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Persons and Family Relations Legal Separation Page |1

THIRD DIVISION opposition, the Pasig RTC granted the motion.6chanrobleslaw


G.R. No. 200072, June 20, 2016
PHILIP YU, Petitioner, v. VIVECA LIM YU, Respondent. On July 1, 2009, the RTC of Pasig City rendered a Decision7 dismissing the
DECISION Petition for Legal Separation in the following
PERALTA, J.: wise:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Before the Court is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the
Rules of Court seeking to reverse and set aside the Decision1 dated From the facts obtaining in this case, the Court finds that the
September 30, 2011 and Resolution2 dated January 5, 2012 of the Court of parties are in pari delicto warranting a denial of this
Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 111414 which granted the petition for the petition. Respondent's illicit relationship with Linda Daet and his repeated
annulment of the Decision3 dated August 20, 2008 of the Regional Trial verbal and physical abuses towards petitioner come within the purview of
Court (RTC), Fourth Judicial Region, Branch 10, Balayan, Batangas. pars. 8 and 1 of Art. 55 of the Family Code of the Philippines whereas
petitioner's unjustifiable abandonment bringing with her their children
The factual antecedents are as follows. without the knowledge and consent of respondent and her assaulting
respondent with a 10-inch knife are those contemplated in pars. 10 and 9 of
Petitioner Philip Yu and respondent Viveca Lim Yu were married on the same code.
November 18, 1984. They had four children and maintained their conjugal
home at Room 1603 Horizon Condominium, Meralco Avenue, Pasig, Metro Notwithstanding the foregoing Court's findings, the same becomes
Manila. In 1993, however, Viveca left the conjugal home with their four moot with the declaration of nullity of the marriage of the parties,
children and filed a Petition for Legal Separation against Philip before the on the ground of the psychological incapacity of petitioner, Viveca
RTC of Pasig City, Branch 261, for repeated physical violence, grossly Yu, pursuant to the Decision of Branch 10, RTC of Balayan,
abusive conduct against her and the children, sexual infidelity, and attempt Batangas, which attained its finality on October 13, 2008. Since the
on her life. She prayed for permanent custody over the children, support, marriage of the parties was declared a nullity there is, therefore, no legal
and the dissolution and distribution of their conjugal partnership valued at basis to issue a decree of legal separation to the spouses whose marriage
approximately P5,000,000.00.4chanrobleslaw has already been declared of no force and effect.

Philip denied the accusations against him claiming that it was Viveca who WHEREFORE, premises considered, this petition should be, as it is hereby
actually attacked him a few times. He narrated that his marriage to Viveca DISMISSED, for lack of merit.
was arranged according to the Chinese tradition and that it was much later
when he discovered Viveca's excessively jealous, cynical, and insecure SO ORDERED.8chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
behaviour. He countered that since she abandoned the family home, taking
Claiming to be completely unaware of the proceedings before the RTC of
their four children away, she was not entitled to support. She was, likewise,
Balayan, Batangas, nullifying her marriage with Philip on the ground of her
unqualified to become the administrator of their conjugal funds, which had
psychological incapacity, Viveca filed a Petition for Annulment of
outstanding obligations. Thus, Philip prayed in his Counterclaim for the
Judgment9 before the CA seeking to annul the Decision dated August 20,
declaration of nullity of their marriage due to Viveca's psychological
2008 of said court. According to Viveca, jurisdiction over her person did not
incapacity, rendering her incapable of complying with her marital
properly vest since she was not duly served with Summons. She alleged that
obligations.5chanrobleslaw
she was deprived of her right to due process when Philip fraudulently
declared that her address upon which she may be duly summoned was still
On April 24, 2007, however, Philip filed a Motion to Withdraw Counterclaim
at their conjugal home, when he clearly knew that she had long left said
for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage revealing that he no longer had the
address for the United States of America. Viveca likewise maintained that
desire to have his marriage declared void. Despite Viveca's fervent
Persons and Family Relations Legal Separation Page |2

had Philip complied with the legal requirements for an effective service of moved for the dismissal of his counterclaim for nullity of marriage
summons by publication, she would have been able to rightly participate in in the Legal Separation case in 2007 as he had by then had the
the proceedings before the Batangas court. sinister motive of filing the Petition for Declaration of Nullity of
Marriage before the court a quo. Private respondent knew that if he
On September 30, 2011, the CA granted Viveca's petition ruling as breathed a word on the filing and pendency of the latter Petition,
follows:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary petitioner would vigorously resist it as revealed by her tenacious
The Petition for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage affecting the personal opposition in the proceedings before the RTC-Pasig.
status of private respondent is in the nature of an action in rem. This is so
because the term "personal status" includes family relations, particularly the The deceitful scheme employed by private respondent deprived
relations between husband and wife. petitioner of her constitutional right to due process which ensued in
her failure to participate in the proceedings before the court a quo.
With this premise in mind, it is beyond cavil that the court a quo was To Our mind, this compelling justification warrants the annulment
justified in resorting to Summons by publication. Petitioner is a nonresident of judgement.10chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
defendant who left the Philippines with her children way back in 1997 and In its Resolution dated January 5, 2012, the CA denied Philip's Motion for
has now been living in the United States of America. The court a quo validly Reconsideration finding no cogent and persuasive reason to revise or reverse
acquired jurisdiction to hear and decide the case given that as adumbrated, its Decision. Hence, this petition invoking the following
in a proceeding in rem, jurisdiction over the person of the defendant is not a grounds:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
prerequisite to confer jurisdiction on the court, provided that the court I.
acquires jurisdiction over the res.
THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED WHEN IT SET ASIDE THE FINAL AND
Still and all, there is more to this case than meets the eye. Private EXECUTORY DECISION OF THE COURT A QUO DESPITE ITS ACCURATE
respondent knew that petitioner left the conjugal home on account FINDINGS THAT THE COURT A QUO PROPERLY ACQUIRED JURISDICTION
of their marital difficulties. She temporarily resided at her parent's house OVER THE ACTION IN REM THROUGH SUMMONS BY PUBLICATION.
in Greenhills, Mandaluyong, Metro Manila. But during the pendency of
the Legal Separation case, she lived in Quezon City. This much was
revealed by private respondent himself in the Amended Answer
with Counterclaim filed in the Legal Separation suit- II.
"10. After abandoning the conjugal abode on 24 August 1993,
petitioner resided at her parent's house in Richbelt Condominium, THE PUBLICATION OF THE ORDER OF THE COURT A QUO, SUMMONS, THE
Annapolis Street, Greenhills, Mandaluyong, Metro Manila, until she COMPLAINT AS WELL AS THE DECISION RENDERED THEREIN IS NOTICE
moved to her present address in October 1993. x x x x TO THE WHOLE WORLD INCLUDING RESPONDENT. RESPONDENT WAS
This knowledge notwithstanding, private respondent declared THEREFORE CONSTRUCTIVELY NOTIFIED OF THE PROCEEDINGS AND WAS
before the court a quo that the "last known address" of petitioner NOT DENIED DUE PROCESS HAVING BEEN DULY NOTIFIED BY
was still her conjugal abode at Unit 1603 Horizon Condominium, PUBLICATION.
Mcralco Avenue, Ortigas, Pasig City. While private respondent knew
that it was well-nigh impossible for petitioner to
receive Summons and other court notices at their former conjugal III.
home, still, he supplied the aforesaid address.
RESPONDENT HAS BEEN DOMICILED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
We cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that private respondent
Persons and Family Relations Legal Separation Page |3

FOR MORE THAN TEN (10) YEARS AND WHOSE ADDRESS IS UNKNOWN TO VIII.
PETITIONER. AS FAR AS PETITIONER IS CONCERNED, UNIT 1603 HORIZON
CONDOMINIUM, MERALCO AVENUE, PASIG CITY IS THE LAST KNOWN
ADDRESS OF RESPONDENT, BEING THE CONJUGAL HOME.
EVEN ASSUMING ARGUENDO THAT THE DEFENSES THAT ARE AVAILABLE
TO RESPONDENT ARE THOSE THAT WERE PRESENTED IN THE LEGAL
IV. SEPARATION CASE THAT WAS DISMISSED BY THE RTC OF PASIG CITY,
SAID GROUNDS ONLY BOLSTER THE FACT THAT THE DECISION DATED
PETITIONER IS CURRENTLY NOT A RESIDENT OF THE CONJUGAL HOME. AUGUST 20, 2008 OF THE RTC OF BALAYAN, BATANGAS, CORRECTLY
NULLIFIED THE MARRIAGE DUE TO RESPONDENT'S PSYCHOLOGICAL
INCAPACITY.
V.

THE OFFICE OF THE SOLICITOR GENERAL AND/OR THE OFFICE OF THE IX.
CITY PROSECUTOR OF BALAYAN, BATANGAS, APPEARED AS COUNSEL FOR THE COURT OF APPEALS DID NOT OBSERVE AND FOLLOW SECTIONS 6
THE STATE AND FULLY PROTECTED THE INTEREST OF THE STATE AND 7 OF RULE 47 OF THE REVISED RULES OF COURT, AS AMENDED.
INCLUDING THE INTEREST OF RESPONDENT. In essence, Philip questions the appellate court's judgment of setting aside
the decision of the Batangas RTC despite its own finding that said court
validly acquired jurisdiction when Summons was duly served on Viveca by
publication. He maintains that since service of summons was properly
VI. accomplished by publication thereof in a newspaper of general circulation as
well as its personal service on Viveca at her last known address, it logically
PETITIONER CANNOT BE FAULTED FOR MOVING FOR THE WITHDRAWAL follows that any and all resolutions rendered by the trial court are valid and
OF HIS COUNTER-CLAIM FOR DECLARATION OF NULLITY OF MARRIAGE, binding on the parties. Thus, the decision of the Batangas court which
WHICH IS ALLOWED BY SECTION 2, RULE 17 OF THE NEW RULES OF acquired jurisdiction over the res should be immutable as it is already final
COURT AS AMENDED, AND SAID WITHDRAWAL WAS EVEN APPROVED BY and executory.11chanrobleslaw
THE RTC OF PASIG.
Philip also questions the appellate court's choice of supporting jurisprudence
alleging them to be inapplicable to the instant case. He asserts that the
VII. teachings in Spouses Belen v. Judge Chavez,12Biaco v. Philippine Countryside
Rural Bank,13 and Ancheta v. Judge Ancheta14 fail to be instructive simply
THE PETITION FOR ANNULMENT OF DECISION FILED BEFORE THE COURT because they involve substituted service of summons whereas the mode of
OF APPEALS WAS DEFECTIVE AND NOT IN ACCORDANCE WITH RULE 47 OF service in this case is by publication. Philip further asserts that said
THE NEW RULES OF COURT, AS AMENDED, FOR HAVING FAILED TO STATE jurisprudential doctrines even teach us that in proceedings in rem or quasi in
AND ALLEGE THE DEFENSES THAT RESPONDENT HAS AGAINST rem, such as the case at hand, jurisdiction over the defendant is not a
PETITIONER. prerequisite to confer jurisdiction on the court for as long as the court
acquires jurisdiction over the res. Thus, summons must be served upon the
defendant not for the purpose of vesting the court with jurisdiction but
Persons and Family Relations Legal Separation Page |4

