. This
argument was rejected by the RTC and the
appellate court on the theory that the implied
acceptance of the donation had flowed from the
celebration of the marriage between the
respondents, followed by the registration of the
fact of marriage at the back of OCT No. 18383.
The petitioners, the appellate court and the trial
court all erred in applying the requirements on
ordinary donations to the present case instead of
the rules on donation propter nuptias. Underlying
the blunder is their failure to take into account the
fundamental dichotomy between the two kinds of
donations.
Unlike ordinary donations, donations propter
nuptias or donations by reason of marriage are
those "made before its celebration, in
consideration of the same and in favor of one or
both of the future spouses."44 The distinction is
crucial because the two classes of donations are
not governed by exactly the same rules, especially
as regards the formal essential requisites.
Under the Old Civil Code, donations propter nuptias
must be made in a public instrument in which the
property donated must be specifically
described.45 However, Article 1330 of the same
Code provides that "acceptance is not
necessary to the validity of such gifts". In
other words, the celebration of the marriage
between the beneficiary couple, in tandem with
compliance with the prescribed form, was enough
to effectuate the donation propter nuptias under
the Old Civil Code.

Under the New Civil Code, the rules are different.


Article 127 thereof provides that the form of
donations propter nuptias are regulated by the
Statute of Frauds. Article 1403, paragraph 2, which
contains the Statute of Frauds requires that the
contracts mentioned thereunder need be in writing
only to be enforceable. However, as provided in
Article 129, express acceptance "is not
necessary for the validity of these
donations." Thus, implied acceptance is
sufficient.
The pivotal question, therefore, is which formal
requirements should be applied with respect to the
donationpropter nuptias at hand. Those under the
Old Civil Code or the New Civil Code?
It is settled that only laws existing at the time of
the execution of a contract are applicable thereto
and not later statutes, unless the latter are
specifically intended to have retroactive
effect.46 Consequently, it is the Old Civil Code
which applies in this case since the
donation propter nuptias was executed in 1944
and the New Civil Code took effect only on August
30, 1950.47 The fact that in 1944 the Philippines
was still under Japanese occupation is of no
consequence. It is a well-known rule of the Law of
Nations that municipal laws, as contradistinguished from laws of political nature, are not
abrogated by a change of sovereignty.48 This Court
specifically held that during the Japanese
occupation period, the Old Civil Code was in
force.49 As a consequence, applying Article 1330 of
the Old Civil Code in the determination of the
validity of the questioned donation, it does not
matter whether or not the donees had accepted
the donation. The validity of the donation is
unaffected in either case.
Even the petitioners agree that the Old Civil Code
should be applied. However, they invoked the
wrong provisions50 thereof.
Even if the provisions of the New Civil Code were to
be applied, the case of the petitioners would
collapse just the same. As earlier shown, even
implied acceptance of a donation propter
nuptias suffices under the New Civil Code.51
With the genuineness of the donation propter
nuptias and compliance with the applicable
mandatory form requirements fully established,
petitioners hypothesis that their action is
imprescriptible cannot take off.
Viewing petitioners action for reconveyance from
whatever feasible legal angle, it is definitely barred
by prescription. Petitioners right to file an action
for the reconveyance of the land accrued in 1944,
when theInventario Ti Sagut was executed. It must
be remembered that before the effectivity of the
New Civil Code in 1950, the Old Code of Civil
Procedure (Act No. 190) governed

