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SECONDDIVISION

[G.R.No.146683.November22,2001]

CIRILA ARCABA, petitioner, vs. ERLINDA TABANCURA VDA. DE


BATOCAEL, SEIGFREDO C. TABANCURA, DORIS C. TABANCURA,
LUZELLI C. TABANCURA, BELEN C. TABANCURA, RAUL A.
COMILLE, BERNADETTE A. COMILLE, and ABNER A. COMILLE,
respondents.
DECISION
MENDOZA,J.:

Petitioner Cirila Arcaba seeks review on certiorari of the decision[1] of the Court of Appeals,
which affirmed with modification the decision[2] of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 10, Dipolog
City,ZamboangadelNorteinCivilCaseNo.4593,declaringasvoidadeedofdonationintervivos
executed by the late Francisco T. Comille in her favor and its subsequent resolution[3] denying
reconsideration.
Thefactsareasfollows:
OnJanuary16,1956,FranciscoComilleandhiswifeZosimaMontallanabecametheregistered
ownersofLotNo.437AlocatedatthecornerofCalleSantaRosa(nowBalintawakStreet)andCalle
Rosario(nowRizalAvenue)inDipologCity,ZamboangadelNorte.Thetotalareaofthelotwas418
square meters.[4] After the death of Zosima on October 3, 1980, Francisco and his motherinlaw,
Juliana Bustalino Montallana, executed a deed of extrajudicial partition with waiver of rights, in
whichthelatterwaivedhershareconsistingofonefourth(1/4)ofthepropertytoFrancisco.[5]OnJune
27,1916,FranciscoregisteredthelotinhisnamewiththeRegistryofDeeds.[6]
Having no children to take care of him after his retirement, Francisco asked his niece Leticia
Bellosillo,[7]thelatterscousin,LuzvimindaPaghacian,[8]andpetitionerCirilaArcaba,thenawidow,
totakecareofhishouse,aswellasthestoreinside.[9]
Conflicting testimonies were offered as to the nature of the relationship between Cirila and
Francisco.LeticiaBellosillosaidFranciscoandCirilawereloverssincetheysleptinthesameroom,
[10]whileErlindaTabancura,[11]anothernieceofFrancisco,claimedthatthelatterhadtoldherthat
Cirilawashismistress.[12]Ontheotherhand,Cirilasaidshewasamerehelperwhocouldenterthe
mastersbedroomonlywhentheoldmanaskedhertoandthatFranciscoinanycasewastoooldfor
her.Shedeniedtheyeverhadsexualintercourse.[13]
It appears that when Leticia and Luzviminda were married, only Cirila was left to take care of
Francisco.[14] Cirila testified that she was a 34year old widow while Francisco was a 75year old
widower when she began working for the latter that he could still walk with her assistance at that
time[15]andthathishealtheventuallydeterioratedandhebecamebedridden.[16]ErlindaTabancura
testifiedthatFranciscossolesourceofincomeconsistedofrentalsfromhislotnearthepublicstreets.
[17]HedidnotpayCirilaaregularcashwageasahousehelper,thoughheprovidedherfamilywith
foodandlodging.[18]

On January 24, 1991, a few months before his death, Francisco executed an instrument
denominatedDeedofDonationInterVivos,inwhichhecededaportionofLot437A,consistingof
150 square meters, together with his house, to Cirila, who accepted the donation in the same
instrument.Franciscoleftthelargerportionof268squaremetersinhisname.Thedeedstatedthatthe
donationwasbeingmadeinconsiderationofthefaithfulservices[CirilaArcaba]hadrenderedover
thepastten(10)years.ThedeedwasnotarizedbyAtty.VicT.Lacaya,Sr.[19]andlaterregisteredby
Cirilaasitsabsoluteowner.[20]
OnOctober4,1991,Franciscodiedwithoutanychildren.In1993,thelotwhichCirilareceived
fromFranciscohadamarketvalueofP57,105.00andanassessedvalueofP28,550.00.[21]
OnFebruary18,1993,respondentsfiledacomplaintagainstpetitionerfordeclarationofnullity
of a deed of donation inter vivos, recovery of possession, and damages. Respondents, who are the
decedents nephews and nieces and his heirs by intestate succession, alleged that Cirila was the
commonlawwifeofFranciscoandthedonationintervivos made by Francisco in her favor is void
underArticle87oftheFamilyCode,whichprovides:
Everydonationorgrantofgratuitousadvantage,directorindirect,betweenthespousesduringthe
marriageshallbevoid,exceptmoderategiftswhichthespousesmaygiveeachotherontheoccasion
ofanyfamilyrejoicing.Theprohibitionshallalsoapplytopersonslivingtogetherashusbandand
wifewithoutavalidmarriage.
On February 25, 1999, the trial court rendered judgment in favor of respondents, holding the
donationvoidunderthisprovisionoftheFamilyCode.Thetrialcourtreachedthisconclusionbased
on the testimony of Erlinda Tabancura and certain documents bearing the signature of one Cirila
Comille.Thedocumentswere(1)anapplicationforabusinesspermittooperateasrealestatelessor,
datedJanuary8,1991,withacarboncopyofthesignatureCirilaComille[22](2)asanitarypermitto
operateasrealestatelessorwithahealthcertificateshowingthesignatureCirilaComilleinblackink
[23]and(3)thedeathcertificateofthedecedentwiththesignatureCirilaA.Comillewritteninblack
ink.[24]Thedispositiveportionofthetrialcourtsdecisionstates:
WHEREFORE,inviewoftheforegoing,judgmentisrendered:
1.DeclaringtheDeedofDonationInterVivosexecutedbythelateFranciscoComillerecordedas
Doc.No.7PageNo.3BookNo.VSeriesof1991intheNotarialRegisterofNotaryPublicVicT.
Lacaya(AnnexAtotheComplaint)nullandvoid
2.Orderingthedefendanttodeliverpossessionofthehouseandlotsubjectofthedeeduntothe
plaintiffswithinthirty(30)daysafterfinalityofthisdecisionandfinally
3.OrderingthedefendanttopayattorneysfeesinthesumofP10,000.00.
SOORDERED.[25]
PetitionerappealedtotheCourtofAppeals,whichrenderedonJune19,2000thedecisionsubject
ofthisappeal.Asalreadystated,theappealscourtdeniedreconsideration.Itsconclusionwasbasedon
(1)thetestimoniesofLeticia,Erlinda,andCirila(2)thecopiesofdocumentspurportedlyshowing
CirilasuseofFranciscossurname(3)apleadinginanothercivilcasementioningpaymentofrentals
toCirilaasFranciscoscommonlawwifeand(4)thefactthatCiriladidnotreceivearegularcash
wage.
PetitionerassignsthefollowingerrorsashavingbeencommittedbytheCourtofAppeals:
(a)ThejudgmentoftheCourtofAppealsthatpetitionerwasthecommonlawwifeofthelate
FranciscoComilleisnotcorrectandisareversibleerrorbecauseitisbasedonamisapprehensionof

