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308 SCRA 75

Nature: Petition for review on certiorari of decision of CA

Facts: Agata Tait died in 1936. Afterwards, Agata’s husband, George Tait, Sr., lived in a common-law marriage with Maria Tait.
In 1974, he donated a certain parcel of unregistered land in Sitio Sum-at, Bontoc. George died in 1977. From 1982 to 1983,
Maria Tait sold lots included within the Sum-at property in favor of the private respondents who purchased the lots on the
strength of a Tax Declaration over the Sum-at property showing the seller, Maria, to be the owner of the property in question.
In 1989, petitioners Emilie Sumbad and Beatrice Tait brought an action for quieting of title, nullification of deeds of sale, and
recovery of possession with damages against private respondents, alleging that they are the children and compulsory heirs of
George and Agata. They claim that after the death of their mother, their father sold the Otucan property and used the proceeds
thereof to purchase a residential lot in Sum-at, Bontoc and that from 1982 to 1983, Maria sold lots included within the Sum-at
property to private respondents without their knowledge and consent. They further alleged that although the private respondents
were warned that the Sum-at property did not belong to Maria they still purchased the lots from Maria and that Maria had no
right to sell the Sum-at property so the deeds of sale are null and void and did not transfer title to private respondents. During
the trial, petitioners and defense presented several witnesses.

1. WON the testimony of Shirley Eillenger with respect to the forgery of the deed of donation should be given
No. The court agreed with the trial and appellate court’s decision that Eillenger’s testimony is “vague and incredible” and
incapable of impugning the validity of the public document. Forgery should be proven by clear and convincing evidence, and
whoever alleges it has the burden of proving the same. Not only is Shirley Eillenger’s testimony difficult to believe, it shows
is had been rehearsed as she anticipated the questions of petitioner’s counsel. Petitioner’s should have presented
handwriting experts to support their claim that George’s signature on the deed of donation was indeed a forgery.

2. WON the deed of donation is invalid under Art. 749 of the Civil Code, which requires a public instrument as a
requisite for the validity of donations of immovable property.
No. Petitioners contend that the person who notarized the deed had no authority to do so. However, the acknowledgment
clause states that the person who notarized it was the deputy clerk of court who acted “for and in the absence of the clerk of
court who is authorized, under Sec. 21 of the Revised Administrative Code of 1917, as amended by C.A. Nos. 270 and 641,
to administer oaths. In accordance with the presumption that official duty has been regularly performed, it is to be presumed
that the deputy clerk of court who notarized the deed of donation in this case was duly authorized by the clerk of court.

3. WON deed of donation contravenes Art 133, CC
No. Art 133 provides that “every donation between spouses during the marriage shall be void. This prohibition does not
apply when the donation takes effect after the death of the donor. Neither does this prohibition apply to moderate gifts which
the spouses may give each other on the occasion of any family rejoicing.” This prohibition extends to common-law relations
(Matabuena v. Cervantes). In fact, Art 87, FC provides that “every donation or grant of gratuitous advantage, direct or
indirect, between the spouses during the marriage shall be void, except moderate gifts which the spouses may give each
other on the occasion of any family rejoicing. The prohibition shall also apply to persons living together as husband and wife
without a valid marriage.” However, this point is being raised for the first time in the SC. Litigants cannot raise an issue for
the first time on appeal as this would contravene the basic rules of fair play and justice.

Even assuming that they are not thus precluded, petitioners were unable to present evidence in support of such a claim.
The evidence on record does not show whether George was married to Maria and, if so, when the marriage took place. If
Maria was not married to George, evidence should have been presented to show that at the time the deed of donation was
executed, George and Maria were still maintaining common-law relations. Beatrice tait’s (one of the witnesses presented)
testimone is only to the effect that in 1941, Maria became their stepmother. There is no evidence on record that George and
Maria continuously maintained common-law relations until the date when the donation was made (April 2, 1974)

4. WON the petitioners’ claim that they only learned of the sales to the private respondents in 1988 when they visited
Maria because she was seriously ill is admissible
No. Petitioners waited for twelve years before claiming their inheritance and are thus guilty of laches which precludes them
from assailing the donation made by their father in favor of Maria. Laches is the failure or neglect for an unreasonable length
of time to do that which, by exerting due diligence, could or should have been done earlier.

5. WON Lanoy Takayeng’s testimony that Georde gave Fani-is money to purchase the Sum-at property means that
the money came from the proceeds of the sale of the Otucan property.

No. Lanoy could not state with certainty when the alleged meeting took place, the amount of money given by George to
Fani-is and when the purchase took place or if the sale was consummated in accordance with George’s instructions.

Held: Petitioners have not sufficiently shown the nullity of private respondents’ title to the lots purchased by them. Decision of
CA affirmed.