prescription.52 Under the Old Code of Civil


Procedure, an action for recovery of the title to, or
possession of, real property, or an interest therein,
can only be brought within ten years after the
cause of such action accrues.53 Thus, petitioners
action, which was filed on December 23, 1985, or
more than forty (40) years from the execution of
the deed of donation on May 22, 1944, was clearly
time-barred.
Even following petitioners theory that the
prescriptive period should commence from the
time of discovery of the alleged fraud, the
conclusion would still be the same. As early as May
15, 1970, when the deed of donation was
registered and the transfer certificate of title was
issued, petitioners were considered to have
constructive knowledge of the alleged fraud,
following the jurisprudential rule that registration
of a deed in the public real estate registry is
constructive notice to the whole world of its
contents, as well as all interests, legal and
equitable, included therein.54 As it is now settled
that the prescriptive period for the reconveyance
of property allegedly registered through fraud is
ten (10) years, reckoned from the date of the
issuance of the certificate of title,55 the action filed
on December 23, 1985 has clearly prescribed.
In any event, independent of prescription,
petitioners action is dismissible on the ground of
laches. The elements of laches are present in this
case, viz:
(1) conduct on the part of the defendant, or
one under whom he claims, giving rise to
the situation that led to the complaint and
for which the complainant seeks a remedy;
(2) delay in asserting the complainants
rights, having had knowledge or notice of
defendants conduct and having been
afforded an opportunity to institute a suit;
(3) lack of knowledge or notice on the part
of the defendant that the complainant
would assert the right on which he bases
his suit, and
(4) injury or prejudice to the defendant in
the event relief is accorded to the
complainant, or the suit is not held barred.56
Of the facts which support the finding of laches,
stress should be made of the following: (a) the
petitioners Romana unquestionably gained actual
knowledge of the donation propter nuptias when
the deed of partition was executed in 1973 and the
information must have surfaced again when the
compromise agreement was forged in 1976, and;
(b) as petitioner Romana was a party-signatory to
the two documents, she definitely had the
opportunity to question the donation propter
nuptias on both occasions, and she should have
done so if she were of the mindset, given the fact

that she was still in possession of the land in


dispute at the time. But she did not make any
move. She tarried for eleven (11) more years from
the execution of the deed of partition until she,
together with petitioner Constancia, filed the
annulment case in 1985.
Anent the ejectment case, we find the issues
raised by the petitioners to be factual and,
therefore, beyond this Courts power of review. Not
being a trier of facts, the Court is not tasked to go
over the proofs presented by the parties and
analyze, assess, and weigh them to ascertain if the
trial court and the appellate court were correct in
according them superior credit in this or that piece
of evidence of one party or the other.57 In any
event, implicit in the affirmance of the Court of
Appeals is the existence of substantial evidence
supporting the decisions of the courts below.
WHEREFORE, finding no reversible error in the
assailed decision, the same is hereby AFFIRMED.
Costs against petitioners.
SO ORDERED.
Bellosillo, (Chairman), Quisumbing, and Callejo, Sr.,
JJ., concur.
Austria-Martinez, J., no part. Concurred in CA
decision.
41

Gerales v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No.


85909, 9 February 1993, 218 SCRA 638,
648, citing Baranda v.Baranda, 150 SCRA 59
(1987).
42

Ibid., citing Collantes v. Capuno, 123


SCRA 652 (1983).
43

Article 633 of the Old Civil Code provides


that the acceptance in an ordinary donation

must appear in a public instrument. This


requirement is the same under Article 749
of the New Civil Code.
44

Article 126, New Civil Code. The definition


was retained in Article 82 of the Family
Code. Article 1327 of the Old Civil Code
similarly defines donations by reason of
marriage as "those bestowed before its
celebration in consideration of the same,
upon one or both of the spouses."
45

Article 1328 of the Old Civil Code provides


that donations propter nuptias are governed
by the rules on ordinary donations (Title II,
Book III of the Code) "insofar as they are not
modified by the following articles." Article
633 of the same Code, which is under Title
II, Book III, provides that ordinary donations
must be made in a public instrument in
which the property donated must be
specifically described. It is also settled that
a donation of real estate propter nuptias is
void unless made by public instrument.
Solis v. Barroso, 53 Phil. 912 (1928);
Camagay v. Lagera, 7 Phil. 397 (1907);
Velasquez v. Biala, 18 Phil, 231 (1911).
46

Philippine Virginia Tobacco


Administration vs. Gonzalez, G.R. No.
34628, 30 July 1979, 92 SCRA 172 (1979),
cited in Ortigas Co. Ltd. vs. Court of
Appeals, G.R. No. 126102, 346 SCRA 748.
47

Ilejay v. Ilejay, et. al., (S.C.) 49 O.G. 4903;


Casabar v. Sino Cruz, et. al., 96 Phil. 970
(1954), cited in I A. Tolentino, Civil Code of
the Philippines Commentaries and
Jurisprudence 18 (1990 ed.)