facts,andundulybreaksthechainofcircumstancesdetailedbythetotalityoftheevidence,its
findingsbeingpredicatedontotallyincompetentorhearsayevidence,andgroundedonmere
speculation,conjectureorpossibility.(Salazarv.Gutierrez,33SCRA243andothercasescitedin
Quiason,PhilippineCourtsandtheirJurisdictions,1993ed.,p.604)
(b)TheCourtofAppealserredinshiftingtheburdenofevidencefromtheplaintifftodefendant.
(Bunyiv.Reyes,39SCRA504Quiason,id.)
(c)TheCourtofAppealsdecidedthecaseinawayprobablynotinaccordwithlaworwiththe
applicablejurisprudenceinRodriguezv.Rodriguez,20SCRA908,andLiguezv.CA,102Phil.577,
584.[26]
The issue in this case is whether the Court of Appeals correctly applied Art. 87 of the Family
Codetothecircumstancesofthiscase.Afterareviewoftherecords,weruleintheaffirmative.
ThegeneralruleisthatonlyquestionsoflawmayberaisedinapetitionforreviewunderRule45
of the Rules of Court, subject only to certain exceptions: (a) when the conclusion is a finding
groundedentirelyonspeculations,surmises,orconjectures(b)whentheinferencemadeismanifestly
mistaken,absurd,orimpossible(c)wherethereisgraveabuseofdiscretion(d)whenthejudgmentis
basedonamisapprehensionoffacts(e)whenthefindingsoffactareconflicting(f)whentheCourt
ofAppeals,inmakingitsfindings,wentbeyondtheissuesofthecaseandthesamearecontrarytothe
admissionsofbothappellantandappellee(g)whenthefindingsoftheCourtofAppealsarecontrary
to those of the trial court (h) when the findings of fact are conclusions without citation of specific
evidenceonwhichtheyarebased(i)whenthefindingoffactoftheCourtofAppealsispremisedon
the supposed absence of evidence but is contradicted by the evidence on record and (j) when the
CourtofAppealsmanifestlyoverlookedcertainrelevantfactsnotdisputedbythepartiesandwhich,if
properlyconsidered,wouldjustifyadifferentconclusion.[27]ItappearingthattheCourtofAppeals
baseditsfindingsonevidencepresentedbybothparties,thegeneralruleshouldapply.
InBitangcorv.Tan,[28]weheldthatthetermcohabitationorlivingtogetherashusbandandwife
meansnotonlyresidingunderoneroof,butalsohavingrepeatedsexualintercourse.Cohabitation,of
course,meansmorethansexualintercourse,especiallywhenoneofthepartiesisalreadyoldandmay
nolongerbeinterestedinsex.Attheveryleast,cohabitationisthepublicassumptionbyamananda
womanofthemaritalrelation,anddwellingtogetherasmanandwife,therebyholdingthemselvesout
tothepublicassuch.Secretmeetingsornightsclandestinelyspenttogether,evenifoftenrepeated,do
not constitute such kind of cohabitation they are merely meretricious.[29] In this jurisdiction, this
Court has considered as sufficient proof of commonlaw relationship the stipulations between the
parties,[30]aconvictionofconcubinage,[31]ortheexistenceofillegitimatechildren.[32]
WasCirilaFranciscosemployeeorhiscommonlawwife?CirilaadmittedthatsheandFrancisco
residedunderoneroofforalongtime.Itisverypossiblethatthetwoconsummatedtheirrelationship,
sinceCirilagaveFranciscotherapeuticmassageandLeticiasaidtheysleptinthesamebedroom.At
the very least, their public conduct indicated that theirs was not just a relationship of caregiver and
patient,butthatofexclusivepartnersakintohusbandandwife.
Aside from Erlinda Tabancuras testimony that her uncle told her that Cirila was his mistress,
thereareotherindicationsthatCirilaandFranciscowerecommonlawspouses.SeigfredoTabancura
presented documents apparently signed by Cirila using the surname Comille. As previously stated,
theseareanapplicationforabusinesspermittooperateasarealestatelessor,[33]asanitarypermitto
operate as real estate lessor with a health certificate,[34] and the death certificate of Francisco.[35]
ThesedocumentsshowthatCirilasawherselfasFranciscoscommonlawwife,otherwise,shewould
nothaveusedhislastname.Similarly,intheanswerfiledbyFranciscoslesseesinErlindaTabancura,
etal.vs.GraciaAdriaticoSyandAntonioSy,RTCCivilCaseNo.4719(forcollectionofrentals),
theselesseesreferredtoCirilaasthecommonlawspouseofFrancisco.Finally,thefactthatCiriladid
notdemandfromFranciscoaregularcashwageisanindicationthatshewasnotsimplyacaregiver