merely for satisfying the due process requirements, which in this case was was prevented from presenting fully his side of the case by fraud or
duly complied with when Viveca, who is a non-resident, not found in the deception practiced on him by the prevailing party.20 Fraud is extrinsic where
Philippines, was served with summons by publication.15chanrobleslaw the unsuccessful party had been prevented from exhibiting fully his case, by
means of fraud or deception, as by keeping him away from court, or by a
Hence, Philip faults the CA in finding that due to his bad faith in maliciously false promise of a compromise; or where the defendant never had
supplying the Batangas court with an erroneous address wherein Viveca may knowledge of the suit, being kept in ignorance by the acts of the plaintiff; or
supposedly be summoned, she was deprived of her constitutional right to where an attorney fraudulently or without authority assumes to represent a
due process, warranting the annulment of the subject judgment. According party and connives at his defeat; these and similar cases which show that
to him, as far as he was concerned, Viveca's last known address was their there has never been a real contest in the trial or hearing of the case are
conjugal home. This is because the addresses supplied in the proceedings of reasons for which a new suit may be sustained to set aside and annul the
the Legal Separation case before the RTC of Pasig City were merely former judgment and open the case for a new and fair hearing. Ultimately,
temporary in nature.16 Philip recalled that when Viveca left their conjugal the overriding consideration is that the fraudulent scheme of the prevailing
abode on August 24, 1993, she temporarily stayed at her parents' house in litigant prevented a party from having his day in court.21chanrobleslaw
Greenhills, Mandaluyong, for less than two months then, thereafter, stayed
at her temporary residence at Domingo Street, Cubao, Quezon City, in In the present case, We find that Viveca was completely prevented from
October 1993. Considering that said addresses were merely temporary, Philip participating in the Declaration of Nullity case because of the fraudulent
claims that he should not be faulted for using their conjugal abode as scheme employed by Philip insofar as the service of summons is concerned.
Viveca's "last known address." According to him, what is mandated by the
rules as the defendant's "last known address" is his or her last Summons is a writ by which the defendant is notified of the action brought
known permanent address, and certainly not one of temporary against him. Through its service, the court acquires jurisdiction over his
nature.17chanrobleslaw person.22 As a rule, Philippine courts cannot try any case against a defendant
who does not reside and is not found in the Philippines because of the
The petition is bereft of merit. impossibility of acquiring jurisdiction over his person unless he voluntarily
appears in court. Section 15, Rule 14 of the Rules of Court, however,
Annulment of judgment is a recourse equitable in character, allowed only in enumerates the actions in rem or quasi in rem when Philippine courts have
exceptional cases as where there is no available or other adequate remedy. jurisdiction to hear and decide the case because they have jurisdiction over
Section 2, Rule 47 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure provides that the res, and jurisdiction over the person of the non-resident defendant is not
judgments may be annulled only on grounds of extrinsic fraud and lack of essential.23 Said section provides:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
jurisdiction or denial of due process.18 The objective of the remedy of Section 15. Extraterritorial service. — When the defendant does not
annulment of judgment or final order is to undo or set aside the judgment or reside and is not found in the Philippines, and the action affects the
final order, and thereby grant to the petitioner an opportunity to prosecute personal status of the plaintiffor relates to, or the subject of which is,
his cause or to ventilate his defense. If the ground relied upon is lack of property within the Philippines, in which the defendant has or claims a lien or
jurisdiction, the entire proceedings are set aside without prejudice to the interest, actual or contingent, or in which the relief demanded consists,
original action being refiled in the proper court. If the judgment or final order wholly or in part, in excluding the defendant from any interest therein, or the
or resolution is set aside on the ground of extrinsic fraud, the CA may on property of the defendant has been attached within the Philippines, service
motion order the trial court to try the case as if a timely motion for new trial may, by leave of court, be effected out of the Philippines by personal service
had been granted therein.19chanrobleslaw as under section 6; or by publication in a newspaper of general
circulation in such places and for such time as the court may order,
Extrinsic fraud exists when there is a fraudulent act committed by the in which case a copy of the summons and order of the court shall be
prevailing party outside of the trial of the case, whereby the defeated party sent by registered mail to the last known address of the defendant,
Persons and Family Relations Legal Separation Page |5

or in any other manner the court may deem sufficient. Any order
granting such leave shall specify a reasonable time, which shall not be less Philip fervently asserts the propriety of their conjugal home address as
than sixty (60) days after notice, within which the defendant must answer. Viveca's "last known address," well within the true meaning and intent of the
(17a) rules. But as borne by the records of the instant case, not only is he
Thus, under Section 15 of Rule 14, a defendant who is a non-resident and is mistaken, factual considerations herein belie his claims of good faith. First
not found in the country may be served with summons by extraterritorial and foremost, it is undisputed that the parties herein are also parties in a
service in four instances: (1) when the action affects the personal status of Legal Separation case, previously filed by Viveca way back in 1994. There
the plaintiff; (2) when the action relates to, or the subject of which is was, in said case, a disclosure of their basic personal information, which
property within the Philippines, in which the defendant has or claims a lien or customarily includes their respective local addresses, wherein they may be
interest, actual or contingent; (3) when the relief demanded consists, wholly served with court papers. In fact, as pointed out by the appellate court,
or in part, in excluding the defendant from any interest in property located in Philip knew that Viveca had already left their conjugal home and moved to a
the Philippines; or (4) when the property of the defendant has been attached different local address for purposes of the pendency of the Legal Separation
within the Philippines.24chanrobleslaw case, as shown by his stipulation in his Amended Answer with Counterclaim
that "after abandoning the conjugal abode on 24 August 1993, petitioner
In these instances, extraterritorial service of summons may be effected resided at her parent's house in Richbelt Condominium, Annapolis Street,
under any of three modes: (1) by personal service out of the country, with Greenhills, Mandaluyong, Metro Manila, until she moved to her present
leave of court; (2) by publication and sending a copy of the summons and address in October 1993." Thus, Philip cannot be allowed to feign ignorance
order of the court by registered mail to the defendant's last known address, to the fact that Viveca had already intentionally abandoned their conjugal
also with leave of court; or (3) by any other means the judge may consider abode and that of all the addresses that Viveca resided at, their conjugal
sufficient.25cralawredchanrobleslaw home in Horizon Condominium is her least recent address. In fact, it may
very well be considered as the address she is least likely to be found
In the present case, it is undisputed that when Philip filed the Petition for considering the circumstances in which she left the same. Note that from the
Declaration of Nullity of Marriage, an action which affects his personal status, very beginning of the Legal Separation case in 1994, all the way up until the
Viveca was already residing in the United States of America. Thus, promulgation by the Pasig RTC of its decision thereon in 2009, there is no
extraterritorial service of summons under Section 15, Rule 14 of the Rules of showing that Viveca had ever received any document in relation to said case,
Court is the proper mode by which summons may be served on Viveca, a nor is there any proof that Philip had ever sent any pertinent file to Viveca,
non-resident defendant who is not found in the Philippines. In compliance at the conjugal address. There is, therefore, no reason for Philip to assume,
therewith, Philip claims that Viveca was duly served summons because: (1) in good faith, that said address is in truth and in fact Viveca's "last known
copies of the summons, complaint, and order of the Batangas court were address" at which she may receive summons. His contention that the rules
published in Tempo, a newspaper of general circulation on March 27, 2008 require the defendant's "last known address" to be of a permanent, and not
and April 3, 2008;26 and (2) the sheriff served copies of the summons, of a temporary nature, has no basis in law or jurisprudence.
complaint, and order of the Batangas court on Viveca at their conjugal home
in Pasig City, her last known address.27 Thus, he contends that the second In addition, the Court is curious as to why Philip filed the instant Petition for
mode of extraterritorial service of summons mentioned above - by Declaration of Nullity of Marriage28 before the RTC of Batangas City on
publication and sending a copy of the summons and order of the court by February 15, 2008 when less than a year before filing the same, he had
registered mail to the defendant's last known address - was sufficiently motioned the RTC of Pasig City on April 24, 2007 to withdraw his
complied with. The Court finds, however, that such service of summons on counterclaim for the same declaration of nullity of marriage.29 In his petition
their conjugal home address cannot be deemed compliant with the before the Court, Philip explained that he withdrew his counterclaim in the
requirements of the rules and is even tantamount to deception warranting Legal Separation case in his "desire to explore the possibility of having a so-
the annulment of the Batangas court's judgment. called 'universal settlement' of all the pending cases with respondent and her
Persons and Family Relations Legal Separation Page |6

relatives for the sake of his love for his four (4) children."30 Yet, in an the Pasig City RTC had promulgated its decision on the Legal Separation
apparent, direct contravention of this so-called "desire," he filed an identical case. It is clear, therefore, that because of the service of summons at the
action which sought the same nullity of his marriage with Viveca. Thus, while erroneous address, Viveca was effectively prevented from participating in the
there may be no outright admission on Philip's part as to a sinister motive, proceedings thereon.
his inconsistent actions effectively negate his claims of good faith.
In Acance v. Court of Appeals,33 where the extraterritorial service of
It is interesting to note, moreover, that as pointed out by Viveca, Philip does summons on the non-resident, US citizen, defendants therein were held to
not even reside in Batangas, the city of the court wherein he filed his Petition be defective due to the absence of proof that the summons, complaint, and
for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage. In a Certification31issued by Ricardo V. order of the court were duly served at their last known correct address, the
Bautista, Barangay Chairman of Poblacion 1, Calatagan, Batangas, it was Court ruled that the failure to strictly comply correctly with the requirements
categorically stated that "the name Philip Yu is not a resident of Barangay of the rules regarding the mailing of copies of the summons and the order
Poblacion 1, Calatagan, Batangas." Section 4 of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC, for its publication is a fatal defect in the service of summons.34Citing Dulap,
otherwise known as the Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void et al. v. Court of Appeals, et al.,35 it elucidated as
Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages, which took effect on March follows:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
15, 2003, provides:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary It is the duty of the court to require the fullest compliance with all the
Section 4. Venue. - The Petition shall be filed in the Family Court of requirements of the statute permitting service by publication. Where service
the province or city where the petitioner or the respondent has is obtained by publication, the entire proceeding should be closely scrutinized
been residing for at least six months prior to the date of filing. Or in by the courts and a strict compliance with every condition of law should be
the case of non-resident respondent, where he may be found in the exacted. Otherwise great abuses may occur, and the rights of persons and
Philippines, at the election of the petitioner.32chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary property may be made to depend upon the elastic conscience of interested
It is, therefore, evident that not only did Philip contradict his previous Motion parties rather than the enlightened judgment of the court or
to Withdraw his Counterclaim for the Declaration of Nullity of marriage, he judge.36chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
even violated a basic mandate of law so as to be able to file the same action Indeed, due process requires that those with interest to the thing in litigation
before a different court in a city he was not even a resident of. be notified and given an opportunity to defend those interests.37 When
defendants are deprived of such opportunity to duly participate in, and even
Thus, while individually and in isolation, the aforementioned doubtful be informed of, the proceedings, due to a deceitful scheme employed by the
circumstances may not instantly amount to extrinsic fraud, these prevailing litigant, as in this case, there exists a violation of their due process
circumstances, when viewed in conjunction with each other, paint a deceitful rights. Any judgment issued in violation thereof necessarily suffers a fatal
picture which resulted in a violation of Viveca's constitutional right to due infirmity for courts, as guardians of constitutional rights cannot be expected
process. True, the service of summons in this case is not for the purpose of to deny persons their due process rights while at the same time be
vesting the court with jurisdiction, but for the purpose of complying with the considered as acting within their jurisdiction.38 This Court, therefore, deems
requirements of fair play or due process. But because of Philip's employment as proper the annulment of the Batangas court's judgment issued without
of deceptive means in the service of summons on Viveca, said purpose of proper service of summons.
satisfying the due process requirements was never accomplished. To this
Court, when Philip declared before the Batangas court that Viveca's last WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant petition is DENIED. The
known address was still their conjugal home with full and undisputed assailed Decision dated September 30, 2011 and Resolution dated January 5,
knowledge that she had already intentionally abandoned the same and had 2012 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 111414 are AFFIRMED.
even established a more recent, local residence herein evinces a clear lack of
good faith. As a result, Viveca never had knowledge of the filing of the SO ORDERED
Declaration of Nullity of Marriage suit, only finding out about the same when
Persons and Family Relations Legal Separation Page |7

