You are on page 1of 34

Survey of 2015-2016 Supreme Court Decisions

in CIVIL LAW

Dean Ed Vincent S. Albano

HUMAN RELATIONS

The core of Articles 19, NCC is bad faith.


It is a well-settled rule that good faith is always presumed. Bad faith is never
presumed, for whoever alleges bad faith has the burden of proving it. Once again that has been
the basis of the SC in deciding the case of Elizabeth Diaz v. Encanto, et al., G.R. No. 171303,
January 20, 2016, Leonardo-De Castro, J.

In this case a professor at the University of the Philippines applied for a sabbatical
leave with pay, but it was denied. This issue was brought to court where there was a finding
that the grant or denial of such leave is not a matter of right as it is subject to the exigencies
of the service, like acute shortage of teaching staff. Even the Office of the Ombudsman has
similar findings with the CA that the grant of leave is not a matter of right and that there was no
bad faith on the part of the officials of the UP in denying it. Yet, before the SC, the applicant
insisted that the concerned officials acted in bad faith. Sustaining the findings of the CA and
the Ombudsman, the SC

Held: There are no traces of bad faith or malice in denying the application for sabbatical
leave. They processed the application in accordance with their usual procedure. While the
RTC declared that petitioner Diaz should have been granted a sabbatical leave, it is important
to note that the RTC awarded damages to petitioner Diaz merely for the unreasonable and
unconscionable delay in the resolution of her sabbatical leave application. It is an elementary
rule in this jurisdiction that good faith is presumed and that the burden of proving bad faith
rests upon the party alleging the same. (Barons Marketing Corp. v. Court of Appeals and
Phelps Dodge Phils., Inc., 349 Phil. 769 [1998])

Her complaint for recovery of damages before the RTC was based on the alleged bad
faith of the respondents in denying her application for sabbatical leave vis-à-vis Articles 19 and
20 of the Civil Code.

Article 19 of the Civil Code “prescribes a ‘primordial limitation on all rights’ by setting
certain standards that must be observed in the exercise thereof.” (Barons Marketing Corp. v.
Court of Appeals and Phelps Dodge Phils., Inc., 349 Phil. 769 [1998]) Abuse of right under
Article 19 exists when the following elements are present: (1) there is a legal right or duty; (2)
which is exercised in bad faith; (3) for the sole intent of prejudicing or injuring another. (Dart
Philippines, Inc. v. Calogcog, 613 Phil. 224 [2009])

The Court, expounding on the concept of bad faith under Article 19, held:
Malice or bad faith is at the core of Article 19 of the Civil Code.
Good faith refers to the state of mind which is manifested by the acts of
the individual concerned. It consists of the intention to abstain from taking
The Bedan Review

an unconscionable and unscrupulous advantage of another. It is presumed.


Thus, he who alleges bad faith has the duty to prove the same. Bad faith
does not simply connote bad judgment or simple negligence; it involves a
dishonest purpose or some moral obloquy and conscious doing of a wrong, a
breach of known duty due to some motives or interest or ill will that partakes
of the nature of fraud. Malice connotes ill will or spite and speaks not in
response to duty. It implies an intention to do ulterior and unjustifiable
harm. Malice is bad faith or bad motive.

FAMILY LAW

Allegation of irreconcilable differences and conflicting personalities; no psychological


incapacity.
In Republic v. Danilo Pangasinan, G.R. No. 214077, August 10, 2016, Velasco, J, the
SC once again ruled that irreconcilable differences and conflicting personalities of a spouse do
not make up a good case for psychological incapacity.

The petitioner alleged in his petition that barely a few months into their boyfriend-
girlfriend relationship, Josephine already exhibited certain negative traits, which he merely
trivialized at that time. He eventually discovered his wife to be competitive, domineering,
headstrong, and always determined to get what she wanted in the relationship. Their
disagreements even over the most trivial matters usually ended up in fights. However, she
would suddenly become overly excited and elated that she got her way whenever he gave in to
her desires. She enjoyed talking about herself and expected him to give her special treatment,
which he tried to satisfy by buying her nice and expensive gifts.

Josephine’s negative traits, so Danilo averred, existed prior to their marriage. These
include an exaggerated sense of self-importance and sense of entitlement by giving the
impression that she was superior to him. She always made the decisions during their marriage,
especially when it came to money matters, and made it appear to her children that she was
the one incharge of the family. She ignored and demeaned his abilities and contributions, and
complained that she received no help at all from him. She was indifferent and lacked empathy
to his plight, as shown by her lack of concern for his distress when she failed to take care of him
in the hospital when he was recuperating from two heart surgeries in 2009. During this time,
Josephine visited him but did not tend to his needs.

In support of his case, Danilo presented Dr. Natividad A. Dayan (Dr. Dayan), a clinical
psychologist, who, in her Psychological Evaluation Report, concluded that both Josephine and
Danilo are psychologically incapacitated to fulfill their essential marital obligations of rendering
love and respect to each other.

The RTC ruled that the totality of evidence presented showed that both parties failed to
establish a functional family as they were incapacitated to comply with their marital obligations.
It gave much credence on Dr. Dayan’s assessment of Josephine and Danilo’s psychological
incapacities.

The CA affirmed the trial court’s findings that Josephine, indeed, suffers from
psychological incapacity. Citing Republic v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 108763, February 13,

202
The Bedan Review

2007, 268 SCRA 198, also known as the Molina case, in relation to Ngo Te v. Yu Te, G.R. No.
161793, February 13, 2009, the CA ruled that “Josephine was psychologically incapacitated to
fulfill the basic duties of marriage which was corroborated in material points by the conclusions
of the clinical psychologists. x x x The link between the acts that manifest incapacity and the
psychological disorder itself was fully explained.”

The OSG contended that Danilo failed to prove that Josephine’s psychological
incapacity is a medically rooted psychological affliction that was incurable and existing at the
inception of their marriage. It further averred that the gravity, antecedence, root cause and
incurability of Josephine’s psychological incapacity were not established by the evidence of
respondent in accordance with the guidelines laid down by the Court in Molina.

In reversing the decisions of the lower courts, the Supreme Court

Held: “Psychological incapacity,” as a ground to nullify marriage under Article 36 of the Family
Code, should refer to no less than a mental-not merely physical-incapacity that causes a party
to be truly incognitive of the basic marital covenants that concomitantly must be assumed
and discharged by the parties to the marriage which, as so expressed in Article 68 of the
Code, among others, include their mutual obligations to live together, observe love, respect
and fidelity and render help and support. (Republic v. De Gracia, G.R. No. 171557, February
12, 2014)

As declared by the Court in Santos v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 112019, January 4,
1995, 240 SCRA 20, psychological incapacity must be characterized by (a) gravity, (b) juridical
antecedence, and ( c) incurability. Thereafter, in Molina, the Court laid down more definitive
guidelines in the disposition of psychological incapacity cases, to wit:

1. Burden of proof to show the nullity of the marriage belongs to the plaintiff.

2. The root cause of the psychological incapacity must be: (a) medically or clinically
identified, (b) alleged in the complaint, ( c) sufficiently proven by experts and ( d)
clearly explained in the decision.

3. The incapacity must be proven to be existing at “the time of the celebration” of the
marriage.

4. Such incapacity must also be shown to be medically or clinically permanent or


incurable.

5. Such illness must be grave enough to bring about the disability of the party to assume
the essential obligations of marriage.

6. The essential marital obligations must be those embraced by Articles 68 up to 71 of


the Family Code as regards the husband and wife, as well as Articles 220, 221 and 225
of the same Code in regard to parents and their children. Such non-complied marital
obligation(s) must also be stated in the petition, proven by evidence and included in
the text of the decision.

203
The Bedan Review

7. Interpretations given by the National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal of the Catholic


Church in the Philippines, while not controlling or decisive, should be given great
respect by our courts.

8. The trial court must order the prosecuting attorney or fiscal and the Solicitor General
to appear as counsel for the state. No decision shall be handed down unless the
Solicitor General issues a certification, which will be quoted in the decision, briefly
stating therein his reasons for his agreement or opposition, as the case may be, to the
petition.

In sum, a person’s psychological incapacity to comply with his or her essential


obligations, in marriage must be rooted on a medically or clinically identifiable grave illness
that is incurable and shown to have existed at the time of marriage, although the manifestations
thereof may only be evident after marriage. Using the abovementioned standards in the
present case, the Court found that the totality of evidence presented is insufficient to establish
Josephine and Danila’s psychological incapacity.

Psychological incapacity; illness must be a downright incapacity or inability to perform duties


to the marriage bond.
In Rep. v. Reghis Romero II, et al., G.R. No. 209180; Romero v. Romero II, G.R.
No. 209253, February 24, 2016, Perlas-Bernabe, J, the RTC granted the petition and declared
the marriage between Reghis and Olivia null and void ab initio on the ground of psychological
incapacity. It relied on the findings and testimony of Dr. Basilio, holding that Reghis suffered
from a disorder that rendered him unable to perform the obligations of love, respect and
fidelity towards Olivia as it gave him a strong obsession to succeed in his career, to the exclusion
of his responsibilities as a father and husband. It also concurred with Dr. Basilio’s observation
that Reghis is still deeply attached to his parents and siblings such that he pursues his business
ventures for their benefit. Likewise, it agreed that Reghis’ behavioral disorder existed even
before his marriage or even his adolescent years and that the same is incurable. It was affirmed
by the CA on appeal. In reversing the lower courts, the SC

Held: The policy of the Constitution is to protect and strengthen the family as the basic
autonomous social institution, and marriage as the foundation of the family. As such, the
Constitution decrees marriage as legally inviolable and protects it from dissolution at the whim
of the parties. (Navales v. Navales, 578 Phil. 826 [2008]) Psychological incapacity, as a ground
to nullify a marriage under Article 36 of the Family Code, should refer to the most serious
cases of personality disorders clearly demonstrative of an utter insensitivity or inability to give
meaning and significance to the marriage. (Santos v. CA, 310 Phil. 21 [1995]) It must be
a malady that is so grave and permanent as to deprive one of awareness of the duties and
responsibilities of the matrimonial bond one is about to assume. (Navales v. Navales)

Verily, all people may have certain quirks and idiosyncrasies, or isolated traits
associated with certain personality disorders and there is hardly any doubt that the intention of
the law has been to confine the meaning of psychological incapacity to the most serious cases.
Thus, to warrant the declaration of nullity of marriage, the psychological incapacity must: (a)
be grave or serious such that the party would be incapable of carrying out the ordinary duties
required in a marriage; (b) have juridical antecedence, i.e., it must be rooted in the history of

204
The Bedan Review

the party antedating the marriage, although the overt manifestations may emerge only after
the marriage; and (c) be incurable, or even if it were otherwise, the cure would be beyond the
means of the party involved. (Santos v. CA)

In Republic v. CA, 335 Phil. 664 [1997], the Court laid down definitive guidelines on
the interpretation and application of Article 36 of the Family Code. Among others, it clarified
that the illness must be grave enough to bring about the incapacity or inability of the party to
assume the essential obligations of marriage such that “mild characteriological peculiarities,
mood changes, occasional emotional outbursts” cannot be accepted as root causes. The illness
must be shown as downright incapacity or inability, not a refusal, neglect or difficulty, much
less ill will. In other words, there is a natal or supervening disabling factor in the person, an
adverse integral element in the personality structure that effectively incapacitates the person
from really accepting and thereby complying with the obligations essential to marriage.