employee, but Franciscos common law spouse. She was, after all, entitled to a regular cash wage
underthelaw.[36]ItisdifficulttobelievethatshestayedwithFranciscoandservedhimoutofpure
beneficence.HumanreasonwouldthusleadtotheconclusionthatshewasFranciscoscommonlaw
spouse.
Respondents having proven by a preponderance of evidence that Cirila and Francisco lived
togetherashusbandandwifewithoutavalidmarriage,theinescapableconclusionisthatthedonation
madebyFranciscoinfavorofCirilaisvoidunderArt.87oftheFamilyCode.
WHEREFORE,thedecisionoftheCourtofAppealsaffirmingthedecisionofthetrialcourtis
herebyAFFIRMED.
SOORDERED.
Bellosillo,(Chairman),Quisumbing,Buena,andDeLeon,Jr.,JJ.,concur.
[1]PerAssociateJusticeBernardoSalasandconcurredinbyAssociateJusticesPresbiterioVelasco,Jr.andEdgardoCruz.
[2]PerJudgeWilfredoC.Martinez.
[3] Per Associate Justice Edgardo Cruz, with the concurrence of Associate Justices Teodoro Regino and Presbitero
Velasco,Jr.
[4]Exh.ARecords,p.66.
[5]Exh.Did.,p.71.
[6]Exhs.E&3id.,pp.73,102.
[7]AlsocalledLetitia,Letecia,andLeticiaBelosillo.
[8]AlsoknownasLuzminda.
[9]TSN(LeticiaBellosillo),pp.1215,Sept.27,1994TSN(CirilaArcaba),p.8,Aug.14,1994.
[10]TSN(LeticiaBellosillo),p.14,Sept.27,1994.
[11]AlsoknownasErlindaTabangcuraVda.deBatocael.
[12]TSN(ErlindaTabancura),p.17,April28,1994.
[13]TSN(CirilaArcaba),p.11,Aug.14,1996.
[14]TSN(LeticiaBellosillo),pp.1416,Sept.27,1994.
[15]TSN(CirilaArcaba),p.8,Aug.14,1996.
[16]Id.,p.10Rollo,p.33.
[17]TSN(ErlindaTabancura),p.12,April28,1994TSN(CirilaArcaba),p.8,Aug.14,1994.
[18]TSN(ErlindaTabancura),p.9,Aug.14,1996.
[19]Exh.CRecords,p.69.
[20]TSN(Atty.VicT.Lacaya,Sr.),pp.34,Feb.13,1995Exh.3BRecords,p.102.
[21]Exh.BRecords,p.68.
[22]Exh.H1id.,p.154.

[23]Exh.J2id.,p.155.
[24]Exh.O1id.,p.159.
[25]Decision,pp.113Rollo,pp.3648.
[26]Petition,p.7Rollo,p.9.
[27]Martinezv.CourtofAppeals,G.R.No.123547,May21,2001Florov.Llenado,244SCRA715(1995).
[28]112SCRA113(1982)SeealsoA.SempioDiy,HandbookontheFamilyCodeofthePhilippines115117(1995).
[29]52AmJur2d50.
[30]TheInsularLifeCompany,Ltd.v.Ebrado,80SCRA181(1977)Matabuenav.Cervantes,38SCRA284(1971).
[31]CalimlimCanullasv.Fortun,129SCRA675(1984).
[32]Peoplev.Villagonzalo,238SCRA215(1994)Bienvenidov.CourtofAppeals,237SCRA676(1994).
[33]Exh.H1Records,p.154.
[34]Exh.J2id.,p.155.
[35]Exh.O1id.,p.159.
[36]LABORCODE,ARTS.99101.