Republic of the Philippines


on this case involving legal separation escalating to questions on dissolution
Supreme Court
Manila and partition of properties.

SECOND DIVISION
The Case
BRIGIDO B. QUIAO, G.R. No 176556
Petitioner,
Present: This case comes before us via Petition for Review
[1]
CARPIO, J., Chairperson, on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. The petitioner seeks that
- versus - BRION, we vacate and set aside the Order[2]dated January 8, 2007 of the Regional
PEREZ,
SERENO, and Trial Court (RTC), Branch 1, Butuan City. In lieu of the said order, we are
REYES, JJ. asked to issue a Resolution defining the net profits subject of the forfeiture
RITA C. QUIAO, KITCHIE C. QUIAO,
LOTIS C. QUIAO, PETCHIE C. as a result of the decree of legal separation in accordance with the provision
QUIAO, represented by their Promulgated: of Article 102(4) of the Family Code, or alternatively, in accordance with the
mother RITA QUIAO, July 4, 2012
Respondents. provisions of Article 176 of the Civil Code.

x-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x
Antecedent Facts

DECISION
On October 26, 2000, herein respondent Rita C. Quiao (Rita) filed a
complaint for legal separation against herein petitioner Brigido B. Quiao
REYES, J.:
(Brigido).[3] Subsequently, the RTC rendered a Decision[4] dated October 10,
2005, the dispositive portion of which provides:
The family is the basic and the most important institution of
society. It is in the family where children are born and molded either to
WHEREFORE, viewed from the foregoing
become useful citizens of the country or troublemakers in the considerations, judgment is hereby rendered declaring the
legal separation of plaintiff Rita C. Quiao and defendant-
community. Thus, we are saddened when parents have to separate and fight
respondent Brigido B. Quiao pursuant to Article 55.
over properties, without regard to the message they send to their
children.Notwithstanding this, we must not shirk from our obligation to rule
Persons and Family Relations Legal Separation Page |8

As such, the herein parties shall be entitled to live He is further ordered to reimburse [respondents] the
separately from each other, but the marriage bond shall not sum of [P]19,000.00 as attorney's fees and litigation
be severed. expenses of [P]5,000.00[.]

Except for Letecia C. Quiao who is of legal age, the SO ORDERED.[5]


three minor children, namely, Kitchie, Lotis and Petchie, all
surnamed Quiao shall remain under the custody of the
plaintiff who is the innocent spouse.
Neither party filed a motion for reconsideration and appeal within
Further, except for the personal and real properties the period provided for under Section 17(a) and (b) of the Rule on Legal
already foreclosed by the RCBC, all the remaining properties,
Separation.[6]
namely:

1. coffee mill in Balongagan, Las Nieves, Agusan


On December 12, 2005, the respondents filed a motion for
del Norte;
2. coffee mill in Durian, Las Nieves, Agusan del execution[7] which the trial court granted in its Order dated December 16,
Norte;
2005, the dispositive portion of which reads:
3. corn mill in Casiklan, Las Nieves, Agusan del
Norte;
4. coffee mill in Esperanza, Agusan del Sur; Wherefore, finding the motion to be well taken, the
5. a parcel of land with an area of 1,200 square same is hereby granted. Let a writ of execution be issued for
meters located in Tungao, Butuan City; the immediate enforcement of the Judgment.
6. a parcel of agricultural land with an area of 5
hectares located in Manila de Bugabos, Butuan City; SO ORDERED.[8]
7. a parcel of land with an area of 84 square
meters located in Tungao, Butuan City;
8. Bashier Bon Factory located in
Subsequently, on February 10, 2006, the RTC issued a Writ of
Tungao, Butuan City;
Execution[9] which reads as follows:
shall be divided equally between herein [respondents] and
[petitioner] subject to the respective legitimes of the NOW THEREFORE, that of the goods and chattels of
children and the payment of the unpaid conjugal liabilities of the [petitioner] BRIGIDO B. QUIAO you cause to be made
[P]45,740.00.
the sums stated in the afore-quoted DECISION [sic],
together with your lawful fees in the service of this Writ, all
[Petitioners] share, however, of the net profits in the Philippine Currency.
earned by the conjugal partnership is forfeited in favor of
the common children.
But if sufficient personal property cannot be found
whereof to satisfy this execution and your lawful fees, then
Persons and Family Relations Legal Separation Page |9

we command you that of the lands and buildings of the said


offending spouse does not have any right to any share of the net profits
[petitioner], you make the said sums in the manner required
by law. You are enjoined to strictly observed Section 9, Rule earned, pursuant to Articles 63, No. (2) and 43, No. (2) of the Family
39, Rule [sic] of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.
Code.[15] The dispositive portion of the Order states:
You are hereby ordered to make a return of the said
proceedings immediately after the judgment has been WHEREFORE, there is no blatant disparity when the
satisfied in part or in full in consonance with Section 14, Rule sheriff intends to forfeit all the remaining properties after
39 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended.[10] deducting the payments of the debts for only separate
properties of the defendant-respondent shall be delivered to
him which he has none.
On July 6, 2006, the writ was partially executed with the petitioner
The Sheriff is herein directed to proceed with the
paying the respondents the amount of P46,870.00, representing the execution of the Decision.
following payments:
IT IS SO ORDERED.[16]

(a) P22,870.00 as petitioner's share of the payment of the conjugal


Not satisfied with the trial court's Order, the petitioner filed a Motion
share;
for Reconsideration[17] on September 8, 2006. Consequently, the RTC issued
(b) P19,000.00 as attorney's fees; and
another Order[18]dated November 8, 2006, holding that although the Decision
(c) P5,000.00 as litigation expenses.[11]
dated October 10, 2005 has become final and executory, it may still consider
the Motion for Clarification because the petitioner simply wanted to clarify
On July 7, 2006, or after more than nine months from the
the meaning of net profit earned.[19] Furthermore, the same Order held:
promulgation of the Decision, the petitioner filed before the RTC a Motion for
Clarification,[12] asking the RTC to define the term Net Profits Earned.
ALL TOLD, the Court Order dated August 31, 2006
is hereby ordered set aside. NET PROFIT EARNED, which is
subject of forfeiture in favor of [the] parties' common
To resolve the petitioner's Motion for Clarification, the RTC issued an
children, is ordered to be computed in accordance [with]
[13]
Order dated August 31, 2006, which held that the phrase NET PROFIT par. 4 of Article 102 of the Family Code.[20]
EARNED denotes the remainder of the properties of the parties after
deducting the separate properties of each [of the] spouse and the
On November 21, 2006, the respondents filed a Motion for
debts.[14] The Order further held that after determining the remainder of the
Reconsideration,[21] praying for the correction and reversal of the Order
properties, it shall be forfeited in favor of the common children because the
dated November 8, 2006. Thereafter, on January 8, 2007,[22] the trial court
Persons and Family Relations L e g a l S e p a r a t i o n P a g e | 10

had changed its ruling again and granted the respondents' Motion for
IV
Reconsideration whereby the Order dated November 8, 2006 was set aside
WHAT PROPERTIES SHALL BE INCLUDED IN THE
to reinstate the Order dated August 31, 2006.
FORFEITURE OF THE SHARE OF THE GUILTY SPOUSE IN
THE NET CONJUGAL PARTNERSHIP AS A RESULT OF THE
ISSUANCE OF THE DECREE OF LEGAL SEPARATION?[23]
Not satisfied with the trial court's Order, the petitioner filed on
February 27, 2007 this instant Petition for Review under Rule 45 of the Rules
of Court, raising the following: Our Ruling

Issues While the petitioner has raised a number of issues on the


applicability of certain laws, we are well-aware that the respondents have
I
called our attention to the fact that the Decision dated October 10, 2005 has
IS THE DISSOLUTION AND THE CONSEQUENT attained finality when the Motion for Clarification was filed.[24] Thus, we are
LIQUIDATION OF THE COMMON PROPERTIES OF THE
constrained to resolve first the issue of the finality of the Decision dated
HUSBAND AND WIFE BY VIRTUE OF THE DECREE OF LEGAL
SEPARATION GOVERNED BY ARTICLE 125 (SIC) OF THE October 10, 2005 and subsequently discuss the matters that we can clarify.
FAMILY CODE?
The Decision dated
II
October 10, 2005 has
become final and
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THE NET PROFITS EARNED BY
executory at the time
THE CONJUGAL PARTNERSHIP FOR PURPOSES OF
the Motion for
EFFECTING THE FORFEITURE AUTHORIZED UNDER
Clarification was filed on
ARTICLE 63 OF THE FAMILY CODE?
July 7, 2006.
III