That he married Olivia not out of love, but out of reverence for the latter’s parents,
does not mean that Reghis is psychologically incapacitated in the context of Article 36 of the
Family Code. In Republic v. Albios, G.R. No. 198780, October 16, 2013, 707 SCRA 584, the
Court held that:
Motives for entering into a marriage are varied and complex. The
State does not and cannot dictate on the kind of life that a couple chooses
to lead. Any attempt to regulate their lifestyle would go into the realm of
their right to privacy and would raise serious constitutional questions. The
right to marital privacy allows married couples to structure their marriages
in almost any way they see fit, to live together or live apart, to have children
or no children, to love one another or not, and so on. Thus, marriages
entered into for other purposes, limited or otherwise, such as convenience,
companionship, money, status, and title, provided that they comply with all
the legal requisites, are equally valid. Love, though the ideal consideration
in a marriage contract, is not the only valid cause for marriage. Other
considerations, not precluded by law, may validly support a marriage.

The standards used by the Court in assessing the sufficiency of psychological evaluation
reports may be deemed very strict, but these are proper, in view of the principle that any doubt
should be resolved in favor of the validity of the marriage and the indissolubility of the marital
tie. After all, marriage is an inviolable institution protected by the State. Accordingly, it cannot
be dissolved at the whim of the parties, especially where the pieces of evidence presented are
grossly deficient to show the juridical antecedence, gravity and incurability of the condition
of the party alleged to be psychologically incapacitated to assume and perform the essential
marital duties.

Cohabitation for 5 years, a requisite to be exempted from marriage license requirement.


In Santiago v. People, G.R. No. 200233, July 15, 2015, Sereno, CJ, Santos & Gelang
were previously married, but Santos got married to Santiago during the existence of the first
marriage. Charged with the crime of bigamy, Santiago contended that she thought that Santos
was a widower and that she did not know about the first marriage of Santos. They married under
Article 34, Family Code, an admission that they have cohabited long before their marriage. She
was convicted and moved that the judgment be reconsidered contending that her marriage is
void due to lack of license. She asserted that they did not live together as husband and wife for

205
The Bedan Review

five (5) years prior to their marriage. It was denied. On appeal, the CA affirmed the decision
of the RTC. Before the SC she contended that she cannot be a co-accused in the instant case,
because she was not aware of Santos’ previous marriage. But in the main, she argued that for
there to be a conviction for bigamy, a valid second marriage must be proven by the prosecution
beyond reasonable doubt.

In affirming the lower courts’ decision, the SC

Held: It is clear that the marriage between petitioner and Santos took place without a marriage
license. The absence of this requirement is purportedly explained in their Certificate of
Marriage, which revealed that their union was celebrated under Article 34 of the Family Code.
The provision reads as follows:

No license shall be necessary for the marriage of a man and a


woman who have lived together as husband and wife for at least five years and
without any legal impediment to marry each other. The contracting parties
shall state the foregoing facts in an affidavit before any person authorized by
law to administer oaths. The solemnizing officer shall also state under oath
that he ascertained the qualifications of the contracting parties are found no
legal impediment to the marriage.

Therefore, their marriage would have been exempted from a marriage license had
they cohabited exclusively as husband and wife for at least five years before their marriage.
(Republic v. Dayot, 573 Phil. 553 [2008])

However, evidence showed that they never cohabited, as she was residing in the house
of her in-laws, and her children from her previous marriage disliked him.

Petitioner and Santos had only known each other for only less than four years. Thus,
it follows that the two of them could not have cohabited for at least five years prior to their
marriage.

No affidavit of cohabitation; effect if they lied to the solemnizing officer.


The partners did not submit an affidavit of cohabitation as required by Article 34
of the Family Code. They lied before the solemnizing officer and misrepresented that they
had actually cohabited for at least five years before they married each other. Unfortunately,
subsequent to this lie was the issuance of the Certificate of Marriage, in which the solemnizing
officer stated under oath that no marriage license was necessary, because the marriage was
solemnized under Article 34 of the Family Code.

No less than the present Constitution provides that “marriage, as a inviolable social
institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State.” (Constitution,
Article XV, Sec. 2) It must be safeguarded from the whims and caprices of the contracting
parties. In keeping therefore with this fundamental policy, the Court affirmed the conviction
of petitioner for bigamy.

Strict standards in declaration of presumptive death once again reiterated; passive efforts not

206
The Bedan Review

sufficient.
In Republic v. Jose B. Sareñogon, Jr., G.R. No. 199194, February 10, 2016, Del
Castillo, J, there was a petition for declaration of presumptive death of a spouse. In his
testimony, he said that he first met Netchie in Clarin, Misamis Occidental in 1991. They later
became sweethearts and on August 10, 1996, they got married in civil rites at the Manila City
Hall. However, they lived together as husband and wife for a month only because he left to
work as a seaman while Netchie went to Hongkong as a domestic helper. For three months,
he did not receive any communication from Netchie. He likewise had no idea about her
whereabouts. While still abroad, he tried to contact Netchie’s parents, but failed, as the latter
had allegedly left Clarin, Misamis Occidental. He returned home after his contract expired.
He then inquired from Netchie’s relatives and friends about her whereabouts, but they also
did not know where she was. Because of these, he had to presume that his wife Netchie was
already dead. He filed the Petition before the RTC so he could contract another marriage
pursuant to Article 41 of the Family Code.

The RTC declared the spouse presumptively death having disappeared for more than
four (4) years. The OSG filed a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 which the CA held as
an error saying that misappreciation of evidence could not translate into excess or lack of
jurisdiction amounting to lack of jurisdiction.

Reversing the CA, the SC

Held: In the 2005 case of Republic v. Bermudez-Lorino, 489 Phil. 761 [2005], it was held that
the RTC’s Decision on a Petition for declaration of presumptive death pursuant to Article
41 of the Family Code is immediately final and executory. Thus, the CA has no jurisdiction
to entertain a notice of appeal pertaining to such judgment. The correct remedy to challenge
the RTC Decision was to institute a petition for certiorari under Rule 65, and not a petition
for review under Rule 45. (Republic v. Granada, 687 Phil. 403 [2012], citing Republic v.
Bermudez-Bermudez-Lorino; See: Rep. v. Cantor; Republic v. Narceda, G.R. No. 182760,
April 10, 2013, 695 SCRA 483)

The “well-founded belief” requisite under Article 41 of the Family Code is complied with only
upon a showing that sincere honest-to-goodness efforts had indeed been made to ascertain
whether the absent spouse is still alive or is already dead.
Article 41 of the Family Code pertinently provides that:

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. (83a)

207
The Bedan Review

In Republic v. Cantor, it was further held that:

Before a judicial declaration of presumptive death can be obtained, it must


be shown that the prior spouse had been absent for four consecutive years
and the present spouse had a well-founded belief that the prior spouse was
already dead. Under Article 41 of the Family Code, there are four essential
requisites for the declaration of presumptive death:

1. That the absent spouse has been missing for four consecutive years, or
two consecutive years if the disappearance occurred where there is danger
of death under the circumstances laid down in Article 391 of the Civil Code;

2. That the present spouse wishes to remarry;

3. That the present spouse has a well-founded belief that the absentee is
dead; and,

4. That the present spouse files a summary proceeding for the declaration of
presumptive death of the absentee.

With respect to the third element (which seems to be the element that in this case
invites extended discussion), the holding is that the –

mere absence of the spouse (even for such period required by the
law), or lack of news that such absentee is still alive, failure to communicate
[by the absentee spouse or invocation of the] general presumption on
absence under the Civil Code [would] not suffice. This conclusion proceeds
from the premise that Article 41 of the Family Code places upon the present
spouse the burden of proving the additional and more stringent requirement
of “well-founded belief” which can only be discharged upon a due showing
of proper and honest-to- goodness inquiries and efforts to ascertain not only
the absent spouse’s whereabouts but, more importantly, that the absent
spouse is [either] still alive or is already dead.
xxxx
The law did not define what is meant by “well-founded belief.” It
depends upon the circumstances of each particular case. Its determination,
so to speak, remains on a case-to-case basis. To be able to comply with this
requirement, the present spouse must prove that his/her belief was the result
of diligent and reasonable efforts and inquiries to locate the absent spouse
and that based on these efforts and inquiries, he/she believes that under
the circumstances, the absent spouse is already dead. It requires exertion of
active effort (not a mere passive one).

In the case at bar, the RTC ruled that Jose had “well-founded belief” that Netchie was
already dead but there were passive efforts to locate the absent spouse.

In the case of Republic v. Cantor, the Court held that the present spouse (Maria
Fe Espinosa Cantor) merely conducted a “passive search” because she simply made
unsubstantiated inquiries from her in-laws, from neighbors and friends. For that reason, this
Court stressed that the degree of diligence and reasonable search required by law is not met
(1) when there is failure to present the persons from whom the present spouse allegedly made
inquiries especially the absent spouse’s relatives, neighbors, and friends, (2) when there is
failure to report the missing spouse’s purported disappearance or death to the police or mass
media, and (3) when the present spouse’s evidence might or would only show that the absent
spouse chose not to communicate, but not necessarily that the latter was indeed dead. The

208
The Bedan Review

rationale for this palpably stringent or rigorous requirement has been marked out thus:

x x x [T]he Court, fully aware of the possible collusion of spouses


in nullifying their marriage, has consistently applied the “strict standard”
approach. This is to ensure that a petition for declaration of presumptive
death under Article 41 of the Family Code is not used as a tool to conveniently
circumvent the laws. Courts should never allow procedural shortcuts and
should ensure that the stricter standard required by the Family Code is met.
xxx
The application of this stricter standard becomes even more
imperative if we consider the State’s policy to protect and strengthen the
institution of marriage. Since marriage serves as the family’s foundation and
since it is the state’s policy to protect and strengthen the family as a basic
social institution, marriage should not be permitted to be dissolved at the
whim of the parties. x x x
x x x [I]t has not escaped this Court’s attention that the strict
standard required in petitions for declaration of presumptive death has not
been fully observed by the lower courts. We need only to cite the instances
when this Court, on review, has consistently ruled on the sanctity of marriage
and reiterated that anything less than the use of the strict standard necessitates
a denial. To rectify this situation, lower courts are now expressly put on
notice of the strict standard this Court requires in cases under Article 41 of
the Family Code.”
Co-ownership ensues after death of a spouse; sale by one is valid over his interest.
In Melicio Domingo v. Sps. Molina, G.R. No. 200274, April 20, 2016, Brion, J,
Anastacio was married to Flora. During the marriage, he obtained a loan from the Spouses
Molina, and after Flora’s death, he sold his interest over their conjugal property to the creditors.
His son filed an action to annul the sale and to recover ownership contending that he could
not have sold such portion of the conjugal property without the consent of Flora who already
died. The lower courts dismissed the complaint because what Anastacio sold was his share of
the property. The basic issue before the SC was the validity of the sale without the consent of
Flora. In dismissing the petition, the SC

Held: The sale is valid.

As early as Taningco v. Register of Deeds of Laguna, G.R. No. L-15242, June 29,
1962, 5 SCRA 381, it was held that the properties of a dissolved conjugal partnership fall
under the regime of co-ownership among the surviving spouse and the heirs of the deceased
spouse until final liquidation and partition. The surviving spouse, however, has an actual and
vested one-half undivided share of the properties which does not consist of determinate and
segregated properties until liquidation and partition of the conjugal partnership.

The spouses Molina would be a trustee for the benefit of the co-heirs of Anastacio in
respect of any portion that might belong to the co-heirs after liquidation and partition. In Heirs
of Protacio Go, Sr. V. Servacio, it was said:

x x x [I]f it turns out that the property alienated or mortgaged really would
pertain to the share of the surviving spouse, then said transaction is valid. If it
turns out that there really would be, after liquidation, no more conjugal assets
then the whole transaction is null and void. But if it turns out that half of the
property thus alienated or mortgaged belongs to the husband as his share in
the conjugal partnership, and half should go to the estate of the wife, then that
corresponding to the husband is valid, and that corresponding to the other

209
The Bedan Review

is not. Since all these can be determined only at the time the liquidation is
over, it follows logically that a disposal made by the surviving spouse is not
void ab initio. Thus, it has been held that the sale of conjugal properties
cannot be made by the surviving spouse without the legal requirements. The
sale is void as to the share of the deceased spouse (except of course as to that
portion of the husband’s share inherited by her as the surviving spouse). The
buyers of the property that could not be validly sold become trustees of said
portion for the benefit of the husband’s other heirs, the cestui que trust ent.
Said heirs shall not be barred by prescription or by laches.