WHAT LAW GOVERNS THE PROPERTY RELATIONS Section 3, Rule 41 of the Rules of Court provides:
BETWEEN THE HUSBAND AND WIFE WHO GOT MARRIED IN
1977? CAN THE FAMILY CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES BE
Section 3. Period of ordinary appeal. - The appeal
GIVEN RETROACTIVE EFFECT FOR PURPOSES OF
shall be taken within fifteen (15) days from notice of the
DETERMINING THE NET PROFITS SUBJECT OF FORFEITURE
judgment or final order appealed from. Where a record on
AS A RESULT OF THE DECREE OF LEGAL SEPARATION
appeal is required, the appellant shall file a notice of appeal
WITHOUT IMPAIRING VESTED RIGHTS ALREADY ACQUIRED
UNDER THE CIVIL CODE?
Persons and Family Relations L e g a l S e p a r a t i o n P a g e | 11

and a record on appeal within thirty (30) days from notice of


the judgment or final order.
In the case at bar, the trial court rendered its Decision on October
The period of appeal shall be interrupted by a timely motion
10, 2005. The petitioner neither filed a motion for reconsideration nor a
for new trial or reconsideration. No motion for extension of
time to file a motion for new trial or reconsideration shall be notice of appeal. On December 16, 2005, or after 67 days had lapsed, the
allowed.
trial court issued an order granting the respondent's motion for execution;
and on February 10, 2006, or after 123 days had lapsed, the trial court
In Neypes v. Court of Appeals,[25] we clarified that to standardize the issued a writ of execution. Finally, when the writ had already been partially
appeal periods provided in the Rules and to afford litigants fair opportunity executed, the petitioner, on July 7, 2006 or after 270 days had lapsed, filed
to appeal their cases, we held that it would be practical to allow a fresh his Motion for Clarification on the definition of the net profits earned. From
period of 15 days within which to file the notice of appeal in the RTC, the foregoing, the petitioner had clearly slept on his right to question the
counted from receipt of the order dismissing a motion for a new trial or RTCs Decision dated October 10, 2005. For 270 days, the petitioner never
[26]
motion for reconsideration. raised a single issue until the decision had already been partially
executed. Thus at the time the petitioner filed his motion for clarification, the
In Neypes, we explained that the "fresh period rule" shall also apply trial courts decision has become final and executory. A judgment becomes
to Rule 40 governing appeals from the Municipal Trial Courts to the RTCs; final and executory when the reglementary period to appeal lapses and no
Rule 42 on petitions for review from the RTCs to the Court of Appeals (CA); appeal is perfected within such period. Consequently, no court, not even this
Rule 43 on appeals from quasi-judicial agencies to the CA and Rule 45 Court, can arrogate unto itself appellate jurisdiction to review a case or
governing appeals by certiorari to the Supreme Court. We also said, The new modify a judgment that became final.[28]
rule aims to regiment or make the appeal period uniform, to be counted
from receipt of the order denying the motion for new trial, motion for The petitioner argues that the decision he is questioning is a void
reconsideration (whether full or partial) or any final order or resolution.[27] In judgment. Being such, the petitioner's thesis is that it can still be disturbed
other words, a party litigant may file his notice of appeal within a fresh 15- even after 270 days had lapsed from the issuance of the decision to the filing
day period from his receipt of the trial court's decision or final order denying of the motion for clarification. He said that a void judgment is no judgment
his motion for new trial or motion for reconsideration. Failure to avail of the at all. It never attains finality and cannot be a source of any right nor any
fresh 15-day period from the denial of the motion for reconsideration makes obligation.[29] But what precisely is a void judgment in our jurisdiction? When
the decision or final order in question final and executory. does a judgment becomes void?
Persons and Family Relations L e g a l S e p a r a t i o n P a g e | 12

without doubt, the RTC, which has rendered the questioned judgment, has
A judgment is null and void when the court which rendered it had no jurisdiction over the complaint and the persons of the parties.
power to grant the relief or no jurisdiction over the subject matter or over
the parties or both.[30] In other words, a court, which does not have the From the aforecited facts, the questioned October 10, 2005
power to decide a case or that has no jurisdiction over the subject matter or judgment of the trial court is clearly not void ab initio, since it was rendered
[31]
the parties, will issue a void judgment or a coram non judice. within the ambit of the court's jurisdiction. Being such, the same cannot
anymore be disturbed, even if the modification is meant to correct what may
The questioned judgment does not fall within the purview of a void be considered an erroneous conclusion of fact or law.[36]In fact, we have
judgment. For sure, the trial court has jurisdiction over a case involving legal ruled that for [as] long as the public respondent acted with jurisdiction, any
separation. Republic Act (R.A.) No. 8369 confers upon an RTC, designated as error committed by him or it in the exercise thereof will amount to nothing
the Family Court of a city, the exclusive original jurisdiction to hear and more than an error of judgment which may be reviewed or corrected only by
decide, among others, complaints or petitions relating to marital status and appeal.[37] Granting without admitting that the RTC's judgment dated
property relations of the husband and wife or those living together.[32] The October 10, 2005 was erroneous, the petitioner's remedy should be an
[33]
Rule on Legal Separation provides that the petition [for legal separation] appeal filed within the reglementary period. Unfortunately, the petitioner
shall be filed in the Family Court of the province or city where the petitioner failed to do this. He has already lost the chance to question the trial court's
or the respondent has been residing for at least six months prior to the date decision, which has become immutable and unalterable. What we can only
of filing or in the case of a non-resident respondent, where he may be found do is to clarify the very question raised below and nothing more.
[34]
in the Philippines, at the election of the petitioner. In the instant case,
herein respondent Rita is found to reside in Tungao, Butuan City for more For our convenience, the following matters cannot anymore be
than six months prior to the date of filing of the petition; thus, the RTC, disturbed since the October 10, 2005 judgment has already become
clearly has jurisdiction over the respondent's petition below.Furthermore, the immutable and unalterable, to wit:
RTC also acquired jurisdiction over the persons of both parties, considering
that summons and a copy of the complaint with its annexes were served (a) The finding that the petitioner is the offending spouse since he
upon the herein petitioner on December 14, 2000 and that the herein cohabited with a woman who is not his wife;[38]
petitioner filed his Answer to the Complaint on January 9, 2001.[35] Thus,
Persons and Family Relations L e g a l S e p a r a t i o n P a g e | 13

(b) The trial court's grant of the petition for legal separation of (j) The list of properties which Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation
[39]
respondent Rita; (RCBC) foreclosed;[47]

(c) The dissolution and liquidation of the conjugal partnership;[40] (k) The list of the remaining properties of the couple which must be
dissolved and liquidated and the fact that respondent Rita was the one who
(d) The forfeiture of the petitioner's right to any share of the net took charge of the administration of these properties;[48]
profits earned by the conjugal partnership;[41]
(l) The holding that the conjugal partnership shall be liable to
(e) The award to the innocent spouse of the minor children's matters included under Article 121 of the Family Code and the conjugal
[42]
custody; liabilities totaling P503,862.10 shall be charged to the income generated by
these properties;[49]
(f) The disqualification of the offending spouse from inheriting from
the innocent spouse by intestate succession;[43] (m) The fact that the trial court had no way of knowing whether the
petitioner had separate properties which can satisfy his share for the support
(g) The revocation of provisions in favor of the offending spouse of the family;[50]
made in the will of the innocent spouse;[44]
(n) The holding that the applicable law in this case is Article
[51]
(h) The holding that the property relation of the parties is conjugal 129(7);
partnership of gains and pursuant to Article 116 of the Family Code, all
properties acquired during the marriage, whether acquired by one or both (o) The ruling that the remaining properties not subject to any
spouses, is presumed to be conjugal unless the contrary is proved;[45] encumbrance shall therefore be divided equally between the petitioner and
the respondent without prejudice to the children's legitime;[52]
(i) The finding that the spouses acquired their real and personal
properties while they were living together;[46] (p) The holding that the petitioner's share of the net profits earned
by the conjugal partnership is forfeited in favor of the common
children;[53] and
Persons and Family Relations L e g a l S e p a r a t i o n P a g e | 14

First, let us determine what governs the couple's property


(q) The order to the petitioner to reimburse the respondents the relation. From the record, we can deduce that the petitioner and the
sum of P19,000.00 as attorney's fees and litigation expenses respondent tied the marital knot on January 6, 1977. Since at the time of the
[54]
of P5,000.00. exchange of marital vows, the operative law was the Civil Code of
the Philippines (R.A. No. 386) and since they did not agree on a marriage
After discussing lengthily the immutability of the Decision dated settlement, the property relations between the petitioner and the respondent
October 10, 2005, we will discuss the following issues for the enlightenment is the system of relative community or conjugal partnership of
[55]
of the parties and the public at large. gains. Article 119 of the Civil Code provides:

Art. 119. The future spouses may in the marriage


settlements agree upon absolute or relative community of
Article 129 of the Family
property, or upon complete separation of property, or upon
Code applies to the
any other regime.In the absence of marriage settlements, or
present case since the
when the same are void, the system of relative community
parties' property relation
or conjugal partnership of gains as established in this Code,
is governed by
shall govern the property relations between husband and
the system of relative
wife.
community or conjugal
partnership of gains.

Thus, from the foregoing facts and law, it is clear that what governs
The petitioner claims that the court a quo is wrong when it applied the property relations of the petitioner and of the respondent is conjugal
Article 129 of the Family Code, instead of Article 102. He confusingly argues partnership of gains. And under this property relation, the husband and the
that Article 102 applies because there is no other provision under the Family wife place in a common fund the fruits of their separate property and the
Code which defines net profits earned subject of forfeiture as a result of income from their work or industry.[56] The husband and wife also own in
legal separation. common all the property of the conjugal partnership of gains.[57]

Offhand, the trial court's Decision dated October 10, 2005 held that Second, since at the time of the dissolution of the petitioner and the
Article 129(7) of the Family Code applies in this case. We agree with the trial respondent's marriage the operative law is already the Family Code, the
court's holding. same applies in the instant case and the applicable law in so far as the
liquidation of the conjugal partnership assets and liabilities is concerned is
Persons and Family Relations L e g a l S e p a r a t i o n P a g e | 15

Article 129 of the Family Code in relation to Article 63(2) of the Family wife.[60] Thus, since he is one of the owners of the properties covered by the
Code. The latter provision is applicable because according to Article 256 of conjugal partnership of gains, he has a vested right over half of the said
the Family Code [t]his Code shall have retroactive effect insofar as it does properties, even after the promulgation of the Family Code; and he insisted
not prejudice or impair vested or acquired rights in accordance with the Civil that no provision under the Family Code may deprive him of this vested right
Code or other law.[58] by virtue of Article 256 of the Family Code which prohibits retroactive
application of the Family Code when it will prejudice a person's vested right.
Now, the petitioner asks: Was his vested right over half of the
common properties of the conjugal partnership violated when the trial court However, the petitioner's claim of vested right is not one which is
forfeited them in favor of his children pursuant to Articles 63(2) and 129 of written on stone. In Go, Jr. v. Court of Appeals,[61] we define and explained
the Family Code? vested right in the following manner:

A vested right is one whose existence, effectivity


We respond in the negative.
and extent do not depend upon events foreign to the will of
the holder, or to the exercise of which no obstacle exists,
and which is immediate and perfect in itself and not
Indeed, the petitioner claims that his vested rights have been
dependent upon a contingency. The term vested right
impaired, arguing: As earlier adverted to, the petitioner acquired vested expresses the concept of present fixed interest which, in
right reason and natural justice, should be protected against
rights over half of the conjugal properties, the same being owned in common
arbitrary State action, or an innately just and imperative
by the spouses. If the provisions of the Family Code are to be given right which enlightened free society, sensitive to inherent
and irrefragable individual rights, cannot deny.
retroactive application to the point of authorizing the forfeiture of the
petitioner's share in the net remainder of the conjugal partnership To be vested, a right must have become a titlelegal
or equitableto the present or future enjoyment of
properties, the same impairs his rights acquired prior to the effectivity of the
property.[62] (Citations omitted)
Family Code.[59] In other words, the petitioner is saying that since the
property relations between the spouses is governed by the regime of
Conjugal Partnership of Gains under the Civil Code, the petitioner acquired In our en banc Resolution dated October 18, 2005 for ABAKADA

vested rights over half of the properties of the Conjugal Partnership of Gains, Guro Party List Officer Samson S. Alcantara, et al. v. The Hon. Executive

pursuant to Article 143 of the Civil Code, which provides: All property of the Secretary Eduardo R. Ermita,[63] we also explained:

conjugal partnership of gains is owned in common by the husband and The concept of vested right is a consequence of
the constitutional guaranty of due process that
Persons and Family Relations L e g a l S e p a r a t i o n P a g e | 16

expresses a present fixed interest which in right reason and


63 and 129 of the Family Code on the forfeiture of the guilty spouse's share
natural justice is protected against arbitrary state action; it
includes not only legal or equitable title to the enforcement in the conjugal partnership profits. The said provision says:
of a demand but also exemptions from new obligations
created after the right has become vested.Rights are
Art. 176. In case of legal separation, the guilty
considered vested when the right to enjoyment is a present
spouse shall forfeit his or her share of the conjugal
interest, absolute, unconditional, and perfect or fixed and
partnership profits, which shall be awarded to the children of
irrefutable.[64] (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
both, and the children of the guilty spouse had by a prior
marriage. However, if the conjugal partnership property
came mostly or entirely from the work or industry, or from
From the foregoing, it is clear that while one may not be deprived of the wages and salaries, or from the fruits of the separate
property of the guilty spouse, this forfeiture shall not apply.
his vested right, he may lose the same if there is due process and such
deprivation is founded in law and jurisprudence. In case there are no children, the innocent spouse
shall be entitled to all the net profits.

In the present case, the petitioner was accorded his right to due
process. First, he was well-aware that the respondent prayed in her From the foregoing, the petitioner's claim of a vested right has no
[65]
complaint that all of the conjugal properties be awarded to her. In fact, in basis considering that even under Article 176 of the Civil Code, his share of
his Answer, the petitioner prayed that the trial court divide the community the conjugal partnership profits may be forfeited if he is the guilty party in a
assets between the petitioner and the respondent as circumstances and legal separation case. Thus, after trial and after the petitioner was given the
evidence warrant after the accounting and inventory of all the community chance to present his evidence, the petitioner's vested right claim may in fact
[66]
properties of the parties. Second, when the Decision dated October 10, be set aside under the Civil Code since the trial court found him the guilty
2005 was promulgated, the petitioner never questioned the trial court's party.
ruling forfeiting what the trial court termed as net profits, pursuant to Article
129(7) of the Family Code.[67] Thus, the petitioner cannot claim being More, in Abalos v. Dr. Macatangay, Jr.,[68] we reiterated our long-
deprived of his right to due process. standing ruling that:

[P]rior to the liquidation of the conjugal partnership, the


Furthermore, we take note that the alleged deprivation of the
interest of each spouse in the conjugal assets is inchoate, a
petitioner's vested right is one founded, not only in the provisions of the mere expectancy, which constitutes neither a legal nor an
equitable estate, and does not ripen into title until it appears
Family Code, but in Article 176 of the Civil Code. This provision is like Articles
that there are assets in the community as a result of the
liquidation and settlement. The interest of each spouse is
Persons and Family Relations L e g a l S e p a r a t i o n P a g e | 17

limited to the net remainder or remanente liquido (haber products of their labor
ganancial) resulting from the liquidation of the affairs of the and industry.
partnership after its dissolution. Thus, the right of the
husband or wife to one-half of the conjugal assets does not
vest until the
The petitioner inquires from us the meaning of net profits earned by
dissolution and liquidation of the conjugal partnership, or
after dissolution of the marriage, when it is finally the conjugal partnership for purposes of effecting the forfeiture authorized
determined that, after settlement of conjugal obligations,
under Article 63 of the Family Code. He insists that since there is no other
there are net assets left which can be divided between the
spouses or their respective heirs.[69] (Citations omitted) provision under the Family Code, which defines net profits earned subject of
forfeiture as a result of legal separation, then Article 102 of the Family Code
applies.
Finally, as earlier discussed, the trial court has already decided in its
Decision dated October 10, 2005 that the applicable law in this case is Article
What does Article 102 of the Family Code say? Is the computation of
129(7) of the Family Code.[70] The petitioner did not file a motion for
net profits earned in the conjugal partnership of gains the same with the
reconsideration nor a notice of appeal. Thus, the petitioner is now precluded
computation of net profits earned in the absolute community?
from questioning the trial court's decision since it has become final and
executory. The doctrine of immutability and unalterability of a final judgment
Now, we clarify.
prevents us from disturbing the Decision dated October 10, 2005 because
final and executory decisions can no longer be reviewed nor reversed by this
First and foremost, we must distinguish between the applicable law
Court.[71]
as to the property relations between the parties and the applicable law as to
the definition of net profits. As earlier discussed, Article 129 of the Family
From the above discussions, Article 129 of the Family Code clearly
Code applies as to the property relations of the parties. In other words, the
applies to the present case since the parties' property relation is governed by
computation and the succession of events will follow the provisions under
the system of relative community or conjugal partnership of gains and since
Article 129 of the said Code. Moreover, as to the definition of net profits, we
the trial court's Decision has attained finality and immutability.
cannot but refer to Article 102(4) of the Family Code, since it expressly
The net profits of the provides that for purposes of computing the net profits subject to forfeiture
conjugal partnership of
under Article 43, No. (2) and Article 63, No. (2), Article 102(4) applies. In
gains are all the fruits of
the separate properties this provision, net profits shall be the increase in value between the market
of the spouses and the
value of the community property at the time of the celebration of the
Persons and Family Relations L e g a l S e p a r a t i o n P a g e | 18

marriage and the market value at the time of its dissolution.[72] Thus, without Under Article 102 of the Family Code, upon dissolution of marriage,
any iota of doubt, Article 102(4) applies to both the dissolution of the an inventory is prepared, listing separately all the properties of the absolute
absolute community regime under Article 102 of the Family Code, and to the community and the exclusive properties of each; then the debts and
dissolution of the conjugal partnership regime under Article 129 of the Family obligations of the absolute community are paid out of the absolute
Code. Where lies the difference? As earlier shown, the difference lies in the community's assets and if the community's properties are insufficient, the
processes used under the dissolution of the absolute community regime separate properties of each of the couple will be solidarily liable for the
under Article 102 of the Family Code, and in the processes used under the unpaid balance. Whatever is left of the separate properties will be delivered
dissolution of the conjugal partnership regime under Article 129 of the Family to each of them. The net remainder of the absolute community is its net
Code. assets, which shall be divided between the husband and the wife; and for
purposes of computing the net profits subject to forfeiture, said profits shall
Let us now discuss the difference in the processes between the be the increase in value between the market value of the community
absolute community regime and the conjugal partnership regime. property at the time of the celebration of the marriage and the market value
at the time of its dissolution.[74]
On Absolute Community Regime:
Applying Article 102 of the Family Code, the net profits requires that
When a couple enters into a regime of absolute community, the we first find the market value of the properties at the time of the
husband and the wife becomes joint owners of all the properties of the community's dissolution. From the totality of the market value of all the
marriage. Whatever property each spouse brings into the marriage, and properties, we subtract the debts and obligations of the absolute community
those acquired during the marriage (except those excluded under Article 92 and this result to the net assets or net remainder of the properties of the
of the Family Code) form the common mass of the couple's properties. And absolute community, from which we deduct the market value of the
when the couple's marriage or community is dissolved, that common mass is properties at the time of marriage, which then results to the net profits.[75]
divided between the spouses, or their respective heirs, equally or in the
proportion the parties have established, irrespective of the value each one Granting without admitting that Article 102 applies to the instant
[73]
may have originally owned. case, let us see what will happen if we apply Article 102:
Persons and Family Relations L e g a l S e p a r a t i o n P a g e | 19

(a) According to the trial court's finding of facts, both husband and
wife have no separate properties, thus, the remaining properties in the list On Conjugal Partnership Regime:
above are all part of the absolute community. And its market value at the Before we go into our disquisition on the Conjugal Partnership
time of the dissolution of the absolute community constitutes the market Regime, we make it clear that Article 102(4) of the Family Code applies in
value at dissolution. the instant case for purposes only of defining net profit. As earlier
explained, the definition of net profits in Article 102(4) of the Family Code
(b) Thus, when the petitioner and the respondent finally were legally applies to both the absolute community regime and conjugal partnership
separated, all the properties which remained will be liable for the debts and regime as provided for under Article 63, No. (2) of the Family Code, relative
obligations of the community. Such debts and obligations will be subtracted to the provisions on Legal Separation.
from the market value at dissolution. Now, when a couple enters into a regime of conjugal
partnership of gains under Article 142 of the Civil Code, the husband and
(c) What remains after the debts and obligations have been paid the wife place in common fund the fruits of their separate property and
from the total assets of the absolute community constitutes the net income from their work or industry, and divide equally, upon the dissolution
remainder or net asset. And from such net asset/remainder of the petitioner of the marriage or of the partnership, the net gains or benefits obtained
and respondent's remaining properties, the market value at the time of indiscriminately by either spouse during the marriage.[76] From the foregoing
marriage will be subtracted and the resulting totality constitutes the net provision, each of the couple has his and her own property and debts. The
profits. law does not intend to effect a mixture or merger of those debts or
properties between the spouses. Rather, it establishes a complete separation
(d) Since both husband and wife have no separate of capitals.[77]
properties, and nothing would be returned to each of them, what will be
divided equally between them is simply the net profits. However, in the Considering that the couple's marriage has been dissolved under the
Decision dated October 10, 2005, the trial court forfeited the half-share of Family Code, Article 129 of the same Code applies in the liquidation of the
the petitioner in favor of his children. Thus, if we use Article 102 in the couple's properties in the event that the conjugal partnership of gains is
instant case (which should not be the case), nothing is left to the petitioner dissolved, to wit:
since both parties entered into their marriage without bringing with them any
Art. 129. Upon the dissolution of the conjugal
property.
partnership regime, the following procedure shall apply:
Persons and Family Relations L e g a l S e p a r a t i o n P a g e | 20

(8) The presumptive legitimes of the common


(1) An inventory shall be prepared, listing separately children shall be delivered upon the partition in accordance
all the properties of the conjugal partnership and the with Article 51.
exclusive properties of each spouse.
(9) In the partition of the properties, the conjugal
(2) Amounts advanced by the conjugal partnership dwelling and the lot on which it is situated shall, unless
in payment of personal debts and obligations of either otherwise agreed upon by the parties, be adjudicated to the
spouse shall be credited to the conjugal partnership as an spouse with whom the majority of the common children
asset thereof. choose to remain. Children below the age of seven years are
deemed to have chosen the mother, unless the court has
(3) Each spouse shall be reimbursed for the use of decided otherwise. In case there is no such majority, the
his or her exclusive funds in the acquisition of property or court shall decide, taking into consideration the best
for the value of his or her exclusive property, the ownership interests of said children.
of which has been vested by law in the conjugal partnership.