Melecio’s recourse as a co-owner of the conjugal properties, including the subject


property, is an action for partition under Rule 69 of the Revised Rules of Court. As held in the
case of Heirs of Protacio Go, Sr., “it is now settled that the appropriate recourse of co-owners
in cases where their consent were not secured in a sale of the entire property as well as in a sale
merely of the undivided shares of some of the co-owners is an action for PARTITION under
Rule 69 of the Revised Rules of Court.”

Collateral attack on legitimacy; seconday evidence in proof of filiation.


In Geronimo v. Santos, G.R. No. 197099, September 28, 2015, Villarama, J, Karen
Santos filed an action for annulment of documents and recovery of possession of properties
alleging that she was the sole heir of her parents. She alleged that the defendants who were the
siblings of her father adjudicated upon themselves said property and obtained a title over it.
The defendants countered, saying that the spouses were childless and that the record of birth
of Karen was simulated. After trial, the RTC ruled in favor of Karen and ruled that the birth
certificate was not tampered. Further, it ruled that assuming arguendo that the birth certificate
was questionable, the filiation of Karen was proven by evidence of open and continuous
possession of the status of a legitimate child. It considered the overt acts of the deceased
as recognition such as: payment of her school fees; making her the beneficiary of the burial
benefits from the GSIS; filing a petition for guardianship over Karen. Finally, it was ruled by
the RTC that they failed to impugn her filiation and status within the period under Arts. 170
and 171 of the Family Code. The petitioners questioned the act of proving filiation in an action
for annulment of document as the law contemplates a direct action, hence, her filiation or civil
status cannot be assailed indirectly or collaterally. The CA ruled that filiation can be proven
by secondary evidence under Article 172 of the Family Code which allows the introduction of
evidence of filiation by way of open and continuous possession of the status of legitimate child.

Before the SC, it was contended by the petitioner that secondary evidence may be
admitted only in a direct action under Article 172 as the law is meant to be instituted as a
separate action and proof of filiation cannot be raised as a collateral issue like an action for
declaration of nullity of a document and recovery of possession. Ruling in favor of petitioner,
the SC

Held: Petitioner is correct that proof of legitimacy under Article 172, or illegitimacy under
Article 175, should only be raised in a direct and separate action instituted to prove the filiation
of a child. The rationale behind this procedural prescription is stated in the case of Tison v.
Court of Appeals, 342 Phil. 550 [1997], viz.:

Well settled is the rule that the issue of legitimacy cannot be


attacked collaterally.

210
The Bedan Review

The rationale for these rules has been explained in this wise:

“The presumption of legitimacy in the Family Code x x x actually


fixes a civil status for the child born in wedlock, and that civil status cannot
be attacked collaterally. The legitimacy of the child can be impugned only in
a direct action brought for that purpose, by the proper parties, and within the
period limited by law.

The legitimacy of the child cannot be contested by way of


defense or as a collateral issue in another action for a different purpose. The
necessity of an independent action directly impugning the legitimacy is more
clearly expressed in the Mexican Code (Article 335) which provides: ‘The
contest of the legitimacy of a child by the husband or his heirs must be made
by proper complaint before the competent court; any contest made in any
other way is void.’ This principle applies under our Family Code. Articles
170 and 171 of the code confirm this view, because they refer to “the action
to impugn the legitimacy.” This action can be brought only by the husband
or his heirs and within the periods fixed in the present articles.

Upon the expiration of the periods provided in Article 170, the


action to impugn the legitimacy of a child can no longer be brought. The
status conferred by the presumption, therefore, becomes fixed, and can no
longer be questioned. The obvious intention of the law is to prevent the
status of a child born in wedlock from being in a state of uncertainty for
a long time. It also aims to force early action to settle any doubt as to the
paternity of such child, so that the evidence material to the matter, which
must necessarily be facts occurring during the period of the conception of
the child, may still be easily available.

Only the husband can contest the legitimacy of a child born to


his wife. He is the one directly confronted with the scandal and ridicule
which the infidelity of his wife produces; and he should decide whether
to conceal that infidelity or expose it, in view of the moral and economic
interest involved. It is only in exceptional cases that his heirs are allowed to
contest such legitimacy. Outside of these cases, none – even his heirs – can
impugn legitimacy; that would amount to an insult to his memory.” (citing
Tolentino, A., COMMENTARIES AND JURISPRUDENCE ON THE
CIVIL CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Vol. 1, 1990 ed., 536-537).

When aforesaid rule applicable; when secondary evidence is admissible.


What petitioner failed to recognize, however, is that this procedural rule is applicable
only to actions where the legitimacy – or illegitimacy – of a child is at issue. This situation does
not obtain in the case at bar.

In this case, the filiation of a child, the respondent – is not at issue. Petitioner did
not claim that respondent is not the legitimate child of his deceased brother Rufino and his
wife Caridad. What was alleged was that respondent is not the child of the deceased spouses
Rufino and Caridad at all, hence, not an heir to his brother Rufino. When he alleged that
the child is not a child of the deceased, jurisprudence shows that the trial court was correct in
admitting and ruling on the secondary evidence of respondent – even if such proof is similar
to the evidence admissible under the second paragraph of Article 172 and despite the instant
case not being a direct action to prove one’s filiation. In some cases, the Court did not bar the
introduction of secondary evidence in actions which involved allegations that the opposing
party is not the child of a particular couple – even if such evidence is similar to the kind of
proof admissible under the second paragraph of Article 172.

211
The Bedan Review

In Benitez-Badua v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 105625, January 24, 1994, 229 SCRA
468, deceased spouses Vicente Benitez (Vicente) and Isabel Chipongian (Isabel) owned various
properties while they were still living. Isabel departed in 1982, while Vicente died intestate in
1989. In 1990, Vicente’s sister (Victoria Benitez-Lirio) and nephew (Feodor Benitez Aguilar)
instituted a petition before the trial court for the issuance of letters of administration of his
estate in favor of Feodor. They alleged that Vicente was “survived by no other heirs or relatives
be they ascendants or descendants, whether legitimate, illegitimate or legally adopted; that one
“Marissa Benitez-Badua who was raised and cared for by them since childhood is, in fact, not
related to them by blood, nor legally adopted, and is therefore not a legal heir of Vicente.”
Marissa opposed the petition and proffered evidence to prove that she is an heir of Vicente.
Marissa submitted the following evidence, viz.:

1. her Certificate of Live Birth (Exh. 3);


2. Baptismal Certificate (Exh. 4);
3. Income Tax Returns and Information Sheet for Membership with the
GSIS of the late Vicente naming her as his daughter (Exhs. 10 to 21); and
4. School Records (Exhs. 5 & 6).

She also testified that the said spouses reared and continuously treated her as their
legitimate daughter.

The trial court, relying on Articles 166 and 170 of the Family Code, declared Marissa
as the legitimate daughter and sole heir of the spouses Vicente and Isabel. The appellate court
reversed the RTC’s ruling holding that the trial court erred in applying Articles 166 and 170 of
the Family Code. On appeal, the Court affirmed the reversal made by the appellate court, viz.:
A careful reading of the above articles will show that they do not
contemplate a situation, like in the instant case, where a child is alleged not
to be the child of nature or biological child of a certain couple. Rather, these
articles govern a situation where a husband (or his heirs) denies as his own a
child of his wife. Thus, under Article 166, it is the husband who can impugn
the legitimacy of said child by proving: (1) it was physically impossible for
him to have sexual intercourse, with his wife within the first 120 days of the
300 days which immediately preceded the birth of the child; (2) that for
biological or other scientific reasons, the child could not have been his child;
(3) that in case of children conceived through artificial insemination, the
written authorization or ratification by either parent was obtained through
mistake, fraud, violence, intimidation or undue influence. Articles 170 and
171 reinforce this reading as they speak of the prescriptive period within
which the husband or any of his heirs should file the action impugning the
legitimacy of said child. Doubtless then, the appellate court did not err when
it refused to apply these articles to the case at bench. For the case at bench
is not one where the heirs of the late Vicente are contending that petitioner
is not his child by Isabel. Rather, their clear submission is that petitioner was
not born to Vicente and Isabel. Our ruling in Cabatbat-Lim vs. Intermediate
Appellate Court, 166 SCRA 451, 457 cited in the impugned decision is
apropos, viz:

“Petitioners’ recourse to Article 263 of the New Civil Code [now


Art. 170 of the Family Code] is not well-taken. This legal provision refers
to an action to impugn legitimacy. It is inapplicable to this case because this
is not an action to impugn the legitimacy of a child, but an action of the
private respondents to claim their inheritance as legal heirs of their childless
deceased aunt. They do not claim that petitioner Violeta Cabatbat Lim is an
illegitimate child of the deceased, but that she is not the decedent’s child at

212
The Bedan Review

all. Being neither legally adopted child, nor an acknowledged natural child,
nor a child by legal fiction of Esperanza Cabatbat, Violeta is not a legal heir
of the deceased.”

Similarly, the 2001 case of Labagala v. Santiago, 422 Phil. 699 [2001], which
originated from a complaint for recovery of title, ownership and possession before the trial
court, respondents contended that petitioner is not the daughter of the decedent Jose and
sought to recover from her the 1/3 portion of the subject property pertaining to Jose but which
came into petitioner’s sole possession upon Jose’ death. Respondents sought to prove that
petitioner is not the daughter of the decedent as evidenced by her birth certificate which did
not itself indicate the name of Jose as her father. Citing the case of Sayson v. Court of Appeals
and Article 263 of the Civil Code (now Article 170 of the Family Code), petitioner argued that
respondents cannot impugn her filiation collaterally since the case was not an action impugning
a child’s legitimacy but one for recovery of title, ownership and possession of property. The SC
ruled that reliance on Article 263 of the Civil Code is misplaced and respondents may impugn
the petitioner’s filiation in an action for recovery of title and possession. The birth certificate
of petitioner Labagala proved that she “was born of different parents, not Jose and his wife.”
Citing Benitez-Badua and Lim v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 248 Phil. 684 [1988], it was
ruled:

This article should be read in conjunction with the other articles


in the same chapter on paternity and filiation in the Civil Code. A careful
reading of said chapter would reveal that it contemplates situations where a
doubt exists that a child is indeed a man’s child by his wife, and the husband
(or, in proper cases, his heirs) denies the child’s filiation. It does not refer
to situations where a child is alleged not to be the child at all of a particular
couple.

Article 263 refers to an action to impugn the legitimacy of a child,


to assert and prove that a person is not a man’s child by his wife. However,
the present case is not one impugning petitioner’s legitimacy. Respondents
are asserting not merely that petitioner is not a legitimate child of Jose, but
that she is not a child of Jose at all. x x x

Secondary evidence to prove filiation; not sufficient.


The concurrence of the secondary evidence relied upon by both courts a quo did not
sufficiently establish that respondent is indeed a child of the deceased spouses.

In the case of Rivera v. Heirs of Romualdo Villanueva, 528 Phil. [2006]; Fuentes v. CA,
335 Phil. 1163 [1999]; Reyes v. CA, 328 Phil. 238 [1996]; Vda. de Alcantara v. CA, 322 Phil.
490 [1996], which incisively discussed its parallelisms and contrasts with the case of Benitez-
Badua v. Court of Appeals, it was ruled that the presence of a similar set of circumstances
– which were relied upon as secondary proof by both courts a quo in the case at bar – does
not establish that one is a child of the putative parents. The discussion in the Rivera case is
instructive, viz.:

In Benitez-Badua v. Court of Appeals, Marissa Benitez-Badua,


in attempting to prove that she was the sole heir of the late Vicente Benitez,
submitted a certificate of live birth, a baptismal certificate, income tax returns
and an information sheet for membership in the Government Service
Insurance System of the decedent naming her as his daughter, and her

213
The Bedan Review

school records. She also testified that she had been reared and continuously
treated as Vicente’s daughter.

By testimonial evidence alone, to the effect that Benitez-Badua’s


alleged parents had been unable to beget children, the siblings of Benitez-
Badua’s supposed father were able to rebut all of the documentary evidence
indicating her filiation. One fact that was counted against Benitez-Badua was
that her supposed mother Isabel Chipongian, unable to bear any children
even after ten years of marriage, all of a sudden conceived and gave birth to
her at the age of 36.

Of great significance to this controversy was the following


pronouncement:
But definitely, the mere registration of a child in his or her birth
certificate as the child of the supposed parents is not a valid adoption, does
not confer upon the child the status of an adopted child and the legal rights of
such child, and even amounts to simulation of the child’s birth or falsification
of his or her birth certificate, which is a public document.

It is well-settled that a record of birth is merely a prima facie


evidence of the facts contained therein. It is not conclusive evidence of the
truthfulness of the statements made there by the interested parties. Following
the logic of Benitez, respondent Angelina and her codefendants should
have adduced evidence of her adoption, in view of the contents of her birth
certificate. The records, however, are bereft of any such evidence.

There are several parallels between this case and Benitez-Badua


that are simply too compelling to ignore. First, both Benitez-Badua and
respondent Angelina submitted birth certificates as evidence of filiation.
Second, both claimed to be children of parents relatively advanced in age.
Third, both claimed to have been born after their alleged parents had lived
together childless for several years.

There are, however, also crucial differences between Benitez-


Badua and this case which ineluctably support the conclusion that
respondent Angelina was not Gonzales’ daughter, whether illegitimate or
adopted. Gonzales, unlike Benitez-Badua’s alleged mother Chipongian, was
not only 36 years old but 44 years old, and on the verge of menopause at
the time of the alleged birth. Unlike Chipongian who had been married to
Vicente Benitez for only 10 years, Gonzales had been living childless with
Villanueva for 20 years. Under the circumstances, we hold that it was not
sufficiently established that respondent Angelina was Gonzales’ biological
daughter, nor even her adopted daughter. Thus, she cannot inherit from
Gonzales. Since she could not have validly participated in Gonzales’ estate,
the extrajudicial partition which she executed with Villanueva on August 8,
1980 was invalid.

The confluence of the circumstances and the proof presented in this case do not lead
to the conclusion that respondent is a child of the deceased spouses.

ARTICLE 177 – LEGITIMATION

Status of a child cannot be collaterally attacked.


In BBB v. AAA, G.R. No. 193225, February 9, 2015, Reyes, J, a case of Anti-Violence
Against Women & Children (RA 9262), a man and a woman lived together as husband and

214
The Bedan Review

wife. They gave birth to two (2) children. Subsequently they got married and thereafter, the
birth certificates of their children including the child of the woman in a previous relationship
were amended to change their civil status to legitimated by virtue of the said marriage. But due
to their unhealthy relationship they lived separately from one another. The woman demanded
for support from husband including the child in the previous relationship who was legitimated
but the husband refused to give support to the said child. He contended that he is not his
biological son, hence, his refusal to give support is justified. The SC did not agree with him and

Held: Article 177 of the Family Code provides that “[o]nly children conceived and born
outside of wedlock of parents who, at the time of the conception of the former, were not
disqualified by any impediment to marry each other may be legitimated.” Article 178 states
that “[l]egitimation shall take place by a subsequent valid marriage between parents.”

In the case at bar, the parties do not dispute the fact that BBB is not CCC’s biological
father. Such being the case, it was improper to have CCC legitimated after the celebration
of BBB and AAA’s marriage. Clearly then, the legal process of legitimation was trifled with.
BBB voluntarily but falsely acknowledged CCC as his son. Article 1431 of the New Civil Code
pertinently provides:

Art. 1431. Through estoppel an admission or representation is rendered


conclusive upon the person making it, and cannot be denied or disproved as
against the person relying thereon.

At least for the purpose of resolving the instant petition, the principle of estoppel
found application and it now bars BBB from making an assertion contrary to his previous
representations. He should not be allowed to evade a responsibility arising from his own
misrepresentations. He is bound by the effects of the legitimation process. CCC remains to be
BBB’s son, and pursuant to Article 179 of the Family Code, the former is entitled to the same
rights as those of a legitimate child, including the receipt of his father’s support.

Notwithstanding the above, there is no absolute preclusion for BBB from raising
before the proper court the issue of CCC’s status and filiation. However, BBB cannot do
the same in the instant petition before the Court now. In Tison v. CA, 342 Phil. 550 [1997],
the Court held that “the civil status of a child cannot be attacked collaterally.” The child’s
legitimacy “cannot be contested by way of defense or as a collateral issue in another action for
a different purpose.” The instant petition sprang out of AAA’s application for a PPO before
the RTC. Hence, BBB’s claim that CCC is not his biological son is a collateral issue, which the
Court has no authority to resolve now.

PROPERTY

Claim of ownership must be proven; Requisite of reconveyance of property.


In Ibot v. Heirs of Francisco Tayco, G.R. No. 202950, April 6, 2015, Reyes, J,
petitioner was the registered owner of a property. The respondents claimed to be the owners
of the property, but presented no indicia of any document to support their claim although they
alleged that it was sold to their predecessor-in-interest. The petitioner even sent a demand for
them to vacate the property prior to the filing of an action for ejectment. In dismissing the
claim, the SC ruled that they failed to prove it by preponderance of evidence and

215
The Bedan Review

Held: In an action to recover, the property must be identified, and the plaintiff must rely on
the strength of his title and not on the weakness of the defendant’s claim.

In order to successfully maintain an action to recover the ownership of a real property,


the person who claims a better right to it must prove two things: first, the identity of the land
claimed; and second, his title thereto. (Sampaco v. Lantud, G.R. No. 163551, July 18, 2011,
654 SCRA 36, 50-51). While the first requisite was proven, the third was not as the claims were
conflicting.
Generally, “in civil cases, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to establish his case
by a preponderance of evidence. If the plaintiff claims a right granted or created by law, the
same must be proven by competent evidence. The plaintiff must rely on the strength of his
own evidence,” “or evidence which is of greater weight or more convincing than that which s
offered in opposition to it. Hence, parties who have the burden of proof must produce such
quantum of evidence, with plaintiffs having to rely on the strength of their own evidence, not
on the weakness of the defendant’s.” In an action for reconveyance, however, a party seeking
it should establish not merely by a preponderance of evidence but by clear and convincing
evidence that the land sought to be reconveyed is his.

In the case at bar, the respondents failed to dispense their burden of proving by clear
and convincing evidence that they are entitled to the reconveyance.

Mere claim of ownership does not suffice. An action for reconveyance should be
maintained by the true owner. It does not suffice that the respondents are in possession of the
land subject hereof.

Action for quieting of title originates from equity jurisprudence.


In Heirs of Liberato Castillejos, et al. v. La Tondeña Incorporada, G.R. No. 190158,
July 20, 2016, Reyes, J, the SC once again had the occasion to say that “an action to quiet title
to property or to remove a cloud thereon is a remedy or form of proceeding originating in
equity jurisprudence. The plaintiff in such an action seeks for adjudication that any adverse
claim of title or interest in the property in question is invalid, so that the plaintiff and those
claiming under him or her may forever be free from any danger of the hostile claim.” (Spouse
Divinagracia v. Cometa, 518 Phil. 79 [2006]) It is governed by Article 476 of the Civil Code
which reads:

Art. 476. Whenever there is cloud on title to real property or any interest
therein, by reason of any instrument, record, claim, encumbrance or
proceeding which is apparently valid or effective but is in truth and in fact
invalid, ineffective, voidable, or unenforceable, and may be prejudicial to
said title, an action may be brought to remove such cloud or to quiet the title.
An action may also be brought to prevent a cloud from being cast
upon title to real property or any interest therein.

For the action to prosper, two requisites must concur, viz: (1) the plaintiff or
complainant must have a legal or an equitable title to or interest in the real property which is
the subject matter of the action; and (2) the deed, claim, encumbrance or proceeding that is
being alleged as a cloud on plaintiff’s title must be shown to be in fact invalid or inoperative

216
The Bedan Review

despite its prima facie appearance of validity or legal efficacy. (Robles v. CA, 384 Phil. 635
[2000])

EASEMENT

Nature of easement of right of way.


An easement of right of way is a real right. When an easement of right of way is granted
to another person, the rights of the property’s owner are limited. (See Cristobal v. Court of
Appeals, 353 Phil. 318, 328 (1998) [Per J. Bellosillo, First Division]) An owner may not exercise
some of his or her property rights for the benefit of the person who was granted the easement
of right of way. Hence, the burden of proof to show the existence of the above conditions is
imposed on the person who seeks the easement of right of way. (Cristobal v. Court of Appeals,
353 Phil. 318, 327 (1998) [Per J. Bellosillo, First Division], citing Costabella Corporation v.
Court of Appeals, 271 Phil. 350, 358 (1991) [Per J. Sarmiento, Second Division], which in
turn cited Locsin v. Climaco, G.R. No. L-27319, January 31, 1969, 26 SCRA 816, 836 [Per
J. Castro, En Banc], Angela Estate, Inc. v. Court of First Instance of Negros Occidental, 133
Phil. 561, 574 (1968) [Per J. Castro, En Banc], and Bacolod-Murcia Milling Co., Inc., et al. v.
Capitol Subdivision, Inc., et al., 124 Phil. 128, 133 (1966) [Per J. J.B.L. Reyes, En Banc])

In easement of right of way, “least prejudice” has preferred status over distance.
In Alicia Reyes v. Sps. Ramos, G.R. No. 194488, February 11, 2015, the petitioner
sought for an easement of right of way from the respondents alleging that her property is
isolated without her fault. It was alleged that there was no means of engress or egress to a
public highway. Respondents contended that there was a means of engress or egress to the
public highway because adjacent to her property is a canal where a bridge can be constructed
as passageway like what others have done. The RTC found out that if the right of way would
pass through respondents’ property there would be destruction of their properties. Since there
is an irrigation canal, she could construct a bridge over it and pass through it as the way to the
irrigation canal would appear to be the shortest and easiest way to reach the barangay road. On
appeal, the CA affirmed the decision of the RTC. Affirming the decisions of the lower courts,
the SC

Held: Assuming, however, that petitioner or her mother did not cause the isolation of petitioner’s
property, petitioner still cannot be granted the easement of right of way over the proposed
portion of respondents’ property. This is because she failed to satisfy the requirements for an
easement of right of way under the Civil Code.

The following requisites need to be established before a person becomes entitled to


demand the compulsory easement of right of way: (See Bacolod-Murcia Milling Co., Inc., et
al. v. Capitol Subdivision, Inc., et al., 124 Phil. 128, 132–133 [1966])

1. An immovable is surrounded by other immovables belonging to other persons, and is


without adequate outlet to a public highway;

2. Payment of proper indemnity by the owner of the surrounded immovable;

217
The Bedan Review

3. The isolation of the immovable is not due to its owner’s acts; and

4. The proposed easement of right of way is established at the point least prejudicial to
the servient estate, and insofar as consistent with this rule, where the distance of the
dominant estate to a public highway may be the shortest.

There is an adequate exit to a public highway.