(4) The debts and obligations of the conjugal


In the normal course of events, the following are the steps in the
partnership shall be paid out of the conjugal assets. In case
of insufficiency of said assets, the spouses shall be solidarily liquidation of the properties of the spouses:
liable for the unpaid balance with their separate properties,
in accordance with the provisions of paragraph (2) of Article
121. (a) An inventory of all the actual properties shall be made,
(5) Whatever remains of the exclusive properties of
separately listing the couple's conjugal properties and their separate
the spouses shall thereafter be delivered to each of them.
properties.[78] In the instant case, the trial court found that the couple
has no separate properties when they married.[79] Rather, the trial
(6) Unless the owner had been indemnified from
whatever source, the loss or deterioration of movables used court identified the following conjugal properties, to wit:
for the benefit of the family, belonging to either spouse,
even due to fortuitous event, shall be paid to said spouse
1. coffee mill in Balongagan, Las Nieves, Agusan del Norte;
from the conjugal funds, if any.
2. coffee mill in Durian, Las Nieves, Agusan del Norte;
(7) The net remainder of the conjugal partnership
properties shall constitute the profits, which shall be divided
3. corn mill in Casiklan, Las Nieves, Agusan del Norte;
equally between husband and wife, unless a different
proportion or division was agreed upon in the marriage
4. coffee mill in Esperanza, Agusan del Sur;
settlements or unless there has been a voluntary waiver or
forfeiture of such share as provided in this Code.
5. a parcel of land with an area of 1,200 square meters
located in Tungao, Butuan City;
Persons and Family Relations L e g a l S e p a r a t i o n P a g e | 21

6. a parcel of agricultural land with an area of 5 hectares


guilty party, his share from the net profits of the conjugal partnership is
located in Manila de Bugabos, Butuan City;
forfeited in favor of the common children, pursuant to Article 63(2) of the
7. a parcel of land with an area of 84 square meters located
Family Code. Again, lest we be confused, like in the absolute community
in Tungao, Butuan City;
regime, nothing will be returned to the guilty party in the conjugal
8. Bashier Bon Factory located in Tungao, Butuan City.[80]
partnership regime, because there is no separate property which may
be accounted for in the guilty party's favor.
(b) Ordinarily, the benefit received by a spouse from the conjugal
partnership during the marriage is returned in equal amount to the assets of In the discussions above, we have seen that in both instances, the
the conjugal partnership;[81]and if the community is enriched at the expense petitioner is not entitled to any property at all. Thus, we cannot but uphold
of the separate properties of either spouse, a restitution of the value of such the Decision dated October 10, 2005 of the trial court. However, we must
properties to their respective owners shall be made.[82] clarify, as we already did above, the Order dated January 8, 2007.

(c) Subsequently, the couple's conjugal partnership shall pay the WHEREFORE, the Decision dated October 10, 2005 of the Regional
debts of the conjugal partnership; while the debts and obligation of each of Trial Court, Branch 1 of Butuan City is AFFIRMED. Acting on the Motion for
the spouses shall be paid from their respective separate properties. But if the Clarification dated July 7, 2006 in the Regional Trial Court, the Order dated
conjugal partnership is not sufficient to pay all its debts and obligations, the January 8, 2007 of the Regional Trial Court is hereby CLARIFIED in
spouses with their separate properties shall be solidarily liable.[83] accordance with the above discussions.

SO ORDERED.
(d) Now, what remains of the separate or exclusive properties of the
husband and of the wife shall be returned to each of them.[84] In the instant
case, since it was already established by the trial court that the
BIENVENIDO L. REYES
[85]
spouses have no separate properties, there is nothing to return Associate Justice
to any of them. The listed properties above are considered part of the
conjugal partnership. Thus, ordinarily, what remains in the above-listed WE CONCUR:
properties should be divided equally between the spouses and/or their
respective heirs.[86] However, since the trial court found the petitioner the
Persons and Family Relations L e g a l S e p a r a t i o n P a g e | 22

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Senior Associate Justice
Chairperson, Second Division

ARTURO D. BRION JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ


Associate Justice Associate Justice

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO


Associate Justice

CERTIFICATION

I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in
consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the
Courts Division.

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Senior Associate Justice
(Per Section 12, R.A. 296
The Judiciary Act of 1948, as
amended)

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

THIRD DIVISION
Persons and Family Relations L e g a l S e p a r a t i o n P a g e | 23

G.R. No. 179620 August 26, 2008 with other people. They soon became sweethearts. Three years after, they
got married.6
MANUEL G. ALMELOR, petitioner,
vs. Leonida averred that Manuel's kind and gentle demeanor did not last long. In
THE HON. REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF LAS PIÑAS CITY, BRANCH the public eye, Manuel was the picture of a perfect husband and father. This
254, and LEONIDA T. ALMELOR, respondents. was not the case in his private life. At home, Leonida described Manuel as a
harsh disciplinarian, unreasonably meticulous, easily angered. Manuel's
DECISION unreasonable way of imposing discipline on their children was the cause of
their frequent fights as a couple.7 Leonida complained that this was in stark
REYES, R.T., J.: contrast to the alleged lavish affection Manuel has for his mother. Manuel's
deep attachment to his mother and his dependence on her decision-making
were incomprehensible to Leonida.8
MARRIAGE, in its totality, involves the spouses' right to the community of
their whole lives. It likewise involves a true intertwining of personalities.1
Further adding to her woes was his concealment to her of his homosexuality.
2 Her suspicions were first aroused when she noticed Manuel's peculiar
This is a petition for review on certiorari of the Decision of the Court of
closeness to his male companions. For instance, she caught him in an
Appeals (CA) denying the petition for annulment of judgment and
indiscreet telephone conversation manifesting his affection for a male
affirming in toto the decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Las Piñas,
caller.9 She also found several pornographic homosexual materials in his
Branch 254. The CA dismissed outright the Rule 47 petition for being the
possession.10 Her worse fears were confirmed when she saw Manuel kissed
wrong remedy.
another man on the lips. The man was a certain Dr. Nogales.11 When she
confronted Manuel, he denied everything. At this point, Leonida took her
The Facts children and left their conjugal abode. Since then, Manuel stopped giving
support to their children.12
Petitioner Manuel G. Almelor (Manuel) and respondent Leonida Trinidad
(Leonida) were married on January 29, 1989 at the Manila Cathedral.3 Their Dr. Valentina del Fonso Garcia, a clinical psychologist, was presented to
union bore three children: (1) Maria Paulina Corinne, born on October 20, prove Leonida's claim. Dr. del Fonso Garcia testified that she conducted
1989; (2) Napoleon Manuel, born on August 9, 1991; and (3) Manuel Homer, evaluative interviews and a battery of psychiatric tests on Leonida. She also
born on July 4, 1994.4 Manuel and Leonida are both medical practitioners, an had a one-time interview with Manuel and face-to-face interviews with Ma.
anesthesiologist and a pediatrician, respectively.5 Paulina Corrinne (the eldest child).13 She concluded that Manuel is
psychologically incapacitated.14 Such incapacity is marked by antecedence; it
After eleven (11) years of marriage, Leonida filed a petition with the RTC in existed even before the marriage and appeared to be incurable.
Las Piñas City to annul their marriage on the ground that Manuel was
psychologically incapacitated to perform his marital obligations. The case, Manuel, for his part, admitted that he and Leonida had some petty
docketed as LP-00-0132 was raffled off to Branch 254. arguments here and there. He, however, maintained that their marital
relationship was generally harmonious. The petition for annulment filed by
During the trial, Leonida testified that she first met Manuel in 1981 at the Leonida came as a surprise to him.
San Lazaro Hospital where they worked as medical student clerks. At that
time, she regarded Manuel as a very thoughtful person who got along well Manuel countered that the true cause of Leonida's hostility against him was
their professional rivalry. It began when he refused to heed the
Persons and Family Relations L e g a l S e p a r a t i o n P a g e | 24

memorandum15 released by Christ the King Hospital. The memorandum RTC Disposition
ordered him to desist from converting his own lying-in clinic to a primary or
secondary hospital.16 Leonida's family owns Christ the King Hospital which is By decision dated November 25, 2005, the RTC granted the petition for
situated in the same subdivision as Manuel's clinic and residence.17 In other annulment, with the following disposition:
words, he and her family have competing or rival hospitals in the same
vicinity. WHEREFORE, premised on the foregoing, judgment is hereby
rendered:
Manuel belied her allegation that he was a cruel father to their children. He
denied maltreating them. At most, he only imposed the necessary discipline 1. Declaring the marriage contracted by herein parties on 29 January
on the children. 1989 and all its effects under the law null and void from the
beginning;
He also defended his show of affection for his mother. He said there was
nothing wrong for him to return the love and affection of the person who 2. Dissolving the regime of community property between the same
reared and looked after him and his siblings. This is especially apt now that parties with forfeiture of defendant's share thereon in favor of the
his mother is in her twilight years.18 Manuel pointed out that Leonida found same parties' children whose legal custody is awarded to plaintiff
fault in this otherwise healthy relationship because of her very jealous and with visitorial right afforded to defendant;
possessive nature.19
3. Ordering the defendant to give monthly financial support to all the
This same overly jealous behavior of Leonida drove Manuel to avoid the children; and
company of female friends. He wanted to avoid any further
misunderstanding with his wife. But, Leonida instead conjured up stories
4. Pursuant to the provisions of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC:
about his sexual preference. She also fabricated tales about pornographic
materials found in his possession to cast doubt on his masculinity.20
a. Directing the Branch Clerk of this Court to enter this
Judgment upon its finality in the Book of Entry of Judgment
To corroborate his version, he presented his brother, Jesus G. Almelor. Jesus
and to issue an Entry of Judgment in accordance thereto;
narrated that he usually stayed at Manuel's house during his weekly trips to
and
Manila from Iriga City. He was a witness to the generally harmonious
relationship between his brother Manuel and sister-in-law, Leonida. True,
they had some quarrels typical of a husband and wife relationship. But there b. Directing the Local Civil Registrars of Las Piñas City and
was nothing similar to what Leonida described in her testimony.21 Manila City to cause the registration of the said Entry of
Judgment in their respective Books of Marriages.
Jesus further testified that he was with his brother on the day Leonida
allegedly saw Manuel kissed another man. He denied that such an incident Upon compliance, a decree of nullity of marriage shall be issued.
occurred. On that particular date,22 he and Manuel went straight home from
a trip to Bicol. There was no other person with them at that time, except SO ORDERED.24 (Emphasis supplied)
their driver.23
The trial court nullified the marriage, not on the ground of Article 36, but
Manuel expressed his intention to refute Dr. del Fonso Garcia's findings by Article 45 of the Family Code. It ratiocinated:
presenting his own expert witness. However, no psychiatrist was presented.
Persons and Family Relations L e g a l S e p a r a t i o n P a g e | 25