In Dichoso, Jr. v. Marcos, G.R. No. 180282, April 11, 2011, 647 SCRA 495, it was
ruled that the convenience of the dominant estate’s owner is not the basis for granting an
easement of right of way, especially if the owner’s needs may be satisfied without imposing the
easement. Thus:

Mere convenience for the dominant estate is not what is required by law as
the basis of setting up a compulsory easement. Even in the face of necessity,
if it can be satisfied without imposing the easement, the same should not be
imposed.

Also in Floro v. Llenado, we refused to impose a right of way over petitioner’s


property although private respondent’s alternative route was admittedly
inconvenient because he had to traverse several ricelands and rice paddies
belonging to different persons, not to mention that said passage is impassable
during the rainy season.

And in Ramos, Sr. v. Gatchalian Realty, Inc., this Court refused to grant the
easement prayed for even if petitioner had to pass through lots belonging
to other owners, as temporary ingress and egress, which lots were grassy,
cogonal, and greatly inconvenient due to flood and mud because such grant
would run counter to the prevailing jurisprudence that mere convenience for
the dominant estate does not suffice to serve as basis for the easement. (See
also Cristobal v. Court of Appeals, 353 Phil. 318, 328-329)

Access to the public highway can be satisfied without imposing an easement on respondents’
property.
Her property had another outlet to the highway. In between her property and the
highway or road, however, is an irrigation canal, which can be traversed by constructing a
bridge, similar to what was done by the owners of the nearby properties.

There is, therefore, no need to utilize respondents’ property to serve petitioner’s


needs. Another adequate exit exists. Petitioner can use this outlet to access the public roads.

The outlet may be longer and more inconvenient to petitioner because she will have
to traverse other properties and construct a bridge over the irrigation canal before she can
reach the road. However, these reasons will not justify the imposition of an easement on
respondents’ property because her convenience is not the gauge in determining whether to
impose an easement of right of way over another’s property. (Dichoso, Jr. v. Marcos, G.R. No.
180282, April 11, 2011, 647 SCRA 495, 504)

Petitioner failed to satisfy the requirement of “least prejudicial to the servient estate.”

218
The Bedan Review

Article 650 of the Civil Code provides that in determining the existence of an easement
of right of way, the requirement of “least prejudice to the servient estate” trumps “distance
[between] the dominant estate [and the] public highway.” “Distance” is considered only insofar
as it is consistent to the requirement of “least prejudice.”

The court had already affirmed the preferred status of the requirement of “least
prejudice” over distance of the dominant estate to the public highway. (Cristobal v. Court
of Appeals, 353 Phil. 318, 329 [1998]). Quimen v. Court of Appeals, 326 Phil. 969, 979
[1996]) Thus, in Quimen, the Csourt granted the longer right of way over therein respondent’s
property because the shorter route required that a structure of strong materials needed to be
demolished. (Quimen v. Court of Appeals, 326 Phil. 969, 981 [1996]) The court said:

[T]he court is not bound to establish what is the shortest distance; a longer
way may be adopted to avoid injury to the servient estate, such as when
there are constructions or walls which can be avoided by a round about way,
or to secure the interest of the dominant owner, such as when the shortest
distance would place the way on a dangerous decline.
....
The criterion of least prejudice to the servient estate must prevail over the
criterion of shortest distance although this is a matter of judicial appreciation.
While shortest distance may ordinarily imply least prejudice, it is not always
so as when there are permanent structures obstructing the shortest distance;
while on the other hand, the longest distance may be free of obstructions and
the easiest or most convenient to pass through. In other words, where the
easement may be established on any of several tenements surrounding the
dominant estate, the one where the way is shortest and will cause the least
damage should be chosen. However, as elsewhere stated, if these two (2)
circumstances do not concur in a single tenement, the way which will cause
the least damage should be used, even if it will not be the shortest.

Petitioner would have permanent structures — such as the garage, garden, and grotto
already installed on respondent’s property — destroyed to accommodate her preferred location
for the right of way.

The cost of having to destroy these structures, coupled with the fact that there is an
available outlet that can be utilized for the right of way, negates a claim that respondents’
property is the point least prejudicial to the servient estate.

An easement is a limitation on the owner’s right to use his or her property for the
benefit of another. By imposing an easement on a property, its owner will have to forego
using it for whatever purpose he or she deems most beneficial. Least prejudice, therefore,
is about the suffering of the servient estate. Its value is not determined solely by the price
of the property, but also by the value of the owner’s foregone opportunity for use, resulting
from the limitations imposed by the easement. (PAUL A. SAMUELSON andWILLIAM D.
NORDHAUS, ECONOMICS 13 (18th ed., 2005). Opportunity cost is defined as “[t]he cost
of the forgone alternative[.]”)

Imposing an easement on the part of respondents’ property for petitioner’s benefit


would cost respondents not only the value of the property but also the value of respondents’
opportunity to use the property as a garage or a garden with a grotto. (See also: Helen Calimoso,
et al. v. Alex Roullo, G.R. No. 198594, January 25, 2016, Brion, J)

219
The Bedan Review

Easement of right way to be established at point least prejudicial to the servient estate.
In the establishment of an easement of right of way, the same must not prejudice the
servient estate. While it may be the shortest way to a road, it must be the least prejudicial.

Such is the ruling in Helen Calimoso, et al. v. Alex Roullo, G.R. No. 198594, January
25, 2016, Brion, J, where the RTC and the CA granted an action seeking for a right of way,
claiming that his property is isolated by surrounding estates. The owners of the servient estate
contended that the adjudged right of way would cause severe damage to their house where the
right of way would pass through. They further contended that the owner of the dominant estate
has other right of way alternatives such as a wooden bridge over a creek bounding his property
on the northeast side, such that if made concrete, could provide ingress or egress. Despite such
contentions, the CA affirmed the RTC decision.

In reversing the CA decision, the SC

Held: To be entitled to an easement of right-of-way, the following requisites should be met:

“1. The dominant estate is surrounded by other immovables and has no


adequate outlet to a public highway;
2. There is payment of proper indemnity;
3. The isolation is not due to the acts of the proprietor of the dominant
estate; and
4. The right-of-way claimed is at the point least prejudicial to the servient
estate; and insofar as consistent with this rule, where the distance from the
dominant estate to a public highway may be the shortest.”

The immovable in whose favor the easement is established is called the dominant es-
tate, and the property subject to the easement is called the servient estate.

That the respondent’s lot is surrounded by several estates and has no access to a public road
are undisputed. The only question before the Court is whether the right-of- way passing
through the petitioners’ lot satisfies the fourth requirement of being established at the point
least prejudicial to the servient estate.

SUCCESSION

Preterition totally abrogates a will.


In Iris Morales v. Ana Maria Olandriz, et al., G.R. No. 198994, February 3, 2016,
Brion, J, the Supreme Court once again ruled that if a compulsory heir in the direct line is not
instituted in a will, there is preterition which may result in the total abrogation or nullity of a
will. It may not totally nullify a will if there are legatees and devisees.

In this case, a father executed a will but did not institute one of his children, thus,
when the will was submitted to probate, an opposition was filed. The proponent contended
that he was not preterited because he received a donation inter vivos from his father, but that
was never proven.

Believing that the decedent died intestate, the heirs filed an intestate proceeding, but
during the pendency of the same, one of the heirs filed a petition for the probate of his will.

220
The Bedan Review

She asked for the suspension of the intestate proceeding to give way to the probate of the will.
The two cases were consolidated but the heirs moved to dismiss the probate proceeding on the
ground of preterition. The proponent of the will agreed to hold evidentiary hearing to resolve
the issue of preterition, but the petitioner did not appear. The court suspended the intestate
proceeding and set the probate proceeding. Then, it ruled that while testacy is preferred over
intestacy, courts will not hesitate to set aside probate proceedings if it appears that the probate
of the will might become an idle ceremony because the will is intrinsically void. In fact, during
the evidentiary hearings, it was admitted that one of the heirs was preterited, and reinstated the
administrator. The CA affirmed the RTC ruling and ruled that preterition of a compulsory
heir in the direct line annuls the institution of heirs and opens the entire inheritance into
intestate succession, thus, the continuation of the testate proceeding would be superfluous and
impractical because the inheritance will be adjudicated intestate.

Holding that there was preterition, the SC

Held: Preterition consists in the omission of a compulsory heir from the will, either because
he is not named or, although he is named as a father, son, etc., he is neither instituted as an
heir nor assigned any part of the estate without expressly being disinherited – tacitly depriving
the heir of his legitime. (Nuguid v. Nuguid, G.R. No. L-23445, June 23, 1966, 17 SCRA 449,
454, citing VI Manresa, Commentarios al Codigo Civil Español, 7th Ed. (1951), p. 424; Aznar
v. Duncan, G.R. No. L-24365, 17 SCRA 590, 595, citing VI Manresa, p. 428) Preterition
requires that the omission is total, meaning the heir did not also receive any legacies, devises,
or advances on his legitime.

In other words, preterition is the complete and total omission of a compulsory heir
from the testator’s inheritance without the heir’s express disinheritance.

Article 854 of the Civil Code states the legal effects of preterition:

Art. 854. The preterition or omission of one, some, or all of the


compulsory heirs in the direct line, whether living at the time of
the execution of the will or born after the death of the testator, shall
annul the institution of heir; but the devises and legacies shall be
valid insofar as they are not inofficious.
If the omitted compulsory heirs should die before the testator, the institution
shall be effectual, without prejudice to the right of representation.

Under the Civil Code, the preterition of a compulsory heir in the direct line shall
annul the institution of heirs, but the devises and legacies shall remain valid insofar as the
legitimes are not impaired. Consequently, if a will does not institute any devisees or legatees,
the preterition of a compulsory heir in the direct line will result in total intestacy. (Nuguid)

In the present case, the decedent’s will evidently omitted Francisco Olondriz as an
heir, legatee, or devisee. As the decedent’s illegitimate son, Francisco is a compulsory heir
in the direct line. Unless Morales could show otherwise, Francisco’s omission from the will
would lead to the conclusion of his preterition.

During the proceedings in the RTC, Morales had the opportunity to present evidence
that Francisco received donations inter vivos and advances on his legitime from the decedent.

221
The Bedan Review

However, Morales did not appear during the hearing dates, effectively waiving her right to
present evidence on the issue. We cannot fault the RTC for reaching the reasonable conclusion
that there was preterition.

Extent of the power of the probate court.


The general rule is that in probate proceedings, the scope of the court’s inquiry is
limited to questions on the extrinsic validity of the will; the probate court will only determine
the will’s formal validity and due execution. (Nepomuceno v. Court of Appeals, 223 Phil.
418, 423 [1985]) However, this rule is not inflexible and absolute. (Nepomuceno v. CA) It
is not beyond the probate court’s jurisdiction to pass upon the intrinsic validity of the will
when so warranted by exceptional circumstances. (See Nuguid; Nepomuceno; Balanay v.
Hon. Martinez, 159-A Phil. 718, 723 [1975]) When practical considerations demand that the
intrinsic validity of the will be passed upon even before it is probated, the probate court should
meet the issue. (Balanay, supra note 10, at 723, citing Nuguid)

The decedent’s will does not contain specific legacies or devices and Francisco’s
preterition annulled the institution of heirs. The annulment effectively caused the total
abrogation of the will, resulting in total intestacy of the inheritance. (Nuguid v. Nuguid) The
decedent’s will, no matter how valid it may appear extrinsically, is null and void. The conduct
of separate proceedings to determine the intrinsic validity of its testamentary provisions would
be superfluous, hence, no error was committed in ordering the case to proceed intestate.

OBLIGATIONS AND CONTRACTS

If no substantial breach, rescission is improper.


In Nolasco, et al. v. Cuerpo, et al., G.R. No. 210215, December 9, 2015, Perlas-
Bernabe, J, there was a contract of sale between the parties. One of the terms and conditions
provided that:

Petitioners shall, within ninety (90) days from the signing of the
subject contract, cause the completion of the transfer of registration of title
of the property subject of [the subject contract], from Edilberta N. Santos to
their names, at petitioners’ own expense. Failure on the part of petitioners
to undertake the foregoing within the prescribed period shall automatically
authorize respondents to undertake the same in behalf of petitioners and
charge the costs incidental to the monthly amortizations upon due date.
There was failure to comply, hence it was contended that rescission due to
substantial breach is the proper remedy.

The SC ruled otherwise and

Held: For a contracting party to be entitled to rescission (or resolution) in accordance with
Article 1191 of the Civil Code, the other contracting party must be in substantial breach of
the terms and conditions of their contract. A substantial breach of a contract, unlike slight and
casual breaches thereof, is a fundamental breach that defeats the object of the parties in entering
into an agreement. (Maglasang v. Northwestern University, Inc., G.R. No. 188986, March
20, 2013, 694 SCRA 128) Here, it cannot be said that petitioners’ failure to undertake their

222
The Bedan Review

obligation defeated the object of the parties in entering into the subject contract, considering
that the same paragraph provides respondents contractual recourse in the event of petitioners’
non-performance of the aforesaid obligation, that is, to cause such transfer themselves in behalf
and at the expense of petitioners.

Indubitably, there is no substantial breach on the part of petitioners that would
necessitate a rescission (or resolution) of the subject contract.

In reciprocal obligations, either party may rescind – or more appropriately, resolve


– the contract upon the other party’s substantial breach of the obligation/s he had assumed
thereunder. (Golden Valley Exploration, Inc. v. Pinkian Mining Company, G.R. No. 190080,
June 11, 2014, 726 SCRA 259, 265) This is expressly provided for in Article 1191 of the Civil
Code.
“More accurately referred to as resolution, the right of rescission under Article 1191 is
predicated on a breach of faith that violates the reciprocity between the parties to the contract.
This retaliatory remedy is given to the contracting party who suffers the injurious breach on
the premise that it is ‘unjust that a party be held bound to fulfill his promises when the other
violates his.’” Note that the rescission (or resolution) of a contract will not be permitted for
a slight or casual breach, but only for such substantial and fundamental violations as would
defeat the very object of the parties in making the agreement. (EDS Manufacturing, Inc. v.
Healthcheck International, Inc., G.R. No. 162802, October 9, 2013, 707 SCRA 133, 141)
Ultimately, the question of whether a breach of contract is substantial depends upon the
attending circumstances. (Maglasang v. Northwestern University, Inc., G.R. No. 188986,
March 20, 2013, 694 SCRA 128, 136)

Rescission; cause of action.


In ASB Realty Corp. v. Ortigas & Co., Ltd. Partnership, G.R. No. 202947, December
9, 2015, Bersamin, J, a deed of sale over a property was entered into between Ortigas and
Amethyst Pearl Corp. with the condition that the latter would construct a building thereon
within four (4) years from December 31, 1991. In the meantime, Amethyst assigned the
property to ASB with knowledge of Ortigas, and with knowledge of ASB of the annotations
but without express or implied assumption of the obligations to construct the building. Due
to the failure of Amethyst to construct the building, Ortigas filed a complaint for specific
performance against ASB. Is ASB liable considering its knowledge of the covenants that are
annotated at the back of the title? Ruling that it is not, the SC

Held: By acquiring the parcel of land with notice of the covenants contained in the Deed of
Sale between the vendor (Ortigas) and the vendee (Amethyst), the petitioner bound itself to
acknowledge and respect the encumbrance. Even so, the petitioner did not step into the shoes
of Amethyst as a party in the Deed of Sale. Thus, the annotation of the covenants contained
in the Deed of Sale did not give rise to a liability on the part of the petitioner as the purchaser/
successor-in-interest without its express assumption of the duties or obligations subject of the
annotation. The annotation was only the notice to the purchaser/successor-in-interest of the
burden, claim or lien subject of the annotation.

In a similar case, Garcia v. Villar, G.R. No. 158891, June 27, 2012, 675 SCRA 80, 92-
93, the SC ruled that the sale or transfer of the mortgaged property cannot affect or release the

223
The Bedan Review

mortgage; thus the purchaser or transferee is necessarily bound to acknowledge and respect
the encumbrance.

However, Villar, in buying the subject property with notice that it was mortgaged, only
undertook to pay such mortgage or allow the subject property to be sold upon failure of the
mortgage creditor to obtain payment from the principal debtor once the debt matures. Villar
did not obligate herself to replace the debtor in the principal obligation, and could not do so
in law without the creditors consent. Article 1293 of the Civil Code provides:

Art. 1293. Novation which consists in substituting a new debtor in the place
of the original one, may be made even without the knowledge or against the
will of the latter, but not without the consent of the creditor. Payment by the
new debtor gives him the rights mentioned in articles 1236 and 1237.

Therefore, the obligation to pay the mortgage indebtedness remains with the original
debtors.

To be clear, contractual obligations, unlike contractual rights or benefits, are generally


not assignable. But there are recognized means by which obligations may be transferred, such
as by sub-contract and novation. In this case, the substitution of the petitioner in the place of
Amethyst did not result in the novation of the Deed of Sale. To start with, it does not appear
from the records that the consent of Ortigas to the substitution had been obtained despite
its essentiality to the novation. Secondly, the petitioner did not expressly assume Amethyst’s
obligations under the Deed of Sale, whether through the Deed of Assignment in Liquidation
or another document. And, thirdly, the consent of the new obligor (i.e., the petitioner), which
was as essential to the novation as that of the obligee (i.e., Ortigas), was not obtained.

Rescission, not proper.


Is rescission the proper remedy for Ortigas to recover the subject property from the
petitioner? The SC said, No.
The Civil Code uses rescission in two different contexts, namely: (1) rescission on
account of breach of contract under Article 1191; and (2) rescission by reason of lesion or
economic prejudice under Article 1381. Cogently explaining the differences between the
contexts of rescission in his concurring opinion in Universal Food Corp. v. Court of Appeals,
L-29155, May 13, 1970, 33 SCRA 1, 22-23, the eminent Justice J.B.L. Reyes observed:

x x x The rescission on account of breach of stipulations is not predicated


on injury to economic interests of the party plaintiff but on the breach of
faith by the defendant, that violates the reciprocity between the parties. It is
not a subsidiary action, and Article 1191 may be scanned without disclosing
anywhere that the action for rescission thereunder is subordinated to
anything; other than the culpable breach of his obligations by the defendant.
This rescission is in principal action retaliatory in character, it being unjust
that a party be held bound to fulfill his promises when the other violates
his, as expressed in the old Latin aphorism: “Non servanti fidem, non est
fides servanda.” Hence, the reparation of damages for the breach is purely
secondary.

On the contrary, in the rescission by reason of lesion or economic prejudice,


the cause of action is subordinated to the existence of that prejudice, because
it is the raison d’etre as well as the measure of the right to rescind. Hence,

224
The Bedan Review

where the defendant makes good the damages caused, the action cannot be
maintained or continued, as expressly provided in Articles 1383 and 1384.
But the operation of these two articles is limited to the cases of rescission for
lesion enumerated in Article 1381 of the Civil Code of the Philippines, and
does not apply to cases under Article 1191.

Ortigas’ complaint was predicated on Article 1191 of the Civil Code.

Rescission under Article 1191 of the Civil Code is proper if one of the parties to
the contract commits a substantial breach of its provisions. It abrogates the contract from its
inception and requires the mutual restitution of the benefits received; (Supercars Management
& Development Corporation v. Flores, G.R. No. 148173, December 10, 2004, 446 SCRA
34, 43) hence, it can be carried out only when the party who demands rescission can return
whatever he may be obliged to restore.

Considering the foregoing, Ortigas did not have a cause of action against the petitioner
for the rescission of the Deed of Sale. Under Section 2, Rule 2 of the Rules of Court, a cause of
action is the act or omission by which a party violates a right of another. The essential elements
of a cause of action are: (1) a right in favor of the plaintiff by whatever means and under
whatever law it arises or is created; (2) an obligation on the part of the defendant not to violate
such right; and (3) an act or omission on the part of the defendant in violation of the right of
the plaintiff or constituting a breach of the obligation of the defendant to the plaintiff for which
the latter may maintain an action for recovery of damages or other relief. It is only upon the
occurrence of the last element that the cause of action arises, giving the plaintiff the right to file
an action in court for the recovery of damages or other relief. (Fluor Daniel, Inc.-Philippines
v. E.B. Villarosa & Partners Co., Ltd., G.r. No. 159648, July 27, 2007, 528 SCRA 321, 327).

The second and third elements were absent herein. The petitioner was not privy to
the Deed of Sale because it was not the party obliged thereon. Not having come under the
duty not to violate any covenant in the Deed of Sale when it purchased the subject property
despite the annotation on the title, its failure to comply with the covenants in the Deed of Sale
did not constitute a breach of contract that gave rise to Ortigas’ right of rescission. It was rather
Amethyst that defaulted on the covenants under the Deed of Sale; hence, the action to enforce
the provisions of the contract or to rescind the contract should be against Amethyst. In other
words, rescission could not anymore take place against the petitioner once the subject property
legally came into the juridical possession of the petitioner, who was a third party to the Deed
of Sale. (Art. 1385, NCC)

Application of payment; debtor has the right; effect if he does not exercise.
The right to make application of payment is a right of the debtor which is merely
directory in nature and must be promptly exercised, lest, such right passes to the creditor. Such
is the pronouncement of the SC in Sps. Tan, etc. v. China Banking Corp., G.R. No. 200299,
August 17, 2016, Perez, J, where after the bank foreclosed the mortgages over the properties
which were used to secure the payment of obligations contracted by the debtor, the debtor
failed to manifest its preference as to which among the obligations that were due the proceeds
of the sale should be applied. Hence, the bank made the application of payment, by applying
the proceeds of the sale to the interest first and then to the principal. Expounding on the rule,
the SC said that

225
The Bedan Review

Held: Obligations are extinguished, among others, by payment or performance. (Go Cinco, et
al. v. Court of Appeals, et al., 618 Phil. 104, 112 [2009]) Under Article 1232 of the Civil Code,
payment means not only the delivery of money but also the performance, in any other manner,
of an obligation. Article 1233 of the Civil Code states that a debt shall not be understood to
have been paid unless the thing or service in which the obligation consists has been completely
delivered or rendered, as the case may be. In contracts of loan, the debtor is expected to
deliver the sum of money due the creditor. These provisions must be read in relation with the
other rules on payment under the Civil Code, such as the application of payment, to wit:

Art. 1252. He who has various debts of the same kind in favor of one and
the same creditor, may declare at the time of making the payment, to which
of them the same must be applied. Unless the parties so stipulate, or when
the application of payment is made by the party for whose benefit the term
has been constituted, application shall not be made as to debts which are
not yet due.
If the debtor accepts from the creditor a receipt in which an
application of the payment is made, the former cannot complain of the
same, unless there is a cause for invalidating the contract.

In Premiere Development Bank v .. Central Surety & Insurance Company Inc., 598
Phil. 827, 844-845 [2009], it was held that the right of the debtor to apply payment is merely
directory in nature and must be promptly exercised, lest, such right passes to the creditor, viz:

Article 1252 gives the right to the debtor to choose to which


of several obligations to apply a particular payment that he tenders to the
creditor. But likewise granted in the same provision is the right of the creditor
to apply such payment in case the debtor fails to direct its application.
This is obvious in Art. 1252, par. 2, viz.: ‘If the debtor accepts from the
creditor a receipt in which an application of payment is made, the former
cannot complain of the same.’ It is the directory nature of this right and the
subsidiary right of the creditor to apply payments when the debtor does not
elect to do so that make this right, like any other right, waivable.