x x x a careful evaluation and in-depth analysis of the surrounding It is obvious that the petitioner is questioning the propriety of the
circumstances of the allegations in the complaint and of the evidence decision rendered by the lower Court. But the remedy assuming
presented in support thereof (sic) reveals that in this case (sic) there there was a mistake is not a Petition for Annulment of Judgment but
is more than meets the eyes (sic). an ordinary appeal. An error of judgment may be reversed or
corrected only by appeal.
Both legally and biologically, homosexuality x x x is, indeed,
generally incompatible with hetero sexual marriage. This is reason What petitioner is ascribing is an error of judgment, not of
enough that in this jurisdiction (sic) the law recognizes marriage as a jurisdiction, which is properly the subject of an ordinary appeal.
special contract exclusively only between a man and a woman x x x
and thus when homosexuality has trespassed into marriage, the In short, petitioner admits the jurisdiction of the lower court but he
same law provides ample remedies to correct the situation [Article claims excess in the exercise thereof. "Excess" assuming there was is
45(3) in relation to Article 46(4) or Article 55, par. 6, Family Code]. not covered by Rule 47 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. The
This is of course in recognition of the biological fact that no matter Rule refers the lack of jurisdiction and not the exercise thereof.28
how a man cheats himself that he is not a homosexual and forces
himself to live a normal heterosexual life, there will surely come a Issues
time when his true sexual preference as a homosexual shall prevail
in haunting him and thus jeopardizing the solidity, honor, and
Petitioner Manuel takes the present recourse via Rule 45, assigning to the CA
welfare of his own family.25
the following errors:

Manuel filed a notice of appeal which was, however, denied due course.
I
Undaunted, he filed a petition for annulment of judgment with the CA.26
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN NOT TREATING
Manuel contended that the assailed decision was issued in excess of the
THE PETITION FOR ANNULMENT OF JUDGMENT AS A PETITION
lower court's jurisdiction; that it had no jurisdiction to dissolve the absolute
FOR REVIEW IN VIEW OF THE IMPORTANCE OF THE ISSUES
community of property and forfeit his conjugal share in favor of his children.
INVOLVED AND IN THE INTEREST OF JUSTICE;

CA Disposition
II

On July 31, 2007, the CA denied the petition, disposing as follows:


THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN UPHOLDING THE
DECISION OF THE TRIAL COURT AS REGARDS THE ORDER
WHEREFORE, the present Petition for Annulment of Judgment is DECLARING THE MARRIAGE AS NULL AND VOID ON THE GROUND
hereby DENIED. The Court AFFIRMS in toto the Decision (dated OF PETITIONER'S PSYCHOLOGICAL INCAPACITY;
November 25, 2005) of the Regional Trial Court (Branch 254), in Las
Piñas City, in Civil Case No. LP-00-0132. No costs.27
III

The CA stated that petitioner pursued the wrong remedy by filing the
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN UPHOLDING THE
extraordinary remedy of petition for annulment of judgment. Said the
DECISION OF THE TRIAL COURT AS REGARDS THE ORDER TO
appellate court:
Persons and Family Relations L e g a l S e p a r a t i o n P a g e | 26

FORFEIT THE SHARE OF PETITIONER IN HIS SHARE OF THE After discovering the palpable error of his petition, Manuel seeks the
CONJUGAL ASSETS.29 indulgence of this Court to consider his petition before the CA instead as a
petition for certiorari under Rule 65.
Our Ruling
A perusal of the said petition reveals that Manuel imputed grave abuse of
I. The stringent rules of procedures may be relaxed to serve the discretion to the lower court for annulling his marriage on account of his
demands of substantial justice and in the Court's exercise of equity alleged homosexuality. This is not the first time that this Court is faced with
jurisdiction. a similar situation. In Nerves v. Civil Service Commission,37 petitioner Delia R.
Nerves elevated to the CA a Civil Service Commission (CSC) decision
Generally, an appeal taken either to the Supreme Court or the CA by the suspending her for six (6) months. The CSC ruled Nerves, a public school
wrong or inappropriate mode shall be dismissed.30This is to prevent the party teacher, is deemed to have already served her six-month suspension during
from benefiting from one's neglect and mistakes. However, like most the pendency of the case. Nevertheless, she is ordered reinstated without
rules, it carries certain exceptions. After all, the ultimate purpose of all back wages. On appeal, Nerves stated in her petition, inter alia:
rules of procedures is to achieve substantial justice as expeditiously as
possible.31 1. This is a petition for certiorari filed pursuant to Article IX-A,
Section 7 of the Constitution of the Philippines and under Rule 65 of
Annulment of judgment under Rule 47 is a last remedy. It can not be the Rules of Court.
resorted to if the ordinary remedies are available or no longer available
through no fault of petitioner.32 However, in Buenaflor v. Court of 2. But per Supreme Court Revised Administrative Circular No. 1-95
Appeals,33 this Court clarified the proper appreciation for technical rules of (Revised Circular No. 1-91) petitioner is filing the instant petition
procedure, in this wise: with this Honorable Court instead of the Supreme
Court.38 (Underscoring supplied)
Rules of procedures are intended to promote, not to defeat,
substantial justice and, therefore, they should not be The CA dismissed Nerves' petition for certiorari for being the wrong remedy
applied in a very rigid and technical sense. The exception is or the inappropriate mode of appeal.39 The CA opined that "under the
that while the Rules are liberally construed, the provisions Supreme Court Revised Administrative Circular No. 1-95 x x x appeals from
with respect to the rules on the manner and periods for judgments or final orders or resolutions of CSC is by a petition for review."40
perfecting appeals are strictly applied. As an exception to
the exception, these rules have sometimes been relaxed on This Court granted Nerves petition and held that she had substantially
equitable considerations. Also, in some cases the Supreme Court complied with the Administrative Circular. The Court stated:
has given due course to an appeal perfected out of time where a
stringent application of the rules would have denied it, but only That it was erroneously labeled as a petition for certiorari under Rule
when to do so would serve the demands of substantial justice and in 65 of the Rules of Court is only a minor procedural lapse, not fatal to
the exercise of equity jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.34 (Emphasis the appeal. x x x
and underscoring supplied)
More importantly, the appeal on its face appears to be impressed
For reasons of justice and equity, this Court has allowed exceptions to the with merit. Hence, the Court of Appeals should have overlooked the
stringent rules governing appeals.35 It has, in the past, refused to sacrifice insubstantial defects of the petition x x x in order to do justice to the
justice for technicality.36
Persons and Family Relations L e g a l S e p a r a t i o n P a g e | 27

parties concerned. There is, indeed, nothing sacrosanct about the amplest opportunity for the proper and just disposition of his
procedural rules, which should be liberally construed in order to cause, free from the constraints of technicalities.45
promote their object and assist the parties in obtaining just, speedy,
and inexpensive determination of every action or proceeding. As it Indeed, it is far better and more prudent for a court to excuse a technical
has been said, where the rigid application of the rules would lapse and afford the parties a review of the case on the merits to attain the
frustrate substantial justice, or bar the vindication of a legitimate ends of justice.46
grievance, the courts are justified in exempting a particular case
from the operation of the rules.41(Underscoring supplied) Furthermore, it was the negligence and incompetence of Manuel's counsel
that prejudiced his right to appeal. His counsel, Atty. Christine Dugenio,
Similarly, in the more recent case of Tan v. Dumarpa,42 petitioner Joy G. Tan repeatedly availed of inappropriate remedies. After the denial of her notice of
availed of a wrong remedy by filing a petition for review on certiorari instead appeal, she failed to move for reconsideration or new trial at the first
of a motion for new trial or an ordinary appeal. In the interest of justice, this instance. She also erroneously filed a petition for annulment of judgment
Court considered the petition, pro hac vice, as a petition for certiorari under rather than pursue an ordinary appeal.
Rule 65.
These manifest errors were clearly indicative of counsel's incompetence.
This Court found that based on Tan's allegations, the trial court prima facie These gravely worked to the detriment of Manuel's appeal. True it is that the
committed grave abuse of discretion in rendering a judgment by default. If negligence of counsel binds the client. Still, this Court has recognized certain
uncorrected, it will cause petitioner great injustice. The Court elucidated in exceptions: (1) where reckless or gross negligence of counsel deprives the
this wise: client of due process of law; (2) when its application will result in outright
deprivation of the client's liberty and property; or (3) where the interest of
Indeed, where as here, there is a strong showing that grave justice so require.47
miscarriage of justice would result from the strict application of the
Rules, we will not hesitate to relax the same in the interest of The negligence of Manuel's counsel falls under the exceptions. Ultimately,
substantial justice.43 (Underscoring supplied) the reckless or gross negligence of petitioner's former counsel led to the loss
of his right to appeal. He should not be made to suffer for his counsel's
Measured by the foregoing yardstick, justice will be better served by giving grave mistakes. Higher interests of justice and equity demand that he be
due course to the present petition and treating petitioner's CA petition as one allowed to ventilate his case in a higher court.
for certiorari under Rule 65, considering that what is at stake is the validity
or non-validity of a marriage. In Apex Mining, Inc. v. Court of Appeals,48 this Court explained thus:

In Salazar v. Court of Appeals,44 citing Labad v. University of Southeastern It is settled that the negligence of counsel binds the client. This is
Philippines, this Court reiterated: based on the rule that any act performed by a counsel within the
scope of his general or implied authority is regarded as an act of his
x x x The dismissal of appeals on purely technical grounds is client. However, where counsel is guilty of gross ignorance,
frowned upon. While the right to appeal is a statutory, not a natural negligence and dereliction of duty, which resulted in the client's
right, nonetheless it is an essential part of our judicial system and being held liable for damages in a damage suit, the client is deprived
courts should proceed with caution so as not to deprive a party of of his day in court and the judgment may be set aside on such
the right to appeal, but rather, ensure that every party-litigant has ground. In the instant case, higher interests of justice and equity
demand that petitioners be allowed to present evidence on their
Persons and Family Relations L e g a l S e p a r a t i o n P a g e | 28

defense. Petitioners may not be made to suffer for the lawyer's swings, infidelities, vices, abandonment, and difficulty, neglect, or
mistakes. This Court will always be disposed to grant relief to failure in the performance of some marital obligations do not suffice
parties aggrieved by perfidy, fraud, reckless inattention and to establish psychological incapacity.55
downright incompetence of lawyers, which has the
consequence of depriving their clients, of their day in If so, the lower court should have dismissed outright the petition for not
court.49(Emphasis supplied) meeting the guidelines set in Molina. What Leonida attempted to
demonstrate were Manuel's homosexual tendencies by citing overt acts
Clearly, this Court has the power to except a particular case from the generally predominant among homosexual individuals.56 She wanted to
operation of the rule whenever the demands of justice require it. With more prove that the perceived homosexuality rendered Manuel incapable of
conviction should it wield such power in a case involving the sacrosanct fulfilling the essential marital obligations.
institution of marriage. This Court is guided with the thrust of giving a party
the fullest opportunity to establish the merits of one's action.50 But instead of dismissing the petition, the trial court nullified the marriage
between Manuel and Leonida on the ground of vitiated consent by virtue of
The client was likewise spared from counsel's negligence in Government fraud. In support of its conclusion, the lower court reasoned out:
Service Insurance System v. Bengson Commercial Buildings,
Inc.51 and Ancheta v. Guersey-Dalaygon.52 Said the Court in Bengson: As insinuated by the State (p. 75, TSN, 15 December 2003), when
there is smoke surely there is fire. Although vehemently denied by
But if under the circumstances of the case, the rule deserts its defendant, there is preponderant evidence enough to establish with
proper office as an aid to justice and becomes a great hindrance and certainty that defendant is really a homosexual. This is the fact that
chief enemy, its rigors must be relaxed to admit exceptions thereto can be deduced from the totality of the marriage life scenario of
and to prevent a miscarriage of justice. In other words, the court herein parties.
has the power to except a particular case from the operation of the
rule whenever the purposes of justice require it.53 Before his marriage, defendant knew very well that people around
him even including his own close friends doubtedhis true sexual
II. Concealment of homosexuality is the proper ground to annul a preference (TSN, pp. 35-36, 13 December 2000; pp. 73-75, 15
marriage, not homosexuality per se. December 2003). After receiving many forewarnings, plaintiff told
defendant about the rumor she heard but defendant did not do
Manuel is a desperate man determined to salvage what remains of his anything to prove to the whole world once and for all the truth of all
marriage. Persistent in his quest, he fought back all the heavy accusations of his denials. Defendant threatened to sue those people but nothing
incapacity, cruelty, and doubted masculinity thrown at him. happened after that. There may have been more important matters
to attend to than to waste time and effort filing cases against and be
The trial court declared that Leonida's petition for nullity had "no basis at all effected by these people and so, putting more premiums on
because the supporting grounds relied upon can not legally make a case defendant's denials, plaintiff just the same married him. Reasons
under Article 36 of the Family Code." It went further by citing Republic upon reasons may be advanced to either exculpate or nail to the
v. Molina:54 cross defendant for his act of initially concealing his homosexuality
to plaintiff, but in the end, only one thing is certain - even during his
marriage with plaintiff, the smoke of doubt about his real preference
Indeed, mere allegations of conflicting personalities, irreconcilable
continued and even got thicker, reason why obviously defendant
differences, incessant quarrels and/or beatings, unpredictable mood
Persons and Family Relations L e g a l S e p a r a t i o n P a g e | 29

failed to establish a happy and solid family; and in so failing, plaintiff Consent is an essential requisite of a valid marriage. To be valid, it must be
and their children became his innocent and unwilling victims. freely given by both parties. An allegation of vitiated consent must be proven
by preponderance of evidence. The Family Code has enumerated an
Yes, there is nothing untoward of a man if, like herein defendant, he exclusive list of circumstances61 constituting fraud. Homosexuality per se is
is meticulous over even small details in the house (sic) like wrongly not among those cited, but its concealment.
folded bed sheets, etc. or if a man is more authoritative in knowing
what clothes or jewelry shall fit his wife (pp. 77-81, TSN, 15 This distinction becomes more apparent when we go over the
December 2003); but these admissions of defendant taken in the deliberations62 of the Committees on the Civil Code and Family Law, to wit:
light of evidence presented apparently showing that he had extra
fondness of his male friends (sic) to the extent that twice on Justice Caguioa remarked that this ground should be eliminated in
separate occasions (pp. 4-7, TSN, 14 February 2001) he was the provision on the grounds for legal separation. Dean Gupit,
allegedly seen by plaintiff kissing another man lips-to-lips plus the however, pointed out that in Article 46, they are talking only of
homosexual magazines and tapes likewise allegedly discovered "concealment," while in the article on legal separation, there is
underneath his bed (Exhibits "L" and "M"), the doubt as to his real actuality. Judge Diy added that in legal separation, the ground
sex identity becomes stronger. The accusation of plaintiff versus existed after the marriage, while in Article 46, the ground existed at
thereof of defendant may be the name of the game in this case; but the time of the marriage. Justice Reyes suggested that, for clarity,
the simple reason of professional rivalry advanced by the defendant they add the phrase "existing at the time of the marriage" at the end
is certainly not enough to justify and obscure the question why of subparagraph (4). The Committee approved the suggestion.63
plaintiff should accuse him of such a very untoward infidelity at the
expense and humiliation of their children and family as a whole.57 To reiterate, homosexuality per se is only a ground for legal separation. It is
its concealment that serves as a valid ground to annul a
Evidently, no sufficient proof was presented to substantiate the allegations marriage.64 Concealment in this case is not simply a blanket denial, but one
that Manuel is a homosexual and that he concealed this to Leonida at the that is constitutive of fraud. It is this fundamental element that respondent
time of their marriage. The lower court considered the public perception of failed to prove.
Manuel's sexual preference without the corroboration of witnesses. Also, it
took cognizance of Manuel's peculiarities and interpreted it against his In the United States, homosexuality has been considered as a basis for
sexuality. divorce. It indicates that questions of sexual identity strike so deeply at one
of the basic elements of marriage, which is the exclusive sexual bond
Even assuming, ex gratia argumenti, that Manuel is a homosexual, the lower between the spouses.65 In Crutcher v. Crutcher,66 the Court held:
court cannot appreciate it as a ground to annul his marriage with Leonida.
The law is clear - a marriage may be annulled when the consent of either Unnatural practices of the kind charged here are an infamous
party was obtained by fraud,58 such as concealment of indignity to the wife, and which would make the marriage relation so
homosexuality.59 Nowhere in the said decision was it proven by revolting to her that it would become impossible for her to discharge
preponderance of evidence that Manuel was a homosexual at the onset of the duties of a wife, and would defeat the whole purpose of the
his marriage and that he deliberately hid such fact to his wife.60 It is the relation. In the natural course of things, they would cause mental
concealment of homosexuality, and not homosexuality per se, that vitiates suffering to the extent of affecting her health.67
the consent of the innocent party. Such concealment presupposes bad faith
and intent to defraud the other party in giving consent to the marriage.
However, although there may be similar sentiments here in the Philippines,
the legal overtones are significantly different. Divorce is not recognized in
Persons and Family Relations L e g a l S e p a r a t i o n P a g e | 30

the country. Homosexuality and its alleged incompatibility to a healthy impregnated the appellee because he did not have an erection
heterosexual life are not sanctioned as grounds to sever the marriage bond during their tryst is flimsy at best, and an outright lie at worst. The
in our jurisdiction. At most, it is only a ground to separate from bed and complaint is bereft of any reference to his inability to copulate with
board. the appellee. x x x

What was proven in the hearings a quo was a relatively blissful marital union xxxx
for more than eleven (11) years, which produced three (3) children. The
burden of proof to show the nullity of the marriage rests on Leonida. Sadly, x x x The failure to cohabit becomes relevant only if it arises as a
she failed to discharge this onus. result of the perpetration of any of the grounds for annulling the
marriage, such as lack of parental consent, insanity, fraud,
The same failure to prove fraud which purportedly resulted to a vitiated intimidation, or undue influence x x x. Since the appellant failed to
marital consent was found in Villanueva v. Court of Appeals.68 In Villanueva, justify his failure to cohabit with the appellee on any of these
instead of proving vitiation of consent, appellant resorted to baseless grounds, the validity of his marriage must be upheld.69
portrayals of his wife as a perpetrator of fraudulent schemes. Said the Court:
Verily, the lower court committed grave abuse of discretion, not only by
Factual findings of the Court of Appeals, especially if they coincide solely taking into account petitioner's homosexuality per se and not its
with those of the trial court, as in the instant case, are generally concealment, but by declaring the marriage void from its existence.
binding on this Court. We affirm the findings of the Court of Appeals
that petitioner freely and voluntarily married private respondent and This Court is mindful of the constitutional policy to protect and strengthen
that no threats or intimidation, duress or violence compelled him to the family as the basic autonomous social institution and marriage as the
do so, thus - foundation of the family.70 The State and the public have vital interest in the
maintenance and preservation of these social institutions against desecration
Appellant anchored his prayer for the annulment of his marriage on by fabricated evidence.71 Thus, any doubt should be resolved in favor of the
the ground that he did not freely consent to be married to the validity of marriage.
appellee. He cited several incidents that created on his mind a
reasonable and well-grounded fear of an imminent and grave danger III. In a valid marriage, the husband and wife jointly administer
to his life and safety. x x x and enjoy their community or conjugal property.

The Court is not convinced that appellant's apprehension of danger Article 96 of the Family Code, on regimes of absolute community property,
to his person is so overwhelming as to deprive him of the will to provides:
enter voluntarily to a contract of marriage. It is not disputed that at
the time he was allegedly being harassed, appellant worked as a Art. 96. The administration and enjoyment of the community
security guard in a bank. Given the rudiments of self-defense, or, at property shall belong to both spouses jointly. In case of
the very least, the proper way to keep himself out of harm's way. x x disagreement, the husband's decision shall prevail, subject to
x recourse to the court by the wife for a proper remedy, which must
be availed of within five years from the date of the contract
Appellant also invoked fraud to annul his marriage, as he was made implementing such decision.
to believe by appellee that the latter was pregnant with his child
when they were married. Appellant's excuse that he could not have
Persons and Family Relations L e g a l S e p a r a t i o n P a g e | 31

In the event that one spouse is incapacitated or otherwise unable to


MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO
participate in the administration of the common properties, the other
Associate Justice Associate Justice
spouse may assume sole powers of administration. These powers do
not include the powers of disposition or encumbrance without the ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA
authority of the court or the written consent of the other spouse. In Associate Justice
the absence of such authority or consent, the disposition or
encumbrance shall be void. However, the transaction shall be ATTESTATION
construed as a continuing offer on the part of the consenting spouse
and the third person, and may be perfected as a binding contract I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in
upon the acceptance by the other spouse or authorization by the consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the
court before the offer is withdrawn by either or both offerors. Court's Division.

A similar provision, Article 12472 prescribes joint administration and CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO
enjoyment in a regime of conjugal partnership. In a valid marriage, both Associate Justice
spouses exercise administration and enjoyment of the property regime, Chairperson, Third Division
jointly.

In the case under review, the RTC decreed a dissolution of the community
property of Manuel and Leonida. In the same breath, the trial court forfeited CERTIFICATION
Manuel's share in favor of the children. Considering that the marriage is
upheld valid and subsisting, the dissolution and forfeiture of Manuel's share Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the Division
in the property regime is unwarranted. They remain the joint administrators Chairperson's Attestation, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision
of the community property. had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer
of the opinion of the Court's Division.
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The appealed Decision
is REVERSED and SET ASIDE and the petition in the trial court to annul REYNATO S. PUNO
the marriage is DISMISSED. Chief Justice

SO ORDERED.

RUBEN T. REYES
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:
CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO
Associate Justice
Chairperson