Rights may be waived, unless the waiver is contrary to law, public


order, public policy, morals or good customs, or prejudicial to a third person
with a right recognized by law.

A debtor, in making a voluntary payment, may at the time of


payment direct an application of it to whatever account he chooses, unless
he has assigned or waived that right. If the debtor does not do so, the right
passes to the creditor, who may make such application as he chooses. But
if neither party has exercised its option, the court will apply the payment
according to the justice and equity of the case, taking into consideration all
its circumstances.”

In the event that the debtor failed to exercise the right to elect, the creditor may choose
to which among the debts the payment is applied as in the case at bar. It is noteworthy that
after the sale of the foreclosed properties at the public auction, the debtor failed to manifest
its preference as to which among the obligations that were all due the proceeds of the sale
should be applied. Its silence can be construed as acquiescence to China Bank’s application
of the payment first to the interest and penalties and the remainder to the principal which is
sanctioned by Article 1253 of the New Civil Code.

226
The Bedan Review

SALES

Bank as mortgagee should exercise utmost diligence in inspecting property.


In LBP v. Belle Corp., G.R. No. 205271, September 2, 2015, Peralta, J, a real
property was mortgaged with the bank. After verification, it found that there was an access
road traversing the same leading to Tagaytay Highland Golf Course but it did not inquire into
the same, instead, it disregarded such suspicious, provoking its presence. Ruling that the bank
is a mortgagee in bad faith, the SC

Held: Where the mortgagee acted with haste in granting the loan, and did not ascertain the
ownership of the land being mortgaged it cannot be considered an innocent mortgagee.
(Arguelles v. Malarayat Rural Bank, Inc., G.R. No. 200468, March 19, 2014, 719 SCRA 563)

When the purchaser or the mortgagee is a bank, the rule on innocent purchasers
or mortgagees for value is applied more strictly. (Heirs of Gregorio Lopez v. Development
Bank of the Philippines, G.R. No. 193551, November 19, 2014) Being in the business of
extending loans secured by real estate mortgage, banks are presumed to be familiar with the
rules on land registration. (Erasusta, Jr. v. Court of Appeals, 527 Phil. 639, 652 [2006]) Since
the banking business is impressed with public interest, they are expected to be more cautious,
to exercise a higher degree of diligence, care and prudence, than private individuals in their
dealings, even those involving registered lands. (Heirs of Gregorio Lopez v. Development
Bank of the Philippines, G.R. No. 193551, November 19, 2014; Arguelles v. Malarayat Rural
Bank, Inc., supra note 46, at 573; and PNB v. Corpuz, 626 Phil. 410, 413 [2010]) Banks may
not simply rely on the face of the certificate of title. (Heirs of Gregorio Lopez v. Development
Bank of the Philippines, G.R. No. 193551, November 19, 2014) Hence, they cannot assume
that, simply because the title offered as security is on its face free of any encumbrances or lien,
they are relieved of the responsibility of taking further steps to verify the title and inspect the
properties to be mortgaged. (Land Bank of the Philippines v. Poblete, supra) As expected,
the ascertainment of the status or condition of a property offered to it as security for a loan
must be a standard and indispensable part of a bank’s operations. (Philippine Amanah Bank
(now Al-Amanah Islamic Investment Bank of the Philippines, also known as Islamic Bank) v.
Contreras, G.R. No. 173168, September 29, 2014, 736 SCRA 567, 580) It is of judicial notice
that the standard practice for banks before approving a loan is to send its representatives to the
property offered as collateral to assess its actual condition, verify the genuineness of the title,
and investigate who is/are its real owner/s and actual possessors. (Land Bank of the Philippines
v. Poblete, supra; Alano v. Planter’s Development Bank, 667 Phil. 81, 89-90 [2011]; Philippine
National Bank v. Corpuz, 626 Phil. 410, 413 [2010]; Erasusta, Jr. v. Court of Appeals, 527
Phil. 639, 651 [2006]; and PNB v. Heirs of Militar, 504 Phil. 634, 644 [2005])

Mirror doctrine applies in mortgages.


A person who deliberately ignores a significant fact that could create suspicion in an
otherwise reasonable person is not a mortgagee in good faith. A mortgagee cannot close his
eyes to facts which should put a reasonable man on his guard and claim that he acted in good
faith under the belief that there was no defect in the title of the mortgagor. His mere refusal to
believe that such defect exists or the willful closing of his eyes to the possibility of the existence
of a defect in the mortgagor’s title will not make him an innocent mortgagee for value if it
afterwards develops that the title was in fact defective, and it appears that he had such notice

227
The Bedan Review

of the defect as would have led to its discovery had he acted with that measure of precaution
which may reasonably be required of a prudent man in a like situation.

Void title can be the root of a valid title if transferred to innocent purchaser for value.
In Tolentino, et al. v. Sps. Latagan, et al., G.R. No.179874, June 22, 2015, Peralta, J,
the SC once again expounded on the effect of a forged deed which effected the transfer of a
real property and whether the purchaser of the property is a buyer in good faith.

Citing Rufloe v. Burgos, G.R. No. 143573, January 30, 2009, the Court held that a
forged deed of sale is null and void and conveys no title, for it is a well-settled principle that no
one can give what one does not have; nemo dat quod non habet. Once can sell only what one
owns or is authorized to sell, and the buyer can acquire no more right than what the seller can
transfer legally. (Consolidated Rural Bank, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 132161, January
17, 2005, 448 SCRA 347, 363). Due to the forged Deed of Absolute Sale the buyer acquired
no right over the subject property which he could convey to his daughter. All the transactions
subsequent to the falsified sale between him and his daughter are likewise void.
However, it has also been consistently ruled that a forged or fraudulent document
may become the root of a valid title, if the property has already been transferred from the
name of the owner to that of the forger, (Lim v. Chuatoco, G.R. No. 161861, March 11, 2005,
453 SCRA 308), and then to that of an innocent purchaser for value. (Camper Realty Corp.
v. Pajo-Reyes, et al., 646 Phil. 689 [2010]; Rufloe v. Burgos, supra.; citing Cayana v. Court of
Appeals, G.R. No. 125607, March 18, 2004, 426 SCRA 10, 22). This doctrine emphasizes
that a person who deals with registered property in good faith will acquire good title from a
forger and be absolutely protected by a Torrens title. This is because a prospective buyer of
a property registered under the Torrens system need not go beyond the title, especially when
she has not notice of any badge of fraud or defect that would place her on guard. In view of
such doctrine, the Court now resolves the second issue of whether or not Maria is an innocent
purchaser for value.

Non-payment of price or consideration; effect.


It was contended that the daughter testified that she did not pay her father the
price stated in the contract of sale, hence, the contract is simulated, thus, it void for lack of
consideration.

Brushing aside such contention, the SC


Held: As to the lack of consideration for the second deed of sale, it is presumed that a written
contract is for a valuable consideration. (Rules of Court, Rule 131). Thus, the execution of a
deed purporting to convey ownership of a realty is in itself prima facie evidence of the existence
of a valuable consideration and the party alleging lack of consideration has the burden of
proving such allegation. (Ong v. Ong, G.R. No. L-67888, October 8, 1985, citing Caballero, et al. v.
Caballero, et al., C.A. 45 O.G. 2536). Petitioners failed to present clear and convincing evidence to
overturn such disputable presumption.

AGENCY

228
The Bedan Review

SPA necessary if principal authorizes agent to sell real property.


In Florentina Bautista-Spille v. Nicorp Management & Dev. Corp., et al., G.R. No.
214057, October 19, 2015, Mendoza, J, the only evidence adduced to prove that the agent
had authority to sell the principal’s property was a General Power of Attorney which merely
authorized the agent to exercise administration and supervision over the properties of the
principal. It was contended that there was no perfected contract to sell. Is the contention
correct? Why?

Held: Yes. The well-established rule is when a sale of a parcel of land or any interest therein is
through an agent, the authority of the latter shall be in writing, otherwise the sale shall be void.
Articles 1874 and 1878 of the Civil Code explicitly provide:

Art. 1874. When a sale of a piece of land or any interest therein is through
an agent, the authority of the latter shall be in writing; otherwise, the sale
shall be void.
Art. 1878. Special powers of attorney are necessary in the following cases:
(1) xxx
(5) To enter into any contract by which the ownership of an immovable is
transmitted or acquired either gratuitously or for a valuable consideration;

From the foregoing, it is clear that an SPA in the conveyance of real rights over
immovable property is necessary. (Woodchild Holdings, Inc. v. Roxas Electric and
Construction Company, Inc. , 479 Phil. 896, 912 (2004)). In Cosmic Lumber Corporation v.
Court of Appeals, 332 Phil. 948 [1996], the Court enunciated,

When the sale of a piece of land or any interest thereon is through


an agent, the authority of the latter shall be in writing; otherwise, the sale shall
be void. Thus, the authority of an agent to execute a contract for the sale of
real estate must be conferred in writing and must give him specific authority,
either to conduct the general business of the principal or to execute a binding
contract containing terms and conditions which are in the contract he did
execute. A special power of attorney is necessary to enter into any contract
by which the ownership of an immovable is transmitted or acquired either
gratuitously or for a valuable consideration. The express mandate required
by law to enable an appointee of an agency (couched) in general terms to
sell must be one that expressly mentions a sale or that includes a sale as a
necessary ingredient of the act mentioned. For the principal to confer the
right upon an agent to sell real estate, a power of attorney must so express
the powers of the agent in clear and unmistakable language. When there is
any reasonable doubt that the language so used conveys such power, no such
construction shall be given the document.”

Such authority must be conferred in writing and must express the powers of the agent
in clear and unmistakable language in order for the principal to confer the right upon an agent
to sell the real property. (Yoshizaki v. Joy Training Center of Aurora, Inc., G.R. No. 174978,
July 31, 2013, 702 SCRA, 631, 642). It is a general rule that a power of attorney must be
strictly construed, and courts will not infer or presume broad powers from deeds which do not
sufficiently include property or subject under which the agent is to deal. (Woodchild Holdings,
Inc. v. Roxas Electric and Construction Company, Inc., supra note 20, at 913). Thus, when
the authority is couched in general terms, without mentioning any specific power to sell or
mortgage or to do other specific acts of strict dominion, then only acts of administration are
deemed conferred. (Veloso v. Court of Appeals, 329 Phil. 398, 405 (1996)).

229
The Bedan Review


There was no perfected contract to sell. Nowhere in the General Power of Attorney
was the agent granted, expressly or impliedly, any power to sell the subject property or a
portion thereof. The authority expressed in the General Power of Attorney was couched in
very broad terms covering petitioner’s businesses and properties. Time and again, the Court
has stressed that the power of administration does not include acts of disposition, which are
acts of strict ownership. As such, an authority to dispose cannot proceed from an authority to
administer, and vice versa, for the two powers may only be exercised by an agent by following
the provisions on agency of the Civil Code. (Aggabao v. Parulan, 644 Phil. 26, 37 [2010]).

Duty when dealing with agent.


The well-settled rule is that a person dealing with an assumed agent is bound to
ascertain not only the fact of agency but also the nature and extent of the agent’s authority.
(Lintonjua v. Fernandez, 471 Phil. 440, 458 [2004]). The law requires a higher degree of
prudence from one who buys from a person who is not the registered owner. He is expected
to examine all factual circumstances necessary for him to determine if there are any flaws in the
title of the transferor, or in his capacity to transfer the land. (Abad v. Guimba, 503 Phil. 321,
331-332 [2005]). In ascertaining good faith, or the lack of it, which is a question of intention,
courts are necessarily controlled by the evidence as to the conduct and outward acts by which
alone the inward motive may, with safety, be determined. Good faith, or want of it, is not a
visible, tangible fact that can be seen or touched, but rather a state or condition of mind which
can only be judged by actual or fancied token or signs. (Philippine National Bank v. Militar,
526 Phil. 788, 798 [2006]).

QUASI-DELICT

When overtaking another vehicle, allowed only if clearly visible and clear.
In Napoleon Senit v. People, G.R. No. 192914, January 11, 2016, Reyez, J, a bus
suddenly overtook a big truck from the right side of the road, hence, the driver tried to avoid
the accident by swerving to the right towards the shoulder of the road and applied the brakes,
but the bus was moving too fast and could not avoid the collision with the pick-up. The bus
crashed into the right side of the pick-up causing injuries to the passengers and the driver. The
driver was sued for the crime of imprudence resulting in damage to property and injuries. He
was convicted with award of damages. On appeal, the accused contended that it was the driver
of the pick-up who committed a traffic violation and thus, he should be the one blamed for the
incident. Finding no merit to the contention, the Supreme Court
Held: The prosecution sufficiently proved that the bus driven by the petitioner recklessly
drove on the right shoulder of the road and overtook another south-bound ten-wheeler truck
that slowed at the intersection, obviously to give way to another vehicle about to enter the
intersection. It was impossible for him not to notice that the ten-wheeler truck in front and
traveling in the same direction had already slowed down to allow passage of the pick-up, which
was then negotiating a left turn to Aglayan public market. Seeing the ten-wheeler truck slow
down, it was incumbent upon the petitioner to reduce his speed or apply on the brakes of the
bus in order to allow the pick-up to safely make a left turn. Instead, he drove at a speed too
fast for safety, then chose to swerve to the right shoulder of the road and overtake the truck,
entering the intersection and directly smashing into the pick-up. In flagrantly failing to observe

230
The Bedan Review

the necessary precautions to avoid inflicting injury or damage to other persons and things, the
petitioner was recklessly imprudent in operating the bus.

In Dumayag v. People, G.R. No. 172778, November 26, 2012, 686 SCRA 347, the
Court held:

Section 37 of R.A. No. 4136, as amended, mandates all motorists to drive


and operate vehicles on the right side of the road or highway. When
overtaking another, it should be made only if the highway is clearly visible
and is free from oncoming vehicle. Overtaking while approaching a curve in
the highway, where the driver’s view is obstructed, is not allowed. Corollarily,
drivers of automobiles, when overtaking another vehicle, are charged with
a high degree of care and diligence to avoid collision. The obligation rests
upon him to see to it that vehicles coming from the opposite direction are
not taken unaware by his presence on the side of the road upon which they
have the right to pass.

Thus, the petitioner cannot blame the driver of the pick-up for not noticing a fast-
approaching bus, as the cited law provides that the one overtaking on the road has the obligation
to let other cars in the opposite direction now his presence and not the other way around as
the petitioner suggests.

Liability of registered owner of vehicle although not the actual operator; reasons.
In Metro Manila Transit Corp. v. Cuevas, G.R. No. 167797, June 15, 2015, Bersamin,
J, MMTC and Mina’s Transit Corp. entered into an agreement to sell several bus units where
the former retained ownership until certain conditions have been met. In the meantime,
Mina’s Transit operated the same. One of the buses hit and damaged a Honda Motorcycle.
A complaint for damages was filed against MMTC which contended that it is not liable since
the actual operator and employer was Mina’s which likewise contended that it exercised the
diligence of a good father of a family in the selection and supervision of its employees. The trial
court rendered a judgment holding MMTC liable which the SC affirmed and

Held: In view of MMTC’s admission in its pleadings that it had remained the registered owner
of the bus at the time of the incident, it could not escape liability for the personal injuries
and property damage suffered by the another. This is because of the registered-owner rule,
whereby the registered owner of the motor vehicle involved in a vehicular accident could be
held liable for the consequences. The registered-owner rule has remained good law in this
jurisdiction considering its impeccable and timeless rationale, as enunciated in the 1957 ruling
in Erezo, et al. v. Jepte, 102 Phil. 103, 108-109 [1975] where the Court pronounced:

Registration is required not to make said registration the operative act by


which ownership in vehicles is transferred, as in land registration cases,
because the administrative proceeding of registration does not bear any
essential relation to the contract of sale between the parties (Chinchilla vs.
Rafael and Verdaguer, 39 Phil. 888), but to permit the use and operation
of the vehicle upon any public highway (section 5 [a], Act No. 3992, as
amended.) The main aim of motor vehicle registration is to identify the
owner so that if any accident happens, or that any damage or injury is caused
by the vehicle on the public highways, responsibility therefor can be fixed
on a definite individual, the registered owner. Instances are numerous
where vehicles running on public highways caused accidents or injuries to
pedestrians or other vehicles without positive identification of the owner

231
The Bedan Review

or drivers, or with very scant means of identification. It is to forestall these


circumstances, so inconvenient or prejudicial to the public, that the motor
vehicle registration is primarily ordained, in the interest of the determination
of persons responsible for damages or injuries caused on public highways.

“One of the principal purposes of motor vehicles legislation


is identification of the vehicle and of the operator, in case of
accident; and another is that the knowledge that means of
detection are always available may act as a deterrent from
lax observance of the law and of the rules of conservative
and safe operation. Whatever purpose there may be in these
statutes, it is subordinate at the last to the primary purpose
of rendering it certain that the violator of the law or of the
rules of safety shall not escape because of lack of means to
discover him.’ The purpose of the statute is thwarted, and the
displayed number becomes a ‘snare and delusion,’ if courts
would entertain such defenses as that put forward by appellee
in this case. No responsible person or corporation could be
held liable for the most outrageous acts of negligence, if they
should be allowed to place a ‘middleman’ between them and
the public, and escape liability by the manner in which they
recompense their servants.” (King vs. Brenham Automobile
Co., 145 S.W. 278, 279.)
Indeed, MMTC could not evade liability by passing the buck to Mina’s Transit. The
stipulation in the agreement to sell did not bind third parties, who were expected to simply rely
on the data contained in the registration certificate of the erring bus.

Remedy of registered owner.


Although the registered-owner rule might seem to be unjust towards MMTC, the law did not
leave it without any remedy or recourse. According to Filcar Transport Services v. Espinas,
MMTC could recover from Mina’s Transit, the actual employer of the negligent driver, under
the principle of unjust enrichment, by means of a cross-claim seeking reimbursement of all
the amounts that it could be required to pay as damages arising from the driver’s negligence. A
cross-claim is a claim by one party against a co-party arising out of the transaction or occurrence
that is the subject matter either of the original action or of a counterclaim therein, and may
include a claim that the party against whom it is asserted is or may be liable to the cross-
claimant for all or part of a claim asserted in the action against the cross-claimant.

Elements of medical malpractice; when doctrine of res ipsa loquitur applied.


In Nilo Rosit v. Davao Doctors Hospital, et al., G.R. No. 210445, December 7, 2015,
Velasco, J, Rosit met an accident resulting in a fracture of his jaw. A doctor conducted the
operation with the use of metal plate fastened to the jaw with metal screws to immobilize the
mandible which required the smallest screws available. As there were no available smallest
screws at that time, the doctor cut the screws to make them smaller although he knew that
there were available screws in Manila, but did not inform the patient. The screws touched his
molar which needed another operation as he was suffering from pain and could hardly open
his mouth. The operation was successful, hence, he asked for a refund of his expenses, but the
doctor failed to do so, hence, he filed a complaint for damages where the trial court held the
doctor liable applying the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur holding that the need for expert medical
testimony may be dispensed with because the injury itself provides the proof of negligence.

232
The Bedan Review

The CA reversed on appeal ruling that there was a need for an expert medical testimony. In
reversing the CA, the Supreme Court

Held: There is no need for expert medical testimony.

In Flores v. Pineda, G.R. No. 158996, November 14, 2008, 571 SCRA 83, 91-92, the
Court explained the concept of a medical negligence case and the elements required for its
prosecution, viz:

A medical negligence case is a type of claim to redress a wrong


committed by a medical professional, that has caused bodily harm to or the
death of a patient. There arc four elements involved in a medical negligence
case, namely: duty, breach, injury, and proximate causation.
Duty refers to the standard of behavior which imposes restrictions
on one’s conduct. The standard in turn refers to the amount of competence
associated with the proper discharge of the profession. A physician is
expected to use at least the same level of care that any other reasonably
competent doctor would use under the same circumstances. Breach of duty
occurs when the physician fails to comply with these professional standards.
If injury results to the patient as a result of this breach, the physician is
answerable for negligence.
An expert witness is not necessary as the res ipsa loquitur doctrine is applicable
To establish medical negligence, an expert testimony is generally required to define
the standard of behavior by which the court may determine whether the physician has properly
performed the requisite duty toward the patient. This is so considering that the requisite degree
of skill and care in the treatment of a patient is usually a matter of expert opinion.

Solidum v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 192123, March 10, 2014, provides an
exception. There, the Court explained that where the application of the principle of res ipsa
loquitur is warranted, an expert testimony may be dispensed with in medical negligence cases:

Although generally, expert medical testimony is relied upon in


malpractice suits to prove that a physician has done a negligent act or that he
has deviated from the standard medical procedure, when the doctrine of res
ipsa loquitur is availed by the plaintiff, the need for expert medical testimony
is dispensed with because the injury itself provides the proof of negligence.
The reason is that the general rule on the necessity of expert testimony
applies only to such matters clearly within the domain of medical science,
and not to matters that are within the common knowledge of mankind which
may be testified to by anyone familiar with the facts. x x x

Thus, courts of other jurisdictions have applied the doctrine in


the following situations: leaving of a foreign object in the body of the patient
after an operation, injuries sustained on a healthy part of the body which was
not under, or in the area, of treatment, removal of the wrong part of the body
when another part was intended, knocking out a tooth while a patient’s jaw
was under anesthetic for the removal of his tonsils, and loss of an eye while
the patient plaintiff was under the influence of anesthetic, during or following
an operation for appendicitis, among others.

Resort to the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur as an exception to the requirement of


an expert testimony in medical negligence cases may be availed of if the following essential
requisites are satisfied: (1) the accident was of a kind that does not ordinarily occur unless

233
The Bedan Review

someone is negligent; (2) the instrumentality or agency that caused the injury was under the
exclusive control of the person charged; and (3) the injury suffered must not have been due to
any voluntary action or contribution of the person injured.

Li v. Soliman, G.R. No. 165279, June 7, 2011, 651 SCRA 32, 56-59, made the
following disquisition on the relevant Doctrine of Informed Consent in relation to medical
negligence cases, to wit:

The doctrine of informed consent within the context or physician-


patient relationships goes far back into English common law. x x x From
a purely ethical norm, informed consent evolved into a general principle
of law that a physician has a duty to disclose what a reasonably prudent
physician in the medical community in the exercise of reasonable care would
disclose to his patient as to whatever grave risks of injury might he incurred
from a proposed course of treatment, so that a patient, exercising ordinary
care for his own welfare, and faced with a choice of undergoing the proposed
treatment, or alternative treatment, or none at all, may intelligently exercise
his judgment by reasonably balancing the probable risks against the probable
benefits.
xx xx
There are four essential elements a plaintiff must prove in a
malpractice action based upon the doctrine of informed consent: “(l) the
physician had a duty to disclose material risks; (2) he failed to disclose or
inadequately disclosed those risks; (3) as a direct and proximate result of
the failure to disclose, the patient consented to treatment she otherwise
would not have consented to; and (4) plaintiff was injured by the proposed
treatment.” The gravamen in an informed consent case requires the plaintiff
to “point to significant undisclosed information relating to the treatment
which would have altered her decision to undergo it.”

234